Okay people, this episode is a big deal! I am finally going to introduce you to my freelance writing coach, Colleen Welsch! Without her help, I could not have quit my FT job to pursue freelancing (seriously, she is that amazing). Hit the play button below to start the episode now.
Season 3 Episode 43: Ladies & Gentlemen, Meet My Freelance Writing Coach! Ft. Colleen Welsch
Colleen Welsch is a successful freelance writer who has written for several designer brands (Gucci, Marc Jacobs… I could go on), and she is one of the kindest people I’ve ever worked with.
She is also my go-to freelance writing coach and I don’t think I could have quit my FT job without her guidance and support. In this episode she offers practical advice & tips to help writers break into freelancing.
You can get in touch with Colleen here:
A fun surprise – listen to Colleen’s published music here!
Did you miss last weeks episode of the Freelance Dietitian Podcast? Don’t sweat it, you can listen to it here: Everything About Entrepreneurship
Welcome to the show, Colleen. It’s so great to have you here. Did you wanna say hi to listeners?
Everybody, let me introduce you to the best freelance coach I’ve ever had in my life. This is Colleen Welsh. It is such a treat to bring her on the podcast and just share some of her business philosophies with you guys today, and you can get to know her and hopefully follow her. And I’m sure some of you will even end up working with. So I wanted to ask you, Colleen, let’s start big. What is your favorite part about being a lance?
Just like having control over my own destiny. I always hated, like working for other businesses. I was never motivated, especially when I was like on a salary because why should I work harder? Like I don’t get paid more like, oh, to get like a 3% bonus at the end of the year. No, thank you. Um, so I was just like, really unmotivated when I was working in nine to five and never really believed in anything I was doing and never felt like my true gifts were being utilized and just doing a lot of stuff I did not wanna do.
And you know, our time on Earth is short and what you are giving your time on earth to a business when you work for them. So I love getting that time back and being in charge of what I wanna do. And if I don’t wanna do something, I can outsource it. Like there’s always options and I am a very creative person and I think like having your own freelancing business is an active creativity. Like once you get into it, It, there’s like so much strategy involved and like research and it is kind of fun. And also when you do better, like when you’re, um, whether you’re working harder or working smarter, like you can make more money. So that’s like good motivation to keep going.
Yeah. So overall, it’s just been like a lot more motivating and like suitable for my personality type.
And can you share a little bit of your background about freelancing? Cuz you’ve been very open with your history and experiences and I think that would resonate with some listeners.
Yeah, so I’ve been freelancing for five years at least successfully for five years. I did try freelancing two other times before the third time I tried and it actually stuck. And there’s two other times it just kind of like failed at it because I didn’t do enough research. I didn’t make a strong enough plan. I didn’t schedule time to actually work on it. Um, and I just really had no idea like the level of discipline that I was gonna need in order to really create a business.
I went to Ohio State. I had a degree in English literature and another degree in anthropology. And then right outta college, I started working in the fashion retail industry because that’s really big in Columbus. So I was in merchandising. Hated it. It wasn’t for me. It was, I thought I was like, Oh yeah, clothes great. No, it was just math, like straight up math all the time.
I kind of moved into more of a marketing role and then moved out to LA for a while and I ended up working at a beauty brand. When I was working there, they had a blog on their website and nobody wanted to update it. And I was like, I like updating it, this is fun. Like I’d had my own blog for like, like eight years at that point.
So I was very into blogging and then I just kind of realized that there must be other beauty brands out there that had a blog on their website. And nobody wanted to update it. So I was like, uh, I should just start emailing those people. That’s how I really started my business, was just emailing beauty businesses that had a dormant blog on their website and being like, I can write this for you.
I started getting clients that way. That was like in the summer of 2017. And the reason why I really wanted to get into freelancing was because I wanted to travel full time and be a digital nomad. So I did have to like move in with my parents in Ohio for a while, like live in my home town, which was kind of a bummer because I didn’t have any friends there, except my grandma. We were hanging out a lot, which was great.
And then In 2018, I ended up getting this like huge project on Upwork that was like $20,000. And like once like taxes and fees were taken out, it was exactly how much money I owed on my credit card, and then enough to buy a plane ticket to Europe. So then I took a one way flight to Paris and I was in Europe on and off for a little over a year.
