Before I took the leap to become a freelancer, I spent 15 years in the same industry, at the same company, working in various marketing roles in higher education publishing. I spent my career not only marketing educational textbooks and online resources, but working directly with college professors. I attended workshops and conferences that focused on issues influencing trends in higher education, eventually managing online communities comprised of a combination of all these areas. Without really knowing it, I was becoming a higher education “expert.”
I primarily saw my professional experience as helping me excel in marketing. I earned a firm grasp of business, learning how to thrive in a collaborative environment, all the while building a strong background in marketing. It didn’t occur to me that what I was marketing was also broadening my expertise.
Once I became a freelancer, the first thing I did was reach out to former colleagues of mine who had left the company I previously worked for, but remained in the industry. I was staying in my familiar lane in order to work with and get support from people who had experience working with me. These opportunities began to come to fruition because of the reputation I had earned rather than my “expert” status in higher education. My background did decrease my learning curve as I began taking on projects within an industry I was well-versed in, allowing me to do more (and earn more money) with less instruction.
Other opportunities popped up next outside of my industry, leading me to rely heavily on my marketing skills and writing aptitude; the skills I assumed would be the driving forces in the success of my freelance career. These connections have continued to provide work because I’m able to complete projects correctly, usually ahead of schedule and because I can be easily instructed on how to deliver a final product.
Still, my higher education experience wasn’t taking my freelance career to that next level, until…an opportunity presented itself that required me to have previous higher education knowledge and refined writing skills. My special combination of skills made me the best candidate to take on writing projects for higher education institutions. The assignments cover a wide range of topics, but knowing what my client needs, because of my years working in the field, allows me to take the proper angle for each assignment, delivering pieces that often require minimal revision. I suddenly became the most eligible writer for these assignments, and it’s these projects that continue to pay off the most both financially and by generating additional work.
I’m essentially building a new professional reputation that harnesses my writing acumen as much as my previous marketing and industry experience, and it feels empowering to be in the position to shape my reputation by choosing the work I do. As a freelancers, I’m in control of the work I take on and am happily using this fact to establish myself as a writer.
You never know what pieces of your past experience can come into play when you decide to become a freelancer, so it’s important to promote yourself as a complete package of skills and professional experience when making connections.