When Inspiration Won't Strike

Do you ever have those days where your mind just won't co-operate with what needs to be written? I'm having an extraordinarily busy November, with so many orders and assignments that I should be insanely happy. I should be writing merrily all day, every day, getting through them all.

But today my mind won't co-operate.

Inspiration for ideas on those assignments and orders just isn't there. I've been staring at the keywords and job specifications, knowing what needs to be done and it's just....

Not happening.

In more than six years of doing this freelancing thing full time, I've never had a day like this before. Sure, I've taken days off where I just need a break. I've taken time off to recharge batteries.

But I've never seen a day where my mind refuses to come up with any logical sentence order to get even a part of an assignment started. Until now.

Have I burned out on writing about random topics and obscure niches that only my clients seem to find? Have I written one too many SEO articles about the same topic over and over and over until it feels like Groundhog Day?
Have I just hit a wall today and need to go do something else?

Those are probably all good questions - and I really did ask myself all of them this morning - until I actually figured out what the problem is.

You see, I really love my job. I love being a freelance writer and I love being self-employed. I love the freedom it gives me and I love earning money by doing what I love.

What I DON'T like is writing about things that don't inspire me. It's a grind and it's a chore. Sure, it pays the bills and it's what freelance writers do. I have no problem with that, but when it gets to the point that I'm writing nothing else except the things clients want done, it becomes tedious and boring.

This is my own fault.

I've said it before on this blog that freelance writers all have the freedom to create and shape their businesses however they want. It's my own fault that I let paid freelance work get in the way of my own creative writing pursuits and fun writing endeavors.


Today I'm going to take my daughter to the beach. I'm not going to sit at the computer another minute longer while inspiration has deserted me anyway. When we get back from our adventures at the beach, I will work on something creative (maybe even get that pesky novel finished, edited and submitted - finally).

The assignments can wait until tomorrow.



Starting Out as a Freelance Writer

I receive a lot of emails from freelance writers keen to learn more about earning money from freelance writing. Recently, I received an email from a reader saying that my blog posts are very helpful, but there's nothing on this blog about how to get started from scratch.

Silly me! I never even thought about that in all the posts I've put on this blog. Everything I've written about is either about finding new markets or finding new clients or finding ways to diversify your income or finding ways to be more productive with your writing or increasing your pay rate or setting up your business to weather any financial storm or...

Oh wait...

Those are all things that are still relevant and pertinent to beginners as well as seasoned pros. In fact, they're even more relevant for beginners, because they're easier to put into practice while you're still building your business and your client base.

So! What should you do if you're brand new to the whole freelance writing business thing and you want to get started? Here are some quick tips:

Don't Give Up Your Day Job

Yes, you read that right. Before I went full time with this whole writing thing, I spent months building up a solid buffer of savings from my regular full time job (I worked at a boring old bank back then, but I wrote part-time in whatever free time I could find).

I stayed working full time until my little part-time writing business began to take over every waking moment. At that point, it felt like I was working two full time jobs. I approached my old boss and told him I wanted to drop to part-time hours. He refused.

So I cheated. I called up an old colleague who had left on maternity leave. They wouldn't allow her to return on part-time hours - only full time. Between us, we were capable of working full time hours in the same job role each week. So, we approached the boss with this 'job-share' arrangement. We got our part-time hours. He got the full-time role covered as he wanted. He agreed.

Working part-time hours gave me the opportunity to write even more for my clients. It also still meant I had regular income coming in from my job, so I was fine financially. I was still steadily building up my savings for the day I would go full time.

Build Up Your Client Base

Spend your spare time building up a regular client base. Look for spare writing income sources. Apply to a few content mills. Yes, these are low paying, but they'll give you some experience in writing to a deadline and sticking to client specifications for assignments.

You might prefer to start loading articles for sale on Constant Content to see if you can increase your earnings this way.

Advertise your services on freelance writing sites, like Guru.com or Freelancer.com or register with Odesk.com. These aren't ideal places to work over the long term, but they're fine to make a start and hopefully meet some new clients.