I’m American, so like at the time, I don’t know if it’s still like this, but you could go to the EU for 90 days out of 180 days without a visa. So once I hit that 90 days, I had to go back to the US for 90 days, then come back. So I did that for a while and then I. Came back here in 2019. I ended up buying a house in Cleveland, Ohio to be near my best friend and her family.
And then Covid happened obviously, and a lot of my friends got laid off. So all these people were reaching out to me like, how do I become a freelancer? I was like, I guess I could tell people how to do this, so I started like making ums and I made a course on how to launch and grow a freelancing business, and it just kind of took off, especially on TikTok. I had a few viral videos that really made things blow up. So here I am today making content. Still have my course, I do coaching. So yeah. Very cool.
And now also backtracking a little bit, cuz you mentioned you’re so creative and you have all of these other outlets that you’re doing now. Cause I do follow you on social, so I’ve kind of been watching from the sidelines as the creeps do online. I’m one of those
No, no you not. Creepy.
And, I kind of feel this like, I don’t know if it’s just me, so I wanna test it on you. Do you feel like since you’ve taken the risk and found success with freelancing, you’re more likely to take other risks in your life and put yourself out there?
Oh yeah. I mean, it’s like once you make one business, you can just make any kind of business that you wanna make. And I feel like, going through any kind of process where you have to do like a lot of research and then create a plan and then execute it. That is the best thing that I’ve learned from all of this, because now I feel confident that I could like do anything that I wanted to do as long as I made a plan. like did research, made a plan, and then executed it.
You just learned so much from starting a business. Like now as you probably know from like my social media, I’m like recording and releasing music, and I’m doing comedy and my, I could have never done this stuff before I started freelancing, but now my organizational skills are nuts and I can do anything. It’s crazy.
That’s awesome. I love that. The first one is always the scariest, but then once you make the unbelievable come to life, you’re like, I can really do anything. And that’s so cliche, but it’s so true.
Yeah, it, I always liken it to like, You are basically like on a script or like, you’re like if you’re on a roller coaster, right? And you’re on the track and you’re just going through everything that you’re supposed to do, like, you know, you go to school, you go to college and you get a job and it’s really hard to jump off at the track and get out of the ride and go do whatever you want, right?
But once you get off the track and you start going in the direction that you wanna go, and you’re not letting, the standard life just carry you away. You can do anything then.
Yeah. Yeah. Great analogy. It is scary. That is actually, It is scary. Scary. It literally makes my heart stop a bit, even though I’ve already done it.
Yeah, and like, like I said, it took me like a few, like false starts to do it. I didn’t just like one day like wake up and be like, Okay, chase my dreams. Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. I wish.
Can you share a little bit about your insight, specifically our philosophies on work? Because for me it was such a huge game changer and that’s the reason why I wanted to work with you. So maybe you wanna again, take the mic and share that with listeners.
So, You know, for like thousands of years, people were like very specialized in what they did, um, that were people living in communities like you were a blacksmith and you just made crap outta iron or you were a Cooper and you made barrels and you just did one thing really well, and then traded and made money based on that. and then we got to the information age and now people are just sitting in desks and they’re doing like all these different tasks and you don’t really get to specialize in one thing oftentimes.
Which may, may not be as true for your community, but like for me, when I was like just working in a corporate setting, I was doing all this different marketing stuff, but I wasn’t doing, I wasn’t getting really good or building expertise at anything. So because I wasn’t really good at anything, I didn’t have to be paid like an expert.
My philosophy is like to just get really good at one thing, charge a lot for it, and then just have a bunch of clients that pay you a lot for that one thing, and that’s a better. That’s a better system for your clients too, because then they’re not paying for, um, all your benefits or paying you to do work that you’re not very good at. They’re not paying subpar rates for subpar work. They’re just paying expert rates for expert work and you are just doing this one thing for them really well and. You know, you do better work. They get better work. It’s a win-win for everyone. That’s, that’s kind of my philosophy.
And also my other philosophy is you don’t have to make six figures. You know what’s enough for you, and you also don’t have to work 40 hours a week because once you build expertise in a particular area, you’re gonna find that you can make 50, 100, $150 an hour, and then if for you, you can make enough money in eight hours a week. Then just work eight hours a week. Like you don’t have to keep pushing yourself. Like for what? For what? Yeah.
