Freelance Writers: Are You Ready to Quit the Content Mills?

If you’re a freelance writer, you probably already know that so-called “content mills” like Textbroker and Writer Access are a quick way to make a little bit of money — in some cases, enough money to get you to Paris — but if you want to turn your freelance writing from a hustle into a career, you’re going to have to figure out how to move beyond the content mills and start picking up higher-paying clients.

Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing just released a free e-book called Quit the Content Mills: 6 Writers Reveal How They Earn More. I spent part of this morning reading through it, and there are all kinds of helpful, actionable tips for writers who are ready to use their content mill experience to land better clients.

Here’s one example (for example) that you can take action on right away:

What sort of marketing did you do to find better clients?

Jawad: I started visiting websites in my niche markets, and started looking for gaps or topics that were not covered that I have expertise in. I started crafting my query letters to address those gaps, and how my articles and columns can help their readers learn more.

I also give credit to Linda Formichelli, who in one of her blog posts mentioned that a writer must do more than just giving an article’s outline [in a pitch]. A writer must tell the editor enough details on what he or she intends to cover, so the editor can visualize the article, before the first word is even written.

Here’s how to get your own copy of Quit the Content Mills! In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that this is an affiliate link (even though the e-book is free, I’ll get a bit of money if you sign up for Carol’s Escape the Content Mills bootcamp in May) and that you’ll need to exchange your email for the e-book, as these things go.

But it’s worth it. Trust me. ❤️

In Which I Discuss Six-Figure Freelancing on Make a Living Writing

I haven’t written much about my freelance income in a while — so if you’re curious about how my year has been, writing-and-money-wise, you should check out the piece I just wrote for Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing:

Earn Money Writing: 4 Big Lessons from a $126K+ Freelancer

2020 was actually my second six-figure year as a freelancer. The post I wrote for Carol includes at least four of the techniques I used to build my career and hit my income goals, so check it out — and if you have questions about freelancing, earning money, building clients, and so on, ask ’em in the comments.

Tomorrow I’ll get back into the Problem-Solving Series, with a few posts about the ways in which problem-solving interacts with time (and the ways in which time is also a problem to be solved). ❤️

It’s Time to Sign Up for Another Session of My Intro to Freelancing Class

Want to learn how to build a freelancing career? Need help pitching, writing to a deadline, developing your client base, and/or growing your income?

I’m about to run another session of my popular How to Get Started as a Freelancer course through Seattle’s Hugo House (don’t worry, it’s online, everything’s online these days). Here’s the course summary:

How do you get started as a freelance writer? Is it possible to turn freelancing into a full-time job? Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelancer for nearly a decade, and she’ll teach you everything she knows about how freelancers make money; how to pitch (even when you don’t have clips); how to build a freelancer schedule that combines writing, pitching, networking, and administrative work; and how to grow your earnings over time.

If that sounds like your jam, the four-week course costs $240 ($216 for Hugo House members) and runs from October 19 through November 9.

How to Get Started as a Freelancer is self-directed, which means you’ll get a lesson packet every week with assignments that you can complete on your own time. It also means NO ZOOM MEETINGS.



(You can still participate in asynchronous conversation with your classmates — and with me — on the course’s discussion board.)

Happy to answer questions about the class in the comments — and if you’re interested in starting your freelance career this fall, I hope to see you there! ❤️

Don’t Miss This Amazing Deal for Writers

My friends over at The Write Life have packaged together 12 courses and tools on earning money as a freelance writer. 

It’s called The Writer’s Bundle, and it’s one of the best learning opportunities for freelance writers you’ll see this year.

Wherever you are in your freelancing journey, this bundle will help you move faster and smarter.

You’ll recognize many of the creators of these products, including Stephanie Land, Elna Cain, Andrea Guevara, Yuwanda Black, Carol Tice and more.

The 12 resources available through this year’s bundle normally retail for $2,000+. But through this deal, you can get your hands on ALL of them for just $99. 

The catch? The bundle is only available until Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 11:59 p.m. PST. That means if you want it, you should check it out NOW.

