In episode 20, Laura discusses how she built her business online, including finding freelance writing work without any experience, quickly surpassing her previous earnings, and how she now teaches others to follow in her footsteps.
Laura left a career as a 7th-grade teacher in Baltimore to pursue her dream of freelance writing. Within three months she surpassed her former earnings and within the first year she hit the six figure mark and became a consultant to those wanting to start an online career as a writer or virtual assistant. She now also advises major companies like Microsoft about building effective digital teams and helps entrepreneurs hire and train their first virtual assistant.
Transition from teacher to full-time freelancer
- Wanted to make some extra money on the side
- Googled “how to become a freelance writer” – researched, complied writing samples, pitched
- Landed first job after about two weeks. First $150 job confirmed she could do this and enjoy it.
- Had no formal experience in writing previously
- Used eLance, now merged into Upwork – great way to get started.
- Has repeat clients now, other avenues for new business
More on Upwork
- Clients are pre-sold and posts looking for someone to fulfill a project need
- Initially had to look for ways to stand out to get picked. Could offer excellent writing and faster delivery.
Good writing can trump everything else.
- Did deep research to understand how the site work, did dummy project to see other freelancers’ pitches
- Ratings/reviews matters. Even now when she isn’t submitting for jobs, potential clients find her by her history on Upwork
Types of Work
- Jobs have been a litte all over the place, especially at the beginning
- Focused more on SEO (Search engine optimization) – clients need this update regularly, so many will order regular repeat projects
- Also started doing project management work – managing their digital team, deadlines, etc.
- For those interested in freelancing: There may be things you have done – even if not online – even something you did for grad school, for a volunteer organization, etc. that can be transferred to a freelance job
Do an inventory of your skillset to determine what kind of freelance work you can do.
Virtual Assistant work
- Being one and hiring one – becoming more and more popular
- VA does whatever the entrepreneur / business owner needs
- Could be scheduling, researching, making power point slides, finding a gift, etc.
- Different from full-time assistant, can just start as a few hours a week, can be located anywhere
- Clients are comfortable with being presented different options, very flexible for VAs to set up what works for them.
Hiring a VA
- First, catalog the things you do in one day. Go back to the list and ask yourself “do I really need to be doing all these things?”
You’re spending time on administrative tasks that are keeping you from making more money.
- Start small. You want to see how the person performs, so don’t dump everything on them at once. You want to see that ROI (time, money, or sanity back)
- She has a guide with 70+ tasks that you could potentially outsource.
How she started advising others on freelancing
- Happened by accident. Was happy working behind the scenes and had plenty of business
- Former colleagues started asking how they could do it to.
- Built a course, delivered one week at a time.
- Realized there were plenty who wanted to do this
- People learn in different ways, so offers multiple ways for people to learn: home-study course, level of support via access to her, video of her reviewing their profiles and samples, direct consulting/coaching, etc.
- Customizes to the student needs, help them specialize their business.
How her time is spent
- Varies week to week based on projects that come up
- 15-20 hours on freelance work – recurring work from clients
- 8-10 hours week on student work – coaching, building courses, Facebook live video, etc.
- Freelance students know that she is still actively freelancing herself, still in the trenches
Jump from traditional to unknown of freelancing
- Hung on to her day job for a year even after surpassing her income quickly.
- Was fearful that it was a fluke and that she wouldn’t continue making that much.
You create your paycheck. On one hand that’s a blessing, because it’s as much as you want it to be. On the other hand, you are entirely responsible for generating all the money to pay your bills. And that can be a little bit scary for some people.
- When she did leave her day job, her business exploded and she regretted not having left sooner. Realized her limitation was time working elsewhere and commuting.
- To be very conscious 1. Of the clients you work with and 2. The arrangement you set up
- Tried to manage other writers to maximize her work, did not enjoy it. Was either profitable or enjoyable but not both.
- Fired half of her clients, started totally fresh. Will not take any client now who isn’t ideal.
- Her model now gives her the freedom to go on vacation and work only 4 hours a day, or scale up her coaching business, etc.
- Red flags for her:
- Call/email all the time (distract from other jobs)
- They say they have hired and fired multiple people (they are probably the problem)
- Those who instantly try to get a discount
- Ideal clients:
- Have a level of trust in her – that she will do what she says
- Order recurring business
- Trying to outsource everything – that model didn’t work for her
- Taking on the wrong clients –
Trust your intuition. If it’s not going to be set up in a way that works for you, let it go. The only thing we have in our control is our time and energy. Commit to only allowing the amazing clients and amazing opportunities.
- Has always wanted to write a book – toying around with the idea
- Will start consulting on building online courses – doing this has reignited her passion for teaching
- Blogging and writing about entrepreneurship as a whole
- Be more visible – have a small following. Particularly passionate about helping military spouses build an online career. Will do this more in the next year.
Don’t talk yourself out of it.
- Her only regret is not doing this sooner.
- Start now. Challenge yourself to get one client, one job. Then a lot of other jobs will open.
Two site with free tools and information to get started: