Leaving Work Behind

My Authority Site Revealed (Plus a Job Offer!)

Written by Tom Ewer on May 31, 2013. 41 Comments
Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: Dimitri C

The following is part of an ongoing series, The One Hour Authority Site Project. If you’d like to read more about it then click here!

I tend to get a little itchy when I’m not regularly publishing case study posts here on Leaving Work Behind.

After all, this blog was built upon a foundation of case studies — whether it was my first niche site, my first authority site, my information product, or something else entirely. It’s an area I don’t like to neglect, and yet I have been over the past few months.

Well, that’s about to change. This post represents the resurrection of my One Hour Authority Site Project and will be the first of several upcoming case study posts here on LWB. As always, I will be giving you a front row seat on every aspect of my present and future projects — including both my successes and my failures. Read on to find out more!

My Authority Site Story to Date

I launched the One Hour Authority Site Project with ambitious intentions back in September 2012. From then until February 2013 I published nearly sixty posts optimized for extremely low competition keywords in an attempt to rank in Google without any backlinking. In short, it didn’t work — Google wasn’t interested.

With that first experiment behind me, I decided to build links to the site through a content marketing strategy based around guest posting. I revealed my planned strategy in a post, which was (briefly) as follows:

  1. Tweak the site’s design
  2. Publish some “bloggy” content
  3. Create a list of target posts to guest post for
  4. Comment on the top ten blogs in my list
  5. Guest post on each blog in my list
  6. Create and share an infographic

I got to (and completed) step four on my list before other commitments distracted me. Before long the site was all but abandoned, left in the shadow of other (more profitable) projects. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to give the site a fair chance; it’s just that life has got in the way.

But the fact is this: I still believe in the site. I believe that if more people were to find it, they would find the content genuinely helpful. I believe that it has the potential to generate an income. I just need to give it a proper chance.

Well, this post is my very public way of promising to give it the chance it deserves.

My New (Rough) Plan

The first thing I have done is set myself a deadline — a date upon which I will decide the site’s fate. That deadline is 12th August 2013.

At that time the site must be able to support itself (e.g. pay for a writer to regularly update it with fresh content) or demonstrate the potential to do so. If the site is not in that position by the deadline, I will cut my losses and move on. I believe that setting a deadline will allow me to better appreciate the task at hand and act accordingly.

Until then, I know I have my work cut out. The situation is complicated somewhat by my lack of available time — my freelance work coupled with this blog and the book I am currently working on (incidentally, you can expect a case study on that soon) takes up most of my working hours.

That is why I am turning to you.

I Am Looking for a Writer

Update 11th June 2013: please note that the writing positions have now been filled. Thank you to everyone who submitted a pitch!

While I am not typically in the habit of outsourcing, I am going to make an exception here. I want to give one promising freelance writer the opportunity to work with me in developing my authority site.

To put it simply, I want to find me, circa September 2011 — a hungry freelance writer who has raw talent but little experience. My offer to you is simple: the opportunity to earn some money and improve your blogging skills (and if the site takes off, who knows what else).

My initial plan is take a writer on board to write one article per week for the blog. I expect the job to expand from there but that is the baseline.

In short, I want someone who can take care of the content on the blog so I can take care of building links to the blog. Here’s my offer:

  1. A free copy of my guide to freelance writing (or a refund if you have already purchased it)
  2. A 30 minute Skype coaching call regarding your freelance business
  3. On the job training RE blogging best practice (i.e. headlines, style, structure, etc)
  4. $20 per post (500+ words)

I’m not just looking for any writer though; I’m looking for someone with very specific experience. Although I have been very keen to hide the identity of my authority site so far, I must now reveal it in the interests of explaining who I am looking for.

My Authority Site Revealed

So without further ado, cue the drum roll…my site is: freeonlinedatingadvice.net.

freeonlinedatingadvice.net

As someone who has dabbled in their fair share of online dating in the past (I met my girlfriend on Match), I thought the topic was both ideal for me to write about and also underserved in terms of quality content on the web. Furthermore, there are plenty of affiliate marketing opportunities with the commissions offered by the likes of Match and eHarmony.

My choice to reveal the site’s identity at this juncture is to make it clear what I am looking for in an ideal world: someone who has experience in online dating. That is my main consideration.

