Welcome to the fifth installment 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 Samar Owais.
1. Hi Samar! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your freelance writing work?
Hi there. My name is Samar (pronounced ‘summer’) Owais and I’m a freelance writer and blogger. I’m also a Pakistani expat living in the UAE – which is where I started my freelancing career.
I moved here in 2008 – newly married and fresh out of college. The original idea was to work full time. But to do that I needed to get a driver’s license. Back then, getting a driver’s license took time. Just the waiting period to start my driving classes was 6 months!
To make a long story short, by the time I got my driver’s license, I’d already started freelancing and realized that it suited my skill set perfectly. I haven’t looked back since.
Most of my freelance work focuses on blogging, writing ebooks, and email newsletters for clients. You’ll find more details of my work on SamarOwais.com. I also run a freelance blog called Freelance Flyer which is run on a simple motto: Freelance writing isn’t a hobby – it’s a business!
2. What made you want to become a freelance writer?
The decision to become a freelance writer was part choice and part circumstance. If things had gone according to plan, I’d probably be working full time somewhere waiting for the weekend to come around.
While I was waiting to start my driving lessons, I looked into work-from-home options and settled on freelance writing since it made the most sense to me.
It helped that I’d been blogging for a few years and even had an article of mine published in a newspaper a few months before I moved to the UAE.
3. Can you run us through what your “typical” day looks like?
My routine changes according to the changes in my life. Up until last year, I was working late at night and caught up on my sleep after sending my daughter to school.
Then in December 2015 I had baby number 2, and I’ve been struggling to get into a routine ever since. My working hours have drastically reduced too.
These days, I work whenever I can. If the baby hasn’t kept me up at night, I work in the morning – usually between 7 a.m. – 10 a.m. before needing a break. That break can either be an elaborate breakfast or a nap – whichever my mind and body need most =)
For the rest of the day, I work whenever the baby’s napping. Once the baby is older and out of napping stage, I’m sure my routine will change again.
4. A big part of your business is helping small companies capitalize on their business through blogging and newsletters. How do you go about creating blogs and newsletters which fit your clients’ needs, audience and vision?
My process is very simple. I encourage my clients to talk about their business and how it helps their customers. Then I ask them a simple question: What do you want your blog/newsletter/ecourse to achieve?
Once they’ve told me what results they want and talked their hearts out about their business and customers, I go through their answers and use wordings and phrases that are unique to them in my writing.
This process has never failed me in capturing my client’s voice.
5. You have written a number of articles which have been shared thousands of times on social media. Is there a certain formula you use to create viral content?
An introduction that paints a picture, content that not only tell you what to do but how to do it, and a closing that inspires you to take action. Those are the only things I focus on when writing.
Making my content go viral isn’t what I aim for – it’s also an elusive goal. Helping people and making sure the content is practical is what I strive for. If it goes viral after that – yay!
In my experience, writing that resonates with the reader is shared more often. Of course, there are other elements like organizing the information for online reading (a.k.a skimming), putting key point front and center, creating striking images for social media, etc. – but all this comes after you’ve written content that will help solve your reader’s problem.
6. What do you consider your toughest assignment? What did you learn from taking on such a challenge?
My toughest assignment is always the one that scares me the most. For me, scary assignments are ones I haven’t done before.
When I was focusing on blogging, writing an ebook was tough. When a client asked if I could write one, I said yes even though the only ebook I’d ever written was for my own blog to offer as a newsletter opt-in. I sent it to the client and they must have liked what they saw because they hired me.
These days, my toughest assignment is writing website copy. I’m writing copy for a client’s website and used the copy on my own site and blog as samples. Every time I sit down to work on this project, I’m quaking in my boots. Some days, I read more about copywriting than actually writing any copy. It’s a learning experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
7. Many people underestimate the costs which come with setting up and continually developing a freelance writing business. Can you elaborate on some which perhaps people may not be aware of?
One of the first things freelancers get wrong is thinking they can start freelancing with any initial cost. Technically, you can. But that decision reflects on your business – in the kind of clients you attract and the amount you’re paid.
Setting up a freelance business is easy. All you need is your own website. You can buy a domain for as little as $10 – even less if you wait for a seasonal promotion. If you can’t afford hosting, set up your website on the free wordpress.com, and you’re good to go. Spending some amount on setting up your business makes it real. It’s not a hobby anymore. That $10 domain isn’t just a website. It’s an investment in your business.
Another cost freelancers underestimate is investing in their own education. It’s a mistake I made for four years before I learned otherwise. It wasn’t until I took James Chartrand’s Damn Fine Words writing course that my writing (and confidence) improved. Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging course taught me to research blogs and network with bloggers.
I took the lessons I learned in these courses and applied them to my freelance business, and I saw results almost immediately. I get that not everyone can afford high priced courses. But most of us can afford an ebook. The trick is to use the advice and practice it.
8. You are very transparent about your freelancing rates. Do you have any tips to give our readers about how to set a fair rate for yourself?
I have a simple rule when it comes to setting up rates: It needs to be an amount you’re uncomfortable quoting. That’s not an original idea, by the way. I read it in a tweet and it stuck with me.
Rates are subjective. My low rates could be your high rates. As long as you’re quoting a price that makes you uncomfortable, you’re on the right path. If you’re making $25 per post, asking for $35 may be uncomfortable. Get past the discomfort and you’ll make more money.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to setting your freelance rates. It just needs to be a number you’re happy to work your butt off for.
9. As someone who has a Twitter account followed by thousands of people, can you elaborate on how other freelance writers can amp up their Twitter game in order to gain more visibility for their business?
The one tactic that worked for me was sharing articles with personal messages. Even something as simple as “Great post by @writerwhosarticleImsharing”.
It fostered relationships with the people whose content I was sharing and my followers knew I’d read the post and thought it was worth their time.
Another tactic I applied was tweeting about my work. I wouldn’t mention specifics, but if I was writing an ebook, I’d mention it. If I was having trouble with creating an outline, I’d talk about it too.
Sprinkle in status updates with your knowledge of writing/marketing/whatever your jam is, and you’ve got a good start. Oh and please use hashtags.
10. Are there any misconceptions you would like to clear up about the life of a freelance writer?
That it’s an easy life. Trust me, it’s not. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s harder. Not only are you your own boss but you don’t get sick leave, vacation days, or health insurance.
11. Have you used our site FreelanceWriting.com before?
Apart from occasionally reading blog posts, I haven’t. I plan on doing so regularly now. Your content is awesome!
12. Finally, what advice would you give to someone trying to break into freelance writing?
Take control. Don’t wait for clients to come to you. You’ll be a struggling freelance writer for a long time. Instead, take charge and contact clients yourself.
Take the time to create an email template you can modify for each client and then start emailing solopreneurs and small businesses. You’ll be making money much faster than peddling for jobs at sites like Upwork, etc.
Also, if you’re unsure of where to start or think you don’t have samples or experience or anything else that attracts a client – list it down. Then next to each item, record what you need to do to get those things.
If it’s samples you need, look into how to go about getting samples when you don’t have any. No experience? Find out how you can get the experience you need. Then go do those things. Don’t let a simple roadblock stop you.
Oops, I think that’s two pieces of advice. Sorry! Once I start talking about freelancing, it’s hard to stop.
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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