Here’s what you get when you download The Writer’s Bundle: Freelance Writing Edition

✴️ Kickstart Your Freelance Writing Career, from Stephanie Land and Andrea Guevara (course value: $49)

✴️ Freelance Blogging in a Weekend, from Elna Cain (course value: $95)

✴️ How to Make Money Self Publishing Non Fiction, from Yuwanda Black (course value: $397)

✴️ Master Self-Editing, from Bryan Collins (course value: $297)

✴️ Breaking Into Media Q&A, from Kristin Wong and Alex Webb (event value: $99)

✴️ 38 Tips for Expert Writers on Medium, from Dave Schools (course value: $49)

✴️ ProwritingAid license, valid one year (editing tool value: $79) 

✴️ Pitching 101: How Writers Find Better Client Leads, from Carol Tice (course value: $97)

✴️ Turn Content Into Cash, from Heather Lloyd Martin (course value: $297)

✴️ 30 Days to Freelance Freedom, from Craig Cannings / FreelanceU (course value: $147) 

✴️ The Social Media Starter Kit, from Andréa Jones (course value: $297)

✴️ Productivity Power for Writers, from Tim Leffel (course value: $99)

If any of those courses sound like they could help you build your freelance career, go check out The Writer’s Bundle.

If you’re all “that sounds great but money is super-tight right now,” go check out all of the free tools and resources available at The Write Life, many of which were written by me.

P.S. If you purchase the bundle through my link, I earn an affiliate commission… but you already knew that. You also know that I’m only recommending this because I’ve worked with The Write Life for years and I know their training programs are some of the best tools in the industry. (I mean, I literally helped write some of them.) Sooooooo… go! Learn! Grow! Be the best freelance writer you can be!

I’m Winding Down the Blog End of Nicole Dieker Dot Com

You probably noticed that I didn’t post anything last week.

(Or maybe you didn’t notice, which was kind of the point.)

I’ve been trying to do some kind of daily or every-other-daily blog post on Nicole Dieker Dot Com for a little over a year, with recurring guest contributors, and although much of that has gone very well—and we’ve had some excellent guest posts—this blog isn’t really serving my long-term writing goals or my long-term career goals.

It became something I was doing because I felt like I had to, not because I wanted to.

And I think you could tell, if you were paying attention to either the quality or the length of my recent posts.

I want to write stuff that’s worth reading, and the blog posts I’ve been writing for Nicole Dieker Dot Com are not only not my best work but are also taking up time/energy/words that could be devoted to my best work.

This includes all of the new freelance work I’ve taken on recently, as well as my fiction writing and long-term personal projects.

What I mean to say is that there are a lot of thoughts occupying my thoughts right now, to quote one of my favorite posts of the past year, and none of those thoughts are “how do I continue to grow the blog end of Nicole Dieker Dot Com?”

So I’m going to stop. Like, trying to do that.

But I’m excited for what’s coming next, and for sharing it with you when it’s ready.

Also, there will be a new (and final) guest post by Tara K. Shepersky on Wednesday that I very much recommend you read.

Thanks again, for everything. ❤️

Maybe This Shouldn’t Be a Daily Blog…

So the other day I was writing about why I thought I probably wouldn’t finish the MYSTERY BOOK draft by the end of the year, and Vaxtyn commented that maybe I should take a blog sabbatical.

I don’t really want to take a blog sabbatical, but I really really like the idea of not blogging every day.

Seeeeeeee I originally intended this to be a daily blog full of rich insights into the art and the finances of a creative practice, and while I began the year writing these long, detailed posts about the work and the life being two separate things and how to earn money from your creative work, I have done a lot of shorter, splattier posts as of late.



And so on.

This isn’t exactly what I want for Nicole Dieker Dot Com, especially because my short blah-blogs are now interspersed with more substantive guest posts—and I can’t let the guests be the ones writing the best posts on the site!

Also, you know, because this is theoretically my professional portfolio. So it should look PRO FRESH.

(Also I gotta stop doing the all caps thing. It’s outdated internet language.)

Sooooooooooooooo what if, instead of trying to crank out a post a day no matter what, I only posted when I had something worth sharing?

This solves, like, five different stressors that I knew I’d have to address before the end of the year, specifically:

  1. What am I doing with this blog
  2. I need to drop three discrete writing assignments per week because I am OVERLOADED (and yes, this blog counts as an assignment)
  4. I want to do better blog posts, not more blog posts
  5. “Like, five” doesn’t have to mean “five,” this time it turned out to mean “four”

So. On to the book, then.

