Freelance writers come from all walks of life. Few of us knew as youngsters this is what we’d do for a living.
That means many of us don’t study anything related to writing or business, or even follow a career path that would naturally lead to freelancing. We usually just have to sort of dive in and figure it out.
Writer Gina Horkey pivoted from her work with a family-owned financial firm to freelance writing and virtual assistance in 2014.
She had no formal training or professional experience, but she put up a website, wrote for Huffington Post in the early mornings to build clips and found her first paying client within two months by leaning into her experience in personal finance to quickly carve out a niche.
She made more than $800 in her first month of paid work. She’s since written for big-name financial firms and publishers, including BMOHarris, Discover and GoBankingRates.
Now she teaches others how to launch their own freelance writing or VA business through her well-known “30 Days or Less” courses and her blog, Horkey Handbook.
Through her course 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success (30DOL), Gina promises, “If you give me just 30 days, I’ll give you everything you need to build a high-paying freelance writing business.”
I’ve been freelancing for nearly 10 years, and I wish I’d found this course at the beginning of my career. I recommend it to any writer who wants to quit their day job and quickly find paid writing work.
How to find freelance writing success
Without training or experience, Gina attributes her success to grit. She was unhappy in the job she’d had for 10 years and determined to develop a career she loved as a writer.
Gina recommends goal setting and networking to set a foundation for your new career or side hustle as a freelance writer. But the real driver of your success will be how much work you put in.
Gina got up to write at 4:30 a.m. until she left her day job at the end of 2014. She’s a mother of two, and her new income had to continue to support her kids and husband, who’s a stay-at-home dad.
Your goals might be different — maybe you define success as a side hustle, extra income that pays off your debt or a hobby that lets you share your talent and explore your creativity.
Whatever success means to you, you have to commit to doing the work to get there. 30DOL is a great introduction to how that work might look and where to start.
Who should be a freelance writer?
As Gina’s story illustrates, anyone can become a freelance writer. The work doesn’t require formal training, and you can start small to build experience that will help you get better clients and make more money.
You should, at least, enjoy writing. There’s no sense in being self-employed at something you don’t enjoy — finding clients and managing your finances are unnecessary work if you’d be just as happy working for someone else.
Freelancing is for people who want to carve their own path. Gina left behind her full-time job because she was unhappy there, and she chose freelance writing because she wanted flexibility and autonomy. She developed her writing skills along the way.
As long as you enjoy it, writing is a learnable skill. Tons of writing websites, communities and courses exist to help you hone the craft, so don’t be intimidated if you’re not a star writer (yet). You can learn with practice and experience.
30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success: Course details
30DOL is an all-online course that covers the basics of becoming a freelance writer: what kind of writing you can do, how to find clients, how to pitch, business basics, building a website and self-promotion.
It includes 12 text-based modules and a 90-day pitch challenge. Course participants can also purchase a membership to an exclusive Facebook group for leads and support.
Text-based modules that cover the basics of freelance writing
The text-based modules cover:
- Laying the foundation: Set goals for your freelance business and build a support network of friends, family and colleagues.
- Types of online writing: Learn the industries, mediums, formats and topics you can specialize in, plus what kind of writing pays best.
- Where to find paid work: Research your target audience or clients, tap into your existing knowledge and find work through job boards and other sites.
- Get your pitch on: Learn what makes a good pitch, how to keep track of your pitches and how to get started with a 90-day pitch challenge.
- Establishing your business: Keep track of your finances, decide whether to create an official business, set your rates, create invoices and contracts, write your bio and polish your LinkedIn profile.
- Building your writer’s website: Learn what your website needs (and why you need one).
- Web hosting and WordPress tutorial: Learn the nitty gritty of creating a site, including registering a domain, setting up hosting and how to navigate WordPress. This module also includes video tutorials to show you how to set up pages and other functions in WordPress.
- Promoting your new business: Build your brand on social media and email, and protect yourself as your profile grows online.
- Honing your writing skills: Get tips for coming up with ideas, formatting for the web, using images, conducting research, interviewing sources; and writing for various markets, including content marketing, copywriting, SEO writing and B2B writing.
