Starting out as a freelance writer can be a daunting experience. The very nature of freelancing is full of uncertainty and lots of learning-as-you-go.
While some love the ever-changing pace, others (like myself) can be pretty intimidated. So where should a brand-new freelancer start?
The answer is simple. Join a mastermind group!
What the heck is a mastermind group and why should I join one?
Essentially, a mastermind group is a team of fellow writers. You can have a mastermind group for really any career path, but for our purposes today, we’ll stick to freelance writing.
There are groups comprised of writers in many different stages of their career, from novices to seasoned pros.
I first chose to join a group geared towards newer freelancers. Some members were brand spanking new while others had a client or two under their belt.
The overall goal of this kind of group is to help encourage one another, share experiences and hold each other accountable to our goals.
I joined my first group when I started taking a course for freelance writers.
The course already had a pretty big following online, so for me, finding people for the group was an easy task. While all complete strangers, I knew we shared a common goal, to be successful freelancers, which made reaching out that much easier.
The group was put together via Facebook. Facebook groups are an easy way to put a team of people together and share posts and ideas. The addition of Facebook Messenger has also helped us keep in contact, as many of us were strangers going into this and weren’t quite comfortable exchanging phone numbers right away.
Since I was brand new to the group at the time (and to freelancing in general), I started off shy and took a day or two just checking out the group to see what it was all about.
However, it didn’t take long for me to jump in the conversation.
People posted questions about contracts, vented frustrations over sub-par rates they’ve been offered, and shared their recently published work. These people really seemed to “get” what I was going through as a new freelancer. I was all in.
Discovering the hidden value of joining a mastermind
It was fascinating to see what “real life” new freelancers dealt with on a daily basis. In the past, I‘ve followed bloggers that chronicled freelancers and their stories, but those people were veterans. Their $5,000+/month income reports were impressive, but as a newbie, how could I relate to their progress? I was in a different league. Hell, it felt like I wasn’t even playing the same sport!
I needed to know what other “fresh” freelancers were up against. How would I know if I was on the right track? Were my experiences the norm for the industry?
The more often I checked in daily and interacted with the group, the more I learned. By the end of just the first week, I had more insight into the path of a new freelancer than I could have imagined. I knew this group was going to be an invaluable tool for my writing journey.
1. I receive an amazing amount of support and motivation
First and foremost, a mastermind group keeps you accountable. Since the members of my group are located all across the country, most often we can’t all be online at the same time. To remedy this, we set up a weekly check-in.
Each Wednesday, the moderator (we switch off every so often to make sure no one person is doing all the admin work) sends out a post in our Facebook group, and each member writes in their response whenever they can during the day.
The weekly check-in is always the same list of questions.
- List an accomplishment from this week.
- What have you been struggling with?
- What goals are you working towards (immediate and/or long-term)?
- Things you need support with.
These questions force me to evaluate my progress and think about how to move forward, week after week.
As I look at my own achievements and struggles, I also look at what others are up against as well. Sometimes I’ll see a member who is struggling with something I have before, and I’m able to give some actionable advice. Other times, I just know I’m not alone, and that’s enough.
It can also be super motivating.
There are times when business is slow, and I feel like giving up. During these times, it’s that much more important that I check in with the group. I see how well others are doing and know that in the past they’ve struggled just like me. It motivates me to keep pushing forward and get over bumps in the road the best I can.
There have also been weeks when I hadn’t made much progress towards my goals, had nothing new published, and overall felt stagnant, but I’m always honest about it. The group is always there with some tough love and motivation for me to get my gears in motion.
One of the most important attributes a successful freelance writer needs is confidence. By sharing experiences, this group helped me find that confidence, especially when I was just starting out or when I felt I had none to spare.
2. I have a sounding board for my questions.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a professional mentor. Sometimes when a question arises, you’re not sure who to ask (besides Google). With a mastermind group, you have a whole team at your fingertips.
Besides the weekly check-in, the page is filled with fellow writers asking for advice, insight, or tips. One writer may never have worked on retainer before and doesn’t know what to charge. Another may be working for a new client and have questions about a platform with which they’re unfamiliar.
We don’t always have all the answers, but more times than not, together, we can find a way to help each other. Sometimes help comes in the form of a referral or a suggestion of where else to look for answers.
When you’re a new writer, you’re more likely to come across some clients who may not seem like they’re on the up and up. You know the type; ones who will charge you to use their publishing system or are extremely cryptic about payment schedules or methods. The group is an excellent venue to check in and say “hey, is this normal?”
3. I’m able to learn from others mistakes.
Another mainstay of freelancing is that you will make mistakes.
You’ll take on a client, and because your contract was vague, you’re having a hard time getting paid. You’ll send a pitch that isn’t tailored for the job, and miss out on an opportunity. You will mess up. But you’ll learn.
Why not use the mistakes of others to learn even more?
The group acts as a cautionary tale of sorts. When one of us has had a less than favorable outcome with a business venture or action, we share our experiences in hopes it prevents other from doing the same.
I know that through the lessons I’ve learned from other writers, I now ask more questions up front when I start working with a new client. I make sure both their expectations and mine are clear. Whenever possible, I ask for a contract of some variety to hold my clients to their word.
I’ve also learned it’s okay to say no to low-paying, content-mill-type jobs, even at the beginning of my journey. All it took was a few horror stories from members of the group, and I was able to avoid headaches I would have otherwise endured as a newbie freelancer.
4. My mastermind has become my second set of eyes.
One post that frequently pops up in my group is members asking for opinions and feedback on their website or blog. While being supportive, constructive criticism can be extremely helpful. After devoting hours to revamping your site, you can become blind to the big picture. Having a fresh set of eyes look at it objectively is a huge boost.
Another member of the group and I often share potential pitches with each other. With a second set of eyes on my pitches, I know they’re in the best shape possible before I send them out.
5. I have access to a barter system.
Many times, writers will grow their service offerings and will need help getting them launched. Having a barter system between members is another great perk of joining a group.
A writer in one of my groups recently decided to add editing to her list of services. For her to get experience and testimonials, she offered to edit some pieces for members of the group. In exchange for a testimonial, I get professional editing for my work. It’s a win-win situation.
6. More leads = more money.
Your support group can also double as a job board!
As our members’ workloads increase, they sometimes have to turn down jobs simply because they don’t have the time to devote to a new client. Other times, it’s just not a good fit for them. When that happens, members either refer clients to fellow group members or post information about the client stating that they are actively hiring and accepting pitches.
These referrals are among the best leads I’ve gotten, as more often than not, the group member already has lots of information regarding the client’s needs and expectations.
We all know how tough cold pitching and going in blind can be. Referrals and inside leads are a surefire way to tailor your pitch to perfection and land that job.
One final thought…
If all the reasons above haven’t convinced you to join a mastermind group, try thinking of it as a networking community.
Members may have expertise in areas that interest you professionally. You can explore other niches and how others have fared with them. You also never know who in your group will be the first to “make it big.” We don’t often forget those who were we there when we started 😉