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Freelance Writing: Year One

Freshman Year

Online Writing: Year One

Pop a couple of No-Doze or take a shot of wheat grass…this one is a long one.  As mentioned in my last post, I’ll attempt to summarize my 4 years of online writing in one post per year.  Here’s the post covering the first year.

Online Writing: Year One

One thing I noticed about my first year of online writing (as I reviewed my journal) was that I knew it was going to be a difficult journey so I sought out mentors.  No, I didn’t seek mentors that I could talk to, feel and touch (I didn’t know any), so I had to resort to mentors who have accomplished great things and whose footsteps I would like to follow. As a result, I started to read a lot of motivational books.

One book that I make a habit of reading is the Bible.  I’m not here to preach, just sharing what I read.  A few of the other books that I read in my first year as a freelance writer were:

Most of the links above are Amazon affiliate links, but you should really check your library first.  Why pay when you can read them for free?

These are just a few that I mentioned/remembered from my journal.  I know there were many others.  I tend to read two books at a time.  One I listen to as an audio book while I’m driving, doing the dishes or performing other mindless tasks and the second book I read is an old fashioned printed on paper book that I read when I have quiet alone time.  I always keep a book in my bag. Part of being a mom to kids on sports teams is waiting for them to come out of the locker room or off of the field (or court).  That’s prime reading time.Writing

I spent a lot of time filling my head with positive motivational thoughts in an attempt to get rid of my negative self talk.  We get so much negative stuff by just turning on the TV, radio or walking down the street.  Too many sources (including your boss) tell you that it just can’t be done.  I realized that if I were to become a full-time freelance writer with the goal to eventually earn 100% of my income through my residual earnings, I had to stop listening to those folks and influences that were telling me that it couldn’t be done.

Finding Writing Assignments

This is old hat to anyone who has followed my ramblings for any length of time.  I first started combing the web and sending out query letters (I first had to learn what a query letter was and how to write one), in an attempt to find writing gigs to replace my income.

I found a high-paying gig, but they weren’t forthright with their payment.  So, instead of wasting my time searching for the bird in the bush, I decided to hold onto the ones at hand (online writing).

In the meanwhile, while I was searching for online gigs, I was still adding more content to my own website.  I was so green when I first started, I was paying $25 a month for web hosting (boy was I green).  After searching around and going through several different web hosting companies, I found HostGator and have remained there ever since.  I learned a lot not only about online writing, but simultaneously learned a bit about the back end by hosting my own website (BTW, I also learned HTML to the point where I hand coded my first couple of websites).

Even More Learning

In addition to changing my way of thinking through positive motivation books, learning the internet via my own website, I also learned that online writing required a different style of writing. You can’t write the same way online as you do off line.  I had to learn about search engine Learn and Writeoptimization (SEO).

I also learned that Google was a major player on the internet and learned first hand what to do to piss them off (as I’ve successfully pissed them off).

Private Clients, Up Front Pay and Residuals

During my first year I sought private clients (through old business contact referrals), up front pay (through online job boards) and residual earnings (through my own sites and sites like Suite 101).  I worked hard on all three fronts and quickly discovered that I didn’t like the up-front or client route. I knew deep down inside that residuals were the way to go.

By the end of 2007, I earned $4,623.97.  Of that, $3, 128.14 was from up front/private clients and $1,495.83 was from residuals.  The sad part about those earnings was that it didn’t quite replace my paltry earnings from my part-time job, but I was getting close.  I knew that if I kept at it, I would surpass my part-time job earnings.

Family Support

I’ve got to say that my husband was and is very supportive in his own way.  He wants me to be happy and he knows writing makes me happy.  He doesn’t necessarily read what I write, but he’s supportive in that he has always encouraged me to follow my dream.

If I were a sports writer, I know my hubby would read every word I wrote (he did read my piece on Tiger Woods), but writing about insurance (he’s also an insurance professional) and things such as freelance writing…he’d rather put a load of clothes in the washing machine so I wont have to disrupt my writing.

I learned within my first year of writing that friends and family don’t always want to read my writing and that’s just fine.  After all, would you want to hear the intimate details of your friends’ and family’s job?

That pretty much sums up what I learned in my first year of online writing. Congrats if you’re still awake by the end of this post.  I’m interested to hear from folks who have been at this for longer than a year. What was your first year like? Are there any tips you care to share with me and other folks new to online writing?

Next: Year 2, My Sophomore Year

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About the author: Felicia A. Williams is a freelance writer and blogger. She spends the majority of her time with her family and writing. If she’s not writing or commenting on NJFM, she’s either outside smelling the roses or writing articles for one of her other sites which include Tidbits and Stuff, BLULOW, A Dose of Health and a few other sites/blogs scattered around the internet.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Christina Crowe March 20, 2011, 5:14 pm

    Wow, Felicia. Our first years of writing are more similar than you know! I also wrote a ton for content sites, though I only managed to make $635.88 in my first year from residual income.

