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Earn Your First $1,000 as a Freelance Writer Challenge: My Strategy Revealed

I recently announced the Earn Your First $1,000 from Freelance Writing challenge, and thousands of people have since expressed interest. The original announcement post has been read by thousands of people, and the Facebook group dedicated to the challenge currently has over 1,300 members at the time of writing this.

Earn Your First $1,000 Facebook Group

More importantly, engagement is super high in the Facebook group (as you can see from the above screenshot). The group has been influencing — and will continue to influence — the direction of this challenge. The Facebook group is also the only place where I can guarantee that I’ll actively respond to and interact with people during this challenge. If you’re yet to join the group, you can request an invite here.

After a lot of deliberations on the group, it was decided that I will be using an alias for this challenge; the whole group will then be able to follow along while I offer feedback, help and advice to members of the group when necessary.

As I stated in the original announcement post, the aim of the challenge is to go from a beginner freelance writer to someone earning $1,000 monthly within 60 days.

Without further ado, the challenge will be starting with immediate effect: that’s today, the 25th of July, 2016. My aim  is that exactly two months from now (by the 25th of September, 2016), not only would this challenge have been a success, but as many people as are following along would have a freelance writing career generating thousands of dollars monthly.

How I Plan to Achieve My “$1,000 in 2 Months” Goal

You don’t go to battle without a strategy, and, as far as I’m concerned, this challenge is a battle, and I’ll be outlining my battle plan in this article.

My strategy will be broken down into five main phases:

  • Phase 1: Building My Foundation as a Freelance Writer
  • Phase 2: Building My Credibility as a Freelance Writer
  • Phase 3: Deciding on My Rates
  • Phase 4: Prospecting for Clients
  • Phase 5: Tracking My Results

Phase 1: Building My Foundation as a Freelance Writer

A wise man once said, “If the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” In freelance writing, foundation is even more important.

It is hard for people to do any serious business with you without knowing anything about you, and the same goes for freelance writing. When potential clients want to hire you, they will often start by doing some research to ensure you are a real person worth doing business with. Even the clients who don’t extensively research you will do some basic digging (such as checking your website, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to ensure that you are not a “ghost.”). This is why it is important to have a “footprint.” Being a ghost won’t help you in business.

My first step of action is to create a foundation, a sort of “footprint,” for myself. This is a crucial step every beginner freelance writer must not miss.

Here’s how I plan to create a foundation for myself:

1. I’ll create a freelance writer website.

If you want to build a thriving freelance writing business, you need a website for many reasons. However, here are the two most important reasons why I’m creating a website:

  • I need a place where I can outline the services I offer, showcase social proof and feature samples of my work if necessary.
  • (And THIS is more important than many people are aware of) I need a website that allows me to have a professional email address: many clients and publications tend to ignore people using free email accounts (such as Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) — I’ve seen this in action so many times. By having my own website, I can have my own professional email address such as “myname@mywebsite.com”

While there are more reasons for having a website, and I’ve written about these reasons in detail in several articles on this blog, the above reasons are the most important reasons for me at the moment.

2. I’ll create social media accounts on major social media sites.

Real people have a presence on social media, and your clients are aware of this fact.

One of the first things I will do is to create an account on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Facebook and Twitter are the top social media sites, and LinkedIn is the top business social media site; generally, clients tend to research people they want to do business with on LinkedIn.

3. To further enrich my online presence and ensure I have a solid “footprint,” I’ll be creating an About.me profile.

About.me is a website that allows people to create a basic profile of themselves that include a summary of what they do and a link to their other profiles online.

For people who REALLY can’t afford a website now, you can still participate in this challenge by having an About.me profile. It significantly reduces your chances of success, but it’s still better than having nothing. What I really, really (yes, it bears emphasis!) recommend is to create a website. This is non-negotiable if you want success.

4. I’ll be creating a professional email

Like I said earlier on, clients tend to ignore people who use a free email address. If you plan to use a Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo account, or the likes, for this challenge, forget it. While you aren’t doomed to failure if you do, free email services are easily abused — it only takes a few minutes and little commitment to create them, so spammers have a preference for them. As a result, clients usually do not see people reaching out to them with free email accounts as serious professionals.

Once my website is ready, I’ll be creating an email address in the format “FirstName@mywebsite.com.”

My article tomorrow addresses the process of creating a website for your freelance writing business; if you don’t have a website yet, wait for tomorrow’s article before creating one.

This ends the foundation stage. Once we’re done with the foundation stage, the next step is to build credibility.

Phase 2: Building My Credibility as a Freelance Writer

As a freelance writer, credibility is the most important asset you can have; you can be super-talented and capable of quadrupling your clients’ business, yet nobody will pay attention to you if they feel you’re not credible enough. And you can be absolutely clueless, or have limited knowledge and skills, yet have people willing to pay you a premium — even in advance — just because you have solid credibility.

For most beginner freelance writers, this is the deal breaker; they don’t appear prominent or credible enough, so it is difficult to convince clients to hire them. When they eventually get hired, it becomes difficult to convince clients to pay them what they are worth.

I’ve seen this in action several times in the course of my freelance writing career. Clients who insisted that they won’t pay half the rate I asked for suddenly started offering to pay more once they found out that I’ve been featured in a major media site.

A core part of my strategy for this challenge is to get published in major publications, as a way to build credibility. Once you tell potential clients, “I’ve been featured in {so and so major publication} and {so and so major blog},” they suddenly start taking you seriously. Every single major publication that features you will increase how much you can charge clients.

Since a core part of my strategy involves getting published in major publications and media sites, I’ll have to do some work for free, but it will be worth it in the end.

My plan is to identify 5 – 10 (or more) media sites, or major publications, and attempt to get published/featured on these sites. Naturally, not all the sites I reach out to will feature me, but getting featured on just 2 – 3 sites will give me massive advantage.

In my experience as a freelance writer, I’ve realized that there’s a tipping point when it comes to social proof — especially when it comes to getting featured in major publications; once you’ve been featured in a particular major publication, it’s easy to use that as a reference to get other publications to feature you.

In essence, getting your first article published in the media is difficult, but it gets easy after that.

I have an article dedicated to sharing my process for getting published in major publications, and it will be going live in a few days’ time.

Phase 3: Deciding on My Rates

A huge piece of the puzzle is my rates. I have to ensure that I’m set to be generating at least $1,000 monthly within two months. To do this, I have to do two things:

1. Charge realistically enough to achieve my goals without overworking myself.

2. Based on the fact that I’m a beginner — and considering the short time-frame I have to build enough credibility to command significant rates — I have to charge in a way that I can get the maximum number of clients that I can get and earn enough money quickly.

Based on the above-listed facts, I will charge around $50 – $300 per article for a start.

I usually use a flexible approach towards charging clients — i.e. I don’t charge all my clients the same. I charge based on a lot of factors (which I will be revealing below), and I’ll be using a similar approach for this challenge. Here’s how this will work:

  • For my very first clients, I will charge $50 – $100 per article; by doing this, I can quickly get some freelance writing jobs and start working ASAP. Once I have my very first jobs and a stable income, I will charge new clients more. I’ll do this until I can command the highest rate possible for the duration of this challenge.The maths behind this is simple: I have to get 20 x $50 jobs, or 10 x $100 jobs, or 10 x $50 jobs + 5 x $100 jobs to achieve $1,000 in income. I’m aiming more for the latter (10 x $50 jobs + 5 x $100 jobs) or even something better (5 x $100 jobs + 2.5 x $200 jobs), but we will see how this unfolds.
  • I will charge new clients a higher rate; it is easy for your self-confidence to be eroded when you have no client. To boost my confidence and ensure I start on a high note, my rates will be lower for my first few clients. This increases my chances of getting clients. After getting one or two clients, I’ll increase my rates with new clients.
  • I’ll charge differently for different types of projects; for example, I can charge $50 – $100 for a blog post to be published on a client’s blog. For ghostwriting work, however — since I won’t be having a byline/credit for the article — I can charge $150 – $200 for a blog post. For guest posts I ghostwrite on behalf of a client, I can charge up to $300 or more per published article because 1) I’m ghostwriting the article 2) I’ll also be prospecting/doing outreach for blogs to publish the post 3) There’s no guarantee that a guest post will be published.
  • I’ll charge clients based on their size; I won’t charge a mom and pop business the same as a mega corporation. Of course, clients that pay more get better quality. Regardless, though, I’ll charge clients that can afford it more.
  • I won’t charge lower than $50 per article throughout this challenge.