I liked what you said at the beginning there, um, just about like, you just get a sense of feeling too busy without actually making any progress. When you’re not specialized in one thing and you’re just doing all the task and you just drain yourself, chasing this carrot, and you look around and you’re like, I’m not actually making any headway here. This is exhausting.
yeah. And. Yeah, that was well said. I always, I always get caught up in the interview and I’m a bad host sometimes when I rethink about your answer. I wanted to ask you, cause I know you do a lot of coaching and you work with new freelancers. What are the most common, like, top three myths that you always hear from people?
Um, I think that people just, well, first of all, People believe that you have to charge much lower rates than is actually realistic before fiverr and all these job boards popped up, like freelancers charged a lot more. And people who are good freelancers, who know what they’re doing and do a good job, they charge a lot. But there’s this myth that you should be charging only like $25 an hour or like, go on five and there’s all these listings for all this stuff for $5. Like, what? No, I’m not doing anything for $5.
So I guess there’s that idea that freelancers don’t make that much money, which isn’t true. You can make a lot more per hours a freelancer. Um, there’s also an idea that there’s not enough work for everybody. Which, that might be true, but it won’t matter if you are really good at what you do. Like don’t, you’re not like coming at the bottom, especially like for your audience.
They already have this awesome degree, this awesome experience, all this knowledge. Like they’re not coming in at the bottom, right? They’re already experts. So like, it, it’s fine. They already have a leg up on the competition. But I think there’s also just like a scarcity mindset. A lot of people have been raised, myself included, that you have to work really hard in order to make a lot of money when the truth.
Well, you do have to work hard, but you don’t have to like just grind and grind and grind. If you’re intentional and smart about it, you can work what I would consider a reasonable amount of hours and still be able to thrive.
Yeah, yeah. Great ones. I think in my first year I definitely worked harder and smarter and then I kind of got my gears going and now it’s just work smarter, which is nice.
Yeah. Well, there is like a lot to do when you first start and if you’re already like working a full-time job. You’re gonna be looking at working in extra five to 10 hours a week while you get your business launched. And that’s really when you’re just gonna have to grind a little bit. But that period is not going to last forever.
And once you get your set up good boundaries, then you can have the kind of hours that you want. If you need flexibility, if you have kids, like you don’t have to work 40 hours a week. Yeah. Yeah. Or what some freelancers do is they just like respond to their clients like at all hours of the night.
Don’t do that.
No way. Burning that midnight oil.
Okay. I wanna ask you now it’s a little bit selfish cuz I am suffering from this. How are you able to actually get your freelance work done? Like lately, I am struggling and I know others say that something that would’ve taken them two hours ends up taking them eight hours because they’re just on the struggle bus.
Well, is it a question of organization or a question of focus?
Ooh, I guess a little bit of both. Maybe. I’m thinking a lot about what you opened up the interview with, with about being disciplined and I think it’s just like, I think it might also be knowing that it only takes me two hours, so I keep pushing it later and later.
Procrastinating in a way.
Mm-hmm. Yeah, procrastination. A big problem. So I read this book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Have you read it?
So it talks about how we have this inner resistance that prevents us from completing our work, and a lot of times that shows up. That’s procrastination basically. Um, and it’s just having the discipline to prioritize our creative work. So whether that. Like if you’re writing blog posts for clients, that is like creative work and you really just have to do that first in the day before you do anything else. So don’t check your email, don’t look at your phone.
Literally get up, have you know if you drink coffee or whatever, have a cup of coffee, and then sit down and start working and do not. even open up the channels to receive information from anybody or anything. Um, because if you’re just like responding to text and emails all day, then you’re letting other people control your time when you need to be in control of your time.
Boom. That was awesome.
Yeah. Another thing that’s really helped me is I used to think that it was like, like, Pleasure was, was just like laying on the couch and watching tv, but, and like just being totally like inert, like no action whatsoever. But then I kind of realized that that might feel good then, but in the long term, that doesn’t actually make me feel good. So like being really intentional about how I spend my time, I have like bullet journals and stuff, like I love this kind of stuff.
Um, but thinking about what I want and then putting it on my calendar and doing it, and that’s how I am able to do so much. I schedule every moment of my day from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, which sounds crazy, but I also schedule in breaks and stuff because you do have to like, If you don’t prioritize self care and time with friends, time with family, then you’re not gonna make that happen either. So it’s just being super, super intentional about how I spend my time.
