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What if I said you could make upwards of $200,000 per year as a freelance writer with no formal degree or education?
Oh, you want proof? Holly Johnson, freelance writer and creator of the bestselling course Earn More Writing, actually does it.
Get this — Holly used to work in a mortuary, but it was draining the life force from her, stealing away precious time from her children and family, and leaving her feeling exhausted and unfulfilled.
So what did Holly do? Why, the same thing that any badass woman in her situation would have done, of course.
She took matters into her own hands.
Holly built a successful freelance writing business on the side of her full-time job and now she makes more than five times her previous salary, works from home, and travels the world at her leisure with her beautiful family:
Sounds like a dream life, right?
Well, with some hard work and a lot of hustle, it could become your reality. Holly’s here today to share with us her journey to becoming a successful freelance writer and how others can do the same.
For starters, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, who you write for, and when and how you got started as a freelance writer?
My name is Holly Johnson and I’m a 37-year-old mother of two. I used to work in a professional job, but I switched to freelance writing after we started our blog, ClubThrifty.com, in 2011.
My old job was enjoyable, but it was extremely demanding. I hated working 9-5, having only 15-20 vacation days per year, and working weekends and holidays. Since we had little kids, working so many hours outside of the home was almost more than I could handle. I didn’t have much of a life, and my time with my kids was not enjoyable because it was mostly spent “catching up” and doing chores.
My husband and I started our blog in 2011 as a side hustle, but I quickly picked up writing jobs to supplement my full-time income. Since we had small children, I would work on my freelance jobs in the early morning before work or at night after the kids went to bed.
At a certain point, I realized I was making almost enough writing to supplement my entire income. I quit my job once I was earning $3,000 per month writing part-time. Since my full-time job paid around $38,000 per year, I was almost there.
These days, I write multiple columns for publications like Wise Bread, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report Travel, Frugal Travel Guy, Travel Pulse, and LendingTree.
Wow, what an awesome side hustle! How much did you make your first year as a freelance writer, and how much are you currently making?
I was making around $3,000 per month writing part-time when I quit my job. Within a year of writing full-time, I was making $70,000 – $80,000 per year. Last year (2016), I made $225,000 writing and that doesn’t include the income from our blog. I am on track to make around the same this year, maybe a little less.
To what do you attribute most of your success? What would you say are the top two key elements to becoming a successful freelance writer?
Work ethic is key any time you’re self-employed. I have always been willing to do things others are unwilling to do. I frequently work weekends or nights to meet deadlines.
To be a successful writer, you have be able to accept criticism – both from editors and readers. You have to build a thick skin. You have to be willing to put yourself out there knowing that at least some of your readers won’t like you.
I’ve been successful because I’m willing to work hard and I don’t care what anyone thinks.
It sounds like you had great success with freelance writing pretty early on. How much can new freelance writers expect to make?
It really depends. I know writers who are working part-time (in addition to their full-time jobs) and making $5,000 or more per month via freelancing alone. I also know people who work a few hours per week and make a few hundred bucks.
How long did it take you to find your first high-paying freelance writing clients?
I found some jobs that paid pretty good right off the bat. After a year or two, I was able to start earning considerably more. While I would write an article for $150 several years ago, I now charge in the $300 – $1,500 range. It takes time to get there, but you can move your rates up slowly over time.
What is the greatest challenge you faced as a starting freelance writer?
My biggest challenge was finding time to write at first. I had a full-time job and two little kids. I was tired all the time, but I was also desperate to change my life in some way. Once I realized I could potentially replace my income with freelancing and quit my job, there was no stopping me. I would get up at 5:00 a.m. to work before my regular job, work weekends, work nights, etc.
It looks like all your hard work paid off! What is the most rewarding part of this career for you?
I feel like I finally have a life. My freelance career allowed my husband to quit his job to come home and work on our blog. Now that he has been home with me for 2+ years, our blog is earning six figures on its own. Since we’re entirely self-employed, we have no rules and no limitations on our lives. We travel around 12 weeks per year and basically do whatever we want.
I have more time with my kids. We put them on the bus every day and we’re home when they get off the bus at 3:40 p.m. We can eat lunch with them at school. I can take a day off for a field trip. I’m not as stressed because I have more time for housework and relaxation. My husband being able to leave his stressful job also changed our lives. He went from working 50-60 hours per week to working 30-40.
A lot of freelancers and work-at-homers find it difficult to manage their time when first starting out. (I still have trouble with this!) What system do you use to manage your time effectively?
You have to treat freelancing as if it is a regular job. I work 8-4 every day no matter what. Treat it like a regular job and it will become a regular job. If you let friends drag you out to lunch or the mall all the time, you won’t get the results you want. I haven’t turned the TV on or let myself get distracted from work for 6-7 years. My workday is for working and nothing else.
What made you decide to create a course and teach others how to make a living freelance writing?
I created EarnMoreWriting.com after receiving hundreds of emails and messages from people who wanted to know the secrets to starting an online freelance career. I was basically typing out the same responses to everyone, but it was hard to tell people everything they needed to know via email.
After seeing a lot of freelancing courses on the web, I realized I was more qualified than most people to share the lessons I’ve learned and package them in a course. My course brings in extra revenue for our business, but it’s not how I earn a living. I still earn a living writing content for the web.
What makes the Earn More Writing course unique?
A lot of people who sell writing courses don’t actually write for a living. They sell courses because it’s an easy way to make money. Don’t believe me? Find a few popular writing courses on the web then look for articles written by the person who sells the course. There are a few courses out there by people who literally don’t have any articles published on the web.
Now google my name along with “money” or “travel.” I know what I’m talking about because I actually do it.
What’s the greatest benefit of taking the Earn More Writing Course versus going it alone?
I answer most of the questions I wish I would have had answers to when I started! I also offer a helpful and active FB group where writers collaborate every day. I answer every question posted in the forum.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out or wants to know how to start freelance writing?
Stop overthinking it and just get started. Too many people spend their time planning their careers instead of launching them. Stop waiting for someone to give you permission. Decide what you want and take it. Ignore everyone in your life that doubts you or thinks your dreams are stupid and pointless. I had a lot of doubters in my life when I started. Thank God I never listened to them.
The Earn More Writing Course
How awesome was that!? Holly is the real deal when it comes to freelance writing, and I’m so thankful to have had her on the blog today.
Here’s what you get with Holly’s Earn More Writing course:
- 8 video modules
- All the course worksheets
- Actionable advice
- Training from a professional writer
Plus the Standard bonuses:
- Bonus video module: How to Get Rich Ghostwriting for CEOs
- “The Insider’s Guide to What Editors Really Want”
- List of 250+ businesses with blogs
- Access to our Facebook group
By upgrading to the Pro Package you’ll also get:
- A 30-minute coaching session with Holly
- Feedback on 3 writing assignments or pitch letters
Stop letting self-doubt hold you back from accomplishing your goals, whether that’s freelance writing, starting an online business, or eating at every single Cracker Barrel in the U.S. (Do you, boo.) You can create the life you want. All it takes is hard work and a little hustle.
I’m a financial coach and author + owner of Goodbye to Broke. I love all things personal finance, money management, and healthy living. And I talk to my dog way too much, if we’re being honest.