Making money online is simple… right?
That’s what I thought when I quit my six-figure job to blog in 2017.
But after seven months of hardly earning any money from my blog, I knew something had to change or I would have to crawl back to a cubicle in the corporate world.
So I decided to use my writing skills as a freelance writer and in January of 2018, I went all-in.
I told myself this was it, it was now or never. I held the faith that I could figure out how to make consistent money online with my laptop and writing skills.
Armed with an online mastermind from Medium’s #1 writer Benjamin Hardy, and a freelance writing course from a top writer, I committed.
12 months later, I 10X’d my monthly income. 12 months after that, I doubled my yearly income.
Now, I am extremely grateful to never have to worry about going back to a cubicle again. I’ve developed a skill that can help others and allows me to create my own hours.
But it all wasn’t a linear success the past few years, far from it. But I kept this quote by my computer to keep me going.
“You have to fail your way to success.” — Les Brown
I’ve made every mistake a writer and blogger could possibly make over the last few years. But in reality, freelance writing isn’t that hard, most of us just make the process more difficult.
Find a niche → Get clients → Write epic content → Invoice → Repeat
But if you never get clients, you can never show off your writing skills and earn a living from your laptop.
I hope that with this post, you can learn from my shortcomings and begin attracting clients so that you can make a full-time income writing as well. Here are the seven ways you might accidentally sabotage your success.
1. You’re Fearful & Scared of Rejection
I’ve written a lot of emails, blog posts and Medium articles about freelance writing. And I’ve recorded a ton of videos about how to become a successful freelance writer.
But the one question I get from email subscribers and followers on social media more than anything is … “How do I get over the fear of pitching clients?”
Looking back, I had this fear as well when I got started. But I overcame it pretty quickly because I really needed the money. At the time, my blog was failing miserably and my bank account was sinking like the Titanic.
I knew that if I didn’t get clients, my dreams of building an online business and professional golf would die. I backed myself into a corner and put myself in a position where I had to succeed or crawl back to a 9–5.
But let me ask, what are you fearful of anyways? What’s the worst that happens? The client says no or doesn’t respond at all?
The truth is most of us get inside our heads and make up all of these worst-case scenarios because no one likes rejection.
The other side of the coin is not getting clients or accepting low rate gigs and staying stuck. So instead of being scared of rejection, embrace it.
Understand that each time you get a “NO” (or no response) from pitching clients, know that you are one step closer to getting a YES.
Don’t forget, you are only one email pitch away from getting a client that could change your life and business forever. Pitching is just a numbers game, put yourself out there and learn from your mistakes so that you can start making money writing.
2. You Don’t Have A Writing Website
If you don’t have a writing website, you are making things a lot harder on yourself. This is one of the first lessons I teach every student in my writing course.
Without a writing website, it’s very challenging to get potential clients to take your pitch seriously. Honestly, I don’t blame them either.
While I’m a writer, I’ve also hired writers for my blog and other projects as well. If writers send me a pitch and they don’t have a writing website, it’s really hard for me to hire them. To me, it shows they aren’t as committed as someone who has put in the time and work to build a brand online.
The main reason I think writing websites are important is that they help clients know, like, and trust you.
When you have a writing website, you can:
- Show off your portfolio
- Link to your social media profiles
- Provide testimonials from happy clients
- Help clients understand more about you and how you can help them
And so much more. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, spend the time creating a writing website. Or find someone on Upwork to design a basic, four-page website for a small price.
All you need is hosting (I recommend Bluehost) and a paid theme (I use Genesis). For a year’s worth of hosting and theme, it’s only a few hundred dollars. This is a small investment in yourself and in your business that will pay off big time. It’s definitely one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since starting in January of 2018.
3. You Don’t Follow Up With Clients
Whether you’re cold pitching or applying to job boards, it’s important to know that the space is competitive…especially job boards and content mills. If you’re sending one pitch and crossing your fingers hoping for the best, you probably won’t land a ton of clients.
Instead, you need to track your pitches and job board submissions in a Google sheet so you can follow up. Similar to running a webinar, the money is in the follow-up.
Here’s a perfect example…
In May of 2018, I was looking around on ProBlogger and saw a post for a golf writing position. Even though it wasn’t my niche (at the time), I figured why not apply. As someone who loves golf, played for 20 years and can write, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
So I filled out the job board application and waited for a response. I felt I was perfect for the position.
After a few days…crickets.
But instead of waiting and hoping for the best, I followed up. I found his website through the initial job listing and went to his contact page. I submitted a secondary pitch through a contact form and convincingly sold my story.
