This is an interview with my friend Gina Horkey from the Horkey Handbook. Gina is a Freelance Writer who started her side hustle and very quickly made enough money to quit her 9-5 job and now she works from home. Check out her interview on how she started as a freelance writer.
How to Be a Freelance Writer
What is freelance writing and how did you get started as a freelance writer?
Freelance writing is really just trading one’s writing skills for pay, but as a freelancer. I.e. you’re not employed by the company – you’re contracting with them as a self-employed individual.
I’ve always loved to write, but thought the only way someone could make a living doing it was as a technical writer or a novelist or something. I didn’t really understand the huge opportunity that exists today until I started looking into alternative career options in the spring of 2014.
Basically, through my Google search I found that it existed (think about it – every business needs a website and every website needs a decent writer!) and thought why not me? I could do this.
So I did. I got started, chronicled my journey to make sure I wasn’t making the same mistakes over and over again along the way and was able to gross $4,000 per month within six months on the side of my full-time job and in addition to my life as a mom to two (a baby and a toddler at the time).
I know a lot of people (myself included) are not tech saavy. Are you a tech saavy person and what steps did you take to become better at computers in order to promote yourself?
I don’t have a tech bone in my body, LOL!
In fact, it wasn’t until just a year ago that I broke down and got a smartphone. And I had been in online business at that point for over a year. And I’m 32… I know, I know!
I had been blogging socially since 2010, so I was able to pick up the backend of WordPress pretty easily. Whenever I get stuck I either ask for help, hire it out (if I can afford it and don’t want to learn it) or YouTube a tutorial. It’s worked out swell so far!
Even though I’m not a natural techie, I get better at it by making myself do it. It’s kind of like me and running… I don’t like it, but I make myself train for and run a half marathon every year. I’m silly like that!
I noticed you have a course on Freelance Writing. Could you explain a little bit about it?
Sure why not?:)
It’s a 5-day, free course delivered via email (one lesson per day over five days). Here’s what’s included:
- Lesson 1: Decide What to Write about. In the first lesson, we’ll help you uncover topics (or niches) to get your creative juices flowing.
- Lesson 2: How to Gather Writing Samples. Don’t have any samples? No problem! We’ll show you how you can quickly put together a bare bones portfolio.
- Lesson 3: Deciding Where to Display Your Portfolio. Now that you have some samples, we’ll show you where to showcase your work.
- Lesson 4: Sourcing Writing Jobs. So you can find some paying work!
- Lesson 5: Get Pitching! Time to send out some pitches and land your first client!
You can find our more about Gina’s 5 Day Free Course here.
Do you need any writing experience for freelance writing?
I don’t think you need experience per say, but you should like writing and have the goal to get better at it.
If you want to work with US or other English-speaking countries, you should have an excellent command of the English language. But it’s not necessary to have a degree in Journalism or anything (I don’t).
I’ve run into some “writing snobs,” who aren’t impressed by the fact that there are freelance writers succeeding despite not having the education or experience. But here’s the thing, writing (especially online) is a medium meant to connect with and move an audience to take some sort of action. That’s what it really breaks down to.
And in my opinion, that’s better done in a conversational manner, with good storytelling abilities that engage the reader. It’s not about a perfectly placed comma (although the writing should be spelling error-free and not full of poor grammar mistakes!)
Are there useful tools you recommend to get started as a freelance writer?
My two favorite tools are:
- Trello – to organize my to do list, writing projects and more.
- The Google Tools Suite – mainly Google Drive, but I also use Gmail, Google Voice, YouTube, Google Calendar and more. I’m a full convert! 😉
Honestly, I don’t use much more than that! Mostly I”m in Google Drive (Googalized and cloud-based versions of Microsoft Word and Excel), which is where I write most of my pieces (including this one) and how I deliver them to clients (you can embed a G doc directly in an email or share it via a web-based link).
Like I said, I’m a big fan! And it’s all free. 😉
Is freelance writing something that can replace a 9-5 day job?
Totally! I ended up pairing it with VA work to replace mine, but that’s mainly because I didn’t want to write for 40 hours per week (it’s a really creative process for me and drains this little brain pretty easily).
But I’m friends with plenty of others that have made/make their primary living from just freelance writing. The main thing is charging high enough rates that you can live off of and finding clients that will value your work enough to pay them. I.e. you can’t replace your day job with $.05/word probably.
Do you recommend starting a blog?
Yes. It’s not 100% necessary (there are other ways to display your portfolio), but I think anyone in the game for the long haul will want one (and one that is self-hosted).
Websites are really this era’s version of a business card and knowing how to operate the back-end of WordPress can be really helpful in working with clients as a freelance writer (some will want you to write in the back-end). And what better way to learn the ropes, then to do it for yourself (as opposed to experimenting and possible effing up someone else’s…)?
Related Post: How to Start a Blog in 7 Easy Steps
Can you tell me about your freelance writing courses? I know you have a free course and people have an option to join the 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success course. What is involved in this course?
Sure, I’d love to!
30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success was my first online course and one that I recently completely revamped.
Version three is housed on my site, has 10 modules, ~50+ lessons, quizzes, checklists, tutorials and much, much more! It’s very much about the business of starting and growing a freelance writing business from scratch, rather than “how to write.”
I do cover formatting and how to write for the internet (as opposed to how many of us were taught in school), how and where to find clients, give you pitching templates, teach you how to land your first few samples and a ton more stuff. I’m really proud of how it came out and think that anyone that has decent writing chops, 5-10 hours per week and a drive to succeed will have no problem with the newest version of the course!
(I also share how I got paid $553 for one blog post of ~800 words. ;-))
Check out Gina’s 30 Days to Freelance Writing Success here.
How has freelance writing changed your life?
Wow, what a question!
In essence it’s changed our entire life. It helped me quit a career I wasn’t in love with, allows me to spend much more time with my young family, has been the gateway to a profitable online business that means I can work from anywhere (I’m currently writing this from Nebraska as we trek from Salt Lake City, Utah to southern Illinois (after hitting up Yellowstone before that… and we actually live in Minnesota…) and we’re spending another six weeks in South Padre Island, Texas this winter to escape some of the sub-zero temps.
So it’s literally changed our life.
I’ve also met some amazing new friends and business partners from ALL over the world, am currently raising $50k to build a preschool in Costa Rica using my online platform and new connections.
But best of all, I just feel blessed. And not because I’m rolling in it, but more because I’ve taken control (what little we actually have over our own lives anyway) and instead of accepting society’s fate for my life, I’ve claimed my own way! And that’s pretty powerful stuff!
What tips do you have for those people wanting to get started in freelance writing?
My answer for this question is always the same and always simple.
I favor Nike’s approach – JUST DO IT! If you don’t, you will never know if you would have succeeded or not. And wouldn’t that be a shame?
If you are interested in Freelance Writing, you can learn more about Gina’s Free writing course here.
Bio: Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama to two precocious toddlers from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s a professional writer and online business marketing consultant with a decade of experience in the financial services industry. Gina enjoys helping other freelancers gear up to quit their day jobs and take their side hustles full-time via her website, Horkey HandBook.
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