The Four Action Steps that Turned My Part-Time Freelance Gig into a Full-time Job

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Once I started freelancing, building up my income was a slow and steady process. Even though my original goal for my writing career was to make right around $1000 each month so I could stay home with my kids full-time, that goal changed roughly a year after I began freelancing.

Necessity pushed me to consider freelancing as a potential full-time career in the beginning of 2016. My husband was unemployed for nearly five months and when I became our primary source of income, I had to start taking my work seriously as a means of providing for our family. Even though I’ve shared a little bit here about how I got started as a freelancer and I’ve talked about why I took my freelancing full-time on DailyWorth, I’ve never taken the time to flesh out the detail of how I made that happen.

Essentially, there were four action steps that helped me transform my part-time freelancing work into full-time income. Today, I want to share those with you.

I fired my lowest paying clients

It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the first things I did when I realized I wanted to increase what I was making as a freelance writer was firing my lowest paying clients. I started freelancing mostly as a ghostwriter, making pennies a word writing blogs and articles for small businesses and content mills. Even though I was incredibly grateful for that work and the experience it provided me, there came a point when it was getting in the way of my success. I couldn’t find better paying work because I was constantly trying to meet a deadline for my lowest paying clients.

As nervous as it made me at first, I can now see that firing my lowest paying clients was one of the most important decisions I made for my freelancing career.

I found anchor clients to cover what I had to make each month

When I starting freelancing more, I knew there was a set amount I needed to make each month to feel confident in my ability to provide for my family. Freelancing isn’t always a dependable source of income, but there are certainly ways to lock-in steady paychecks each month.

Essentially, an anchor client is any client you can really depend on for steady work each month. In early 2016, I had a lot of regular clients but many of them were assigning me an article here and there, and I often had to chase down the work by pitching my ideas until I heard a yes. I did have three anchor clients at the time that were paying me $600, $500 and $300 a month so I knew there were jobs out there, but I needed more anchor clients if I wanted to establish a healthy baseline income.

The truth is, none of my new clients were paying me all that much when I broke it down into a cents per word rate, but they were reliable and that was invaluable to me at the time.

I created a pitching schedule and followed it religiously

Pitching is a massive component of making decent money as a freelance writer. Even some of my most reliable clients don’t assign me topics, I pitch my ideas to them and hope for a yes. When I first started freelancing I believed that I needed to wait for an idea to hit me in order to pitch, but full-time freelancing taught me chase down the ideas and pitch them on a strict schedule.

In late 2016, I created a weekly pitch schedule. On Mondays, I had to pitch a specific client twice and another once. On Tuesdays, I always pitched two new publications. On Wednesday, I sent over four ideas to each of my anchor clients. You get the idea.

The thing about my pitching schedule is that I didn’t consider it optional. I put my schedule into my weekly Trello board and my week wasn’t considered over until I had checked off everything on my list. Even if I thought all of my ideas were awful, I sent them over. Staying in the habit of pitching was more important than being certain I would hear only “yes!” from the editors I contacted.

I networked with freelancers and editors on a daily basis

Until I became self-employed, I had only networked with others in my profession when I was looking for a new job. As a freelancer, I quickly learned that networking had to be something I was doing on a regular basis. I can honestly say that connecting with a small group of women who had goals that were similar to mine was what made all of the difference when it came time to boost my income. We offered each other feedback on pitches. We kept each other accountable about reaching our goals. We shared editor contacts. We worked together to make sure everyone was succeeding.

I also learned to network well with editors. I made a habit of introducing myself through Facebook, LinkedIn and over email, even if I didn’t have a story idea at the moment. Frequently, the relationships I built became opportunities. In fact just last month, a quick connection a made over LinkedIn turned into a new anchor who needs as many as five articles a week!

When it comes to full-time freelancing, there are many action steps you can take to increase your income, but these are the four that made all the difference for me. Do you have any freelancing tools that have transformed your business? I want to hear all about it!


Do I Need a Blog to Become a Freelance Writer?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Keeping a personal blog was what allowed me to become a freelance writer. If you remember from my first post, an editor finding my blog and asking to republish one of my posts was the most important connections I made early in my freelance career. I was able to leverage that connection into my first paid writing gig. That gig gave me my first clips for my freelance writing portfolio.

I have talked to a lot of women who don't blog, but they write privately and would like to start publishing their writing. More often than not, they ask me the same question:

Do I need a blog to become a freelance writer?

The answer? It really depends.

A blog certainly is not the only way to start a writing career. If you’re just getting started, the most important thing, in my experience, is that you have writing samples. So, whether you’re writing in a google document, writing on your blog or taking on unpaid assignments from websites who will publish new writers, you’ve got to have a way to get writing samples under your belt.

