It's easier than ever to become a freelance writer if you build a profile, find the right clients and treat writing like a business.
I worked as a freelance writer for several years for local and national newspapers in Ireland. I've worked as freelancer for several well-known websites like Forbes.
It's a great way of earning money either part or full-time from the written word. In this guide, I explain what freelancing is, and I provide practical tips for those who want to become a freelancer.
Let's dive in.
- What is a Freelance Writer?
- 1. Pick a Niche
- 2. Pitch On More Than One Job Board
- 3. Get Out From Behind Email
- 4. Prepare for Interviews in Advance
- 5. Keep An Idea or a Swipe File
- 6. Learn to Touch Type
- 7. Take High-Quality Notes
- 8. Ask What Your Clients Want
- 9. Manage Your Projects
- 10. Manage Your Time
- 11. Treat Freelance Writing Like a Business
- 12. Develop Multiple Income Streams
- 13. Set up a Business Website
- 14. Calculate Your Ideal Rate
- 15. Collect Writing Samples
- 16. Gather Client Testimonials
- 17. Refine Your Writing Skills
- Become a Freelance Writer: The Final Word
- Become a Freelance Writer: FAQs
- [Interview] How to Launch and Grow a Successful Freelance Writing Career With Jessica Lawlor
- Writing Jobs Resources
What is a Freelance Writer?
A freelance writer is someone who writes blog posts, non-fiction articles, and web copy for magazines, publications, companies, and other organisations.
Unlike a journalist employed by a newspaper, freelancers are self-employed, and they typically write for a number of different clients or publications at one time.
They can work full or part-time at home or in an office. Some have a contract with several different clients, while others operate on a recurring commission basis (the dream).
1. Pick a Niche
When I was a journalist, my freelance writing niche technology stories, I didn't pick this niche because I was interested in technology journalism (although that helped). There were relatively few technology journalists in Ireland at that time.
Doubling down made it easier for me to find more suitable clients.
When starting off as an aspiring freelance writer, it's fine to try different niches and charge a lower rate until you gain appropriate experiences. Copywriters follow this approach at the start of their writing career too. However, as you acquire more knowledge and skills, focus on one or two niches and increase your rates.
Popular niches include:
- Health and fitness
- Personal development
- Leadership and careers
- Family and parenting
- B2B technology
- Travel writing
After homing in on a niche, you can spend more time cultivating contacts, develop in-depth knowledge, and build a name for yourself with contacts.
Tip: Combine a niche with a popular content format. For example, I know a copywriter who specialises in producing case studies and creating videos for large technology companies.
2. Pitch On More Than One Job Board
It's tough when starting out as a freelancer. I spent a few years wondering where I was supposed to find clients and was unsure about what type of worked they'd pay for. Thankfully, freelances can choose from more places than ever today, all geared for commissioned writing. Consider joining these platforms and services:
- The Writer Finder
- Writer Access
- Writers Work
- Medium (good for name recognition particularly in the small business niche)
Tip: Check out my full list of places to find writing jobs.
3. Get Out From Behind Email
Email is a great communication tool, and it works for a lot of pitches.
However, it's also easy to misinterpret the tone of a client email, which is why live conversations with editors or clients are so important. I sometimes received more lucrative commissions by attending events, by phoning editors and by getting to know people.
Tip: Use Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet to check in with clients regularly. Transcribe interviews with Rev.
4. Prepare for Interviews in Advance
Interviews are an important part of the research process for freelance writers.
When I received my first 3000-word freelance writing commission, I interviewed five different people for over an hour each. I asked them every question I could conceive.
It took almost ten hours to transcribe these interviews, and I spent far longer on this commission than it was worth.
I quickly learned it's important to get to the point with interviewees faster (they value their time as much as you do). Later on, I started using software to transcribe these interviews. Although it ate into my profits a little, I saved a lot of time.
Tip: Write down several questions for interviewees before you meet, but don't be afraid to go off-script.
5. Keep An Idea or a Swipe File
When I was a journalist, I didn't spend enough time recording ideas, news stories, and research for future articles.
To avoid this problem, keep a swipe file where you store interesting articles, research findings, and other useful facts and figures.
Carol Tice even recommends keeping a future file of news stories and other articles that you've written or read. The idea is to return to these articles and write an updated version in three, six or twelve months.
Tip: Save articles for your future file in Evernote and annotate the interesting parts. Statista is a good resource for facts and figures.
6. Learn to Touch Type
Words are your trade, and the keyboard is your tool.
Yes, you may be able to rattle off a few sentences using your index fingers and muscle memory, but professional writers know how to touch type.