    Also, my family don’t read what I write either, so don’t feel bad! I find myself mainly writing about freelance writing, aquatic fish, and business – and, well, my boyfriend of 4 years could care less about those topics. ;)

    But the important thing is that you made headway in your first year. Without making the decision to freelance (and taking action to make it happen), you probably wouldn’t have done so well, so you should be proud of what you’ve accomplished! I am, and I have no doubt that you’ll accomplish so much more in the years ahead.

    Christina

  • Loretta February 24, 2011, 8:41 am

    Felicia, just as you do, I too practice filling my head with motivational and inspirational stimuli. Not only does it deflect negativity, it gives me positive energy. Also, like you, I read or listen to audio books containing uplifting materials. And this may sound odd, but I play CDs with nature sounds, especially chirping birds or falling rain. That also fuels my creativity. Last, but definitely not least, I find that your site encourages and mentors me. I love that God has blessed me with the desire and gift to write, and the faith to keep steering around those road blocks that would – if I let them – cause me to quit. Paraphrasing a favorite spiritual, I know the road won’t be easy, but I keep visualizing success in my quest to make a living off of my writing, and I can see dollars on the horizon.

  • Danny Younes February 23, 2011, 8:48 pm

    Hi Felicia

    To achieve success you can’t achieve it on your own. It’s so important to seek mentors, people that have done what you want to do and model what they do. My bible is Napoleans Hill’s Think & Grow Rich. They should use that book as reading material in all schools. I wish I new about this book when I was growing up.

    • Felicia February 24, 2011, 6:22 am

      Danny, thanks for the reminder. That is another book that I read and recommend.

  • Kim McLendon February 17, 2011, 11:38 am

    Thanks Felicia,
    That’s part of what I was looking for. What do you think about linking your related blogs to each other and placing links to suite 101 articles on blogs. Would that help?
    Kim

    • Felicia February 17, 2011, 12:16 pm

      Kim it should help. I don’t see how it could hurt.

  • Kim McLendon February 14, 2011, 5:47 pm

    Thanks for that Felicia,

    I think you are right, about missing something or making the same mistake, so all I really need to do is figure that out. It could be subject matter since I am looking for a niche. I have one brewing so to speak, but I can’t really define it yet. Or it could be my absence of links and especially back links. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that and I haven’t really had time to play with it because I spend so much time on Text Broker. I do practically live on that site. It’s fun and addictive, but I do want to build residuals. I have a lot of things I am considering that I haven’t had time to try yet. Social networking and causes… I find Facebook a little confusing sometimes. Anyway I have a few things going through my head that just haven’t jelled yet.

    You are right about me being spread thin as well. I have to keep doing the text broker thing, and quality gal helps as well. I think I am going try an e-book eventually. I’ve started writing that a bit.

    I also noticed a link to Pat Flynn’s site on NJFM, and read his fre e-book on e-books, (I read yours about five times… and a few of his posts. He has a lot of ideas. I am really interested in doing e-books, but I am still learning about marketing them.

    I am really fairly satisfied with the progress, and maybe it just hasn’t been long enough for the spiders to find my stuff… I mean none of it has been up all that long… nothing’s six months old yet. I really feel like I need to find a more finely tuned niche. I’ve been looking at a self help book aimed at learned helplessness. It’s epidemic in our society, but it’s name isn’t very appealing so I won’t be using it in the title.

    My brain is all over the place and I think you are right again about spreading it all too thin. I’ve turned the blogs over to my husband, so maybe he can do something with them. He’s learning SEO too.

    Anyway thanks, and I did want to give you a progress report on things. My next step will be a central site to write myself. I am tired of dealing with blogger, and we are setting up word press sites now.

    • Felicia February 15, 2011, 5:51 am

      Check out this post on back linking and the comments to the post. There is a mixed school of thought on the importance of backlinking. If you want immediate results, then backlinking is recommended. However, if you’re willing to wait for organic traffic, you can skip backlinking and concentrate on writing content. You can also try a combination of the both to see which works best for you.

  • Kim McLendon February 13, 2011, 7:11 pm

    Hi Felicia,
    You and the folks on this site are my only mentors, at least when it comes to writing. I have followed just a few of your suggestions, and I am having great luck with it, and all thanks to you and the No Job for Mom Web Site. I wanted to say thank you for saving my life basically. I see this as a chance to have a job without finding one.

