Leaving Work Behind

Announcing Paid to Blog: My Indispensable Course for Freelance Bloggers

Written by Tom Ewer on December 2, 2013. 16 Comments

Paid to BlogAs many of you know, I have been freelance blogging for over two years now. In that time I have gone from earning $15 per hour to over $150 per hour and beyond.

Last November I launched my original guide to freelance blogging and have sold hundreds of copies since, but I always knew that I could do more to help freelance bloggers.

And that is why I have created Paid to Blog — a comprehensive online course. It is the successor to my original guide and represents an enormous leap forward in how I can help you become a successful freelance blogger.

What You Can Expect From Paid to Blog

The course is split into various sections as follows:

  1. The Paid to Blog guide: how to become a successful freelance blogger.
  2. The Successful Blogging guide: how to write great blog posts.
  3. Exclusive articles on what it takes to be a successful freelance blogger.
  4. Exclusive interviews with successful freelance bloggers and online entrepreneurs.
  5. An ever-growing list of paid guest posting opportunities (currently 75+).
  6. Job Listings Worth Pitching: a carefully curated list, updated weekly, of jobs for bloggers from across the web.

The two guides are taken from my original guide but have been heavily edited, updated and improved upon. Also, I have included “Action Steps” throughout the course that outline exactly what you need to do in order to become a successful freelance blogger.

Here's what the course looks like.

Here’s what the course looks like.

In short, Paid to Blog is what my original guide should have been. It has turned out even better than I had hoped and I am looking forward to improving it even more in the future, with regular updates to the job-seeking resources as well as the guides too. By purchasing Paid to Blog, you are making an investment in a course that will continue to grow alongside your freelance blogging career.

A few jobs listed in the "Job Listings Worth Pitching" section.

A few jobs listed in the “Job Listings Worth Pitching” section.

To give you an idea of the level of detail you can expect from the guide, download a sample module (PDF, 450kb) from the Successful Blogging guide, “Creating Your Blog”:

Sample Module

Paid to Blog is available in three different packages to suit all budgets. Click here to see more details. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Your “Hire Me” Page: How to Get More Clients and Increase Your Rate

Written by Tom Ewer on November 18, 2013. 57 Comments

"Available for Work" posterAs a freelance blogger, your Hire Me page is the gatekeeper.

Prospective clients land on it and the quality of your copy determines whether they contact you with an inquiry. As such, it pays (literally) to spend some time optimizing your Hire Me page.

And although finding work through job boards is always an option, the dream for any freelance blogger is for clients to come to them — another reason why the quality of your Hire Me page is integral to your success.

With the above in mind, in this post I am going to take you through the Hire Me page here on Leaving Work Behind – a page that has (to date) helped me earn around $100,000 as a freelance blogger. In reading this post you will learn everything you need to know about putting together a persuasive Hire Me page for your own website. I’ll also offer some tips on how to drive prospective clients to your page.

Your Headline

For the longest time, my Hire Me page was simply entitled “Hire Me”. Given that I am fully aware of the potentially persuasive nature of headlines, it is ironic that I stuck with such a basic option for such a long time.

But thanks to Oni (see point two), I recently made a change. My Hire Me page is now entitled:

"Hire Me" page headline

That’s right — it’s essentially like a blog post headline, which makes sense, given that I am selling blogging services. What better way to kick off a Hire Me page than to prove that you can write compelling headlines?

In a theme you will see recurring throughout this post, the focus of your headline should be on the benefit to the client. Don’t write something like, “Top Quality Article Writing Services” — instead, summarize the benefit of your services to the client. More traffic and customers is what all of my clients are in search of, and my headline immediately promises to help them with that goal.

The Introduction

"Hire Me" page introduction

A perfect Hire Me page will immediately resonate with its target client. As such, the most important thing you must do (after writing a compelling headline) is appeal to your target client in your introduction.

As with the headline, the focus must immediately be on how you can benefit the client. Here’s my opening line:

If you are in search of a reputable writer with a proven track record to produce top-quality articles for your blog that can boost traffic to your site and secure more customers, you’re in the right place. Get in touch to discuss your needs now!

