Podcast

Episode: 326 |
Laura Gariepy:
Freelance Writing:
Episode
326

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Laura Gariepy

Freelance Writing

Show Notes

Laura Gariepy left a corporate job and set up as a freelance writer. Within a year, her income as a freelance writer matched her former corporate salary.

Laura continues to work as a freelance writer and also serves as a coach to other writers seeking to make the leap to freelance.

Visit her site at:  https://www.everydaybythelake.com/

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:02
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m excited to be here today with Laura therapie, who runs the firm every day by the lake. Laura is a freelance writer, she’ll tell us about that. And she also helps other people, other writers become freelance writers. I’ve been seeing her tweets for quite a while. She’s very big following on Twitter. Laura, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for having me. Well, So Laura, tell me how did you get started as a freelance writer.

Laura Gariepy 00:46
You know, it’s it’s not glamorous, it’s actually rather accidental. I quit my full time job in early 2018. Because that schedule wasn’t allowing me to show up for myself and my family the way I needed to. I didn’t have a clear plan. I just had a few bucks in the bank. And I knew I had some time to figure that out. I launched the blog, because it seemed like that’s what you’re supposed to do when you want to have an online business. You know, even at that juncture, I was still a little murky on the details. What were you blogging about, really just my transition from employee to this unknown space that I was in, I was calling it a sabbatical at the time, because I wasn’t even sure that it was going to be like a long term thing I wanted it to be. But without a clear plan, I had my doubts. And once I got entrenched in the blogging community, I actually was able to write a guest post for a major personal finance website. And, you know, a week or so later, I was surprised to receive payment. I didn’t expect that it was an aha moment. I said, geez, I can replicate this process, and make a living from this one article at a time. And once that happened, within a month, I had another recurring client that I still write for. And you know, by the end of the year, I had a handful, and within a year of earning my first freelance dollar, I had completely replaced my corporate salary. That’s, that’s pretty amazing. Congratulations. Thank you. Um, so a lot of listeners of this show May, from time to time be interested in hiring a freelance writer. So I want to explore that a little bit.

Will Bachman 02:29
And I know that you also coach new writers who are coming into this space. First question around this is, Are there different sort of categories or specializations of freelance writer I imagine there might be some people who are great about writing like website, copy some people who maybe write blog posts for you, some people who could write a more formal white paper,

Laura Gariepy 02:53
but I’m not really into this world. So how do people tend to specialize and fit into different categories? There are absolutely specializations. Like, I’ve never written a white paper. That’s not to say that I couldn’t, but I don’t have that expertise. So you know, someone would have to take a chance on me to do a project like that. You know, I specialize primarily in blog posts, website, copy, and email newsletters, those are the things that I find myself doing the most. But certainly, there’s a difference between content writing, which is designed to inform and copywriting which is intended to persuade. And then you have white papers that are, you know, more technical than a blog post. So there there is different skills that are involved in producing these different pieces. Some writers may be skilled in doing multiple types of content, and others may be purely specializing, like in one aspect.

Will Bachman 03:54
So for example, you write a lot of blog posts. When you do that, is it typically you’ll get engaged to kind of ghost write blog posts on a on like an ongoing basis, you know, like, one post a month or per week?

Laura Gariepy 04:13
Or how’s it typically structured for you? Um, you know, it varies. Some companies do give me a byline, so I can post that work in my portfolio, but many of my clients do want to publish it in their own name, which is fine, you know, I get to learn their voice and produce content, that that’s reflective of them in their company. Usually it is on an ongoing basis. And I like that, you know, it helps for income stability, as opposed to having to pitch ideas as a one off all the time.

Will Bachman 04:45
Okay. And when you’re writing blog posts, how do you think about, you know, search engine optimization or making it something that is going to draw traffic to the website or, or do optimize more just around like do they give you topic ideas or con, you know, sort of what they want you to write about to tell me a little bit about how you have that whole content discussions slash SEO discussion with with the client. So it really does vary. Some clients will give me an SEO brief that includes the keywords they want the number of times they want them, and outline with the heads, the sub heads the whole bit, and that’s fine, I can write within those confines. And then on the other end of the spectrum, I have clients that say, I want you to write 1000 word or so blog posts about this topic, I don’t really have much input as to what you do from an SEO perspective, like they’re really hands off, or then that’s not their goal.

