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"Make a Living Writing is the only blog I read religiously. It's always on top of the news and advice writers need RIGHT NOW to earn more from their writing." —Linda Formichelli, The Renegade Writer

From Side Hustle To Full-Time Freelance Writing in 5 Simple Moves

dreamstime_xs_14118606Starting out as a freelance writer can be tough. It can take a long time to start earning a good living.

But you don’t have to starve while you’re waiting for your freelance writing career to take off. I built my business while I was still working a day job.

I got to “retire” from it at the end of 2014, so I could do full-time freelance writing.

After nearly 10 years as a financial adviser, I’d found myself growing more and more unhappy.

First, I tried to change that by taking a certification program and working to become a stronger contributor at my office. But dedicating myself to my job didn’t make me fall back in love with my career. In fact, it did the exact opposite.

It was time to look at alternatives.

Writing has always been my passion. My research showed me it’s a viable way to earn a living. So I got started.

Here are the five things that helped me to go from zero to full-time freelance writer:
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This Will Help You Solve the Freelance Writing Puzzle

puzzleThe freelance writing game is a bit of a puzzle, isn’t it? One of those big, 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles that are half solid blue sky, I think.

There are a lot of different things to know — the lingo, the scams, who’s a good client. It’s hard to know your best way to break in. Or, if you’re already started, the best way to grow your income.

There are so many things you need to figure out to create a thriving freelance writing business. What niche should I be in? Why aren’t my query or pitch letters getting any response? How can I overcome my fears of rejection and move forward?

I’ve been doing a lot of jigsaw puzzles over the winter with my husband and kids, and as I sat pondering those frustrating little pieces, I started to think the puzzle-solving process is very similar to the process of putting together your freelance career.

Here are ten similarities I’ve found:

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How Writing for Pleasure Made Me a Better Freelance Writer

DaydreamingAs a teen, I was scared of making money for writing.

When I began to take on little commissions in 2007, I wrote sponsored posts for $1 each — or even less. Sometimes all I got for a 300-word post was ten cents.

My family pushed me to make more money as a writer. But they went a little too far, and I developed a sense of guilt every time I caught myself writing for pleasure.

One day not long ago, I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. The thought of writing my assignments nauseated me.

Instead of diving right into client work, I decided to write something fun. Something for me. Here’s what happened…
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Content Mill Update: What Demand Studios’ Implosion Means for Writers

Businessman With Sales ChartRemember what it was like to write online content in 2006? Back then, there was a ton of opportunity for writers willing to crank out boatloads of hastily written, low-paid content for content mills.

These sites got a ton of traffic off the key words in their posts. Visitors would click the ads they put on those pages, and the sites could make a fortune.

One of the most successful pioneers of this mass-content model was Demand Studios. When its parent company, Demand Media, went public in 2011, there was a brief moment when Demand was worth more than the New York Times.

Those days are long gone. Google soon got hip to the lack of value to online readers of most content-mill writing. It started changing its algorithm to exclude such sites from its search results. (When’s the last time you got a link to eHow on page one of a Google search? Yeah.)

The company’s founder and CEO quit in October 2013, having pocketed his millions from the stock offering.

If you’ve been wondering what’s happened since, let me give you a content mill update here.

The short version: Mass SEO-focused content sites are in a death spiral. If you earn much of your money writing for mills or big revenue-share sites, you need a new game plan.

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How to Follow Up on Article Queries (Without Being a Stalker)

WaitingFor freelancers, waiting is the hardest part.

But editors receive too many unsolicited queries to respond to each one instantly. And some won’t respond at all unless a query catches their interest immediately.

Good ideas also fall by the wayside if they hit editors’ inboxes during deadline, while they’re on vacation, or if they’re out of the office at a conference or because of an unforeseen event, like an epic storm.

Sometimes it pays to follow up on article queries — as long as you do it in a way that doesn’t make you seem like a stalker.

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My 23 Best Types of Blog Posts That Grab Attention

Young shocked womanMost bloggers write about whatever’s on their minds that day. If you’ve tried that, you’ve probably noticed it isn’t very effective in growing your blog audience.

To build your blog into a serious business (or just a great writing sample for getting freelance gigs), you’ll need to change your approach.

It’s also essential to know the popular post types if you’re blogging for paying clients and want the project to be successful, so that they keep paying you to blog for them. More and more clients want to at least partly base pay on traffic, so better results will grow your writing income. And of course, more readers on your blog gives you more chance to get hired or to sell readers your products.

Below are a compendium of my most successful types of blog posts that grab attention and get you more readers, shares, and comments. This list combines the most popular post types I’ve used on this blog, and the types that I’ve used to drive a total of 2 million pageviews on my Forbes blog, posting only 3-4 times per month, over the past 2 years. I’ve also thrown in a few great formats I haven’t used yet as well (but hope to soon!).

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