All of it.
Yes. And and how many, like how long do you think it’s taken you to develop that knowledge of yourself? Cuz I think it’s pretty realistic that it’s gonna take a couple years, right? You gotta learn your routine. Gotta learn what works. Being an entrepreneur. Especially moving from a nine to five brain. Like I still have moments where I catch myself trying to fit all my work into a nine to five schedule, which is ridiculous, and I don’t need to be doing that.Colleen: 20:00
No, you don’t need to do that.
Um, it’s, it’s always like a work in progress and it does take a long time to unlearn the. Nine to five mindset too. So give yourself grace for that. Like, yes, it’s been ingrained into you since you started kindergarten. So like, I mean, school follows the same pattern, so it does take a long time to unlearn that. And also just letting stuff go. Like, you’re not gonna get it all done. You never will. So if you work from two to six every day and six o’clock rolls around, well, what you didn’t get done, you can do it tomorrow, but if it, you didn’t get it done, it wasn’t meant to get done. So yeah. And just letting go.
Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Okay. And you know, speaking of mindset, I’m wondering if there’s any mental talks or tips that you give yourself when there’s a low period in a business because it is inevitable. We all have ups and downs. What do you tell yourself to just keep going?
I really try to focus on action and not results. So I don’t really pay attention to numbers as like a lot. I’m not weighing in on my TikTok and like my Instagram and all those numbers or my business numbers. I do have monthly or quarterly things scheduled to evaluate my strategy, but I make a strategy and just try to stick to it.
Instead of being like, I don’t know, worried about the numbers. If it doesn’t work, there’s a day in place where I’m gonna look at it and figure out something else. So, um, I have, I use a sauna mm-hmm. and Google Calendar a lot. So I just like set like reminders for myself to like, check these things and look into it. And then there’s no reason to stress about it if you know that you have a day coming up in the future where you’re just gonna do a deep dive Yeah. And figure so else out.
Yeah. And do you have any tips to make a freelance writer, um, stand out a little bit more?
Um, you know, I kind of wanna go back to the last question.
Yeah. Just thinking about that some more. Sorry. Um, If you don’t have a lot of client work, if you are experiencing a lull, then prioritize the client work you already have and then you should have set hours that you’re working and just, uh, Like put on some music and start cold pitching and just keep putting yourself out there.
Also keep investing in your skills. It doesn’t necessarily have to be purchasing anything, but like watching YouTube videos or reading articles, reading books. You can get them from the library and just keep learning about not only the service you provide, but also how to run a business marketing, uh, Mindset, finances just keep learning. And when you have a lull, it’s actually like a kind of a blessing because it’s a good time to learn more.
Yes. And if you’re not so busy with client work that you can actually like sit down and read a book, that’s a good thing.
Yeah. Yeah. Totally. Nice. Any more final thoughts on that guy or. We can always come back to it.
Well have a savings account also. Yes. Like you should be saving five. Like, well first of all, you should have your business finances separated from your personal finances. But, you know, I really like the book Profit First, which recommends that twice a month you take a certain percentage of your income and you place it into a savings account.
That’s for a rainy day, you should be putting at least 5%. Of your income into this account because when then when you have loans, you can still pay yourself and in your personal finances, you should have at least three months of expenses saved. So that you don’t have to worry if there are lulls cause there’s always lulls December. Especially in between Christmas and New Year’s, you will not hear a peep from anyone. Yeah, summers are slow. That’s totally normal.
Yeah, really important. Just practical housekeeping that you can always be taking care of as a business owner. Right. The list never ends up in
Yeah. You have other stuff to do. You have other stuff to do.
Yeah. So better to put your energy into that instead of worrying really. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Um, so maybe I’ll ask you one more time cuz I am curious what your answer is. What do you think a freelance writer could do to make themselves stand?
Um, well, having a beautiful website always helps. It always helps. And, you know, that’s a big thing that I teach in my course, in my coaching, like making a nice website on Squarespace or whatever. And, getting your branding looking really pretty. Having nice photos of yourself, a nice headshot. You don’t have to hire someone, but like, take a nice photo. No selfies, go outside.
Doing everything that you can to communicate that you are professional and you, you would like, wanna communicate that you are expensive to hire. So like, justifying those high prices, right? Like design is everything. It’s so important. That’s why Apple charges so much for their products. Are they better? I don’t know, but like I believe they’re better cuz they look better. So and you can use that same principle for your own business.