    I’ve been writing for pay since September 15th when I signed up for Suite 101 and Text Broker and so I’ve only been writing for five months. I’ve done 20 articles for Suite, 452 for Text Broker, and 19 for Quality Gal. My husband and I put up a whole string of about 20 blogger blogs. (In other words I type about 12 to 16 hours a day, with a couple of days off a month.) So far I’ve made about $2,500 but that doesn’t really reflect what has happened. I made about $1,100 in 2010, but so far this year I’ve made $1,400. Almost all between Quality Gal and Text Broker. Quality Gal almost always increases my pay from the usual grade A price, and Text Broker bumped me up to level 4, which has made a huge difference.

    The only problem is I am not getting the hang of residuals apparently. My residual earnings are dismal. I don’t think we are supposed to talk about how much we make on Suite, but let’s just say even if I added it all together it’s not $5. Meanwhile I have gotten comments on two of my suite articles which praise me up and down. “finally a sensible article on MPD” and “I feel that this article has helped me pinpoint a trend in my life. Hopefully soon enough for me to counteract…”

    I am simply not getting many hits. I haven’t had time to do much promotion or networking, and I am not really proud of my pitiful little blogger sites either. I don’t have time to mess with them. My husband fiddles with them some, and I wrote a few articles but I don’t see the point till I figure out what I am doing wrong. I did sign up for twitter, and face book where I occasionally mention and link my suite articles, and blogs. That works a little but I am not exactly a hot topic apparently.

    I am still looking for a niche. I feel very niche-less. I am interested in a lot of things, but my main interests are spirituality and psychology. Unfortunately I haven’t found a market for it. On text broker I can hold my own in any topic except the specifics of law, insurance, and technology.

    I was wondering what you thought of Squidoo? I signed up for them a long time ago, but never did anything with it. I recently signed up for Hub pages too, but have not had time to really work with either one, and have no articles up. I found Squidoo confusing, and couldn’t figure out how it worked, but I should go back and try I guess. Anyway, do you have any suggestions for how to promote residual income? Links and back links? I am not sure how to make the residual part work.

    I thought about writing a self help E.Book. I don’t know though. Any ideas?

    Thanks for all you have done, and I was wondering if you knew some tricks for pumping up residuals.

    • Felicia February 14, 2011, 7:04 am

      Kim, it sounds like you’re spread pretty thin. You’re doing well from an income standpoint, but you’ve got to realize that residuals take time.

      With 20 blogs, Suite 101, Squidoo (I haven’t used them) and HubPages that’s a lot of writing. It’s tough to focus your efforts in one place when you’ve got so many venues.

      My recommendation is to take one and focus on it for a while. Get to know what works and what doesn’t. As a newbie, you haven’t quite hit your residual stride as yet. Being new, you’re probably repeating the same mistakes on all 20 venues and residual sites, thus not earning much from any of them.

      When I started with Suite 101, I focused on that for a bit. I worked with the editors and spent time learning SEO. Once I started to see some results from there, I took the knowledge and applied it to other sites.

      You’re doing well with the upfront paying sites. Keep writing for them while you take time to learn SEO and what draws traffic to your articles. Residual writing is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. If you set up a good foundation in the beginning and it will pay off in the long run. If you continue to read my posts here on NJFM, you’ll hear me say there are no tricks involved. Just good old fashioned writing, persistence and time.

  • Grandma February 13, 2011, 12:17 pm

    I have been a freelance copywriter and photographer over several decades. My online writing gigs started in late August of 2008, when I discovered Textbroker.

    My first goal for online writing and other ventures, like selling sunglasses on eBay, was to bring in an extra $200 a month. My first real month at Textbroker brought me more than double that amount, and each year’s income has risen by 50%, up to a five figure amount in 2010.

    For this year, I hope to work on the residual writing market, and create several more eBooks, hopefully as successful as the Textbroker eBook.

    If I were to apply myself on a full-time basis, who knows where I could end up? Six figures, perhaps, as is Felicia’s residual goal of $10,000 per month. This will be the year that I find the answer to that question.

    Gaining an income as a freelance writer has never been easy, but it is also not impossible. Live cheap, write a lot.

    • Felicia February 14, 2011, 6:52 am

      Grandma, I like that…”Live cheap, write a lot.” :)

  • kidgas February 13, 2011, 8:43 am

    Felicia,
    I am still awake. As you know, I started writing as a hobby that might pay me back a little bit and write solely for residual income. I enjoy sharing my experiences and helping others as much as possible.

    My first year was 2009 starting in June. I earned a total of $300.61 for my part-time efforts. I have plenty of family responsibilities and a full-time job. In 2010, I earned $1107.23 although $400 was a payment when Life123 shut down their writer’s compensation program.