I get straight down to business in the first sentence — clarifying the nature of my service and the benefits it offers. I finish off with a link straight to the contact form at the bottom of the page in case they’re already read to get in touch.

That part of the introduction is pretty set in stone — what you do with the rest is more personal to you. But regardless of your experience or reputation, make the most of what you have achieved and paint yourself in the most positive light possible. Here’s how I do it:

My work has been featured on world-famous blogs such as Mashable, Lifehacker, Smashing Magazine and SitePoint.

I am the Editor-in-Chief of the ManageWP Blog — one of the biggest WordPress blogs on the Internet.

I contribute to other well-known blogs such as FreelanceSwitch, WPExplorer, WooThemes, Bidsketch, Flippa and Wired Advisor.

I am also the founder of Leaving Work Behind and Healthy Enough.

In total, I have written over 1,000 blog posts on over 100 blogs.

You can probably spot what I have done here — listed a roll call of my achievements in the blogging world.

I start by mentioning the most well-known blogs I have written for, follow that up by naming my most impressive-sounding position (as the editor of the ManageWP blog), name some other well-known blogs, mention the two blogs that I founded, and finish off with a notable statistic about the number of blog posts I have written.

If you’re just getting started then you won’t be able to produce such a list. However, bear in mind that I started with nothing — in May 2011 I had barely even read a blog, let alone created my own or written for one. You can create a pretty impressive list starting with nothing in no time at all.

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Get your own blog up and running. Any client is going to pay far more attention to you if you demonstrate that you are a capable all-round blogger.
  2. Guest post on some small/medium-sized blogs to make a start to your portfolio.
  3. Use referrals from those guest posts to land some spots on more reputable sites. You’d be surprised at who might be willing to feature your content.

The first job I landed was off the back of a pitch that had nothing but links to my posts on Leaving Work Behind as samples, but that was enough to get me the gig. You can do better than that.

Expanding Upon the Benefits You Offer the Client

Now that you have the client’s attention, you can take a little more time to explain how you can benefit them. On my Hire Me page I do this in a section broken into three sub-headers:

"Hire Me" page benefits

Now is the time to really sell yourself. again, you should focus on benefits rather than services. Although you do of course need to make the client aware of the services you offer, what you write should always be framed in the context of how those services will help them.

I start with “Quality of Service”. Why? Because I know that many clients end up highly frustrated by unreliable freelance writers. It’s one thing hiring someone who can write — to find someone who can write and deliver on time and as promised is something else altogether. That’s exactly why I promise “a level of professionalism and efficiency of service that is all too rare amongst freelance bloggers.”

After that I drill down to my first Unique Selling Proposition (USP). USPs are the parts of your service that separate you from the competition and help to persuade the prospect that you are the right person for the job. Quite simply, my first USP is that I offer unlimited revisions.

I can make this promise easily, as I know that most clients don’t want to spend any time revising articles — they want a turn-key solution from their writers. But that doesn’t stop it from sounding impressive.

I then move onto my second USP: social media promotion. Although my service is strictly a writing service rather than a marketing service, I put a cherry on the cake by way of promotion through my social media networks and email subscribers (when relevant). It’s just another reason to hire me over someone else.

If you’re concerned that your service lacks any USPs, now is the time to create some. You do not necessarily need to be experienced or established to offer them — after all, anyone can promise unlimited revisions. Other examples of USPs are quick email turnaround and a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Samples

"Hire Me" page samples
To be frank, this is the point at which all your good work can quickly become undone.

All the promises in the world count for nothing against proof. That is why the writing samples you offer must be high quality and varied.

In an ideal world you will focus your samples on a limited number of topics. Too broad a focus will not be attractive to prospective clients. That’s why all of the topics I focus on are within the same broad category of online business and content marketing.

I offer a three of my best articles (or articles that are published on the most reputable blogs) for each category that I write about. There’s no need to offer a huge number of samples — prospects are hardly going to start reading through your life’s work.

It’s good to offer a mix of blogs within your samples, to demonstrate that you are published on multiple platforms across the web. It’s absolutely fine to refer to posts from your own blog within your samples, but don’t do so exclusively. You need to demonstrate that independent parties have seen fit to feature your content on their site.

