Part-Time Freelancer: Lessons From the Day Job

My freelance life happens on the side.

I spew stories, status updates and massage the writing of others 40 hours a week for the nation’s largest distributor of promotional products. It’s a good, challenging job. I learn something new every day and usually go home exhausted.

But I’m a compulsive writer, so I can’t kick back.

Before I arrive at my cubicle in the morning, over my lunch break and in the evenings, I create copy and connections as an independent blogger and freelance journalist. Lucky for me, what I study and do every day in the business world helps me do this.

Let’s start with the copy part.

Most writers accept this rule: The more you write, the better you get.

As the manager of a corporate blog and editor of multiple company newsletters, I compose a lot of words every day. In fact, I actually write more as a corporate copywriter than I ever did as a full-time journalist. Toss in managing my personal blog and churning out blurbs and articles for newspapers and magazines, I sometimes wonder if one day I’ll use up all my words.

But you know what? By biting off just a little more than I can comfortably chew, I am honing the ability to write more quickly and economically. I don’t have time to labor over every word, so I strive to spit out the thought now and refine it later. Write and then edit. Don’t edit while you write.

Warning: There is a point of diminishing returns. As a freelancer on any basis, it can be hard to say no to work. But if you take on so much that you’re constantly struggling to meet deadlines and feel forced to turn in sub-par assignments, it’s probably time to commit to less. Don’t worry that graciously declining will turn off editors for good. Repeatedly disappointing them with unpolished writing can do more harm to your reputation in the long run.

Speaking of reputations, you have to do more than produce consistently good content in order to build one. You have to network.

All of the modern ways of connecting are relevant to the freelancer or tiny business owner in any industry. You have to build your brand. Tweet, blog, link up on LinkedIn – use social media to show others what it is you do.

But don’t rely on digital networking alone. Even for us socially awkward writers, getting noticed and connected requires some actual human interaction. And you know what can help you stand out as you’re making a first impression at a Chamber event, mentoring session or cocktail party with important people?

A promotional product.

Of course, at the minimum, everyone needs a business card. But try to make it unique.

I carry mini business cards featuring glossy pictures of adorable dogs to promote my blog about living with and rescuing canines. The mini cards are great conversation starters that stand out at networking events where most people are swapping traditional cards that don’t have full color photos of puppies on them.

My mini cards help people remember me when I call upon them later about being featured on my blog as a post subject or potential advertiser. Well-designed, uniquely shaped or generally eye-catching cards could do the same for you business.

Feeling really creative? Use another object as your business card or in addition to one.

A colleague of mine doesn’t carry cards at all. She carries pens imprinted with her contact information. Her logic: Cards get stashed away, while pens get used, which means she stands a better chance of staying top of mind for whoever gets her pen.

She makes a good point.

Luckily, it’s easy and not necessarily expensive to add your desired art or contact information to any manner of small item suitable for use as a networking tool. Think key chains, mini calendars, stickers, matchbooks or notepads – the possibilities are endless. Choose something that relates to your brand and specialty.

Because I’m a writer, I’ll soon be following my friend’s lead and ordering some personalized pens. They may also come in handy the next time a brilliant story idea strikes that I feel like working out on the back of an envelope.

If you could carry a stash of small promotional items for your brand, what would you pick?

Crystal K. Wiebe composes all manner of corporate and customer-facing copy for Staples Promotional Products and manages the company blog In her off hours, she writes about people, events and women for a variety of regional and national publications. Her personal blog is about finding dogs and purpose along the trail of life. Connect with Crystal on LinkedIn or e-mail her at


4 Responses to “Part-Time Freelancer: Lessons From the Day Job”

  1. Danny L.
    July 6, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    Write and then edit. Don’t edit while you write. Good advice!

    • Crystal Wiebe
      July 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

      It also happens to be some of that advice that is easier said than done!

  2. Geek Girl
    July 7, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    I can SO relate to what you are saying. Writing for me is like breathing. I thrive on it. Blogging is the only outlet I have for it right now and as a new blogger, well having that day job is essential. I never publish what I write until I have written it, walked away, come back for editing, and then publish. Thanks for the post! Found you through LinkedIn :)

    • Crystal Wiebe
      July 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      Sounds like you have more self-discipline than I do when it comes to not pushing publish until you really should. I’m trying hard to organize my thoughts and time well enough that I am able to always let my writing breathe a bit before sharing it with the world. Glad you found the post relate-able. I am now following your blog!

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