This featured guest post is a success story submitted by Jonathan John.
It’s all about how he increased his income per article as a freelance writer from $1 to $250 in 5 short months. Don’t miss the other success stories in this ongoing series.
by Jonathan John
Freelancing freedom. That is what it called, isn’t it? That stage where you’ve finally built a full-time income out of freelance writing?
Well, I’m there. The view’s pretty good from here, y’know. I could definitely get used to it: I work on my own terms. I have no boss. Best of all, I only actually write 1-2 hours a day.
But it didn’t used to be this way. Just five short months ago, I was slaving away for peanuts at content mills, just like 99% of all other beginner freelance writers. Fortunately, I’ve been able to work my way up from the days of $1 an article to my most recent accomplishment of a $250 blog post since then, writing for industry-leading blogs in my niches.
But enough about what I do now — let’s start talking about what I did, and how you can do the same.
Stage 1: Content Mills
Content mills are freelancing black holes. Tens of thousands have been suckered into handing over their top-notch writing abiliity to content mills, (very) mistakenly believing that those mills are the end-all and be-all of online freelancing.
So. Not. True.
Here’s the thing — if you sign up and work at a content mill, you’re not just causing problems for yourself. You’re devaluing and undermining freelancers worldwide. The idea of “If I can get content at $0.01 per word, why should I pay $0.10 per word” was ushered into existence by places like Demand Studios and Helium, I’m pretty sure.
At the lowest point in my freelance career, I wrote five 500-word articles for $1 each for Helium … on spec. Two of those articles were accepted for a grand total of $2 (wow, I’m rich!).
To this day, there are still $2 in my Helium account, and I have no intention of writing an additional 9000 words to get to that $20 minimum payout.
Some say that content mills are a good place to gain some experience. Maybe, if you’re talking sites like TextBroker that at least give you opportunity to rise up to 3 cents a word (which is by no means even a mediocre wage).
My advice? Stay away completely. If you want some experience learning how to write online, start a blog. When you’re ready to do it for pay, bypass the $0.01 per word range and (at the very least) start writing for 2-3 cents per word, just to get your feet wet.
Stage 2: Writing @ $0.01 Per Word for Internet Marketers
After a few weeks of toiling away at a content mill that offered performance-based pay, I was cheated out of $325, which I had amassed with a collection of 300 relatively low-quality articles I had composed in two months (talk about overdrive). Still, those articles were earning money both for me and for the content mill. The website in question proclaims that they pay their writers 50% of the ad revenue. Unfortunately, they turned out to be lying scam artists, and they ended up making a total of $725 off of my work. It really was too bad — I had done some calculations, and going at the rate I was then, I would have been easily able to hit $100/day within one year in passive income.
After finally realizing that they had no intention to pay me the money they owed, I ditched that, then headed off to the Warrior Forum to get some advice on how to get my act together and start earning some money online.
Some suggested affiliate marketing for passive income. I tried going that route with two different affiliate websites, but abandoned them both when I didn’t see a dollar of revenue within the first 2-3 months. I’m like that — stubborn and impatient.
A couple weeks after I ditched my sites, I had the opportunity to be mentored by an experienced online marketer. Recognizing my moderate writing talent, he advised me to discard the thought of passive income, and focus on freelancing for private clients — no content mills. I was mildly surprised by the idea of writing for private clients, but I eventually saw the wisdom in it and began my client-hunt.
By a stroke of sheer luck, I was referred to a Warrior Forum member as a writer. The guy ended up hiring me, and I wrote for him at a rate of $0.01 per word. Eventually, I asked for a raise to $0.012 per word (LOL! Talk about thinking small), which he promptly turned down. He had a valid reason — some Australian also wrote for him at $0.01 per word (see what I mean about the devaluation of freelance writing?).
A week or two went by, and then he suddenly he didn’t have any more work for me. Thoroughly annoyed, I decided to start my own writer’s website and blog (it was the “thing” to do, according to quite a few popular freelance writers). I ended up attracting a few other low-paying clients from the Warrior Forum, working a few $0.01-$0.02 per word articles here and there. Needless to say, I was not happy. $5-10/hour really wasn’t my style.
