2021 Freelance Year in Review

What to expect from this blog: No numbers. I keep my finances private, but I’ll say that this year I made a modest amount that kept me comfortably provided for. Below, I’ll talk more about the actual work, challenges I faced, and some highlight accomplishments that have me optimistic about my freelancing future.

Along the way, you’ll notice check marks (√) and “x”s. √ denotes a positive outcome with a service that I provide. “x” denotes a negative outcome with a service I no longer provide. If you’re curious about my full slate of services, you can learn more about them here.

Highlights of 2021

  • Landed my first print semi-feature (assigned at 1,800 words) with 5280.
  • Ventured back into marketing copywriting, after a few years of almost exclusively writing and editing corporate blogs and inbound content.
  • Stumbled upon an industry niche I enjoy: edtech (that’s education technology).
  • Walked away from an industry niche I didn’t enjoy: health tech (specifically, sterilization systems).
  • Worked with more local organizations here in Denver.
  • Experimented with social media marketing and decided it’s not for me.
  • Took my first week-long vacation as a full-time freelancer.

The Narrative

This year in freelancing started off hard. After seeing no negative impacts on my client list from the pandemic in 2020, I lost two major clients in Q1 of 2021 — both due to pandemic-induced changes. 

These two clients made up the bulk of my freelance income the previous two years. One was a retainer agreement, which meant a consistent dollar amount hit my account each month; the other provided consistent hourly work each week. Both clients were on my “replace” list at the beginning of 2020, but they beat me to the punch, which meant I had to forge new relationships and land other work on a tight timeline. Due to this, I worked with many more companies in one calendar year than I have in the past (16 in 2021 vs. 10 in 2020), and Q1 was particularly writing heavy.

I tested out web writing (√) and social media marketing (x) with a new client. I did a bit of content writing (√) for a local philanthropic foundation and some inconsequential web shorts for a women’s business publication. I also landed, reported, and wrote my first print piece of more than 800 words, a profile of CrossFit CEO Eric Roza for 5280 Magazine. I spent March reporting and writing that piece, which published in July, as well as another profile for Regis University Magazine.

In April, I kicked off a six-month copywriting (√) gig with GoGuardian’s family of edtech companies, my first time wading back into marketing copywriting since I left my full-time job in 2017. This gig was a good reminder of: a) why I freelance and b) that I enjoy marketing copywriting, especially branded messaging.

Over the summer, I took a Writer’s Co-Op freelancing business course to help me think through my services and business goals. I also took my first-ever weeklong vacation as a freelancer and wrote a report (√) for The Denver Foundation that highlighted the organization’s involvement in a local bond initiative focused on addressing homelessness. This was one of my favorite projects of 2021, and I hope to write more reports like it in the future.

In the fall, I wrote several pieces for 5280 Magazine, both digital and print (two will be published in the new year — watch for my name in 5280 Health and 5280’s February 2022 issue). I also contributed a couple profiles to The Physiologist Magazine and landed a temporary copywriting gig with the Denver Film Festival. I helped with web copy leading up to the festival, including a COVID protocols webpage, and I wrote daily recap emails during the festival. 

Mid-November and December, things slowed down a bit. I picked up a couple ongoing editing gigs that I hope will lead to more work and took some time this month to do some preliminary research for a book idea I’ve been incubating. I’m wrapping up this year with a lot of reading and creative non-writing activities that will hopefully leave me recharged for a new year of possibilities.

2021 Projects I’m Proud Of

Goals for 2022

  • More: 
    • Copywriting projects that push the boundaries of creativity
    • Developmental and copyediting projects that put me in writing coach mode
  • Develop strong ongoing relationships with clients for more consistent work.
  • Write reports on policy, survey research, creative solutions, etc., for mission-driven organizations.
  • Lean into industry niches of edtech, education-adjacent, and arts organizations.
  • Finish book proposal with sample chapters by May 1.
  • Land a few book-related essay and reporting assignments.

Published by meredithsell

Freelance writer and editor. Nerding out over health & fitness, women's history, and untold stories.

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