Happy 10th anniversary of freelancing, Tom!

Creative Renegade: Solo copywriter and sustainability evangelist, Tom Tumbusch of WordStreamCopy, celebrates 10 years of freelancing

Working as a full-time freelancer was a lifestyle choice for me from the very beginning. It’s made my professional life about so much more than a paycheck because I get to work with some of the most honest, talented, and creative people I’ve ever met.

My only regret is that the Creative Freelancer Conference didn’t exist yet when I was getting started—it would have helped me to build a great client base faster and spend less time learning the ropes by trial and error.

My first act of “renegade creativity” was to launch a business in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. I walked away from the family publishing company I was being groomed to inherit. The market was awash in doom and gloom and a lot of people thought I was crazy, including my father and former boss.

I moved to another city with four month’s savings and no work. After a few months with an agency to get settled, I paid a designer friend to whip up a logo and business card and started pounding pavement with no idea what I was doing.

I ate a lot of my own chili for the first year and a half, working and living out of a third-floor apartment that didn’t always have heat during the day. By 2003 I was doing well enough to get a home loan. I tried everything from technical writing to magazine articles to direct mail, getting valuable coaching from Ilise Benun and Peleg Top along the way. (I even wrote some of the original marketing copy for the first CFC.)

In 2009 I re-launched my business with an emphasis on sustainability. While I still write for a diverse client base, I actively pursue companies with sustainable missions. Since the re-branding I’ve intentionally emphasized my personality when I promote myself. I don’t try to disguise that I’m a freelancer. I don’t talk about “scalable solutions” or “thinking outside the box” on my website, and I inform clients on my FAQ page that Mrs. Tumbusch gets my undivided attention on weekends.

In April I celebrated my first ten years as a full-time solopreneur. Today my father envies MY business.

Are you a “creative renegade?” If so, tell us how?

2 thoughts on “Happy 10th anniversary of freelancing, Tom!

  1. Kathleen Shannon

    I think finding your niche and bringing in a healthy dose of personal branding (aka being yourself) as a freelancer can be a bold and scary move but oh so rewarding. I’ve started tracking how many times I say “no” to an RFP that just isn’t a good fit. The money would be nice but if it doesn’t add to my portfolio of expertise (which is working with other creative entrepreneurs) it’s just not worth it.

    And Tom, I love what you say about your father being envious of your business. My dad was a little worried sending all three of his children through art school but now he’s a proud papa of flourishing artistpreneurs.

  2. Stacey

    Congratulations! It would be great if you could share this story on a few other freelance blogs (e.g., Freelancersunion blog) simply to inspire our fellow copywriters.