The best way to get more samples quickly is to guest post. It’s that simple. There is no excuse not to have a varied selection of samples on your Hire Me page.

Testimonials

Once you’ve established the benefits of your service and proven your abilities through your samples, you should offer social proof of the quality of your service. You do this with testimonials.

"Hire Me" page testimonials
I have a total of six testimonials on my Hire Me page, which is (in my opinion) plenty. All prospects want to see is that other people think highly of you. Even better if you can get well-known bloggers and businesses to think highly of you.

Getting your hands on testimonials is probably easier than you think. Start with your existing connections — even friends and colleagues. If you include a testimonial from a colleague who has something good to say about your professional nature, that sounds like a good testimonial to me.

Beyond that, you should seek out testimonials from those blogs that you have guest posted for. If you did a good job then the blogger will only be too happy to offer some kind words.

The beautiful part is this: most people are willing to give you a glowing testimonial. Few people will be willing to risk hurting your feelings or looking like an asshole — they’d much rather just tell the world how brilliant you are, regardless of how brilliant you may have been.

I advise that you include head shots with each testimonial. It makes it far easier to connect each testimonial with a real human being, and as such, make it that much more powerful.

The Contact Form

The final thing on your Hire Me page should be a contact form. This form should contain five fields:

"Hire Me" page contact form
The reason I include a budget field is that it encourages the prospect to reveal what they might be willing to pay you. That gives you the upper hand before negotiations have even begun. I wouldn’t recommend making this field mandatory, but it should definitely be there.

I recommend that you offer alternative means of contact for those who are not fans of web forms. I provide a link to my Contact page which contains more information.

If you’re looking for a good contact form solution for your WordPress site then I recommend Jetpack (packed with loads of other features) or Contact Form 7 (standalone plugin).

Getting Traffic to Your Hire Me Page

Of course, creating a compelling Hire Me page is only worth anything if you can drive prospective clients to it. While this post isn’t intended to be a guide to driving traffic to your blog, I do feel that a little should be said on the topic.

The two most effective ways to drive relevant traffic to your Hire Me page are as follows:

1. Your Bylines

If you’re serious about getting more freelance work then your bylines should be written for prospective clients, not just for people who might simply be interested in your blog.

Consider something along these lines:

Tom Ewer is the founder of Leaving Work Behind and a freelance blogger for hire who works with web startups and bloggers.

If someone in search of a freelance writer likes a post you’ve written and consequently sees a byline like that at the end, they’re going to click straight through to your Hire Me page (which will now of course compel them to contact you!).

2. Your Blog

It goes without saying that you should include a link to your Hire Me page prominently on your blog — ideally within as part of the main navigation.

But that’s not all — you should take the opportunity to link to your Hire Me page whenever possible. Some obvious places are a prominent button within your sidebar, at the bottom of every post, and within the posts themselves (when relevant).

Not everyone will spot that little Hire Me link in your navigation bar, so don’t be afraid to link to it liberally.

Any Questions?

In this post I have provided a detailed breakdown of my Hire Me page and the reasoning behind each of its distinct elements. This should give you the information you need in order to produce your own persuasive Hire Me page.

However, if you have any questions regarding your page — what should go in it, how you should phrase a certain USP, and so on — please do not hesitate to get in touch via the comments section below! Even better, get involved on our freelancing forum and ask your questions there — the entire community is happy to help 🙂

Alternatively, if you are a freelancer and have your own suggestions that I have not covered here, or have some feedback specific to my Hire Me page, please feel free to make your opinion known!

Announcing the Launch of My Content Marketing Agency!

Written by Tom Ewer on August 1, 2013. 66 Comments

Clear Blogging SolutionsIf 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

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:

  1. My writers communicate with the clients directly.
  2. Their work goes through me and I act in an editorial role to ensure that everything is up to scratch.
  3. Clients pay me directly and I pay my writers at their desired rate.
  4. 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.

What Next?

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:

  1. This website (see the “Blogging Services” link in the navigation bar)
  2. Bylines on blogs that I currently write for
  3. 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!

