- Jamie Johnson is a freelance writer who five years ago decided to join the workforce after seven years as a stay-at-home mom.
- Her first job was at Starbucks making $8 an hour, but she quickly decided she needed a more lucrative role.
- She joined Upwork and other freelancing platforms and began to market herself as a writer, and now she makes over $100,000 a year.
- By starting small, making her clients’ lives easier as best she can, and setting daily income goals she has been able to reach this level of success.
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Five years ago, I found myself at a crossroads in my life. After spending seven years as a stay-at-home mom, I knew it was time for me to go back to work.
My youngest was just entering kindergarten, so it felt like the right time to re-enter the workforce. The only problem was, I’d never graduated from college and had minimal work experience.
My friends and family all suggested that I finish my degree and get an entry-level job somewhere. So I decided to get a job at Starbucks, reasoning that if I worked the early morning shift, I could still pick my kids up from school every day. And since Starbucks offers tuition reimbursement, I could finally earn my college degree and put myself on the path to a successful career.
I worked at Starbucks for nine months making about $8 an hour. The extra money never seemed to go very far, and our family’s finances were always tight. After a while, finishing my degree seemed to make less and less sense financially.
What I needed was a way to earn more money immediately, and I didn’t see college as a guaranteed way to do that. I realized that the traditional route of “going to college so I could find a good job,” though right for some people, may not be the path for me.
As chance would have it, in September 2016, a friend told me about a global freelancing platform called Upwork. Since I’ve always enjoyed writing, I decided I’d try to make it as a freelance writer.
In the beginning, my goal was to earn an extra $1,000 per month. But over time, I became a better writer, started getting higher-paying clients, and grew my income.
This past year, I’ve brought in over $111,000 as a freelance writer. Here are five essential steps I took to make it happen from scratch:
1. I made it my job to find a job
When I was just starting out I didn’t even have any writing samples, but I decided I was going to start looking for work anyway. Applying for jobs on Upwork made sense to me because of the wide variety of writing jobs that were constantly posted on the platform, like blog posts, copywriting, press releases, and more.
My goal was to send at least three proposals a day, six days a week. I figured that if I just kept sending proposals then eventually someone would have to hire me. This strategy paid off pretty quickly, and within a week I’d landed my first writing job.
When you’re starting something new, it’s easy to tell yourself that you need more information before you can begin. But sometimes, you just have to start taking action and trust that you’ll figure things out along the way.
2. I was willing to start small
My very first job on Upwork was writing five 750-word product reviews for $40. Not $40 per review — $40 total. Depending on your point of view, accepting such a low rate could be seen as an embarrassing failure.
But truthfully, I could not have been more excited about that job. I couldn’t believe someone actually wanted to pay me money to write for them!
I followed the client’s outline exactly, and spent a lot of time writing and editing those product reviews. That effort paid off when the client gave me a great review.
With a positive testimony under my belt, it was easier to find more freelance writing clients and slowly raise my rates over time. Once I had landed three or four clients, I raised my rates to $0.10 per word. Today, I regularly find clients who pay me between $0.35 and $0.50 per word.
3. I made my clients’ lives easier
In a way, my lack of education and experience was a blessing in disguise. I knew I would never be the most experienced freelancer in the room, but I decided I could be the most helpful and the easiest to work with.
I made a point of communicating with clients about due dates and expectations. I never miss a deadline, and try to turn in work early whenever possible.
I don’t put limits on the number of revision requests I’ll accept either, and I try to always have a good attitude about feedback on my work. I’ve learned that if I can find a way to make people’s lives easier, there will always be plenty of work available for me.
And it’s usually the small things clients will appreciate the most. Even just responding to an email right away instead of making a client wait days for your response will go a long way toward making them appreciate you.
4. I set daily income goals
One of the things I learned very quickly is that freelance writing is a numbers game. If you want to earn a certain income every month, you need to break that goal down into a smaller daily income goal.
For instance, my very first goal was to earn $1,000 per month. I realized that if I worked 20 days per month, this meant I needed to make roughly $50 per day. From there, I focused on sending enough proposals so I would always have at least $50 of work to do every day.
And this is a strategy I continue to use to this very day. Today, my minimum daily income goal is $500 per day, or $10,000 per month.
5. I figured out what works for me
I’ve always found a lot of freelance work by using Upwork and other job boards. But once I started networking with other freelancers, I learned that most don’t hold Upwork in high regard.
Other freelance writers told me Upwork was full of scammers and that I would be forced to accept pennies for my work. This always confused me, given that I regularly find high-paying clients on Upwork.
Over these past few years, I’ve learned that other people can only tell you what’s worked for them. For instance, my family and friends weren’t wrong when they suggested I finish my degree — I just had a different experience than they did. And at the end of the day, it’s up to all of us to find our own path.