So, no, you don’t need a blog to become a freelance writer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider starting one anyway.

In my opinion, even though a lot of people believe that personal blogging is dead (I'm not one of those people), a blog is the most common sense way to start gathering your writing. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve been published or not, making your blog the one place you share you clips or the writing you've been doing on your own time is simple and I'm a big fan of keeping things easy.

Honestly, I’m not an expert on blogging. I’m working on that, but I since I’m still learning I feel the most comfortable referring you to someone who really knows their stuff. Kristin Larsen of Believe in a Budget does an amazing job at outlining how to start a blog in less than 15 minutes on her blog.

I started my blog. Now what?

Now that you’ve set up your blog, it’s time to start writing. I’ve been mostly a really terrible blogger (really!) but the one thing I learned is that the things you publish on your blog should mimic what you see yourself publishing elsewhere.

Do you plan to writing personal essays about parenting? Start writing those essays on your blog.

Do you want to writing about food? Start a food blog, telling the stories of local restaurants.

Consistent writing that fits well in your desired niche is going to refine your writing skills, help you generate more ideas and give you samples to fall back on until you have published clips. You don’t need to write frequently or even try to grow your audience, you simply need to write.

Time to get started. Quit waiting for the perfect idea or the perfect life circumstance to come along. Start your blog, start writing your heart out and make your first steps towards your freelance career.


P.S. I know getting started is hard. If you want to talk it through, I'm still taking on coaching clients for August. Shoot me an email. We'll video chat and email back and forth all month about what steps you need to take to start freelance writing.

*This post contains affiliate links.All opinions expressed are my own.

How Much Money Can You Make From Freelance Writing?

Monday, July 10, 2017

I have a love/hate thing when it comes to talking about money.

The truth is, I love setting monetary goals for myself and my freelance business. A dollar amount is a concrete way to challenge myself to grow. It pushes me to pitch better paying publications, to be more careful with my time and to improve my writing skills.

At the same time, talking about money is awkward. The nitty gritty of what I make and what can be made makes some people uncomfortable and I feel vulnerable when I share the specifics.

The truth is, whether or not there is any money in freelancing is one of the questions I hear most often. Before women devote their spare time to writing, they want to know: Is it worth the effort?

The answer is complicated. I know, I know. You want specifics. There's more of that below.

Making money from freelance writing really depends on how much time you can devote to your work, how long you’ve been writing and what kind of writing you plan to do. Obviously, your writing skills also play a part in how much you make, but I’m a big believer that anyone with the tiniest bit of natural talent can improve their writing with enough hard work.

I know women with young children who make a couple hundred dollars a month, working less than ten hours a month, because they just need a little extra cash to make ends meet. I also know women who have put their husbands through school and women who have made six figures writing for online publications. And this is just in my small community of writing friends.

I fall somewhere in the middle. Remember, when I first started freelancing, my only goal was to make enough to quit my job. My first month freelancing while working outside of the home, I made $50. By the time I quit my job in the summer of 2015, I was making around $1000 each month. For a long time, my monthly income stayed right around a grand each month. I was completely fine with this number. It allowed me to stay home full-time, which was my original goal.

Here’s the thing: I was working a lot. I was writing multiple articles a night after my kids went to bed just to invoice for $50. (I told you, pennies a word was what some of my first clients paid me.) It wasn’t until the end of 2015 that I started to realize there was a better way to do it. I fired a few clients and found better paying work, which meant I was working less but making more.

In December of 2015, I invoiced for just over $3000. It felt pretty amazing. Since then, my income has varied a lot. The only months I’ve made less than $2000 were the last month of my third pregnancy and maternity leave. There have been a handful of months when I have invoiced for right around $5000, which is the most I have ever made in a single month. Of course, what I have made has always depended on how much time I have devoted to my work and how much help I have had with my children and household tasks. My most profitable months were months when my husband was home full-time, my mom was living with us or I had hired help.

That’s the beauty of freelancing. I can ramp up my work when we have big expenses headed our way and I can slow down when I need to lean into my family life or catch up on rest. It is really what makes freelancing the perfect fit for young moms and the reason I started this blog.

I’m not sharing all this to brag or to intimidate anyone who is just getting started. My point in writing this is to answer one of the most common questions I get and to encourage women who aren’t reaching their income goals. You can support your family freelance writing, you just have to know how to get started.

That is why I started this blog in the first place. When I got my first check from my writing, I was thrilled but I was also overwhelmed. I knew there was a big leap between $50 and what I needed to make to stay home full-time, but it seemed like getting there was a secret. No one I knew was talking about the specifics and I plan to do that here on my blog, on my newsletter and by offering some one-on-one coaching calls. I'm so excited to help you reach your goals.

- Mary

P.S. I'm sharing more resources, including a list of frequently asked questions on how to pitch editors at online publications, with my newsletter subscribers. You can sign up here!

How I Turned My Blogging Hobby into a Work-From-Home Job

Monday, July 3, 2017

I’ve written a few essays about how I became a full-time freelance writer. For DailyWorth, I wrote about how my freelance work really took off when my husband faced a few months of unemployment in 2016. For SheKnows, I wrote about how foreign the reaction to Rory Gilmore’s pregnancy was to me since it was honestly having kids that motivated me to to start writing in the first place.

What I haven’t explored in writing is the actual steps I took to get to where I am today. I was waiting for the right time and place to share the details in black and white.

Lara Casey asks a simple question of anyone who uses her PowersheetsWhat fires you up? It was answering that question that made me realize it was time to talk about how I turned my blogging hobby into a full-time job and it was time to talk about it in extensive detail. Thanks to the guided self-reflection I did using Lara Casey’s Powersheets, I realized I was really passionate not only about my freelancing success but also the freelancing success of other women who dream of working from home.

I know firsthand what it feels like to be spinning your wheels, trying to figure out what you are meant to do while you are mothering young kids. I remember asking myself so many questions, trying and failing at so many work-from-home plans and giving up on ideas before I ever put a plan into action.

I knew I wanted to be home with my kids but I also knew I needed to be adding to our income. When I look back on my first couple of years as a mom, I remember it being a time of desperation. I couldn’t possibly imagine a scenario where I could have a career and get to spend the time I wanted to with my kids.

When my I became pregnant with my second daughter in 2013, I started to consider for the first time that freelance writing was an option.

How My Blog Helped Me Start My Freelance Career

In 2012, as a newly pregnant mom, I started a blog to document my pregnancy and the homemaking lessons I was learning along the way. I knew there were women making money off of their blogs by selling ad space or accepting sponsored posts and that was honestly my original goal when I started blogging more regularly. To be perfectly honest, I was a terrible lifestyle blogger. I was OK with words, but no matter how hard I tried, a styled life was so not my thing.

I kept on blogging because I liked it, but I quickly gave up on the idea of making money off of my blog. I tried and failed at a few other business ideas because I wasn’t really considering what was best for me, I was simply doing what everyone else was doing. (I’ll talk about this more later.)

In 2013, when I was pregnant with my second daughter an editor at What to Expect emailed me about republishing a blog post I had written. I must have been feeling brave that day, because I responded with a quick yes and a “How can I learn more about writing for your blog?”

A few weeks later, I made my first $50 as a freelance writer.

How I Turned Supplemental Income into Full-time Income
After that, things moved slowly for a long time. I was writing for What to Expect one to three times a month and looking for other work. I picked up some work as a ghostwriter, writing blogs without a byline for small businesses.

I was making pennies a word but I was glad to be making some kind of money on the side. It wasn’t until over a year later, a few months before my second child turned one, that I had the opportunity to pick up a gig that would actually put a dent in my monthly income goal for staying home full-time.

A friend of mine connected me with the editors at and I started writing four articles a month for them. This really changed things for us, to be perfectly honest. We were barely scraping by and now I was making enough supplementary income to help cover some things we had honestly been ignoring up until that point.

Starting as a regular contributor at didn’t just change our finances, it changed how I felt about freelancing. What I previously saw as a chance to make a little extra cash  I could now envision as a way to replace my part time job if I worked hard enough and made the right connections.

My first year at, I learned a lot about becoming a freelance writer. My editor was endlessly gracious to me and my poor understanding of the difference between just telling a story and using a story to get a point across. I was also networking with a lot of women who were just like me and this friendship led me to new jobs. By June of 2015, after I accepted a regular writing gig at Romper, I was making enough money to quit my part time job and stay home full-time.

It wasn’t a ton of money, but it was enough to make ends meet. Plus, working from home saved us money on things like child care, food and gas and relieved so much stress for me since I wasn’t balancing working outside of the home and being a mom very well.

I was happy with the ways things were going at that point, but eventually my part-time income wouldn’t be enough for our family any longer. Eventually, I would take my part-time writing and turn it into a full-time income (even though I don’t work full-time hours). More on this later

- Mary

P.S. I'm sharing more resources, including a list of frequently asked questions on how to pitch editors at online publications, with my newsletter subscribers. You can sign up here!

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