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Finding Your Own Way: Austin L. Church On a Career in Freelancing

Austin L. Church (MA ’08) is a writer, marketing consultant, and business coach. He started freelancing in 2009 after finishing his M.A. in Literature and getting laid off from a marketing agency. Over the last 15 years, he has made over $1.8 million as a creative entrepreneur while learning what not to do. He’s passionate about teaching freelancers and consultants how to stack up specific advantages and find their income-lifestyle sweet spot. He and his wife Megan live with their three children in Knoxville, Tennessee.

He sat down to talk to Z. Eihausen (’24) about making a career in freelancing and his new book, Free Money, his pricing and money mindset guide for consultants and freelancers.

Z Eihausen: What drew you to freelancing initially?

Austin Church: My boss at a marketing agency called me into his office one Friday in April 2009 and told me he had to let me go, along with half the team. The Great Recession was in full swing. It didn’t seem wise to pursue another job as a junior copywriter and social media strategist and potentially repeat the experience.

I started freelancing right away to make ends meet. If necessity is the mother of invention, then desperation was the mother of my freelance career.

ZE: You’ve been freelancing for over 15 years—what type of projects have you encountered in your time as a freelancer?

AC: My door into freelancing was writing, and I’ve written and edited everything you can imagine: brochures, press releases, website content, radio and television spots, print ads, magazine articles, billboards, emails, longer books, shorter social media content, product copy. All of it.

When I wasn’t writing, I was assembling and leading teams working on websites, full-stack web applications, iOS and Android apps, existing brands, new brands, all manner of design projects, photography, films, and several events.

These days, I serve as a fractional CMO (part-time marketing leader for three to five companies at a time), brand consultant, and business coach.

ZE: In your experience, what does freelancing as a career look like? Where do you find your start?

AC: It’s helpful to think of “freelance” as synonymous with “independent.” As a freelancer, I’ve had a mostly independent career selling creativity and problem-solving—and more recently, strategy, advice, and leadership.

Freelancers are entrepreneurs and small business owners, which means that by default we need to know just enough about accounting, marketing, sales, admin and operations, all aspects of the business.

A freelancing career thus looks like a continuous process of strategic discomfort. You have to be willing to do things you’re not good at because being not good for a while is the only path to getting better.

As for where I got my start, it was with people I already knew. Keeping my word, treating people with respect and fairness, doing work that I was proud of, communicating clearly, being honest, and rectifying any mistakes helped me get early clients and then enough word of mouth and referrals to establish myself.

ZE: You’ve since founded your own freelance business. What was your inspiration?

AC: What drives me now is freedom, flexibility, and autonomy. Once I got a taste of being self-employed, having control over my calendar, and being able to work from anywhere, I’ve never looked back.

What inspires me is continuing to optimize for that independent lifestyle and teaching other people how to do the same. For example, I offer a free Freelance Business Blueprint course on my site,, and I published a pricing and money mindset guide for freelancers and consultants called Free Money.

ZE: How have you grown your freelance and consulting business to be what it is now?

AC: It’s organic. I try to follow my fascination. I’ve found the Japanese concept of ikigai helpful. Think of a Venn diagram with four overlapping circles: What type of work do I enjoy? What type of work am I good at? What type of work does the market need? And what type of work pays well?

Most of my growth has come from continuing to find the overlap or sweet spot, year after year, and learning how to define and charge for outcomes, instead of selling hours (by billing hourly) or by selling lists of project deliverables.

ZE: Where would you like to see your business go in the next five years?

AC: I’d like for most of my revenue to come from group coaching. I’m at a point in my career now where I find it deeply fulfilling to teach other freelancers, especially freelance writers, how to get paid really well to think, give advice, and of course, write.

I have a program called Business Redesign that helps freelancers and consultants raise their prices, get back 10 hours per week, and have a record year financially while working less. With the time they free up, they can pursue other things they enjoy.

ZE: Your new book, Free Money, is out now! What did your writing process look like?

AC: I started by developing some of the key concepts in blog posts, social posts, and a short guide in the fall of 2015. I first outlined the book in 2021. I wrote the book in public in 100 days, one Medium post at a time, in 2022. The first version of the book was a long Twitter thread with links to those posts!

My writing process was not unlike the writing process I’ve always had with one key distinction: publishing the ideas first to see what kind of feedback I could get to improve them and communicate them more clearly. Another thing that I did was follow a process that Rob Fitzpatrick describes in his book, Write Useful Books, to bring more freelancers, more beta readers, into the process early to ensure that I was writing a book that was solving a real problem.

ZE: What advice would you give to current students who are thinking about getting into freelance work?

AC: Find a friend, a family member, someone in your personal network, someone who already knows you, and try one or two freelance projects. Being a good writer isn’t the same as being good at making money as a writer. And being good at making money isn’t the same as being good at keeping and growing it. We’re talking about three distinct skill sets here. Each of those deserves attention. We’ve got to pass a certain level of literacy with each to thrive.

Visit to learn more about Austin and Free Money, his pricing and money mindset guide for consultants and freelancers.