Nov 18, 2020

Meet this month’s featured freelancer Linda Formichelli. Linda is the founder and creative director of Hero’s Journey Content, a content studio in Apex, NC. We consider Linda an expert when it comes to freelancing and we can’t wait for you to read more about her journey here.

Tell us a little bit more about what you do and how long you have been freelancing?
I started freelancing in 1997, and started Hero’s Journey Content in 2019. We offer content planning, content team training, and content execution. Some of the brands we’ve worked for include Best Buy Health, Intel, Prevention magazine, OnStar, Wells Fargo, and CVS.

What is your “exit” story? Why did you decide to freelance?
I was working at an office job in Berkeley, CA, after earning my master’s degree at UC Berkeley. I knew I didn’t want to pursue a Ph.S. and the job was, shall we say, not exciting. I was a very early freelancer—I was a freelance indexer in college in the late 80s, and a freelance translator in grad school in the 90s—so the idea of going solo was not foreign to me.

I got a book out of  the library called Queries & Submissions, wrote my first magazine pitch—and it was accepted! And it paid $500, which was a lot at the time. I started pitching more and more, and cut down my hours at the job as I got more writing work from consumer and trade magazines. After about 6 months I quit altogether. Later I segued into copywriting, book authoring, and content (before it was even called content!).

I became an freelancing evangelist, teaming up with a partner to write books like The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success and to teach online classes for aspiring freelancers.

How has freelancing been great for you and how has it been hard?
I love the freedom to do what I want, when I want, and the fact that my income is limited only by myself. I did a short stint as a full-time contract content manager a few years ago, and having to work set hours drove me crazy…especially since the kind of work I do doesn’t require me to be available during particular hours.

I enjoy writing, but I’m crazy about marketing, and this career lets me do both. 

The hard part is that you never get to turn it off. Working at home, there are no natural boundaries between work and not-work. Even when I’m not at my desk, I’m often thinking about and planning work.

I think that due to the pandemic, with so many people working at home, a lot more people now understand what I’m talking about!

It’s also a huge juggle: you’re not just the content planner/trainer/writer, you’re responsible for bringing in work, handling finances, hiring, and everything else. A long time ago I calculated that only 15% of my job was actually doing client work. (That’s changed a lot since hiring a project manager/marketing associate, though.)

We know that you have expanded your solo freelance career into a small team. How has this changed the way you operate your business?
I finally realized that I needed to hire help, so I went full out: I formed an LLC and put an ad on Indeed. I got 80 applications, interviewed five people, and ended up hiring Tina.

Part of the plan was to hire a team of writers. I put together some training from the freelance classes I used to teach, and started contracting out work to experienced writers. But that lasted less than a year as my expectations are incredibly high, and I ended up having to do a lot of editing on the back end. It just wasn’t worth it.

So I took all the client work back in-house, and hired a contract researcher. She really helps streamline the writing and planning process so I can get more done. For example, she might research topics for client projects, write outlines, or plug SME quotes from interviews into an outline.

I finally feel like a “real business” as I’ve finally had the bandwidth to write out some of our processes and really systematize things. I have a little more time now to work on the business instead of in the business.

What has been one of your biggest accomplishments in your freelance career?
We used to do piecemeal, execution-focused work for any client who came along. “You want just one magazine article, or one whitepaper? And you’ll come back four months later for another one? You got it!”

Now we’re more choosy: we focus on a handful of clients who want to partner with us for long-term projects, and who value what we can bring to the table besides writing—like strategizing, idea generation, and planning. That’s a big deal for us because it allows us to really give our all for each client, to bring our 20+ years of experience into play, and to charge prices that reflect this.

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