How to Become a Freelance Writer: 15 Principles for Success

Written by Tom Ewer on April 22, 2013. 67 Comments
Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: sunside

It’s easy to say that freelance writing is easy, but it’s also easy to say that it’s hard.

In reality there is a middle ground in which one can succeed and prosper in the world of freelance blogging. The process of learning how to become a freelance writer hasn’t been easy for me, nor has it been especially hard. I believe that if you understand the basic principles of successful freelance writing and put them into action on a consistent basis, you will find success.

With that in mind, in this post I have collected what I consider the most important principles for successful freelance writers into fifteen actionable nuggets. If you absorb and apply the following principles then you will be giving yourself the best possible chance of succeeding as a freelance writer.

Phase 1: Prepare Yourself

Before you actually begin to look for freelance writing work you should make sure that you are set up for success; both in a psychological and technical sense. To put it simply, you need to be a good writer and you need to know that you are a good writer.

Believe in Yourself

The very first question you must ask yourself when learning how to become a freelance writer is simple yet vitally important: “Do I believe in myself?” I.e. do you believe that you are capable of becoming a successful freelance blogger?

If the answer is yes then you are ready to move on. If the answer is no then you need to consider what your lack of faith is based upon, because without belief you are likely to prevent yourself from succeeding.

The simple fact is this: if you want to succeed as a freelance blogger then you need to help yourself rather than hinder yourself. A lack of belief in your abilities will be all too obvious for prospective clients to see. If on the other hand you exude confidence, their perception of your abilities will be heightened.

Let me put it another way: I’d rather be an average writer with an unerring belief in the inevitability of my success than a great writer wracked with self-doubt. Believe that you can succeed and you are far more likely to.

Learn to Write

That’s right folks — if you want to be a successful freelance writer you should be a good writer. It should be blindingly obvious but I think there are lot of people out there who don’t fully appreciate the importance of honing their writing skills.

Becoming a better writer is just as important as learning to find prospective clients or negotiate rates effectively. It is perhaps the most powerful element in terms of influencing every area of your budding freelance writing business. If you’re a good writer, everything becomes simpler.

A lot of people will say that in order to become a good writer you should “just write.” I call bullshit on that. It’s like telling someone with a terrible golf swing to keep practicing that same golf swing — they’re just learning bad habits.

So I encourage you to study and learn the principles of effective writing, and more specifically, writing for the web. The good news is that effective online writing relies upon a set of straightforward rules underpinned by just one principle: keep it simple. If you put no more time into learning how to become a freelance writer then remember that.

If however you are of a mind to improve your craft and want to know where to start, I recommend that you start with the Yahoo! Style Guide. It is my bible and taught me most of what I know about online content writing.

Consider Your Expertise

One of the biggest perceived issues that faces freelance bloggers is their area of “expertise.” I get a lot of people emailing me with this problem — they desperately want to become a freelance writer but feel that they do not know enough about a specific topic to offer value.

The first thing I’d say is that everyone knows more about something than most. If I am stood in a room with all my friends I can point to each one and name at least one thing they know more about than me. Steve knows more about cars. Briony knows more about medicine. Kim knows more about teaching. Dan knows more about law. Vicky knows more about fund raising. Sarah knows more about horses. Tom knows more about marketing. I could go on but I’m sure you get the message.

My point is this — you do have value to offer on any number of topics if you take a moment to consider where your expertise lies. This becomes even more obvious when you consider that the vast majority of  people interested in learning more about a certain topic are complete beginners. You only need to have an intermediate understanding of a topic to be well-placed to teach the majority of the market.

I personally experienced this when I landed my first job at WPMU.org — a blog dedicated to the world of WordPress and blogging. At the time I had been blogging for about five months but I’d already learned enough to provide value to many of the readers. I was “expert enough.” I am certain that you are expert enough in plenty of fields to offer value.

Keep an Open Mind

Following on from my previous point, I would advise you to be open minded concerning which topics you’re happy to write about — especially when you’re just getting started. I’d advise you to snatch up anything you can find that pays a decent rate and/or offers good prospects in terms of exposure, etc.

