You hear stories ALL the time of freelance writers charging $300 per blog post or virtual assistants making $50 per hour. But if you’re just getting started as a freelancer, you may wonder if those stories are even true. They are! But honestly, it takes TIME to reach those types of rates.
In the next month, we’ll be covering the reality of growing your freelancing business and how to evolve from rock-bottom prices to those impressive rates you’ve been hearing about.
In our three-part series, we’ll be journeying through one freelance mom’s timeline to see how she went from making money writing $2 blog posts to charging over $300 per post in the mere span of a year.
Say hello to Elna Cain, a freelance writer, writing coach, and mom to twin toddlers.
Here, we’ll learn how Elna became a freelancer and what it was like for her when she started.
How Elna Became a Freelancer
Elna never planned on being a writer. She earned her degree in psychology and worked as a behavioral therapist for children with autism and then as a teacher before she ever thought of going freelance.
In September 2014, freelancing finally hit her radar.
Elna was reaching the end of her maternity leave after giving birth to twins. The problem was that she wanted to stay home with them! Unfortunately, to do so, she knew she needed to help with the finances. Her husband was already running his own business out of the home, and Elna wondered what was stopping her from doing the same.
Nothing, that’s what, and that’s when she discovered that running her own freelance business could be the answer to staying home with her kids. She heard of freelance writing through her husband and decided to give it a shot.
“I enjoy writing and found that this was the best fit for me as a stay-at-home-mom,” Elna says.
Within a short time frame, Elna had her website set up, launched social profiles, and quickly learned that she needed a Gravatar account to display her headshot on blog post comments.
Landing Her First Client – A Measly $2
Elna’s first stab at earning money began when she signed up for a content mill. (A content mill is a company that hires a large amount of freelancers at rock-bottom prices to produce huge amounts of content.) Her first paid writing gig earned her a measly $1.62 for a 300-word blog post.
And she hated it.
“It was easy to sign up and find a job,” Elna told me. “But, since with was my very first writing gig – before this, watching YouTube was the main ‘computer thing’ I did – I found it extremely difficult. I had no idea how to research and wasn’t sure how to cite my sources.”
She goes on to say, “I spent hours writing a little blurb on a toy description, got paid pennies and decided it was not worth it. I was at loss but quickly learned there were other avenues to pursue in my quest to get paid to write.”
So she moved on.
Elna took a shot on bidding sites but found that those were a waste of time as well.
Back to Square One
After putting in so much effort with little return, Elna was about to give up. She didn’t think she had what it took to be a freelancer because the content mills and bidding sites weren’t working out for her.
But she didn’t give up.
Instead of trying to be profitable from day one, Elna decided to switch focus. “I created a website, posted PDF samples of my writing, and tried my hand at pitching. I wasn’t the greatest at first, and I soon realized many of these job ads wanted live links of your samples.”
From there, she began guest posting for popular blogs like Psych Central and Brazen Careerist to earn portfolio clips and get noticed by clients. In return, she received an author bio and was able to link back to her published post online.
“This was perfect for me,” she says. “I could guest post and pitch to increase my odds of landing a writing gig.”
At the same time, Elna was also publishing content on her own blog weekly to help get her name out there. She does admit, however, that it wasn’t a huge success at first, but it eventually paid off.
“While my blog has helped me land clients, it didn’t in the beginning,” she told me.
“I was still new and I needed to prove myself.”
Mistakes Made Along the Way
It wasn’t long until Elna was able to prove herself. However, she admits to making several mistakes in this first stage of her freelancing journey.
Among them, Elna says, “One of my first mistakes was getting the time difference wrong. When the client said end of day Tuesday, I assumed it was end of day my Tuesday. But the client – who lives in Europe – meant his end of day, which was my morning. Let’s just say when discussing meeting and deadline times with clients, I now include the time zone in all of my email communications.”
But that wasn’t the end of the learning curve for her. “Another mistake included bombarding potential clients with tons of questions about their writing needs,” she told me. “I actually scared off a new entrepreneur by doing this. Luckily, he gave me some honest feedback and told me he felt too overwhelmed with all the questions I asked. Unfortunately, he also said he hired another blogger because they didn’t ask as many questions. Now I know to space out my questions and only ask a few a time.”
Luckily, these mistakes didn’t spell out “failure” for Elna, and she continued plugging away at her business and learning from it. From there, her business only started growing.
In part two, we’ll discuss how Elna grew her business and how her rates evolved as her business expanded.
THANK YOU to Elna for sharing your story!