Think about what type of writing you really enjoy.

Some writers do nothing but write web content. Others write sales copy. Some write ebooks as ghost writers. Some write magazine articles. Some write marketing scripts for video sales copy.

I tend to write anything I can handle in my available time.

I know someone who earns good money writing about her travel adventures all over the world. She loves her job and she gets to see some amazing things in her travels.

I also know someone who seriously loves writing about dogs - everything about them. Their health. Training them. Finding toys and accessories for them. Dog psychology. Dog food. You name it - she specializes in this. After some time working with online writing, she started submitting her work to print magazines. These pay FAR higher rates than online work, by the way.

Personally, I love writing about finance and money and debt and anything related to economics. It's my own specialty and I also submit my work to various magazines around the world.

Diversify Your Income Sources

Never. Never. Never. NEVER let your freelance writing business get dependent on one single source of income. If you have a really big client who pays well every month - woo hoo to you! But don't allow that one single income stream ever get bigger than 50% of your total freelance writing income.

Work on different sources of income that are derived by different means of writing. By this, I mean if you focus on web content writing, think about writing short fiction stories or magazine articles or other forms of writing that don't leave you hanging on one style.

Think about ways to increase passive income through writing wherever you can. This includes royalties from ebook sales. It includes Adsense income from blogs or even from revenue-share sites (if you must...I really don't like revenue-share personally, but it's income).  You might want to work on ways to use your writing talents to promote affiliate products. You could think about paid forum posting jobs to give you a break from writing articles.

There are plenty of things you can do to diversify your income. I've written about lots of them on this blog. Think about options that work best for you and then set your business up around what keeps you motivated.

Take the Plunge

When you have built up a bit of a savings buffer and you're at the point where your freelance business really does earn you enough money to survive on, it's time to quit your day job and go full time.

I personally took this leap three times. The first two times, I jumped too soon. I didn't have enough regular work. I didn't have enough savings to cover me during those quiet months. I didn't have enough clients to keep my income consistent. So I ended up going back to work.

The third time I tried, I did it the way I outlined above. I saved money. I wrote in my spare time. I learned to write different styles of writing in order to increase my service offerings to clients.

I kept submitting extra articles to Constant Content. I submitted articles to magazines. I write ebooks and reports and fiction novels and anything else I feel like writing.

The real key is to treat your freelance writing business like a full-time business enterprise. It's not a hobby. It's not something you do when you feel like getting out of bed. You really need to work at it.

You also have to have a plan to cover you for those times when orders go quiet. And they do. This is why the savings buffer is so important. This is why the income diversification matters so much.

So, I hope this gives you a bit of direction for your own fledgling freelance business.

Good luck!



Wow - Productivity and Focus Equals Happiness

Well, it's been a few months since I actually had time to write anything on my poor, neglected blog, but that time wasn't wasted. I've been crazy-busy in the last few months, writing, planning and just making things work. I actually re-structured my entire freelance business from the ground up - and I've never been happier.

You see, for the past six or seven years I've accepted almost all freelance work assignments that have come my way. I have multiple private clients who order regularly and I have other sources of writing income that I focus on as well. This has been my routine the entire time I've been freelance writing full-time.

However, a few months ago I had a bit of an idea.

My logic was that I needed to find ways to actually enjoy what I was writing, without affecting my overall income in any way. Of course, that's easier said than done, right?

Here's what I eventually did:

Increase Writing Rates

My regular private clients are brilliant. I love them to bits. But sometimes they order the most random cr@p that really is quite boring or unappealing. I still write these things because I love my clients and they always pay me on time (which is why I keep them as regular clients!).

Yet, when the vast majority of my working day is filled up with these things it tends to get a little tedious. So I figured that I needed to increase my rates just a little. This allows me to earn the same money in a shorter amount of time.

