Brooklin Nash is the owner of Beam Content, the author of Dear Freelancer, and an absolute rockstar freelancer.
So for this weeks’ newsletter, I asked him for his best advice after 10 years of freelancing.
He responded with 25 ideas!
This edition of the newsletter is from guest Brooklin Nash, cofounder of Beam Content. He focuses on helping B2B marketers get more out of their content and B2B freelancers get more out of their work.
Two quick things first: I don’t really believe in universal advice, and, whether we like it or not, some things we just have to learn the hard way.
So consider this less “Brooklin’s advice” and more “25 things Brooklin wish he knew when he started freelancing 10 years ago.”
1. Treat networking as part of the gig. Personal branding is optional; 1:1 connections are not. Do what works for you, but spend at least a few hours each week on something other than client work and admin.
2. Underpromise, overdeliver. Good writing will only get you so far. Good communication, project management, and questions will get you the rest of the way.
3. Don’t charge per word or per hour (in most cases). Charge per project. Unless that doesn’t make sense for you. In that case, charge however the heck you want, just make sure you’re not undervaluing yourself.
4. Resist the urge to say ‘yes’ to everything. I know it’s tempting, but you’ll thank yourself later when you’re focused on work you enjoy and have a good balance of work instead of running yourself ragged.
5. Qualify clients first and cut PITA (Pain In The A**) clients ASAFP. It’s scary to turn down work, but it’s worth it 100% of the time.
6. Don’t do free work. Ever. It’s never worth it, and the clients you want to work for won’t ask for it, anyway.
7. This is a business. Treat it like one. Not every single hour is billable, so work that into your pricing.
8. You’re a salesperson, too. Take the time to learn sales 101: positioning, active listening, personalized follow-ups… all of it will make a difference and help you stand out.
9. Sometimes working smarter means working harder. Look at each season and ask yourself what you want to accomplish, then get after it. Just don’t move the goalposts.
10. Clients don’t pay writers $200/hr; but they’ll pay $1,000 for an article that takes you 5 hours. They’ll probably pay even more for a case study, so don’t sleep on value-based pricing.
11. Add value wherever you can; make suggestions that are beyond the scope of the project, go above and beyond with your research, and make introductions.
12. Collect proof and testimonials like they’re gold; they are. Ask for referrals when it makes sense; they’ll be your biggest source of new projects if you make it consistent.
13. Don’t dream big yet; just get down and dirty in the work, first. It’s easy to make big plans and a lot harder to land your first big client project.
14. You can make good money on execution, but it’s a lot easier when you add strategy to the mix. Get to the point where your clients can’t imagine replacing you.
15. Sometimes growth means saying you can do something before you’ve ever done it. Everyone learns on the job, and freelancers shouldn’t be exempt from getting paid for it.
16. Get picky—with what you work on and who you work with. The more specific you are, the more valuable your offer.
17. Figure out what you like to do and double down there. There’s a good chance you’ll increase your income as a result.
18. Open that Google Doc as soon as you get it, just to make sure you have the right permissions and all your questions answered. That way you avoid an awkward turtle moment two weeks later when you’re actually ready to dive in.
19. Don’t forget about taxes—and get professional help with them, probably.
20. Other freelancers are your community, not your competition. Don’t ‘pass’ on work; ‘pass on’ work.
21. If you hear “we can’t pay that much for this project but we’ve got a ton lined up” …run far away.
22. “Weird vibes” is more than a good enough reason to pass on a project. Trust your gut and all that.
23. Finally, the freelancer’s golden rule: the more a client is willing to pay you, the easier they are to work with.
24. Specificity signals expertise. “I help DTC eCommerce brands create high-converting landing pages” hits way different than “I’m a freelance copywriter.”
25. Take time off. I know it never feels like you can, but there’s nothing I regret more than those 60 hour weeks and weekend workdays in the early years. Making $100k as a freelancer isn’t all that hard; making $100k as a freelancer without burning yourself out is super frickin’ hard, so invest in the long game.