How I Earn A Full-Time Living As A Part-Time Freelance Blogger
Not even a year ago, I was sitting on my couch after putting my 18-month-old twins down for the night, watching a little YouTube, when my husband says to me,
“Do you use the Internet for anything else besides YouTube?”
I casually responded, “Of course silly. I also use Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo Mail.”
That was me.
Those five sites made up 90% of my computer life. Twitter? I thought Twitter was mostly used by celebrities; I never gave it much thought. WordPress? What was that?
I like to think of myself as a successful freelance blogger these days, but talk to me ten months ago and I wouldn’t have had a clue what a permalink was, or why you would need an email list.
I was green. Like, real green.
I knew nothing about hosting, domains or WordPress and I didn’t use Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.
But, in less than a year, I was able to replace my full-time salary as a teacher while working only part-time hours as a stay-at-home mom.
And, since I started freelance blogging, I’ve moved up from making a measly $1.50 a post to commanding up to $250 a post.
What’s great about freelance blogging is you don’t need a lot of technical experience, design skills, coding skills or even a journalism degree.
All you need is a website, a passion to learn and a little marketing savviness.
This is how I earned a full-time living as a freelance writer in six months from scratch.
I developed an online presence
I seriously started thinking about freelance blogging in September 2014.
My husband encouraged me to start a business online since he has his own online business and always thought I could do the same.
My twins, at the time, weren’t even two yet, but they napped consistently and slept through the night. This made it possible for me to work on my writing during their naps and bedtime.
That equaled about 3-4 hours a day – and I still only work that many hours a day almost a year later.
I felt it was important to start out with my own domain name – and to self-host WordPress – from day one. So, I registered a domain, innovativeink.ca, got it hosted and initially began with a free WordPress theme.
In hindsight, I’m not sure if I would go with a ccTLD again. Blogging is a global business so I would go with a .com even if it means having to choose a slightly longer, or more creative name.
And, finally, I signed up for a Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ profile.
This was the beginning of creating a social presence online.
I also began reading other blogs about freelance writing – and blogging tips – to learn what I was getting myself into.
Since no one knew I was a freelance writer online, I started leaving comments on different writing and blogging sites to put my name out there.
But, I soon noticed my comments didn’t have a photo of me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I failed blogging 101: sign up for a Gravatar.
I knew for branding purposes it was beneficial to have my photo show up next to my comments. I signed up for a Gravatar and used the same photo for my website and social media profiles.
Having an online home base, active social media profiles and a Gravatar, helped create my online presence and brand me as a freelance writer.
But, I wasn’t getting paid to write yet.
My first writing gig
My first crack at paid writing was on iWriter, a site commonly referred to as a content mill.
I decided to give iWriter a try because you could start writing and earning money right away – and you could pick your choice of topic from a list. Plus, most article choices were short – under 500 words.
For someone new to online business, writing and using PayPal, I thought I’d see how this would fare out.
To be honest, I hated it. I spent far too much time writing a three hundred word post for pocket change.
I almost quit freelance writing. But, I didn’t.
I decided to move on to Guru, a freelance marketplace. I set up a profile and began pitching, but never landed a gig.
At this point, I wasn’t sure if I was cracked up to be a freelance writer.
But, I was persistent and kept visiting freelance writing sites like Be a Freelance Blogger – and I kept reading and learning about how many stay-at-home-moms built successful freelance writing businesses.
Building my portfolio with guest posts
In October 2014, I focused on pitching to guest blogs within my area of expertise – parenting, natural health, psychology, and career.
I landed my first guest post on a parenting blog after sending this pitch:
At this point, I had a strong writer platform to showcase my work and writing services and used my site to market my business on social media.
Guest posting on authoritative blogs also meant my writing was being seen by thousands of people – expanding my reach and helping me get noticed quickly.
But, I still wasn’t making any profitable gains from freelance blogging. I had to land a freelance writing job or find something else to do where I could stay home, raise my twins and earn an income.
I pitched to anything and everything
I started pitching to freelance writing job ads, on top of publishing weekly content on my blog and writing guest posts for various sites.
The two job boards I used the most were:
I pitched to anything and everything – from health to finance, if I thought I could write about it, I’d send off a pitch letter.
In November – two months after I started writing online – I finally landed my first “real” blogging gig. It was for an auto enthusiast blog and they offered $100 for an 800-word post.
They were looking for a Canadian writer that was also a mother and I fit the profile. I still write for them and enjoy writing on a variety of automotive lifestyle topics.
At this point, I immersed myself in digital marketing and learned how to attract prospective clients to my site.
I poured my efforts into Pinterest and started focusing on creating pin-worthy images on my blog to attract a larger audience.
I also started commenting on influencers’ blog posts to get on their radar and to build a network of bloggers and writers.
I had writing work coming to me
Soon after landing my first real blogging gig, I started receiving enquiries via my contact form on Innovative Ink.
Different companies were requesting my writing services. I was able to start negotiating a higher rate and as a result, I eventually replaced my full-time salary by working part-time as a freelance blogger.
Building my website and blog, guest posting on popular sites, getting noticed by influencers in my industry and having a strong social presence finally paid off.
I currently have a group of clients who require weekly content, and I also have a handful of clients who require content on demand. Also, I recently started blogging here on Blogging Wizard.
But, my biggest achievement so far is landing a financial writing gig for $250 a post.
Now, I am able to leverage these projects in my portfolio as social proof on my website. I also have a testimonials page proving to new clients I am credible, professional and sought after.
Scaling my business
Even though I only work up to four hours a day writing for my clients, I still spend a good portion of my day corresponding with clients, keeping up with social media and managing a new blog I own, FreelancerFAQs – a site for new and established freelance writers.
These non-billable hours add up quickly. It’s not unusual for me to spend an extra hour or two a day tending to these tasks.
My main reason for working at home is to take care of my twin toddlers and if I’m spending time in the morning, afternoon and after dinner online, that’s time away from my children.
With this in mind, I’m scaling my business so I can eventually have multiple streams of income while working fewer hours. Here is my plan:
- Outsource non-billable tasks such as editing, proofreading and fact checking. This leaves me more time to write, pitch and land more
- Offer coaching services to new freelance bloggers. I plan to also create and sell a comprehensive guide for new freelance writers.
- Further develop my copywriting and include that as an additional service.
Many of these goals are already in place and I’m excited about the potential to expand my business.
Wrapping it up
Anyone can break into freelance blogging. As a blogger, you probably looked into affiliate marketing or AdSense for your blog, but why not consider writing on other people’s blogs? And get paid to do it.
Your blog posts can act as an instant portfolio to show prospective clients. You can also add a page or two on your site describing your writing services.
From there, advertise, guest blog and keep on pitching. Pretty soon you’ll land your first client and you’ll be complaining you have too much work on your plate.
Freelance blogging gives you the freedom to work from home on your own terms. You also get paid much sooner than you would by running affiliate offers or displaying ads on your blog, as these companies often have net 30 or net 60 payment terms.
It’s fun, rewarding and a great way to stretch your writer wings.
Now, it’s your turn – what’s your experience? Have you given freelance blogging a try?
About Elna Cain
Elna Cain is a freelance writer who offers ghostwriting, copywriting and blogging services. She works closely with B2C and B2B businesses providing digital marketing content that gains social media attention and increases their search engine visibility. Check out her new free email course for bloggers and writers, Get Paid to Write Online.