On Monday, August 24th, 2015 at just after midnight I awoke with abdominal pain.
Pain that wouldn’t go away no matter how I tried to lay, sit or stand. Pain that reminded me of birthing contractions, but which didn’t offer any reprieve in between.
Halfway through a phone call to the hospital’s nursing line (during which my husband was frantically googling symptoms), I decided I’d be going to the emergency room no matter what they told me. The nurse agreed, my mom arrived to care for our young children, and Wade whisked me off to our local hospital.
Not five hours later I was in recovery, sans appendix. As the anesthesia started to wear off, I briefly wondered if it was all a dream? All it took was a glance down at my hospital gown to confirm it was definitely not.
I sit here typing just over a week out from surgery, three new scars on my abdomen, feeling about as normal as I can. I’m sharing my story not for sympathy, but to hopefully better equip you in handling unexpected life events as a freelancer.
Here are my three best tips!
There is a right and a wrong way to pitch for freelance jobs (writing or otherwise).
If you’re a brand new freelancer, wouldn’t it be easier if you knew how to pitch the correct way, right off the bat? Or if you’re somewhat seasoned, but looking to take on some new clients and your current pitch isn’t converting that well, wouldn’t it be nice to know what you could do to make yours better?
We’ve talked a lot about pitching on Leaving Work Behind in the past. In fact, I’ve shared with you my first pitch along with my most recent one and broken it all down for you to learn why the latter is more effective and converts better.
And I’ve also given you the ultimate pitching blueprint to help you propose new article ideas to your current clients. But today, I want to share with you four specific ways to kill it in your next email pitch that are often overlooked by freelancers just like us.
Man, it’s hard to walk away from work as a webpreneur!
Sometimes as short a period of time as a day can be hard. So what do you do if you want to take an actual vacation? If your business is dependent solely on you, your actions, your presence – how do you make this happen?
Everyone needs to take a break sometime. And odds are that you got into this profession – and became self-employed – so that you had more control. More flexibility to do things like travel and take time off.
If you’re anything like me, you may be working harder (and more) than ever though. Your business is growing due to these efforts, you’re making more money each month, but both of these positive side effects make it virtually impossible to hit pause or take a well needed time out.
Am I describing you? If so, today I want to share a step-by-step process to help you confidently plan and execute your next vacation. I want us both to be able to check out of work every once in a while. Here are six steps to prepare for your next vacation from your freelance business:
When it comes to making money online and the “passive income” dream, the first thing that comes to mind for many of us is blogging.
And why not? Examples of successful bloggers abound and the barriers of entry are practically non-existent. You can decide to start a blog now and be up and running in ten minutes time. Personally speaking, I attribute a great deal of my success to this blog.
But in my opinion (and with the benefit of hindsight), creating a blog with the aim of monetizing it is not the best way to build a sustainable online business quickly. Not by a long shot. Although I am a huge fan of blogging, in this post I want to play devil’s advocate and explain why it is an inferior method of making money online. I’ll also explain what I think you should do in order to give yourself the best possible chance of building a successful online business.
My Experience With Blogging
Leaving Work Behind is now over two years old and at the time of writing generates approximately $3,000 per month in direct net revenue. That’s not a small amount, but it pales in comparison to my freelance earnings, which are only likely to increase as Clear Blogging Solutions grows.
Although I believe that my blog income will eventually outstrip my current freelancing income record (~$6,000 in one month) and perhaps even the income generated by Clear Blogging Solutions, it will have been a long journey.
For the first fifteen months or so of its existence Leaving Work Behind operated at a loss. Furthermore, if I were able to to divide its lifetime net income by the total sum of hours spent on Leaving Work Behind, the hourly rate would be paltry.
My blogging journey has been beneficial for many reasons and I believe that I am near a tipping point where all of the hard work to date will truly begin to pay off. However, it has taken a long time and a great deal of hard work to get to this point.
The Problem With Blogging
The art of blogging is simple to learn but extremely difficult to master. Unless you know what you’re doing, it takes an awful long time to build a successful blogging brand.
That was the case with me — I was brand new to blogging in June 2011 and it has taken me over two years to really nail down in my head what Leaving Work Behind is all about. I believe that the next few months will see this blog explode in popularity, but it has been a long time coming.
