It’s July! Which means it’s my two-year anniversary of having quit my job to be a full-time solopreneur! That’s two years of lessons, triumphs, failures and adventures in this new world of work.
And boy did I quit my job at the right time! MSN recently published an article talking about how the 9 to 5 job may be dying in the U.S. Here’s a quick breakdown as to why this is happening:
- People used to feel chained to their jobs for health insurance, now thanks to the Affordable Care Act they don’t. I pay $91 a month for a pretty decent plan.
- Companies used to hate hiring contractors, but now they realize it’s in their best interest to do so.
- People want more flexibility and diversification of income. For example, I may lose a client, but I haven’t lost all of my income for the month. This is way more secure than relying on a job as your sole source of income.
- On average, freelancers and self-employed individuals earn 45% more money than those who are traditionally employed. You also get more tax deductions. (Note: It takes a while to get here. The hustle is real, especially in the beginning, but totally worth it when you see it starting to pay off.)
Overall, the market has totally shifted. The number of self-employed workers in the U.S. has grown 24% since 2003. Millennials, in particular, have a keen interest in self-employment, and as of late I’ve got more and more Boomers asking me to coach them on how to build an online businesses.
My writing business seems to be experiencing the benefits of this trend. When I quit two years ago I was making around $1000 a month from writing, within a year I’d made a few thousand more than I did at a regular job by throwing coaching into the mix, and now my monthly writing income has more than tripled from two years ago. A major part of it is because I’ve hustled my ass off and gotten smarter about running a business, but I also know that some of my success is due to the trend we’re seeing in the economy.
In June I invoiced $3,490 just for writing work. And I made this money without killing myself. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m still working fewer hours than I did at my day job, or at the very least I choose when to work and which projects to take.
I’m not saying any of this to brag, but rather to show any aspiring freelancers and business owners that you can make a living running a business online. I’m living proof you can make money writing. You can write for money and manage to pay the bills. And here’s how you can do it too:
1. Realize you’re not just a writer, you’re a marketer.
If you want to write for money you must learn to embrace this one thing: you’re not just a writer, you’re a marketer. This will truly make all the difference in whether or not you can pay the bills.
It goes without saying that blogging is the new marketing. Yahoo Small Business curated some blogging statistics to show how this has affected commerce. Some of the most notable findings are that 81% of U.S. consumers trust the information found on blogs and that 92% companies who blog multiple times per day have acquired new customers from their blogs. But wait, it gets better! Blogs fit perfectly into a new trend we’re now seeing, the significant surge in people using their mobile devices to browse, read, listen to audio, watch videos and shop!
What does this mean, exactly? Two things. First, companies know they need to blog so they’re outsourcing a lot of this work to freelancers and contractors. Second, if you want to make money writing you must realize that you’re not just a writer, you’re a marketer. If you can really comprehend the need in the market and your ability to meet that need, you’ll start getting higher quality clients.
2. You need to build your own brand.
With the launch of my first book in early 2014 my online business saw a major shift. I went from being a generalist who discussed multiple topics – health, entrepreneurship, relationships, etc. – to becoming known for personal finance and business.
Since then I’ve dedicated a lot of time to getting clear on this new direction for my brand. I spent all of 2014 learning how to cater to my market, coaching clients, building an online course for entrepreneurs, creating more money content on my own blog and only going after writing leads that fit within the categories of personal finance or business. This helped me boost my expertise as well as build a foundation for multiple sources of income.
In other words, I got strategic. I got crystal clear on what my brand represents and built my authority within my chosen niche. What has resulted is making the switch from getting paid $50 a blog post to charging upwards of $300 for the same amount of work. I also close writing deals very quickly – sometimes within hours of finding a lead. Half my pipeline is now made up of much larger companies within the personal finance realm, not just smaller blogs.
3. Follow the money.
I mentioned how I spent 2014 doing a bunch of different things that brought in some income. On the one hand, this helped me boost my authority and build a foundation for extra sources of money. If writing dries up I can coach and vice versa. However, earlier this year I realized I was spread out way too thin and it was costing me a lot of money. It was also driving me insane.
I knew it was time to simplify my business so I went with the most logical choice. I can land writing gigs very quickly where as coaching is a bit of a longer sale, so I followed my gut and came back to what started my online career: freelance writing.
I simply decided to follow the money.
As a business owner of any kind, you need to make sure you’re paying attention to trends within your business. Is something just not working anymore? To borrow The Lean Startup’s terminology, you can pivot. Is something really working? Run with it. Run like the fucking wind.
Sometimes as business owners we try to fight something that isn’t working because we’re afraid of being seen as a failure. The real failure lies in wasting your time, not in changing direction.
4. Jump on opportunity.
I’ve always been really good about seeing opportunity and acting on it. The ability to make money writing is no different. I saw the opportunity to boost my income with writing, so I followed my gut. However, within that major opportunity there were a bunch of little opportunities.
- I’m a part of a Facebook group for a conference I attend each year. I jump on opportunities to be quoted in an article or work with a cool new company. In June that resulted in getting a high paying writing gig with a company I’ve been following for YEARS. (Note: they are not included in my June writing income because we closed at the end of the month – meaning I’ll probably make more money in July.)
- I leave no stone left unturned when it comes to writing leads. I’ve got every job board, every writing group, every writing gig from major cities on Craigslist and every writing-related Twitter hashtag going straight to my inbox with a service like IFTTT.
- I started delegating leads to my assistant. We’ve been working together long enough that she knows what kind of writing gigs I would take. The cool part is she sometimes catches opportunities that I normally wouldn’t jump on, but because I trust her I push myself out of my comfort zone and pitch anyway.
- Everything is a potential story idea. One of my clients is a giant health blog where I typically discuss business and money, but they occasionally let me write about other things. Most of my ideas come from my life. For example, my water heater broke so I pitched a story about the health benefits of cold showers.
- I’m on “urgent” lists for editors. Sometimes editors need something written really quickly, and sometimes I have the time to do it. As such I volunteer to be on their “Urgent Article Needed” lists. If I have the time to do a story then I do it, if not then they find someone else. This is actually how I made an extra $100 with a client on the very last day of the month.
5. Never get comfortable.
Freelancers and small business owners often complain about the feast or famine cycle. Upon further investigation, I learn that most of the time it’s because they got a nice chunk of change, thought they could coast for a while and proceeded to get comfortable. Then, when the gig ends or things change, they feel the insane pressure to hustle to pay the bills. If this sounds like you don’t worry, I’ve totally been guilty of this too.
Sorry to break it to you, but it doesn’t work that way when you run your own business. You always have to be on your toes looking for prospects because you never know when a gig might end. Just because I’ve gotten a few better paying gigs doesn’t mean I stop actively looking for prospects and opportunities.
These are just a few of the ways you can make money writing online. The list is by no means exhaustive so as soon as I learn more techniques I will share on the blog.
If you’re a freelance writer and would like some customized guidance on boosting your income, feel free to sign up for a Make Money Your Honey mini session.