Today’s interview bring you a freelance writer who has accomplished a lot in the past few years.
After taking an opportunity as a freelance blogger (without any previous professional writing experience), he parlayed that into a business where he earned in the neighborhood of $150 an hour (and sometimes more).
Today, he’s moved away from being a writer and now manages other writers as part of his blogging agency. He also writes (and has a great community) at his own blog, Leaving Work Behind.
In this interview, he shares the reasons why he believes certain writers can command a much higher hourly rate, while others are simply stuck at writing $5 articles. Hint: It has nothing to do with being an amazing writer.
Tom, I’ve been following you online for quite a while, and it’s been incredible seeing your business and blog (Leaving Work Behind) evolve and grow. Tell us about yourself and your journey.
How did you initially go about leaving your job behind, and what got you into blogging/freelance writing? What are you currently most focused on within your online business?
Well the story’s pretty well documented on my blog so I won’t bore you too much, but in a nutshell, I spent six months struggling to make any money online before I stumbled upon freelance blogging in September 2011. I never looked back, and these days I am a full time “professional blogger,” generating income through writing services and my own blog, Leaving Work Behind.
My foray into freelance blogging was borne out of frustration and a willingness to try just about anything (legal!) to build a successful online business. I didn’t have any grand ambitions to become a successful freelance blogger; I just spotted the opportunity and ran with it!
My current focus is on building my writing business (which is a natural evolution from my freelance blogging days; I now outsource the writing work and operate in an editorial capacity) and continuing to build my two online communities: Leaving Work Behind and Healthy Enough.
I’m interested in learning more about Healthy Enough. Obviously, the “health and fitness” niche is ridiculously competitive. What are you doing (or what have you done) to promote the site and stand out? (Or put more simply – how can people who want to blog in competitive niches still find success?)
My focus with Healthy Enough has been to make a health and fitness site for real people looking for realistic results.
In terms of promotion, my strategy is simple: create valuable content and share it with influencers. I strongly believe that if your content is good enough, there is little else you need to do.
What has been your greatest success so far with your business?
I would say that my greatest overall success was when I transitioned from freelance blogging into a “blogging agency,” for lack of a better expression (I’ve still not figured out how best to define that side of my business).
Before I did that, I was spending 2-3 hours per day on writing for my clients alone, which when coupled with the writing I did for my blogs, was starting to burn me out. The money was great (in one month I earned over $6,000) but I was fed up with the amount of writing I was doing.
Once I had transitioned to the new business model in which I outsourced the writing while maintaining a “quality control” position between my writers and clients, I had a great deal more time to dedicate to other products. The financial effect wasn’t huge either — I was spending perhaps 15-20% of the time I had beforehand, but still earned 60% of the income. I was pretty happy with that outcome!
Unfortunately, I spent the subsequent months largely wasting that time as I realized I could earn decent money while doing very little work. However, I feel like I’m now coming out of that phase and am ready to take on the world again!
I know freelance writing is a bit of an art, and everyone approaches it differently. What intrigues me so much about freelance writing is that the business has SO many different segments. There are people who essentially write garbage for $3 an article, and then there are others who are amazing writers and can command $200 or more for a blog post.
The thing that I find most interesting is that there seems to be demand for each of these segments, so each has its place in this world. Putting aside “natural writing ability,” what is it that you think make the $200+ per article writers so successful? What’s the #1 thing holding everyone else back?
Professionalism and reliability. That’s right — skills that are not directly related to writing at all! That may come as a surprise, but it’s true.
As someone who has worked as a freelance blogger and works with freelance bloggers, I feel that I have a unique insight on this. I would much rather work with a good writer who delivers on deadline, communicates quickly and efficiently and acts in a professional manner, than a great writer who lacked those “secondary” skills.
Obviously, you have to be good enough to write good pieces. But beyond that, you need to be all of those things that most freelance bloggers aren’t.
Let’s take a step back and look more generally at blogging and/or freelance writing. If you had to take your best advice and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
Focus on the relationship between you and your reader — it counts for more than anything else. [Click here to tweet this]
For someone who is just starting out wanting to get paid for blogging or freelance writing, what advice would you offer? What do you wish someone told you about when you first started?
I wish that my course had been available 😉
Shameless self promotion aside, I wish someone had told me that becoming a successful freelance blogger is far less about how good a writer you are and far more about other things.
As I explained above, professionalism and reliability definitely come into play. However, building a reputation for yourself and having a place where potential clients can find you (i.e. a website and blog) is invaluable. There’s a reason why I haven’t sought out a client since November 2011 — they all come to me, through my blog.
Finally, where can people find you online?
We’re a very friendly and helpful bunch over there (and yes, I do post regularly, unlike most forum owners!). I’d love to hear from your readers!
Thanks for the interview, Tom – congratulations on all the success you’ve had with your business so far.
Have you tried freelance writing before? What’s your experience been like? Leave a comment and share your thoughts on the interview!
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