Name: Taylor Medine
Bio: Hi, I’m Taylor! I’m a freelance personal finance writer who’s been in the game for over six years. I typically cover money topics, such as how to repay debt, build savings, build credit, and much more. My bylines have appeared on sites like USA Today, Yahoo!, Credit Karma, and many others.
How long have you been doing freelance work?
More than 5 years.
Tell us about your freelance business, in 200 words or less.
I write personal finance explainers, guides, and product reviews for online publications, financial services companies, and FinTech companies. I have a long-term relationship with most clients. Each month they assign me stories to work on, and I deliver! Occasionally, I ghostwrite and edit books for influencers in the personal finance space. I’ve also worked for Tiffany “The Budgetnista” writing financial literacy content for her nationally recognized brand.
What do you consider to be your specialty. How does it help you in your business?
My ideal target client is — no surprise here — companies and influencers in the personal finance industry since I specialize in writing about money topics. My expertise in this niche has come from years and years of researching and interviewing sources to write engaging money-related pieces. Although, I am selective in the topics I cover within this niche. For example, investing isn’t my wheelhouse, so I don’t take on job offers or assignments on this topic.
What made you become a freelancer?
I didn’t want a boss telling me what to do, and I despised office politics. I couldn’t imagine waking up and going to the same workplace each day for the rest of my life. I also wanted to work from home when I started a family, and freelancing felt like the perfect way to have my own career while also being around for my future kids. With that said, I definitely quit my full-time job to freelance before I was ready. I didn’t have all of the systems in place or a deep understanding of my offer. So, I took part-time jobs like dog-walking and working in stores until I was able to really get my life together. It probably took a good two years to know what I was doing, and there were many tough times, especially because people around me thought I was absolutely nuts.
My story isn’t one of falling into freelancing after losing a job or not being able to find work after college. I quit a pretty stable career to freelance, and it didn’t take off right away. Now everything has come full circle, and I’m happy I pushed through it all. I’ve created a business where I can stay home with my 7-month-old, and my partner’s job has taken us to Germany, so I still get to keep my career while living abroad. My career options have actually expanded since moving because I plan to write more about parenting and travel (when the pandemic eases up). The second part wasn’t planned, but it’s an AMAZING bonus.
What do you love most about freelance work, and why?
I love the freedom to pick the work I do and I get to work whenever I want. I love that I get to set my own rates, too.
What do you hate about it?
I hate the feast and famine cycle! I’m an anxious person, so one week without work used to trigger a downward spiral of worrying that I’ll never get work again. I’m very thankful that I live in a two-person household because my partner can pick up the slack.
Tell us about your first paid job. How did you land your first client?
My first paying gig was a story on Kim Kardashian and Kanye West when they first started dating. Crazy, right? I was into gossip blogging at the start of my career. The client haggled me down to $25 for two pieces of about 300 to 500 words. To land this gig, I think I may have reached out to this client asking if they needed writers, and they asked me to pitch a few ideas. I think I found my first client in the personal finance space by posting that I was looking for work in a forum. I believe that it paid $25 per blog post. Going from that to posts that pay $750 and $1,500 each is still mind-boggling to me.
Do you think aspiring freelancers should take unpaid work to gain experience? Why or why not?
In most cases, absolutely not. But, in some cases, yes. I started working with Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche (who’s practically a celebrity now!) at the start of what she’s built today. She was looking for unpaid interns on Twitter many moons ago, and I signed up. That led very quickly to paid work and also referrals, but most importantly, friendship and mentorship. With that said, I’ve also done free work that led to absolutely nothing and were big wastes of time. In comparing the “valuable free work” to “not valuable free work,” I’ve come up with a few questions to ask before you take it:
1.) Do you believe in the vision?: This is important when you’re considering unpaid work from a start-up or new business because many founders will try to sell you on a dream, but you’re really just free labor to get their thing off the ground. Your gut will usually tell you whether something is worth your time or smoke and mirrors, so trust it.
2.) Can you use it for your portfolio?: If you’re ghostwriting, you may not be able to use the content to get your first (or next) paying job. Think about whether the free work will lead you to paid work or at least some sort of resume booster. If not, is it really worthwhile?
3.) Can the person give you valuable referrals?: If the person won’t be paying, think about how valuable their network is.
4.) What will you be learning? Think about what you stand to gain besides the portfolio item. Will you get to sit in on meetings? Will you get to learn about how the business operates? Getting stuck in the “free work cycle” can be a precursor to getting stuck in the “low-paying work cycle,” so be careful.
Do you feel you’re charging what you’re worth?