- Helpful tools: Get an overview of the Google suite, tools and courses to help you write better, and tools to streamline your pitches.
Each module includes several lessons, a checklist of action items to apply the lesson to your work and a quiz to help you evaluate what you’ve learned.
Each lesson ends with an action step or several, which I love. They’re filled with useful resources, including Gina’s own worksheets, personalized tools (like the Pitch Tracker) and links to third-party resources.
90-day pitch challenge
The course doesn’t present the challenge as a separate component — it’s just part of the pitching module — but I think it’s a section worth pointing out for its unique value. The 90-Day Pitch Challenge encourages you to send 10 pitches per weekday — 600 total by the end of the challenge.
It sounds like a lot — but that’s the point. Setting the goal to write and send tons of pitches forces you to get into the habit of brainstorming, researching publications and pitching. Plus, you’re bound to get at least a few yeses out of 600!
The challenge includes a free Pitch Tracker spreadsheet so you can track where and what you’ve pitched, contact information and responses.
This challenge is a good example of how 30DOL drives participants to action. You get a framework for action and the tools you need to succeed — you just have to commit to the work.
Optional add-on: Facebook group for leads and support
30DOL course participants have the option to purchase a $33-per-month membership subscription to the exclusive VA Leads Facebook group, where you can network with other freelancers, get support from Gina and her team and take advantage of shared client leads.
The benefit of the additional price tag is the group is pretty small for an online community — fewer than 500 members when I checked. And you know everyone there is serious about making their freelance business work. That makes for focused and valuable discussion, and the intimate size gives you better access to career and course support.
The membership also includes a free Flywheel WordPress hosting account, usually $15 to $30 per month.
Pros and cons of 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success
My favorite aspect of 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success is its focus on actionable advice. Every lesson includes explicit action steps, so you know how to apply what you’ve learned to building your freelance business.
Most importantly, the advice in the course is sound. Gina shares action steps and exercises she used to find success as a writer, and I’ve had success with many of the same tactics throughout my career. It’s safe to say you’ll find freelance writing work by following the steps recommended in the course.
I also like that the lessons are text-based, because it keeps the course simple and accessible. You can read them on any device. The course platform is easy to use on desktop or mobile, so it’s easy to bounce around among modules and mark them as completed when you want to.
The biggest drawback to the course is it’s a lot of information to absorb as a new freelancer. It’s everything you need to know to run a freelance business and make it your main source of income. You could become overwhelmed if you try to tackle it all as you start freelancing, especially if you’re writing on the side of a full-time job.
But the course is a trove of information and resources you’ll find valuable throughout your career. Once you sign up, you’ll have lifetime access to the course, so you could take it slow and revisit things like building your website and promoting your business when you’re further along.
How much does 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success cost?
The course costs either a one-time payment of $297 or four monthly installments of $89 ($356 total). Registration gets you instant, lifetime access to all course modules and materials.
Access to the VA Leads Facebook group (which includes free WordPress hosting) costs an additional $33 per month, and you can make your first payment when you register for the course.
Is Gina Horkey legit?
In a nutshell, yes! Gina Horkey is absolutely legit. She has shared her advice with The Write Life readers before, and we’re happy to recommend her course to anyone who wants to kickstart a freelance writing career.
Gina has been working as a freelance writer, covering personal finance, freelancing and entrepreneurship, since 2014. Throughout the course, she’s transparent about her finances, sharing her early income wins and goals.
She’s built a strong network around Horkey Handbook courses and resources, and her readers and students share glowing online reviews.
If you’re not sure whether you’re ready to dive in, check out Gina’s article on becoming a freelance writer, including some worksheets to boost your writing business, to see what she has to offer.
Bottom line of our 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success review: Gina Horkey knows what it takes to launch a freelancing career from scratch, and she laid out the blueprint in 30DOL.
Following the action steps in the course will almost certainly get you freelance writing work. The course might be a bit too comprehensive for side hustlers, but it’s well worth it if you’re ready to make writing your full-time job.
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The original version of this story was written by Cruz Santana. We updated the post so it’s more useful for our readers.
Photo via GuadiLab / Shutterstock