As you can see from the above, I won’t have a “fixed rate.” Instead, I’ll use a flexible rate technique that allows me to charge clients differently based on different scenarios; I’ve found this to be most profitable and effective for me over the years and I will use the same approach during this challenge.

Phase 4: Prospecting for Clients

Finally, once we’ve gotten the basics out of the picture, it’s time to start getting clients.

Here’s a quick overview of my strategy for getting clients; this will be a bit aggressive, but it is aimed at helping me get the highest amount of work within the shortest time possible. This is listed in order of importance:

1. I’ll send 30 – 50 cold pitches every day.

2. I’ll apply to 10 – 20 jobs posted on the freelance jobs boards featured on this list.

3. I’ll select sites from my list of publications that pay writers (and other similar sites) and try to apply to 3 – 5 of these sites daily.

4. I’ll join all the relevant sites from my list of upwork/oDesk alternatives; naturally, many of these sites favor writers from the U.S., but I won’t let that hinder me. It won’t hurt to be signed up there just in case!

5. I’ll end my prospecting activity every day by scouring social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) for available writing job offers.

6. Knowing myself — that it can be difficult for me to stay on track with work — and due to how aggressive (and effortful) my strategy is, I went ahead to create an 8-week tracking spreadsheet that makes it easy to keep track of work done on a daily basis. You can see the spreadsheet here, and you are totally free to model yours after it or even directly copy it.

(The first few days in the spreadsheet will probably go uncompleted, since I have to do a few basic tasks like setting up my website, etc, but work will probably fully kick-start after day 2 or 3. I don’t think this will have any effect on the end result of this challenge.)

7. As a rule — because clients probably won’t be active then — I won’t be pitching on weekends.

Phase 5: Tracking My Results

I know, you are probably overwhelmed with all the information here. I am too.

As with anything new, getting the hang of freelance writing might appear overwhelming initially, but things suddenly get easier after your first few days (or weeks) of doing this.

However, in order to make things much easier, I will be tracking my activity carefully; this ensures that I’m doing the right thing and putting in my best effort.

To this effect, I have created 4 different spreadsheets:

1. The “DAILY TASKS” spreadsheet aimed at ensuring that I complete all my daily activities. This is the most important spreadsheet, as it helps you keep track of work done on a daily basis. You can see it here.

2. The “BLOG/PUBLICATION OUTREACH” spreadsheet. In an attempt to build social proof, I will be reaching out to a few major blogs and publications for guest blogging opportunities. This spreadsheet makes it easy to keep track of this effort. You can see it here.

3. The “CLIENT OUTREACH” spreadsheet. This spreadsheet makes it easy for me to keep track of all the businesses/potential clients I pitch, the dates of the pitch and the status of the pitch. It will indicate whether I get a response, get hired or get rejected. You can see it here.

4. The “CLIENT LIST” spreadsheet. This spreadsheet will keep track of active clients I’m working with, the nature of work I’m doing with them, my rates for them and the amount made with them. You can see it here.

Obviously, for confidentiality reasons, I won’t be showing you the real name of my clients/potential clients. So you will only be seeing an empty “CLIENT OUTREACH” and “CLIENT LIST” spreadsheet to protect the identity of the clients. However, you can still take a look at these spreadsheets so that you have something to model yours after. Alternative, I might fill in the “CLIENT LIST” spreadsheet with relevant information but replace the “Client Name” column with the client number (e.g. “Client 1” instead of “XYZ company”).

Action steps:

The real action starts tomorrow, but you can still do a few things to ensure you’re on the right track and ready to succeed during this challenge.

1. Read this article — containing my strategy — in order to get a grasp of, and possibly internalize, the strategy I plan to use for this challenge.

2. Create your own spreadsheets that are modeled after the ones I linked to above; you can download mine and use it however you wish to. You have my permission.

3. You will come to realize how important tracking is to your success as a freelance writer; don’t ignore this part. Make sure you create your own spreadsheets for tracking purposes.

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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