Laura Gariepy 05:47
I do try to optimize, you know, using the SEO best practices that I’m aware of. So it really depends on what the clients looking for.

Will Bachman 06:00
As you coach, freelance writers who are writers who are thinking about becoming freelance, I’m sure a lot of people ask you, okay, well, how much can I earn? How do you help people navigate that and figure that out? Like, what are the typical rates? Or how much should someone expect to get paid for writing things of different lengths, and so forth. So again, and I feel like a broken record, there’s a lot of variability here. You know, when you’re just starting out, you know, it’s okay to maybe make 10 cents a word for a blog post. But as you become more experienced, or if you’re writing for a bigger client with a bigger budget, or if you’re writing a piece that’s, you know, more complicated and has more requirements, you know, then you could take it to 50 cents, or $1 or more per word.

Laura Gariepy 06:50
So, depending on how many clients you have, how many pieces you produce, your income is going to be based on that I know multiple clients that earn not clients, I freelance writers that earn six figures per year, you know, some of them multiple, six figures, and then I know some that, you know, are not even making close to that. So it depends on really how much time you put in the, the client base that you have, and the types of work that you’re doing. For someone who’s a freelance writer making over $100,000 a year, you know, we don’t need to know sort of the names of the websites that writing for but can you give us a little sense of what sort of content they’re producing and for what types of websites or publications, you know, I mean, that’s, that’s a pretty good amount of money for I would think for a freelance writer, what’s sort of the profile of that person, where’s their stuff being published, basically, their pieces are being published in like household theme, websites, you know, very major publications across different niches. So, like us news, or as I had another example, and it escaped me, but it’s really if you saw their portfolio, you would recognize every single person that they’re writing for. And, you know, they get that top dollar, because they are working with these massive conglomerates that have the budget to pay them. And it’s something that they typically work up to over time, you know, a lot of freelance writers start writing, you know, for other blogs in their niche that maybe you’re a little further along, they are because they have some budget to pay a freelance writer, and then as they progress, they can kind of keep trading up for you know, bigger clients.

Will Bachman 08:47
Okay. For someone who wants to hire a freelance writer, where’s the where are some of the different places to think about going to find that person? do you suggest people try Upwork? Or just ask their friends for recommendations? Or or is there different specialized websites, where freelance writers are kind of aggregated together? How do you find a freelance writer? Um, I mean, certainly you can turn to Upwork.

Laura Gariepy 09:22
as a freelancer, I don’t use it to get gigs I I find it’s better to kind of broker those deals on my own outside of a platform. And, you know, from what I’ve heard, sometimes clients have that same experience. They’d rather work outside of that platform as well, but it’s an option. referrals are gold, you know, no matter what direction they’re going in, if you can have somebody you know, name drop, that saves you a lot of legwork that gives the person instant credibility, you know, if they’re being endorsed by someone that you know and trust. You can find freelance writers on LinkedIn. You can, in my experience, find a lot of them on Twitter. A lot of freelance writers are active on social media, because that’s how they attract clients. So if you’re looking for a writer, those writers are advertising themselves on those platforms. Yeah, so I’ve started getting into Twitter over the past few months. And I mean, that’s how we connected. But often, it maybe it’s just been not been obvious to me, I guess you really have to check people’s profile to find out. I mean, someone might be posting all the time on on LinkedIn on Twitter, saying interesting things. It wouldn’t necessarily strike me as obvious that they’re available for hire as a writer. What would the way to search on Twitter be? I mean, maybe there’s an advanced search to find, you know, copywriters, or writers for hire, how would I go about finding people to hire on Twitter? I mean, I would just search for the term freelance writer or if you have a niche personal finance freelance writer and and see what comes up. And then once you do find a writer, chances are they’re connected to other writers. There’s a lot of networking that happens amongst freelancers. And so if you look at their profile and their stuff, and maybe they don’t fit your needs, you can kind of mine the connections that they have for other potential leads.

