MF 136 : Moving Forward as a Freelance Writer, with Pam Rossow
Updated: Jun 17
Successes at a glance:
Award-winning freelance writer, blogger.
Featured in Sparkhire, Interview.com, Career Bright.
Setback failure or time when things fell apart:
As you’ll learn from Pam’s story, she started early in her writing journey. Pam was in the midst of building her career as a fulltime content and copywriter. She had been hired to blog about higher education, a topic that she is dedicated to and passionate about. Then, Pam was hired to do content writing and editing on different subjects, including beauty and legal content. The later is where things took a bad turn. Pam got caught in what she calls the “content mill,” where freelance writers are hired and inundated with writing hundreds of articles. Pam was writing articles on medical devices, defective airbags, and other tort-related topics. Pam hated it. Pam did this for over a year and was burned out. While many writers dream of the opportunity to get paid for their writing, Pam warns that content mills exploit this desire with restrictive contracts; forcing writers to keyword stuff articles and worse, prohibit writers from adding a byline (author credit) to their work. Pam was creating hundreds of articles but not increasing her own ROI as a writer.
The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:
Pam’s journey as a writer started when she was 4-years old! Before she could hold a pen to paper, she used a tape recorder to record stories. Pam was a podcaster before there was a such a thing! At that point, Pam knew she was destined to be a writer. Pam cites her grandfather as an inspirational source who encouraged her to be a storyteller and gave her the cassette recorder to begin her journey. Throughout grade school and later high school, Pam continued developing as a writer; writing for the school newspaper and magazine.
Now, you would think that Pam’s natural next step would be to become a journalism or English major in college. Well, not quite. Why? As Pam shares, she explored journalism and found that it didn’t jibe with her penchant for creative writing. So Pam became a sociology major instead. Her life took another turn when she got married; putting her education on hold to start a family. At some point, Pam got a divorce and shortly after, she went back to school as a non-traditional student to finish her education. At the same time, Pam decided to get back into writing; penning op-ed pieces for the local paper. As Pam built up a body of work, she got the attention of one of her editors. This editor told her that she should start getting paid for her work. This was Pam’s first big aha moment: when she got a check for her writing and realized this could be a source of income and a true vocation. Moreover, as Pam was finishing up her sociology degree, she started getting into writing classes. This led to a competition that she entered, finishing her entry just before the deadline, and won! The prize was getting to meet the Dalai Lama.
Pam finished school and was then hired to write a book. However, there was a learning curve that went far beyond what she learned in college and school. While Pam admits that the finished product “left a lot to be desired” in terms of quality, she reveals that she learned a tremendous amount from the process. Shortly after, Pam became a freelance content and copywriter. She also entered the world of blogging. Pam helped a company build up two blogs on higher ed, a topic she was and is still, very passionate about.
Flash forward to when Pam was writing in the content mill, writing on legal topics. Pam was burning out and miserable. Moreover, she was not getting byline credit for the hundreds of articles she was churning out. Pam had had enough.
Pam didn’t exactly have a light bulb moment that caused a pivot. Rather, she had a gradual mindset shift. As a hungry freelance writer, Pam had a scarcity mindset. It’s what led her to work for a content mill and yet, it killed her spark. As Pam realized she was losing her passion for writing, she was at the point where she was considering leaving writing behind altogether. Pam decided to make a change. She left the content mill and shifted towards a mindset where she could pick the clients she wanted to work with. Today, Pam loves writing and the clients she works with. She’s not chasing the work or anything. Instead, she’s simply moving forward.
One really great tip to start freelance writing and get your written content out there:
If you have another job and are thinking about becoming a full-time freelance writer, keep your day job and just start writing.
You can start a free blog at WordPress.
Test yourself with Pam’s Rule of 5: start with 5 articles on a topic, then see if you can picture yourself writing on that topic for 5 years.
Once you start developing a niche, start pitching to other blogs and sites. Don’t accept any offer that doesn’t fit with you and your big why.
Favorite app / website / resource or productivity hack for writing:
The Pomodoro method: use your computer as an alarm for 20-25 minutes. Write for those 20-25 minutes with no editing. Take a short 3-5 minute break to post on social media (one post rule) and then start over.
How Pam recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
Get outside and be with nature.
Spend time with family: board games and quality time.
Support the Podcast:
The Corporate Cliches Adult Coloring Book: makes the perfect stocking stuffer or white elephant gift.
Try out Audible (affiliate link).
Try out Amazon Prime (affiliate link).
Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:
Pam recalls a time she was driving with her father in Florida. They passed through some road construction. As Pam looked at the literal roadblocks on the road, she thought about the roadblocks she had in her own life and career. At the time, she was stuck in the content mill and very unhappy. She came to the realization that even though she was unhappy, this was an important part of her journey. That was a starting point for her to begin moving forward with a better mindset. From there, Pam started to see success as “a point to be reached.” Her wisdom to her past self is to understand that success is “every single orange cone and every single roadblock” that teaches you to thrive and get onto the road to success.
Parting wisdom (in a few words):
“Thrive, don’t survive.”