Getting a Freelance Foot in the Door: Creating Side Income to Dump Debt Faster

It makes perfect sense and I CANNOT believe I hadn’t considered it before now. What is it? Getting started as a freelance writer, of course.

Sometimes it just takes a well-timed comment; an innovative challenge; or a providential seat in an understated, yet fabulous workshop to spark an idea.

I’ve written continuously for this blog and generously as a contributor and guest blogger for other sites. I’ve never considering offering my writing services as a freelancer.

Getting Started as a Freelance Writer

One reason is I’m passionate about what I do. However, passion alone won’t pay the light bill.

I’m mostly familiar with content mills that ask people to crank out articles or blog posts for a few dollars. I’ve seen some string together enough jobs to make it worthwhile. They work for some – it just wasn’t appealing for moi.

I also have small children, so running around the city to do one-off gigs is a bit of a challenge – schedule wise – and also not so appealing.

That’s why connecting with like-minded souls at conferences is such a valuable opportunity. One that I had yet to fully appreciate until this year.

I recently traveled to Atlanta to attend a Type-A Parent blogging conference. I’m not a type-A personality, but I don’t think anyone really cared.

As with the FinCon15 experience, I want to lay out my potential ROI because conferences can be pricey. The question must be pondered, is it worth the money?

 

Type-A Parent Expenses

This conference was actually much cheaper than FinCon. I also traveled solo – sans family. My expenditures included:

  • Hotel: $189. I shared a room with a fabulous blogging bud for two days to save money.
  • Flight: $236. Not bad for a last minute purchase, but I did have to take early morning flights to get that price. I didn’t check bags to save fees since my beloved SouthWest was actually much more expensive this time. I really missed the humorous safety announcement…not the same
  • Ground transportation: MARTA (the public train) dropped me off a block from the hotel for a measly $6. I was only staying one day and never plan to take home trinkets so I was traveling light.
  • Travel Home: $2.25 on CTA (I didn’t want to wait on a pick up at O’Hare during rush hour)
  • Food: $0. We ate well. My compliments to the Hyatt and the Type-A planning team.
  • Registration: $0. Again, I facilitated a workshop so the conference fee was waived.

The total came to $460.

 

Evaluating ROI & Freelancing

I attended a workshop called “Getting Paid to Write” facilitated by Theresa Ceniccola. She shared valuable tips from her nearly two decades of freelance writing experience. Pearls of wisdom like:

  • Attend professional meetings, workshops, and conferences to find clients who need your services.
  • Set your prices before you start pitching jobs.
  • Understand that the freelance rate can be anywhere from $50 – $75/hour.
  • Recognize that freelance writing opportunities exist in every industry and can vary wildly from writing insert tags for under garments to corporate annual reports.
  • Realize that many of her clients are repeat customers.

She also shared some income numbers which really got my attention. In addition to the hourly rate of $50 – $75/hour, her freelance network reports charging fees such as:

  • $200 – $400 per blog post
  • $1000 – $2000 for an ebook. Did you know plenty of people who pay to have someone ghost write their ebook? You can estimate that a decent ebook contains around 16,000 words. However, the length varies widely.
  • $1000 for 3 minute video scripts
  • Freelance writers can generate $75,000 – $130,000 annually.

With this new inspiration, I set about getting started as a freelance writer.

I looked at a few sites that a freelance writer had previously suggested:

  • Skyword
  • Contently
  • Clearvoice

From what I can tell, these sites have potential. I’ve created profiles, but there has been no immediate response. To date, it’s has only been 3 days. I’ll give it more time before I weigh in.

I do have a few local conferences coming up in the next month. I was going for the fellowship. They might also be opportunities to source for new clients. Being the less than patient person I can be when great new ideas hit, I thought about how I might seek additional freelance opportunities now.

Hello Craigslist.

Within 2 hours, I had secured a freelance gig that will offset nearly all of the money I paid to attend Type-A.  I met with the foundation’s founder within one day and will be drawing up a scope of work shortly. They need the first half of the project which includes curriculum development and PowerPoint slides within 1 month.

Very doable.

I also received a few other responses which after further review weren’t the right fit.

Not bad for a member of the microwave generation.

I also have a “writing test” in the works with a potential client who’ll need help on an ongoing basis. It’s not set in stone, but they did respond to my pitch within a day of submitting.

What does this tell me?

I should absolutely pursue freelance writing. Maybe you should think about it too.

 

My Freelance Approach Thus Far

While I haven’t gone door to door just yet (a strategy Theresa also suggested for finding clients), I have used the following sites which have been fruitful.

  • Craigslist. Look at the Writing Services, Gigs section, or other topics that fit your skill set. I have a background in IT development so I’m also open to (less enthusiastically though) freelance work in that field.
  • Indeed.com. Whether the answer is yes or no, I appreciate a quick response. I’ve submitted 3 resumes and received 2 responses in the same day. I believe the writing test was a response from a freelance opportunity on this site. The account management section also allows you to track the positions to which you’ve already applied. That’s handy so you don’t unintentionally spam a potential client.
  • FlexJobs.com. There is a monthly subscription for this site. Use NEWSLETTER in the coupon code field to receive 30% off for your first month. However, those with specialized skills will find plenty of options for advanced, higher paying jobs. I also like that I can search for telecommuting only positions and I don’t have to worry about scams and bogus claims that are prevalent on Craigslist. All jobs are hand screened. I tried it for a month and came away with two decent paying gigs. Not bad for $10.

 

Quick Lessons Learned

I certainly believe that having a blog and available writing samples contributes heavily to such an productive initial start. Every one of the ads for help asked for 3 – 5 writing samples. Having a blog makes submitting samples super easy.

If you are interested in doing freelance writing, I would definitely suggest setting up a blog and getting started with a few posts. Setting up a blog is actually very simple and won’t cost you much at all. I have plenty of suggestions for anyone who wants help setting up a site on a budget that will be professional and give you the experience needed.

Leave a comment below if you’d like my help getting started as a freelance writer and I’ll be in touch.

A blog would be helpful for a variety of freelance skills sets, not just writing. Photography, editing, graphics, IT, training, product/service reviews or tutoring are just a few services that could help you get a freelance foot in the door.

I like the idea of freelance work to create an additional stream of income that will help you pay off debt faster. Between this #SideHustle Challenge on Fiverr and my seat in a workshop on getting paid to write, I’ve been inspired to try these things so that you might be inspired as well.

I’ll keep you posted.

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