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I am Dale King, a specialist dental copywriter. I love to share my knowledge of working within the dental niche with other like-minded individuals. 

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freelance writing - take a moment

3 Defining Moments In My Freelance Writing Career And How They Can Benefit You.

This week is a memorable week for me. I’ve been freelancing for 14 years. On the 14th of May 2010, I landed my very first freelance writing gig – 57 x 500-word articles on Hermit Crabs.  If I remember rightly, I completed them fairly quickly and got paid the princely sum of $285. Yep, that really is just $5.00 per article!

But I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. In my utter naivety, I was amazed that someone would even pay to have content written, and then it dawned on me…

What if I could make this a career?

Fast forward to 2024 and I now work with some of the largest and most innovative companies in the dental industry.

So why am I telling you all this?

Because during my career, I’ve had some defining moments that have set me on the path to where I am today; and I want to share three of them with you in the hope that they benefit you on your freelance writing journey. So here goes…

#1 – I niched down and specialised

Between 2010 and 2015, I was a generalist writer. I’d write on anything and everything. But here’s the thing, I wasn’t earning great money. In fact, it was terrible.

I remember, for example, banging out 140 x 700-word articles every month for a US law firm for just $1500. I did this month in and month out for about a year. To say it was exhausting and stressful was an understatement. It was relentless, and if I’m being honest, it wasn’t my finest work. But hey, at least I could call myself a freelance writer, right?

Then, at the back end of 2014, I found myself landing more dental content and as I wrote more of it, I found myself becoming more knowledgeable about the treatments, procedures and technology. It was at this point that I had a career-defining moment. I decided to stop calling myself a generalist writer and focus purely on dental content. I was now a specialist dental writer!

So, in 2015, I rebranded myself as a dental writer and since then, I haven’t looked back. Over the last 9 years, I’ve had the privilege to work with dental clinics and startups, innovative companies at the cutting edge of dental research and some of the biggest hitters in the industry like Align Technology, Colgate and The Straumann Group. But most importantly, I’ve been able to charge more for my services. I quickly learned that people were happy to pay more for someone who understood their industry and that’s where I’ve been ever since.

As a career-defining moment, niching down was pivotal for me because, in all honestly,  I don’t think I’d be able to command the prices I do if I remained a generalist writer.

Fortunately, if you’re reading this as an aspiring dental writer, you’re already a lot further down the line than I was when I first started. So go land that first gig, establish yourself and kick on from there!

#2 – I stopped using Upwork

In my early freelancing years, I was an avid user of Upwork (or Elance as it was then). It was the easiest way for me to land work. After all, I didn’t have a website, so I relied on my Elance profile and previous work reviews to land more gigs- and more writing gigs followed, which was great.

What didn’t follow was the ability to land higher-paying work…

You see, back then (and I don’t know if it’s the same now) clients could view your previous jobs and work out exactly how much you charged. So anytime I tried to raise my fees, the prospect would say…

 “That’s great, but you did a similar job recently for x price, could you do the same rate for me?”

And there I was back to square one!

On top of being caught in a perpetual cycle of low-paying gigs, competition was tough. For every gig applied for, I could be bidding against 30-40 other freelancers. It’s probably even more now!

But here’s the killer. On an average working week, I would typically apply for somewhere between 40 and 50 gigs. Each gig needed a carefully crafted proposal complete with relevant samples; and as you can imagine, that took a huge chunk of my day.

So suddenly for me, the compensation wasn’t great. It was time-consuming to source work, and I found myself competing with more and more freelancers.

No sooner had I got my dental writer website up and running, than I decided to stop using Upwork and find paying clients by other means. I’d use that time to learn how to market myself while creating a portfolio of work that I could show potential clients. Once I started to do this,  everything clicked into place. I managed to land some work early on and never looked back.

Honestly, quitting Upwork was a defining moment in my freelance writing career.  While it certainly helped me to get off the ground in the early days, I realised later that it wasn’t a sustainable way of finding the type of dental clients I wanted to attract.

As a top tip, if you’re starting out, by all means, establish a presence on Upwork – In fact, I encourage you to do so, but it isn’t something you should rely on. Instead, you should also look to build your brand, position yourself as an industry writing expert and market yourself on places like LinkedIn. Do this and it could also be your career-defining moment. 

#3 – I quit working with agencies

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with agencies for long periods of my freelance writing career and on the positive side, agencies have regular work and that means regular pay. On the flip side, you’re usually just a face; a writer who churns out content.

Often, the end client doesn’t know who you are and technically speaking, you can’t really say you’ve written for xxx brand. So you’re in this bizarre catch-22 situation of being kept busy by the agency, but not having anything to show in terms of by-lined work.

As an example, I worked with an agency for three years producing web content and blog posts for dental clinics and it got to the stage where they were giving me a ton of work, (around 50 -60 blog posts per month plus new content for dental websites). Very quickly, I went from picking and choosing the clients I worked with, to becoming a virtual employee, but without any of the benefits.

Everything came to a head when (not for the first time) they asked me to return a piece of content with a same-day turnaround. Normally  I would suck it up and do it, but this time I said no. That was it… they never gave me the next month’s work and I quietly breathed a huge sigh of relief.

While the money was okay and regular, working with this particular agency really set me back because I stopped any marketing and I didn’t update my work portfolio because I had nothing to update it with. Moreover, I didn’t have many clients other than the agency because I didn’t have the capacity to take on any more work. Essentially, I had to start again from scratch.

While not all agencies are the same, my experience has been a bit of a mixed bag, resulting in my decision not to work with agencies again, only clients directly.

Doing so allows me to pick and choose who I work with. It’s also given me the time to focus more on the client’s needs and how I can add real value to them and their brand.

So there you have it…3 defining moments that have helped shape my freelance writing career and how these types of decisions can benefit you. 

If you’re still unsure about how to get started as a freelance dental writer I urge you to start with my useful guide. it tells you all you need to know about how to become a well-paid dental writer, so it’s a good place to begin.

It’s free to download, so hit the subscribe button and you can be up and running in a matter of hours.

Here’s to your success!