Many people will point to the “overnight” success of certain blogs as evidence that one can become a successful blogger in a short space of time. One can argue that sites like Social Triggers are evidence of just how quickly a blog can take off. But Social Triggers wasn’t Derek Halpern’s first rodeo. He launched Social Triggers off the back of a string of successful websites — of which one attracted a million page views in just one day. By the time he had the idea for what is now one of the most successful online marketing blogs in the world, he had already cut his teeth on a number of different websites over a period of years.
When it came to launching Social Triggers, Derek drew upon his prior experience to create something that rose to the top quickly, but if you’re new to blogging you cannot expect to achieve the same. While you may be able to find example of overnight success stories, they are the exceptions to the rule and make it far too easy to dream about what could be.
The bottom line is this: if you want build a blog that will enable you to quit your job, you should expect to wait for at least a year (and probably much longer), and that’s if you have the patience and determination to slog through periods of stagnancy and demotivation. Let me put it this way: I would still be in the job that I left in December 2011 if I only had my blog’s income to rely upon. In fact, I may have given up altogether.
Blogging as a Business Model
It is extremely difficult to generate an income directly from a blog — it almost always requires an underlying business model.
The only real exception to this rule is affiliate marketing, but as far as I am concerned, generating an income from affiliate marketing without selling your soul is very difficult to do. It can so easily put you in a position where you compromise your morals (I consider this to be the case for even certain a-list bloggers who are mistakenly considered infallible by many). Furthermore, your income relies upon products created by others — a situation I wouldn’t like to bet my career on.
In my experience, blogs are most effective when acting as a source for client or customer leads for a business. The blog does not directly make money — it acts as a referral source for the machine that does make money.
But having a big audience does not mean that you will make a lot of money from them — directly or indirectly. If you build a blog with a huge audience that has no interest in spending money, you’re screwed.
And let’s face it: most people who read blogs have no prior interest in spending money on them. They come to read free content. You have to persuade them — often over an extended period of time — that whatever you have to sell to them is worth their hard-earned money. Doing so is not easy.
If you practically consider blogging as a business model for a moment, it’s absurd: trying to build a potential customer base out of people who aren’t interested in buying. If you had the choice between doing that or attempting to sell to people who are in a buying mood, which way would you go?
So What Should You Do?
Creating a business ultimately comes down to three approaches:
- Products, or
- A mixture of the above.
Whichever route you choose, the key is to create something of value and market it to people who may want to purchase it.
Regular readers of Leaving Work Behind will know that I am a huge fan of service provision as a means of building a sustainable online business with relative ease. While it may not be as glamorous as “passive income” business models, freelancing is a means of building a real business that can operate in the long term (do you think that niche sites are going to last forever?). Furthermore, as I am just beginning to show, you can adapt and evolve a freelancing business way beyond its original boundaries. The sky is the limit.
If you have a monetizeable asset, you should look very carefully into your freelancing options. For many of us, what we do in our day jobs can be freelanced (e.g. bookkeeping). Alternatively (or additionally), a particular skill you have that you may not fully appreciate could offer great opportunity (like writing did for me).
The alternative is to build an online business by selling products (either electronic or physical). There are a huge number of ways in which you can do this but my primary advice would be this: consider areas in which you have specialized knowledge and seek to utilize them. Find your “unfair advantage” and exploit it to its full potential.
I’ll give you an example — one that is unfolding before my eyes.
My girlfriend works as a sales rep for a cheese wholesaler and knows more about cheese than anyone else I know. She also knows how wholesalers work. She has also made cheese wedding cakes (like that bad boy to the right) for friends. It only takes brief clarity of thought to see how those qualities could be combined to launch a micro business selling cheese wedding cakes, and that is exactly what she is doing. (Incidentally, I’ll probably have more to tell you about that project in the future.)
Raise Your Business Idea from the Ground
I recently finished reading Stephen King’s On Writing, which offers many pearls of wisdom that I’ll be reflecting upon over the coming days and weeks. One of my favorites was his likening of as yet untold stories to buried fossils. King believes that stories are pre-existing — under the ground, so to speak, and your talent as an author is your ability to raise that fossil from the ground intact.
