Career Change: How I Became A Freelance Writer

Like many women I know, after having a baby I wanted to change my career direction. In my pre-baby life I worked at Google Australia in publisher management and digital marketing. It was a wonderful place to work and I learned a great deal about online marketing.

In late 2010, my husband, Alec, was offered the opportunity to work at a startup in New York City – somewhere I’d always wanted to live. The same week, we found out I was pregnant. Alec took the job and a few months later we moved and I quit my job. Moving country and preparing for the baby became my new job, and then motherhood when Baby arrived.

I’d already been blogging casually for about four years at that stage, and when we moved to the US to I started to document our expat experiences, and then my pregnancy and new life as a parent.

Without a job and itching to keep my brain active, I upped my blogging game when Baby came along, starting to take it more seriously. I started working on a site with a friend in NYC on kid-friendly dining that expanded to cover other destinations in Sydney and Singapore. I got active in the local blogger community, attended blogging events and started to connect with brands and other bloggers. At night I read about SEO and stumbled my way through building a self-hosted WordPress site.

I also began to put my digital marketing training into practice, working on growing social media channels and subscribers to increase traffic to my blog. The SEM (search engine marketing) experience at Google really helped me to naturally be able to write well for SEO (search engine optimisation, or how to show up in the search results on Google), and I saw organic search becoming a big source of traffic to the blog.

After a while I felt ready to start working again in a small capacity, so I put together a simple WordPress site as my online writing portfolio and resume to send out to prospective employers. By this time I had written guest posts for a lot of other sites, too, and also had quite a decent amount of published work from my first few jobs in the editorial departments of Australian lifestyle magazines, plus from my work in marketing at Google. All together, it was enough to help me start getting a few freelance writing jobs.

Work started coming through all kinds of sources. People approached me through the blog, and I signed up to Contently.com and received work through that for Fisher Price and Electrolux.

Most of the work I have taken on, however, I’ve had to really put myself out there for. I cold-emailed publications after asking for the editor’s contact details, and then pitched the publication ideas for articles. I also attended events where the speakers worked for brands or sites that I wanted to work for, and approached the people after their talks with a quick elevator pitch and request for their business cards.

After getting the contacts I was after, I’d research their publication and pitch stories. It’s time consuming, and there’s a lot of either no responses or straight out rejection. Some days it’s hard to get past this and keep up my confidence to continue, especially since I’m a bit of an introvert.

What helps keep me going is when the articles I write perform really well, such as getting picked up by other publications like the Huffington Post and going viral.

I also love the blogging communities I’ve joined, both in the US and in Australia. Bloggers are very supportive of each other, so even though I spend most of my work days at home alone with a computer, I feel strongly connected to other people in my field and don’t feel disconnected as a result.

Taking the freelance route does not pay wonderfully well so far, but it’s rewarding in many ways. I make my own hours, and get to spend a lot of time with my daughter, who is now 3.5. I really enjoy what I do, too. I get a lot of joy out of seeing my articles helping people – I feel like what I’m doing now has a lot of meaning.

Are you thinking of making a career change, or trying freelance writing? I’ll be writing more in the coming weeks on tips to break into freelance writing, and other posts on what I’ve learned about digital media. If you have any questions you’d like answered, please email comment below or email me at adventurebabyblog.com.

This post was first published over on Thienlan.me.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.
  • Very interesting post Christine, I look forward to reading more in this series!

    • Thank you! I hope I can write some posts that will be useful for people.

  • Hugzilla

    Fantastic article!! I was nodding the whole way through.

  • Great post, it’s nice to know more about your journey.

  • Thanks for this! Inspiring, as I’m in much the same position. I’d like to get into a bit of freelance work and also make a little money off my blog. I’m starting to learn a bit more about SEO, which is a whole new world for me. I don’t expect to get rich, but would love some insights on moving into the world of advertising and sponsorships in blogging!

