By Erin Raub
I was a few years into my freelance writing career when I decided that I wasn’t quite happy.
Like so many other freelancers, I knew I loved to write. I knew that my craft thrived under the creative freedom working from home affords.
But I wasn’t passionate about my project list back then. I didn’t get up every morning excited to sit down at the computer. And worse, my hourly rate was too low and my income barely left room for more than the essentials.
That’s when I knew something had to change.
And something did change. Now, more than a year later, my client list ROCKS. They are the coolest people with the most intriguing projects. And my income? It’s quadrupled.
Here’s how I did it.
The first step was to sit down and brainstorm. What did I love to write, specifically?
I had been a Costa Rica travel writer for years and loved the work, but I now had an infant son and was more or less grounded, unable (and unwilling) to travel away from him for weeks at a time.
My dream was to write about travel. My challenge was to do so from home. I had to dig really deep. It wasn’t a question I could answer quickly.
In fact, it took months to really cull an answer and develop my idea: The Travel Copywriter. For me, this was the ideal blend of travel (my passion) and website copywriting (my favorite!).
To Niche or Not to Niche?
Carol doesn’t normally advocate niche websites. Instead, she recommends a general writer website that focuses on each of your niches.
But I decided to go against the grain.
I figured I could be the big fish in a small pond. If I chose a highly targeted niche — one that few others had chosen — it wouldn’t be impossible to rank on Google and attract my dream clients.
And that’s the key to successful niching, in my opinion: you have to choose a very specific niche. There are nearly 14 million results on Google for “copywriter” and another 2 million for “travel writer,” but “travel copywriter?” There were only 4,000.
Choose the Perfect Domain
Before I named my niche writing business, I hit GoDaddy. It was important to me that my business name be the same as my domain.
Why? It’s simple: I asked myself, if my dream client is searching for a travel copywriter, which domain — my first chance to make a good impression (via Google) — looks more professional: www.TheTravelCopywriter.com or www.ErinRaub.com? And so The Travel Copywriter was born.
Presentation is Key
We freelancers work remotely, often thousands of miles from our clients. We may arrange the occasional phone call or, even less often, pop on Skype for a voice chat. But most of the time, we don’t have the luxury of in-person networking or face-to-face interviews to seal the deal. Our websites are our business cards.
But in my house, editing php and scrolling through CSS elements usually leads to stomping feet, foul moods and, later, pleas for help from a Higher Power (and my designer friends).
For this project — my dream business — I invested in a professional designer, a woman who could turn my scribbled homepage sketch into a real, live website.
Knock Your Copy out of the Park
While my designer worked her brand of magic, I worked mine.
I began developing the web copy that would serve as my business card and most important portfolio piece – the words that would help convert my dream prospects into dream clients. I outlined, wrote, deleted, rewrote and deleted again.
I wanted my site to be perfect before anyone saw it.
But that didn’t happen.
My big fish-little pond idea worked a little too well: before I had written any meaningful copy — before I had even received a draft of my design! — Google had indexed me and I was on Page 2. Eeek!
To improvise, I published some good-enough copy. We finished my design. I created a To Do list for my site. I even drafted some blog posts.
Change Your Freelance Life
Just as I sat down to attack Item #1 on my To Do list, my first dream prospect emailed. Then another and another. It’s been a steady stream ever since.
Now, a year after deciding to change my freelancing life, I realize that my life in freelancing has changed.
Every one of my current clients is a dream client. I LOVE what I’m doing. I am passionate about every project. (I even dream about the copy I’ll write the next day.)
And I’m thrilled to be paid well — finally! — for a job well done.
How are you working toward your dream freelance life? Tell us in the comments below.
Erin Raub is a passionate world traveler currently based in Costa Rica. She’s a travel copywriter and hospitality blogger who specializes in website copy and marketing materials for the tourism industry.