Just over a year ago, I was sitting at a job I hated, wondering how I’d ever escape.
I was stressed out, overworked, underpaid, and constantly dealing with shitty office politics.
Today, I’m running my freelance writing business from my apartment. I make my own work schedule, pick my own clients, and only take on projects I enjoy.
Big improvement, right?
Now, you might think that this is the process that will actually happen if you try to build a profitable freelance writing business:
1. Chug coffee and swear you’ll launch your business.
2. Binge-watch Netflix instead.
3. Enter fetal position.
4. Wipe tears with English degree.
But I built a $5,000/mo freelance writing business in 4 months without doing any of those things.
(Minus the occasional Netflix binge… I’M ONLY HUMAN, OKAY??)
Today, I’m going to walk you through what I did each of those four months so you can launch your own profitable freelance writing business — no fetal position required.
First, there are a few things you should know about my leap into freelance writing.
1. I started freelancing because I got fired from my full-time copywriting job.
I got fired in April 2015 and started getting into freelancing right away. My husband’s contract at his job had just ended too (bad timing, right?), so I knew I had to hustle and make shit happen if we were going to pay the bills.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I always knew I’d become a full-time freelancer eventually, and I had even snagged a few freelance writing clients while still working at my full-time job.
But I definitely didn’t have a freelance writing business plan or know what the fuck I was doing. I was forced to jump into freelance writing, which sounds shitty, but it actually made me more motivated. It’s amazing how much more you’ll go after success if you know you’ve got nothing to fall back on.
2. I never took a course to learn how to become a freelance writer.
That’s right – I learned everything I know by devouring books about freelance writing, reading countless blog posts, and just trying different shit until I figured out what worked. Loooooots of trial and error, my friend.
3. I started out with no degree, no connections, and no clue how to build a freelance writing business.
I had only worked as a writer for about one year when I started out — I certainly didn’t feel ready to go full-time.
And I sure as hell didn’t have a degree. Nope.
In fact, I’m a 3-time college dropout.
We all have to start somewhere, right?
My point is this:
You don’t have to have tons of experience to start freelancing. You just have to be willing to learn and work hard.
Before I go any further, here’s the video version of this blog post (if you’d rather watch than read):
Just figured I’d hook you up because I’m nice like that. 😉
How I Built a $5K/Mo Freelance Writing Business (Month-by-month Breakdown!)
One of the first and most important things I did was set a crazy goal.
I gave myself 4 months (well… technically 4 1/2 since it was mid-April to the end of August) to make $5,000 per month from freelance writing work.
And guess what?
That’s exactly what happened. If I hadn’t set that goal, I wouldn’t have pushed myself nearly as hard.
So, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of setting an income goal for yourself!
Make sure it’s realistic… but a bit crazy too. You want to push yourself!
Now, let’s talk about what happened in the first months of my freelance writing business, and I’ll tell you exactly what I did to quickly build it up to $5K/mo.
(I’m not doing this to brag, by the way! I just want to show you that it’s possible to quickly make good money from freelance writing quickly – WITHOUT content mills and bidding sites.)
I got fired around the middle of April – just a few days after I found out I had a Stage 1 Melanoma on my leg. I’m super fortunate that it wasn’t worse, but still…
I was an anxious mess. My health and financial situation had suddenly become 2 major concerns.
I mostly kept my mind occupied by throwing myself into creating my freelance writing business. I kept my income goal in mind and told myself I was going to do whatever it took to turn freelance writing into a career.
Even if it meant I had to work at a minimum wage job during the day and stay up all night building my business. (No, that never happened, but I really would have done it because I wanted to become a freelance writer so badly!).
As far as what I actually did to build my business, I spent most of April (after getting fired) building and working on my freelance writer website and soaking up as much knowledge as a could from popular freelance writing blogs.
I also picked a narrow, high-paying niche: Writing copy for IT service providers and technology companies.
I’ve said it a million times on this blog already, but I’ll say it again because it’s just that important:
Picking a high-paying niche is one of the most important things I did to grow my freelance writing income fast. No doubt about it.
This was a big month for me. I had the melanoma removed from my leg, and the margins came back all clear (meaning it hadn’t spread!). I don’t think I’d ever felt so relieved in my life.
I also landed 3 new freelance writing clients.
One of those clients came from the ProBlogger Job Board.
The other two clients were technology companies I found on LimeLeads, which is a huge database of leads that you can filter by industry. I gathered their contact information, cold emailed them, and they responded and hired me to write for them.
I was SO DAMN EXCITED about those clients. I had heard great things about cold emailing, but to see it actually work? It felt like a miracle!
No, I wasn’t making enough money to pay my bills and live comfortably. But I was learning a lot and discovering that it was possible to grow my freelance writing income fast without working in content mills (*shudder*).
I made $1,582 from freelance writing this month. And I could NOT fucking believe it.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it was a lot to me. Especially considering how little I knew about freelance writing when I started out.
I landed one of my biggest clients ever this month – an agency who hired me to write blog posts for their clients (I definitely suggest working with agencies this way — it’s often high-paying, consistent work!). I found them on the ProBlogger Job Board, and I still work with them today.
