Could Publishing an Ebook Get You Better Freelance Writing Work?

Writers create ebooks for mobile devicesby Dana Sitar

Ebooks can boost your online presence, create passive income, and grow your audience. Bloggers and entrepreneurs know this. It’s time for freelance writers to get on board.

An ebook can increase your credibility on a topic and help you get noticed by the kinds of people you want to work with. Creating this product to anchor your brand can help you take control of your career and get picky about doing the work you love.

Here are my tips for using an ebook to boost your freelance career:

Write About What You Love

Trending topics and keywords are tempting because of their ability to draw a lot of eyes fast. But they also doom you to writing about a topic you may not like long into your career. Instead, choose a subject you love to write about. Take a unique angle and show off your voice and expertise to catch the attention of the right readers.

Keep It Simple

Simplicity is a good rule of thumb for creating an ebook. You have the opportunity to add illustrations, design, and multimedia to enhance a reader’s experience — but you don’t have to to make the book effective. You can create a simple PDF to share with readers in one link. Then get back to your freelance work.

Keep your content simple, too. Make your ebook short and digestible, so readers will actually read it. No one will learn who you are or know your expertise if you write a massive tome that intimidates them out of reading it.

Launch Big

The launch is where many a self-published freelancer misses a major opportunity. You’re thinking of your ebook as a side project and decide you don’t have time to promote it; you’ve got too much client work.

Big mistake.

If you want a freelance career you love, where you can be picky about working with the best clients, you’re going to have to let them see you.

Your book launch is a key opportunity for this.

Book promotion sounds like a lot of work on top of your freelance load, but if you make room for yourself like you do clients, it can pay off. With a strong launch in the blogosphere, you’ll gain quality clips and killer contacts for referrals and testimonials in exactly the space you want to write for.

Keep the Conversation Going

After launch week, stay on point by presenting new angles on the topic at your blog, creating related multimedia content, hosting communities or events on social media, and more. Leverage the excitement you’ve built to become the go-to expert in your niche.

Get Ready to Write

I know you’re overwhelmed with client work, your blog, Twitter, family stuff… But there’s no better time to start writing than now. Take it slow and steady, plan ahead, and most important, carve out time for the work you love in the midst of client work.

Have you written an ebook? What was the biggest benefit for your career? Tell us in the comments below.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is an author and digital publishing coach, and also a branded content editor at The Penny Hoarder

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38 comments on “Could Publishing an Ebook Get You Better Freelance Writing Work?
  1. I think what this article is saying is that every little bit helps. Editors are more likely to consider giving you an assignment when they see you have proved you have the dedication, and can be relied on to complete the project. They already know an e-book is a lot more work and preseverance than an article. That shows something about your character and drive. That person would come first on my list.
    Joseph Rathjen recently posted…How To Communicate With Your Spouse In Seven Words Or Less!My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Exactly. Also — there are a lot of people looking to get ebooks ghosted, so having one already written provides a great sample for what can be a lucrative niche.

      • Dana Sitar says:

        That’s an important point, too, Carol! Any way you can showcase skills/experience in a variety of media will boost your profile for potential clients.

  2. This is definitely on my after Christmas to do list. I have two other trade books (security) that went out of print about 5-years ago when the publisher closed down. They enjoyed good sales for about 10-years in the industry, but are still sitting on my shelf. Since their information is niche-specific and timeless (and I own the copyrights) I may publish and resurrect them both myself in an ebook format. Since big bucks isn’t my issue at present, they should serve well to boost my future marketing plans when I’m ready to start full blown branding and marketing.

    Thanks for the idea and the tips.

  3. This post is so timely and I am cheering over here. Thank you! I’ve been teaching people the benefits of self-publishing a book to boost your business for years, but like the shoemaker’s children my own book projects are languishing on my to-do list.:( This post has reminded me to get going again!

    I would like to add to the discussion, however, that for some people it is equally important to have a print edition of your book (and it can be short, too!). Every industry is different, but if you are doing a lot of high-touch, in-person networking, it can be very powerful to hand someone a copy of your book on the spot as a supercharged business card. Talk about impressive! Go to any given business networking event with an expertly written and edited, well designed book and you go straight to the top of the food chain.

    For those who are concerned about making their book stand out amidst the considerable noise, I also offer this thought: There is immense value in free ebooks as well. Creating something short that you can offer as an opt-in on your own website can bring you more subscribers and a higher conversion rate once people get that “pink spoon” taste of your expertise and skill. Having a free ebook can also open doors for you as a guest speaker on teleseminars (as Dana suggested, you want to plan events to increase your visibility for your launch, and this can be a great way to do it), which further lengthens your reach and drives new eyeballs to your site.

