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). ❤️

Three Articles About Doing THE WORK

I’m going to start doing Sunday link roundups, first because I wrote “daily posts” at the top of my blog, not “weekdaily,” and second because I look forward to the Seattle Review of Books’ Sunday Post all week because they always share a collection of thought-provoking articles that I might not have found on my own, so… why not share a few thought-provoking articles myself?

Make a Living Writing: Stop Whining: How to Crush Your Freelance Writing Excuses

Not a huge fan of the headline (it’s not as much “whining” as it is “time-management issues” and/or “not understanding how to break a freelance project into easily-completed components”), but Linda Formichelli’s advice is exactly what I’d give an early-career freelancer:

Q: What if you get bored with an assignment and don’t feel like writing?

Formichelli: I’ve heard that kind of writing excuse from freelancers a lot. “I don’t feel like doing it.” “I’m not in the mood.” “I’m not inspired.” “I’m tired.” “I’m sick.”

If any one of these things makes you want to put off writing, don’t just do nothing. Choose tasks you can work on based on the amount of time and energy you have. If you have a half an hour and you’re really tired , maybe you update your website, or file your expenses, or just do something that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower.

But if you find that you always have the time and energy for research or posting on social media, and you never seem to have the time and actually writing, you know you’re in writing excuse territory. If you want to learn more about how to deal with this problem, go read this blog post by Mark Manson: F*** Your Feelings. It’s perfect advice for this situation.

Afford Anything: The Incredible Power of 10x Thinking

I have become obsessed with Paula Pant’s Afford Anything blog, because personal finance and the way you can use money and skills to shape the life you want will always be my jam.

Also, the tagline is “You can afford anything… but not everything. What’s it gonna be?” which means it’s all about making choices, and that’s my peanut butter.

This particular “making choices” post focuses on taking actions that support your goals:

Better questions yield better answers. So ask yourself: How can I separate what’s worthwhile vs. a waste of time?

Try this:

Step #1: Write a five-year goal.  For example:
* I earn $45,000 per year in passive income.
* I run a company with $1 million in annual revenue.
* I manage a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter with capacity for 25 dogs and 40 cats.

Four tips to help you craft this vision:
* Write in the present tense — “I earn,” “I manage,” “I run.”
* Focus your goal into one sentence.
* Shoot for specific numbers.
* Read this aloud daily (in present tense). Your mind will believe its a foregone conclusion.

Step #2: Judge every activity by a single question: “Is [X] the most important step I can take towards my 5-year goal?”

Elizabeth Strout: How I Paid the Bills While I Wrote the Book

This interview is part of a Medium series titled Day Job, in which Mike Gardner asks various authors how they earned the money to support their writing (especially during the early stages of their career). If you aren’t a Medium member, you’ll only be able to read three of these pieces before you get hit by the Medium paywall; I was a particular fan of the Elizabeth Strout interview because she and I made nearly identical educational decisions for nearly identical reasons:

Medium: Did you study writing in college?

Elizabeth Strout: I studied theater. It was like writing, because I was always trying to be another person. But I never took a creative writing class. I can’t say anything more than my intuition was “it will not be good for me to sit among my peers and hear what they have to say about my work and to say things about their work.” But I was always writing. There was one professor who knew that, and he was the chairman of the English department. He believed in me. I would show him my stories, and when I had a paper due for his class, he would give me a short story instead. It was our secret.

If you have other articles worth reading that you’d like to share, leave ’em in the comments!