Writer & editor Nikki Carter shares her career path.
1. Tell me about your career journey.
Since I was young, I wanted to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve written stories, poems, and essays. I originally went to college as an English major, but enough people expressed doubts about my future career options that I switched to Marketing. Then I got my MBA.
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I graduated right before the 2008 recession technically began, but I had a very hard time finding a job in any business or business-related field after I finished school. I ended up accepting a role in a medical clinic; from there, I transitioned to healthcare administration roles within hospitals and hospital systems.
I began keeping a blog in the early days of the internet but around 2009, I decided to use it as a “portfolio” of sorts to apply to different writing jobs. I got a gig writing 1-2 blog posts a month for a New Orleans travel site—I made $25 a post, and I was over the moon to get paid to write. I also did volunteer work for other New Orleans companies in order to get more bylines and portfolio examples.
Things continued to ramp up with my side hustle and in 2018, I left healthcare completely to focus on freelancing. Now, I mostly work with entrepreneurs or companies in the tech/education/wellness spaces, although I do venture outside of that. I create all sorts of content for my clients, and I still write as myself for different outlets. I also run a monthly newsletter for women of color called Will & Way, and I’m querying my first finished novel manuscript.
2. Have you always wanted to work for yourself?
No, but I did have a challenging time fitting into rigid corporate environments. I think that’s what drove me to where I am now—I wasn’t cut out to answer to many other people besides myself. I was constantly questioning things that didn’t make sense to me, like making everyone adhere to the same work schedule or being more focused on an 8-hour workday than the actual quality of work being done.
I never saw myself becoming an entrepreneur—although when I think back, I was always doing little side hustles to earn money, from babysitting to melting Jolly Ranchers and cooling them around plastic spoons and selling those “lollipops” at school!
3. Some freelancers find it challenging to find a work/life balance. Do you have any tips for achieving this?
I still struggle with this, and I’ve been thinking about doing a weekly 24-hour tech sabbatical. It’s so hard when you feel like work bleeds over into all other aspects of your life. The best advice I can offer is to have firm boundaries and create structure for yourself. If I make myself go to my coworking space for a set time during the day and then completely log off when I leave, I feel better than I do on the days when I just kind of do things around the house and work in between tasks.
I also think “batching” tasks is helpful. If I have a meeting, I’ll try to schedule other meetings on the same day so I’m not doing a stop-and-start every single day to join a meeting. Or I’ll do all of my lead hunting/job board scouring at the same time, instead of looking every single day. It helps you to get into a rhythm and be more efficient.
4. How have you grown your clientele over the years and what tips do you have?
I read recently that opportunities come through people, and I think that’s valid. Let your network know what you want to do and what you’re up to; you may be surprised who reaches out or refers you to someone else.
I belong to a number of online communities, and I stay up to date on who’s looking for what within those communities. That’s helped me meet people, and sometimes those people remember me and refer me to their colleagues or friends.
Beyond that, when I work for anyone, I try to be super responsive, communicative, and to always deliver an exceptional finished product. I tend to have repeat customers for that reason, and a lot of times they’ll pass on my info to other people they know who are looking for writing or editing services.
5. What’s the most exciting part about your job?
A core value of mine is freedom, and I really enjoy that aspect of freelancing. I love that no one can tell me what to do and, for the most part, I get to control how I work and my final work product. I’ve also loved watching my own growth over the years and seeing my earning potential expand. Lastly, I would say getting to network with and meet other creatives is an amazing perk.
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