Learning to type is the single biggest productivity hack I've discovered as a writer, and it has enabled me to finish projects faster and ship them on time.
It's also easy to learn how to touch type. Writers who want to get started should check out LinkedIn Learning's Touch Typing Fundamentals course.
I also recommend dictation to writers who want to produce first and second drafts much faster.
Tip: Writers who use more than one computer can reduce the number of typos they make by using the same keyboard for each machine. I use the Apple keyboard as it is an ergonomic and efficient device for touch typists.
7. Take High-Quality Notes
Several years ago, I studied journalism, and I learned Teeline shorthand.
One day, I was sent by my editor to report on a case in the courts. While covering this case, I tried to use shorthand to transcribe what the people in court were saying.
My shorthand wasn’t up to scratch, and my notes didn’t make sense. That’s when I learned Teeline shorthand, and I’ve never forgotten the importance of recording accurate notes.
Today, I use a dictaphone or the voice recorder on my phone to record interviews. It’s a good idea to write notes too, because you will think of ideas while your interviewee speaks.
Tip: Always carry a spare set of batteries for your dictaphone and check it's recording before asking your first question.
8. Ask What Your Clients Want
Knowing what your editor wants in advance will save you a painful amount of editing later on. Always ask your editor or your client for a brief that provides your:
- target word count
- topics to cover
- a deadline
- types of interviewees
- any other information you should include
Before you accept a commission, it's also worth agreeing how many rounds of edits you'll make.
Tip: If you're collaborating with a new editor, ask if the publication uses a particular style guide.
9. Manage Your Projects
Here are five things you need to track:
- time spent on an article
- income and expenses
- commitments or To-Dos
- the status of each of your project
You'll need a system to manage these.
I use a timer on my computer to track my hours, a spreadsheet to record my income and expenses and a professional journal to record the status of each project.
Use Google Calendar to manage deadlines and an app like Trello or ToDoist to manage commitments. I combine Trello with Kanban.
Tip: Create invoices as soon as you complete a project. Even if you don't send them immediately, you won't have to think about what you did at the end of the month.
10. Manage Your Time
Time is your most valuable asset as a freelancer. Most clients pay by the article or word. So if you spend five hours working on a 1,000-word article or one hour, you'll still get paid the same amount. To earn more from a freelance writing gig, eliminate distractions, and also focus on ones you can complete quickly and to a high standard.
Apps like RescueTime will help you track what you do while sitting at a computer, including which apps you're spending the most time in. Freedom App is another good choice for eliminating distractions, as it will block distraction news and social media websites.
If you want to record how long you're spending on particular commissions so you can determine what to accept more or less off, Harvest is a good choice. It supports invoicing clients too.
Tip: Use the Pomodoro technique to get more value from working hours.
11. Treat Freelance Writing Like a Business
Most successful business owners track key lead and lag measures.
Lead measures refer to something they directly control like the number of sales calls placed, leads contacted or articles published. Each lead measure has a corresponding lag measure.
Lag measures refer to factors they can't directly control like stats on a website, converted leads, or product sales.
When a lag measure falls into the red, the business owner looks at the related lead measure and asks how he can increase those measures to fix the issue.
If you want to run a freelance writing business full-time, consider these lead measures:
- How many potential clients did I contact this month?
- How many testimonials did I acquire?
- How many jobs did I pitch for?
Lag measures include:
- Total gross revenue at the end of the month
- Freelance writing gigs completed and in progress
Tip: Track these lead and lag measures in a spreadsheet and review them regularly. You can't directly increase revenue half-way into the month without acquiring more clients first. This type of information will direct your attention, where it matters most.
12. Develop Multiple Income Streams
If you receive the bulk of your income from one employer or editor, you are leaving yourself vulnerable.
Companies sometimes have to make cutbacks, and those without contracts are usually the first to go.
One day my biggest and only paying client said they'd no commissions, which left me without enough money at the end of the month.
In short, always be thinking about the next freelance writing job.
Tip: Setting up a website will help you develop multiple income streams as you can use your platform for advertising your services and for hosting a portfolio.
13. Set up a Business Website
It's all but impossible for clients to find you if you're lacking an online presence. While a profile on a platform like Medium is useful, you don't have full control over it. They may kick you off, reduce the visibility of your profile or charge a fee.
Buy a website domain name, ideally a .com. One in your own name is ideal, but if this isn't available find a variation describing your services or skills. Next, buy a premium WordPress theme and build out a website. Then, register it on Google My Business. Include a link to your website on your social profiles.
Tip: Start writing on Medium regularly about your niche. Include a call-to-action or link to your website.