    Passive income is awesome, but when it comes to self-publishing, the benefits for the business owner (and we writers are business owners!) can go much further.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ha, I’m so relating. Regular readers of this blog may recall I promised to rewrite and reissue my Make a Living Writing blog this year…and I’ll be lucky to get ONE of the three new ebooks I want to split that old one into out before the end of the year.

      But TRYING to get my focus more onto ebooks! In 2014 FOR SURE.

      Do have one ebook I’m making out of a Den bootcamp that WILL see the light of day soon — it’s at the design stage! Yay!

    • Dana Sitar says:

      Ally – yay! I totally agree; I think the benefits of self-publishing to boost the profile of your business can far outweigh the potential passive income. Too many writers are enticed by the idea of passive income and put tons of energy into begging for sales, when they could grow their biz and earn that extra income just by being generous and giving the book away!

      I love your idea of using a print book as a calling card! I always consider print copies as good fodder for back-of-the-room sales, but it’s so smart to be generous with those to boost your profile just like you do with ebooks online.
      Dana Sitar recently posted…On Ebooks this Week: What You Should Know Before Publishing + moreMy Profile

      • Carol Tice says:

        Yeah, there is that school of thought that all ebooks should be free. Why try to gouge $4 out of someone for an ebook when you could get it into way more hands if you made it free, seed it with links to higher-paying stuff you have, and end up making way more?

        That’s pretty much the approach I’ve decided to take with one of my upcoming ebooks, which is going to become my new free subscriber goodie…so stay tuned for that. Hopefully January.

  4. Tom says:

    Hi Carol.

    This is the 2nd sterling post I’ve read today about publishing ebooks, the first was an interview over at the “Content Champion” blog which was entitled:

    “Making A Living Writing Kindle Books With Steve Scott”

    Steve touched upon his 7-9k extra income from ebook sales, it seems there’s massive potential in generating a secondary income from Amazon kindle.

    Attracting new clients through the ebook is another excellent way to leverage this content publishing strategy.

  5. Recently I wrote an ebook that actually started out as a blog post. Odd, coming from a blogger who was less than a year into blogging!

    However, it was fun, and I’d do it again.
    Lorraine Reguly recently posted…20 Blog Post Must-Haves: The Ultimate Blogging ChecklistMy Profile

  6. I think the biggest impact for me is the fact I don’t need to worry as much about getting as much freelance work done when I have a small passive income coming in. Obviously people shouldn’t use that as an excuse to stop working hard, but it can banish a little stress from your life.

    These days I would say it’s probably a good idea to build a blog around your self-published books so you can drive traffic to Amazon. I don’t think I’d just hit and hope with a book because I know most of them disappear forever if you can’t create your own sales.
    Jamie Alexander recently posted…Hugging Your Dead Loved One Again Vs. Staring At An Old PhotoMy Profile

    • Dana Sitar says:

      Jamie, I can sense your entrepreneurial spirit — love it! Creating that passive income stream — and, even more, building the audience/community that supports it — helps you take control of your career. We spend too much time as writers worrying about whether we can appease clients or appeal to agents or stand out to readers. When you can create something you have complete control over, you’re so right: It will eliminate a lot of that stress 🙂

  7. There’s a whole lot more to writing an ebook than just tossing words onto pages and slapping it up for sale. To write an ebook worthy of reading can take 6 months to a year. There’s a formula to writing a successful ebook. Then there’s the editing, cover design, beta readers, professional edit and marketing strategy. Be prepared to spend up to 2 years marketing your ebook every day in the hopes you will recover your costs and make a profit. Not quite the simple plan as made out in this post.
    Darlene Elizabeth Williams recently posted…Who Says You Can’t Earn $50/Hour with Content Brokers? >Virtual Freelance Writer – Real IncomeMy Profile

    • I appreciate your opinion, but I don’t agree with you.

      If you’re writing a non-fiction book for Kindle readers are quite happy to pay $2.99 for a 10,000 word book. As long as you’re already an expert in a certain subject you can teach someone a specific skill and they’ll thank you.

      Once you’ve outlined the book it’s just a case of writing out each chapter and editing it, which can be done within a month if you work hard. Then it’s maybe $50-100 dollars for a decent front cover.

      You can throw it on Amazon and if you’re lucky you can be making hundreds of dollars per month pretty quickly. If you publish books in a subject you blog about you can simply have a banner in your sidebar.