Of course, if no one comes forward with online dating experience I will have to to adjust my sights accordingly, so don’t feel put off if you are not an online casanova! I will consider all applications. Furthermore, if you do not think you suit the job but know someone that might, let them know or tweet a message out to your followers.

Here’s what I want from each applicant:

  1. A Pitch: i.e. why should I hire you?
  2. Samples: examples of your work.
  3. Headlines: three post ideas relating to topics that I have not already covered on the blog.

If nothing else this is an opportunity to test your pitching skills without fearing an unfriendly response — if you want me to critique your pitch then just mention it in your email; I’ll be happy to.

So what are you waiting for? Contact me now and let’s get the ball rolling!

Looking Forward

I’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of building “organic” links, so it is important that content is sorted out with relatively little involvement from me. I am also excited about the fact that I can help a budding freelancer develop their skills and nudge them in the right direction.

I hope you’ve got plenty to say in the comments section below. Now that the site has finally been revealed, perhaps you have thoughts on the viability of the niche I have chosen. Maybe you want to know more about the writing opportunity. Or perhaps you have a completely unrelated question. Whatever it may be, fire away in the comments section below — I’d love to hear from you!

5 Reasons Why I Earn $100+ Per Hour From Freelance Blogging

Written by Tom Ewer on May 28, 2013. 53 Comments
Dollars

Photo Credit: borman818

Freelancing blogging isn’t that difficult.

Seriously — it aint rocket science. If you’re a good writer then you’re already half way there.

But although freelance blogging isn’t difficult, becoming successful and earning an hourly rate in excess of $100 requires you to understand what clients want and appreciate how to work with them. And while it’s not the kind of advice you will typically read from most freelancers, the following principles have worked for me very well indeed.

Why I Earn $100+ Per Hour From Freelance Blogging

This post isn’t intended to be a guide to freelance blogging. By reading this I assume that you are already a decent blogger and/or have read my guide to successful freelance blogging. Perhaps you’re already earning a little but would like to know how you can earn a lot.

This post intends to reveal to you what I consider the little-known factors that can make a huge difference to your earning potential. The following are what I consider to be the difference makers — the relatively unique aspects of my service that set me apart from most other freelancers. By following my approach I see no reason why you can’t be as successful as I am.

1. I’m Fast

I’ve spoken about the importance of speed before but it bears repeating (over and over).

Why? Because the speed with which you work is the only thing that can affect your rate that you have complete control over. Sure — you can negotiate a higher rate; that may or may not pay off. But working faster on the other hand can make you more money in less time.

The amount you work on your speed in completing blog posts and the respect you have for your time is key to your success as a freelance blogger. For example, let’s say you set aside 36 hours per week to work on your freelancing income. If you complete the average $50 blog post in one hour then your earning potential is limited to $1,800 per week. But if you complete that same blog post in just thirty minutes, your earning potential doubles to $3,600.

If you can work faster and give the client an end product that they will be happy with, it’s a win/win situation. They get what they want and you get paid more to do less.

So work on your speed — it’s one of the most important things you can do as a freelance blogger.

2. I’m Reliable

It never ceases to amaze me at how unreliable many freelance writers are. I say this from my experiences both in editorial roles and based upon the countless interactions I have had with freelance writers as part of running Leaving Work Behind.

If you can simply be reliable, your value to clients will increase exponentially. In fact, I am certain that many clients would rather work with a less talented but reliable writer than a more talented writer who cannot be relied upon. After all, your value as a freelance blogger is not just about how good a writer you are.

But what does “reliable” mean in this context? Many things, but most importantly:

Becoming a reliable freelancer along the above lines requires that you do two things:

  1. Place your tasks within a reliable system
  2. Think consciously about the way in which you conduct yourself

That’s it, in a nutshell. If you alway keep track of what you are doing and remind yourself of what you should be doing in terms of being reliable, there is no reason why you cannot adhere to all of the above guidelines.

3. I Write to the Client’s Standards

A lot of freelance writers are far too conscientious.

I say that in a tongue-in-cheek fashion — after all, we should all ensure that we do top-quality work. But it seems to be a common theme amongst freelance bloggers that they put far more effort into their client work than their rate deserves.