And more posting when I’ve got something substantive to say—which should be at least once a week, don’t worry.

Also, I’ll still do the weekly “here’s where I got published” posts, so you can read everything else I’ve been writing. ❤️

New Books and New Rates

So there’s this part in Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art (one of my favorite creative practice texts) where young Steven is all “I finished writing my first book!” and his mentor says “Good for you. Start the next one today.”

I had planned to take a good long break between getting the draft of NEXT BOOK, aka A COINCIDENCE OF DOORS, aka THAT BOOK I SPENT FOUR DAYS TRYING TO EXPLAIN LAST WEEK, and writing, like, any fiction.

Since I’d just spent seven months working on a novel that I was pretty sure, even three months ago, would become one of those “trunk books” but I wanted to finish just to make sure-sure-sure and also for finishing’s sake.*

And then the next day I started another one.

And… well… it’s like I suddenly had all of this creative energy, and I was doing the thing where you grab every extra five minutes to throw a few more words in the draft, and waking up early because you can’t wait to start writing, and this past week is probably the happiest I’ve been in months because writing this book is so much fun.

It’s a mystery, probably because at least two of you commented that the opening paragraphs of A Coincidence of Doors read like the beginning of a mystery, and that made me think “I bet I could write a mystery,” and then it made me think about how the most interesting parts of Coincidence were the parts where Ellen was trying to solve puzzles and race against time and break into old Midwestern mansions, and then I plotted the entire book and set it up with the cliffhangers and the reverses and the obstacles, and, you know, OFF WE GO.

More on that later.

Next up: after sharing this month’s finance update and thinking about what I wanted to do with my increased freelance income, I’ve decided to raise the rates I pay freelancers for guest posts, from $50 to $100—because, as I mentioned yesterday, that is how capitalism is supposed to work.**

If you have already written a guest post for me and want to write another one, please pitch again. (You’ll get paid twice as much for the same amount of work!)

If you have not written a guest post for me and you’d like to, here’s a quick overview of what I’m looking for and a list of previous guest posts for you to read.

One more thing, while I have your attention: I put the ads back on my blog because it’s finally getting enough traffic to make the ads worthwhile, and because one of the other ways capitalism is supposed to work is the part where I don’t leave money on the virtual table.

Do you hate them? Do you even notice them? (Ideally you should notice the ads just enough to make the companies happy but not so much that it ruins your experience on this blog.)

Let me know what you think, because it’s not a huge amount of money and I could just as easily go ad-free. ❤️

*Technically, I didn’t finish A Coincidence of Doors. There are a few scenes in that draft where I literally typed “I’LL WRITE IT LATER.” But I finished it enough to count, for me.

**Or, at least, one of the ways in which capitalism might work.

Welcome, Seattle Review of Books Readers!

Hi! Just wanted to say 1) WELCOME and 2) the Seattle Review of Books is a great site, isn’t it? Even though I no longer live in Seattle, I still keep up with the reviews and links and upcoming events. (Also, I read Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do last summer—it’s so good—and I envy your upcoming Seattle Reads conversations.)

If you’d like to know a little more about what to expect from Nicole Dieker Dot Com: I run a post a day, most of which are about writing, freelancing, and developing a long-term creative practice. Some of these posts are also about what I’m learning as I draft my next book (which I call “NEXT BOOK,” because I’m an Old Millennial who still thinks all caps are cool). Most recently, I’ve been outlining my thoughts on developing plot and character through conflict.

Plus book reviews, Friday open threads, guest posts, AND MORE.

My most recent greatest hits are listed in the right-hand column, if you’d like to see what other readers have enjoyed. (If you’re reading this on a phone: just keep scrolling until they show up.)

So… welcome! Glad to have you here, feel free to subscribe by email or RSS, and hope to see you in the comments section! ❤️

I’m Writing Daily Posts for Lifehacker!

If you enjoyed my daily financial blogging at The Billfold, add Lifehacker to your reading list or RSS feed — I’ll be writing two daily posts for them for the next several weeks as they look for a full-time personal finance writer. (Here’s how to apply, if you’re interested.)

I’ve written for Lifehacker before, of course, but today was my first day in the interior of the Lifehacker machine, as it were.

Expect another post later this week on how this new gig is reshaping my daily schedule. ❤️