Will Bachman 11:24
Okay. All right. And so, don’t necessarily think that Upwork is the whole universe, are there other aggregators or platforms, maybe other than Upwork, that you’ve that you’ve talked to other freelance writers where they where they congregate, where you can find people?

Laura Gariepy 11:43
No, not really, I mean, Upwork does have its counterpart called Fiverr. And so that runs similarly. But I’m not really aware of like other other platforms. Okay, thank you. I mean, I know that they’re out there. Like they’re places where freelance writers can put their portfolios and it functions similarly to an Upwork or Fiverr. I just don’t really have a lot of commentary on that, because I don’t use those platforms. Interesting. Yeah, I guess I think of Fiverr as more of a graphic design. Or if you need an illustration done, I didn’t even think of it as a place where you could go to get a freelance writer. And it almost seems like there’s an opportunity out there for someone to create a really great dedicated platform just for finding the right freelance writer, and you could search by category and so forth, seems like an opportunity for anyone listening. What are some of your thoughts, Laura, on how to, you know, let’s say you identify several people on how to pick the right person? Is it really just about reading their portfolio and finding someone who’s ready, like or if you’re, you know, if you were hiring a freelance writer, how would you recommend going about selecting the person. So I mean, that portfolio for freelancers, essentially, a resume of someone seeking traditional employment. So that is the first place that you go. But then certainly there is an interview process that that should take place, so that you get to know them, explain a little bit about what you do what you’re looking for. And then you can assess for additional fit from there. If it still feels good, then I would pay someone to write a test piece for me. You know, as as you alluded to, before we started recording, it’s not a good idea to ask somebody to produce work for free. And so if you compensate them, even at like a reduced rate, you know, than you would normally agree to, to try out and provide you with something for your for your website, then you can really assess if they can write in the style that you need for whatever application you’re going to use that content for.

Will Bachman 14:00
Okay, so if you were looking to hire someone to write blog posts for your firm, would you ask someone write like an entire blog post or like write one paragraph? What Tell me a little bit more about how this test process might work?

Laura Gariepy 14:15
design it however you would like. I think that the compensation you attach to it, you know, has to be commensurate with the amount of work you’re asking them to do. If you feel like you can get what you need out of a short blurb, and that’s okay. I personally would probably ask someone to write a full length article and pay them appropriately for it.

Will Bachman 14:40
I’m curious, typically, can you give me a sense of how much time it typically takes I’m sure it obviously varies a whole whole lot, but how much should you expect it would take to do a typical let’s say blog post, you know, one, that one that you write, that’s and I don’t even know how many Words is a typical post, give me a sense of like, how long does a typical post? How much time does it take?

Laura Gariepy 15:07
You know, my sweet spot is usually between 1015 100 words, okay? And if it’s a topic that I’m familiar with, where there aren’t a whole lot of formatting requirements, I don’t have to do research, I don’t have to do interviews, I can just kind of bang it off the cuff, I can get that done in 90 minutes to two hours, like from nothing to outline to draft to polished. Wow. And about that time. Yeah, I mean, I, it’s I become more efficient over time. It certainly wasn’t that way, two or three years ago. You know, if I do have to do interviews, or do extensive research, or provide links to certain sources, you know, certain clients have very strict sourcing guidelines, that takes up a lot of times, so a piece of the same length could take me four or five hours. Hmm, okay. Interesting. All right. And when you’re with your ongoing clients, do they typically ask you, hey, Laura, we want you to come up with the, you know, this stream of topics. So, you know, you figure out what would be a good, you know, set of topics to run on. It’s a mix. Sometimes they asked me to come up with topics, sometimes they assign me what to write. And, and sometimes there’s a collaboration. So, you know, I might say, you know, if we have to run for blogs this month, I’ve got two ideas, what do you think of them? Do you have anything else that you’d like me to write to fill in post three and four? Okay. All right.