I think the same way about business ideas. I believe that you have a great business idea inside of you right now. It may be buried, perhaps deep underground and perhaps in so many fragmented parts, but it’s there. What you need to do is dig deep and excavate it.
To translate the analogy into practical terms, what you must do is explore the potential for a synergy of your strengths. If you can combine one or more of your relatively unique talents in an effective manner then you may well have a winning business idea on your hands.
The irony of my suggested approaches above is that you might well decide to create a blog as part of your business model. That’s absolutely fine — as long as the blog isn’t at the center of your business model.
The purpose of this post is not to tell you that you shouldn’t blog.
After all, this blog makes me good money and serves as a referral source for my freelance business. Furthermore, blogging can be fun — an interesting hobby that could lead to more in time. Who am I to tell you not to enjoy yourself?
The title of this post was deliberately antagonistic in the hope that it would lead more people to read it (Why Blogging is Pretty Cool But You Should Maybe Think About Other Stuff Too just didn’t quite have the same ring to it). However, my intentions are honest. I think it is high time that the “make money online” crowd shifted their expectations of what blogging can do for us and put careful thought into the alternatives.
You should be impatient to Leave Work Behind. You should want to do it tomorrow. Blogging won’t get you there tomorrow.
Find something that will.
If you’re a regular LWB reader then you’ll know all about the various radical thoughts that have been running through my head over the past few weeks.
Two posts in particular have given a strong hint of how things will be changing in my business in the near future: How I Plan to Revolutionize My Online Business and My Thoughts on the Future of Leaving Work Behind. If you haven’t read them yet I encourage you to do so now.
My announcement in this post represents a huge milestone in my business. It represents me stepping away from something big and stepping into something bigger. It represents positive change and major growth. Most importantly, it takes me a step closer to what I consider the truest and purest form of the Leaving Work Behind concept.
Announcing the Launch of Clear Blogging Solutions
Let’s get the (rather exciting, for me at least) formalities out of the way first.
Today I am delighted to officially announce the launch of my new content marketing agency: Clear Blogging Solutions.
Clear Blogging Solutions provides content marketing services to bloggers and small businesses who understand the value of content marketing but need assistance in terms of execution (whether that be because they lack the expertise or simply don’t have time to do it themselves).
Our core service offerings are blog article writing (on just about any topic), and social media management and development. We also provide other services to ongoing clients, such as eBook development, link building, copywriting and WordPress website maintenance.
If you’re a blogger and you need help in producing and/or marketing your content, we can help. If you’re an online startup who needs a content marketing solution so that you can focus on the areas in which you can benefit your business the greatest, we can help. If you’re a small business who is looking to establish or develop your online presence, we can help.
That’s the sales pitch out of the way — if you’re interested, check us out and get in touch.
Now I want to explain why and how Clear Blogging Solutions came about.
The Problem With Freelancing
I love freelancing — it completely changed my life.
In September 2011 I was seriously fed up, having failed consistently in my make money online efforts for around six months. I was desperate and willing to give anything a try. So I tried freelance writing.
I’m not going to get into the specifics here (read this, this and this if you want to learn more about the story of how I built a freelance writing business out of nothing), but I went from earning nothing to making thousands of dollars per month in just a few months. My freelance writing earnings peaked in May 2013 at $6,206.
That peak month worked out to approximately one and a half times the monthly salary in my last job in about one third of the hours. My equivalent hourly rate was $152 (slightly below my record of $161 in June 2013). I still have to pinch myself.
However, there was a problem with this business model — it isn’t scalable. I only have so many hours available, and quality writing is mentally taxing work that you can only do so much of before you burn out.
Not only that, but I was compromising my other projects in an effort to squeeze every last penny out of my freelancing business and keep breaking income records. Not a good recipe for long term growth. I was obsessed with numbers (I broke my income record four months running) and had lost sight of the bigger picture.
A Time for Change
I have known for a long time that freelance writing isn’t a scalable business model, but I’ve never been able to see an obvious route into converting my assets (i.e. my writing/business skills, client base, contact list, website, etc.) into a scalable business model.
The obvious route was to take on writers and work in a more editorial-style role. However, my major concerns were that it would be a labor-intensive job and that quality writers could not be found for reasonable prices (i.e. prices that would still allow me to make money).
