Freelance Blogging: How I Make $4,000+ A Month Working Part Time

By Tom Ewer

For the past four months, I have averaged nearly $4,200 per month in freelance blogging earnings while working just 3-4 hours each weekday.

I now make about as much as I did from the job that I quit in 2011 in less than half the time.

And yet I have no formal writing qualifications. Far from it in fact — I nearly failed English at school. Not only that, but I’d barely even read a blog before May 2011, let alone written blog posts.

That said, you may be wondering how I got from zero income to $4,000+ per month in just a year.

The fact is that I am nothing special — I believe that any capable writer has the potential to follow in my footsteps and exceed my achievements if they wish.

How? Let’s start at the very beginning of my freelancing story.

Passive Income Dreams

In May 2011 I decided that I no longer wanted to work for a boss.

I was pretty happy in my job, but I had an irresistible yearning to strike out on my own.

At the time I had no idea what I would do to make a living but it is fair to say that freelance blogging would have been very low on my list of considerations.

I spent most of 2011 toiling away on various passive income projects to no avail. I spent countless hours building websites with the intent of ranking in Google, only to see them tossed aside by algorithm updates or penalties.

In short, I was getting seriously discouraged with my lack of progress.

My Turning Point

It was only in September 2011 that I finally turned to freelance blogging as an option, out of pure frustration with my lack of progress more than anything else.

I spent about ten minutes on the ProBlogger Job Board, submitted a few pitches, then thought nothing more of what I had done for a day or so. After all, I had gone through the process as more of a way of letting off steam than anything else — I didn’t actually expect anything to come of it.

But I was wrong. After a few days I got a reply to one of my pitches. WPMU, arguably the biggest blog about WordPress on the web, were offering me a paid trial.

Just a couple of weeks later, I had my first blogging role.

The pay was modest, but in my mind I had crossed an enormous gulf. At least one person in the world was willing to pay me for my words. Where could I take this?

How I Quit My Job

The monthly pay from my first client amounted to just a few hundred bucks a month, which was never going to be enough to pay the bills. However, I now felt like I was as close to quitting my job as I had ever been.

I could see the path — now I just needed to follow it.

In a move that you would consider either brave or stupid (or both), I handed my notice in.

At the time, I had just one client who was paying me enough to cover perhaps my mortgage but nothing else.

My logic was simple — if this client was willing to pay me $x per hour to write, and $x per hour was enough to cover my outgoings if I worked full time, I was good to go (in theory). I had a few month’s savings to tide me over and I felt that I could build up a sufficiently viable business in that time.

In preparation for my leaving, I submitted another bunch of pitches to online job listings, informing prospective clients that I would be available to work from mid-January 2012 (when I would be returning from vacation).

However, one eager prospective client offered me a role straight away, and I felt that it would be foolish to turn the opportunity down. That job was for the ManageWP blog, where I am now the editor.

So, with just two clients and nowhere near enough income to cover my expenses, I left my workplace for the last time in December 2011 and headed off to Florida for a well-earned vacation.

How I Built My Business

Perhaps the most remarkable fact about my story is that I haven’t sought out a single client in 2012 — they have all come to me, either via my blog or bylines spread across the web on clients’ sites.

I started my blog, Leaving Work Behind, in June 2011 as an accountability journal for my making-money-online exploits. I never had the deliberate intention of using it to attract freelance blogging referrals.

I never followed a deliberate strategy to secure clients — and yet the referrals started trickling in. With that in mind, for those who are interested in freelance blogging (or freelancing in general), I cannot advocate the value of blogs enough.

I slapped up a basic Hire Me page and in February, my third client found me — a small business based in the UK (where I live) whose owner needed help producing blog content.

From that point on, it was just a case of retaining my existing clients and waiting for new ones to appear, which they did, steadily throughout 2012.

I now work with a core group of five clients on an ongoing basis. This highlights one of the great advantages of freelance blogging — once you have secured a client, they can be yours for the long term.

And because prospects come to me, I spend no time marketing my services — my “non-billable” hours are very low.

How Did it All Come Together?

You might think things just fell into place for me, but that wasn’t the case. It took a lot of work (and plenty of failings) to get to where I am now.

