A year and a half ago I was unemployed for the first time in my life with no idea what I was going to do next.
I had a few months’ worth of savings in my bank account and I was tired of being taken for granted in customer service jobs where I was seen as expendable. All my life I worked my ass off for employers and all I got was small raises, a different schedule every week, or rejected time-off requests for no reason at all.
So, I turned to the internet.
I’ll admit, it was partially because of my roommate. While we were living together I helped her write cover letters and even wrote a flyer for a gym she worked at. She told me I was a great writer and that I should try finding clients on the internet.
I didn’t believe her, but I dove in any way because what else was I going to do with my time? Write poems? Okay, I did that as well — but it sure didn’t pay my bills…
And so, with a degree in creative writing, I decided it was time to put it to good use. Honest to god, I thought it wouldn’t work. I’ve seen all those videos on the internet from marketers selling courses to start freelancing. I’ve rolled my eyes are self-taught entrepreneurs telling me to start my own business and make easy money.
I knew they were all a scam. We all do!
Well, now I guess some of them actually aren’t.
Now, don’t get me wrong many are full of crap. I’ve literally seen dozens of gigs of “self-made entrepreneurs” on Upwork asking for people to write an online course for $5 an hour that they’re then going to sell for hundreds of dollars to their “fans” who they clearly don’t give a crap about.
And it’s hard to tell the scammers and normal people apart. While I did invest in a pretty affordable course for writing a sales page a few months into my writing journey, that was it.
I decided if it was so easy, then fuck it. I would just try and do it myself. No fancy courses. Hell, I already spent $40,000 on my creative writing degree, surely what would be enough?
After a few months of sending out hundreds of proposals on Upwork, Indeed, and LinkedIn — I managed to find some real clients. Sure, at the start, I took on a number of terribly low-paid gigs, but I eventually got some decent ongoing clients and I set my standards high, refusing anything below $20 an hour.
There was a brief period where I wasn’t fully sustaining myself and I had to find some odd work on the side, but still, I was kind of doing it. Without a course and without any guidance.
And it was hard (man sometimes it’s still hard) but I managed to start my own business as a freelance writer doing odd jobs from the comfort of my home with a little help from my $300 laptop.
Then about 9 months later, I had gone from completely unemployed to making a full-time wage writing for strangers on the internet. While it wasn’t quick or easy, it was actually possible.
I didn’t actually know anything about copywriting or marketing, but I knew how to write. My clients all knew that, and they got a hell of a deal for my rates because of that.
Now, I’ve learned a lot more — but sometimes I find myself wondering if this is right for me. There were times that clients treated me like shit and working for myself was so hard and stressful I wanted to quit. Times I stayed up a full 24 hours to finish editing a huge ebook about a topic I didn’t care about.
And the more networking I did, the more I felt like I really didn’t belong in those spaces… surrounded by entrepreneurs and CEOs with pools in their back yard and fancy cheese plates that were so expensive it would buy my groceries for a week.
As a kid, I grew up poor.
And it wasn’t the “we can’t afford a brand name clothes” kind of poor. It was the “I learned how to cook my own dinner at age 10” kind of poor. I remember how we ate so much spaghetti growing up that I can’t eat it now without gagging.
Luckily I have a wonderful extended family who stepped in to help my single mom and my siblings, so I honestly never knew how broke we were until years later. As an adult, I can’t believe how well my mom provided for 3 kids — and she gave me much more than I ever could have imagined.
So, when I interact with other marketers and business owners I find myself with a very different experience and perspective from them. In many ways, I’ve learned from them and some things are good, like raising your rates and knowing you’re worth.
But I’ve also learned that a lot of them lack any sympathy for anyone other than themselves.
Their ones are the ones making the ads we hate that take up half a webpage so you can’t even see the recipe you’re reading. The ones who write misleading posts on Facebook to sell you an ebook that they didn’t even write. The ones who hire you to ghostwrite for Forbes and fire you without warning while still using your headshots on their website and in their ads to hire more vulnerable writers. (Yes that last one really happened to me).
And those people are the reason normal people like me thought marketing sucked. There were so many scammy and spammy businesses selling garbage I became skeptical of everything. I hated ads with a passion and those assholes made me want to quit.
Now I know that I don’t actually hate marketing, but I hate some of the people who are attracted to it. So, we need more good people in business who write authentic ads and use the psychological drivers behind them for good — not to scam you.
We need more honest people in marketing.
We need more kind people in marketing.
We need more real people in marketing.
And that’s why I’m staying.
Because by being a copywriter I can start working with brands that actually care about their team, their customers, and the planet. And if I stopped now, we would just have more douche canoes running marketing departments and approving sexist ads despite it being the 21st century.
So, here’s to another year of freelancing and giving marketing the makeover it deserves. I write so that we can create spaces that are more diverse and no longer rely on outdated, manipulative tactics to scam people.
About the Author
Victoria Fraser is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada who works with clients doing all things copywriting & content marketing. You can learn more at her website to work with her or say hello on Twitter!