I started my journey to become a member of the suitcase/laptop lifestyle gang back in 2009. I didn’t actually set out to become a freelance content writer at the time, but I knew I wanted to create my own paycheck somehow. I asked anyone I met who claimed to work online how they did it, and never did I get a straight answer.
At this time, few people had any concept of how to make money online. Online freelancing at this time was a very taboo, behind-closed-doors kind of job. Everyone and their grandpa wanted to know how to make money online, doing as little work as possible. However, nobody around me really understood where the starting point was.
I spent 2 years researching while working my crappy job at a quick lube. In 2009, I took the plunge, confident I could make money writing articles or doing SEO work.
I started being a freelance content writer at the best (and worst) time.
Most of you will remember the acai berry craze that dominated the interwebs from 2006 to 2010 or so. Anyone could make money throwing up a WordPress site selling superfood supplements, info products, and other scammy junk. This caused a huge demand for online writing services. After quitting my last J.O.B., I soon found myself a newbie freelance content writer.
Trouble was, quality was an afterthought, and most affiliate bloggers didn’t care how good the content was. They only cared how cheap they could source it. The more articles they put up on a website, the more visitors. The more visitors they got, the more sales they’d get from affiliate networks.
I remember the first day I pitched my services on Digital Point Forums (I don’t recommend this site to anyone). This online marketing forum was great for finding online work back in the day. The barrier to entry was low and I quickly had work writing keyword-stuffed articles selling washing machines, hiking gear, vintage video games, sex toys, wart remover creams, and other JUNK.
It was work though. The money was rolling into my PayPal account $15 at a time and I couldn’t have been happier. I’d made it! I had finally found a way to make money online. No more working for the man, son!
I was a legit freelance content writer. Boom!
The money was crap.
Ask any freelance content writer how easy it is to make good money, and you’ll quickly realize it’s a tough row to hoe for newbs. How often do you call a customer service number and get someone on the other end of the line that barely speaks “Engrish”? I’m not hating, just saying. If you can pay someone in India $1/hr instead of paying someone stateside $15/hr, which would you choose?
If you’re being honest, you’ll at least try out the $1/hr option, right? That’s how the majority of online marketers operated at the time I started working as a freelance content writer. Despite perfect English and impeccable grades throughout high school and college, I was stuck competing with freelancers who used Google Translate to write articles.
I’d hate to make this sound like content writing is a bad gig; it’s really not most days. It just takes a long time to get established, and separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to customers. Most people in the online marketing and blogging space are just as broke as the people they outsource work to. They’re overly budget-minded, still working a day job, and hoping to strike it rich online with a blog or e-commerce store.
4 years later…
By 2014 I’d made some traction and was making a respectable $40-ish thousand a year income. I’d been sick for a while with thyroid issues and was drinking a lot. But, I was making an average income — likely above average for someone who only needed WiFi and a laptop to do his job. I’d also landed a great client who appreciated quality, who I still work with to this day.
He recognized my writing talent and over the years has given me countless jobs, and to this day, pays me a hefty monthly retainer. The ball really started rolling in this same year, as more and more clients started hitting me up for regular work. Work I actually liked doing, in the online business, self-improvement, and fitness/nutrition spaces.
What I’ve learned over the last 9 years as a freelance content writer.
There are easier ways to make a buck.
It’s hard sitting down at a computer and writing 6 – 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Writing for clients can suck your soul dry. If you want to make good money, you need to write lots of articles. Or, find a rare customer willing to pay $100 or more for a short 400-word article. Let me tell you, these kind of customers are rare, and you’ll spend just as much time polishing, editing, and rewriting material in this price range as you would working for half that rate.
Freelance writing it isn’t terribly rewarding work.
Look around at most blogs and you’ll see the same content rehashed over and over. Nothing is original. Even the content on this blog isn’t 100 percent original. Don’t be shocked, I’ve been writing for other people for years now. It’s difficult to find your own voice and share original ideas these days. We live in the information era, after all.
Building an original brand and creating your own content is a far smarter idea.
I’ve seen a lot of people rise and fall over the years in the online writing space. Many have been my clients — spending thousands on content only to abandon the site a few years later. My honest opinion is that these clients bailed because they weren’t being true to themselves. They were building content for search engines instead of trying to provide real, truly helpful information.
Do I recommend freelancing online?
I don’t. All of the lessons mentioned above are what sparked me to finally start this blog, and the upcoming FITE4 YouTube channel, which you’ll see linked in the left sidebar once it’s up. FITE4 is all about helping people “fite” (the misspelling is purposeful) for the life they truly want. I’ve spent 9 years working online, and the last 41 learning just how tough success and happiness is to come by.
If I could have the time I’ve spent writing content for others back, I’d take at least half that time to create my own brand. I’ve always had everything I needed to launch this brand — knowledge, work ethic, desire to help — yet always chose the quick buck because I needed to pay the bills. This is the same dogma that traps the 98 percent of people who never get where they want to go.
If you ask me, work a crappy offline job crunching numbers, working at a startup, digging ditches, or washing dishes. Save that time at your desk for building your own brand. You’ll never make millions working as a paid content writer or any other type of online freelancing gig. Not to mention, you’ll rarely go to bed feeling like you contributed anything good back into the world.
Create your own content, for your own audience. Stay woke.
Thank me later. 😀
You’re the best,