Today, I charge what I’m worth, but I didn’t charge what I was worth for a while. I think that came from simply not knowing what writers got paid in my industry, and sometimes I was scared to ask for more. That fear faded little by little and then completely vanished overnight when I got pregnant. My time became way more valuable, and I started not to feel guilty about charging for it. I also network a lot more now with other writers and ask what they charge to gauge whether I’m charging enough.
Describe your process for finding new clients? Where do you look?
I’m thankful to get mostly inbound leads and leads from referrals. But lately, when I’m actively seeking clients, I go straight to Twitter and LinkedIn. On Twitter, editors are always scouting out new freelancers. On LinkedIn, I’ll find editor profiles and pitch directly using inMail. Like most freelancers, I get rejected all the time, and sometimes I reject work after pitching that doesn’t pay enough. Pitching and negotiating until you get the right fit is the name of the game.
Have you ever had to ‘fire’ a client? If so, why and how did you do it?
Yes, and it’s just a natural part of doing business. It used to be scary for me until I realized that business is business. If my client’s needs or my needs are not being met, it’s best if we end the working relationship. I always try to recommend someone else that the client can work with instead if I think it could be a better fit. However, I don’t end a relationship in the middle of a project unless the work expands or ends up being different than initially discussed.
Name 3 tools (apps, equipment) that you can’t live without. What makes them so great?
Google Drive – I write and submit 100% of my assignments through Google Drive, and it makes sourcing and managing edits ridiculously easy. Day Planner – I’ve tried project management systems and have always come back to my good ol’ paper and pen planner. I’m more likely to remember items on my to-do list when they are written down by hand. Quickbooks – I use Quickbooks online for managing bookkeeping. It’s easy to create invoices and manage payments. Plus, the report feature is robust.
What is your #1 productivity hack?
Think of yourself as a machine. I was talking to another freelancer about my writing speed because it can be very slow at times. She told me I need to stop trying to be poetic with every word to get to the next income level, and it’s helped a ton. I used to get stuck on ledes and sentences for hours, which was terrible for my output. Now, I give myself a set amount of time to write a story (maybe a few hours) and then some more time to edit, and that’s it. I’ve changed my mindset from thinking every piece has to be Politzer prize-winning and now consider myself a well-oiled machine, producing high-quality content to meet my client’s needs.
Do you outsource tasks? Why or why not? If so, which ones?
No, and I probably should. I have in the past, but I have a tough time delegating work. This is an area I’m working on since life would be easier if I could outsource more. I need to improve my management skills to be quite frank.
In your opinion, what is the most important skill required for freelance work, and why?Every freelancer needs to have sales and negotiation skills. It’s not enough to be highly skilled at your craft. You need to be able to sell yourself and negotiate your rates to make good money from your work.
Do you consider yourself a strong time manager? How do you stay organized?
I do. I’m less-than-stellar with time management in other areas of my life, but I don’t play around with my work and deadlines. Now that I’m taking care of a young child while working, I make sure to be realistic with deadlines and work days (sometimes weeks) ahead so I can make sure I turn in work on time.
Do you also work a 9-5? If so, how do you balance it with your freelance business?
I freelance full-time.
Where do you do most of your work?
I do most of my work in my home office. I didn’t always have an office, and that was difficult for work-life balance. Now that I’m in my own space, I’m able to get out of work mode, which is great for my mental health.
Do you use a co-working space?
Tell us a bit about it.I haven’t used a co-working space, but that’s something I may do in the future.
Name an entrepreneur/freelancer/influencer who inspires you. What is it about their story/message that resonates?
Patricia Bright. She’s a Black beauty and lifestyle influencer who’s paved the way for herself in an industry that didn’t always welcome people of color or pay them equally. I appreciate her business acumen. She’s created a YouTube channel, large social media following, and several businesses. She inspires me to keep pushing even through obstacles.
Name 1 thing you would do differently, if you were starting over today?
I would have asked for help when I needed it. Early in my career, I thought to ask for help or pointers from other writers was a sign that I was a failure. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Networking and masterminding with other freelancers has had the most positive impact on my career. I’ve been able to ask what other people charge and increase my prices based on their advice. I’ve also gotten job referrals and introductions from other writers that have been invaluable.
What is your #1 tip for aspiring freelancers?
Don’t try to do everything alone. Ask for help and network with other freelancers. Also, perfect your craft but understand that being amazing at your craft is not enough to get you paid. There were many times when I looked around and noticed that my peers were getting opportunities that I thought I was also good enough for. What separated them from me at the time was they were persistent, consistent, and making connections. I started doing the same and found myself getting better and better opportunities.
Keep Reading: Freelancer Success Stories – Amanda Kruse