I spent the first ten years of my adult life trying (and repeatedly failing) to be an author. When I finally succeeded and made a career out of it, I quickly realized that I had a career that was unstable, insecure and forever at risk. So I quickly set about trying to gain some security. I started a career as a freelancer on a part-time basis and in a couple years I was fortunate enough to make even more money as a freelancer than I had as an author.
But it took over 100 hours of work a week to get to that point. I didn’t have a day off in 2 years and it took its toll. To try and claw some of my sanity back I spent some time using the knowledge I had acquired as a freelancer and author to setup my own company. It was another long and difficult process, but it is thanks to this process that I am now in a better position than I ever was—working less, earning the same and having much more potential for growth. More importantly, the things I did can be done by anyone with the time and the will to follow the steps below.
1.Vet Your Writers
If you want to start a writing company then you need to have writers on your team. This is easier said than done because you need to hire cheap in order to make a profit and cheap writers tend to under-deliver. You need to be willing to interview dozens of writers and to put them all to the test and you will get a lot of plagiarized, poorly written content in that time.
So, to make the process quicker and easier, use Upwork and follow these steps:
- Create a job asking for a number of writers to join your team.
- Make sure you choose an hourly rate and not a fixed price and don’t quote how much you want to pay. You may get higher priced writers coming to meet you, but you’ll also get all those cheaper writers immediately charging the higher rate you quoted.
- Message the most promising ones, tell them that you would like a trial article first and ask if they would be willing to work for half their usual rate on this article.
- Make sure you give them different articles and make sure these are about SEO or writing. This will be important later.
- Read the articles. Check them for plagiarism on CopyScape.com and determine if it’s well written or not.
- Create three piles: Rejected, Maybe and Yes.
- Ask the Maybe ones to cover a couple more topics at the same price. If they refuse, turn them down. You’re not losing out.
- Ask the Yes ones if they would be prepared to work for the same rate (the trial price) if you can get them a bulk batch of articles.
- Keep checking and hiring until you have at least 3 writers in the Yes pile.
2. Build a Base
If you have a big profile on Upwork or another freelancing portal then you can use those platforms to find jobs that you can then hand over to your writers. However, with Upwork fees being so high you will be better off taking a look at Guru and PeoplePerHour and finding work there.
You should also build a simple WordPress website. Make sure it is not indexed to begin with and then add all of the articles you accepted from your vetting process. Add a homepage and a services page that includes a contact form. Once this is done and you have a good number of strong keyword articles, you can let the site be indexed.
Create a Facebook page to offer your services and link to the site, but before you do any marketing, run a campaign to generate likes. If you target countries like India you can get over 1,000 genuine likes for just $10 to $20. The quality is not important at this point (1,000 likes from the US would be $800+). You just want to have those likes so that potential customers don’t dismiss you as small and unimportant.
3. Find Clients
You need to start using Facebook Ads to target potential customers. It can be expensive, but this is a lucrative industry and a single client can earn you enough to pay for marketing for more than a year. As an example, my last major client for my business paid me more money in a single month than I have spent marketing my business in the last year (with enough left over to market it for another 2 years). And when you consider this is my only real expense, that’s huge.
Take your time and focus on key target markets that need good writers and have the money to pay for it. In my experience, lawyers are great for this. You can also make a lot by focusing on business services. Business writing is a huge industry for writing companies right now and the clients are happy to pay big cash to get well written content.
You will be required to write some complex and tough technical topics, covering everything from acquiring grants to business analysis, business planning and similar topics. It’s hardly exciting stuff, but you won’t be thinking that when the check lands. And it really is important that you focus on this sector and these job types, because not only do they pay more, but quality is more important, which means they are considerably less likely to ignore you in favor of a writing farm that merely spins content in exchange for small payments.
4. Be Open to Payment
Speaking of payments, you’re going to need to be prepared financially.
First, get yourself a business account on PayPal and put it in your business name. It’s much more professional for a company to receive an invoice from a business email in a business name then it is to get an invoice in your wife’s name from ILoveTheWalkingDead111@MadeUpMail.com.
There are freelancers and companies that operate like this. Maybe not with that email but I’ve worked with at least 3 that have directed me to a partner’s PayPal account. In the past, I’ve even had to do something similar myself, but I dressed it up to make it look more professional. I wasn’t giving them my girlfriend’s address, I was directing them to the address of the financial department in my company. Easily done.
You should also be prepared to use Skrill, Escrow and bank transfers. You need to give them options because they might not have any. I once worked with a client who couldn’t use PayPal and insisted on Skrill. At the time, I had experienced issues with Skrill. I hated it and it would have been a struggle for me to setup my account. The job was also small and many in my position would have just refused it.
I didn’t. I did it because the client asked and that “small job” became a job that went on to earn me more than most clients have paid.
5. Create Websites
It doesn’t matter if you’re focusing on writing projects, SEO or something else. If you are a company that is charging for writing services and you are a writer yourself, then you have everything you need to create a few websites yourself. These can earn a passive income while you run your business and it’s very easy to do.
I run an SEO company, so it’s easier said than done for me. But prior to creating this company I didn’t know anything about SEO. I was a writer who refused SEO jobs because I didn’t think I knew what I was doing. But then someone taught me the first principle of SEO: Good writing trumps everything else. Get that right and you’re good to go. You can learn the rest on the fly.
Not only can your websites make your portfolio look good and earn you a passive income through ads and sponsors, but you will meet clients who will happily pay you to place their banners and links on that site and they will always remain as an asset for you business.
In my case, I managed to setup a side business creating websites from scratch and providing everything they needed on that side. This stemmed from a simple writing job where the client asked me to make a few tweaks and where I realized that I had a knack for creating successful sites.
6. Be Open to Learning as a Freelancer
As a freelancer, you should have clients that are in better positions than you. They have been where you want to go and they can help you to get there yourself. I have always advocated being open and friendly to clients, while maintaining a degree of professionalism at all times. If you become their friend, then they will help you out and it will also make life much easier for you.
I genuinely enjoyed what I was doing and I loved meeting, conversing and working for clients, so this all came naturally. If you’re more of a grumpy so-and-so, then just bite down, suck-it-up and force yourself to be friendly. When you have established a certain rapport then you can start quizzing them on their profession. Go the extra mile for them, be nice, be friendly—that will allow you to be quizzical and they won’t have an issue opening up when you are. You will open up so many doors this way.
The biggest reason I went from “freelancer” to “business owner” is because I met a client I immediately clicked with. He worked just as hard and just as long and he appreciated the work I did for him. I helped him, he helped me and without that help I wouldn’t have been able to start my own business. We’re still good friends and I owe all of that to my demeanor as a freelancer. I have also worked with the owner of a successful Youtube channel who, almost without prompt, told me all of his secrets; and the manager of an offline marketing agency who was quick to fill me in on the merits of offline media.
My business is an SEO one and revolves around a number of websites I own and built from scratch. But it is also a writing agency, albeit without much outsourcing. I did what I knew would work best for me and I was able to do that because I was open to learning from clients open to teaching me.
This is the final step, but it’s the most important one.