While at FinCon, I had the chance to attend a seminar by Holly Johnson. Holly started the blog Club Thrifty with her husband. When she saw the potential that freelance writing held, she was hooked.
Holly has gone from a personal finance blogger to a six-figure freelance writer contributing to sites like Lending Tree, Personal Capital and U.S. Travel and World Report. Today she is sharing her story and tips for balancing a blog, successful freelance writing business and busy family.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did your freelance writing career begin?
I have always been passionate about writing, but I didn’t ramp up my freelance efforts until we started our blog in 2011. Once we launched our blog, it didn’t take long to realize how much opportunity is out there.
I started by accepting one-off writing jobs I could complete in my spare time. Writing as a “side hustle” was great because it helped me boost my income tremendously.
Over time, however, I started becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of writing jobs I was offered. I eventually took the plunge to quit my job and write full-time. It was scary at first, but I quickly surpassed my income goals and earned a stable roster of writing jobs I can always count on.
I built my writing career while working a full-time job and raising two children under the age of three. If I can overcome those odds, I truly believe anyone can!
How did being a blogger help your freelance writing career?
Having a blog is immensely helpful for a few reasons. First, your blog can serve as your “online home” and your portfolio when you’re first starting out. You can also post a “hire me” page to find leads for writing work.
Having a blog also means having your own social media handles. This is smart since many brands who hire writers prefer candidates who will share their posts socially.
I have always felt like having a blog or online portfolio legitimizes you as well. When brands and websites see you already “exist” in the online world, they’re more inclined to hire you.
How do you balance writing for others and writing for yourself?
I struggled with this for the first few years. I have to admit, it was extremely hard to juggle client work and my own blog. Fortunately, our blog started earning enough that my husband was able to come home to work with me two years ago.
Now he manages our blog for the most part, while I focus mainly on client work. I still write for our blog, ClubThrifty.com, but my husband manages our content and the monetization of our site.
I have yet to meet someone that loves to pitch, but you seem pretty fearless in your determination to get what you want and need. What tips do you have for those afraid to hit Send?
I think a lot of people approach freelance writing from a passive perspective. It’s almost as if they think someone will knock on their door and offer them the type of work they want.
I have always been extremely motivated, but also realistic about the fact that you have to go after what you want. There’s no need to be afraid of pitching clients. The worst that can happen is they say “no” or delete your email altogether. I talk a lot about how to pitch and get new clients in my course (EarnMoreWriting.com), but the first step is just being willing to do it in the first place.
The truth is, I have scored some really awesome writing jobs from cold pitches. If I had been afraid to hit send, someone else would have snagged those jobs. That isn’t good enough for me, and it shouldn’t be good enough for you, either.
I loved your tip to offer more than you're expected. What are a few ways a new writer can make themselves stand out from their competition?
I always try to “add value” when working with an editor. Adding value can look different depending on your client.
Some clients appreciate it when you add HTML to your posts. Others are happy when you’re willing to upload your post into their platform and add links. Some prefer freelancers who send in clean and succinct copy that requires few edits.
I try to do whatever it takes to keep editors happy so they keep me for the long haul. I can also demand higher pay because I am willing to do extra work to make their lives easier.
There are plenty of ways new writers can “add value” when they’re working for a client. The best thing you can do is ask your editor what you can do to make their job easier. Most of the time, they’ll list off a few things you can implement right away.
What are a few of your favorite freelance writer tools or resources?
I don’t use any tools or resources, but I actually think this is a good thing. Building a freelance career is a low-cost endeavor because you don’t need any new apps or tools to get started. After writing online for many years, I still spend zero dollars on tools for myself.
Having your own website or online portfolio helps, but you can start a blog or online portfolio for less than $100 per year. Most people already have a computer and internet access, and those are the resources people need most.
Tell us a little about your new course. What can enrollees expect to learn or accomplish?
This year alone, I have received 300+ emails from individuals who want to build a writing career but don’t know where to start. They see me on sites like The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report Travel, Frugal Travel Guy, and Lending Tree, and wonder how I managed to snag those jobs. They wonder how I built my portfolio from scratch, and best practices for finding and landing the best work.
My course, which can be found at EarnMoreWriting.com, answers every question I have been asked and more. Over nine video modules, I show how to build an online portfolio, the online platforms I utilize to get paid work, and the best ways to pitch clients and land jobs. I also offer insider tips on everything from leveraging social media for higher pay to getting your first “big job.”
In addition to nine video modules, I also include professional resources that help beginners craft the perfect blog post and create content editors love. I have learned A LOT over the years, and all of my trials and tribulations are included in this course. On top of that, we offer a private Facebook group for ongoing support.
I truly believe anyone with writing experience and a passion to success can build a freelance career on the web. My course was created to help beginners and experienced writers learn the secrets to getting paid what they’re worth.