Name: Choncé Maddox
Location: Chicago, IL
Bio: Choncé is a full-time freelance writer whose work covers personal finance, small business, travel, and more. Her writing work has been featured on Business Insider, LendingTree, Credit Sesame, Barclaycard, and the New York Post. Choncé was named one of the top financial experts to follow on Instagram by Black Enterprise.
How long have you been doing freelance work?
More than 5 years.
Tell us about your freelance business, in 200 words or less.
I’m a freelance writer for websites and blogs primarily in the personal finance space. I also write blog content for small businesses and start-ups.
What do you consider to be your specialty. How does it help you in your business?
I love personal finance! I paid off $50,000 and became a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI). My passion lies in helping others manage their money better and improve their life with practical tips, strategies and resources. I like to work with clients that I can get behind in terms of their mission and goals. It feels much better to be apart of something bigger than just me turning in articles and getting paid.
What made you become a freelancer?
I’ve always been a writer. Growing up, you could find me at home on most Saturdays writing short stories and reading them to my sister. When I went to college, I knew I wanted to become a writer in some capacity so I majored in journalism and minored in communications.
What do you love most about freelance work, and why?
I love having the freedom to set my own schedule and choose my clients. I used to work as a content writer at a small start-up and felt like sometimes the clients and I didn’t mesh. As a freelancer, I can really take the time to personally understand my clients and make sure we work well together. I also love working hard on an article then seeing it go live and help other people. I don’t always receive messages from readers, but I enjoy when I do. One time, I even got a text from my dad saying he read an article I wrote about credit cards and it helped him!
What do you hate about it?
I have to really watch myself when it comes to burnout. When I first started taking freelance writing seriously in 2015, I wrote over 350 articles that year. I try not to work weekends to give myself a break from writing. There is literally a TON of work out there. Even though I love it, there are some days when I don’t feel like working at all. I also hate paying so much taxes.
Tell us about your first paid job. How did you land your first client?
Of course 🙂 The client actually reached out to me somehow. I was so excited because I had just put up a hire me page on my blog. I started a blog at the end of 2014 and initially used my blog posts and writing samples and told readers I was starting to look for freelance writing work.
Do you think aspiring freelancers should take unpaid work to gain experience? Why or why not?
I think it’s okay if you have absolutely no experience, but you should keep it very limited. Just submit a guest post or two and do your best work so you can have writing samples. Then pitch for paid work moving forward. Back when I was getting started, I was so passionate and excited to write that I’d do it for free. I reached out to a blogger that I was obsessed with and was excited about becoming a regular contributor. I submitted a few articles unpaid. Then found out that the other writer for the site was actually getting paid to write and I felt a little silly. This taught me to always open my mouth and be upfront about getting paid. Some people will even pay you as a newbie but if you don’t state your terms you’ll never know.
Do you feel you’re charging what you’re worth?
For the most part yes. I’ve been firm with some prospects who didn’t want to pay my rate and understand that everyone’s budget is different. However, I’ve been known to undercharge in the past and it’s not fun. You start to feel bad about the work you’re doing and it’s stressful because if you undercharge as a freelance writer, you won’t have any cashflow. Since I do this full-time, I have to pay for my own benefits and insurance. Plus, I know the quality of my experience and the value of my work. To help me begin to charge what I’m worth, I started to look into why my clients needed my service and how it helped them so I could better determine the value. Writing is an important job and I think everyone should be compensated fairly depending on the scope of the work.
Describe your process for finding new clients? Where do you look?
I love cold pitching and networking online. I join Facebook groups, find Twitter feeds and usually attend a conference once a year to network in person. I view others freelancers as collaborators instead of competition and have been able to share leads and get work through my freelance contacts as well.
Have you ever had to ‘fire’ a client? If so, why and how did you do it?
Yes. Sometimes I felt like things weren’t working out or I had too much on my plate and wouldn’t be able to deliver my best work. I always tried to leave on good terms, honor our contract and even give a 30-day notice or recommend someone else.
Name 3 tools (apps, equipment) that you can’t live without. What makes them so great?
Evernote, Google Docs, and Grammarly.
What is your #1 productivity hack?
Waking up early. I know it’s simple, but sometimes challenging and does wonders for me since I’m a morning person. I usually write 2 articles per day. If I can get up early and knock one of those out before 9 am, it gives me a ton of motivation. A.) I’ve already made money for the day B.) There will be less work on my plate during the remainder of the time
In your opinion, what is the most important skill required for freelance work, and why?
Every freelancer should be confident in themselves and their skill set. You need confidence to be able to successfully pitch yourself to a prospect and also to stand up for yourself. As a freelancer, there’s no boss, manager, or union to look out for your best interest. So you have to do this and confidence can play a big role.
Do you consider yourself a strong time manager? How do you stay organized?
Yes, at least I try to be but I stopped striving for perfection. I feel I’m good at time management because I love to plan and have a desire for understanding my energy levels and preferences. I’m so familiar with myself and how and when I work that it makes time management pretty easy. I like to plan out my day or week in advance and schedule tasks in time blocks. Some days, I intentionally schedule myself to work later or catch up so I can stay ahead of deadlines. I also use Asana to manage projects and communicate with some clients. I don’t like waiting until the last minute to work on a deadline so I try to stay around 1 week ahead with most of my clients. That way, if I need extra time or something comes up I have it.
Do you also work a 9-5? If so, how do you balance it with your freelance business?
No, I’ve been freelancing full-time since September 2016. Back when I was juggling both, I remember getting up around 5:30 am to work before going to my 9-5. I’d also utilize my break to check emails and send pitches. Then, I’d work in the morning on weekends sometimes.
Where do you do most of your work?
I used to work at a co-working office once a week but now I just work from home. I started homeschooling my son this year so co-working just didn’t work anymore. I’m patiently awaiting for the day when we can go back to coffee shops and hang out. In the meantime, I’m thinking about converting the shed in my backyard to an office space. This would be a big project but I’m heavily considering it and gathering quotes.
Do you use a co-working space?
Name an entrepreneur/freelancer/influencer who inspires you. What is it about their story/message that resonates?
My friend Lindsay Van Someren inspires me. Her determination to write strong content and go after top-quality clients motivates me to push my limits. She is also one of the nicest, most-giving and supportive freelance writers I know.
Name 1 thing you would do differently, if you were starting over today?
I would have worked on my confidence, charged more and sooner.
What is your #1 tip for aspiring freelancers?
Find a mentor if you can. It’s so easy to get discouraged or have a ton of questions and no idea where to start. Start writing everyday and networking with other writers who can offer you support and exchange tips and advice, because trust me, you’ll need it along the way. Working remotely as a freelance writer doesn’t have to mean you’re alone.