If work takes precedence from 9 - 5, Monday to Friday, it can be difficult to start a side hustle that can potentially evolve into a full-time business - mak
- Business Ideas
- Create a Website
- Make Money
Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to hire yourself as a freelance writer and turn that part-time job into a successful business that earns decent money and gives you the freedom to work from home (or anywhere you want).
The Internet has an insatiable demand for content, making freelance writing one of the most popular WAH (Work At Home) job choices for thousands of bloggers and journalists around the world. This is because virtually every aspect of digital marketing relies, to some degree or another, on great underlying content.
Whether it is an article for content marketing, teasers and tweets for social media marketing, or guides and reviews for affiliate marketing, someone has to create that content and someone is making money from it. The only difference between the people with a writing job (creating content for the people who make money from that content) is a revenue generation platform - that either sells products and services (i.e. eCommerce), or sells advertising, or whatever.
Click on any of the links in this document outline to skip to that section:
1. Create Your Own Freelance Writing Job
1.1. What You Need
1.2. Pick a Niche
1.3. Where to Find Freelance Writing Jobs
1.4. Create an Online Writing Platform
1.5. Start Writing
1.6. Pitching Articles
2. Turn Your Writing Job into a Home Business
2.1. Become a Home Business Owner
2.2. Build & Nurture Relationships
Let's get started...
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Creating your own freelance writing job might sound a bit odd. After all, you can't pay yourself to write. Or can you?
As it turns out, you can.
You might not earn a lot of money. It might be commission based. It might be sporadic and unreliable to start with, but it is possible to write and get paid without necessarily being employed by a 3rd party company. Here's a list of ways to potentially make money from freelance writing:
As your own employer it's up to you to decide what mix of strategies to use in order to start making money. Getting paid writing gigs is arguably the lowest risk strategy to begin with, but it's hard to land those types of jobs without first building up a strong portfolio. Most employers want to hire writers who have demonstrable experience and, ideally, preexisting reach and influence.
What's right for you also depends on your focus/niche. We'll look at making money again in more depth a bit later on.
Here's a list of things you need to get started:
The first three items on this list are pretty straight forward, but if you don't have any experience with websites, don't worry. It's really easy to setup a blog or website without needing any technical knowledge using one of the top website builders.
It might also help to learn a little bit about HTML, although it's not strictly necessary any more.
Buying a laptop or notebook can be tricky too, but you can see a list of deals on office supplies to find good quality equipment at great discounts.
Step four deserves a bit more attention because it will play a huge role in determining how you write, who your audience is, what they want, and how to make money from them.
There are three main parts to choosing a niche topic to focus on:
It's important to choose a topic that you are knowledgeable on, talented at, or interested in. This is because success won't come overnight - despite the number of websites out there promising to show you how to do precisely this (if only you buy their $10 eBook first). Simply put,
Don't be afraid to choose a really focused niche. There is so much online content available on almost any subject that it is far better to build one fantastic resource on a narrow subject (and become the trusted resource and authority) than to be a generalist.
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From the perspective of building a passive income stream from your content, dominating Google search is vital. Organic traffic derived from search is arguably the single most valuable channel so it becomes important to be able to win specific, targeted keywords and phrases relating to your subject matter. Simply put; this is easier to accomplish with highly focused content.
It's also important to consider how big the market is (summarised by two questions you must answer):
Celebrity gossip might have a huge audience, but this traffic is notoriously difficult to convert and make money from. Alternatively, being an expert on accounting practices might not have a broad appeal, but the audience will potentially spend a lot of money maintaining their accounting systems and software.
The Web is full of job boards, online forums and recruitment sites brimming with editorial and content related jobs. Here's a list of freelance writing jobs to help you get started.
Most articles you read will advise you to create a website. But a website doesn't really encompass what is required.
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I have chosen the term platform to mean all of the following:
In other words, a website is only one piece of an intricate web of content plus marketing & sales channels, designed to funnel traffic towards conversions in order to generate sustainable profits.
The type of platform you create depends entirely on your audience and how you intend to make money. For example, if you want to start out as a paid freelance writer it is likely that you will need a portfolio website to show off your work as well as provide information on your rates and how to hire you. Alternatively, if you want to earn money via affiliates your website will need a blog so that you can create plenty of juicy content to attract organic search traffic via Google.