Will Bachman 16:41
Now, let’s talk a little bit about your practice of coaching, aspiring freelance writers. Do you have a kind of standard kind of curriculum that you run people through of, you know, is there sort of four stage gates or kind of a formalized process? Or is it you know, more informed, I’d love to hear what are the, you know, how you help people think through the whole process and get get started and get up to speed on it.

Laura Gariepy 17:09
So it’s really tricky to have a set curriculum, because everyone’s starting in a different place. You know, I have clients that, you know, don’t even have their own website. And then I have some clients that have maybe had one or two freelance clients, but haven’t found the level of success that they’re looking for. And so because they are in different starting points, I have to tailor the conversations that we have to where they are, I am developing an online course that is going to be kind of like a DIY. And it will follow like a sequence and go over certain topics like managing your money landing clients, organizing your life around your business, the right mindset, you have to have to go from employee to self employed. And so it will go through those gates, so to speak. But that’s because I don’t know like, where they are in their journey. So they can refer to whatever information they need as a self study, but when I’m working one on one with someone, first thing I do is really get a sense of where they’re at and where the gaps are, and then create an individualized plan for them.

Will Bachman 18:21
Okay, so the, probably the core thing a lot of people are curious about is how do I get clients? So what’s what’s your guidance there for freelance writers on how to find clients?

Laura Gariepy 18:34
I think a relationship building approach, you know, I’m not a big fan of the platform, as we discussed, I’m not a cold pitcher. I know some people find success with both of those things. But that’s not been the case for me. So that’s not what I teach. And so I help clients build a presence online. And that includes their website, their social media channels, and then start putting out content that demonstrates their expertise and engaging within the community that they’re starting to build that brings about name recognition. So sometimes clients will find them. Ultimately, that has happened to me several times, just because I’m so active. And then your name will be recognized if you apply to a posted position, because maybe the editor has seen you active online. And if you’re engaging with other people’s contents, commenting on it, liking sharing it, you’re being of service to them, so they’re going to be more inclined to want to reciprocate or at least try to help you out. Like maybe if they don’t have an opportunity for you, they can refer you to someone else. So it’s about building a network and nurturing the relationships. Okay. All right. Have you spoken to other people that have tried the, like, the cold outreach approach of, you know, hey, I write this personal finance blog and I see that you, you know, like, put posts up every week would you like I’m going to do that for you. Or, hey, I see that you’re a consulting firm, but you don’t have a blog. How would you like to have a weekly blog post? I can write it for you. Have you seen folks trying that? What sort of success did they have? Yeah, I mean, some people make their careers off of doing that kind of outreach. And certainly, the way I do things is not the only way. So it really has to be about what someone feels comfortable doing what they want to do, in my opinion, when you go and you you cold pitch your your rejection chances, or your chances of even getting a response, you know, are low and your rejection chances are high, because they don’t know you. And they probably get a lot of these unsolicited requests. So it may go straight into their trash in their email inbox. And so my approach is you already warming people up. So you’re not coming to them, without them having any clue who you are, and you increase your chances of success. Maybe it’s not right at the moment. But maybe when they do have an opportunity, or they think of someone who could use your services, they’ll remember you and be more inclined to connect you with that opportunity.

Will Bachman 21:09
Now you have quite a Twitter following. Can you tell me a little bit about how you’ve built up that following over time? And what sort of benefits you’ve seen from it, like in terms of actually getting projects through through your Twitter following?

