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I spend a lot of time on the internet and I see a lot of “work at home” type of blog posts ALL THE TIME.
Most of the time, those opportunities are bogus. They either pay poorly, pay irregularly, or they're in areas where few people can do the work.
Every so often, you find a gem and today I want to share the story of my friend, Holly, who is a fellow blogger who built herself a small empire as a freelance writer.
Freelance writing can be a very lucrative business. Like $180,000 last year and on pace to bill $200,000 in writing gigs (can you call it “gigs” when it's well into six figures???) this year.
Want to know how she did it? Me too – let's find out.
1. How did you get into freelance writing?
I have always been a writer, but I didn’t begin cultivating my passion until my 20’s. Back then, I wrote short stories, essays, and books of depressing poetry. I also did quite a bit of writing in my old job in the mortuary industry. Not only did I craft more than 1,000 obituaries for the deceased, but I wrote and designed memorial cards and an array of printed materials for funerals.
When my husband and I started blogging in 2011, I ventured into the online freelancing space. I started with small blogging jobs, but eventually found work on larger online publications across the web.
I don’t have a background in journalism or English, yet I have never had a problem finding paid work. Most businesses who hire writers value experience above all else, and I have plenty of that.
For beginning writers, blogging is a great way to start building an online portfolio of work. Creating a blog was easily the best move I made at the beginning of my writing career, and it continues to pay off to this day.
2. How much can you earn being a freelance writer?
Most beginning writers start off making less than $100 per article, but it’s not hard to boost your earnings over time. With time and experience, you can easily earn $300 per published article and more.
Most writers I know earn at least $50,000 per year if they work full-time, and a handful I know earn quite a bit more than that.
Personally, I billed for approximately $180,000 in freelance work in 2015. At my current pace, I should bill for well over $200,000 in freelance work in 2016. I do work full-time freelance writing and awfully long hours sometimes, but I also take off around 12 weeks per year.
3. How did you find your first few gigs?
Finding those first jobs is often the hardest part. To get my foot in the door, I started sending out guest posts fairly early. One big financial blog, Get Rich Slowly, published a few of my guest posts in 2012 and hired me shortly after. Once I had a few bigger jobs under my belt, it wasn’t hard to find additional work.
Most new writers only need one “big break” to get their foot in the door. Once one larger website is willing to hire you, it’s much easier to land the type of work you want.
To get more writing jobs when I was first starting out, I guest posted, sent cold pitches, and networked with my peers. I also worked on creating a “hire me” page for my website so potential clients would know how to contact me if they found me online.
4. How did you expand it into something that you could do on a full-time basis?
When I first started writing, I was working a regular full-time job plus some. I would get up early at around 5:00 a.m. to write before work then stay up late to finish client work after my small child went to bed. It was difficult and I gave up a lot that first year. I mean, I was easily working 70 hours per week for an entire year straight!
Fortunately, I was able to replace my $40,000 salary within 12 months. Once I replaced the income from my day job, I put in a one-month notice and quit. From there, I was able to grow my income considerably with all the extra time I had.
5. What do you need to get started?
Most freelance writers don’t need any fancy gadgets or apps, nor do you need a background in journalism or English. To find work, you mostly need good writing skills, a computer, an internet connection, and the will to succeed.
You can even get started if you’re not a great writer. Trust me, your writing skills will improve as you start writing more often. The best way to become a better writer is to read and write all the time.
6. What's your favorite part about being a freelance writer?
I love having the ultimate power over my income. At my old job, I got a 3 percent raise every December no matter what. It was disheartening to receive the same raise as everyone else no matter how much value I added.
As a freelancer, I can take on more work if I want to earn more money. I can work faster and harder and keep all the spoils to myself. If I want a raise, I can increase my rates and negotiate higher pay with clients.
When you’re a freelancer, your income is tied to your performance. If you’re already a hard worker, this is the best case scenario.
7. What has being a freelance writer enabled you to do that a typical 9-to-5 wouldn't have?
I love being self-employed for so many reasons. First, I can take as much vacation as I want without asking for permission. Second, I can quit work early when I’m finished. Third, I can work from the comfort of my own home without the hassle of a commute or getting all gussied up.
Where my old life was stressful and wasteful, my life as a freelancer is fairly simple. Basically, I am able to live whatever kind of life I want as long as I keep up with client deadlines and take my work seriously.
8. Any last tips for someone who is thinking about becoming a freelance writer?
A lot of new writers become overwhelmed with the idea of getting started. They know they should have a blog or “online home,” but they get bogged down by the details early. They know they write well enough to get paid work, but they don’t know where to find it.
My best advice? Just get started. Don’t worry about doing everything perfectly at the beginning. Once you begin writing and creating, you’ll find a way to make it work. The most important step you can make is the first one, no matter how that looks for you.
Whether you want to write for a living, create an epic blog, or do both, get started first. You can always work out the kinks later.
Learn Directly from Holly
Holly has distilled all of her knowledge about building an extremely successful freelance writing business into a course – available at Earn More Writing. She's been able to take an obvious fact (“Everything you read on the internet must be written by someone.”) and turned it into a successful business – all without a degree in journalism or any formal training in writing.
It's amazing. If this is something you'd be interested in, I recommend taking a look at her course available at EarnMoreWriting.com.
Everything from how to find and book writing jobs to improving your writing efficiency so you can up your hourly income, you will get all that and other actionable advice you can use to start your own freelance career.