Day Job optional - Writers Beware: 3 New Rules for Making Money Online

So you want to add your name to the growing list of copywriters, content experts, ghostwriters, novelists, and journalists making money online?

Want to whip out your laptop and work from anywhere, so you can set you own schedule and live by your rules?

Of course you do!

And you’re smart for wanting to carve out a piece of this pie. Kudos to you.

I’m here to tell you, though, that the rules have changed in recent years. I’ve been funding my lifestyle with online writing gigs for about 7 full years now, and this gig doesn’t look a thing like it did when I was new on the scene.

It may not come as a massive surprise that an online career could change so rapidly, but it’s tricky to keep pace with the constant flux and evolution sometimes, right?

Every blog is giving different advice, everyone is claiming they are the expert, everyone wants your freaking money… It’s a melting pot of necessary and unnecessary evils, and it’s not always easy to navigate.

Well, spoiler alert: that’s why I’m writing this post for you!

For free! *confetti explosion*

Since I’m not really treading in the newbie pool with this stuff anymore, I’ve been doing as much note-taking on my insights as I am actually writing.

During a recent beach-side camping trip with friends and family, where I disconnected from work completely (reminiscent of my digital detox in Costa Rica this year), I started to notice some obvious shifts in my mindset, language and strategy.

Read on to learn about the #NEWRULES of killing it as a location independent writer. There’s only three, but each one is incredibly important to your success.

Day Job optional - Writers Beware: 3 New Rules for Making Money Online

1. You control the most crucial piece of the puzzle: Effort

I put this one at the top because it’s undeniably the most important. Without this rule, you’ll never reach your full potential.

Most recently converted freelancers struggle with this. Going from the corporate world, where your boss or supervisor calls the shots, to the freelance world, where the buck always stops with you, can be a less than smooth learning curve.

Here’s the deal: there’s no one else to blame if something goes wrong and no one else to congratulate if something goes right. You’re the boss!

This is, understandably, both liberating and terrifying, but once you learn to streamline your workflow, you’ll find that this rule is actually kind of awesome.

It also means you’ve got to be an organized, driven person to succeed at managing your own writing career, which includes everything from finding leads and executing projects to sending invoices and facilitating all aspects of your self-employment finances.

Oh, and then there’s the whole digital nomad element, and getting your work done even when you’re not feeling inspired or motivated—a lot harder to do when you don’t have a boss!

If you can accept the fact that you’re fully responsible for your successes and failures and plan accordingly (ie: simply be willing to educate and empower yourself along the way), this first rule will work for you instead of against you.

Remember this: While you’re building your online writing career, you’re actively controlling your destiny.

Day Job optional - Writers Beware: 3 New Rules for Making Money Online

2. You can’t use pushy sales tactics to land high quality clients.

It absolutely pains me to see the cheesy, pushy, lame things people write when applying for writing jobs.

I hire freelancers to do some work for me once in a while, and there are always a handful of applicants who try to verbally manhandle their way into landing the gig.

While they probably think they sound confident, they actually sound like amateurs who don’t know how to have a normal conversation.

I see this same language on freelance website profiles and even actual portfolio websites!

If you sound like you’re trying to sell a used car or you’re talking about getting started on the project before you’ve been hired, you’re not going to impress the high quality clients available out there.

Making money online is already hard enough. Someone has to send money through a computer to someone they’ve never met before—at least in the case of first time clients, and definitely in the case of every new freelancer.

The only way to spin this in your favor is to be likeable and trustworthy right up front, whether you’re pitching to an editor or applying for a one-off content writing gig. Be human, be honest!

As Upwork expert Danny Margulies teaches with his “Crystal Ball Technique“, your only goal in that first email is to start the conversation. Ask questions, show specific interest in their project. If they reply, you’ve got a chance to make it happen.

If you’re arrogant or forceful, you’ll get tossed into the trash folder before you even have a chance to show them what you’ve got.

Day Job optional - Writers Beware: 3 New Rules for Making Money Online

3. You’re already ahead of the game if you invest 5% more effort.

The third rule comes with a little experiment. It’s one I’ve been doing every few months as market research—and I’ve even hired a few people because of it!

But first, here’s the premise:

If you were to put a mere 5% more effort into your portfolio site, your proposals and emails, and your actual work, you’d careen past the masses on a floating blow-up swan doing a prom queen wave.

In other words, most people are mediocre…

…and where others are mediocre, you have a chance to shine.

So if you want proof of this theory, go ahead and post up your own job description on Upwork, Freelancer, or Craigslist. Read every response.

Notice how some people have typos in the first sentence of their proposal, some talk endlessly about their accomplishments and never mention your project, and some just attach a resume without even writing anything.

Yes, I’ve gotten that kind of reply… more than once!

Obviously, you’re smarter than this. You don’t apply for writing jobs for fun. You want to work, so you can pay your bills, fund your travels and whatever else you’ve got on your list. So you’re not going to half-ass anything.

Instead of putting yourself near the front of the pack with 5% more effort, which is effective, you’re going to put 10% more effort, and on days when you’re extra inspired, go ahead and put 15—20% in.

You will notice the difference, and so will your clients.

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Day Job optional - Writers Beware: 3 New Rules for Making Money Online

Written by MC
Michelle Christina Larsen never met a palm tree she didn't like. A seasoned fashion copywriter and the founder of Day Job Optional, she loves making clothes, sipping strong coffee on rainy mornings and connecting with other writers in the DJO Writers Community. You'll find her reclining on a beach in the Caribbean, thrifting her way through Brooklyn or writing for her nearly 10-year-old lifestyle blog, Hey Mishka.

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