I finally launched my website and my storytelling business. I love my clients, I love the work, and I can do it from anywhere. No doubt, I still have so much to learn, but I learned so much just to get to this point.
The hardest part of this whole process so far was just going from no ghostwriting experience and no idea how I wanted to approach it, to getting my first client and my first review. Here’s what I learned.
1. When starting from zero, apply to everything and offer to work for reviews
My first clients came from Upwork.com. The trick was to apply to literally dozens of jobs, offering a basically free rate in exchange for an honest review. I would then go insanely above and beyond, and the person would be so pleasantly surprised that they would leave a glowing review. I would then leverage that review to move slightly up, getting better clients, but still with the understanding that I was building something bigger than each individual job.
2. Only apply to recently posted jobs that speak to you
Watching some YouTube videos, I learned you can greatly increase your chances of getting hired by just being one of the first to apply, and that the chances of getting hired on jobs drops off really quickly as time goes on. Bidding on day-old jobs is basically a waste of time! Great, so my new strategy is to look at the boards twice a day, and send a very personal and passionate proposal only to recently-posted jobs that really spoke to me. Still, I tried to go in with an open mind. What I really wanted was to work with people who were passionate about what they wanted to say.
3. No great opportunity has “great opportunity!” in the headline
Doubts certainly crept in. I worried Upwork was just a race to the bottom; no one on the site would be passionate about storytelling. For most of the job-posts, that is actually true. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. No “great opportunity” has “great opportunity!” in the headline. I needed to rely on my intuition and apply only to jobs where I felt I had a chance of really connecting with the person.
4. Be open to the high probability that you won’t be a good match
I took a lot of calls that turned out to go nowhere. Sometimes I would politely suggest we weren’t a good match (one person incoherently rambled about his idea to change reality TV for an hour), or they would seem disinterested, or it would seem like a wonderful conversation, and then I would never hear from them again, OR I would send them a writing sample and then never hear from them again (the last two especially stung). I learned to let all of this go. I needed to trust that they just weren’t for me. Sometimes I still let it bother me. I’m working on it.
5. Cultivate an insane level of trust and don’t worry so much about getting paid
My first long-term client was the best part, and continues to be the best part of all of this. We had our first call and just instantly connected. Ever since then, we have been making the podcast together, and it has grown to the #12 podcast in mental health, which still blows my mind. There is total trust in the relationship. When asked how much I was going to charge, I said, “I trust you!” and the price was beyond fair. I actually don’t think this will be my policy going forward, for the sake of consistency, but I always want to make sure there is a very high level of trust before I enter a business relationship.
Suddenly, all those people that I turned down, or that turned me down, made sense. I had reinforced my conviction that I was searching for “my people” and that I could wait. And with that, a few more wonderful clients came into my orbit. I wrote bedtime stories for a fitness app, which is probably the most fun writing project I’ve ever been paid to do.
6. Never haggle price. Good clients will gladly pay well for good work
Now that I had some experience under my belt, I was no longer willing to haggle for money. If I spoke to a client and the first thing they brought up was price, I would suggest that if they are looking for a bargain, that we are probably not a good match. When working for a client, I do not want money to be the main concern, and if someone begins on that note, I know that I don’t want them as a long-term client. We can politely part ways! (I have had people get really mad at me. Even more reason to not work with them.) When I was a kid, we were always worried about money. It’s something that took a long time to unlearn-and I’m still unlearning it. But I know that I am best served being paid very well by clients who matter to me, instead of fighting clients-who I don’t enjoy-to pay me for projects I’m probably not proud of!
I had the reviews, I had the unique business proposition, and I was ready to launch the website.
Going forward, I will continue to search for new clients on Upwork, but I will gently guide them more to my website. Reviews on Upwork are still valuable, so I don’t mind staying there for the beginnings of relationships. Eventually, I plan to generate enough traffic that I never have to search for clients, but I am happy to work through that transition.
They say that starting is 50% of the work, and I found that to be absolutely true. Finding my first client was by far the hardest part. Sticking out doubts long enough to find nuggets of encouragement was also very difficult.
Originally published at https://www.taylorforeman.com on June 19, 2020.