Lauren Bowden is going through a period of transition.
With a background working for charities and nonprofits, she’s now shifting to a freelance writing career while hoping to continue doing good work for good causes.
We talked with her about coming to understand the value of her own work, the importance of promoting charities and social businesses, and how her Zyro website helped her get taken seriously as a writer.
This is my way to carve out a space for myself
My name is Lauren Bowden. I live in Atlanta, Georgia and work as a freelance writer.
Writing’s kind of a moonlight gig that I’m doing right now in addition to my day job. I run a career program at a nonprofit, where I connect immigrants and refugees to vocational training and good jobs.
As part of that work I naturally have to do a lot of advertising, grant writing, and marketing. I realised this was the part of my job that I enjoyed the most, and decided I wanted to focus on that part of my career. So I started a freelance writing business on the side to build up my portfolio and be able to transition.
This website is the start for me to showcase some of my clips and my writing samples, highlight that aspect of my work, and just really sell myself.
So that’s what the platform was able to do for me; giving me a place to say, “this is what I’ve done, and this is what I can do in the future.”
It allowed me to really take myself seriously as a writer
As I think is pretty common for people who have an artistic passion, I’d been doing all this on a volunteer basis or just leaning into that kind of work.
At the nonprofit I work for, I’d written a lot of articles to showcase the work we’d done with immigrants and refugees.
In addition, and I say this on my website, I’ve always been the person that people come to when they need help with a writing project. People get the sense that this is something you’re pretty good at and they ask if you can help out.
I had even already made some websites; one that showcased a social business that helps women in construction, called Matriarch Renovations, and another that focused on making small boutique picnics.
But I hadn’t brought this stuff together, so the first step was taking a broad look and saying, “ok, I’ve already done all these things, but they’re not really organized in a way that I can sell myself.”
Bringing these examples together in one place allowed me to really take myself seriously as a writer and not just look at this as a side project, but as a business where I can get paid.
Putting a website together quickly was really appealing
The reason I made my website on Zyro was that I had read some comparison stuff myself that said that Zyro was really great if you wanted to get something up quickly.
I was in this situation where I had all this stuff in a Google Drive. It was really intimidating, the idea that the website itself becomes this writing sample that is the be-all and end-all. It has to be perfect if I’m showcasing myself as a writer.
I was applying for a lot of opportunities that required a website. There was one opportunity in particular that interested me; it was a travel writing website that had irreverent humour similar to mine.
It was appealing to, I think in 1 or 2 days, put something together so I could apply for more gigs.
It’s uncomfortable to sell yourself, so to have something that makes it easier and faster to do that was really helpful. It was like, “here is where a picture of you should go, you should have about three paragraphs right here about yourself.” That makes it a lot less daunting than just this existential blank slate.
I have experience with the other website builders. I found that working with Wix there were a lot of things that I could do, but it took me longer. My experience with Squarespace was pretty good, but I found that the learning curve was higher.
I heard the opposite, that Wix is the hardest, then Squarespace, then Zyro is the easiest, but I found Squarespace the most difficult.
It’s exciting being able to do more side projects
Now when I go and apply, I get so many more responses, that’s been the really cool thing.
The website has given me so much more credibility, the website itself is a clip, and the ability to present my work in a polished way justifies myself to my clients who want to know that I can present them in a polished way.
I’ve been able to work with some other resettlement agencies, which is pretty cool because to be able to write about refugee resettlement is one of my major passions.
One project that I’m super excited about is a social business that makes funny, irreverent products for people who are going through cancer treatment. They make sassy cards and things that are actually grounded and helpful, rather than very saccharine and unhelpful.
I like to write success stories
The best case scenario for me is that I don’t have to abandon my kind of feel good work.
I like to write about great work that nonprofits are doing, innovative solutions to social problems, social entrepreneurship, and ways people have managed to do good with their businesses.
The hope for me is that I’d be able to do that kind of work and support myself.
I would say my ideal client is anyone that’s trying to do some good in the world and trying to make a difference. I have gained a lot of knowledge about how to tell stories in persuasive ways to get people interested either in a business, the work being done by a nonprofit, or some kind of fundraiser or initiative.
I want to work with anyone that needs to be able to tell a convincing story about what they’re doing and why it matters and why other people should get involved. That’s my perfect client: nonprofits, charities, social businesses.
For me, it’s really important to have two major things in my career. Firstly, I need to feel like my values are aligned with the work I’m doing. Secondly, I really like to have flexibility.
I’m 31 years old, my wife and I don’t have children, and I think to have a job that I can do remotely, where I can pick up and go and work on an assignment in Costa Rica, that seems like success.
Being in a crappy hostel in a hammock with a laptop feels way more like success than just like fat checks and the 9 to 5.
Don’t assume your work shouldn’t be valued
I think people really sell themselves short. People are very nervous about showcasing themselves and their talents, and we value humility for a good reason. But I think, especially for young women, it’s ok to lean in and embrace your strengths and talents.
Having something that profiles work I’m proud of has given me a lot of confidence, and I think that I’d recommend doing that.
Also, don’t assume your work shouldn’t be valued by the market. If you have something people are constantly coming and asking you to do for free, maybe examine that. Maybe you could be paid a premium for doing those things!