Horkey HandBook Blog

30 Days or Less Student Success Story with Daryn Collier

Daryn Collier is here today to share how 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success helped him refine his writing focus and renew his motivation to grow his online business.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your student success story Daryn!

What made you want to give freelancing writing a shot?

It’s funny, I never really liked writing – actually, that’s not entirely true. It’s more that I never practiced writing and felt that I wasn’t very good at it. So I thought I disliked it, I guess.

“But in the back of my mind I always knew writing was something I wanted to be better at.”

I’ve been working with small businesses for around five years now, primarily helping them develop an online presence. Most of the time that includes setting up and building out a WordPress site, local SEO, managing AdWords or Facebook advertising and maintaining their website.

Over time, I’ve essentially become a jack-of-all-trades, and yet, master of none. I was, and still am, all over the map when it comes to the services I offer.

It is seriously ridiculous.

I’m building WordPress sites, managing Google Apps accounts, creating AdWords campaigns, and setting up Infusionsoft. The list keeps getting longer and longer.

Over the last year I have really started to feel like my business had three problems:

  1. It lacked diversification in terms of revenue sources.
  2. I was providing way too many different services.
  3. I was stuck in a feast-or-famine cycle that I desperately want to break.

If it was possible to get paid for writing, I thought I could potentially even out cash flow, become more focused and eventually reduce the number of miscellaneous services I provide.

Was freelancing easier or harder than you thought?

It was both easier and harder. Easier to get started than I thought. It seems that there is actually quite a lot of work out there if you just go looking for it.

And that’s the thing: I knew that I’d have to go looking for the work because the work certainly wasn’t going to be looking for me.

Writing was harder in the sense that, well, writing is hard. Translating thoughts from head to keyboard is way more difficult than it looks.

I suppose that for some people, it comes naturally. But I tend to listen and think more than I talk, so I really have to make sure my thought process is clear before I start writing.

What type of writing are you doing most?

Right now, I am writing mostly in the WordPress space simply because that’s where the bulk of my recent experience lies. I also seem to end up including a customer service or business relationship spin on things since that’s something I’m passionate about.

I am mostly ghostwriting at this point in time, as well. On one hand, I am very grateful and feel very lucky to be landing work.

“But I want to build a name for myself and that means going after bylines.”

That’s something that is in the back of my mind right now. I just haven’t quite figured out the path to get there yet.

What are some successes you’ve experienced recently?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this whole experience has been a success so far. Since I started just over 60 days ago, I’ve consistently landed new work and I am getting repeat business.

This tells me I am on the right track. But I also realize I have a lot to do if I want to improve.

One thing that stands out in my mind is that some of the articles I’ve written have received a decent number of comments; many of which were positive.

This is one of the downsides to ghostwriting – I can’t really engage in the conversation or counter any arguments that readers present without revealing my hand.

“Either way, it’s satisfying to see that at least some of what I am writing is being received positively.”

What part of the course had the most impact on your business? Why?

That’s an easy answer. It’s the 30-day format… a few action steps per day at the most.

Personally, I am easily overwhelmed when faced with too many choices. I basically freeze up and take no action.

The 30-day format of the course really helped when it came to breaking things into bite sized pieces, with each day building on the previous one.

“It all comes down to desire – wanting to start and taking the first step. But you have to want it, because it’s way easier to dream of writing than actually doing the work.”

What’s one thing you’re still working on improving?

Another easy answer. Everything. I still think my writing sucks. Most of what I write, I dislike. While that may not be the best way to approach things mentally, it keeps me motivated to improve.

I still don’t consider myself to be a writer. I write, but that’s not the same thing. If I keep practicing and continue to develop my skills, eventually I’ll be able to call myself a writer.

(Gina: Daryn, you already ARE a writer, don’t discount yourself!)

Some specific areas I am working on right now are:

  1. My writing process. I tend to jump into writing too quickly without doing the required prep work. Instead, what I am trying to do is spend adequate time researching, thinking about what I want to say, creating a mind map and then just dump it all onto a piece of paper. Once all those steps are completed, I can finally put fingers to keyboard.
  2. I am also working on my lead-ins. Trying to make sure I draw readers into the post by bringing up the questions I think they will want answered by identifying a problem or pain point.
  3. Making sure that what I am writing actually makes sense. Personally, I sometimes feel like I have a disconnect between my brain and the keyboard. My thoughts are clear but finding the best way to transfer those thoughts to the screen can be a challenge. I’m hopeful this will improve with time.
  4. Typing efficiency is a major focus. I am trying to take the time to practice typing every day because I am slow – really slow. I basically need to double my typing speed before I’ll feel like it’s even close to where it should be. Don’t ask what it is – I ain’t telling.

Where would you like to see yourself by the end of 2015?

This is a tricky question because one of the areas I am focusing on this year is to make sure that I spend more time doing things and less time talking about doing things.

That being said, here is a big picture overview:

My plan is to become increasingly selective when it comes to working with small business owners. I have not trimmed any clients from that side of my business for a long time but by the end of this year, I can see that happening.

Ideally, I want to be working with clients who are focused on growing their businesses but who are also responsive and can afford to pay for value.

For the writing side of my business, I’m a little less sure of how things will pan out, mostly because I’m new. I know that I want to build out this side of my business.

I’d also like to find a better balance between byline work and ghostwriting, and this means I’ll need to start landing clients of my own. I’m very grateful to have landed work in any writing capacity – I never expected this process to go as smoothly as it has.

But, if I am going to grow my earnings, there are really only two ways of doing that:

  1. Through increased efficiency. If I can double my speed, I can effectively double my hourly rate.
  2. By charging more. ‘Nuff said!

There is no right answer as to which route is the better one to take. But personally, I want to favor #2.

“Efficiency isn’t my only objective. I also want to improve as a writer, not just a typist.”

I want to write content that in some way, makes a difference and provides real value. If I am always focused on writing faster, there comes a point where quality suffers.

I had this exact experience a week ago. I took on too many blog posts and found myself rushed for time. I wasn’t happy with what I wrote, but deadlines were looming.

For myself, it’s about finding a better balance between revenue, speed and quality. I know that managing some of my own projects will provide the best opportunity to create content that can be valuable.

What would you tell others that want to break into the freelance writing world?

  1. Get started. Quit making excuses, quit planning, quit setting goals. Just. Get. Started. If you’re unsure of where to start, Gina has an inexpensively priced, 30 day course that outlines each step you need to take.
  2. I had no idea if I would ever be able to land work as a writer. The internet is full of naysayers who will give you a million reasons why this can’t be done. Ignore them.
  3. Commit to getting better. I already gave you my opinion on efficiency – it will only get you so far. Spend time every week learning to become a better writer. Learn to add value, then learn to charge for it.
  4. Write every day. My target is to write 500 words per day minimum.
  5. Focus on the process of building your business. Goal setting by itself will get you nowhere. Goals must be accompanied by a process or action steps that at least have the potential to get you where you want to go.

Daryn Collier is a digital marketer and writer for hire. He is passionate about working with other entrepreneurs who are committed to growing their businesses through inbound marketing. A husband, father and avid CrossFitter, when he’s not working or spending time with his family, he has a love for the barbell and lifting things that are heavy.

Gina: Personally, I think Daryn is WAY too hard on himself. He’s making a living and constantly growing his income from writing each month. And y’all can tell that he’s a mighty fine writer from this post. Daryn, YOU ARE A WRITER!

Feel free to chime in similar sentiments in the comments.

Photo Credit: TempusVolat via Compfight cc

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey

FOUNDER & CO-OWNER

Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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