From 2006 to 2013, I worked a stressful job that consumed nearly every waking hour of my life — and all for around $38,000 per year.
I schlepped into the office for long hours, weekends and holidays, with little time left for “real living” after taking care of laundry and other chores.
And, did I mention I had two small kids? I had them, but I rarely saw them. And the time I did spend with them served as a painful reminder of what I had given up.
Basically, my life sucked. I worked like a rented mule, yet never had time to enjoy life outside of my 15 days of paid time off. More than anything else, I was desperate to spend more time with my kids.
Fast forward to last year — 2016. I earned $270,000 — $225,000 was from freelance writing alone. The rest was from my blog, .
I went on 11 vacations to places like Greece, Barbados, Grand Cayman and Mexico, mostly with my kids. I paid off a house, a rental home we bought in our early 20s.
I barely got dressed, choosing to spend most work days in my pajamas on my couch. Best of all, I put my kids on the bus at 8 a.m. each morning and stood smiling at the bus stop at 3:40 p.m. each day. I also had ample time to be a parent and a wife, and to enjoy all that God has given me.
How freelance writing changed my life
Amazingly, I accomplished all this on my own terms without having a boss or staring at the clock until 5 p.m. And I didn’t have to hope and pray for some shitty three percent raise or an extra day of PTO.
I’m sure you’re wondering what happened between 2006 and 2016. To be honest, it was a lot of work!
My husband and I started our blog in 2011 as a hobby and money-making venture. But it turned out to be so much more.
Somewhere along the line, I learned to use my writing skills to land freelance jobs all over the web. Meanwhile, my husband learned to monetize our blog. I quit my job to write full time in 2013, and my husband quit his in 2015.
These days, I have popular columns in publications like The Indianapolis Star, The Simple Dollar, Frugal Travel Guy, U.S. News and World Report Travel, Travel Pulse, Lending Tree and Wise Bread.
It’s still a lot of work, of course, but now we reap all the rewards.
Last year, I also took on another project that’s been on the docket for a while: I created an online course for freelancers who want to build a career like mine. It’s called , and so far, it’s helped hundreds of would-be writers get their first writing gigs on the web.
The course includes a bunch of video modules created by yours truly, a private Facebook group where people ask questions and get answers. And yes, it’s been a lot of fun!
5 lessons freelance blogging taught me
But that’s not all I’m here to talk about. These are my best tips for anyone hoping to build an awesome (and lucrative) freelance career on the web.
1. Ignore people who don’t support you
Whether you’re writing for a living already or trying to build a portfolio from scratch, some people in your life will think you’re nuts. It’s more comfortable for them to see you working a regular job than to watch you break out of your shell. For a lot of people, your success is proof of their failure — and they don’t like it.
This is exactly why you should never listen to people who discount your efforts. When I started writing part-time, a lot of people rolled their eyes and said it would never work. Thank God I always ignored them.
2. Limit distractions and you’ll make more money
A lot of writers I know want to make more money but really suck with their time. They secretly hope to boost their incomes, they say, but they also spend little time actually working. Instead, they opt to hang with their friends, run errands and enjoy their freedom.
But, freedom is a tricky thing. It sure feels great to create your own schedule, yet running errands won’t pay the bills. If you want to make money, you have to enjoy freedom in moderation and work like your income depends on it. Because it does!
No matter what your friends say, you will earn more money if you create a set work schedule and stick to it. My kids go to school from 8 a.m. until 3:40 p.m., so this is when I work. And no, I don’t go out to lunch, hit up Hobby Lobby at noon or sip fancy drinks at Starbucks all day.
3. Don’t care what anyone thinks
I’ve always felt like most successful writers have a superpower, whether that’s writing fast, having killer research skills, or something else.
I actually have two superpowers — writing fast and not giving a single #@%#$$# what anyone thinks.
If you worry too much what people think, it’s hard to create intriguing content or share opinions that might offend. But when you stop caring what people think, you gain the superpower to write the type of content people share.
They may not like what you say, but that’s exactly what you should say it. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, no matter what anyone thinks.
4. Perception is reality
If you want to work as a professional writer, make sure you look the part. I see so many people building careers with a selfie they took on their phone.
Please, stop this. It’s not that hard to go to Target and pay $9.99 for at least one professional-looking headshot. Trust me, it will help!
5. Hard work trumps talent
and my personal relationships with other writers, I’ve noticed a trend worth noting: The best writer does not always get the job.
Most of the time, the most aggressive, fierce and hard-working writers get the bulk of the freelance work that’s out there. It’s not because they’re more talented – it’s because they are crazy-good at finding and retaining clients.
I’ve said it a million times – hard work trumps talent in this business and many others. Being an awesome writer helps, but it’s just not enough.
Throughout my writing career, I learned these lessons (and many others) the hard way. When I started freelancing, I had no idea websites like The Write Life existed!
Fortunately, you have a leg up when it comes to building a freelance career you love. With resources for writers readily available, you can get questions answered and learn from other writers in your niche.
And if you want my help working toward freelance success, make sure to check out . I’m always available, and I love sharing my unique insights with other writers who craves success.
Have any questions about how I earned $200K last year? Leave them in the comments below.
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