My opinion on that front changed quickly when I put a call out for paid writers for my online dating authority site. I received around ~30 applications, and while the majority weren’t suitable for my needs, there were a healthy handful of writers who I felt were pretty damn capable. More capable than I was expecting, quite frankly.
Although I had originally intended to hire one writer, I ended up hiring two (and really wanted to take on another one or two). My attitude towards the quality of available writers changed overnight.
This greatly reduced the reasons to not go down the “blogging agency” route. I was now faced with a more manageable problem — teaching my writers how to blog effectively and trusting them to be organized and reliable (in fact, that was what inspired my recent post on seven fatal mistakes that freelance writers make).
In short, I could potentially see the basis for a successful and scalable business.
The Birth of a New Business
So I decided to test the waters.
Working with my dating site writers was remarkably similar to the dynamics of a blogging agency — I just happened to be both the editor and the client. From that experience I knew that there was potential. Since I was already turning away new client requests at this point I figured I had nothing to lose by redirecting new clients to my writers.
The idea was simple:
- My writers communicate with the clients directly.
- Their work goes through me and I act in an editorial role to ensure that everything is up to scratch.
- Clients pay me directly and I pay my writers at their desired rate.
- The writers can talk to me if they have any questions or need any further assistance. Similarly, the client can talk to me at any point if they so desire.
The writer is paid at their desired rate and the client gets a top quality end-product that is to my editorial standards. I get my cut for attracting and landing the clients and doing the editorial work.
In this way I might spend fifteen minutes editing a piece rather than two hours writing it. As the writers get better and a level of trust evolves, my involvement can be relatively limited. I can work with far more clients and generate far more revenue in far less time. At least, that’s the idea.
Within a couple of weeks I had landed two new clients through the Clear Blogging Solutions brand. Things were underway.
Clear Blogging Solutions has been in existence for a few weeks now — this is essentially the “hard launch.” It is my intention to grow the business exponentially from this point onwards, but that will of course rely upon the number of client referrals I receive and successfully convert.
At this stage I am negotiating with a few prospective clients and expect for a proportion of those deals to go through. I am hoping that this post will generate further interest and that my bylines across the web will bring in further enquiries. I may also dabble in “cold emailing” to targeted prospects, but I’ve not made a decision on that front yet.
The issue is certainly not with the quality of my solution. I am extremely delighted with the pool of writers I have already gathered and know that with my editorial oversight, we can produce a huge amount of high-quality content. The issue will be in effectively advertising our service to those people that will be interested by it.
I expect to obtain referrals from three main sources:
- This website (see the “Blogging Services” link in the navigation bar)
- Bylines on blogs that I currently write for
- Referrals from existing clients
I would also like to set up relationships with content marketing firms who need writing services and partnerships with web design / SEO agencies and the like. If you own such an agency, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I’m taking a relatively laissez-faire approach to marketing at this stage. I feel like I already have a pretty good “web” established that may be able to drive a decent number of prospective clients to the business. Only time will tell if that is the case.
What About My Existing Clients?
I have no intention of stopping my writing work with any of my existing clients. I love working with them and hope to continue to do so.
I feel like my own writing work is at a manageable level — just because I have created a scalable business model for writing services does not mean that I cannot still offer those services myself.
Having said that, working with a talented writing team does help me to make the whole process easier. When appropriate they can help me with research, planning and content production. The client will always get the same top quality product they have always received. In fact, with my additional resources I can look to provide even more value. It’s a win/win situation.
Having said that, I have been in touch with all of my existing clients already to let them know of the new setup. I certainly don’t intend to keep anyone in the dark.
Do You Want to Work With Me?
I am currently building a database of writers to pick from when working with new clients. As I said when I was looking for writers for 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 money and improve your blogging skills.
I’m looking for people with solid writing and blogging skills. Particular areas of expertise are beneficial but not necessary. Competition is pretty high but I will carefully consider every single application I receive, and if I don’t have anything for you right now, I may well do at some point down the line.
If you are interested in applying then please fill out this form. I will be in touch if I feel there is an opportunity for us to work together.
What Do You Think?
I would love to get your feedback on this major new direction in terms of my writing business.
Do you think it is a good move? Do you foresee any potential pitfalls? Is there anything that you would do differently or additionally?
Please don’t be shy — share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!