Weed Out Bad Clients

I know it sounds backwards, but if you really want your freelance writing business to work for you, it's really important to be selective about the clients you work with. I had a couple of clients who demanded the most outrageous things to be done (at no extra charge) on top of regular assignments. At first, I would do these things because I needed the money. Then it occurred to me that those clients are taking advantage of my time and my skills for their own gains.

Rather than continue this, I re-wrote my freelancing contracts and asked them to accept the new terms. Those terms included actually charging those clients when they asked for "just another thousand words on the end of that report", or charging them when they asked me to "just write another 10 different titles for that sales page so I can split-test properly", or "just format that report for me with these fonts, these page borders, a few stock images and maybe a quick cover?"

If they want the extra effort, they can pay for my time. If they don't like it, they can find another writer.

Yes, I lost two clients this way. You know what? I don't miss them. I much prefer working with clients who respect my time and my writing.

Increase My Service Offerings

Usually I tend to write SEO web content, magazine articles, press releases and ebooks for my clients. These things have been enough to keep me busy (and well-paid) for years. However, I also realized I might be limiting myself.

So I increased my service offerings to include writing email autoresponder series, video marketing scripts, and sales copywriting.

Each of these things required some study and a lot of practice to get right. But I can now charge additional fees for those clients who want these additional services :)

Increase Passive Income

Once I'd figured out a way to keep my income stable by working just a little less each day, I sat down and filled that extra time with ways to build up my passive income a little more. Yes, I earn some income from Google Adsense. I earn some commissions from promoting affiliate products on a different blog I own. I also earn royalties from a few ebooks I wrote. These things are very handy, but they're never going to amount to a full time income.

So I focused on maximizing these wherever I could. That included adding a new ebook to my collection to help boost my royalties overall. It also included working a bit harder on marketing my sites to increase visitor numbers overall.


When you put all these things together, it actually did make a big difference to the bottom line for my freelance writing business. I find I'm more productive, simply because I'm working more on things I truly enjoy. I kept all my good clients, so that keeps me happy. And I have a wider variety of things to write about, which keeps me from getting bored with writing the same old things day in and day out.

So - is it time for you to re-structure your own freelance writing business yet?

What are your thoughts?


Protecting Your Freelance Income

I know I've posted a few times now about the importance of diversifying your client base. Unfortunately, I still see a lot of freelance writers struggle and lose their incomes completely because they fail to follow this simple advice. So I'll go over just why this is so important for every freelancer once more.

Understanding Your Freelance Writing Business

When you have a really good client who provides lots of steady, ongoing work for you, it can be a great feeling. You know you'll be busy and you know you're earning money. 

While this might seem like the ideal situation, relying on just one primary client could actually set you up for failure.

You see, if that client stops ordering or goes quiet or decides to cut back the amount of work they need from you, your income suddenly dries up. This leaves you scrambling around searching for more work to replace the income you just lost.

This is the same thing that happens with employees. They become reliant on one source of income (their salary). If this stops, or they lose their job, or they're retrenched, their entire financial well-being also stops. 

Don't let this happen to you. You're not an employee. You're a self-employed freelance business owner. Run your freelance enterprise just like you would run any other business.

Why Bother Working for More Than One Client?

Once again, I get asked frequently why freelancers should bother taking on extra work with content mills or smaller, irregular clients. After all, if that particular freelancer has a long term association going on with a really good-paying regular client, there's no point, right?

Think about this: Even if you only earn 10% of your total freelance income from a lower paying writing source each month, that's still an income. It's better than nothing at all - especially if your primary income drops off. Besides, if you have more time available you can boost that secondary source of income up until you find another big client to replace the one you lost.

Now imagine if you had two or three sources of income coming into your freelance business ASIDE from your main client. Even if you did lose that big source of income, you'd at least still have something to fall back on and your freelance business wouldn't die a painful death in the process.

Diversifying Your Freelance Business

Ideally, your biggest client or source of income should be under 50% of your total income. This can be really difficult for some freelance writers to do, but it absolutely needs to be done if you're serious about protecting your business income.

