Welcome to our new series, Meet the Freelance Writer!
Here, you’ll meet a diverse range of individuals who have carved out a place in the world of full-time freelance writing. You’ll learn all manner of insights about the life of a freelance writer, such as how to start out, what a “typical day” day looks like, and all those other niggling questions we know you have. If you’re curious about freelance writing as a career, or are looking for some advice on how to improve your freelancing business, this is the series for you.
Today, we’ll meet freelance writer Elna Cain.
1. Hi Elna! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your freelance writing?
I’ve been a freelance writer for a little over two years, and I’ve been doing this part-time since I stay home and take care of my twins.
My freelance writer website is Innovative Ink, but I also have a blog just for new freelance writers on Elna Cain. I created a course for aspiring freelance writers that helps them set up a successful freelance writing business and directs them to profitable job boards – like yours!
When I started freelance writing I had a few niches – parenting, natural health and education – but it wasn’t until a few months later that I really started focusing on digital marketing and loved it. I started specializing in digital market content and now write for popular blogs like OptinMonster and Blogging Wizard.
2. We were so happy to hear that your first freelance writing assignment was in fact found on Freelance Writing. What was it, and how did it feel to get such an opportunity?
Yes, my first freelance writing gig was found on this site. I religiously checked your job board and was able to quickly land my first freelance writing gig without a portfolio to show! The job was for Wheels.ca – an online division of the Toronto Star newspaper. To land this first prestigious gig was amazing and I was excited to write for them.
3. Within 6 months of starting your business, you were able to support yourself financially as a part-time freelance writer. How did you manage to do that?
Well, it took a lot of hard work and fast typing. I think there were two main things that helped me land profitable writing jobs. The first was my writer website. I was able to convey strong copywriting skills, have a stellar portfolio and show credibility with strong testimonials.
The second was a strong online presence. I made sure to have a Twitter account, Facebook account, LinkedIn account and even a Pinterest account. I guest posted on blogs my target clients would read and I consistently updated my blog.
I feel strongly that these two things helped me land profitable clients and I was able to support myself financially only after six months of starting freelance writing.
4. Your business focuses on creating three main types of content- copywriting, blog writing, and ghostwriting. What are some notable differences between these different mediums of writing?
Can I say I love copywriting? Copywriting is persuasive writing and since my background is in Psychology I love delving into customer behaviors and how to influence their choices. Most of my copywriting is for sales pages and landing pages since blog owners want a high conversion rate.
Blog writing is also a favorite of mine (heck, I have two blogs and I also manage two other blogs for fun) and most of my clients are blogging clients. Most of my posts run between 1500-3,000 words and require a lot of stats, screenshots, and references in the digital marketing niche.
5. What made you want to become a freelance writer?
After having my twins, I knew I didn’t want to go back to work as a teacher. I had a strong desire to stay home and take care of them. But, I also knew that the cost to put them in daycare probably would’ve eaten up most of my paycheck.
Realizing that working out of the home just wouldn’t cut it, I decided I needed to find a way to stay home and still contribute to our family’s finances.
My husband works online so he mentioned that I could probably find something online. He actually suggested being a virtual assistant or a freelance writer. I explored both options and really liked the idea of getting paid to blog.
6. Can you run us through what your “typical” day looks like for you?
My day usually starts with coffee and email at around 7:30 a.m. My twins are usually having their breakfast while I see what’s going on online. This is the time I might check my social media accounts or publish any blog posts on my blog.
Once my twins finish breakfast, I’m on mom duty until they nap at 2pm. From 2-3:30 (or 4pm) I can work on client work. But, once my twins wake up, I’m on mom duty again until bedtime at around 8pm. I work until 10:30pm and then my husband and I spend some time together and watch a show or movie before bed.
My twins are nearing the end of their day nap and I’m not sure how that’s going to work with my schedule. Since my twins aren’t going to school until next year (they are 3.5 years old), I’ll have to find a way to get my typical four hours of work in every day.
