Can I get real with you for a second? Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer. I read a lot as a kid, and would write little short stories all the time, hoping one day I would be a penned author. However, as I got older, that dream (along with the idea of being a veterinarian and a pop star at the same time) was relegated to just that–dreams.
Well fast forward 12 years later, I am looking at my bank account in shock as an $1,140 savings deposit is made from writing freelance for roughly 4 weeks.
What? How did this happen?
As you can glean from my intro and title, I am not a professional writer. I don’t have an English degree, nor have I worked exclusively as a writer for the companies I have been employed at. However, I do know how to use Google and have a fairly good grasp on the English language. I also have experience in understanding why people buy things.
Marketing, in its essence, is the business of understanding people’s buying habits.
Whether it’s traditional, inbound, social media or print, good marketing focuses on the benefit of the customer.
So how did I turn this knowledge into a freelance writing career?
Disclaimer: All of these tips can be used for any job site platform you choose, however, the one I used this first month was Upwork. There, freelancers of all kinds bid and work on a variety of jobs. While I would not recommend this to anyone looking to scale their business, it is a great way to gain experience in a variety of writing styles and gain a small following of clients who can work with you long term.
I Made Myself Irresistible to the Right Clients
I could have all the accolades in the world, but if I couldn’t bring the right clients to view my profile, I had no chance of earning anything. It’s inbound marketing 101. The way I wrote my profile reflected my expertise, and also served as my writing sample..seeing as I had only two pieces from 5 years ago that I could use. Using targeted keywords, I was able to get these results within a month:
The way I wrote my profile reflected my expertise, and also served as my writing sample..seeing as I had only two pieces from 5 years ago that I could use. Using targeted keywords, I was able to get these results within a month:
When writing proposals, I noticed that many of my competitors were either non-native English speakers or low balling copy and paste bidders. This worked in my favor, as I would personalize each proposal to the client’s needs, and highlight less of what I knew, and more of what I could do for them. Here’s an example:
This was the original offer:
Here was my proposal:
See how I hit every point the client asked for in my proposal? That client hired me within 24 hours.
I Highlighted What I Knew, and Learned What I Needed to
When writing to potential clients, I always highlight my expertise in understanding how the consumer mind works and translating that skill into SEO, inbound marketing (which is just drawing the right crowd to your business), and having a love for writing that didn’t involve sales-y crap. Since I did not graduate with a degree in writing, I made sure clients knew what I was really good at to land the job and learned what I needed to on the go. Grammarly, for example, is what I use to make sure that I am using all the right conventions without someone calling out my work.
I Followed The Greats
Don’t feel like you need to go on this journey alone–in fact, I advise that you don’t. The freelance writing community is incredibly helpful and welcoming to newbies, and were happy to share tips on everything from writing pitches to managing clients. After joining a Facebook group, reading blog posts and connecting with freelance writers on Twitter I felt like I had been writing professionally for years.
Implementing their advice with my own strategies as a marketer was golden. Check out my Twitter followers for an idea of who to follow.
I Wrote for Free
I know–writing for free doesn’t seem to correlate with earning my first $1,000 in a month. But it was actually the differentiating factor between myself and other writers who pitched for jobs. Since I was new to writing, in my proposals I would give little freebies away showing my competence in both the industry clients were in, and a writing sample to showcase my style.Most importantly my free writing samples showed that I wasn’t all talk in my proposal–I proved myself. Through this method, I landed a $100 website copy job despite me being one of the least experienced out of the 50 proposals he received! And guess what–he is hiring me for another job for this upcoming month. Crazy what a little freebie can do.
I Built Strong Relationships
In marketing, just having someone use your service once isn’t enough. My goal for every client I took on was to build a happy, conversational relationship (topped with my boss website content) to have a rapport with each of my clients. I cracked jokes, I checked in with them periodically to make sure things were running well, and would follow up a couple weeks after a project to see how it was doing. These little things not only helped make each project enjoyable; it gave me repeat business. I still write for my first client I ever landed–and he pays me double of what he used to pay me because of the good working relationship we have.
I Knew My Worth
A big mistake many beginner freelance writers make is they sell themselves short. I totally get it. I would be severely discouraged when I saw advice saying that I needed to work for as little as $4/hr in order to build a good base for my business. Screw that–I’ve got bills to pay!
Think about it–for an average 1,000-word article, I need to do the research, SEO optimization and formatting for whatever web platform this is for. That takes me an average of 10 hours. Would you want to do all that work–for roughly $40 total?
According to this infographic, beginner writers earn anywhere between .03 to .08 a word. Including my marketing experience, I placed myself in the intermediate writing column (which is .8-.15 per word for those who didn’t click the link). With that in mind, I would factor in the time it takes me to write an article (10 hours), with the word count of whatever copy I am writing (average 1,000 words) and based my pricing accordingly to about .10 a word–or $100 an article.
Seem scary to charge that much? Don’t undervalue what you have to offer! I know of several writers with less experience who charge more.
When writing proposals, I would always quote on the higher end of a client’s budget, then explain in detail what they could expect when working with me. Despite being one of the more expensive freelancers, I would land the job 8 times out of 10.
**This tip can be used for negotiating as well.**
I Didn’t Take Every Proposal
Despite being offered many jobs, (which probably would have made this post titled ‘How I earned $2,500+’), I would only take on 2-3 jobs at a time. Why? Because I wanted to make sure my work was of the highest quality, and I didn’t want to burn myself out. Taking on 3-4 clients at a time is must easier to handle than 9; and still being a beginner, I wanted to gauge my productivity level. Forcing myself to only take certain jobs, made me picky on which I sent a proposal to and accepted.
In the end, this was my total breakdown for the month of August:
- First Job: $100 (and ongoing)
- Second Job $100
- Third Job: $400
- Fourth Job: $540
Freelance writing is not an easy job–but it is very possible to build into a business; even if you have no prior experience. I challenge you to sign up for a free account to Upwork, see how you fare, and tell me how you did in a month! Would you like to see more freelance stories like this? Let me know!