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Why I Quit Freelancing For A Digital Marketing Agency

When I decided that I wanted to write online to make money, the first place I looked for opportunities was Upwork.

After I made my account, wrote my profile, and got approved, I started to submit proposals.

And I was lucky because I got offered a job by a startup digital marketing agency looking for beginner copywriters within a few days.

So even though I didn’t know what copywriting was at the time, I accepted the job because I was eager to learn. To grow. To get my foot in the door of making money writing online.

I worked with this agency for more than one year.

And it was an incredible experience because I learned how to:

  • Use Slack, Asana, Google Drive, and Zoom

  • Write social media copy, email automation, newsletters, and lead magnets

  • Onboard and communicate with clients

  • Manage my workload and time to meet deadlines

  • Work with a 100% remote team

And it opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of making money online. So, I was grateful for the opportunity.

But I decided to quit after more than one year. Here’s why. And what I learned to do in the future.

There was a lot of uncertainty.

Freelancing can be stressful. Because unless you have:

  • Clients on a monthly retainer

  • A steady stream of clients on your doorstep

  • An effective lead generation system

You have to scramble to find new clients all the time. So, your income can vary each month.

This is different from working a 9-5 because you know exactly when and how much you’re getting paid every month.

Plus, unless you have a contract in place, clients can fire you without notice. And they can reduce your compensation.

This happened to me. The agency reduced my workload and compensation by half with barely any warning for one month because the cash flow for the business at the time wasn’t great.

What I Learned To Do

I created a contract for my services that both I and the client have to sign before working together.

First, the contract states the client and I have to work together for a minimum of 3 months.

Second, if the client chooses to terminate the contract without cause before the end of the initial 3-month period, they must send me a written notice of termination and compensation equal to the amount to be paid over the duration of the minimum contract period.

Third, after the initial contract period, either I or the client can terminate the contract with a one-month notice period. If the client does end the contract, then at least I have one month to look for a new client.

I stopped getting feedback for my work.

When I started, the agency sent me links to books, courses, and other resources to learn the basics of copywriting.

And for the first six months, they reviewed all the copy and content I produced before sending them to our clients by leaving suggestions on Google docs.

But after the six-month mark, I received no feedback on any of my work from the agency or the clients. Plus, I didn’t have access to the analytics to see how the copy or content performed.

So even though I continued to learn how to write better copy and content, I didn’t know whether what I was learning, and implementing was working or not.

Eventually, I asked the agency to hold weekly meetings with the copywriters to talk about how to improve our work. But the meetings were often rescheduled or cancelled.

What I Learned To Do

I learned to take charge of my growth by building my personal brand.

So, I started to write posts on LinkedIn. I started to write tweets on Twitter. I started to write articles on Medium. And I started to create YouTube videos.

But most importantly, I experimented with different topics, templates, and tips. Then, I analyzed the statistics to see what was resonating with the audience and what wasn’t.

I also realized it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap if you spend too much time looking at analytics. So to combat this, I only look at the analytics when I’m on my computer. And I set a daily time limit. For me, it’s about 10 minutes a day.

I got paid late every time.

On Upwork, you get paid on time because the system automatically withdraws money from the client to deposit into your account based on your preferences. I chose to get paid on the last Wednesday of every month.

But after six months of working together, the agency and I decided to get off Upwork and use PayPal instead. We decided that I’d get paid on the last day of every month.

But getting off Upwork was a mistake because from that point on, I got paid late every time.

The first time, it was one day late. Then, it became two days. And eventually, it became the norm for me to get paid two weeks later.

When I followed up on my late invoices, the agency would tell me the cash flow for that month wasn’t great. And that’s why they had to delay my payment.

What I Learned To Do

Now, I and the client always sign a contract before working together.

In the contract, I state a monthly invoice will be sent via email to the client 7 days before the payment due date.

Payments can be made with PayPal, Direct debit, or bank transfer. And I provide all payment information on the invoice.

I explicitly state payments are due on the invoice due date. And if the client fails to make payment on the due date…

My services are placed on hold until all payment is received in full.

I didn’t set clear boundaries.

When I first started, I got paid $8 an hour on Upwork. And all my hours were tracked using the Upwork app. So, I got paid for all the time I put in.

But after six months of working together, the agency and I decided to get off Upwork and use PayPal instead.

We decided on a monthly payment of $1000 to be paid on the last day of every month.

But here’s the thing… we never laid out the exact responsibilities I’d have for that month. We never talked about:

  • How many clients I’d write for

  • How many pieces of social media copy, emails, newsletters, or lead magnets I’d write

So, the workload increased monthly because we usually signed 1-3 clients every month. Plus, the agency kept giving me extra responsibilities. They wanted me to:

  • Edit the copy and content written by our new copywriter

  • Review the videos created by our video editor

  • Help our graphic designer with the graphics

  • And write additional email sequences for challenge launches and upsells on top of the recurring weekly nurturing emails and copy

  • Have onboarding meetings with our new clients

But. My. Monthly. Payment. Stayed. The. Same.

After a few months, I negotiated my monthly payment to $2000. But again, I faced the same problem of the workload increasing without it reflecting in my compensation.

What I Learned To Do

I learned I need to protect myself.

So, I explicitly state the complete list of my contractual obligations to the client in the contract that I and the client sign before working together,

For example, I write 3 social media captions a week for one client for a monthly payment. And that’s all I do for her.

Also, I learned it’s best to charge either a flat rate for ONE project like a social media post, email, or lead magnet. Or sell a package like 3x social media posts and 2x nurturing emails per week for a monthly price.

I learned I didn’t like freelancing.

Why? Because I didn’t like writing for other people.

I decided to write online because first and foremost, I enjoy writing.

It helps me think more clearly. It helps me understand myself and the world. It lets me document my experiences and share what I learn with others. And the flow state that I get into when I write feels incredible.

So, if I can make money writing online, then that’s even more fantastic.

But I realized writing for other people killed my passion for writing.

So, nowadays, I only work with clients if I’m 100% passionate and supportive of what they do.

What I Learned To Do

I decided to take the creator path.

So nowadays, I spend most of my time writing articles on Medium and creating YouTube videos instead of freelancing.

Sure, I don’t make as much money as before from writing online (which is why I started working at a restaurant…)

But I’ve found the sweet spot of writing about things that I like while sharing what I learn with others along the way to provide value.


Thank you for reading. ✨

Photo by Roth Melinda on Unsplash

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