In the summer of 2012, I found myself unemployed, and doing the sort of Google search that made me feel a little desperate: How to make money writing.
Being a professional writer had always been a dream of mine. But with no relevant experience, college degree or network, I was grasping at straws, trying to rustle up some temporary income until I could find my next job.
My uncomfortable Google search led me toElance, an online freelance marketplace where even a rank newbie like myself could easily apply to any of the thousands of freelance copy writing jobs posted 24/7.
Though I lacked copy writing experience, it seemed like something I could figure out as I went along. The whole idea made my wife Sam a little nervous, but I saw an opportunity.
I quickly developed a simple, three-pronged strategy for winning work:
- Scour Elance’s job listings for gigs that didn’t require any specialized or technical knowledge (e.g. no legal writing).
- Search Google for tips on how to complete a given job (e.g. search for email copy writing best practices).
- Use the information I found to create targeted writing samples that were relevant to each client’s individual needs, and include them in my proposals to snag jobs.
It worked like gangbusters. Within a month, I’d already won several gigs using this exact approach (as the highest bidder, no less):
$30 per hour to write email promotions for a Silicon Valley tech startup.
$40 per hour to write job advertisements for an after school care company.
$50 per hour to write business letters for a corporate executive.
Initially, I let the clients’ budgets guide my pricing strategy, but over the next few months I became more aggressive, increasing my hourly rate to $75, $100, and even $125 per hour.
To justify these premium rates, I focused on writing copy that brought ROI to my clients’ businesses, and earning as many five-star Elance reviews as possible by going above and beyond on service.
About nine months in, even my wife started to come around.
I remember showing her a private job invite I received from a client who’d seen my Elance profile while browsing the freelancer listings. He was practically offering me the gig right out of the gate, without any competition whatsoever.
Minutes later, he awarded me the job, without ever even seeing a sample of my work.
My wife and I looked at each other in amazement. That was the moment we knew that freelancing really was our ticket to the lifestyle we’d always dreamed of.
On July 20th, 2014, we celebrated my two-year Elance anniversary. It was also the close of my first six-figure year as a freelance copywriter.
To date, I’ve served 83 clients through Elance, while earning over $200,000 total in just two and a half years. All while working less than the typical American workweek.
On any given day, I’ll spend about four hours writing, while devoting another hour or two to miscellaneous activities, like emailing new potential clients, invoicing, and customer service.
And there’s no commute, since I do all of my work virtually from my home office in Omaha, Nebraska, where my wife and I live with our two young boys.
Being a freelance copywriter has truly been a dream gig.
My wife Sam is living her dream, too; she gets to be a stay at home mom, while we both enjoy more family time than ever before.
All of the anxiousness of my early days of freelancing is now gone, replaced by feelings of abundance, security, and stability.
We’ve built up a nice emergency savings fund, but even without that, freelancing still seems safer than traditional employment.
Each of my clients represents only a small fraction of my business, so I never worry about losing one. Plus, new business is always just a few clicks away.
These days, in addition to freelancing, I’m also focused on helping others take advantage of the Elance opportunity. To that end, I’ve made my top 5 Elance hacks available for free to anyone who wants them.
My number one piece of advice for anyone wanting to follow in my footsteps? Start small. Go after simple jobs that can be done in a few hours or less, and build from there.
Danny Margulies is a copywriter and six-figure freelancer on a mission to create more high-paid Elancers. Get his top 5 Elance hacks for free here.