      I only replied to your comment because I’d hate to think you’ve talked yourself out of writing books.
      Jamie Alexander recently posted…Hugging Your Dead Loved One Again Vs. Staring At An Old PhotoMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Two years marketing every day? I think if it takes that much effort, it probably wasn’t a very strong ebook. Also, the costs of putting out an ebook are pretty low, even paying for editing and design — though not if you use one of the many scammy “services” that have popped up that would like to charge you $1000 for it all. But you can bootstrap it and have a pretty low cost. I think I’m spending maybe $400 on the one I’m prepping now.

      • There are millions of ebooks on Amazon. How do you make your ebook stand out? You can’t rely on luck, as suggested by Jamie. I’ve intensively researched ebook marketing, and the consensus is you have to constantly market, market and then market some more.

        To suggest the book isn’t strong if it disappears into the Amazon black hole is a discrediting statement. The best debut author will not be noticed unless marketing brings in good reviews. You already have a large established following, which greatly diminishes your need to market.

        Blogging certainly is one valuable aspect of marketing an ebook.

        Also, by formula, I didn’t mean following a set criteria, but there certainly is a method to writing a nonfiction book in a specific type of language that engages readers and enables them to assimilate the information in an easily digestible manner.
        Darlene Elizabeth Williams recently posted…Who Says You Can’t Earn $50/Hour with Content Brokers? >Virtual Freelance Writer – Real IncomeMy Profile

        • Carol Tice says:

          I think the context in which Dana is suggesting using an ebook isn’t about making your ebook an Amazon bestseller necessarily — it’s about having something available to prospects who come to your writer website that impresses them that you’re a sophisticated writer with a bit more on the ball than the typical writer out there…who often has no website at all or samples beyond what they churned out for a content mill in an hour (as per your linked post).

          An ebook product can do that without topping the Amazon charts, I think. It’s more ebook as marketing tool than writing an ebook to be a big earner…though that would always be nice too. 😉

    • Dana Sitar says:

      This post certainly isn’t written as a step-by-step guide to writing an ebook, but rather as tips for using that book to boost your freelance career. You’re right, Darlene; there is a lot to consider in publishing a quality book. I disagree that there’s a formula; the beauty of ebook publishing is the absolute freedom we have to manipulate the medium to create something unique. That also gives us the flexibility to spend as much or as little as we can and use the book as we see fit — whether it’s to make a profit, or simply to give it away to grow our audience. I caution against blanket statements about the cost or requirements to create an ebook — it’s a process that’s unique to each author.

  8. John Soares says:

    A quality ebook about your niche can definitely help you get more and better freelance writing assignments.

    I released the first edition of my ebook Writing College Textbook Supplements in 2009. Since then I’ve had major clients purchase the ebook and then hire me, and I’ve also had clients say that part of the reason they hired me was because I’d written the ebook.
    John Soares recently posted…Twitter Hashtags for Freelance WritersMy Profile

  9. Robyn Groth says:

    So far, I have only written one ebook, which I don’t even call a book. I call it a starter kit, and it’s an opt-in giveaway. What I’ve learned from that much is how tedious it can be to create an attractive ebook. Something just typed up in a word processor looks too much like – something typed up in a word processor.

    Does that make the content any less valid and interesting? No, but we are visual people and something aesthetically pleasing just pulls us in more.

    Despite the tedium of design, I look forward to future ebook projects.
    Robyn Groth recently posted…Improve Your Mind and the WorldMy Profile

    • Dana Sitar says:

      A “starter kit” is a perfect way to use an ebook for your blog or website! You’re right, though; publishing a book is a lot more than the writing. If you want to DIY the whole thing, you’ve got a lot to learn about formatting and cover design — as much as you had to learn about writing to get this far! If design isn’t something you enjoy (I actually love doing it myself), I can understand how that gets tedious and frustrating.

      If you want to avoid some tedium without spending too much, try sites like 99Designs and Writer.ly to find quality designers who can work within your budget. Or, keep your eyes and ears open to your network — there’s probably talent among your friends, family, or colleagues you can tap into for a decent barter!

  10. Alex M. says:

    I hate to be cynical but there are so, so many ebooks flying out every day I don’t think the majority have any impact whatsoever. If it’s a really good book why not send it to a literary agent instead, and then they can try and get it published for you.

    Plus I find the whole book promotion thing spammy and annoying. You can’t move on Twitter/WordPress for the latest author throwing their ebook at you. It’s lost any sense of originality and, frankly, if I’m going to read a book now I’ll stick with the classics. There are plenty of them and the authors aren’t hanging around pestering me.

