Begin by identifying your end goal & your freelance writing buckets
Many people (myself included) have more than one career--sometimes out of necessity, other times because they've decided to turn a side gig or a hobby into a full-time job. However, creating a brand in the form of a website when having more than one career can be tricky. As I've discovered this past year, it could also be discouraging and frustrating, but there are ways around it if you're willing to put in some elbow grease and a lot of patience.
First--a confession. I hate writing cover letters. I would rather go on stage in front of hundreds of people rather than try to compose a sales piece with all the right keywords, hoping that a prospective employer would find it appealing enough to hire me. Sometimes I've felt like sending my resume out with a sticky note that says, "Look at my accomplishments and just hire me."
Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Employers want more than a resume--they want to see that you're able to present yourself and your career in a well-written and brief cover letter using specific keywords to grab their attention. Eventually, these cover letters become a plug-and-play template, which is fine when applying for one job: Change the date, the employer's name, and the position title, click "Send," say a few Hail Marys, and voila. However, it can be tricky when you're trying to promote a business--in this case, a freelance writing business and have more than one career. In my case--THREE CAREERS. So, where do you start? Here's how I did it.
1- Create a mindmap to define your freelance writing goals:
When you have more than one career or a career gap, and you want to create a website, which is a digital form of a cover letter and a business card all in one, you can't simply list everything you've done. You have to figure out what your end goal is. I accidentally came across the concept of a mindmap, and it was a lifesaver.
I had signed up for a membership to MasterClass, and one of the instructors was journalist and author Elaine Welteroth on "Designing Your Career." In her class, she discussed the importance of creating buckets for each skill and then adding sub-buckets to show how you can monetize each one. Once you do that, I recommend you take a step back so you can see the whole picture. Don't expect to complete this mindmap in an hour or two. It took me at least a few weeks of working on it, putting it away, and returning to it, until I felt I had the right picture.
Suddenly, those individual skills manifested into a complete persona: I am a writer and a marketer specializing in education, STEM, and nonprofit industries. I took all my years of experience working at various organizations and my work as an educator teaching writing and put it all together.
2- Narrow Your Scope: You cannot be EVERYTHING. You may have filled six bubbles on that mindmap, but can you honestly and effectively accomplish all six, especially if you also have a full-time job and freelancing is a side gig?
3- Come up with tagline to display on your freelance writing website:
You read it right, create a tagline, aka, a brand. Who are you? Mine started with a list: Writer, Educator, Marketer, Communications and Public Relations Professional, Essayist, Tri-Lingual, etc. Let's say--a long list of skills. But, the list didn't represent who "I want to become." A tagline allows you to think about the future--about who you want to be rather than who you were or are today. It's not a list of skills; it's a phrase you use when someone asks you at a swanky dinner party, "What do you do for a living?"
3- Check out your industry's needs TODAY--not what you did years ago:
Suppose you've been away from one of your careers for some time. In my case, I've been away from communications and public relations for four years--three of which were during COVID. When I started to create a website, all I heard was "SEO-optimized." WHAT IS SEO? We didn't use SEO when I left the industry. Now, "SEO" is all the rage. I signed up for a free SEO class on Hubspot to help me learn the basics. Of course, it's not as complicated as they make it sound, but you can't freelance without knowing what it is.
4- Create & publish your freelance writer website:
Now that you know who you are and your end goal, create your website. It took me a few tries to get it right. My advice: Keep it Simple. While researching, I saw some websites that looked and read more like a Ph.D. dissertation or a middle school ELA project. Strike a happy medium and create a site that represents YOU.