14. Calculate Your Ideal Rate
An aspiring freelance writer calculates her initial rate at three cents per word, but she really wants to charge ten cents per word.
Some of her key tasks include finding clients, customer research, and producing articles. She is good at what she does but struggles to arrange interviews with her client's customers.
Email discussions—”Are you free on Monday?”—consume hours of her week.
She discovers booking software will help her solve this problem. It enables interviewees to self-select a time that suits both parties, but it costs $20 a month.
Rather than weighing the pros and cons, she subscribes to this software immediately. Then, she can move onto another problem, such as finding referrals for higher-paying clients.
Even if the software is unsuitable, she can cancel her subscription. Her time is spent focusing on revenue growth rather than cutting costs.
Similarly, if she spends more than an hour on a low-value task (like transcribing interviews), she should use a transcription service, once her revenue increases.
Tip: Use AI transcription services like Temi to cut costs and save some time on transcribing. It's not as accurate as Rev, but it is still useful.
15. Collect Writing Samples
Many clients will want to see a writing sample before sending over a commission. On your website, link to samples of your work for other clients, a guest post you write, ebooks, and so on. Freelance designers do this all the time.
Explain what you did and how the client benefitted from your expertise. Bonus points if you can include statistics like the number of page views for a particular article or how it helped a client with a business objective.
I recommend keeping this information on your website as it's easier than emailing over lots of PDFs and Word docs. That said, the latter approach is better than nothing.
If you don't have a website yet, consider using a platform like Medium. You can potentially earn money from your articles, and it will increase your visibility.
Tip: Medium is a great place to showcase your writing… and build an audience.
16. Gather Client Testimonials
Nothing demonstrates competence, like a testimonial or a referral from a happy client. At the end of every job, ask a client for a short review, and ask permission to use this on your profile or website.
If you use a service like UpWork, the platform will probably ask clients for a rating anyhow. However, it's still a good idea to email a client and asks them to write a positive review after a writing assignment. You could also use LinkedIn for this request.
Tip: If a client is unhappy for some reason, ask for feedback so you can improve this particular writing skill before your next gig.
17. Refine Your Writing Skills
Freelance writing is a flexible career choice, but it's also tenuous in that you're somewhat dependent on key clients. To circumvent this problem, diversify your skillset.
You could, for example, learn the basics of copywriting and offer this as an add-on service to business owners. Copywriting usually pays more too.
Alternatively, consider getting into content writing by pitching for commissions for detailed guides (like this article), ebooks, video scripts and so on. A content writer is a lot like a general freelance writer except they've a deeper understanding of how to write for an online audience.
Tip: Take an online writing course to diversify your skill set. It may even be tax deductable!
Become a Freelance Writer: The Final Word
Working on your own terms as a freelance writer is a great career choice. You can rise late, take long lunches, and thrive as a remote worker.
You still need to get the work down, and if you don't have the discipline to sit down in the chair, make calls and do the work on your own terms, you won't get paid.
If you're going to become a freelance writer, your goal should almost always to be to get paid.
Becoming a professional writer also means valuing your services and charging appropriate rates. Unlike other professions, you can start a freelance writing career today, without anyone's permission.
Because I know how tough freelance writing is, why not pick up a copy of this book I contributed to. It will help you get to find your first freelance writing gig and make real money from this profession.
Also, check out this great course by John Soares. It will help you earn more from freelancing.
Become a Freelance Writer: FAQs
Is being a freelance writer worth it?
It's a good choice if you want to earn some money on the side. It takes more time to earn a full-time living from this career choice, but it still offers flexibility and variety. It's worth it if you're comfortable managing yourself and pitching regularly for commissions. That said, develop more than one income stream to survive.
How do I become a freelance writer with no experience?
Join a popular job board like Flexjobs of Freelancer, set up a profile and start pitching for jobs. At the same time, start publishing examples of your work on platforms like Medium so you can build up a portfolio. Build a personal website that explains what services you offer. When you get a gig, ask a client for a testimonial and post it on your website and portfolios.
How much should I charge for a 500-word article?
If you're no experience, start off by charging a low-rate like three cents per word. It's not much, but you'll attract some paying commissions from cash-strapped clients. As you acquire more experience and skills, increase your rate to thirty cents per word.
[Interview] How to Launch and Grow a Successful Freelance Writing Career With Jessica Lawlor
Jessica Lawlor is the editor of The Write Life and offers practical advice for aspiring freelancers. I got together with Jessica to discuss freelancing, and to talk about how she manages a busy website like The Write Life.
In this episode I talk to Jessica about:
- The Write Life bundle
- Opportunities for freelance writers
- How she manages the workflow for a busy website
- How she drives traffic to her site
- The type of content she enjoys writing
Jessica: I'm really looking for someone who understands our site and understands the type of content that we publish, and this is probably advice that writers have heard over and over again, but do your homework, research the site, and read the site, be a fan of the site. I think people who are fans of the sites or the outlets that they're pitching have much better success at getting published than someone who comes across the site and thinks that might be a great opportunity for them.
Introduction: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today podcast with Bryan Collins. Here you'll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.
Bryan: Would you like become a freelance writer? Or perhaps you already are a freelance writer, but you want to take your career and your income to the next level? Hi there, my name is Bryan Colins and welcome to Become a Writer Today podcast. I've worked as a freelance writer on and off for the last 10 or 15 years. I've written for publications in Ireland and national newspapers, some websites about technology and so on, and all of this was before I started to Become a Writer Today. I've also written more recently for publications like Forbes, and I've done a little bit of freelance writing for publications on Medium too. I like freelance writing because it's a great way of figuring out what genre you want to write in. It's also a great way of supplementing your income if you have a day job. And it's also good if you want to build up a name for yourself or for your writing business.
Bryan: Of course, there are struggles that freelance writers will sometimes face. How much do they charge? Where can they find clients? And how can they manage all of the different clients, because sometimes when you are a freelance writer it can feel like a feast or a famine. But if you're struggling with anything like that, I was recently invited to join The Write Life 2020 bundle. It's a bundle for freelance writers which is launching on Monday, September 14th, and I'll put a link to it in the show notes, but you can find it at thewritersbundle2020.thewritelife.com. Now I recently had the chance to catch up with the editor of The Write Life to ask Jessica Lawlor about the bundle and also I wanted to ask her about her career as an editor, because The Write Life is one of the biggest writing sites online for freelance writers, and they publish a lot of articles and work from other freelance writers and from third parties.
Bryan: And it was really interesting to hear how Jessica manages such a busy website. But of course, I started by asking Jessica how she got into editing and how she started editing The Write Life in the first place. But before we go to this week's interview, if you enjoy the Become a Writer Today podcast, please could you leave a short review on the iTunes store, because more reviews are more ratings will help more people find the podcast. And if you're interested in joining or buying the bundle from The Write Life, but you've got questions, just send me an email. Bryan, B-R-Y-A-N @becomeawritertoday.com, and I'll answer your questions about what's in the bundle. Now with that said, let's go over to this week's interview with Jessica and her answer to how she became the editor for The Write Life.
Jessica: Absolutely. And thanks for having me Bryan. This is really exciting to be on your show today. So I started working with The Write Life about four years ago now, and I had been a fan of the site. It's been around for, I should probably know this information, but it was definitely around for at least three or so years prior to me joining as the editor, it's probably seven or eight years. I had been a fan of the site. I've been a fan of Alexis Grant, who's the founder of The Write Life, for many years. I've been following her work online. I became friends with her initially through Twitter and just seeing the different work that she did.
Jessica: She actually invited me to become a writer for The Write Life, so I started out as a writer and I worked with the person who was the editor at the time, and I pitched ideas, and I had my work published on there. And then in 2016, Lexi, her name's Alexis Grant, we call her Lexi, she was looking for a new managing editor, and at the time I had just quit my full time job in public relations to start my own business and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. So I applied for it and I was lucky enough to get the job.
Bryan: That's fantastic. So The Write Life has pretty stringent editorial guidelines, I would say, for people who want to write for it. So I suppose if a writer was looking at The Write Life and they thought that would be a way for them to build their portfolio as a freelance writer, what would you say to them? What does an editor like you expect from a freelance writer when they're pitching?
Jessica: I'm really looking for someone who understands our site and understands the type of content that we publish. This is probably advice that writers have heard over and over again, but do your homework, research the site, and read the site, be a fan of the site. I think people who are fans of the sites or the outlets that they're pitching have much better success at getting published than someone who comes across the site and thinks that might be a great opportunity for them. So I would say do your homework, read the site, read the submission guidelines. That's something that's available on most sites, including The Write Life. And if it's hard for you to find that, I often just suggest Googling the site that you want to pitch and submission guidelines or contributor guidelines, and really paying attention to how an editor wants to be pitched, what they want included in that pitch, maybe even suggesting a headline or two.
Jessica: And I always like, I always tell writers, not just to include their post idea, but a couple of bullet points about what their posts might include and a little bit about why they are a person who could be an expert on that topic and actually write about that topic. So providing all that information up front in a pitch and personalizing it to the editor. So finding out who is the editor of the site. I love when people pitch me and they say, "Hi, Jessica," and they know a little bit about me or they know a little bit about the site because we're all looking for that connection, and I love to work with writers who I can be friendly with and who we can connect and we can talk about writing and talk about editing. So I think putting that little bit of a personal touch can really go a long way too.
Bryan: Do you think things have gotten harder or easier for freelance writers these days?
Jessica: Oh, that's such a good question. I think there's a lot of opportunity for freelance writers right now. I think things are harder. I mean, there's a lot of competition. There's a lot of people out there who want to write, a lot of people who are pitching, so there's a lot of competition, but I also think that there's so much opportunity and I think that there's a lot of room for writers and there's enough work to go around. So I think now is actually a really exciting time for people who want to become freelance writers, who want to grow their freelance writing career. People are always looking for content, and I think you just have to keep your eyes out on the places that you want to work with.
Bryan: Just to switch things around. How do you, as an editor, deal with all of the pitches that you get? Because I can imagine there's quite a lot and I can imagine there's probably some that aren't even relevant to The Write Life. It's probably just people doing basic email outreach. So how do you manage it all?
Jessica: Definitely. So in addition to The Write Life, I also manage a couple of other different blogs and sites. So I am fielding pitches on multiple fronts in multiple inboxes. And honestly, the way that I manage it is I look for those personal pitches first. So it's pretty easy for me to scan through an inbox, especially The Write Life inbox, where we often get a lot of unsolicited pitches, and I can easily see what might be something from a bot. We get a lot of pitches from bots now, it's really weird. So I can easily scan to just delete those and clear them out. I can also look to see who has sent an idea that really isn't relevant, isn't even about writing, and then delete those right away. And then from there really look for the ones that have clearly outlined their idea, who have provided a sample headline, who have left me a couple of bullet points, and just go from there and check out the ones that seem most relevant.
Bryan: And in terms of the workflow, when I manage the workflow for Become a Writer Today, I use either a Trello Kanban board or a spreadsheet. Is there a system that you have for keeping track of writing projects that are in progress, that are ready for publication, or at the pitch stage?
Jessica: Yeah, definitely. I absolutely love Trello. I think Trello is such an amazing tool. It's so nice to be able to visually see an idea go from a card that's just an idea through the different stages of editing, whether it's in editing with me as the editor, then back to the writer, back to me, putting it into the final touches of headlines and adding images. So I really love Trello for that. At The Write Life we also use a plugin through WordPress, it's just a very simple editorial calendar plugin where you can drag and drop different articles into different days. So that's really nice to just get a quick monthly view of what we have coming up. So I would say Trello, WordPress, and then I also tend to use just Google spreadsheets to keep track of who's writing what and the different payments and all of that to stay really organized.
Bryan: So on my side I've alternated with approaches to the cadence of publication. I've gone from one large post about a topic once a month, to one post once a week, to more recently maybe two to three posts a week. What do you find is the right publication schedule for The Write Life?
Jessica: That's such an interesting question, because it's changed so much over time. I think back to like three years ago, we were publishing every single day, and just thinking back to that, wow, we were putting out so much content. And now we've pulled back a little bit and we've gotten really focused on what it is that our mission is and finding the right keywords and making sure that we're spending a lot of time on a post and doing SEO research and really working our headlines. Something interesting that a lot of people don't know about The Write Life is that we actually write 10 to 15 different headlines for every single post that we publish to find the best one. So we really spend a lot of time prepping a post.
Jessica: So now we publish one to two posts per week. And something else that we do is we refresh old posts. So since our site has been around for so many years, we have so much content from a couple of years ago that's still pretty relevant and usually just needs a cleanup or an update to make sure that the links are all correct or that we still stand by the information that we shared. So typically once a week, we'll try to put out an original post, a new post, and then once a week, we'll try to refresh an old post and give it new life and I'm bring it up for readers who may not have caught it the first time that it went live.
Bryan: It's a good idea, yeah. Probably something I should do more of. Would you spend a lot of time looking at the other parts of running a site, for example, Google Analytics or the opt-in sequence that you'd have for email subscribers or the lead magnets that you'd offer on The Write Life?
Jessica: Yes, we do. So last year we did a huge SEO overhaul on the site, and we worked with an SEO consultant and he really helped us hone in on some keywords that we were really ranking for and keywords that we had the opportunity to write for. So we did a lot of work around organizing our site, really getting our SEO up to par, and then we did spend some time reworking our email sequence. We recently switched over in the last year from MailChimp to ConvertKit, and ConvertKit has been awesome because it allows us to really easily add opt-in boxes to specific posts.
Jessica: So for example, we have a really cool PDF of 100 writing prompts, and we have a post that's specifically about writing prompts and why they're so valuable. So when you come to that post on our site, we have that nice little pop up that comes up that says, "Would you like these 100 writing prompts?" That's not something that we would want on every single page, but it's really great that if someone is on that post, they're obviously interested in writing prompts and we can serve them that opt-in that will be really useful to them and really valuable. So that's something that we've gotten really about over the last year. ConvertKit has been really cool on that front to help us level up our opt-ins.
Bryan: Yeah, this might be a slightly nerdy question, but I've used ConvertKit for the last few years and it is great for creating the opt-ins and their forms, but because I've used it for so long I have a lot of different forms and opt-ins. Did you create a system for keeping track of them all, or a you just relying on the ConvertKit dashboard?
Jessica: That's a good question. Right now we're just relying on the ConvertKit dashboard. I don't think we've gotten too into the weeds there yet, so we haven't really encountered that, but we're fairly new to ConvertKit, but really excited about the different results that it's already shown us. Our list has been growing and that's been really exciting for us.
Bryan: In terms of freelance writing today, do you feel that the niche itself has a lot of competitors for The Write Life, or do you feel like the internet is so big that there is room for many sites on a similar niche?
Jessica: Yeah, I think that there are a lot of sites out there and I think there's a lot of great competition and a lot of people that we're friendly with in the writing world. For example, every year in January, we publish a blog post of the 100 best websites for writers as nominated by our community. So while there's definitely competition out there and there's other sites out there, we love to spread the wealth there and we share who our writers love as well. So we like to partner with lots of different writing blogs and sites too.
Bryan: Yeah. That's a good approach. And I'm also curious, do you do all of the work on the posts from editing to proofreading or do you involve other team members in that process?
Jessica: So typically we'll have a post come in from a contributor. I'll typically be the first one who edits it, works directly with the writer. We have a couple other people who we work with who will help with headlines, but for the most part, it's a pretty small team. It's just me and Lexi really working on the site together.
Bryan: Yeah. That's one of the great things about running an online business. You actually don't need an awful lot of people or tools to do it. You can do it from your home office or from your kitchen. What about in terms of planning ahead? So sometimes I'm like, what is it, I could be truly months ahead with content for the site, and other times I could only be a week or two ahead, but does your team work months in advance, or how do you approach your publication schedule?
Jessica: So we typically try to work at least a month ahead for the past year or so. Like I said, we went from publishing five days a week to then one to two. We really played with the cadence over the past few years. So there was a time this past year where we had probably 15 to 20 posts that we needed to publish. So we weren't really commissioning new content because we were really working through that backlog since we decided to go to a lesser cadence of publishing. Right now, we're at the point where we've worked through that backlog and we have bunch of posts that we're working to refresh right now, but we also mix in new content too. So we try to plan out about a month or so, but again, like you said, that's the beauty of being a smaller team. We're able to be really nimble, we're able to change things on the fly and it's a little bit easier to be flexible with those deadlines and the cadence.
Bryan: And in terms of your traffic for the site, I mostly rely on SEO traffic and also email subscribers and listeners to the podcast. I did do Facebook ads for a time, but I stopped using them. Is that something that you've used for The Write Life?
Jessica: It's so funny that you mentioned that. We've been playing with Facebook ads for, I would say the past few months. We've been working to find the right consultant to help us with that because it's not something that I'm an expert in, certainly. We've been working on that because we see a lot of opportunity there, but like you, we really rely on search traffic, and I think that's where a lot of the SEO work we did last year is really starting to pay off, which is super exciting. Because SEO, as you probably know, it's a long game. It takes a while for things to change, and every once in a while, Google will drop a new update and then you'll see things either increase or decrease in rankings. It can be really interesting to follow that. So yeah, we see a lot from search traffic and then of course from email traffic and that social traffic is something that we're playing with now.
Bryan: Yeah, it can take months to get results from SEO work, but then it can last much longer, and obviously it's a lot cheaper than running paid advertising. So one thing I've found is, I've worked as a freelance writer and also when I'm publishing posts on Become a Writer Today, I would edit the post as well. So I found that I like writing in the morning and editing in the afternoon. So if I'm writing something that I'm going to publish myself, I'll work on it in the morning, whereas if I'm editing an article that somebody else has written for my site or for another project, I'll work on that in the afternoon. Do you write a lot, and if so, what type of articles or content do you like to write, and when do you do it?
Jessica: Oh, Brian, you're bringing up a great dilemma that I'm facing right now. I find the balance between writing and editing pretty difficult. I used to do a lot more original writing than I do now, and it's something that I really miss. Like I had said, my background was initially in PR and I switched over to running my own business four years ago and have transitioned really to what I call content management, so helping people and helping clients run their blogs and edit their work. So for the past year or so, I've been really heavy on the editing front, which I love, but I've definitely found that doing so much editing has taken me away from doing my own writing. It's something I really want to get back into.
Jessica: So I actually recently launched a content newsletter all about content to help me get myself back into writing and publishing and sending things out on my own, but it's definitely something that I've struggled with. I do prefer to do my editing in the morning. I find that I'm most fresh when I wake up and have that first cup of coffee and can really dive into editing work and especially headline writing. I know I mentioned that a little bit earlier, but headline writing is something that's so important to The Write Life, and I find I really need to be focused and creative to write good headlines. So I do a lot of that work in the morning and I usually spend my afternoons doing some more administrative tasks like writer payments or editorial planning, working on the editorial calendar. But I really try to spend the mornings doing the most creative work that I can.
Bryan: Yeah. Sounds like a good way to structure the day. Do you write fiction at all or do you focus on nonfiction?
Jessica: I don't write fiction. It's something that I've dabbled with in the past and maybe one day in the future, but it's not something that I'm currently doing.
Bryan: Yeah. I used to write fiction, but then I suppose as I got into online publishing and blogging, I just doubled down on nonfiction. It's probably what I enjoy reading most of as well. So that's the type of writing that I like to do. What platform did you launch that newsletter on, just out of curiosity?
Jessica: I actually just launched my newsletter on MailChimp. I had this idea to launch this newsletter in, I believe it was May of this year. And I typically spend a lot of time planning. I'm a planner and I don't typically launch things quickly, but I had this idea on a Friday and I decided I wanted to challenge myself to just launch something quickly. So I thought about it over the weekend, fleshed out the idea, and then I just launched it the following week. And MailChimp is something that I'm super familiar with. It's what I've used for many years with different clients. So I decided to just launch on the MailChimp platform and it's been going really well so far.
Bryan: That's fantastic. I launched a personal newsletter a while ago, but I use the platform Substack. I mean, I guess the tool doesn't really matter, but I just like the way Substack is set up for newsletters and it's quite easy to use. How do you get subscribers to your personal newsletter, or followers?
Jessica: I created a very simple landing page, again, just through MailChimp. I really find that MailChimp has really improved over the years. I mean, they have really beautiful landing page layouts, and I just created a landing page there. I promoted it on my social media channels. I'm pretty active on Twitter. I'm pretty active on Instagram. So I shared it there. I also have a larger email list from a blog that I used to run, so I sent it out there and let people know that I was starting a content focused newsletter. My other blog was a little bit more personal. So I wanted to let people know that if they were interested specifically in news about content and the writing world that they could subscribe to this newsletter.
Jessica: It's a smaller newsletter for sure. I think right now I'm up to 150 subscribers, so it's definitely small, but it's growing. And like I said, it's really keeping me excited to write and to stay up to date on what's going on in the industry, because when you're so in the weeds with doing the work, I find sometimes it can be hard to see what other people are doing and take a look and see what's trending in the industry, what's going to be coming next. So this has really challenged me to on a... I call it a weekly-ish newsletter to give myself an out if I don't have it every single week. So about every other week I send it out and it's been really fun and it's gotten really good feedback, which is great, and it's helping me to kind of... The goal with this also was to position myself as a thought leader in the content management world and to start throwing my hat in that ring a little bit more, because like I said before, I was doing PR, I was doing a little bit of content editing, I was a little all over the place and now I really focused in on what it is that I do.
Bryan: What's the URL, or where can people find that newsletter?
Jessica: People can find it by going to jessicalawlor.com/newsletter.
Bryan: Okay, very good. I haven't used MailChimp... God, I'd say it's five or six years now. At the time we used it because they had free email software, but I gather they changed quite a lot. But it does seem to me that the way things are going are towards one, personal newsletters, like what you've created, at least for writers, and two, on Medium. So a lot of new writers these days can get their start on Medium, and I suppose I'd recommend it to new writers because you can actually earn a couple of hundred dollars with a little bit of work, which I often think is encouragement for somebody to stick weight writing. Have you explored or has The Write Life explored Medium much, because I know they allow syndication of content on the platform, which is something I've looked at as well.
Jessica: You know, that's something that we haven't explored and perhaps we should.
Bryan: I've written for a few publications on Medium. I guess the only caveat is you don't own... Medium own the platform whereas with WordPress you own the platform, I guess. But it just seems like a good opportunity for freelance writers these days.
