Faith Obafemi is an innovative blockchain lawyer and freelance content writer. She has written several informative articles featured in Legal Business World, CoinDesk, Africa Legal, Yahoo Finance, and other publications.
Obafemi is also a Research Fellow at the African Academic Network on Internet Policy (AANOIP), where she handles in-depth research on the intricacies in blockchain and law.
We had a virtual interview with Faith Obafemi last month, and she shared the story behind how she got into freelancing, her biggest wins and losses, her client acquisition strategy, and how she balances being a lawyer and a freelance writer.
As a lawyer, what informed your decision to become a freelance writer?
My freelancing journey began in 2016. I wouldn’t say I started freelancing ‘as a lawyer’. Actually, I was this broke lady depending on my parents and younger brother for survival. I went into freelancing as a way to earn a legitimate income online, especially as my condition then (recuperating from a limb surgery, coupled with hearing loss) made a normal job a mirage.
How did you get your first client?
I got my first direct client through Fiverr. Now I think about the low pay, I laugh.
What does a typical day for you look like?
I am not a morning person, so my days start around 10am and sometimes 12 noon, depending on how late I worked into the night. I have to adjust if I have an outing the next day, which doesn’t happen frequently. Most times, I spend at least an hour reading before turning on my data. Because, once my data is on, phew.
After that, I begin working through my To-Do list, written the night before or the weekend before. I still write my list by hand on paper and prioritize according to the number of hours needed to complete it or the due date. Of course, I take short breaks in between, like sit in my balcony, read again, go have lunch at a neighbour’s, or go watch one or two episodes of a Korean/Chinese series I’m following.
How many clients do you have at the moment and do you set an income goal each month?
Because I like to personally handle a client’s work, I only take on as much as I can handle. The number varies depending on my plans for a specific month. For instance, 60% of my work this year has been on personal projects. The rest have been freelancing work.
Yes, I do set an income goal each month, which is logical since I also have expenses each month. I then check to see if the work I have booked for the month can cover it. If not, I go in search of new clients.
What is the main way you land new clients?
How do you manage having intermittent income?
In the past, the intermittent nature of freelance income always kept me in the feast and famine cycle. Getting better at investments has helped me break out of that. So, even if I don’t meet my monthly income goal for a month, I have investments I could liquidate and fall back on.
I’m in the crypto niche, so half of my investments are there. This year, I began developing the habit of saving and investing every income. I then spend the dividends of the investment. It’s been working well so far.
What challenges did you face when starting your writing and consultancy business, and how did you overcome them?
My main challenge then was payments. As we all know, PayPal and most global payment services do not work for Nigerians. I was fortunate to be freelancing in a niche that had its own payment mediums, which was available to anyone with an email. So, most of the work I’ve done since 2018 was paid through crypto. In recent years, I have also explored alternatives like Transferwise and Payoneer.
My second main challenge was getting quality clients who didn’t have to price my services like tomatoes. What I did was to ditch local clients and focus on attracting foreign and international clients. I also ditched marketplaces and pitched clients directly, mostly through LinkedIn and Angel.co. For this to happen, I also had to step up my game.
By 2017, I launched my own personal website, which I used to showcase my skills and portfolio, including my rates. I also focused more on gigs that came with a byline and author profile as opposed to ghostwriting. By late 2018, I already had numerous samples with my name, and that meant I didn’t need to ‘talk too much’ when pitching new clients.
What are some of your biggest wins?
Landing monthly retainers worth four figures in dollars. Getting international speaking invites due to the thought leadership found in my freelancing work. And networking with some of the top voices in my chosen niche.
How do you balance your legal and writing career?
I guess mine is a rare situation. I am fortunate to be able to hit two birds with a stone. My current legal career actually grew out of my writing career. By late 2017, clients started asking me to write on the legal implications of Blockchain. In essence, I was paid to learn about Blockchain as 95% of my work was paid. The best part? They had my name attached. By 2018 after writing about Blockchain for a year, I decided to make it my legal practice area.
Even now that I am expanding my niche in writing to emerging technologies, I am doing the same for my legal practice.
There have also been times when my writing clients have retained me for legal work. After all, who better to hire than someone who understands their business and speaks their language?
What’s something you wish you would have known from day one?
That clients are humans too! I always battle with the fear of the unknown. This affected me as I rarely followed up my pitches. I wish I had known that getting a no or getting ignored was all part of the process and in no way reflected on my skills or worth.
In your opinion, where is the best place to find new clients?
Direct pitching companies found on LinkedIn and Angel.co. Also, most freelance writers focus on the lowest hanging fruits, usually blog posts or articles. Get bolder, pitch the big work that rakes in top dollars: case study, copywriting, white paper, reports, brochures, etc.
Anything you want to tell new freelance writers, especially lawyers?
If possible, pick a niche you can also specialize in as a lawyer. For instance, if I am an IP lawyer, I would be writing in the startup and entrepreneur niche. If I work in capital markets as a lawyer, then I would be a finance writer. And if my interest is AI as a lawyer, then I’ll be a tech writer.
This also applies to non Lawyers. Pick a niche you can still build a career in outside writing. For example, do you have interests in beauty and cosmetics? As you write for lifestyle blogs and beauty/cosmetics businesses, you can consider building a consulting practice out of that.