One thing you’ll quickly discover is that you learn a huge amount about something when you write about it. That should be an obvious realisation to you but many do not fully appreciate it. If you can get your foot in the door in a certain market and start building up a reputation, you’ll soon find that your perceived value grows and you can soon move onto bigger opportunities. That is precisely what I did in the WordPress market, despite having barely any prior experience.

Did I see myself as a WordPress writer when I started out on my freelance blogging journey? Absolutely not. Do I consider myself a WordPress writer now, capable of offering a great deal of value to the majority of the community? Definitely.

Stage 2: Find Work

When learning how to become a freelance writer, the idea of putting yourself out there and pitching prospective clients can be pretty terrifying. I remember it well myself — I submitted pitches to a number of prospects and felt utterly absurd in doing so. Who was I, a completely unqualified beginner blogger who nearly failed English at school, doing submitting pitches for freelance writing jobs?

Overcoming that psychological hurdle is one of the biggest steps you can take towards freelance writing success. Once you have the confidence to consistently submit pitches to prospective clients you can focus on the nuts and bolts of getting more work and building your business.

Go Looking for Jobs

Having said that, one common issues amongst startup freelance writers is that they simply don’t go looking for jobs. They somehow expect jobs to find them, or submit a handful of pitches and give up when they don’t get a response.

So let me make it clear — if you want to become a successful freelance writer then you’re going to have to hustle. To begin with, at least. You cannot expect people to come to you when you have no experience and no reputation. You’re going to have to get out there and demonstrate to people why you are worth their time and money.

To give you a sense of scale when I talk about finding jobs, consider my friend Ruth Zive’s “Ten Before Ten” approach in which she made sure to contact ten prospects before 10am. Ten prospects every working day soon adds up and makes success all but inevitable.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which you can find work in the freelancing world. Those first few jobs that get you on the ladder shouldn’t be too hard to come by if you’re going about the process in the correct manner. Make a start with the following posts:

Write Great Pitches

Once you’ve located a prospective client your likelihood of landing the job comes down to just a couple of things — one of which is the quality of your pitch.

Put simply, your pitch plays a huge role in determining in whether you land a job. It’s not always the best writer that gets the role — it can be the person who submits the best pitch. After all, clients aren’t just looking for writing skills — they’re looking for someone who demonstrates an aptitude and enthusiasm for the role. They’re looking for someone who makes a good impression — someone who sets themselves apart from the crowd. That’s what a good pitch can do.

For tips on creating good pitches, start with my post on finding your first freelancing job.

Get Some Great Samples

A lot of beginner freelance writers feel that they are hamstrung by a lack of quality samples, and they’re right. However, they don’t appreciate that it is possible to get your hands on good samples without getting paid work. The perceived catch-22 of getting quality samples when you can’t get work doesn’t actually exist.

The first thing I’ll say about samples is that you shouldn’t attach them as files to pitches. When it comes to online writing, prospective clients want to see that you’ve been publishing — if you’re sending them articles as Word docs then they’re going to wonder why no one has seen fit to publish you.

In terms of getting published you have three potential solutions:

  1. Publish content on your own blog
  2. Guest post on other blogs
  3. Land an unpaid ongoing blogging role

The first is obviously the least effective (as anyone can publish content on their own blog), but it was enough for me to land my first role. I recommend that you target all three if you are truly keen on succeeding. The third option is especially effective in my opinion, as that position likely emulates the type of role that a quality client is looking for.

Create a Quality Writer’s Website

Even if you choose not to create your own blog to help build your freelance writing business, I consider having a website to be absolutely mandatory. After all, if you’re touting yourself as a freelance blogger you need to demonstrate at least a modicum of technical ability!

Your writer’s website should be the hub to which all prospective clients refer. It should be linked to from within your email signature so that they can visit it and see that you are not just a fly-by-night hoper. The site should be cleanly designed (I recommend one of the default WordPress themes such as Twenty Eleven or Twenty Twelve). Please refrain from the temptation to try anything fancy with the design unless you know what you are doing.

The site should be professionally presented and convince any prospective client that you are a candidate worth of their consideration.