Fortunately for me, though, my first taste of success was just around the corner …
As I mentioned before, writing for private clients 1-3 cents per word is a great way to get your feet wet in the freelance writing world, allowing you to get a feel of how this ship sails.
However, I don’t recommend spending any more than a month writing at this rate. Do not get caught up in a long-term, low-paying job.
Stage 3: Transitioning to $0.10+ Per Word for Respectable Businesses
My first job in terms of okayish pay came from the good ol’ ProBlogger job board.
First off, let’s get one thing straight — the myth that the ProBlogger job board is a waste of time is exactly that. A myth.
Unlike what a lot of freelancing “gurus” will tell you, PB is a fantastic place to pick up well-paying clients. Yes, there are thousands of people viewing each job listing and 50+ applying to each. But even so, if you have real ability to write and a few good clips, you’ll be able to have moderate success with it.
I almost always get put on the prospect’s short list when I apply to a ProBlogger job. The reason for this? I’m not entirely sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the majority of ProBlogger applicants are either ESL, or simply aren’t good writers (shh! Don’t tell Darren I said that!).
Using the ProBlogger and BloggingPro job boards, I eventually worked my way up to around 5-7 cents per word. Due to the fact that I had done my best to learn productive writing habits, I was able to earn in excess of $30-$40 per hour at that rate.
It was at that time when I really realized that freelance blogging is something that can produce good money, should you do it right. Motivated by my earnings, I started pitching small businesses with faltering blogs via e-mail. I sent a good 30-40 of those e-mails over a couple of weeks before I got my first bite just a week or two ago.
And boy, was that bite a big ‘un! The very first post I did for him was for a cool $250. As soon as I had written it, he got back to me telling me how much he loved it, and that he wanted to pay me $700/month for 3 posts.
I was stoked.
Head over to the ProBlogger job board. Now. Check these job boards out while you’re at it, too.
Now hold on – before blindly applying to any and every listing, check to see if your clips match the subject matter. If you specialize, then only apply to the jobs that fit with your specialization.
Lastly (but certainly not least!), research and send pitches/queries to businesses within your niche.
Where I Am Today
Today, I’m able to earn a low four-figure income from my writing, but that amount is literally increasing week by week. Unlike America, India (where I live) is an exceedingly inexpensive place to live. For a bachelor, $500 a month is more than enough for a comfortable lifestyle.
According to the screenshot of my PayPal account, that’s $615 in two weeks, equating to $1300-$1400 a month.
Am I rich? No.
Am I able to live a comfortable lifestyle with this as my online income source? Yes.
Am I happy with my earnings, considering that I was at $100/month less than five months ago? Definitely.
Not only so, but my business and clientele is growing at an astounding rate. For instance, one of my lower-paying clients just offered me a $1500~ ghostwriting gig yesterday that should stretch out over the next couple months.
How could I say no?
My Next Steps
The key to ever successful business is sound planning. So, I’ve got plans for my writing business — big plans.
For starters, beginning next week, I’m going to be cold-calling 10 businesses that fit with my specialization every week day. With the average 2% conversion rate that cold calling usually brings, I should be looking at a new client every 1-2 weeks.
I’ll charge each new client just a little bit more than my last, until I get to the point where I’m earning $0.20-$0.25 per word. As I gain new, higher-paying clients, I’ll give my lower-paying clients a week or two of notice about the rate change. If they can’t accommodate me in their budget anymore, I’ll drop or refer them to a cheaper freelance writer I’m familiar with.
When my clientele gets to the point where I’m snowed over with writing work (3-4 hours a day at $100/hour is my target), and earning a mid-to-high four figures, I’ll scale my writing business up into a subcontracting model where I act as an editor while ghostwriters complete client orders for a 50% profit … sorta like what Tom Ewer does (send me an e-mail if you might like to consider working with me on that basis).
So, my game plan looks something like this:
- Use cold calling and cold e-mailing to land 5-10 new high paying clients with consistent blogging work.
- Subcontract the work out to a freelance writing team.
What does your plan look like?
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