It’s an interesting dilemma because writing isn’t a task that is either complete or incomplete. It’s a grey area. A bricklayer has a set task, as does a plumber. But writing as a concept is somewhat ambiguous — it invites subjective thinking. And many freelance writers are so fearful that they will create something below the client’s standards that they put far more effort into a piece than they should.

I know someone who used to write for Mashable regularly and he admitted to me that he would spent upwards of six hours on a $100 article. Six hours. That’s less than $17 per hour. His reasons for doing so were based on personal pride and an eagerness to please, but where did it get him in terms of his hourly rate? Not very far.

So stop writing to your standards and start writing to the client’s. Figure out what they want from you and deliver to their standard and nothing more. They will be happy and you will be richer — another win/win situation.

I appreciate that this is a controversial point. People will argue that by not excelling you will stunt your chances of growth. But that attitude is like going to a three star hotel and expecting that they will strive to provide you with a five star service: it’s just not going to happen. If the client wants a better service then they should pay for it; you’re not running a charity.

4. I Work With Long Term Clients

Many freelancers (such as web designers and graphic designers) are forced into working on short term projects. It’s the nature of the beast: clients do not need a new website or a new logo every week.

On the other hand, one of the beauties of freelance blogging is that it attracts long terms clients because they do need new blog posts every week.

The benefits of working with long term clients are numerous:

I work with a handful of long terms clients and spend next to no time on marketing and administration (unlike most freelancers). It is highly rewarding to know that the vast majority of the work I do on my freelance business is directly earning me money. My hourly rate really is my hourly rate.

5. I Specialize

A lot of startup freelance bloggers will take any work from any client. I understand that approach — it’s certainly what I had in mind when I started up.

However, the sooner that you switch your focus to a handful of topics, the better. Take me for example: I write for clients almost exclusively about freelancing, entrepreneurship and WordPress. Because of that I have gained a reputation in those areas, and because of that I am regularly approached by prospective clients who are willing to pay a good price for my services.

Client specificity (as I call it) is one of the keys to becoming a successful freelance blogger. By offering a specialized service to a relative handful of people, you will become highly valuable within that niche. On the other hand, trying to be all things to all people will provoke nothing more than an indifferent response.

What Do You Think is the Key to Successful Freelance Blogging?

So there you have it folks — what I consider to be the five most underrated factors that can contribute to becoming a successful freelance blogger.

However, there are of course many other things that you need to get right: from the basics of actually being a good blogger, to negotiating rates, and so on. With that in mind, I’d love to know what else you think is important about being a successful freelance writer. Let us know in the comments section!

And as always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to leave them below.

What Is Holding You Back?

Written by Tom Ewer on May 23, 2013. 36 Comments

“There is no failure except in no longer trying” ~ Elbert Hubbard (tweet this)

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: eocs

We all give up.

Look back on your life — how many times have you given up on something? More times than you can count, I’m sure. I personally could start rattling off any number of things: from musical instruments, to sports, to intellectual endeavours.

Generally speaking we give up because of a lack of motivation and/or willpower. But how often do you actually look closely at those factors and seek to understand the underlying issues that prevent you from achieving something you set out to do? To my mind, you have the best chance of achieving your goals when you have a full understanding of (a) what drives you and (b) what holds you back.

And that is exactly what I want to write about (and help you with) today.

The Power of Motivation and Willpower

Anything you do (or don’t do) in life is driven by motivation and willpower. But those are just words — what do they really mean?

In the context of achieving goals in life, I define each word as follows:

Motivation: your perceived understanding of the benefits of what you set out to achieve

Willpower: a mental reservoir of the necessary impulse to work towards achieving a particular goal

Motivation and willpower must be combined in order to achieve anything in life — they are inexorably connected and rely upon each other in order to produce a desired end result. Without motivation you have no willpower. If you have no willpower then there is no motivation.

With that in mind, the failure to achieve something simply means that you did not have the required motivation and/or willpower. Therefore, in order to succeed in something you must ensure that you fully understand what drives you towards your goal and that your willpower and motivation provide enough “fuel for the journey,” so to speak.

Understanding Motivation and Willpower

In simple terms, if the motivation is great enough then willpower will prevail.