Get Good Testimonials

Aside from a short biography, contact information and example of work you’ve already had published, your website should feature a number of positive testimonials relating to your writing abilities and general professionalism. If you have not yet worked as a freelance writer then you may feel that getting hold of testimonials is impossible, but that is not the case.

The easiest way to get hold of testimonials when starting out is to ask your friends and any colleagues. Their testimonials do not necessarily need to relate directly to your writing ability but can refer to your professionalism, organization skills, reliability, etc. Throwing these in the mix can be an effective way of bulking out your testimonials and no prospective clients needs to know that the people that wrote them have a personal connection to you.

Another relatively easy way to get testimonials is from bloggers that you have guest posted for or are blogging for on an unpaid basis. Most will probably be happy to write something up for you and these can of course relate directly to your writing ability.

Create a Blog

This blog has been hugely influential in determining my success as a freelance blogger. Beyond my first two clients it has served as a consistent referral machine — it is the reason why I haven’t had to go looking for freelance writing work in about eighteen months. As such, I urge any beginner freelance blogger to start their own blog.

The topic(s) you choose to cover isn’t necessarily that important — for instance, the subject matter I cover here is rarely directly related to anything that I blog about for clients. Having said that, it certainly won’t do you any harm to blog within an area of interest that you would like to be paid to write about. The topic is up to you but the real benefit is in showcasing your technical writing ability and your ability to create a successful blog.

If you can show a client that you’re good enough to build a community around your blog from the ground up, it serves as a strong mark in your favor as to your ability to help them.

Stage 3: Build Your Business

Consistently seeking out prospective clients is of course extremely important when starting out — without doing so you are unlikely to find those few jobs that can get you on your way. However, you should also have one eye on how your business is going to develop — the sooner you hone and perfect your approach, the better it is for your growth.

Learn to Negotiate

In submitting pitches your hope is of course that a prospective client will bite and offer you a job. If they do so then you may be required to state your rate. This is enough to paralyse any enthusiastic beginner freelance writer into inaction — I say that from personal experience.

However, setting and negotiating rates does not need to be an imposing concept that looms over you like a storm cloud. In reality, the application of a few simple concepts can give you the confidence to state a rate that has been calculated in a reasonable and sensible manner.

To learn more about setting and negotiating rates, check out this article.

Learn to Write Fast

If I had to single out one thing that has had the most influential impact on me earning $100+ per hour from freelance writing, it is my ability to create content quickly.

I’m not just talking about my typing speed (although that is hugely important) — I am talking about the process of creating a blog post from that moment where you have a kernel of an idea through to when you have finished the post publishing promotion process.

If it is not clear then let me state it plainly: your ability to work quickly has a direct impact on your ability to make more money. A $100 articles make you $100 per hour if it takes you one hour or it makes you $50 per hour if it takes you two. That is the simple math.

If you want to know more about how to be a fast writer then check out my post on the topic: 9 Steps to Writing Blog Posts Quickly (and Making Much More Money).

Write to the Client’s Standard, Not Your Own

To follow on from my previous point, an error that many freelance writers make is to write to their own standards rather than their clients’. This is especially costly when starting out on jobs that pay modestly — nothing is more depressing than spending hours on a job that pays pennies.

The point to consider is this: if you’re being paid pennies then the client is probably expecting work of an equivalent value. Don’t give them your A game if they’re only paying you a bargain basement rate.

I must clarify something important: I am not saying that you should do shoddy work. But I am saying that you should work to a standard that reflects the value of your compensation. That will keep the client happy and will take you far less time. And most importantly, it was massively reduce the chances you feeling jaded by your over-exertion and giving up altogether.

Be a Solution, Not a Problem

One of the key things you must understand about the working relationship you have with your clients is that you are there as a solution, not a problem. You are there to save them time and provide a quality solution with minimal hassle. If you are not delivering on all fronts then you are making yourself a problem.

Your writing ability is only one consideration — in reality, a client will want you to deliver a quality product, as promised, on time, and consistently. If you produce brilliant work but you’re consistently late or difficult to communicate with, the client is going to have a conflicted opinion of your value to them.

So whenever you are working with a client, remember that you must always be a solution rather than a problem. Blow them away with quality of product and of service and your business will grow.