The key to any successful business is the ability to keep bringing in new sources of income. You might be quite happy writing for private clients, but always consider the option of submitting an article occasionally to a print magazine. They still need well-researched, well-written articles from freelance writers just like you, too!

Think about writing just one, boring little article at the end of every working day for a content mill somewhere. It might only earn you a measly $7 per article, but over 5 days, that's a $35 a week pay rise you didn't have yesterday.  It won't be a big part of your income, but at least it's something to fall back on if you ever need to make money in a hurry.

If you don't want to write for 'those' types of sites, write that extra article at the end of every day anyway. Submit a few of those articles to a good marketplace, like Constant Content. You can set your own prices on these and you'll end up selling them eventually, so you still get paid anyway.

Think of some ways you can use your writing skills to boost up your residual income (or passive income) from advertising revenues or affiliate sales or commissions or whatever. There are SO many ways your writing skills can really boost your income this way that it's worth looking into.

Consider how powerful royalties can be for your overall income. Royalties on book sales can go on for years - especially with digital e-book sales. Non-fiction and fiction books sell well, so look into something you really enjoy and maybe add this feather to your freelancing cap too.

No matter what you decide, your freelance business is still YOURS. Work out options that work for you and your schedule. Think about what you can do for your own business that will help diversify those income sources and then get to work!

You'll be glad you did if that big-income client ever vanishes on you...

Here are some related links that might help you:


Life Is Too Short...

So for those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know I've been quieter than usual lately. This is because I have gone through a messy relationship break up. My daughter was also injured recently and I've been caring for her, but most of all, I've been healing my own emotional wreck.

You see, I had a bit of an epiphany during that messy break up that life is just too short to spend it with the wrong person. I woke up one day and realized that I was in a relationship with someone who was totally wrong for me. Sure, we both liked the same type of movies and we both enjoyed the same type of food. But these are superficial things to have in common with someone.

We had nothing in common when it comes to life values or future goals.

I'm a creative person. I write for a living. My ex was a corporate slave, believing his job description and willingness to work based on someone else's schedule made him very important, even if it was in his own mind. Many employees simply don't understand the life of a self-employed person, so they make many false assumptions. This just isn't always compatible.

And so I ended it. Enough said.

Unfortunately, as a self-employed person, I don't get the luxury of taking sick leave to help me get enough time to work through those issues in peace on my own. So I kept working. I kept focusing on clients. I stuck to my schedules. I kept doing what I had to do to pay those bills. The ex took multiple weeks off work to wallow in his self-pity at being dumped.

So, what does a self-employed writer do when life keeps going on around them, relentlessly, with no recognition that there's an actual person behind the machine? That writer just keeps doing whatever's needed to keep the business running.

What does an employed corporate slave do when they're feeling a little under the weather? They take sick leave and enjoy some time off, whether they use it wisely or not.

What's the preferred option?

Personally, I'm very grateful for the constant distraction of having to work and keep up with orders and maintain a 'normal' working life, despite what's going on inside. This gave me the wake-up call I needed to tell me that life really DOES go on. It taught me that my own problems don't affect anyone else but me - and maybe my daughter, whose injury means she's at home more often lately.

Besides, I'm actually surprised at how much more productive I've been since I actively focused more on clients than on my other issues. It's really helped to bring the income up to a point where the daughter's medical bills aren't so scary any longer. And that can only be a good thing


Goal Setting to Increase Productivity

It's been a little while since I posted anything, but it occurred to me today that I've been more productive in the past week than I have all year so far. Sure, I've been writing solidly every week for the past four months.

But in the last week I ended up with some serious medical bills to pay. My daughter broke her arm (she's fine!), but it wasn't a normal break. She needed minor surgery to put a pin into the bone in her wrist. Aside from being at the hospital and offline while she was there, I got the bill and nearly went into shock. I thought Medicare would cover all these things. Apparently not. The ambulance bill alone is higher than my mortgage payment  :(

So I got home, settled my daughter for her recovery phase and sat down to write.

Not only did I need to write enough to cover my normal bills and expenses, but now I had to write extra to help cover the excess bills that have now come in. So I created a daily income goal and I didn't stop until I reached it. Every day. Including today. And it's Sunday.

I usually work to a daily dollar-tally. When I reach that daily amount, I know I'll have enough to cover bills and expenses. But I'd increased my daily goal to help put towards the new bills. This meant I had to stay up later and write longer, or find a way to work smarter.

I'd love to be able to say I just worked smarter - but I actually did both. I worked longer hours than usual, but I also learned to group together various articles/topics that were similar to each other that came in from various clients. As the topics are so much alike, I could continue writing the same theme without having to stop to research or look up different information. It just let me rehash what I'd already written from a different perspective.


Topic: Debt Reduction

Article 1: Top 5 Debt Reduction Tips
Article 2: Common Debt Reduction Mistakes
Article 3: Speed up Debt Reduction Tactics
Article 4: Creating an Effective Debt Reduction Plan
Article 5: Why Debt Reduction Tips Aren't Working for You

You get the idea. Instead of writing just one and then moving onto the next assignment on my schedule, I grouped together those that sat in the same, or similar, niches and worked on them in batches.

When I was done with a particular batch, I would add one more on a random topic in that same niche and add it to Constant Content. This increases the number of articles I have for sale on that site, which also increased my sales coming in from that source as well.

Once that was loaded to the marketplace, I'd write just one more on the same topic, but from a different perspective. This one gets loaded to HubPages in an attempt to raise my Google Adsense income that little bit more.

Not only did this let me get far more done than I normally would, but it taught me that my OLD daily dollar-tally was probably set too low.

Especially since I'm aware that working this way really does add up to more income for me without much more effort in the long run  :)


Unprofessional Freelance Writers and Bullshit Excuses People Use

As most of you know, I'm a full-time freelance writer. I don't pretend to write while I'm playing stupid games on Facebook. I don't accept work only to lie to clients about my reasons for not completing work. I definitely don't take work, ignore it until after the deadline has passed and then pass it off to any other writer who will take it, even though it's overdue because I don't feel like doing it. And I definitely don't borrow money from clients because I was too stupid to pay my own bills first, instead of buying stupid crap like guns or motor bikes or other stupid crap.

You see, when I write, I do it to earn money as an adult business owner. I assess how much I'm earning. I withhold the right amount of tax that needs to be paid and I always adhere to deadlines set by my clients.

Unfortunately, I got to witness one of my very best friends being taken advantage of by a complete amateur, pretending to be a freelance writer.

You see, this particular writer begged my friend to lend her money (more than $400) she hadn't even earned yet in order to pay her mortgage. My friend felt bad, as things had gone a little quiet on the work front, so she lent this amateur, pretend writer the money. She had apparently received some work from another source and so promised faithfully that it would all be paid back within the next week or two. That was seven months ago.

Yet, within 10 minutes of the loaned money clearing, this amateur writer immediately went camping with her creepy looking boyfriend. She bought a new motorcyle and bought a new gun. They bought a new pick up truck. She didn't pay her bills that she cried about being so urgent. These things are verified by screenshots of status updates on facebook over the same amount of time.

Then there's the big "story" about that writer buying her dream wedding dress from a store in Australia, but she had no way of paying off the amount owed as the exchange costs for sending US dollars to Australia were higher than she could afford. My friend offered to make those payments in Aussie dollars out of money owed after work was completed. Each week, the pretend writer would do a little bit of work and then ask my friend to make a payment in Aussie dollars to go towards paying off her dress (still without bothering to repay the first loan).

After a little while, the amateur writer decided she couldn't afford to keep paying off the dress, so she emailed the store and cancelled her order, asking for the money she's already paid to be returned.

But this isn't the same story she told my friend. No, she came out with an OUTRAGEOUS set of lies, crying and bleating about how the store was ripping her off and cancelling her contract for no reason. She moaned about having to lose her dream dress after all that's happened and they were being so mean to her for no reason. So my friend called the store, willing to try and help out. The store contract clearly stated payments were non-refundable. They also explained that the loser writer had tried to cancel her own order - not the other way around.