Let’s consider a practical example. Say you had launched a blog about a month ago. Over the past few weeks the initial burst of traffic had slowed to a trickle and you were starting to feel a little disinterested. You had stuck to a biweekly publishing schedule and the time had come to write another post, but you really didn’t want to. In short, your willpower was failing you. Why? Because the necessary motivation wasn’t there. You were not clearly seeing the benefits of your efforts.

Under such circumstances you might choose not to write that post, thus commencing a slippery slope to the eventual death of your blog. That came about because you lost motivation, and as such, the willpower to continue.

Now imagine a similar scenario — a month into your new blog’s existence, you had experienced a huge influx of traffic. You’d already been featured in several major blogs and you were getting loads of positive feedback. In such a situation would you have the necessary willpower to continue? Yes — because the motivation is there.

How to Guarantee Progress

If you can provide enough motivation to fuel the willpower that is necessary to achieve your goals, you will achieve your goals. That’s the simple equation. If you can make a goal important enough then nothing will stop you.

Consider just one of the things that you want to achieve that you’re not working towards right now. Then imagine someone was holding a gun to your head, telling you that if you did not achieve that thing, they would kill you. That in itself is proof that there is potential motivation in the world that will drive you to achieve your goal (or die trying). The most important thing you can do is find and apply the necessary level of motivation.

That was the first thing I did (rather inadvertently) when I decided that I wanted to quit my job. I knew it was going to be hard — in fact, a big part of me thought it impossible — but I was so motivated that I threw everything I had into it. The reasons I had for doing what I did were strong enough for me to prevail. That’s the position you need to get yourself in.

What’s Holding You Back?

And that takes me back to the title of this post. I receive lots of emails from LWB readers who tell me that they would do X if only Y wasn’t a problem:

I’d start a blog but I don’t have time.

I’d quit my job but I need the money.

I’d fire that problem client but I can’t afford to.

I’d create an information product but I don’t know where to start.

Each of these statements is an excuse that justifies inaction. They are a truly destructive force that can stop people from achieving what they want in life. And almost every time they are a downright lie.

You do have time, you’re just choosing not to make it.

You don’t need the money — you could probably cut back considerably and live off a lot less.

You could afford to fire that client if you were proactive in finding a replacement.

You do know where to start in terms of creating an information product: start researching.

If you are prepared to dig beyond the excuse that justifies inaction, you may find that you have the necessary underlying motivation and willpower after all.

When I’m writing about this topic I like to refer back to an analogy I once used in an email to my subscribers:

Say for instance my brain doesn’t give me the required willpower to rock six pack abs because it simply doesn’t have faith. My brain doesn’t believe that six pack abs are possible without exerting more effort than the benefits I would gain from strutting my fine self up and down random beaches, and taking my shirt off at entirely inappropriate moments.

But what if a friend of mine, with a similar previous build and diet, showed up one day and boasted about a miraculous ab workout that has done wonders for him? Not only was it far easier than he thought it would be (lesser required investment), but it also gave him far more confidence than he thought possible (greater benefit).

You know what I’d do? I’d take interest. Who wouldn’t? I’d digest his advice, and my brain would suddenly have a whole lot more information with which to make a more informed decision. Perhaps under those newly formed circumstances, the required willpower would be matched by my actual willpower.

My point is this – don’t let your brain rule the big decisions in your life without consciously questioning your existing understanding of the matter at hand, and asking yourself if you have equipped your mind appropriately.

In order to succeed, you must find the necessary motivation — it won’t typically find you. Doing so is not a passive process; it is something you must work at.

With that said, now is the time to figure out what is holding you back. I want you to closely examine your excuse that justifies inaction and uncover the reality. I want you to turn this:

I’d start a blog but I don’t have time.

Into this:

I’d start a blog but I don’t have time.

Well, obviously I could make the time if I really wanted to. But I’m wiped out when I get home after work and I just don’t have the willpower.

Perhaps I could start small though. I could wake up thirty minutes early and spend that time on the blog before I go to work. And then maybe an hour at the weekend. That would barely seem like any time invested at all but it would add up to 3 1/2 hours per week.

But what would be the point? Blogging takes forever to make you any money — where would I be going with it?

