We had the good fortune of connecting with Olivia Davis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Olivia, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I started my freelance writing business when I was living in Athens, Greece working as a teacher through the Fulbright program. I had some extra time on my hands and decided to google “freelance writing websites” on a whim. I found a website that had lots of opportunities for freelance writers, set up a profile, and promptly forgot about it.
A few days later, I got an email from a business owner who was looking for a blog writer associated with the Fulbright program. It took me a minute to connect the dots to my haphazardly-filled out profile, but I ended up applying for the gig and getting it. Seeing that first piece publish was exciting, and it opened my eyes to a world of opportunities I never knew existed. By the time I returned to the States, I had finally figured out a potential way to translate my English major into a viable career!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started writing professionally while I was living abroad and had some extra time to explore what was out there. At first, I took every contract that was offered to me. Over time, I began to learn how to market myself and how to negotiate. I also found my skillset rapidly expanding as I was able to translate my writing ability into a variety of contexts. I also began to discover the specific type of freelance jobs that I liked–and the ones I did not; I learned the types of companies and organizations I liked to work for–and the ones I did not. Going for everything in the beginning helped me specialize with confidence within about a year. Now I focus almost exclusively on writing and editing for Christian organizations, and I find the work to be exciting, challenging, and life-giving.
One of the biggest challenges for me was waiting. Much of freelancing and building a career as a freelance writer requires patience–building an established clientele takes significant legwork, and you have to be patient with yourself as you make mistakes (and learn from them!) when it comes to marketing yourself and setting your rates.
Another challenge for me has been saying “no” without knowing what my “yes” will be. About a year into freelancing, I had planned to go to graduate school. I visited the campus to rent an apartment and found myself overwhelmed with the conviction that for the career I most wanted–writing–I didn’t need another credential or more training in the field of English. Instead, I needed more practical experience working with clients–but I didn’t know how I would get more clients. I decided to say “no” to graduate school without knowing what I would do next. In the end, a number of my clients offered me more work–work I could not have taken if I was in school–and I gladly said “yes.”
About a year later, I found myself saying “no” again. A company I had an established relationship wanted me to go full-time with them. While the job was a good option, I had a gut feeling that it wasn’t right–it was not the type of writing that I loved most. Again, I came to the conviction that I would have to say “no” without knowing what I would do without the client. A week after my last day, I saw an advertisement for a writing job with a Christian ministry I had long followed and loved. Convinced that I would be immediately rejected, I hesitated to apply, but then, unable to get it out of my head, I sent in my resume. Almost a year ago, I moved to Atlanta for this job. Today, my writing–with my full-time work, occasional freelance gigs, and personal blog (linked below!)–focuses on helping people understand how to apply theology to their everyday lives. My goal is to take theological truths and explain how they affect the way that we live on a highly practical, moment-by-moment level, ultimately illuminating the uniqueness of Jesus and the beauty of the Gospel.
If there is a piece of advice I can give, I would say this: know what you want and why you want it. Then, don’t compromise. This means that when you find that something, you might find yourself saying “no” to otherwise incredible opportunities and making decisions that might not make sense to anyone else. However, staying true to what you want often makes your next move clear and gives you the confidence to recognize your own value in the marketplace. This doesn’t mean that you can’t change what you want–my aim changed over time as I learned what it meant to be a writer and the many ways that one can be a writer–but having an aim–whatever it is–is exponentially more helpful than having none at all.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I think we’d go to the Botanical Garden and take a stroll in Piedmont Park. I’d love to catch a concert at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and walk the beltline after grabbing dinner at Ponce.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mother has championed my writing career from the first time I said I wanted to be a writer. In more ways than I can articulate, my success is her success.
Other: If you’re interested in collaborating with Olivia, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with a description of your project.