The store owner was professional, friendly and very helpful, actually. She said she'd tried hard to help this pathetic, lying writer who came up with a lame story about how she had lost her first wedding dress when the America store she was paying it off from "burned down". (yet, another lie!) So the Aussie store gave her a nice discount and tried to help her out from the US exchange costs with Australian dollars instead. And that's how their kindness was repaid by a pathetic lying sack of wastefulness.

Then there's the great story about really needing extra money and begging my friend to give her extra work. The work was given - time and again - only to find that the work sat there, untouched until deadline had passed and the amateur writer then tried to pass it over to any other writer on the team who would take it. At the same time as this, multiple status updates on Facebook appear about going camping or motorbike riding or shopping or hanging out on Pinterest or just being a general loser.

In the meantime, this same selfish, childish writer has decided to spend lots of money on other stupid bullshit - again bragged about on Facebook status updates at every opportunity. Now, I don't really care what she spends her own money on. But she's the one who moaned about needing extra work, got it, ignored it, didn't do it, and then complained about being broke, only to beg for more money later. That's just childish and seriously irresponsible.

Her response to my query to her on Facebook? She deleted me as a friend, blocked me and abused my kind-hearted friend as a result. I actually don't care about people who waste their lives sitting on Facebook all day, so that doesn't bother me one bit. But, can we say "grow up little girl"??

I seriously hope this young idiot grows up at some point in the future to realize the effect she's had on adult writer's lives - those who have tried to help her to their own detriment. One day, karma will bite - and she won't like it much.

Be warned. I'll help karma find you. Inconsiderate little girl.


Paying Freelance Market: iWriter

Recently I received an email from a reader asking if iWriter was a good place to earn money writing articles. Personally, I had no idea how to respond, so I joined up and took a closer look at what iWriter has to offer. I thought I'd post my findings right here to help you all out.

No Approval Criteria to Become a Writer

Firstly, in order to become a writer with  iWriter , you simply create an account. There is no approval criteria to go through. This means you could be absolutely anywhere in the world and your account will be opened. Go ahead and accept a job. Write the article. Wait for it to be approved (or not). Easy.

When You Begin...

When you first join  iWriter , you start off as a 3-star rated writer, like everyone else. This means you are only eligible to take the 'standard' jobs until you receive some ratings from clients.

After you've earned more than 30 ratings and you have been rated with 4-stars or higher for a large percentage of them, you'll be able to accept the higher paying "premium" jobs. These are highlighted in yellow/green.

Writers with multiple five-star ratings will be eligible to accept even-higher paying "elite" jobs. These are highlighted in blue.

Pay Rate:

The pay rate at  iWriter is dependent on the word count of the article, the star-rating of the writer, and the topics/keywords chosen by the client.

For a 500 word article, the pay rate is as follows:

Standard Writer: $2.63 US
Premium Writer: $4.05 US
Elite Writer:  $6.48 US

Acceptance Rate

Before you pick up an article, be sure to check the 'rejection rate' of the buyer. If a buyer has a very high rejection rate, chances are that buyer is expecting a very high quality article, but only paying pennies for it. It also means that buyer may have a tendency to reject your submission, which means you won't get paid for it anyway.

My Verdict

As iWriter will accept international writers from India, Philippines, Malaysia, and pretty much every other non-native English speaking countries without even checking, I felt it only fair to list it here as a 'Paying Freelance Market' . However, the ultra-low pay rate, even for high-quality writers should really see  iWriter moved to the "freelance markets to avoid" for those writers with any other freelance writing options available.

If you're just learning the ropes and want to get your feet wet in the freelance writing world, or if you struggle to find sites that will allow international writers, give  iWriter a shot.

However, once you're past the beginner phase of your freelance writing career, get out and look for writing gigs that pay you more than pennies for your efforts.

Good Luck