I don’t think I’m the best beauty copywriter in the world, but I get clients because my website looks good and I communicate professionalism. Not just on my website, but like every step of the process. Like when we have our, uh, like exploratory call and when I send a proposal, a contract, invoice, it’s all branded. It looks all, it looks very nice, everything is like a smooth, seamless process.
Mm-hmm. Most people do not have that kind. Stop set up. Like people do not take themselves seriously when they’re freelancers and they really should.
Yeah, that’s so true.
Like if you want, if you want serious prices, you gotta take yourself seriously. Yes. That is so true. You do have, if you don’t even believe that your own prices are worth being paid for, like a client will sense that. At least that’s my experiences. Like you have to also believe that your rate is worth it, that you’re worth it, and it does show in how you present yourself. So I totally agree. Mm. Yeah. Um, any predictions on trending freelance opportunities? I’m just asking cuz I, I feel like you have your thumb on the pulse, but maybe I’m wrong. Are any sectors dead in freelancing
Um, well I think that there’s a lot more people getting into freelancing. Which isn’t a bad thing cuz like I said, most people don’t take themselves seriously and there’s, you know, it’s like freelancing is a pyramid, right? So like there’s just a ton of people at the bottom who don’t know what they’re doing, that don’t have the skills that they need to have in order to book clients and provided a really good service for those clients.
There’s tons of people like that. And there’s always gonna be like good work though for the people that are in the top of the pyramid. Definitely gonna be a lot more people getting into freelancing. I think that there, I’m seeing so many more like apps and different, like software for freelancers. It’s designed specifically for the freelancing space because everybody thinks it’s gonna expanding. You’re gonna see so many new services available, whether that is like financial or um, you know, invoicing organization.
All these tools that are being built specifically for freelancers that did not exist in 2017. Cuz you’ve seen my organizational tools. Cause there was nothing when I started and I had to make all these like spreadsheets for myself. So I think in that way it’ll become easier to be a freelancer if you find those tools helpful. I often don’t, I still like to just make things myself like, you know what I mean? Like it’s a difference between buying a planner and having a bullet journal.
I just wanna make things how I want it to be, which is probably why I’m an entrepreneur. And there is something else I wanted to say. I can’t think of it right now. Sorry.
That’s okay. We can come back. One more question before we wrap it up today. What do you think is more important for a new freelance writer? Their writing skills or their business skills?
Their writing skills.
Because you’re not gonna book clients if you can’t write. Yeah, and the interesting thing about being a freelance writer is like, unlike in a lot of other freelancing skills, it’s like, When you are reaching out to clients and you, you’re writing to them, you are demonstrating the skill.
So, if I get like a cold pitch from someone and they can’t sell themselves in the cold pitch, then how are they gonna sell my business with their words, you know? So definitely be working on those writing skills always. Yeah. If you don’t have like the service down, if you don’t have the skill to sell, then there’s no business. So don’t Yeah. That’s the bottom line.
Yeah. I agree. It’s so easy sometimes as a business side cuz you’re like, you get cut up in your brand in colors and all the fun stuff, but it’s like, no, you need to make sure you are nailing down your service first. Yeah. And then you worry about the other stuff later.
Yeah, and also like all that branding stuff, like some people can use that as a form of procrastination too. Which is why like I recommend like if you’re getting started, make your portfolio and just like have it in a Google drive, unless you’re doing a program with me where you’re gonna make a website too, because otherwise you’re gonna spend all this time working on your website. That you’re never gonna launch cuz and then you’re never going to make any money.
So then you’ll be like, Oh, that didn’t work well. Did you really try though? No. Cause you didn’t finish your website. So, I’m just like, do fast and loose, make your portfolio pieces, make PDFs, put ’em in a Google drive, and then start sending up the people that you wanna work with. Don’t mess around with the website at first. Just focus on getting clients.
Yes. Great. So that brings us at the end, the episode. Thank you so much. Did you wanna share any closing thoughts with listeners?
Um, read a lot, read a lot. Listen to podcasts or so many awesome educational resources out there. Take notes on the stuff that you’re reading or listening to, then just prioritize it and start putting it on your calendar and doing it. You can really do anything if you follow those steps.
Yes. Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Colleen.
Thank you, Julia.