Well, perhaps I could start building up a little side income by offering freelance writing services on the side. If I could make just a little money then at least I would be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And in the meantime I could be building up the blog with a view to creating passive income streams down the line.

In the above example the lack of time hid the real issue — a fear that there blogging would not actually be worth the effort. The following flow of consciousness provided one potential solution just by refusing to allow the initial excuse to block off any further proactive thoughts.

Over to You

I originally intended for this post to be short and sharp, with the main conversation to flow into the comments. I wanted to set you up to let me know what you think is holding you back so we could explore the issues further and see if there is a solution.

Well, the post ended up being a lot longer than I originally planned but I still want to hear from you. I want you to tell me four things:

  1. What you want to achieve
  2. What is holding you back (your excuse that justifies inaction)
  3. What is really holding you back
  4. How you can provide yourself with the necessary motivation to succeed

By doing so you may just find that you have necessary motivation to achieve your goal after all. Fire away in the comments section below!

How to Start Blogging [In Ten Minutes]

Written by Tom Ewer on May 21, 2013. 23 Comments
How to Start Blogging

Photo Credit: Scott Beale

Making money online is a challenging prospect to those with no experience. As someone who only started their own journey in making money online less than two years ago, I can relate to that fact. As such, I try whenever possible to address common issues amongst Leaving Work Behind readers in my posts. This is one such post.

I receive more emails about this particular issue than perhaps any other. It also happens to relate to what I consider to be the most important part of making money online (at least in the way that have gone about it).

How to Start Blogging

I am of course talking about starting a blog and everything that is involved in the initial process: from purchasing a domain name, to getting hosting for your new site, to installing the WordPress content management system and publishing your first blog post.

In the video below I take you through the exact steps necessary in order to start your very first blog. Take ten minutes out of your day right now and you’ll have a blog to call your own!

Alternatively, I can do one better. I offer a completely free blog installation and setup service over at Beginner Blogging. There’s also a free blogging course available over there, along with an ever-growing archive of blogging tutorials. Yep; it is as awesome as it sounds!

If you want to know more about Westhost and get 30% off hosting then check out this post: The Best and Most Affordable Web Hosting Service (My Verdict).

What Next?

As I said at the end of the video, there is of course much more to blogging than what I have covered in the ten minute setup tutorial. However, you now have all the necessary knowledge required in order to publish content on your very own website – you don’t need to know anything more.

Having said that, I have no doubt that you will be hungry to further your experience and develop your blogging skills. With that in mind, I’d recommend that you head over to Beginner Blogging, where you’re likely to find the answers to whatever questions you have.

And as always, if you have any questions or comments whatsoever, please do not hesitate to voice your thoughts in the comments section below!

Why Client Specificity is Vital to Your Success as a Freelance Writer

Written by Tom Ewer on May 16, 2013. 28 Comments

We must strive to reach that simplicity that lies beyond sophistication ~ John Gardner (tweet this)

Open for Business

Photo Credit: opensourceway

Sometimes you get lucky, but it is how you react to the luck you are handed that really makes the difference.

My online business was essentially built on that principle. I tried any number of ways to make money online before I stumbled across freelance writing, practically by accident. I didn’t really think that I could ever make a living from freelance writing and yet I submitted a few pitches via the ProBlogger Jobs Board and managed to land a client. That was (in part) the lucky bit, but it was what I did next that made all the difference.

In this post I want to show you not just how to become a freelance writer, but how to become a successful freelance writer. I want to show you how you can carve a niche out for yourself so that prospective clients come to you. I want to put you in a position where you’re never short of work. That is the position I find myself in these days, and I want to help you to achieve the same.

The Key to Successful Freelance Writing

There is just one key fundamental to successful freelance writing from which all other concepts devolve: reputation.

If you have a good reputation then you’re never likely to be short of work because you’re good at what you do and have an army of clients singing your praises to all and sundry. Therefore, in order to become a successful writer you must nurture a positive reputation.

That fact is something you must keep in mind in everything that you do as part of your freelancing career. Every word that you write, every email you send, every sample you add to your portfolio, and every client you work with — they all have the potential to benefit or hinder your growth.

So if reputation is key, how do you translate that into an effective approach to building a freelance writing business?

