More on Those Top 3 Lessons from Freelance Failure

Sometimes what we call "failure" is really just that necessary struggle called "learning."

Image credit: cc license, venspired,

Whenever I speak to new freelancers or students about freelance editing as a career, I talk a little about the path I’ve taken. Editors come to their careers from many paths (see?). Mine included an early, spectacularly failed stint of full-time freelance. Feedback suggests that talking about that failure is one of the most valuable parts of the conversation.

For the edification of the freelance editing community, then, I blogged about the top three lessons I learned from that first failed attempt at full-time freelancing. You can read those lessons on

And here are a few more details and thoughts that didn’t make it into that post:

  1. A too-local focus is an unnecessary handicap. But working on paper and having to deliver that work to a neighboring town a few days a week is a nice way to a) save your eyes from all the screen time of electronic editing, b) make yourself get out of the house and maybe have lunch with colleagues, and c) rack up some business deductions.
  2. I didn’t have a clear vision for my freelance business and, consequently, the services I offered were too broad. I wasn’t selling gourmet grilled sandwiches, but I was splitting my time between editing, proofreading, and tutoring. One of these things is not like the others.
  3. Treating your freelance business like a business isn’t just about the financials. But the financials can’t be ignored. When I was in college, “pre-approved!” credit offers flooded the mail room at my dorm. I accepted a couple of the ones I was offered, ended up using them for medical expenses that weren’t covered by insurance, and then also used them for some combined living/business expenses when I started freelancing later. Kids, don’t try this at home. Or at the home office. Don’t combine your business expenses with your living expenses and don’t roll it all up in some nebula of credit. Educate yourself about the financial aspects of freelancing before you launch your business. And track everything.


About PurplePenning

Dawn McIlvain Stahl has been kindly bringing style and order to writing for more than 15 years. She provides editorial services for individuals and organizations — editing and proofreading books, articles, reports, websites, and social media. Stahl keeps one finger on the pulse of current editing, language, and publishing news. Catch the beat of that pulse by following her on Twitter and across the web @PurplePenning.
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