Laura Gariepy 21:22
Yeah, I launched my Twitter account, when I launched my blog back in March of 2018, I just crossed the 7000 follower mark, which was exciting. It’s amazing. It’s been organic, you know, I probably, you know, I haven’t done the math, but obviously, it’s not a meteoric rise, it took me you know, two and a half years to, to get to this point. So it’s just incremental, steady growth, by sharing my material by following others, you know, sometimes people will follow you back if you follow them. So that’s, that’s a strategy. I mean, I wouldn’t do that blindly, or willy nilly, you know, follow people strategically, and then engage with their materials, so that they’re inclined to follow you back. And so you have that relationship starting to form. It’s just consistent use of the platform. So I do have a social media tool that posts automatically for me, you know, multiple times a day. So even when I can’t be on the platform, I’m on the platform. And then I do log on once or twice a day to engage organically, like respond to people who have, you know, tweeted at me, or maybe look through my feed and see if there’s anything I want to comment on or share. And so that approach does produce consistent results over time. In terms of the success that I’ve had it I one of my four figure a month clients found me as a result of a tweet. And it wasn’t even a tweet about freelancing. It was me talking about how I was going to organize my day. So the guy emails me and said, I saw you on Twitter, I like how organized you are. At first, I thought it was a scam, because I’m like, Who is this? And he says, I’d like to talk to you about writing for my company. And the rest is history. I’ve been working with them for 18 months. And in addition, they’ve referred me to another company that they’re affiliated with, that also needs content. So I’ve written for them. And they referred me to a third prospect. Nothing’s happened with them so far. But it’s just the idea that from a single tweet, all of that happens, and you never know when that’s going to happen. So that’s why you have to be on your game consistently. It’s like planting seeds, you don’t know when you’re going to be able to harvest necessarily, but if you keep doing it all of the time, you know that there will ultimately be some sort of harvest.

Will Bachman 23:48
So tell me about what what tool Are you using to kind of help schedule these tweets out? Smarter Queue? smarter, smarter cue, like standing in a line cue smarter cue. Okay. And then how does that work? So do you like right, each one, you know, separately? Or do you have some that are just on repeat, like you do like once a week or something or tell me a little bit about that scheduling in advance? aspect.

Laura Gariepy 24:13
So everything that’s really timely are off the cuff. I do organically, anything that’s evergreen I program into this tool. And so it is set to repeat indefinitely until I take it out of the queue. There are categories like blog posts, tips, promotional content, other people’s articles, and you just put that content into the system. Tell the schedule when you want to share what type of content and walk away and you can refresh the queue as often or as infrequently as you want. And how does how do you find that working? Do you find you know, kind of people continue to engage with just the Evergreen posts that you’ve posted in the past, it’s like the same post, same tweet as you posted in the past, but it sees new eyeballs and you get new engagement with it. Yeah, I mean, the thing about Twitter especially is the feed moves very quickly. So your followers are not going to see everything that you post. So you are catching new eyeballs, even if you’re recycling the posts time and time again. And when you were starting out, did you mostly, when you’re starting out and you have zero followers, you could be posting all day, but no one is gonna see it. Right. So did you mostly start by commenting on other people’s tweets and kind of to catch their attention? or How did you grow your following initially? It was basically following people that I found interesting. And then, like you said, engaging with their material.

Will Bachman 25:51
Fantastic. Well, Laura, it’s been great chatting with you. Where can people go find you online or on Twitter?

Laura Gariepy 26:01
So my website is everyday by the lake calm. And my Twitter handle is at everyday lake. And I got to ask, I’ve been wondering about this. How did you pick that as the name for your firm and for your Twitter handle? So it’s kind of literal, I live on a lake. And now that I work for myself from home, I’m every day by the lake. And, you know, I guess if you want it to get a little more metaphoric about it, the lake is my happy place. And by providing services to other folks, I free up more of their time so they can go find their own happy place.

Will Bachman 26:41
Fantastic. Well, Laura, thank you so much for joining us today. And listeners, if you have not yet reviewed this show, and think about giving it five stars now it’d be a fantastic time to go on iTunes and do that. It does help other people discover the show. And if you have questions for me or topics you’d like to see me cover on the show, send me an email Unleashed at Umbrex Comm. I do answer I do answer every email, I look at every email. And if you like to propose a topic, I will do my best to do a future episode to answer your question. So Laura, thanks for joining. And we’ll, we’ll see you listeners next time.

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