How to Get Started Freelancing with Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit is one of the most prolific freelancers in the business. As someone who has been freelancing for more than a decade, she knows a thing or two about life as a freelance writer. She sat down with us to share tips about how to get started freelancing. Oh, and that idea that it’s OK to work for free when you’re just getting started? She had a thing or two to say about that as well.

How to Get Started Freelancing

One of the most daunting parts about freelance writing is figuring out how to get started. Often times, people will decide to try freelancing, but then they get stuck. It’s not as simple as making up your mind to try it out. You have to find an in. The good news that Marquit shares is that there are several ways to get a foothold.

Look at your network

Marquit can’t say enough about the power of a network. She is quick to point out that networks like the FinCon community can be incredibly supportive. People aren’t just in it to find success as an individual. They look for ways to help others.

If you’ve decided to give freelancing a go, talk to people. Let them know what your skills and interests are. You might be surprised how quickly you could be connected with a client. Other times, Marquit points out, freelancers might have more workload than they can handle, so you might gain clients that way as well.

Start your own blog

Many freelancers also have their own blogs. That is an excellent way to put together writing samples and to gather real-life experience. In many ways, your blog can serve as your portfolio, especially if you haven’t picked up any other clients yet. You can use your blog to showcase everything from your writing and editing abilities to your social media and marketing chops.

Review job boards

Job boards can actually be a great way to get work freelancing. Marquit has had success with Mediabistro, Problogger, and aggregated job sites.

Marquit also cautions about the “race to the bottom.” It isn’t just about finding any work or working as cheaply as possible. You want to build a portfolio and create a career that is sustainable.

Should Freelancers Work for Free?

To get work, you’ll need to show your experience. That’s the difficult reality that you face in most career fields. As a result, people who are just starting out can sometimes feel desperate. They agree to work for exposure, thinking it’s the only way to build a portfolio.

Marquit is quick to point out that one of her claims to fame is that she has never worked for free. Yes, she will do guest posts to support her network, but she hasn’t written for clients for no pay. Ever.

She doesn’t say this to brag. Instead, she says it as an important reminder to anyone who wants to get started freelancing. There is so much paid work available. The pay won’t always be great initially. In fact, Marquit remembers writing articles for $10 a pop way back in the day. Once you build your portfolio and your network, you can scale your rates.

The Value of Word-of-Mouth

Job board jobs are great. But know that the real value comes from network building. There is nothing more effective that building your client base from word-of-mouth.

Clearly, networking matters to Marquit. She believes in fostering genuine relationships and really getting to know people–prospective clients and fellow freelancers. With this outlook, it should come as no surprise that she’s attended FinCon every year since its inauguration.

Advice for People Who are Looking to Get Started

You’re ready to freelance. You’ve checked out various job boards, and maybe you’ve already landed your first handful of clients. But let’s say that you’re also committed to building your network. Marquit gives this advice to someone attending FinCon or a similar event for the first time:

  1. Buy the Pro Networking pass. While there is an additional fee, it is absolutely worth it. Often times, it can be overwhelming to spend more when you are first getting started. It’s a worthwhile investment though. You’re gaining valuable face time with people who are looking for writers.
  2. Be open to opportunities. Meet people outside of your niche and outside of scheduled times. You never know when opportunity will strike, so it’s important to stay flexible and say yes.

The biggest takeaway Marquit shares is this: Make sure that you give yourself time to make connections. Of course, you come to conferences to learn. But you can also learn more online. But in-person connections give you an opportunity to collaborate, and that can’t be replicated online.

The Power of Maintaining Networks

Your first conference was a success. That’s a great start, but it’s just a start. The next step is making sure that you take time to maintain your network.

One strategy that Marquit uses at conferences is to sneak away to her room to update her notebook with information about any connections that she has made. She records everything from names and contacts to what they talked about and any time frames that were mentioned.

She also suggests sending follow-up emails several days later. Make sure your emails are focused and helpful. Your goal is to sell your services by adding value. Marquit says to mention how you can address their needs and take action right away. She also says that you often have to be willing to ask for what you want.

How to Talk Money as a Freelancer

Freelancing is a job, and that means you need to get paid. You also want to be paid what you’re worth. To do that, you need to know what the market is paying.

To do this, Marquit says it’s pretty simple, though it might take some getting used to at first. Ask other freelancers. Compare notes to make sure you and others are being paid fairly and competitively.

In order to determine your rates, Marquit shares this process:

  1. Know what your general rates are.
  2. Negotiate rates with a specific client.
  3. Find out needs, time tables, and other specifications like sourcing.
  4. Consider your client – an independent blogger isn’t going to be able to pay the same as an agency client; be willing to make adjustments.

She also cautions against publishing a rate sheet. Personally, she sees value in working on a case-by-case basis when you are starting out.

After you’ve established yourself as a freelancer, don’t be afraid to raise your rates. One clear indicator that it’s time to ask for more money is if you find yourself hearing yes to your rates repeatedly and you are filling up with work.

To increase your rates, you might raise your rates by $50 or $100 for your next client. Then, you can wrap up your projects with lower-paying clients and move on. In that sense, moving up the rate ladder can be cyclical.

It’s better to have fewer clients paying more money. Don’t be afraid to hear, “No.” Marquit shares that at one point in her career, she was writing 10 articles a day and facing major burnout. Instead of trying to sustain work at this pace, Marquit says that freelancers probably want to focus on lifestyle goals, not just income goals.

By taking on only a handful of better-paying gigs, you can commit more fully to that work. You can also develop your hobbies and carve out time for your family. This balance is something that she continually strives toward.

Organizing Your Times as a Freelancer

As you grow your freelancing clients, you want to think about how you organize your time. Marquit shares three different techniques that work for her:

  • A physical board. This is a board that she created that mimics an Excel sheet. She has it divided into different rows and columns, and she can track her workload for the week with it. The added benefit is that she can manipulate it when things change. She uses it to track article titles, clients, sources, special notes, and rates. She also has a section for special invoicing notes.
  • An Excel spreadsheet. This is essentially a digital version of her tactile spreadsheet board.
  • A paper and pen.

The most important thing to remember is to try out tools and figure out what works for your personality.

To hear the full interview with Miranda Marquit, listen to episode 73 of The Money & Media podcast. Plus, Joe Saul-Sehy interviews full-time freelancer, Ben Luthi in this podcast-exclusive conversation.

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About Our Hosts

Joe Saul-Sehy is the co-host of the Stacking Benjamins personal finance podcast and operates the Stacking Benjamins blog.

Bethany Bayless is a public speaker and emcee who co-hosts the podcast The Money Millhouse.

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