Another of my biggest clients found me on LinkedIn this month. He said he liked my writing style and wanted me to write a paid test piece for him, so I did. This connection happened because I had optimized my LinkedIn profile to make it easy for potential clients to find me and published a few posts to my profile using LinkedIn Publisher (an awesome way to show off writing samples!).
I also found some other clients using cold emailing. I shit you not – I was a cold emailing machine. It was becoming an everyday thing for me, and I was learning what worked and what didn’t with every rejection and response.
I made $3,100 this month — all from freelance writing work. More than I was making at my previous full-time copywriting job!
This happened mostly because the clients I landed in June started giving me more frequent work. But I also had another client find my LinkedIn profile and hire me to write blog posts for her clients (she worked at a marketing firm) – she ended up becoming one of my biggest clients for several months and was awesome to work with.
And no – I never pitched her or anything like that. She simply found my LinkedIn profile (because I had optimized it based on my niche) and reached out to me (because she liked my LinkedIn Publisher samples).
Another thing I started doing a lot this month was outsourcing my editing. I realized that I was spending way too much time obsessing over whether or not my work was perfect, and hiring an editor was a HUGE time-saver. I still hire an editor to look over my client work today!
My income this month came out to a grand total of…
That’s twice what I was making at my full-time job just four months earlier!
I landed 2 new clients this month – one of them found my website and emailed me via my contact form, and the other is a client I found on the ProBlogger Job board. At this point, I was charging about 13 cents per word and mostly writing blog posts for clients.
I was pretty overworked at this point, so I raised my rates soon after. I don’t regret taking on tons of work though, because it helped me understand the importance/process of raising my rates and scored me some pretty sweet connections. I also learned how to write more productively (you have to when you’ve got a shit-ton of work due all the time!) and use apps like BaseCamp to plan my weeks/days better.
And that, my friend, is the story of how I reached my freelance writing income goal. 🙂
5 Important Takeaways from My Experience Starting a Freelance Writing Business
I’m not going to sit here and act like building a $5K/mo freelance writing business is easy peasy. It’s not.
But guess what?
It also wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it’d be.
Sure, I had some 12-hour days and 60-hour work weeks starting out (Probably for the first month or month and a half. I was building my site and just starting to market myself, which required tons of upfront time and effort.)
But once I was making the monthly income I wanted, I slowed down a bit and tried to keep regular business hours.
Because you don’t have to work 60-hour weeks forever to build a profitable freelance writing business – put in the bulk of the work at first (building a website and an online presence), and the success will follow.
Here are some other key things you should take away from this blog post to help you build your own profitable freelance writing business:
1. Set an income goal, and tell yourself that you’ll do what it takes to reach that goal.
Make it a bit more than you think you should. For example, if you’re thinking $3K/mo, challenge yourself to hit $4K/mo. And make sure you pick a month you want to reach your income goal by – that way, you’ve always got that timeline in the back of your head.
2. Pick a narrow niche at first. You can widen it later like I did.
I know how difficult it is to find clients when you’re a new freelance writer. That’s why I always recommend picking a narrow niche and marketing yourself as an expert in that niche at first.
The point of this is to make a client who sees your site/social profiles think:
Wow, this writer knows my industry and can give me exactly the content I need!
No one will think that if you market yourself as a general freelance writer or a freelance writer who specializes in “B2B and B2C content” (because that’s basically everything!).
3. Realize that you’re a business owner and ditch the employee mindset.
The “employee mindset” means that you view your clients as employers. You treat freelancing like “just another job.”
The problem with that?
An employee mindset won’t make clients respect you and view you as an expert. Instead, they’ll see you as another replaceable employee who can be bossed around and walked all over.
So, say it with me:
“I AM A BUSINESS OWNER.”
Because you are! And you have to act like it if you want to command respect and high rates.
That means no more writing your pitches and social media profiles like you’re a desperate job-seeker. Instead, approach everything you do as a confident business owner who has something amazing to offer.
4. Do all the heavy work when you first start your freelance writing business
Seriously. Bust your ass the first month you get serious about freelance writing. Get fucking obsessed with making it work, and it will.
Start by building a badass site that helps you get the leads you want (more on that here!).
Don’t know how to create a freelance writer website? It’s easy to do it in a drag-and-drop interface Wix or Weebly (which is what I used at first) if you have no web design/development experience. You can always transition to a more robust site in WordPress or Squarespace later.
Once you’ve got your site, market yourself to your target audience like crazy. Sounds obvious, but it really works if you pick the right niche.
5. JUST TAKE ACTION.
That’s the most important thing you can do.
Stop obsessing over perfection, and start writing some samples.
Stop being afraid of rejection, and start sending out cold emails. Every damn day.
Don’t give yourself the option to fail. If I can do it, then you can too. 🙂
I even made a FREE COURSE to help you through the process of building a profitable freelance writing business! Check it out:
Do you have any questions about how I built my freelance writing business? Ask away in the comments below!