Have you noticed that many people online would like you to pay them to teach you how to freelance — even though they just started doing it themselves? Yes, it’s spring, and bad freelance advice is in the air.
Maybe it’s because I recently hit 15 years as a freelancer (and about 10 years as a coach), but this is a trend that worries me. If you read a lot of new bloggers’ About pages, they often gush that they’re excited to be starting a freelance business…but 10 minutes later, they switch to teaching you how to do it. Before they really have time to succeed at freelancing.
Do you smell a rat? I do, too.
What raises my hackles here, as an advocate for fair writer treatment and pay, is that I’ve had a chance to check out a lot of the advice offered by newbies — and the quality of it ranges from marginally useful to wretchedly wrong-headed.
‘Follow along’ vs experienced expert
I recently heard newbie experts called “follow along with me” bloggers. As in, “Hey, I just started doing this, and you can watch and learn from my mistakes.”
There’s clearly something appealing about hearing from someone who’s essentially in your shoes. They’re so relatable!
It sounds innocuous — until you meet all the bankrupt people whose lives have been ruined by taking disastrously uninformed advice online.
I find myself regularly picking people up off the sidewalk who ended up living out of their car after they took some of this perky newbie advice (“Just get on UpWork!” is one of my favorite gems, from a ‘coach’ who began selling a course on freelancing the month she quit her day job).
For instance, I recently learned a writer-friend had hired a business coach — one who’d quit her own day job less than a year ago. How much does she really know about product launches, or running a successful online business? I’m betting it fits in a thimble.
Don’t know what you don’t know?
I think maybe some freelancers hire inexperienced coaches because they don’t realize how much these instant experts don’t know. Freelancing is a complex undertaking, and there’s a lot to know.
What might you miss if you’re ‘following along’ with a writer at your same level? Here’s a list of things I only learned after a decade of freelancing:
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