Becoming a freelance writer takes more than just talent. While writing talent is at the…
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Ayelet Weisz is a 33-year-old freelance writer in Haifa, Israel whom I became friends with when I was also living in Israel and we were both travel blogging. (Her name is pronounced Ah-YE-let Va-is.) She graduated from Tel Aviv University with a double major in gender studies and creative writing and now is an experienced writer in the B2B space. I’ve interviewed Ayelet so she can tell you about her life as a freelance writer in her beautiful and fascinating country.
What specifically do you write about, and how did you come to choose that genre of writing?
I started where I was, with what I had. I had a travel blog, so I pitched companies in the travel industry. I had a degree in gender studies, so I pitched related articles. I worked in customer service as a student, so I pitched writing services to a customer service software company – one that works with global brands.
I wrote articles for them to help educate senior executives in large companies on how to offer higher quality customer service, and it ended up opening one of my key niches.
I kept saying yes to writing outside my comfort zone when opportunities came up, and over time, it opened up more industries.
I currently specialize in business-to-business industries that make a positive impact on the way that companies do business and serve the two most important sectors in their organizations – customers and teams – so industries like marketing, customer service, customer success, employee experience, diversity and inclusion, etc.
I also write for the technology, education and healthcare industries, and I’m always on the lookout to write about personal empowerment, going after your dreams and closing gender gaps.
In what countries are your clients based?
The majority of my clients are from Israel and the US, but I’ve written for companies, organizations and websites from 5 continents (South America, you’re next!).
Most people have no idea what Israel is like. What can you tell people who are curious about life in Israel? What is life in this country like for you?
I don’t feel that there is one Israeli experience, just like there isn’t one American experience. Every region or community is different. Israel is a technologically and medically innovative country, with a super diverse landscape despite its tiny size. It’s a Western country, but since people have moved here from all over the world, you can find great diversity in anything from food to attractions to ways of life.
I’ve never lived close to a border [Israel borders Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria] where the security situation you hear about in the news is felt much more. So almost all the time, I feel I lead a pretty regular Western, urban 30-something kinda life – growing professionally, going out with friends, looking for opportunities to go dancing and traveling, and keep going after my dreams.
Did you begin freelance writing right out of university, or is this a career you grew into?
I started my business in the last year of my university degree. That said, I live in Israel, so straight out of university usually means in your late 20s, which was my case too. People here usually do an obligatory military service after high school, then save up money and some go traveling, and only then do you often start your degree.
As I shared above, spending a few years in student jobs actually ended up opening the door to one of my top writing industries, so it’s exciting to see how life works out. Never underestimate what you have to offer.
Why did you choose to begin freelancing?
I wanted to start my own business for a long time, and then I discovered there *was* a way to make a living from my art. Thank you, MakeALivingWriting.com!
As a freelance writer, how do you find clients?
It’s changed over the years. Here’s a list of 11 prospecting sources I used a few years ago to find 488 hot freelance writing prospects and pitch them. Since then, I’ve stepped up my activity on LinkedIn and connect with prospective clients over there.
Other than that, some clients find me, which is always fun. Besides LinkedIn, clients have found me through referrals, in-depth guest posts on large sites, conference networking and through my website AyeletWeisz.com.
How do you keep clients?
It’s a combination of multiple things. As a freelance writer, I do my best to over-deliver in the quality of content I write for clients. I learn about their company and their audience, do my research for specific articles or case studies or site copy, etc, so I can deliver content that’s more accurate for their needs and goals. I’m also continuously learning about my industries, so I can deliver even more value.
Another thing is the quality of service. I do my best to continuously improve this as well – good communication, staying enthusiastic about our partnership and their mission (most companies I’ve worked with do pretty fun and/or amazing stuff), doing what I say I will do, etc. Among others, I’m celebrating 7 years in business now, and I’ve never missed a client deadline, because I know that that my clients rely on it, so that they can deliver to *their* clients, bosses or audiences on time.
What has been your biggest challenge in your freelance writing career so far?
One of them is that the revenue model is pretty unpredictable, and you never know how much you’ll earn in a year. You can handle it, among others, by developing packages (make larger sales, which means every sale you make is a bigger step toward your annual revenue goal) and by learning about personal finance.
Personally, I have an annual budget and I save as much as I can. I don’t spend more if/when make more, because the income fluctuates throughout the year. Saving also means that if a client doesn’t pay, you can still eat, pay your bills and get a good night’s sleep, because there’s money in the bank. But definitely follow up with them. You did the work – you need to get paid.
I also recommend dedicating time to business development, so you can find additional ways to overcome this. That said, another big challenge I have is balancing long term business growth with the need to get clients in the door in the present. I’ve been taking steps in multiple directions to find a better balance here.
What invoicing and payment methods do you use, and what advice do you have for other freelancers who need to be paid?
I use a software that’s just for Israeli businesses to the best of my knowledge, but my two pieces of advice for anyone who wants to get paid as a freelancer are:
1. Get your clients to sign a contract before you start working. Make sure everything you’ve agreed on is in writing – the type of project, how much you’ll make, when you’ll get paid, what your services include, etc.
2. Charge a deposit before you start working. I almost always charge 50%.
What do you do in your free time to unwind and become refreshed for the next round of writing? Any traveling or anything fun?
Thankfully, writing itself and self care refresh me pretty well. But it *is* important to take breaks and take time off. I love spending time with friends and family, dancing, reading, hiking and going to musicals, just to name a few things.
I’m fortunate to live in Haifa, a city that offers a ton of urban and nature experiences. I’ve been here for almost 4 years, and have been proactive about exploring it, and there’s still so much to experience – from museums to nature trails to ice cream places.
Starting a freelance career can be very daunting. Did you have any fears starting out and, if so, how did you conquer them?
I made choices to take care of my finances when I started my business, but I was still afraid that companies wouldn’t want to work with me, someone who’s coming from student jobs and just finishing her degree and doesn’t have a lot of experience in this field.
Therefore, at the very beginning, I shifted my focus from getting clients (a goal I couldn’t control) to pitching prospective clients (a goal I *could* control). It was so scary to send those pitches, so I just focused on clicking the “send” button. I sent a lot of pitches, and focused on hitting the number of pitches I set for myself.
And I learned as much as possible about my field and the industries I was getting into. It’s 7 years later, and I never stop learning.
Freelance writing can be a very isolating job. How do you deal with this? Do you network much with other writers and/or freelancers?
I’ve heard people say that, and I’ve fortunately never felt this way. I actually get together with people outside the Internet much more than I did before I started working from home.
I think one of the reasons this happens is because I get my quiet time and me time and I get to work and live my passion in the way that’s most empowering and productive for me, which means I’m then available to truly be with the people I hang out with. It’s very rare that I’ll check my phone while I’m with friends and loved ones, for example.
And in the meanwhile, I interact with people all the time as part of my work, even if it’s usually not face to face. In the professional setting, I’ve got my clients, my connections, my small accountability group with other freelance writers (Jessie is from the US and Stephanie is from Canada, and we just celebrated 5 years in the group) – to give you a few examples. Some of these people have even become my friends, like you!
You can find Ayelet on AyeletWeisz.com and her social media: