What I Did to Earn $5,000 in One Month as a New Freelance Writer

What I Did to Earn $5,000 in One Month as a New Freelance Writer

I know why you’re reading this.

You’re exactly where I was about a year ago: Feeling lost. Wondering how you’ll find success as a freelance writer.

Ready for some good news?

You can make serious income from writing work. I’m talking “pay your bills and still have plenty left to support your Whole Foods addiction” money here, people.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it — I had to hustle like crazy at first to make it happen.

But once I understood the process, the money started pouring in, and I made more than $5,000 in my fourth month as a full-time freelance writer.

How, you ask?

Good question. Here’s what I did:

1. Set crazy goals and worked hard to achieve them

Full disclosure: I didn’t exactly choose to become a freelance writer.

I got fired from my full-time job, and suddenly having no source of income motivated me to make freelance writing work for me.

I knew it was going to be tough, but I was confident in my ability to succeed. So, I told myself that I’d out-earn my previous salary within four months.

Deep down, I knew it was a crazy goal. But I set it anyway, told myself that it was achievable, and woke up every day with the drive to make it happen.

And it did happen. I got fired in April 2015, and four months later, made $5,172 from freelance writing work in August 2015 alone.

If I’d allowed myself to be held back by a negative mindset, it wouldn’t have happened.

Set an income goal that seems crazy to you but is still achievable. Having a clear goal to work toward will help you grow your business quickly.

2. Picked a niche

I worked as a B2B copywriter for IT companies for a while before I became a freelance writer, so I chose that as my niche.

And you better believe I plastered “B2B Copywriter for IT Service Providers” all over my freelance writer website and social media profiles.

Why?

Because a freelance writer known as an expert in a specific niche usually gets more high-paying clients than one who isn’t.

Think about it. If you were hiring a writer, would you want to work with one who specialized in your industry or one who wrote all sorts of content?

You’d want the specialist. Every time.

Your potential clients feel the same way. So pick a niche, and start marketing yourself as an expert in that niche.

Keep in mind that you can pick multiple niches if you want — the specialization part is what’s important. And you don’t need a crazy amount of expertise on a topic to make it your niche. As long as you can deliver what clients need, you can learn as you go.

3. Built a strong freelance writer website

I had a basic portfolio website for a while, but I knew that wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to make serious money as a freelance writer.

So, I learned everything I could about WordPress and built a freelance writing website.

Seems like common sense, right?

It is. Lots of writers do have a website.

The problem?

They create their website from the perspective of a desperate job-seeker who is writing a resume — not an expert business owner who knows how to get results for clients.

Those writers might as well give themselves a neck tattoo that says “PLEASE UNDERPAY ME.”

I know that’s harsh, but it’s true. Clients tend to make assumptions about your value based on your website.

I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that hold other freelance writers back, so keep these tips in mind when you’re creating your freelance writing website:

  • Write your website copy in a way that brands you and attracts your ideal clients. My website has the word “badass” right in the headline because that’s how I talk. That kind of tone sets me apart, and I’ve found that my audience (B2B business owners and marketers) appreciates the straightforward approach. It might offend some people and drive them away, but it doesn’t matter — those people wouldn’t be the right clients for me anyway.
  • Leave out meaningless adjectives, and speak directly to the client’s needs and pain points. No more wasting valuable space on your site talking about how “disciplined” and “passionate” you are as a writer. Clients don’t care about that  they care about what services you can provide for them.
  • Choose a clean design and make sure your site is user friendly. Avoid cluttering your site with unnecessary images and giant walls of text. Instead, use white space to draw the reader’s eyes to the important points. And if you want to find out what people really think of your website, try a free user testing tool like Peek.

Put yourself in a potential client’s shoes. What are they really looking for when they hire a freelance writer like you? Use your answer to guide you when you’re creating your website.

4. Cold-pitched my target audience

Several years ago, I worked as a door-to-door salesperson.

That’s right — I had to knock on people’s doors and try to sell them cable and internet services.

My salary was so low that I depended on commission to pay my bills, so I had to hustle.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking:

No wonder you recommend cold pitching. It must be easy for someone who worked in sales!

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it’s not easy.

It’s terrifying.

But is it worth it?

Totally.

In fact, cold pitching helped me earn $800 in my first month as a freelance writer.

Now, I didn’t just send pitches to random businesses. I mostly used LimeLeads, a huge database of leads, to look up B2B/IT businesses in my niche.

But you don’t have to use LimeLeads — you can find potential clients using social media and Google. Then, send each of them a tailored pitch.

Here are a few tips that’ll help you write effective cold pitches:

  • Include a link to your freelance writing website in your pitch. Your site should have your niche defined in the headline so that potential clients know immediately that you specialize in their industry.
  • Focus on how you’ll get results for the company you’re pitching. Don’t talk about yourself too much in your email. Instead, talk about how you’ll help the company get more customers, build their audience, etc.
  • Avoid pitching like you’re a desperate job seeker. Instead, write like you’re a confident business owner (because you are!), and you’ll be able to demand respect and higher rates.

Keep in mind that you’ll get rejected tons of times — that’s just how cold pitching works. Most of the cold emails I sent at the beginning of my career were ignored completely.

But after a while, I started getting responses. Some of those turned into clients.

So don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. If you approach cold emailing correctly, you will be able to get new freelance writing clients from it.

5. Outsourced strategically

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve always hated editing.

Mostly because I’m a perfectionist, which makes self-editing is a huge time suck for me.

I realized this early on in my freelance writing career, so I started paying an editor to look over all my work, even though I was a broke newbie.

Yes, outsourcing costs me money, but it saves me far more money in the long run.

I think about it like this:

Editing doesn’t make me any money or help me grow my freelance writing business. When I cut editing out of my workday completely, I open up more time to work on tasks that make my business more profitable, like writing or marketing.

Figure out what tedious tasks you can outsource to make your freelance writing business more profitable.

Time is money when you’re a freelance writer, so you need all the time you can get.

6. Rejected low-paying clients

When you start out, it’s tempting to take whatever work you can get. And if you don’t have any connections, you may have to settle for some low-paying clients at first so you can pay the bills.

But you shouldn’t do it for long.

Why?

Because filling your schedule up with low-paying writing work takes away the free time you could spend marketing yourself to high-paying clients. And before you know it, you end up caught in a vicious cycle of accepting whatever pay you can get.

Here’s a better idea based on what I did to grow my income quickly:

Figure out the bare-minimum amount of money you need to survive every month. Once you’re making that amount from your low-paying clients, stop accepting any new low-paying work and spend all of your free time working on marketing yourself and pitching to high-paying clients.

That way, you can avoid getting stuck in a rut and start growing your business —and your income.

7. Built a strong social-media presence

First of all, realize that you shouldn’t immediately expect a flood of high-paying clients from social media. You’ll have to spend some time building a presence and making connections first.

Here’s a three-step process I used to land clients through social media:

  • Connect with target clients. For example, if you specialize in writing blog posts about marketing, you might connect with content marketing managers at marketing agencies. They’d be the people most likely to give you work.
  • Start liking and commenting on your target clients’ posts. By doing so, you’ll start building relationships with potential clients and get on their radar.
  • Send a client-focused pitch. If you do this after you’ve built a relationship with the potential client on social media, it works like a charm. Be personable and talk about how you can help their business in your pitch. Even if they don’t hire you right away, there’s a good chance they’ll keep you in mind for later or send you a referral.

I know it’s tempting to send sales pitches to potential clients the moment you connect with them, but don’t do that. You’ll find those clients much more receptive to working with you if you’ve spent significant time building a relationship with them.

Which of these tactics will you use to increase your freelance writing income? Let’s talk about it in the comments section!

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55 comments

  • Pinar Tarhan says:

    Great advice as usual, Jordan. I really want to hire an editor, but I don’t know where to go about finding one that I’ll be a good match with. Can I ask who you worked with?

    Also, I’m working on 4,5 and getting very good at 6. Even if it feels weird at first. : )

    • Jorden Roper says:

      Thanks so much, Pinar! My editor is actually someone I’ve been friends with for many years, so I lucked out already knowing someone. 🙂

    • Kallen Diggs says:

      Pinar, I would suggest that you look for editors that write for local newspapers and specialty magazines as it relates to your niche.

      I am an editor of the award-winning magazine, Good Men Project. While we have all sections of various sorts, I could not help someone who needs editing for technical writing. It is not what I do or what we do over there.

      I may be open to working with you if it is a good fit. Send me an email if you are interested.

    • Jill Arnel says:

      There’s only one way to find out 🙂 Contact ME!

      My copywriting has been primarily for the pet industry, but I’m versatile. Editing, proofreading, research. Nothing technical but a pretty wide range of subjects I study whenever I can.

      One stop, everything handled.

      Kind regards,
      Jill

    • AS says:

      Hi
      I’ve worked at editing for newspapers and magazines and continue to do so as a freelance copy ediitor. You could mail me at anm.sur@gmail.com and we can take it from there.
      AS

  • denis mboya says:

    nice directives, keep it up

  • Diane says:

    Your article is really useful and refreshing. You’ve done a great job. To #3 I would also add researching the websites of other copywriters so you can see examples; it will also help you decide what to include and what not in your own website and will help you shape your own idea of how you would like to brand your copywriting services.

  • Lem Enrile says:

    Wow! This is inspiring. You have really worked hard to meet your “crazy” goal. I’m just curious. How many days or weeks or months did you spend on “building” a relationship to your target client before you send them a pitch? Thanks!

    • Jorden Roper says:

      Hi Lem! Thanks for the positive feedback. 🙂

      With the relationship building thing, it wasn’t ever a matter of months. It was more whenever I felt like a pitch would be natural to send. Sometimes that was after several days of interaction, and sometimes it was after a couple weeks. I think it’s best to feel out the situation and decide based on the client you’re pitching!

  • Martin says:

    Thank you very much. It was worth my time reading this.

  • saki says:

    this is really too useful and have more ideas from yours. keep sharing many techniques. eagerly waiting for your new blog and useful information. keep doing more.

  • Arbaz Khan says:

    Hey Jorden,
    I myself started as a freelance writer but that I didn’t like it very much. Maybe, it was because I wasn’t getting paid enough or I wasn’t that good.
    But now, I write articles for my own websites and that’s probably the best way to utilize my writing skills.
    I never thought a writer could make as much as $5000 in a month and seeing that you did it, you must be awesome!
    Keep it up and I hope the number only increases in the coming months.

  • Jeffrey Hill says:

    Jorden, I kind of want to make a condensed version of this post and print it onto a flag to wave around my house. lol, just kidding. But seriously. I love how bold you were in your goals, and that you did what it takes. THAT’S the thing: I takes this kind of can-do attitude blended with smart strategy.

    • Jorden Roper says:

      Haha! 🙂 Thanks Jeffrey!

      And yeah, it was tough at times for sure, so that can-do attitude (combined with strategy, like you said) is definitely a big reason I reached my income goals.

  • Sean Parkin says:

    I would love to become a freelance writer but I am uncertain as to what would be my niche or topics to write about. I have worked in many different fields and dont have a lot of experience in one field. I suppose that if all else fails I could write about a few topics. Any help would be a great help.

  • sharmishtha says:

    Very inspiring. Tnxs

  • Jason Little says:

    I’ve been marketing like crazy lately and my response rate is very low. In attempting to breathe new life into my website and overall web presence, I took to Google to find local Freelance Writers, to see what they may be doing differently. I landed on a website called Cutthroat Copy by Freelancer Jorden Roper.