Freelance writing comes with a few basic requirements. Arguably the most important is being able to produce quality content. Learning how to write for the Web takes a little bit of practice. Online audiences tend to have short attention spans so Web copy tends to be presented in short, bite-sized chunks as opposed to densely packed paragraphs used traditionally.
Content also needs to be visually appealing.
Charts, data, infographics, video clips and other media are now part and parcel of almost all content. Lists, headers, document structure, callouts, quotes, and links all play an important role in creating an immersive content experience for the reader. Plus, readers are conditioned to expect a high standard of content because they have been consuming professionally published articles for years (and yes, you have to compete with the best in order to win market share).
Here's a table listing the different types of online writing that can either earn money or help build your sales funnels (and hopefully contribute to making money down the line):
|1. Blog||No||Builds authority and trust in your own website. Potential to capture page rankings in Google to drive organic search traffic.||High risk with no immediate pay out. Initially, it is unlikely that Google will rank your content - until such time as the domain has authority and trust (i.e. quality backlinks)|
|2. Guest post||No||Exposes you and your content to a different audience. Potential to pick up social media followers and drive traffic back to our own site. Build relationships with editors.||Unpaid. Difficult to find editors willing to publish. Zero chance of generating revenue.|
|3. Freelance guest post (i.e. writing on behalf of a bigger company as a freelancer)||No||Easier to get articles published on a variety of sites. Potential to build relationships with valuable influencers, editors & publishers.||Unpaid. Often heavily edited. Low chance of backlinks or traffic.|
|4. Commissioned freelance post||Yes||Paid. Sometimes additional commissions for hitting traffic targets can be substantial.||High competition. Low chance of landing high pay, regular work.|
While the first three options are unpaid, they are still important because they provide a stepping stone to building relationships with industry players who might be willing to offer paid writing work down the line. Option 3, in particular, is desirable because freelancing for a big company means that your content is exposed to a lot of important people.
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Robert McGuire over at McGuire Editorial has this to say about why pitching articles is important as well as a few important considerations...
The trick is to do the opposite of what most people are doing with "guest posting," which is treating it as a way to get links. If you are concerned primarily with having Google's crawl find the link, then you tend toward scaling that effort and ignoring the actual quality of your article. That just frustrates the editors you are pitching, because they don't want superficial work that doesn't add value for their readers.
You hear a lot about "thought leadership marketing," but that tends to get watered down to refer to any content that's about an important subject, even it contributes nothing helpful to the conversation on that subject. You have to actually have a new and useful - or at least provocative - thought, and that's not usually scalable.
If you're doing guest posting right, you won't be able to do it that often."
In fact, pitching articles is so important, it's worth looking at it in a bit more depth.
Pitching content to other writers, editors, publishers and bloggers is not always easy. Most popular platforms are inundated with requests to publish content. This makes it difficult to cut through the clutter and stand out.
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Fortunately, there are a lot of great people who are willing to share the lessons they've learned. Sam Warren, the marketing manager at RankPay has this to share...
Instead, I'd encourage you to be quirky, unique, and employ humor in your pitches. By doing so you'll...
I used this exact approach countless times, but one of the most notable examples was when I approached ProBlogger. It's kind of "meta"; in the sense I took a unique approach to pitching them about an article that would cover being unique.
See what I did there?
Seems silly, but it worked! You can see the article entitled Blogging in 2017: How to Disrupt and Get Noticed. It was a big win for me personally, and it was also fun working with them since our conversations were genuine and authentic right off the bat. That's thanks to a no BS pitch email.
So give it a shot. Be brave. Be yourself. See where it takes you!
I predominantly like this advice because it gets to the heart of the matter - ultimately, you are dealing with humans, not faceless automatons at the end of an email. That's not the only aspect of pitching you should be cognisant of though. Robin Salter of Kwipped has this pragmatic advice...
I look on Linked-in to see if the editor or writer is there. Almost all editors and writers are on Linkedin. I ask to connect with a note mentioning something about a specific article they wrote or published - usually a compliment of some kind is included. I review their Linked-in profile to see if we have any common ground that cold be an opening for some back and forth communication.
