Success Story: From $1 to $250 per article in 5 Months » Your Online Biz

Success Story: From $1 to $250 per article in 5 Months

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.

My Advice

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 …

My Advice

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.

My Advice

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:

  1. Use cold calling and cold e-mailing to land 5-10 new high paying clients with consistent blogging work.
  2. Subcontract the work out to a freelance writing team.
  3. Profit.


What does your plan look like?

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A full-time freelance writer and part-time novelist. I often write academic projects and online content related to entertainment, literature, movie reviews, online writing, businesses in general, blogging and history.

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Posted in Blog, Success Story
26 comments on “Success Story: From $1 to $250 per article in 5 Months
  1. Thanks for an inspiring post. I’ve been pitching to jobs offered on the ProBlogger JobBoard. Good to hear that it’s a good starting place.

    I’ve tried a few other sites. Actually did get two writing jobs but never got paid, which was not my goal in writing for them.

    Since then I discovered the ProBlogger JobBoard and pitching to other websites. I look forward to be able to say I’m happy with my income.

    Thanks again for the inspiration.

  2. Nice read there. So cold-pitching works?

    I’m also going to give it as try.

    Thanks for the insights, mate.

  3. Damn, that’s really awesome. I have been following your progress I think since you started freelance writing from scratch, and it’s really motivating to watch you build up your business. I have to admit that I’m a bit jealous! I’m improving my own business slowly but surely and hopefully soon I’ll have my own success story to share with the world. Did you get most of your clients through cold pitches or through your website? Curious.
    Timothy Gagnon recently posted…Bamidele Onibalusi’s The Freelance Writer’s Success Starter Guide Product ReviewMy Profile

  4. I really enjoyed this blog post. I live in Lithuania, where $500 a month just like in India is pretty good money.

    So, I’m thinking of taking this path of Freelance Writer.

    I already have a blog, which generates some traffic so, I might be able to leverage it for getting client :)
    Liudas Butkus recently posted…My Journey To Reaching Fiverr’s Level 2 Seller And 7 Tips To Reach It FasterMy Profile

  5. Jo says:

    Hey Jonathan! What a very inspiring story :) Most writers have a hard time establishing their online writing careers. However, in your case, you did it in only in a few months! Wow! That’s simply awesome :)

  6. Maketta says:

    Hello Johnathan,

    This is a very inspirational story. You really gave us all the detailed step by step information and it showed that you worked really hard and it paid off. Thank you for sharing this with us! I found this post on Kiinged.com and Kiinged it.
    Maketta recently posted…Are You Struggling To Get Your Business Off The Ground?My Profile

  7. Ann07 says:

    Inspirational story, I must conclude.

    Thanks for sharing us your success story, Jonathan.

    Well, I’m impressed and I feel so good to know from you that I can also walk through the road of success that you’re walking right now

    Thanks for giving advices and such an inspirational thought that we can also earn money in a wise way for just a short period of time.

    More powers!


    By the way, I found this post shared on kingged.com
    Ann07 recently posted…Top 10 Affiliate Programmes To Make You Money in 2014My Profile

  8. Darnell, awesome post! Having known John for a minute now it’s been fun to track his progress. I’ve had similar growth as a freelance writer, going from nothing, to busting my ass to get $5 an article, to making 4 figures during months….all because I improved my self image and moved up a few circles, while improving my writing skills.

    I found this post on kingged(dot)com and will give it a juicy thumbs up to boost your traffic.

    Thanks guys!
    Ryan Biddulph recently posted…5 Tips to Get More Facebook Page Likes without Selling Your Soul outMy Profile (dofollow)

  9. Sunday says:

    The offer some clients make for work in some cases are really ridiculous. Everything still depends on how the writer sees himself. Understandably, some writers can go for anything, this is pure devaluation.

    A lot of lessons are learned from this post and I am pretty sure many would correct their mistakes of sticking with the Content Mills experience!

    This comment was shared in kingged.com where this article was found.

    Sunday – kingged.com contributor

  10. Enstine Muki says:

    Excellent! I love how you dared to come out of the poverty zone – $1 per 500word article is miserably. I’m sure you can keep this up and build a rich writing profile -proving excellent articles and getting paid big money. That’s how it is ;)
    Enstine Muki recently posted…Author hReview $70 blog commenting contest – Drop a comment for $70My Profile (dofollow)

  11. Hi there!

    Stories have always attracted me to read, especially the success stories. There is a lot to learn in your story!

    You have done a great job revealing this story. I am sure it would help many to get on to track with freelance writing and not make the mistakes you made in your life!

    I would like to say “Best of Luck” for your future.

    Wishing you a great success ahead!


    PS: I found this post on Kingged.com, where it was shared! You can find the same comment over there.
    Yashraj Kakkad recently posted…GPT Websites: Make Money Online Without Possessing a SkillMy Profile

  12. Thoroughly enjoyed reading the story. Right from the humble start to the present good situation that you enjoy, I enjoyed reading my way through that story! And man, I’m impressed. Not only impressed, but inspired by the fact that I too can some day clock such impressive figures, earning wise.

    You see, I had been into freelance writing since my college days. I used to write for sports blogs and education related sites. It is what lead me to start a blog and dive into the blogging world! But throughout my freelancing works, I’ve never been able to amass such impressive revenue.

    The short span of time in which you gained that status and respect is what I noted in particular. This article has sure inspired me! I thank you for sharing your story with us readers!

    I found the link to this article on Kingged.

    Arun Kallarackal recently posted…24 Things You Don’t (But Should) Know about SnapchatMy Profile

  13. Always awesome to see writers move up and earn more!

    Have to say your plan to quickly start subcontracting out your writing work is fraught with peril.

    That might work in the $1-a-blog post world, but when you’re getting $250 a post, it’s usually because they like *your* writing. Fobbing the writing off on others who may or may not have your talent or be as responsible about deadlines can = many problems and lost clients.

    If $1500 a month sets you up like a king, I’d recommend just continuing to write for your clients and prospects to find similar ones. Then, serve your clients yourself. That’s only a commitment to write about 6 posts a month! You can easily do it yourself.

    Don’t think about subcontracting until you are maxed out and have more work than you can handle…and then proceed with caution.
    Carol Tice recently posted…Is This Missing Piece Stalling Your Freelance Writing Career?My Profile (dofollow)

    • Excellent point Carol, quality is hard to duplicate.

      Success is there for the taking if you can recognize it when it’s in your hands there’s no need to risk what you’ve gained trying to do too much too fast.

      Thanks for stopping by.
      Darnell Jackson recently posted…What I learned from BG Mahesh the founder of Oneindia.inMy Profile

    • Great, thanks for the advice, Carol.

      Actually, since writing this post (1 month back), I’ve gotten quite a few new clients, so I’m earning closer to 3-4K/month now. It’s a huge workload, and I’m in desperate need of a writer.

      I will agree that it would be very hard to find a writer who can consistently deliver to me and to my clients, I aim to find one(s) all the same. :)

      Also, I don’t do this full-time, so yeah — pretty big workload.


  14. Manisha says:

    This is a brilliant guide. I’ve always wondered how to get more clients and your step-by-step methods are very useful, thank you.

    Wishing you more success!

  15. I so appreciate the realistic step-by-step path you outline here. And, of course, the bottom line is that it’s WORK! So often posts like this skip the middle part and we never know exactly how to go from those $1 gigs to the $250 gigs.

    I myself walked away from the mills and am working through the process of upping my rates with new clients.

    Great road map to success!
    Brenda Spandrio recently posted…5 Ridiculously Simple Areas You Can Declutter Right NowMy Profile

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