    My advice for new individuals (of which I consider myself one still) is to focus on tasks rather than earnings. Focus on getting the article written or getting a site up. If you can do that, the other stuff will take care of itself. And remember that everyone starts at zero. Compare your progress to yourself and not others who may be much farther down the road. Your task is to continue moving down that road regardless of whether or not you think you can catch up.

    • Felicia February 14, 2011, 6:51 am

      Excellent advice, Kidgas. Put in the work and the money will follow. And you’re right. Writing is a solitary sport, therefore you’ve got to compare your results against your own numbers and not someone else’s.

  • Santhi February 12, 2011, 10:56 am

    This is my first year into freelance writing. Thankfully, I got started with a private client but it is not regular work. However, the articles I wrote for that client opened many other doors, ironically to lesser paying jobs (think third world wages). I took them in my stride as a way of building portfolio and learning about all kinds of (SEO) writing required in this colossal world of online writing. Within 4 months, my rate per article increased multi-fold but still below minimum wage. The difference now is I now write what I enjoy most- about travel destinations with much kinder deadlines.

    After reading NJFM and other like-minded blogs, I too agree residual is the way to go and want to go down that route very soon. I have been accepted by two sites mentioned here. But I need to make time to write regularly for these sites.

    I must admit I have not kept track of what I have made so far, though I have a receipts folder and invoice copies with records of all payment received up to date. I have also gotten an offer from a more reputable agency (also upfront payment) with much more decent payment that can meet our minimal living costs.

    Thanks for that tip about prime reading time… I am behind my quality reading. I will now make time to resume ferrying children to school activities (being older, they can now travel by themselves, though they would not mind seeing the mummy around ;)) just to make time for such books and be unglued from the desktop.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series!

  • Loretta February 12, 2011, 10:35 am

    Felicia,I truly enjoyed reading your Freelance Writing: Year One post. I chucked when I read the Family Support section, because I thought that I was the only one whose friends and family did not always read my posts. I feel much better now (LOL), because I am in good company.

  • Amanda February 12, 2011, 8:48 am

    I love this post. I am also on my first year of freelancing. The financial goal I set for myself in 2011 is coincidentally similar to yours. But after writing for a bit over one month, I find that to be able to reach that goal is a challenge for me. All of my writing income comes from upfront and residuals (no private client). I still have a part-time job. And the residuals take time to roll. I hope I could have more time to write.

    I am not complaining or lamenting. But I find to reach my financial goal is a bigger challenge than I thought. I will have to put into more effort to succeed.

  • Sharla February 11, 2011, 5:22 pm

    I am so glad to have found your site today! I am in my first year of writing online and it is easy to get discouraged. It is also difficult to juggle being a mom and stealing away enough time to write. Thank you for the encouragement! I look forward to reading about your subsequent years.

    • Felicia February 11, 2011, 6:05 pm

      Hi Sharla. Welcome to NJFM.

      I’ve got the feeling that you do things in a big way. With seven children (5 through adoption) I know you have what it takes to make this work for you.

      Just in case you do get discouraged, we’ve got a great community here to help you through the rough spots.

  • Mandy February 11, 2011, 1:32 pm

    Felicia, I love this series. Before 2011, I never did writing full-time. There was always another way to make a few bucks that put writing on the sidelines. What I love about your post is your modest first year earnings. Thank you for revealing them. The way I am going now, I might make about that much. If you hadn’t put your first year earnings out there I would have felt like a failure who will never make it “the way Felicia has.” I identified with your self-doubts (from the last post) and the negative thinking that prompted you to immerse yourself in motivational literature.

    Reading this series is helping me relax about where I am writing. Writing from home when you already have a busy family requires some tough time management gymnastics. The simple fact is that when you go to an office you get more work done. While I’ve been rearranging my home life to fit my work at home life, it’s been like a double whammy: being less productive while only being paid for what I produce. Your posts keep me going.

  • William Tha Great February 11, 2011, 12:22 pm

    Hey Felicia,

    Thanks for post #1 of the series!

    It seems that you had a pretty good first year. I mean to make over 4 grand sounds like a pretty good start to me. Did you have a certain amount you were aiming for? Private clients are the cool thing about having a site, well atleast I think so. I’m starting to build up my private clients, and soon I will add a services page that will maximize that aspect of making money online.
    Support is one of the best things you can have on your side. It’s awesome that your hubby supports you even though he doesn’t always read what you write. My parents support my writing, but they don’t always read it either haha.

    Thanks again!

    God bless,
    William Veasley

    • Felicia February 11, 2011, 1:10 pm

      William, when I first started out, the fact that I made any money was good enough for me. It wasn’t until I realized I could actually make steady money that I started to set financial goals.