    • Hi Cristin, thank you for the feedback. I’ll see what I can do. Good luck with the freelance and blogging – the best advice I can give it to just keep plugging away with it all and don’t be put off by rejection 🙂

  • karyn munro

    Loved reading this article! Thank you for sharing, I am only new to the blogging world and great to read others stories.

  • You’ve worked so hard. I have at times dabbled with the idea of trying to make money out of this blogging thing but my motivation comes and goes. I look forward to reading your tips on how to.

    • Thank you Vicki. It’s a bit of a hard slog, but it feels good when it starts to work and show signs of income!

  • Tonia Zemek

    Thanks Christine, what an inspiring post. Your approach sounds really well considered and, best of all, it works! Good on you and thanks again for sharing your ideas here. Will we see you at the Problogger conference in August? I hope so. Would love to meet.

    • Hi Toni, thank you! Yes I’ll be there – I’m looking forward to it and hope to meet you!

  • I’ve often looked at/thought about freelance writing but it really seems very time consuming to build a portfolio, pitch people and write the actual articles. How do you plan around the overwhelm?

    • Good question. I have a spreadsheet lately with all the contacts in it and when and what i last pitched and the response, and I plan into my weekly planner who I will chase up pitches (I usually do emails at night so as not to eat into any day time hours so I can use those to write when I feel more awake).

  • You have certainly done well to juggle moving countries, a baby and freelancing. Well done to you.

  • I’m doing freelance work now too since I’ve had bub. I mainly write for Brisbane Kids and get work through my own blog, which doesn’t pay huge but it is a workload I can manage with bub. And its nice to be able I do something I love and make it work around my lifestyle instead of making my life work around my job.

    • Hi Toni, that’s exactly how I feel! It’s great to be able to make some money and do something career wise without having to return to an office.

  • Well I’ve been a freelance writer for most of my career (I’m a journalist by trade) and it’s been perfect for me, both before and after children. I always made a full-time living out of it and even supported my family on it when they were young. I have to say, with the way publishing has changed, it’s one of few careers where the money has gotten less though and it’s getting harder to make a decent living. I would hate to be starting out these days.

    • Hi Bronnie, thank you so much for dropping by and your comment. I agree, it’s hard to be starting out now. It’s very hard to get paid decent money. The lifestyle is what definitely appeals to me – we travel a lot and I want to be able to live anywhere and not have to change jobs. I really appreciate your words coming from a place of experience and wisdom.

  • I’ve done the littlest bit of freelance writing since I have been at home being a mum (almost 3 years now), but it was all through personal contacts, I haven’t put myself out there and I am unsure if I would have the confidence to do so. I will be keeping an eye out for your future posts. It sounds as though you have lived an interesting life 🙂
    Dani @ sand has no home

    • HI Dani, thank you for your comment. It’s definitely not easy to put yourself out there and there is a lot of rejection, it’s true. I’ve found it easier the more I do it, also trying not to take it personally – it al depends on the person you speak with. One person might like your style and another no, at the same publication. It’s such chance.

  • vegeTARAian

    What a brilliant post! I’m currently focussing on building up the confidence to pitch and write for others so your timing is perfect. Great to hear your story and really looking forward to the rest of your posts in this series. x

    • Thank you Tara! I hope what I write will be useful to you 🙂

  • Oh I can relate. With baby number 2 I have been thinking a lot about what’s next? I really loved this post and look forward to your future posts on tips and tricks!

    • Thank you Caroline! I will try to give an honest picture about life as a freelancer to help you plan!

  • I found this really interesting Christine, to ‘make it’ as a writer there is a lot of intense, hard work & self motivation. Makes me glad I enjoy writing as a hobby…at this stage.
    Thank you for joining us at #TIK

    • Thank you Hayley. It’s definitely a fun hobby – a hard slog to make a business out of it though!

  • Good on you! It’s just having a bit of confidence to have a go and look what can happen!

    • Thank you Bron! You’re so right, it’s all about confidence.

  • Julie Jones

    Great to read how you got started. It seems like grit and determination are the keys to success. Well done on pursuing a change of pace when Baby arrived.