And it worked…
He loved my tenacity for following up and my story. I’ve been working with him for over a year and he helped me start my second writing niche. Golf writing now yields 20% or more of my monthly writing income.
So remember, instead of hoping and praying, get out there and make it happen. Following up shows that you are tenacious, want the job and will do what other writers won’t do.
4. You Aren’t Using Social Media (Correctly)
If you’re like most people, you use social media every day.
But let me ask, are you using it correctly to grow your freelance writing business or is it killing your time and productivity?
Look I get it, I love the gram. But I have a love/hate relationship with social media in general.
While it’s never been easier to connect with strangers halfway around the world it can be a huge time suck and even lead to depression and anxiety.
But if you’re a writer, social media can help your business. Like…A LOT!
I landed a client from my business Instagram in December of 2018. 12 months later, I earned over $35,000 working together. Plus, he’s become kind of a mentor in helping me grow my brand, Inspire Your Success.
All of this came from being consistent on Instagram and making content that was relevant to my niche.
The best part?
I had less than 1,000 followers at the time. So if you don’t have a big following (yet), don’t worry about it. Instead, focus on posting content relevant to your niche and use hashtags to attract potential clients. Plus, you can also cold DM companies you want to work with as well.
If you’re just getting started with social media as a writer, I recommend using Instagram and Twitter. If you try to be on all platforms, chances are you won’t be consistent (trust me, I know).
5. You Are Complacent
Complacency is the enemy when you’re a freelance writer.
“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” — Andy Grove
Once you start to get recurring work from reliable clients, it’s easy to stay at that level. I know because that exact thing happened to me.
In less than six months, I began to earn $4,000 consistently as a freelance writer, not to mention, it was pretty easy writing. My back wasn’t against the wall anymore and I had lost some of that hunger I once had.
But if you want new (and higher-paying clients), you have to keep setting goals so that you can attract new clients.
This way you are prepared if a client stops needing your work, takes a break or decides it’s just a not good fit. As I’ve had this happen several times, it’s tough to lose part of your monthly income seemingly overnight.
Instead of scrambling to look for more work, stay ahead of the game and keep finding clients that value you and your work.
6. You Only Have One Niche
When you’re a freelance writer, you have two choices — become a “generalist” or niche down. If you’re just getting started, it’s okay to be a generalist as you learn the ropes and understand the entire process of freelance writing.
But if you want to make serious money as a writer, finding your niche is critical to your success. Once I niched down, I really started to grow my client base and scale my monthly income. And then I found a second niche with golf writing.
If you’re not getting enough clients, don’t be afraid to change your niche or simply add another one. Almost every niche in the world needs writers so why not have a second one about something you are passionate about?
Adding another niche has made me a better writer, helped me earn more money, and even start a new online brand about golf.
Remember that if you do change niches or add a second one, make it clear on your website so potential clients aren’t confused.
For example, the majority of my clients are entrepreneurs in the personal development space. But since I began consistently writing golf content as well, I added a page about golf writing so I can send new clients there.
Always keep your writing website simple and easy for clients so they can navigate it and understand how you can help them grow their business.
7. Your Pitch is Boring
If you’ve overcome the fear of pitching clients but aren’t getting enough (or any) clients, it’s time to review your pitch.
Remember, you only get one first impression and that is your pitch or job board submission. If your pitch seems fake, desperate, or a general template that you copy and paste, chances are you probably won’t get very many replies.
Instead of sending the same pitch template over and over, make sure that you customize it. Let your personality shine through so you can stand out among the sea of other writers.
Before sending your pitch, take a few minutes to learn about the person or the brand online. Review their website, check them out on social media and review their LinkedIn page.
Then, use my five-step cold pitch checklist on every pitch:
- Write a compelling subject line
- Give them (or their brand) a compliment early in the email
- Introduce yourself in the first few lines and tell them how you can help them grow their business (don’t just talk about how great you are)
- Link to your writing website or popular posts in relevant online publications (don’t attach them)
- Always end with a question so they are more likely to reply
Remember, making money as a freelance writer is all about getting clients.
Yet, so many writers spend time living in fear and worrying they aren’t good enough. These thoughts aren’t serving you.
So instead of worrying about rejection, worry about staying in the same place you are right now. The last thing I want is for you to read this post and end up in the same place next month or even worse, next year.
To start attracting clients:
- Create a simple but effective writing website
- Don’t be afraid to write in a secondary niche
- Follow up with clients to show you want the gig
- Get active on social media to become an expert online
- Update your pitch so it’s short, simple, and yields a response
- Keep setting goals so you are don’t get complacent in your business
Being a successful freelance writer takes some trial and error but I’m confident if I can do it, you can too.