How This New Freelance Writer Made $11K in Her First Two Months
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Make good money even as a new freelance writer with these tips.When I decided to take the leap and leave my corporate communications job for a full-time freelance writing career, I knew I’d make most of my money writing for businesses. So I spent entire days creating a spreadsheet of hundreds of potential clients to pitch.

That spreadsheet hasn’t yielded a single client (or dollar). So I don’t recommend you do that!

Here are the more effective actions I took, which helped me bring in $11,000 within my first 60 days of freelancing:

Turn an employer into a client

When I gave notice to my employer, I let them know I was a new freelance writer taking on clients — and they asked if they could be my first one!

If you’re leaving your current job to become a freelancer and have done good work for your company, be sure to ask your employer if you could set up a freelance relationship. They may well agree.

Use your contacts

I followed the advice you see everywhere: network, network, network. Connections are everything — that’s why LinkedIn is worth billions.

Because I’d worked in public relations, I’d connected with a lot of reporters over the years.

I let a few journalists know I’d hopped to the other side of the communications fence and was working as a freelance writer. Several were good enough to connect me with editors – and also offered helpful advice, such as how to build a platform and remembering to pitch articles to other markets if they get rejected or killed.

And some of these referrals panned out with some good gigs. I had a temporary in-house stint at the New York Observer’s real estate reporting arm. And I got a blogging job with a marketing company that paid $250–$600 an entry.

Wear many hats

I chose to offer writing services of all kinds: PR services, editing, and newsletters, for example. I landed jobs in all of those categories — and I was careful to make sure that my role as a reporter didn’t conflict with my role as a PR consultant.

Venture outside your comfort zone

The first big writing opportunity I got was the week-long position I mentioned above, covering real estate. I knew absolutely nothing about real estate, and to be frank, wasn’t that interested in it. But I said “yes” because I wanted to get rolling earning freelance income.

After the week was over, I had over ten clips to log into my portfolio! The editor was happy with my work, and continued to give me freelance assignments.

Going out of my comfort zone got me clips, led me to other clients, and allowed me learn about an industry I hadn’t been exposed to before. That’s one of the reasons why I loved reporting — you get to learn about everything.

Say “no” to slave-wage work

Even as a new freelance writer, I didn’t quote bargain-basement rates, and I lost some clients because of it. I had determined what was a fair — not high-end, but fair — rate for my work, and that’s what I asked for.

It turned out, all I had to do was ask. I got the rate I requested from one new client, even though I knew they were paying someone else a lower rate. Why? Simply because I asked.

When clients walked away because they wanted to pay slave wages, I used the hours I would have spent working for them to find jobs that did pay.

I found some individual clients, including a lawyer who asked me to rewrite his bio and web copy, and a grad student who needed me to edit his dissertation. They came to me through referrals or inbound marketing — and the work averaged $75–$100 an hour.

Work your butt off

I thought that being my own boss and working from home meant that I would have free time to do things like cook dinner by 6 p.m., so we could dine as a family, pick my son up early from daycare, and visit friends more often, since I wasn’t beholden to a vacation day limit.

Boy, was I wrong.

If you’re trying to book serious revenue right off the bat and really get this freelance biz launched, you’ll be working like a bunny in those first months. I’m still there. But I’m looking forward to the time when it cools down a bit.

Meeting multiple deadlines for all my assignments meant turning on the computer as soon as I put my son to bed — seven days a week — and working well into the night.

The good news? Working long hours isn’t such a burden when you’re doing what you want to do, and you get paid well. Every day I smile when I think about the fact that I’m actually doing it. I’m a freelance writer.

What are your most effective quick-results strategies? Tell us in the comments below.

Jane K. Callahan is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. She writes primarily for businesses, and also writes articles and blog posts. Follow her on Twitter at @JaneKCall.

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40 comments on “How This New Freelance Writer Made $11K in Her First Two Months

  1. Beth Williams on

    I quit my corporate job 4 years ago to work as a freelance writer and marketing consultant. I think Jane’s advice is very sound and I’m completely in agreement with her. The advice I would add is to be open to opportunity and never say no to work (at least not at the beginning). There were times where I thought “there’s no way I can take on more work this week…” (when it rains, it pours) but in the end I was always able to work something out to accommodate the additional workload. You also need to be reliable and stick to deadlines. Most of my work now comes from my network + word of mouth and I know that delivering quality work on time has helped me build a solid reputation.

    Starting up as a freelance was scary at first but it was the best decision I ever made. I do a lot of corporate work and my new challenge is to branch out and try to do some more journalistic writing. Any ideas?

  2. Raymonda on

    These kinds of articles don’t really inspire me. Often times, I read about that lucky person who decides to be a freelancer and starts off successfully. And the one who had that lucky break are usually people coming from a good position anyway – that had some type of skill to market in the first place. The author worked in PR and already had contacts.

    These types of articles do not inspire me when everything was already lined up for the author to be successful in her first 60 days of freelancing. Where are the stories of the single mothers, who’re working at dead-end jobs because they can’t afford to quit and take the risk, that end up making it successful? Where are the writers that don’t have any sort background in anything that could be marketed but still somehow make it?

    I know the article is meant to be inspirational to other freelancers but I just didn’t resonate with it all. The author’s position in life is so far removed from mine that I couldn’t connect with it all.

    • Carol Tice on

      Sorry to hear this one wasn’t your speed, Raymonda. But I have many, many success stories from writers who started at many different points. You can browse for more inspiration here:

      http://www.makealivingwriting.com/tag/guest-post

      While you may have felt this writer had an edge you didn’t, most of us have some sort of knowledge we can use to help us get rolling, even if it’s just life experience.

  3. stefaniekr3 on

    Thanks for this article Jane! How do you determine what to charge? I think I’ve been selling myself short and certain types of clients I think actually find this a turn off.

    I am young and only have 4 years of experience outside academia but I have my MA and will have a second MA before I turn 30. Not sure what to charge for hourly rate…?

    • Jane on

      Rates are all over the place, and I’ve found that a lot of writers don’t want to share what they charge. Sometimes places already have a set pay on things like blog entries. I take into consideration how many hours it would take, how complex or research-heavy a project might be, and think about how big the company and audience is. When,I started out, the lowest I charged was $150 for a 2I word article for a non-profit. But I would never charge that little now, just a few months later.

    • Carol Tice on

      Stefanie, not sure when Jane will see this…but there’s no ‘going rates’ in freelance writing. If you suspect you’re charging too little, raise your rates. Then, raise them again. Keep raising them.

      In general, you don’t want to charge hourly rates, but project rates. That enables you to earn a higher hourly rate as you get more efficient and it takes you less time to do things. It’s hard to charge $150-$200 an hour, but many of us have earned that charging project rates.

      I shoot for $100 an hour (figured from project rates, not told to the client), and often get it…and I have no degrees. 😉

      • Katherine Swarts on

        I much prefer pay-by-project myself. However, many potential clients (especially those with lots of “regular” employees) still think primarily in terms of per-hour rates. So when someone asks you “how much per hour,” do you just tell them “$100” (or whatever) and let it go at that? I’d think that more people would be seized with “sticker shock” on being told “$100 per hour” than “$300 for writing your website,” but then, most of my current clients are smaller businesses.
        Katherine Swarts recently posted…Life Is Not a TemplateMy Profile

        • Carol Tice on

          Personally, I refuse to go there. “I just don’t think about writing projects that way. I want to come up with a figure you can put in your budget line, and you’ll know it won’t change, no matter how long it takes me to do this project.”

          I’m waiting for the day you tell me most of your clients are NOT smaller businesses, Katherine. That’s when you get out of the nickel-and-dime world of grilling you about your hourly rate.

          My position is my hourly rate is generally none of their business. All they need to know is what it’s going to cost them to get X amount of writing done.

  4. Shamit Khemka on

    Its really amazing to read and enjoy the post well i can said i also earned in month 7K$ and now continuously earning near 6.5k$ per month, Majorly depends on how we write, how we engage more audience with our work in writing skills and etc more points.

  5. Heather on

    Thanks for the article. This is great advice. Using your contacts is definitely one of the most important things you can do – and I just wanted to say, don’t just think about work contacts. Remember your personal contacts too. I never used to talk about my freelance work to other mums at the school gates – why I don’t know. Anyway, one day another mum came over to me in the playground to say that a mutual friend had told her what I did for a living, and she wondered if I’d be interested in some work? I got an $8500 contract as a result of that playground chat – and she’s since referred me on to others too. Now I’m less shy about saying what I do, and I’ve had other bits and pieces of work from people I meet in my everyday ‘mum’ life. So spread the word. You don’t have to be pushy. All I needed to do was actually tell people what I did for a living.
    Heather recently posted…How to Write a Freelance Business PlanMy Profile

  6. Rachel on

    Thanks for the article. I’m currently working towards building a client list that can sustain my family. It’s no joke, there is a ton of hard work involved, but that gives me some peace of mind as I think that I’m not competing for jobs with EVERYONE (because many will give up before they get as far as I have and I’m hardly out of the gate!).
    Rachel recently posted…Fleeting brillianceMy Profile

  7. martin muturi on

    hey guys, could you please hook me up with a good paying freelance employer, i would really appreciate making a descent earning and at the same time add value to someone`s life.

    • Carol Tice on

      Martin, we’re not a job-referral service here — but you might check out the ebooks tab up top for some resources to teach you HOW to find those good-paying clients, especially How to Get Great Freelance Clients.

  8. Peterson Teixeira on

    I like your posts Carol, because they are inspiring!
    I lived in Maryland when I was younger, so english is my second language. But as a Brazil Writer I am looking forward to get REALLY BIG clients! I got a few but it’s never good enough. I want more.

    I feel like I am very close to land big payments, which means big clients.

    But what matters is to work with a smile, doing what you want, helping whoever needs.
    That’s my dream.

  9. Kevin Carlton on

    Hi Jane

    Your story underlines perfectly why I don’t think freelances should think of themselves as failures if they go back to a paid writing job.

    I’m sure many writers are just like me. They’ve gone into freelancing completely cold – with no industry contacts and no direct previous experience.

    Going into freelancing like that can be pretty tough, because you’ve gotta work even harder to get traction and get your name around.

    So if the opportunity comes up to work in a paid writing job for a while then, in some cases, it may be a good idea to grab it.

    A couple of years in a 9–5 writing job, to help you develop new contacts and get known in the industry, could potentially put you in a much better position for a successful freelance career.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted…Revealed: The marketing tactics six successful copywriters use to build a better incomeMy Profile

    • Carol Tice on

      I think Jane just got her previous employer as a freelance client, Kevin, not that she went back to them full time. Everyone should ask their former company if they can freelance, if they were writing for them. Often, that’s a great, steady first client.

      • Kevin Carlton on

        Hi Carol

        It doesn’t look as if I explained myself clearly on this one (shame on me).

        What I meant is those people who never had a writing job in the first place – unlike Jane. And they’re struggling to build up contacts.

        But they too can replicate Jane’s experience by leaving freelancing temporarily and going out there and getting a job for a while.

        They can then put themselves in the same position and make use of those new relationships when they return to pursue their dream of becoming a freelance.

        Of course, they’ve still gotta have the wherewithal to make it work – just like Jane.

        It’s an idea I’ve considered – because you’re effectively marketing yourself to possible future clients while getting paid at the same time. To some, it might seem a cop out. But it might actually be an efficient way to reach your ultimate goal.
        Kevin Carlton recently posted…Revealed: The marketing tactics six successful copywriters use to build a better incomeMy Profile

        • Carol Tice on

          Well, if full-time writing jobs were easy to find, I think I’d be out of business! There are fewer and fewer staff jobs these days. But if you can get one, I’m a fan of doing one for a year, if you can — you’ll learn a TON, and probably bring your writing speed way up.

        • Jane on

          There are so many people out there who want to be writers, and that’s why there are so many pubs that pay their staff peanuts- they know 100 people are lined up for the job. But a successful publication is only as good as the quality of its writers, so as long as you have the skill (and not just the will) you have a competitive advantage-previously published or not.

  10. Holly Bowne on

    Thanks for sharing your inspirational story, Jane. It gives hope to those of us who haven’t yet achieved a reasonable monthly income. :o)

    You offer some great advice, such as using your old contacts. I really need to do more this!

    And I find one of the hardest things is saying “no” to a gig that is below the minimum hourly rate I’ve set for mysef. I just did this for the first time with a formerly regular client. It’s scary! But I was working so much on the low-paying stuff, I never had time to search for higher-paying gigs. Now, I’m marketing my butt off right now and hopefully I’ve paved the way for a better-paying client to fill the gap.

    • Jane on

      I don’t know about you, but I was bashful at first when it came to working my contacts. But a some of them reminded me, it’s good for THEIR career too to send a good writer/worker to one of their contacts.

      • Carol Tice on

        People actually *love* to refer others! It’s a great way to build goodwill. Wish more freelancers realized that. It’s not intrusive, it’s not obnoxious, to ask for referrals. It’s normal, and people are happy to help with it.

  11. Kimsea Sok on

    Carol, this above is another awesome tips as what you always did it…

    Well, It’s really brilliant to earn 11k just only first 2 months. I think that it is really impossible for me…

    But, I love to get it done…

    I quite my offline job almost 3 years, thus I think that I was a bit far from my employers. However, I used to connect with my old and talking about my business. I found that he interested in what I’m currently doing.

    So, I think that it possible to convince to use my freelance service..

    That is really nice idea..
    Kimsea Sok recently posted…How to Start Best Small Business With BloggingMy Profile

    • Jane on

      Kimsea, check out your options. Your old company would almost certainly rather work with someone who they have worked with before (and had a good experience) rather than take a chance on someone they don’t know. Searching for talent can be costly and time-consuming.

      • Katherine Swarts on

        It makes sense that businesses would want to contract with former employees: it’s a win-win situation. The employer-turned-client can still get the same work value as before from the writer–minus all the legal hassles attached to employees, paying only for actual work done without all those empty hours onsite, and not having to worry about familiarizing the new contractor with the ways of the company.

        Of course that assumes that the writer was a dependable employee, the person-to-person relationship with the employer was friendly, and the parting was without hard feelings. So those of you who are still working at day jobs while preparing to go full-time freelance: don’t assume you’re already free to burn bridges!
        Katherine Swarts recently posted…Life Is Not a TemplateMy Profile

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