Jessica: Yeah, and I love what you said about Medium being like a lower barrier to entry, and that's what I think about MailChimp too. I think MailChimp is super easy for a new writer or someone who's never run an email list to get their start. And I think the hardest part about doing anything is getting started, so if you can make that process a little bit simpler for yourself, that's always a good thing.
Bryan: Are there any other emerging trends that you've noticed started as you talked about recently in your newsletter related to content?
Jessica: I think really I've seen a lot of people talking about just the content mix. What is content these days? Is it blogging, is it video, is it Instagram stories? And I think just the changing definition of what content is, is something that I've seen a lot of people talk about. For me, I feel like I've been blogging on and off for more than a decade now, and I love blogging and I hope that it never goes away, and I feel like a lot of people think that blogging isn't as much of a thing anymore, but I still think it is. And I think that people are still starting blogs and there are a lot of other great content platforms out there. I mean, even thinking about a site like TikTok and Instagram lives and there's so many people getting started on YouTube, and this is all content.
Jessica: So I've been seeing a lot more people talk about the content mix and what that means, but I hope that the written word and blogging never goes away because, like you just mentioned with the personal newsletters, I love sending that out because I feel like it's me sending a personal note to the people who have opted in to hear from me. And I often love the back and forth that comes from that when people respond to a question that you've asked or they respond to tell you a story about something that you've written. And I hope that that never goes away.
Bryan: Yeah. I like your description of the content mix. I mean, the internet thrives or lives on content and it's not necessarily that you have a blog and that's it. You can incorporate podcasting or video or whenever you're doing on social media onto your platform or your content mix. So one great way that writers can monetize their work and earn more money is through creating an online course where they can teach what they know to other writers. I've created online courses over the years and and I know The Write Life has also offered courses. It was a great opportunity to be asked to be involved in the writer's bundle, which is launching in September. Would you be able to tell listeners a little bit about the bundle and what they can expect from it?
Jessica: Yes, we are so excited about the bundle, and we're happy to have you be a part of it. So the writers bundle is a really exciting deal. It's a three day flash sale. So what that means is we've bundled together 12 courses and tools from successful freelancers, from names that you would probably recognize. Stephanie Land, Kristin Wong, Elna Cain, Yuwanda Black, lots of people are in this bundle, and together, if you were to buy each of the trainings, it would cost about $2,000. But for three days only, and through this deal, you can get all of those courses for just $99. So we call it... It's a flash sale. So it will be launching this year on September 14th at 6:00 AM, Eastern Standard Time, and it'll just run for three days only, so we'll end on September 16 at 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time.
Jessica: It's something that we've offered. We've done it a couple times in the past. We haven't done it for a few years. We're bringing it back for 2020. And what's really special about this year's bundle is that it's totally focused on freelance writing. So in the past, our bundles have been a little bit more general. We've had products about freelance writing. We've had products about traditional publishing, writing fiction, but this year, given all that's been going on, especially with COVID and people sadly being laid off from jobs, I've just noticed a lot more people having an interest in what it might be like to freelance write, and to start your own thing on the side. Some people are finding themselves with maybe a little bit more time to do those things or pursue dreams that maybe they haven't had time for before, or maybe they're just recognizing that now is a great time. So we thought that this year we would really focus this year's bundle on freelance writing specifically to help people who either want to start freelance writing or people who are already doing it and want to level up their careers.
Bryan: I'm looking at the page here, and you have a course from Dave Schools who I know from Medium, who's got expert tips for writing on Medium. You have productivity course for freelance writers. You have a social media starter course for freelancers. That'd be great opportunity for any freelance who's looking to maybe supplement their income with everything that's happened over the past year. As somebody who's worked as a freelance writer, it is something that you can do from home and that you can do online as well. So if somebody wants to buy the bundle, where should they go? And I can put a link to it in the show notes as well.
Jessica: Yeah, definitely put a link. So the website that they'll go to is thewritersbundled2020.thewritelife.com.
Bryan: Okay, that's fantastic. I would encourage people to buy bundle if they're interested in building their freelance career. And of course if you've got questions, you can send me an email and I'll ask questions about it as well. Where can people find more information about you if they want, Jessica?
Jessica: I'm at jessicalawlor.com, and then you can find The Write Life at thewritelife.com.
Bryan: Was very nice to talk to you today.
Jessica: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It was great to get to know you.
Bryan: Thank you. I hope you enjoyed this podcast episode. If you did, please leave a rating on the iTunes store. And if you want to accomplish more with your writing, please visit becomeawritertoday.com/join, and I'll send you a free email course. Thanks for listening.
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