Be More than Just a Writer

I have noticed an increasing trend amongst prospective clients — they want more than just writers. In fact, very few of the people I have worked with have simply wanted me to write and submit articles. Clients are more often than not looking for a bigger solution than that — they want the articles to be written, published and promoted. They want to make sure that their online marketing strategy is sound. They want their website to look good and convert well.

If you can build your business around the basis of offering a well-rounded service that incorporates more than just writing, you’ll find that the scope for the development is huge. This is not something that you should worry too much about when just getting started but it definitely is something to bear in mind for the future. Although your time is finite (which in turn limits your earning potential), a content marketing business that caters to a client’s every need is scalable and could represent the next level for your business.

In the meantime, just focus on developing your skills around your writing ability. This is another reason why having your own blog can be so valuable — it will give you a well-rounded experience of what creating a successful blog is all about. Your potential value to a client will skyrocket if you can demonstrate that you have true aptitude in blogging and all that it incorporates: social media, SEO, and so on.

Follow the Process

Above I have outlined a broadly chronological approach to successful freelance writing. While there is plenty more to be said about each principle and many other things to take into consideration, this barebones process will certainly get you on the right path and will make you far better equipped than most of your competition to succeed.

If you have any questions regarding the above or in fact any questions about freelance writing at all, please do not hesitate to get in touch via the comments section below. I look forward to reading your thoughts!

How to Launch a Six Figure Blogging Business (with $89.59)

Written by Tom Ewer on February 11, 2013. 71 Comments

Dollar SignIn my experience, the assumption amongst people who want to make money online is that they will be able to do it without spending a great deal of money.

That was certainly my attitude – in fact, when I first decided that I wanted to leave work behind, I was loathe to spend anything. For instance, back in May 2011 I remember spending quite a while deliberating whether or not I should buy the excellent Market Samurai app.

This attitude can be pretty damaging, as I have discussed before. Generally speaking, you do need to spend money to make money. However, when it comes to establishing a successful freelance blogging business, the amount required is very little indeed.

In fact, I believe that you can establish a six-figure income from freelance writing without having to spend any more than $40.49 up front. In this post I am going to explain why, and show you how.

Money Isn’t a Necessity

The inspiration for this post actually came from an article I read recently over at Make a Living WritingThe Essential Item You Need for Freelance Success That No One Dares Name. The item in question is of course money.

I read Carol’s post with a great deal of interest and was compelled to leave a comment (something I rarely do these days):

I think you can launch a successful freelance career without spending a penny. Don’t get me wrong — it would be tough as hell and you’d have to hustle like mad, working harder than you might if you invested some money in key areas (e.g. hiring a web designer), and you might not advance as quickly as you would otherwise, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is possible. I pretty much did it myself.

You may be left temporarily puzzled by the fact that my comment runs contrary to the purpose of this post, but while I believe that you can launch a viable freelance business without spending a penny, I believe that spending a little can help you a great deal. And if I’m honest with you, if you can’t bring yourself to invest $40.49 in your fledgling business then you may want to reassess your priorities – I’m sure that 95% of the people reading this (if not more) can afford the cost.

Why Freelance Writing is a Low Overheads Business

Let’s consider the two very simple steps involved in getting paid to write:

  1. you write something, and
  2. you get paid for it.

On the assumption that you already own a computer and have access to the Internet, those two steps don’t require any further financial investment. Whilst you can invest in any number of items that will help your business grow more quickly and effectively, they are not entirely necessary. By the time you need to invest money in certain things (such as an accountant), you’ll be making enough money to recoup the costs.

And you can make enough money – trust me. To prove it, let’s do a bit of quick and simple math.

If we assume that you will write for six hours per day for 50 weeks of the year, you will need to earn $67 per hour to earn $100,000 per year. In December 2012, after twelve months of fulltime freelance writing, my equivalent hourly rate was $92. I don’t say that to boast – I say it to make absolutely clear what is possible in the freelance blogging business.

When it comes to making a start with freelance blogging, your required financial investment is merely a function of spending a very modest amount on the right things. And that’s where this post comes in.

