How I Started My Freelance Biz (Without Living in a Big City)

Apr 14, 2016

I recently wrote two pieces for The Muse about the fact that I don’t live in a big city. One was about how I manage to build a strong, positive network in my small town (right here), and the other was an article on why I don’t necessarily think you need to move to a big city in order to chase your dreams (right here).

After all, I have a career that I think is pretty dreamy—and I managed to build it all from my tiny little town in Northeastern Wisconsin. I love both of the pieces I wrote, but I wanted to do something more specifically targeted at freelancers. It’s a question I get from a lot of people who are hoping to do exactly what I do: “You don’t live in a big city? How do you manage to build those relationships and land those big gigs, despite your location?”

In all honesty, I’ve found that my geographic location actually has very little to do with it. But, I also know that answer isn’t really all that helpful. So, today I’m breaking down how exactly I built my business and landed great, national clients—even though I live in a small town.



You know that type of situation when you have a giant pimple that you’re really self conscious about? Nobody really notices it but you. But, then every conversation you have, you start with this apologetic, “OH MY GOSH, IGNORE THIS GIANT PIMPLE ON MY FACE!” Suddenly, everyone’s staring at it—and it’s a much bigger problem than if you had just left it alone.

Well, your location is the same way. It’s not a big deal unless you make it one. So, don’t feel the urge to be apologetic about where you live—it’s a trap I see a lot of small town freelancers fall into. Instead, own where you are right now and move on! I promise you, much like that pimple, it’s really no big thing.


You know what’s strange? Many of the projects and clients I have now started out as brands or publications who were looking for someone who could work in-house. They hadn’t even considered the possibility of using a remote freelancer. That is, until I pitched it to them.

Never be afraid to suggest remote work—even if a particular job or opportunity seems like it’s geared more toward people who are in a specific area. Today, there are so many tools that make collaborating remotely a complete breeze, and being away from a company’s actual office has yet to slow me down. So, go ahead. Raise your hand and toss your hat into the ring for opportunities and projects that interest you—even if they don’t explicitly state they’ll work with remote freelancers. You never know what can happen.


With technology today, it really doesn’t matter where you are. You can build a great web of connections from anywhere. And, that’s exactly what I did—using social media as my number one tool.

First things first, you’ll want to dig in and do your research. That company blog you love and adore? Find out who their content manager is and then send a personalized LinkedIn invitation or even a quick note on Twitter. Put on your detective hat, do some investigating, and start making friendly connections with the people who can help push your career forward.

Yes, I know it can seem aggressive or even a little creepy—particularly if it’s not something you’re used to doing. But, I assure you, it’s not! I’ve had really good results with networking via social media, and I’m confident you will too.


Admittedly, when I started my freelance business, I envisioned something a lot different than what my business has turned into now. I thought I’d be doing a lot of things locally—writing for the paper and monthly women’s magazine, collaborating with a few area ad agencies, and maybe even helping some businesses setup a blog or polish their website copy.

But, honestly, a very small portion of my work today is local. Instead, I write for a lot of online publications that are based everywhere from New York City and San Francisco, all the way to London. I didn’t anticipate that happening, but I know exactly why it did—I went outside my comfort zone.

Sure, I could’ve made a decent living and built up a business staying completely local. But, the opportunities that truly excited me existed beyond state lines. And, while they excited me, they also terrified me. I definitely dealt with a ton of self-doubt. You know those, “What could this awesome company possibly want with a small town writer like me?!” defeating thoughts that creep in from time to time. But, I shook them off and pushed forward. And, boy, am I glad I did!

There you have it—four tips that helped me build up a solid freelance business and network, even though I don’t live in my industry’s hotbed. If you’re currently frustrated by the fact that you don’t reside where the action is, I hope they’re helpful to you! Take it from me—success doesn’t live in just one place. You can make things happen right where you are.

Until next time!