7. You’ve been very vocal about being both a stay at home mum and a freelancer. Can you impart any advice for other stay at home mums looking to break into the freelance writing industry?
Being a freelance writer as a stay-at-home mom is probably the best gig to have. If you enjoy writing or love to blog, why not get paid to do it? Most of my client work is very flexible with long deadlines and it’s also very consistent – I still work with freelance writing clients that hired me two years ago.
As for advice for moms wanting to break into freelance writing, work when your child naps or hire a sitter to watch them for a few hours so you can work.
Make sure you create a strict schedule when you work, as there are many distractions online (email, social media, blog reading). During your work time, set times for pitching, researching, editing and writing.
And one last thing is start a blog and publish some posts so you can have an instant portfolio. Believe or not, but there are editors and marketers that will seek out bloggers to freelance write for them. My newest blog – Twins Mommy – attracted a client in the multiples/parenting niche and hired me because she saw one of my pins on Pinterest.
Of course, the best way to make sure you start on the right foot is to learn from others who’ve done it in the past. That’s why I created my course to help writers and bloggers learn the right steps to find profitable freelance writing jobs.
8. You also run a coaching business to teach people how to kick off their freelance writing business. What is one thing many people do when they are starting out that you’d advise against?
Personally, the one thing I advise against is to not start out on a freelance marketplace like Upwork.
You can find better clients and higher paying gigs on freelance writing jobs boards, or by cold pitching.
I actually started on Guru, another freelance marketplace, but had no luck competing against other writers who were willing to write for pennies. It wasn’t until I set up my writer website and started pitching to job boards that I landed my first gig.
9. Have you ever dealt with difficult clients? If so, what approach have you found works best for resolving any problems?
Yes, I have. Personally, I try to resolve any problems quickly. If the client needs more headlines because the one I provided wasn’t acceptable, I’ll pitch more headlines. If the client is late on payment I just send a reminder at the end of the month using PayPal, instead of hounding them or threatening them.
I understand that clients hire me for content and they have a content marketing strategy, so if my post doesn’t align with their strategy, I understand if it needs to be changed.
I also understand that for other clients, updating their company blog isn’t on the top of their priority list of tasks. With those clients I’ll email them a few times asking if they want more content, but if nothing comes of it, I don’t make a big deal out of it. They know where to find me!
10. Can you also share what you believe is the best way to secure repeat clients?
I make sure that during the negotiation process that we come to an agreement of what the scope of the project is. Am I creating four blog posts per month or is this ad hoc?
Knowing what the project is before you work with your client is the best way to help you secure ongoing work.
11. What’s something that might surprise people about the life of a freelance writer?
That you’re going to want to work on your own personal projects – like a personal blog or that story you want to write about – more than your client work (even if you love your client work). Since I started creating a product, I now want to work more on product development, coaching and growing my audience then freelancing.
But, ultimately I know that freelance writing is what generates the most income for me right now – I have several high paying clients – and in the end, I genuinely love writing about social media marketing, email marketing, branding, lead generation or conversion rate optimization.
So it’s a fine balance. I’m able to keep my best clients happy and still grow my product business and blogs. And what’s kind of nice is that the more I delve into digital marketing for my blogs and product, the more inquires I get for digital marketing writing.
12. Finally, what advice would you give to someone trying to break into freelance writing?
The best advice is to believe in yourself. You know, you don’t have to be the best writer to be a successful one. I know I’m not the best writer or have the best grammar (that’s what editing tools are for), but I write for big blogs and I’ve ghostwritten for highly influential bloggers all because my writing generates shares, comments and sales.
So believe in yourself and start writing some samples (or guest post) so that when you pitch, you can show them how great of an engaging writer you are.
— Freelance Writing (@FLW_Home) September 20, 2016
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Addicted to our new series? Catch up on the rest of the Meet the Freelance Writer interviews.
Want to be interviewed on Freelance Writing? If you’re a full-time freelance writer who is interested in being one of our featured freelancers, please email a short bio of your freelance writing experiences and a link to your webpage to editor [at] freelancewriting [dot] com