Madolline, Editor and Writer
Hi, I’m Madolline and I’m from Australia
I live in Brisbane, and I've been working as a writer and editor for the past six or seven years. I’ve mainly worked on contract jobs for state government departments, but I started my own writing, editing and proofreading business a few years back. More recently, I've started working on my house- and cat-sitting travel blog!
What do you do?
I work in the online communication space. So creating and editing content for internet sites and intranets. A lot of newsletter and event creation work, and some HTML/CSS stuff.
But in my own business, it's mainly proofreading and editing assignments for university students. I've also edited an eBook. I prefer editing eBooks as it’s a lot less formal—there's no referencing styles to adhere to, etc.
How did you become a freelancer?
I realized I could make some money on the side, outside of my 9 to 5 job, doing the stuff I was doing each day anyway. This meant I could have some extra spending money for my holidays or buy a few things I couldn't afford on my regular wage.
I sat down one day, made a logo, bought a domain, made a pretty dodgy website that still kind of exists (but is less dodgy than it was), and started advertising on Gumtree (this is the Australian equivalent of Craigslist—equally as dodgy, too) and Facebook.
Why did you become a freelancer?
I liked the idea of being able to generate extra income and not have to 'answer' to anyone, i.e. I am the boss. If there was a job I didn't want to take on, for whatever reason, I wouldn’t be forced to.
Where did you find your first paid freelancing job?
Online. I think it was through someone on Gumtree.
What expectations did you have going into this kind of job? And how has it been the same or different from what you expected?
I didn't really have any expectations. But it can be frustrating because people don't understand the difference between 'proofread' and 'edit', and are reluctant to pay my asking prices. Not that they’re high, but people don't realize this is a skilled type of work.
FYI: Proofreading is really basic and this is what most people ask for. Editing requires me to restructure and rewrite what the person's provided. It's not just adding a comma or changing American English to British English. It takes a lot more time and effort.
What’s your favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?
You can set your own hours. This means you can come and go as you please. You can also wear whatever you want and don't have to put on a full face of makeup (not that that's required in a 9 to 5 job, but that’s what I do!).
What's your LEAST favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?
Sometimes I'll miss having someone to talk to or bounce ideas off. Or I'll miss having a rant to my workmates.
How long did it take for you to feel like a "successful" freelancer? Until you were able to pay your bills regularly without worrying?
I still don’t feel like a successful freelancer just yet. I definitely couldn't live off the income I currently generate as a part-time writer and editor, but that's why I'm focusing on the house and cat-sitting adventures blog instead. I feel it's a niche no-one has really tapped in to... yet.
How did you price your services when you were just starting out?
I don't really have a set price. Quotes are given based on the information the person gives when they email me. Generally speaking, my prices start at $30 for proofreading an assignment of 1,000 words.
What was your biggest struggle when you were just starting out?
Getting my name out there. You can create a Facebook page or LinkedIn profile, but it's getting people to see and engage with that content. You can pay for advertising on Facebook, but buying likes doesn't mean anyone's going to use your services.
I've also found clients don't like paying much for people to write stuff for them. Many are often turned off by the price point. I don't think people realize good editing and proofreading skills are not common.
I've tried Upwork and Fiverr, and I'll always lose out to someone with poor English and no qualifications, offering their service for $5 or $10. For me, it's not viable to spend several hours on something for $10.
What do you know now, that you wish you knew back then?
That there are benefits to be had in joining Facebook groups and engaging with people on these groups. They're more than happy to share their ideas and experiences, and this can help you grow and/or avoid making the same mistakes.
What's your favorite way to find new clients and job opportunities? What worked best for you?
Facebook groups. In addition to the GUAVABEAN group, I also really like Female Digital Nomads and Digital Nomad Girls Community. On certain days of the week, you can post about your business, a link to your website or Instagram, or let people know about something good that's happened to you. They also have 'Freelance Friday' posts where you can engage someone for some ad-hoc work you've got going.
For the house- and cat-sitting, I use Trusted Housesitters. You need to pay for membership, but I’ve found some great opportunities on there.
What are your favorite tools for work? Any apps or programs you love?
I'm really basic. I send emails to myself as reminders. I use Microsoft Word. And I've recently started to use WordPress for my blog. At my Monday to Friday government job, they use Monday as a job logging and tracking system. I really like it, but can't justify the expense for my freelance work.
What's one BIG lesson you learned the hard way on your freelancer journey?
Finding work and clients is really difficult. I'm trying to find news organizations, publications, and websites to feature my work or pick up my story. Some people will write you off or not even reply (my pet peeve).
How do you stay motivated when work is tough or there aren’t enough jobs coming in?
It's hard. But, thankfully, I still have my 9 to 5 job for the time being. In June, I'll be house- and cat-sitting around the US, again, and working on content for the blog and website.
Hopefully it all works out and I can continue on this unconventional international adventure. I never thought I'd consider blogging as a career, but so many of the people I've house and cat-sat for said I'd be crazy not to give it a go.
If you met a new freelancer who wanted to get into your line of work, what advice would you give them?
Go to university. I learned most, if not all, of the more technical writing stuff from completing a Bachelor of Journalism. Sub-editing was my favorite class. I also really liked the layout and design subject they offered. I never wanted to be a journalist, but I was good at writing. So I saw the three-year degree out. And I thought it sounded smart saying I had a Bachelor of Journalism.
But, at the same time, university can only teach and prepare you for so much. The on-the-job training through my various government roles has helped me go from more traditional office-based communications roles to online communication. I didn't learn any of the content management or web accessibility stuff at university, but they might teach that now.
Now that you've experienced all the ups and downs of being a freelancer, would you go back to a regular 9-5 job?
When my house- and cat-sitting blog takes off, I'll let you know!
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