    Now, you are everywhere. I was doing research for a client yesterday and landed on your site again quite by accident. Not really by accident. I looked up how to deal with picky clients and Google delivered me to your blog “What To Do When Your Client is Basically Satan”. Now I get this notification in my inbox from The Writer Life and here you are yet again.

    You are killing it, Jorden. I love your content. Keep up the good work!

  • When I saw the headline I knew this had to be you, Jorden. 😉

    Always so encouraging to hear your story. I’m in a similar process in the freelance travel writing world, and I’m definitely taking notes from you. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Rebekah

  • Shannnon says:

    So, what if you are a straight up beginner? I don’t have that much practical experience at all. I’ve done a handful of successful projects but that’s about it. Is this is this something beginner’s can do, or is it something that can be done after I get more experience on my belt?

  • Jordan,
    The fact that you made goals right off the bat and was determined to reach them is the key. Hard work and fierce determination will bring success. I’ve been at it for 20 years now and very successfully I might add. You are inspiring. Keep it up.

  • Your advice rocks and your bravery is majorly inspiring, Jorden. Thank you for sharing your secrets!

  • Ratan says:

    Your points were very helpfull and encouraging. i am yet to pick up my courage. i am a newbie and am not sure how to go about content writing or writing a blog. I have many interest but am not sure what is my niche. i have written children stories, but am not confident about it. I have worked as a Secretary too long and my son says that my stories are like reports. any pointers?

  • Howard Beye says:

    Well written.

  • Alexis says:

    This is very interesting! Very inspiring for someone(like me, who got fired as well), who has this burning passion in writing, but don’t have any formal training. People always telling me to it out but I’m a little bit skeptical about it.

  • Jordan says:

    This article was great. I just broke free from content mills and am branching out on my own now. I’ve been debating the whole “brand myself in one niche” thing, and after reading your article, I definitely think it’s thw way to go. Now just to determine what niche…Best of luck to you as you persue even “crazier” goals.

    P.S. Love the name 😉

    • Jorden Roper says:

      Hi Jordan! Thanks for the feedback. Love your name too 😉

      Going super niche is one of the main things I did that helped me grow my freelance business fast, so I definitely recommend doing that!

  • Newton Imonjirie says:

    Hello roper, your post is very lovely and inspiring too, you are doing a realy great job, i hope ill be as good as you are someday…..please, what if im just starting out in my writing cqreer, do thesectips apply to me as well?

  • Evans says:

    Wow, O love this post. It is motivating and encouraging us who are newbies in freelance writing.

  • Hi, Jorden.

    Thanks for sharing some great advice. I agree with everything.

    Those low-paying clients are a curse. It’s easy to take them on when there is nothing else coming. But in the long term, they are such a waste of time, and repressive.

    You’ve given me a few ideas that I have to tweak.

    Thanks. Tweeting to my followers.

    Nathan.

  • Amanda V. Ramos says:

    Jorden,

    I loved your article. Great advice! I love how you don’t hold back, say what you feel and just go for it. I’m definitely taking a lot of your advice and suggestions with me. Funny thing, just yesterday I read something that my mom posted on her Facebook page. She put, “He who plants the seed is just as important as he who waters it.” You have planted the seed and now it’s my job to water it to make it grow! Love it!

    Amanda

  • anika says:

    I am doing job as a content writer now I want to set my own bussiness can you help me I want someone to guide me and I will in turn work for them free do inbox me please

  • anika says:

    I am continuing job as a freelance writer now I wanna start my own bussiness as a blogger if anyone can help please inbox me

  • Ashri Mishra says:

    What an amazing and well written article.

  • Kim says:

    Excellent post!Great suggestions. Thank you for sharing.

  • Edwin Agurcia says:

    excellent article!

    Please advice on how could I start training my self in wrinting? ( I know you have an article about it but I cant find it anymore). Its working pretty well for you in the U.S. I understand but what about outside of U.S.A, do you recognize any potential niches in latin America ( spanish lenguage)?

    Regards from Honduras!

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