Risk taking and believing in yourself pays off big time, and this week’s featured writer is proof. In this installment of Drinking Coffee with Writers, digital content marketing writer Christina Lyon is dishing out positive vibes and actionable advice.
Find out how she landed travel blogging opportunities, leveraged her blog to get her first Upwork clients, and ultimately found her passion in wellness and marketing content. Grab a cup of coffee (or your hot beverage of choice) and dig in.
Freelance Writing Cafe: What was the #1 reason you decided to start freelancing?
Christina Lyon: I always wanted to write professionally and work remotely, but it took me hitting rock bottom as a broke college dropout with a pipe dream who couldn’t land a “real” job to endeavor into blogging and ultimately freelancing.
How did your freelance journey begin?
In college, I bounced from major to major trying to find my calling, and ultimately decided on journalism. However, I always doubted my choice because I’m more of a creative writer and storyteller than a reporter.
In 2016 I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and started a blog to chronicle my travels. Between museum hopping, wine sipping, and savoring every dose of la dolce vita (and Italian vino!), I fell in love with traveling and blogging.
In 2017 I was supposed to transfer to university. Instead, I accepted an offer to do a travel exchange trip to learn Spanish in Panama and write about it on my blog. Best choice I ever made!
I didn’t start freelance writing full time until 2018, but those two years of blogging served as a foundation for learning my craft.
Finally, after stumbling through interviews with marketing firms and struggling to bring in an income, a light bulb went off. Why not offer my blogging and writing skills to clients? It seems obvious, but the fear of rejection and self-doubt ultimately prolonged my freelancing career.
I created an Upwork account, started pitching, and included a link to my blog in my proposals. As a beginner without a legit portfolio, all of my clients hired me because of my blog! I hadn’t made a cent from my blog until that point, so it was rewarding to see it be the driving force for my success.
Of course, my intention was to start travel writing, but I found success in wellness and digital marketing, and I fell in love with these two niches.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?
I’ve learned that being clear about my needs, value, and rate isn’t offensive. When I first started freelancing, I was so self-conscious and uncertain about discussing rates.
It took me about a year to get over impostor syndrome and realize that I’m an asset to my clients. I quickly found myself in demand, and this gave me the confidence to bid higher, pitch to bigger publications, and get out of my comfort zone.
What is something you still struggle with as a freelance writer?
Organization and routine. I understand the value of a schedule, but I am a bit of a frazzled writer — papers fluttering about, inbox overload, coffee stains on my shirt, hair in a curly, frizzy mess, struggling to achieve work-life balance. Someday I’d love to be organized, but in the meantime, I stick with the process that works for me, even if it’s a bit unorthodox.
What advice would you give to freelancers who are just starting out?
Work on your craft every day, whether that’s writing a blog post, networking on social media, editing your work, taking a course, or building a website or blog. Treat your writing like a business. Water it and give it sunlight every day, and in time, it will blossom. Please, don’t ever give up on yourself! You are only one yes away from radical transformation.
What is your favorite thing about freelancing?
I’ll be honest: I love not having to answer to a micromanaging superior. I’m strong-willed and don’t do well with supervisors, and have pretty much always clashed with authority. I work best with clients who trust my process and respect my autonomy. Working for myself has been incredibly freeing!
What is your favorite app, tool, or tip for productivity?
Asana for content planning. Grammarly premium for writing. Canva for imagery, social media, and graphics.
Do you have a go-to mantra or quote that keeps you inspired?
Yes! “Carrying the fire” is from one of my favorite books: The Road by Cormac McCarthy. When I doubt myself or my place in the world, I say this mantra, and it grounds me in my intentions and values to push forward and persevere. Even if the world goes to the bin (which, it kind of has this year), I’m carrying the fire.
What’s your favorite hot beverage to sip while working?
Coffee. Dash of almond cream. Extra hot.
How do you find the motivation to work when you’re distracted or having a bad day?
If I have a strict deadline on a tough day, I’ll go for a long walk to try to get out of my head. Mostly, on bad days I know my writing will reflect it, so I’ll tackle non-creative tasks like research, SEO, or writing an outline.
What is your favorite place to travel to?
It’s funny because I got into freelancing so I could work from anywhere, yet since I started, I stopped traveling! I’m changing that after this pandemic. Italy will always have my heart, and I’d love to live there part-time.
What’s one interesting thing about you that people might not know?
My ultimate passions are writing fiction, poetry, and music. I’m currently editing my first fiction novel and poetry book. I’m a musician and songwriter and have an album dropping this year. 🙂
We love how exciting and dynamic your path to freelance writing has been! Any other words of wisdom to share?
Allow yourself to believe that your big, seemingly unattainable dream is actually just a series of strategic steps and a lot of hard work. Know your worth and run from red flag clients who undervalue or low-ball you. Embrace that, and you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
☕️ Drinking Coffee With Writers is here to give you a dose of inspiration and actionable tips for the week ahead. We’re showcasing freelance writers who are designing their careers and living life on their own terms. Want to be our next featured writer? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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