Your First Investment: A Domain Name and Hosting ($71.40)

Freelance writers don’t need a blog, but if you want to be a successful freelance writer, you should have one. If you want to know why, read this.

While you can create a blog for free with the likes of WordPress.com, yourfreelancesite.wordpress.com doesn’t project a particularly professional image. Ideally you should have an identifiable and branded standalone domain – something that you can hang your hat on and refer to with pride. yourfreelancesite.com is much better than the free alternative.

BluehostSo, you should invest in a domain name and a hosting account. For that purpose, I have held accounts with many of the major hosting providers and have just one effusive recommendation: Bluehost. In my personal experience, the quality of their service and support is far better than the alternatives and their prices are comparable or even cheaper than the competition. Read more here on why Leaving Work Behind (and all of my sites) run on Bluehost.

To start off you will need no more than their most basic package, which at the time of writing will cost you just $3.49 per month for hosting (charged up front over a 36 month period). The domain name is free.

Let’s say you go with the 12 month option at $5.95 per month. That’ll set you back $71.40. Bluehost offer a 30 day, no quibbles money back guarantee, and pro rata refunds after that time, so there’s no risk.

You’ll then need a copy of WordPress (which if you don’t know is a really easy-to-use content management system), which is completely free and can be installed in a couple of clicks. If you’re a complete WordPress newbie then I would recommend that you begin your education here.

Your Second Investment: The Yahoo! Style Guide ($23.99)

Yahoo! Style GuideThere is no such thing as a perfect writer – there are those that just write, and those that strive to be better. You need to be in that second category to grow your income, and as such, you need to learn as much as possible about writing for the web.

While you could (and should) trawl blogs in an attempt to learn more about the art of writing for the web, the Yahoo! Style Guide is too good a resource to ignore. It is a complete guide to writing for the web, and when I say complete, I truly mean it. It is my bible – I learned more from reading it than I did from all of the “how to write for the web” blog posts I have read in the past 18 months.

Please note that I have stated the retail price above – at the time of writing the Yahoo! Style Guide is available for just $18.19 on Amazon. Grab it while it’s cheap!

Your Third Investment: Freshbooks ($0)

FreshbooksWhile you could track your time with a spreadsheet and raise invoices manually, you’d be better off putting that wasted time to better use (i.e. by using it to make more money). That’s where Freshbooks comes in – it’s a complete solution for time tracking and invoicing.

You may be wondering why this requires a financial investment given that I’ve put a big fat zero up in the header, but that is because Freshbooks offers a free 30 day trial. You get a month to figure out how awesome it is, at which point you do have to start paying $19.95 per month.

To put that in perspective, you should expect to be earning that much (or more) per hour within your first month of operation as a freelance blogger. And let me tell you – Freshbooks will save you a great deal more than an hour per month in the long run.

That’s All Folks

That’s it folks – above is the sum total of the investment that I recommend.

Paid to BlogI am however going to mention one more thing. Regular LWB readers will know that I am not the salesman type, which is why I have deliberately neglected to mention Paid to Blog up until this point. However, it would be odd of me not to mention it, since I consider it a complete A-Z guide to launching a successful freelance blogging business. I would of course heartily recommend that you grab yourself a membership, and with it costing from just $29, you’re hardly breaking the bank.

With the above tools in your back pocket, you’ll have everything (and more) that is necessary to start a successful freelance blogging business. You’ll be able to:

  1. Create a blog and start writing posts to use as samples
  2. Submit guest posts to blogs to use as samples
  3. Scout potential jobs (both on job boards and elsewhere)
  4. Submit pitches and land your first set of clients
  5. Track your time and invoice your clients

I’ll sign off with a caveat, which brings me back to Carol’s argument that the essential item you need for freelance success is money. You already know that I disagree, so the question therefore is, what do I think is the essential item for freelance success?

The answer, in one word, is hustle. You need a solid work ethic, courage, and a willingness to fail (and subsequently learn from your failures). No amount of financial investment will be enough if you do not have a strong will to succeed – always keep that in mind.

I appreciate that what I have outlined above is a blueprint – not a complete guide. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask them via the comments section below!

Photo Credit: mag3737