The Three Key Sources of Freelance Business Growth

Put simply, your reputation is driven by the work that you do for the clients that you work with.

If your quality writing is published on other blogs with your byline, that’s a potential source of future clients. If clients love your work so much that they recommend you to others, that’s another potential source of future clients. And if you have an awesome blog with an engaged and thriving community, that’s another potential source of future clients.

Every single one of my clients has either come from a byline, word of mouth, or my blog. Nothing else. In my opinion, those are the three areas in which you need to excel in order to create a great reputation (and grow a great business). And since two of them are inherent within the process of working for clients, creating a blog is the only “extra” thing you need to do.

Having said that, you don’t just want a “generic” reputation. No — you need to create a reputation that will feed future growth. That is what a lot of people don’t realize, yet it can make all the difference.

Why You Need a Reputation that Counts

The growth of your freelance business should be exponential, but that will only happen if you create a platform from which exponential growth can occur. That largely comes down to one thing: your clients.

While your blog is important, the type of clients you work with defines your reputation. If you work with content mills then you’ll be paid a pittance and will get no bylines or word of mouth referrals. If you work for low quality clients you might attract the occasional low quality referral. If you work with decent clients across a wide variety of topics then you will receive a generic variety of decent client referrals.

But if you focus on offering your services to just one or two niche markets and ensure that the majority of your clients are within those realms, you will soon establish a solid and specific reputation. You will become the go-to writer for that topic, and all the work you do will only serve to enforce your credentials.

I call this approach client specificity and it has acted as a lynchpin in the ongoing success of my business.

A Real Life Example of Client Specificity in Action

What follows is a list of the main clients I have worked with (i.e. on more than just a handful of jobs), in chronological order of when I started working with them, by the topic that they had me write about:

  1. Blogging
  2. Blogging
  3. Public/Private Sector Outsourcing in the UK
  4. Entrepreneurship
  5. Blogging
  6. Blogging
  7. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. Non-Profit
  9. Freelancing
  10. Freelancing
  11. Freelancing

I am sure you can see the pattern here — I write more about blogging and freelancing than I do anything else. And guess what the vast majority of new prospective clients want me to write about these days? You guessed it: blogging and freelancing.

Almost inadvertently, I have carved out a niche for myself as someone who writes about blogging and freelancing. I also write about entrepreneurship and online business for clients, because that is what I write about here on Leaving Work Behind.

Exponential business growth is driven by client specificity. I landed one blogging client that led to another blogging client, then another, then another. Byline upon byline permeated through the web across multiple sites and I soon gained a positive reputation. The same then began to happen with the topic of freelancing. By doing most of my work in very specific areas I have enjoyed a growing reputation (and ever-increasing rates too).

If I knew what I know now back when I started I would have gone about marketing myself very differently. It would have been a case of, “Hire me to write about blogging and freelancing,” not “Hire me to write for you about something or other…I’m sure we’ll figure it out.” At the time of writing my Hire Me page is hopelessly out of date — if I needed to I would completely re-word it to focus on those areas of writing for which I have gained a solid reputation.

How to Put Client Specificity Into Action

I appreciate that many of you will be in search of any client, let alone a specific one. However, it is never too early to consider client specificity.

When just starting out I would recommend that you work with anyone and everyone who will pay you a decent rate (or work for free for those who will give you good exposure). But from the very beginning you should consider what you would like to write about and make your best efforts to shape your business development in that direction.

Consider this — who would a prospective client rather be approached by: someone who markets themselves as a “generic” freelance writer, or someone who markets themselves as someone who writes on a specific topic that directly aligns with their interests?

You’re not necessarily reducing your chances of gaining clients by focusing on a smaller sector of the market — you could in fact be doing yourself a big favor. And the more clients of the same type you take on, the quicker your business will grow.

Simplicity is Almost Always Best

I quoted John Gardner at the top of this post: “We must strive to reach that simplicity that lies beyond sophistication.” That sentence should reflect the makeup of your freelance writing business.

Offer a specific service to a specific target client and you will reap the benefits before long. Try to cater to the entire market and you will attract nothing but indifference. In a way, working with a wide spread of clients is a bit like running several businesses in one. Why not make life easier on yourself and cater to just one or markets?

As always, if you have any comments or questions then please fire away below!