If I were to assess my freelance blogging success to date, I would say that it is based upon three fundamentals:

  1. Good pitches
  2. Good samples
  3. A steady stream of prospective clients

Those are the three areas that I would advise any aspiring freelance blogger to focus on — write good pitches, make sure that you have great examples of your work, and put yourself in front of plenty of prospective clients (or draw them to you).

As far as I am concerned, for any capable writer, freelance blogging is a truly awesome option.

You can earn a full time income from part time pay, which affords you the flexibility and freedom to live your life as you see fit.

You could spend the additional time working on passive income projects (as I do), work full time and earn a great deal more, or simply spend more time with your family. The world is your oyster and you are free to do with it as you please.

I won’t say that freelance blogging is easy — because it isn’t — but the end result is well worth the work.

  1. Stacey says:

    Hi Tom, the thing that struck me on reading your article was that you had a very desirable and profitable skill you could niche-down on – which lead to lucrative blogging relationships, I.E. WordPress

    My thought’s are: being able to write competently for such a popular and ever growing niche/market, was in some part, key to your accelerated success?

    What advice would you give to writers/bloggers who have expertise in say, less, well known or easily monetizable areas?
    Stacey recently posted..How to Market Your Copywriting Business Whilst Servicing Your Existing Clients – Sexual Favours Optional!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Stacey, we’ll wait for Tom’s response, but I’ll just say I didn’t have any tech skills like WordPress to market and also found it fairly easy to transition to finding good-paying blogging clients once I built my own blog.

      I was able to fairly quickly land one initial paid blogging gig with a publication I’d written features for, and that brought a steady stream of small-business leads just from that exposure.

      I’m sure we’ll talk much more about this on the call tomorrow, Stacey…but I know someone who got a first paid blogging gig for a tattoo parlor! And someone else who got a gig blogging about the fall TV lineup for a major network, off his own media blog. There is opportunity in a lot of industries.

      • Tom Ewer says:

        Hey Stacey,

        What Carol said :-)

        There are far more popular niches than WordPress — in fact, there are only a handful of WordPress blogs with paid authors.

        Furthermore, I hadn’t even heard of WordPress about six months prior to landing my first gig. Like Carol says, as a writer you can write on any number of topics — you don’t necessarily need to be an “expert” to write about something. We’re professional *writers*, not professional [insert niche here] experts.

        Finally, it’s only by chance that I picked up and ran with WordPress. I then capitalized on that. I am confident that I would have found another niche if it hadn’t have been WordPress.

        Cheers,

        Tom
        Tom Ewer recently posted..My Monthly Income Report — November 2012

  2. Anthony says:

    Tom,
    Thanks for this post, it was very timely for me as I recently committed to landing more paid blogging gigs. I agree wholeheartedly with your three fundamentals. When I didn’t have samples, I was scared to market myself and when I was unsure about how to pitch I was limited to low-paying job boards. I think focusing on the three fundamentals you write about enables writers to spend more time writing and less time on (unpaid) administrative tasks.

  3. J. Delancy says:

    This is some very valuable advice from Mr. Ewer, in that it distils a process we all think about into a very small number of items for focused attention.

    Thanks for writing and All The Best.
    J. Delancy recently posted..10 Things She Wants You To Know

  4. Nice post, but it leaves me with a few questions. I agree that good pitches and good samples are key concepts to master… but where is this steady stream of good prospective clients that you speak of? For you, they seem to have dropped into your lap. While I’ve had the good fortune of having clients find me, but I am not yet at the point where I can stop marketing myself.

    And are you willing to share any numbers? $1000 per week at 20 hours translates to $50 per hour — totally doable and realistic if, as you mention, the non-billable hours are kept to a minimum. But I find that a well researched and well written blog post can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. If I get $100 for the post, then, my hourly rate varies from $25 to $50. Rarely can I get a decent post completed and out the door in under 2 hours. So the $1000/week would be my peak, not my norm. Are you charging more or working faster, or both?

    • Carol Tice says:

      You need to learn to go faster, Kimberly. That’s the secret — I try to budget 1 hour for most blog posts. Check out my new ebook on that — 13 Ways to Get the Writing Done Faster.

      If what you’re doing really requires 4 hours, you need to get paid more. I’ve done $300 blog posts if they want interviews and such.

      What Tom is talking about is basically an inbound marketing strategy — buiding up your blog and guest posting visibility so that clients come to you. It’s worked well for a lot of bloggers…and we’ll be talking tons more about this on the call, I’m sure.

      • Hello Carol.
        Really? 1 hour for your articles?
        Are you considering the research time, getting images, proof reading and everything involved aside from writing?
        I normally take 2 hours per post, and those are posts between 1,000-2,000 words, on average.
        Servando Silva recently posted..Why long tail keywords are better for your blog

        • Carol Tice says:

          Hi Servando –

          Yes, that’s all told, including clients where I find images.

          Anybody who is writing 1-2K posts for clients should stop it! Unless they’re super-high value, that’s a lot of wasted verbiage, as most readers won’t hang in that long on a typical business blog. Unless they’re paying you $1000 a post or more, which I’m betting they don’t.

          The first thing I do with my clients is sit them down and explain what will get them engagement and interest, which is usually short posts. I’m ordinarily working on 350-500 word posts. I even have one major client where if I submit over 500, they cut it back to there. They know their audience wants short reads.

          As far as research, I’m super-efficient. I collect ideas on a regular basis and then sit down maybe once a month or at most once a week for more frequency clients, figure out all my ideas, and then write a week’s or even a month’s worth all together. I go find 3-4 images at once for several posts — It’s a lot more efficient that way.

          • Wow, that’s really fast. Just FYI, I’m not doing those 1K-3K posts for writing clients, but for my self, and some of them have become pillar articles with lots of traffic.

            A few years ago, I used to work on the computer industry and I used to write 5-10K words articles and reviews. I received a payment of $300-500 per each, I guess I still need to improve my efficiency there.
            Servando Silva recently posted..Why long tail keywords are better for your blog

            • Carol Tice says:

              Or your pay — I used to get $1500 for 3000 words for magazine features with just one regional lifestyle magazine, and $2000 for 2500 words with others. That’s just super-low pay for that long a word count.

              • Hello Carol.
                I’m not trying to defend myself here. I really appreciate your insights!
                However, does it counts if I live in Mexico? I bet the rates here are much lower than that, even for a professional writer on a top tier magazine.

                $1500 is higher than the average wage here, and $3,000 is just something most people here won’t ever see in their lives.

                That’s one of the reasons I moved into international websites now. The ASP is definitely higher.
                Servando Silva recently posted..How to find Competitor backlinks and WHY you want to do it

                • Carol Tice says:

                  It’s not where you live, in my view. It’s the clients you go after. My friend Oni from YoungPrePro is in Nigeria (!) and making $100 a short blog post for clients all over the world. It’s about finding the right clients.

    • Tom Ewer says:

      Hi Kimberly,

      The clients didn’t fall on my lap — I wasn’t that fortunate I’m afraid :-)

      I built up a relatively popular blog and established myself as an authority in a specific niche (WordPress). That led to (a) blogging jobs on various topics (because I had proven myself as a good writer) and (b) blogging jobs specific to WordPress. Bylines are really important for getting new clients too.

      I work pretty fast — my equivalent hourly rate in November was $74. Carol’s got it spot on — speed is extremely important.

      Cheers,

      Tom
      Tom Ewer recently posted..My Monthly Income Report — November 2012

  5. Hello again, Tom.
    The reason I’ve been following you is because I had very similar thoughts at the same time (end of 2011 and beginning of 2012). I just decided to take 1 more year because of different situations I’m not going over here, but I’m definitely doing it on 2013. I’m pretty sure.

    BTW, I just answered your email :)
    Servando Silva recently posted..How I increased my readers engagement in 5 minutes

  6. Glen says:

    Hey Tom, congratulations!

    It’s great to hear your inspiring journey to take back your life. There isn’t anything about building a business ONLINE or Off that’s easy.

    I wish you the best Tom!
    Glen recently posted..Living Life Uncomfortably

  7. Justin says:

    Hey Tom,
    That is so awesome that you are earning that much money per month part time. It’s amazing how everything fell into place for you since you mentioned you had no clear strategy. Thanks for sharing a truly inspiring story with us. :)
    Justin recently posted..The Personal Growth Handbook – Personal Development 101

  8. Yes! I seem to be headed in your direction, but much slower. I teach at the university of phoenix part time, so I used that as my crutch when I left my job in May 2012. But a few weeks after my last day of work, I got my first client (referred by a friend). I too had been posting on job boards like crazy, and one of them finally responded almost 6 months later! But better late than never. So now I have two paying clients. BTW, both of those clients checked out my blog before agreeing to work with me, so I second the importance of having your own blog.
    Sarah L. Webb recently posted..I Think I Need a Barber But This As A Man’s World

  9. Anne Grant says:

    Just paid a visit to your blog and read through a few posts. I am looking forward to hearing more in tomorrow’s webinar about the opportunities you found and how you learned to write an effective pitch.

    After the first of the year, I will be able to devote time to writing…with the intention of producing income as soon as possible. Like you, I didn’t see myself as becoming a blogger, but I get what you’re saying about creating a long term relationships for sustainable income production.

  10. Aasma says:

    Hey Tom,

    Really interesting story of your success, though I like to ask one thing.

    Could you explain how to make good pitch?
    What should be included in your pitch?
    What should be the ideal length of your pitch?

    I think these are some questions that many people are chasing. I would really appreciate if you can help me out.
    Aasma recently posted..Mobile Recharge API Integration

  11. Tom, I particularly like your remark “I spend no time marketing my services — my ‘non-billable’ hours are very low.”
    I can relate this to the ultimate goal I have for my own (new) site. Rather than just being a website for the sake of it, I want it to be a lead-generating machine.
    That way, I don’t have dress up in a suit and go out to networking meetings and business breakfast clubs, where occasionally someone might just put work your way only on the basis that ‘they know you’ (a bit of a generalisation, but I’m sure people know what I mean).
    And going back to the lead-generating machine bit, aren’t machines just brilliant? Once you’ve set them up properly (in this case, your website) they do the work, so you don’t have to (within reason).
    Kevin Carlton recently posted..5 world-class blogs that every content writer should read

    • Carol Tice says:

      Personally, Kevin, it also took me about 18 months of building my inbound marketing like crazy before it really started to roll for me. Now it’s a thrill to get nibbles coming to me about every week, without having to do anything except write my blog and keep my LinkedIn updated and looking active. Those have been the 2 biggies for me.

      Can’t wait to talk all about this on the call!

      • Funny you should mention LinkedIn because I’ve been tucked away out of circulation for so long that I don’t have a great number of connections. Yet, curiously, this has been one of my biggest sources of traffic so far. Therefore, I have to give the platform a big thumbs up.

        First enquiry from website came in after 6 weeks for me. Of course, a telephone enquiry is still just an enquiry and you still need to convert as many of these as possible into actual business.

        A potential theme for one of your future posts?

        Thanks for the reminder about the Open House Call.
        Kevin Carlton recently posted..5 world-class blogs that every content writer should read

  12. koundeenya says:

    That’s so inspirational. Personally, I’ve also been a freelance writer online for blogs and have been making some money. But not much. I couldn’t make my living with them. I lost all my hope. This one truly motivated me. Thanks a ton
    koundeenya recently posted..How To Get More Freelance Writing Clients

  13. Joe says:

    Hi Tom and Carol,

    Drat I signed up for the webinar but realised I have just missed it, even though I am 17 hours ahead of you guys!

    I am about to embark on the same journey that you have taken Tom. Ive resigned from my job after xmas to focus all my time on writing, blogging and freelancing. Ive never done either of them before really, just writing for free.

    I have a bit of savings that will give me long enough to get going!
    Im very glad I have your story to follow and learn from, truly inspired :)

    Time to take the plunge.

  14. Great read and very inspiring! Hopefully I’ll be able to follow suit and join the high earning freelancers before I can finish off my Uni course!
    Elliot Forbes recently posted..January’s Half Way Point – Status Report

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