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- I paid off $60,000 in student loans nine years ago, partly by freelance writing.
- I recommend a writing scramble to anyone trying to get out of debt.
- Focus on content types rather than niches, learn the basics of SEO, and be reliable.
On December 31, 2020, I paid off the last of my $60,000 in student loans nine years ahead of schedule. It was no small feat and it took a lot of sacrifice to get there, including moving to South Korea to teach English.
But my job as a Korean teacher earns me less than $30,000 a year. And while it was enough to live on, it wasn’t enough to help me pay off my debts.
To supplement my income, I started freelancing in 2014. Since then, I’ve learned a lot and earned literally thousands of dollars that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. Thanks to freelancing, I have no more debts and I have traveled the world.
I have five tips for anyone considering starting a freelance writing business to get out of debt.
1. Don’t care about industry niches; focus on content types
When you start to delve into the world of freelance writing, you’ll hear a lot about “nesting” — or picking specific industries to write for. The main reason for this is that, according to “everyone”, you will make more money by approaching certain companies as an expert on the subject or the industry rather than trying to please everyone. .
Personally, I think this is very bad advice for new freelancers. While it’s technically true that you can make more money by picking a niche or two, I think it’s more important to be open to a wide range of industries. Instead, focus on learning different handwriting types content well.
There are several ways to earn money by writing: you can become a technical writer, a business blog writer, a case study writer, an editor or something else. By writing different types of material for a variety of industries, you might learn that you like (or hate!) something more than you expected.
2. Learn SEO Basics ASAP
SEO stands for “search engine optimization”. It’s a fancy term for what Google does to discover and “rank” everything on the internet so that when you type something into the search bar, the results you get are directly related to your request.
No matter what type of content you write — and above all if you’re writing something that will only live online, SEO will come into play at some point.
You don’t need to be an expert, but it would be wise to have a good understanding of the basics, like long and short tail keywords and best practices for writing well-optimized web content.
3. Connect with other freelance writers and communities
I wish I had spent more time in the beginning connecting with other freelance writers and online entrepreneurs, such as virtual assistants.
When you’re just starting out in entrepreneurship, things can be lonely. (And don’t get me wrong, as a freelance writer, you’re an entrepreneur!) Often your circle of friends and family don’t really “understand” what you do as a freelancer. Making friends who are going through similar experiences or who have been where you are is invaluable.
Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to join communities of other writers and online workers. You can ask questions, get advice, and learn more about job opportunities, as well as connect with other like-minded people who “get it.” And you’ll also have a great resource for references.
4. Maintain an open dialogue with your customers
Spoiler alert: you’re not going to be perfect every time you send something to a customer! It is important that you do not take things personally if you are asked to make changes to your work. In fact you should expect to make changes.
If you really want to make a name for yourself, ask for feedback often. Even if you feel like you’re knocking things out of the park and you’re not being asked to make a lot of edits, showing your customers that you’re open to their honest opinions will go a long way.
If you think customers are satisfied, don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials and references. It’s the best way to grow your business. If your clients are satisfied, they will be more than willing to recommend your writing services to someone in their network.
5. Be the most dependable you’ve ever been
Over the years, I’ve worked with dozens of clients and made friends with other online entrepreneurs. I was also both the freelance writer and editor who hired them.
And no matter what kind of position I’m in – whether freelancer or boss – one common complaint always comes up: it’s hard to find reliable, quality help online.
I hear this all the time from my clients and other friends and have experienced it myself with other freelancers I have hired. If you want to be valuable to your customers, you just have to be reliable. You don’t even have to necessarily be the most talented writer. Your customers will appreciate your consistency and speed above all else.