    • Rachel Speal says:

      Alex, as a freelance writer and internet marketer I see dozens of books released a day.

      However, that’s because of the field I work in. “Regular” people, on the other hand, aren’t exposed to as much hype as we are, and so seeing a book that you’ve written won’t make them think “spam city.”

      Plus, there are plenty of other ways that you can leverage the material in your book and gain authority. Release a series of podcasts where you talk about one chapter in your book. Write several guest posts about your topic.

      Even if you do just the things I’ve listed above (and there’s plenty more you can do), it’s enough to boost how potential clients think of you, and could make the difference between landing a great client – particularly with larger companies.

      BTW, there was a conversion test done a while back, where they found that just saying, “author of …forthcoming book” improved conversions significantly. And that was for a book that wasn’t even written yet.

    • Dana Sitar says:

      Alex, you’re definitely not alone in thinking this way about self-publishing. Book promotion on social media does border on spammy, because most authors don’t understand how to use these avenues for cultivating a community; you’re told social media is vital for “marketing”, and assume that means you have to shout about your book across the platforms. Done right, book promotion should just be an announcement/offer from an author whom you’ve shown an interest in or connected with.

      Re: “why not send it to a literary agent instead” — Self-publishing ebooks meets a different set of goals from working with a traditional publisher. For many authors of this type of book, self-publishing is the smartest, most efficient, and most lucrative way to go; because the goal is to create something very personal and valuable to their unique audience. Many entrepreneurial writers, who understand self-publishing as one arm of their business and not as an alternative or back-up to the traditional route, will take a hybrid approach; some of their books are best-suited for the traditional market, and some are best-suited for self-publishing.
      Dana Sitar recently posted…The Wild West of Ebook Publishing: How Do You Know You’re Doing it Right?My Profile

  11. Jennifer says:

    Very timely post! I have been contemplating this exact same question. I have found that blogging about content marketing writing (my specialty) has definitely helped me get a lot more freelance writing work. And am thinking that adding an ebook my help increase my credibility as well as my platform. I’m considering applying to speak at content marketing writing conferences about working with freelancers and think an ebook could increase my chances. Thanks for the great post.
    Jennifer recently posted…Yes, It’s OK to Go to the Dark Side: How to Find Agencies that Need Content Marketing WritersMy Profile

    • Dana Sitar says:

      Happy to be here, Jennifer, thank you! That’s the result I saw from publishing an ebook. And the book was definitely a factor in landing my first speaking gig with a University; it was something the people who hired me could look at to see exactly who I am and what I know.

  12. Terri says:

    You hit the nail on the head when you said the book launch is where most freelancers fail. I found writing an ebook is not an issue for me. The issue is getting people to read it and perfecting the launch. I’ve gathered that having reviews at the time of launch does wonders for book sales and exposure. The problem is getting those reviews.

    I’m confident I’ll find the right formula to make for a great book launch at some point.
    Terri recently posted…The Most Important Question You Must Ask Everyone!My Profile

    • Dana Sitar says:

      You’re right, Terri; reviews are kind of where it’s at for boosting sales, particularly if you publish to Kindle through Amazon. The key to a successful launch for me has always been leveraging my own community. I don’t have a huge audience, but I make a point to connect with them pretty personally. When I have something new to launch, I can share the journey of creating it with them, and they’re as excited as I am (well…maybe not quite) to promote it when it’s ready.

      Reaching into your community is where you’ll get those initial reviews, too, whether you want them to add reviews to Amazon or post about the book on their blogs. Offer free copies to your email subscribers, blog readers, Facebook friends — wherever you connect with your readers — and be clear that what they can do to support you is leave a review.

  13. Daryl says:

    I haven’t released an ebook (yet) but I definitely agree that it’s a great way to also boost your authority and expertise in whatever area you’ll be published in! I think I face the same issue that many other writers face – I have no idea on how to go about the whole process of formatting and releasing an ebook!
    Daryl recently posted…The Freelance Writers Den ReviewMy Profile

    • Dana Sitar says:

      Daryl – You’re so right that many writers are frozen with ideas for ebooks (or, at least, the understanding that they WANT to publish an ebook). The whole publishing process looks extremely overwhelming from the outside, and that overwhelm is only compounded by all the warnings you receive from experts about how to do it “right”! I’ve got tons of material to help you break down all the steps involved, from writing to launch — feel free to reach out anytime 🙂 (http://danasitar.com)