Laura Harris stops by the blog today to tell us how she managed to break away from hobby blogging (which she first started in 2006) and move onto becoming a paid freelance writer for the web.
Laura shares the seven steps that helped her in this transition – and a lot of useful resources for newbie freelancers. Thanks for being here Laura!
I’ve been walking around with words stuffed in my head for 29 years.
Never did I believe I could actually get them out, share them with the world and get paid to do so.
Instead, I took the route of the hobby blogger and stuck to my day job at a bank. Then, after turning in my bank keys and becoming a stay-at-home mom to two loving, spirited, inspirational, little cherubs, something amazing happened.
I got paid to write.
It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen by chance, but this mother of two with a background in finance, no college degree and an undying love for the written word got paid real currency to write.
You can, too.
Let me say that one more time: websites and blogs are in constant need of quality content to bring in traffic, so, if you figure out what their readers want – and create it – you can get paid to write, too.
I’m not going to spend time talking about the years I studied writing on the side while I worked my day job. Suffice it to say, I didn’t pop my head off the pillow and say, “Why not?”
There is great value in studying your craft.
What I am going to do is boil down my imperfect – yet successful – transition from hobby blogging to what I did to become a paid freelance writer.
Here are the seven steps that worked for me to get my foot in the door of the freelance writing game.
1. I Spent Money
I’m a tightwad with confidence issues.
The last person I tend to invest money in is myself. We’re a family of four on a very lean budget, so the moment I realized I wasn’t blogging casually was when I finally spent money on my own domain name and self-hosted blog via WordPress.
Before that, I was using a free WordPress blog.
You treat something differently when you get it for free.
You don’t have to use a self-hosted blog to be a writer, but I chose that path because I needed the push. I’d been blogging for free since 2006. Also, I knew there was more opportunity for monetizing my blog down the road.
This may vary for you, but my initial expenses included:
- Self-Hosted Blog = $72/year
- Domain Name = $12/year
- P.O. Box = $80/year (If you set up a newsletter subscription on your blog, you are required by the Federal Trade Commission to have a physical or P.O. box address on your emails.)
Total startup expenses = $164
2. I Wrote Regularly and Publicly
It’s a lot like Stephen King said in his book, On Writing.
If you want to be a writer, then write. Don’t wait until you have the perfect office or the right music.
Just start writing.
Although, having a great office and a killer soundtrack when you write is just AWESOME. At this moment, I’m listening to the soundtrack from The Hobbit by Howard Shore. Aw, bliss.
I was never a consistent writer until I told myself to blog every Monday and Friday, no matter what.
Suddenly, my subscribers were my accountability partners. They expected me to deliver content on those days. It was another good push. I’ve written more this year than any year before, and it shows.
There is an added kick in the pants when you are writing content for the web instead of something tucked away in a file. When you publish something you put your heart and soul into and no one reads it, it teaches you what readers care about.
Don’t consider it a failure. This is all good stuff that will help you learn what editors want when you pitch them ideas.
3. I Followed the People Who Were Doing it Right
Michael Hyatt’s name is the first one that comes to mind. I read his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, then subscribed to his blog, and eventually joined his membership site, Platform University.
His teacher’s heart and practical advice helps bloggers like me who have a vision, but don’t have the tools to get there. I can’t begin to describe how helpful this platform has been.
What’s your niche?
Find the top bloggers in that category and subscribe to their blogs.
Attend their webinars.
Watch their Periscope broadcasts.
My favorite Periscopes to follow are Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger, and Crystal Paine, founder of Money Saving Mom.
If you’re looking for great writing resources, I’ve learned a lot from Beyond Your Blog, Jon Morrow and The Write Life.
While you’re here, you should go ahead and subscribe to Horkey Handbook. I continually benefit from the rich resources and inspiration on here. Gina knows her stuff!
4. I Found Communities on Facebook
Learning about plugins and widgets and html and software can make you want to karate chop your laptop with your face.
Facebook groups kept me sane.
I peppered them with questions and soaked up all the knowledge and encouragement shared. Why am I talking in past tense? I still actively participate in Facebook groups specific to my needs.
My favorites are:
- 30 Days of Hustle (started by writer, Jon Acuff)
- Inspired Bloggers Network
- Beyond Your Bloggers
- 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success (Gina’s exclusive group for students and graduates of her freelance writing course. Scroll down for details.)
5. I Started Guest Posting Before I “Felt” Ready
Even though I was terrified, I stepped out and began guest posting six months ago.
Nothing could prepare me for how it felt when that first guest post went live.
Now I understand why my kids’ favorite storybook character, Thomas the Tank Engine, smiles and peeps his horn when someone calls him a “really useful engine.” It’s awesome to be useful!
It’s also awesome to get paid, but guest posting for exposure offers three important benefits to the aspiring freelance writer:
- It sends traffic to your website.
- It grows your portfolio.
- Your skills improve.
The way I got started was to search for blogs in my niche that took guest post submissions. Join Facebook groups about writing and keep your eyes peeled for guest posting opportunities.
6. I Became a Paid Ghost Writer
Not long after I began guest posting, I discovered TextBroker.
This is a content mill where ghost writers get paid per submission to write for clients. I wrote on all different topics – from insurance to wedding shoes, t-shirt descriptions to law firm glossary definitions.
In three months, I squeaked out a meager $256.06 writing for TextBroker. I made 1.4 cents per word.
My confidence was growing, but my bank account and writing portfolio weren’t. Still, it brought me one step closer the biggest moment in my writing career.
7. I Learned the Art of Freelancing
Two months ago, I hit the jackpot.
I discovered an article written by fellow mom and writer, Audra Rogers, here on Horkey Handbook. It was called, “My First 3 Months: How I Made $1200 Working Part-Time as a Freelance Writer.”
Audra described many practical tips that helped her land writing gigs for The Huffington Post, Babble and Scary Mommy. She also talked about the many benefits she received after taking Gina’s course 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success.
I was sold.
Gina’s course was self-paced, informative, encouraging, practical and game-changing.
Within a few weeks, I cashed out my earnings in TextBroker and focused all my efforts on freelancing. Within a month, I published my first paid article in Mamalode magazine. And just this week, three more of my articles have been accepted for paid publication on major websites.
I am not the expert with heaps of experience or income reports that will leave your head spinning (yet). That’s Gina’s department.
Instead, I am one step ahead of you, just breaking through and loving it.
I went from drifting along with no direction, to having a clear plan and a major boost in confidence.
Your dreams are not out of reach.
If you are looking for your next step as a writer, I highly recommend you check out the resources in this post.
And whatever you do, don’t stop writing.
What’s one step you’ll take today toward your freelance writing ambitions? Tell us in the comments below!
Laura Harris is a freelance writer and mother of two with a background in personal finance. When she’s not on an adventure with her family or curled up with a good book, you can find her blogging about parenting and personal finance at Piggy Bank Dreams.