Once we’ve connected on a somewhat personal/professional level, I mention that I have an idea for some content they may be interested in and I ask them if we could collaborate on piece of content together. As long as my content idea is compelling, relevant and a value to their readership, I have a very high success rate.
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Good advice. Build a relationship first, before making a pitch. At the very least this strategy will ensure that the editor in question will give your article pitch more than a cursory glance. If the content is good quality and a good match for what the editor is looking for, you should find success.
Unfortunately, it's not always easy to know when to write for yourself, or pitch an article. Ultimately, it's up to you to choose the right balance between generating a bit of cash directly (from paid writing gigs), guest articles (that help to build relationships), and building up a strong body of your own content that will serve as the basis for taking the plunge and starting a business.
How will you know when's the right time?
Easy. The second there is enough income (between paid writing gigs, or revenue generated from your own website/blog) to employ a good writer, or enough visibility to attract good quality freelance writers who are prepared to write for free (because it is good exposure for them), it's time.
Someone once told me,
In other words, while you're working as a freelance writer you are contributing to the sales funnel of another business. Perhaps your article reaches a new reader who signs up to their newsletter, or a new customer who makes a purchase, or buys their eBook. All you have to do to make the leap from having a freelance writing job to having a business is to make money from content that doesn't rely solely on your own labor on your own platform.
There are a few ways to achieve this:
The strategy for either one is exactly the same - create effective sales funnels. The concept of a sales funnel can be visualized like this:
Regardless of whether it is creating a website, writing an article, joining a social networking, starting an email marketing list, or whatever, everything should be constructed as part of a sales funnel to reach out to people and draw them towards a conversion.
In order to properly construct these sales funnels it's important for you to have enough time to plan them out and have them implemented without having to do all the work yourself. Find someone to create the content you create so that you have time to...
Your job, as a new business owner, should be focused on growing the business - not doing the day to day work (otherwise, you have a job). That's why it's important to have a bit of money coming in (or saved up) so that you can pay contractors, part-time employees, or even full-time writers to generate the content that forms the basis of the business.
One thing you'll need to do, before spending a dime converting your writing operation into a full-fledged business, is create a business plan. This will help you to understand what opportunities and obstacles lie in your way, what you have in terms of resources, what you need, and where you want to get to.
As taken from our free business plan template,
While you may spot plenty of additional revenue generation opportunities during the course of putting together a business plan, in general you want to either (or both):
Either way, you're going to need to have a strong network of relationships to make it work. Contrary to popular belief, high ranking content is about relationships, not search optimization. Without the relationships, built up over the course of working as a freelance writer, it is very difficult to command high paid work, or generate enough buzz and interest in your content to drive meaningful traffic (via social media, or Google search).
It's the depth and breadth of the network of relationships you nurture that will ultimately determine how well your home business does. Since relationships are so important, it's worth exploring a few useful hacks and strategies that will make the transition from job to business a lot smoother.
When it comes to creating valuable relationships online, the best place to look is influencer marketing.
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Influencer marketing relies on building non-commercial (i.e. human) relationships that are beneficial for business. Unlike traditional, paid relationships (i.e. celebrity endorsements) that rely on financial compensation, influencer relationships are essentially about making friends... with people who have access to your target audience... and could really help out if they chose to mention or link to your content.
The basic process is as follows:
The trick here is not to treat people as a business commodity. Don't spam them with emails asking them to share your articles. Don't ask them for anything. Instead, offer them something for free. It could be talking about how great they are, or writing about something awesome they've done. People like to be praised more than they like to be spammed.
Some general rules of relationship building for business are:
By starting out as a freelance writer in order to build up a portfolio of content and a few strong relationships, you are able to provide an opportunity to change focus and start creating effective sales channels by building relationships while your team generates the content that powers the business' growth.
It's not always easy. There's a lot of competition out there. There are plenty of pitfalls. But hopefully, by keeping in mind that it is ultimately relationships that drive success, you will be able to generate profits and become successful in no time at all.
Are you a writer? Do you have your own business? What do you do that enhances your success? Share your thoughts, tips and advice in the comments to help other aspiring writers and entrepreneurs.
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