How I Became a Freelance Writer: Part One

The Scribe Wizard

Today is my 28th birthday, and I always get a little sentimental and reflective around this time of the year. I would like to share a little bit of my life story with you and how I came to be what I am today.

In 2014, a gleeful bicycle flight over to my favorite late-night, end-of-the-world diner was cut short by a pothole.

“Where are we going?” I asked aloud, fuzzy-headed and in pain. I found myself in a car, not quite aware of what had just happened.

“We’re going to the hospital.”

“Why are we going to the hospital?”

“You broke your collarbone.”

I didn’t have insurance at the time, and later that week, I promptly lost the restaurant job I had. I didn’t know where I was heading, what would happen to me next, or what I would do for rent.

Here's proof of my condition:

Me looking sad as heck with a broken collarbone

I had a good panic, like any human would, and then I picked myself back up and asked:

What am I good at?

I may not have been able to push a broom or take out the trash, but I was still capable of typing.

I’ve always been a writer, and I’ve always loved business. I have been writing my thoughts, creating poems and stories, for as long as I can remember, and I’ll never stop playing shop.

In fact, my cousin messaged me the other day about becoming a freelance writer herself (Hi, Nikki!). She recounted the times we spent setting up shop as 8-year-olds at family events. We sold our handmade plastic bead animals—all the rage in the 90s—for $1 each. Along with her sister completing our trifecta, we called ourselves Three Star Beadery.

In my late teens and throughout college, I taught violin lessons to support myself and buy a new violin.

To get to England for a music festival in 2012, I ad hoc offered some house cleaning services in my free time to my friends and coworkers.

I found that I enjoyed all the aspects of marketing, building a business, making connections, and being proud of what I had built.

After the bike accident, I sat and reflected on these things.

“I want to write.”

I decided that’s what I would do, so that’s exactly where I started.

I declared I would do it. I was going to become a paid writer. I mean, really…

Why not now?

I researched ways I could make money writing. At that point, though, I only had experience with personal writing and some newsletter editing experience, so I needed a way to edge into writing professionally.

I landed on transcription.

“Yep—that’s where I’ll start.”

But I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into…

I applied for a couple of big-name transcription sites. Two weeks later, I was invited to be a transcriptionist for one of them, so I jumped right in. I brushed up my grammar and starting taking projects from the queue—whatever I could get my hands on—earning my rent money one painstaking audio minute at a time.

I quickly realized this wasn’t an efficient way to make money. I was barely making minimum wage, but I was doing so much work. For every audio minute, I was paid between 40 and 75 cents, working 5 to 6 minutes for those pennies.

Plus, I spent a lot of time… waiting… and waiting… and oh!

“There’s one!”

“This job is no longer available.”

I was sitting in a vast and unknown sea of people, waiting for work to come in—let the fastest internet connection win!

I knew there had to be a better way.

And I was going to find it. I decided to break off on my own, starting my own freelance profile with oDesk (now Upwork). I manically filled out everything on my profile, reading it over and over again until I felt it was just right.

Driving blind, I took on any client I could find. Some weren’t so great. Some were downright awful. Some of them I would say I regret, but I’ve learned a lot in the process. I simply said yes to any and every project that came my way, without thought to what the experience of doing the work might actually be like.

The truth is I didn’t know what I was doing.

Next week, I’m going to tell you how I burned out, regrouped, and went from scraping the bottom of the barrel for freelance projects to creating a B2B transcription and blog-writing service for marketers, podcast hosts, and writers, helping them to create more efficiency in their marketing or writing processes.

HINT: I stopped doing things I didn’t want to do.

Stay tuned!

Until next time,

Jessi McAnelly

The Scribe Wizard

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