Jessica Walrack is a freelance writer and marketing strategist who has been in the game for almost eight years.
She currently helps small businesses, agencies, and solopreneurs to create awesome content that moves their brands forward. The content she creates comes in many forms such as web copy, blogs, whitepapers, brand identity content, emails, and social posts.
How Did You Become a Writer?
I used to work in sales at T-Mobile. I wanted to become a sales leader and manager so I began tracking metrics in my market and sending out a weekly newsletter.
Next, I created a class to teach customers about their smartphones and improve retention, and I would send out regular emails and updates about it to my market. I’ve always enjoyed expressing myself in words and I did it wherever I went. I then transitioned into a marketing position for an online business (crowdfunding) where I’d craft email marketing campaigns to gain clients and campaign pages for the clients to raise money.
At that point, I realized I wanted to focus on writing and so began seeking out freelance writing jobs.
How Did You Get Your First Writing Job?
I hopped on Elance (which is now Upwork) about eight years ago to poke around. I received 40 free tokens and I used every last one of them to apply for 40 writing jobs. Then, I waited….and waited...and waited
Ding—1 new message from Elance. “I’d like to hire you for my project.”
One client out there was willing to give a newbie a chance. I’ll never forget, it was a job writing about different types of kitchen cabinets for a website.
It paid next to nothing but I didn’t care. I wanted to break in. All went pretty well. I got my first 5-star review and testimonial. From there, I used the money I earned to buy more tokens. I applied and applied, and steadily got more jobs.
I worked really hard in the beginning and did lots of different types of writing work, and even transcriptions. Sometimes I got in over my head and would be under a lot of stress but often those situations pushed me to learn and grow. I learned what I liked and what I didn’t, and I sharpened my skills with each project.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Good Writer?
Hmm… I think being a good and successful writer requires a variety of skills.
Of course, you need to be able to communicate ideas effectively through grammatically-correct writing. If you are writing non-sales content, you need to be good at explaining things in a way that is easy to understand. If you are writing sales copy, you need to be creative and empathetic— able to understand industries and step into the shoes of a customer to discover what will resonate with them.
Aside from the technical skills, you also need project management skills so you can schedule projects and complete them on time. You need to have a really fine attention to detail and the ability to listen and follow instructions. And you need to be a good communicator and team player as you will likely be working with others to achieve shared goals.
Further, to get work in the first place, you need some marketing and business know-how. You need to be able to sell yourself and your services. You need to set boundaries and terms on your services. And, once you’re established, you need to figure out how to price your services to support yourself.
What Influences Your Writing the Most?
My writing is in the marketing realm. I am inspired by the companies and individuals I work with, their missions, and helping them achieve their next levels of success.
What Tools and Software Do You Use for Work?
Google Docs is my preferred word processing tool. It makes it so easy to share and collaborate.
I have the Grammarly plug-in set up everywhere so it is always watching over my shoulder to prevent typos.
Hemingway Editor is a good tool to fine-tune content and ensure a particular reading grade level. Lower is actually preferred which surprised many! It’s all about simplicity.
Copyscape is a must to ensure my work is all 100% plagiarism-free. I never copy anything but sometimes you can inadvertently write something that is on another page and that can cause big problems.
BuzzSumo is helpful for research.
HubSpot is awesome for managing multi-channel content campaigns.
I use a variety of communication and project management tools with clients including Asana, Figma, Monday, Slack, Trello, Skype, and ClickUp. That reminds me, you also need to be somewhat tech-savvy these days to be a writer.
What Are Your Writing Habits?
I wake up Monday through Friday, work out, get ready, make a cup of Chai tea, and write.
I realized my most productive time is in the morning until about lunch time. Those are my power hours where my mind is most clear. I can write in the afternoon but I find it more difficult. I rarely write at night.
When I started, I would write 7 days a week as much as I could. I got burnt out. I may have cried at my keyboard a time or two.
Now I have it worked out. I know what I can do and when I need a break.
If I hit a wall and can’t write, I take a break. Doing something active is really helpful to jumpstart creativity like going for a run or a surf.
What’s the Best Investment You Made in Your Career?
Just putting in the time.
It was really hard but I put in the time and the work. I learned and learned. I made a lot of connections in the industry. I was published on more and more websites.
And one day, probably about five years in, the tide began to turn and it started to pay off. I still have many goals for growth to get to the next level but I am now able to present myself with confidence as a professional writer—and I have proof.
Jessica Walrack. Photo supplied by the writer.
What Are the Most Influential Books in Your Life?
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey.
What Are Your Favorite Writing Quotes?
If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.
The majority of writing is actually in the preparation, similar to the quote by Abraham Lincoln. You research, you think, you plan, you formulate. Then, writing is the easy part.
One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
The mark of an experienced, expert writer is one that can write with simplicity. It’s harder than you think!
If Someone Wants to Be Where You Are Now, How Can They Get There?
Start writing today.
If you don’t know something, look it up and figure it out.
You can learn anything on the internet these days.
If someone gives you an opportunity that stretches your skillset, take it and give it the best you’ve got.
Look for jobs in many different places. You can find them on work platforms like Fiverr and Upwork. Social platforms like LinkedIn and within Facebook Writing Groups. Look on job boards.
Begin networking with other writers, most of us are willing to share all we know.
Focus on fine-tuning your skills, growing your network, and getting your name published as often as possible. Like anything worthwhile, you have to earn it, but writing can be a lucrative and rewarding career.