(Guest Post by Leah Manderson as part of our Side Hustle Series)
After basking in the glow of a fairytale engagement story, my now-husband and I had to sit down and get serious about how we were going to pay for a wedding.
My immediate thought – being the personal finance nerd that I am – was to have a tiny ceremony for our immediate family. We’d marry under a tree to the sounds of an acoustic guitar. We’d have our reception at a local barbecue joint and I’d smash a scoop of apple cobbler into my husband’s face. The whole PF world would applaud my willingness to rebel from the “wedding industry complex!”
However, I knew in my heart that my husband and I really wanted that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have our friends and family together at one very cool party. We wanted a live band, a filling Southern meal, a delicious cake, and beautiful fresh flowers. I wanted a dress worthy of something slightly nicer than a barbecue joint.
When we looked at how much we could budget over the course of our 9 month engagement, we found that we could save ~$7,500 if we pushed hard. While that was a great start, we knew that to throw a the party we wanted for our 80 person guest list that we would need a little more.
To pick up the slack, I started working as a freelance web copywriter. My husband started selling homemade bacon – but that’s another story for another day.
How I Got Started
I’ve written professionally for my entire marketing career, and have hosted some online passion projects at various points along the way. Through those experiences, I’ve gotten pretty good at writing for the web and for business.
To sell my services, I sent email pitches to women-owned businesses in my area, telling them how I could help them improve their sales. I gave them three specific critiques of their websites that they could use right away, even if they didn’t hire me. Being that generous helped me establish my credibility and land business within two months of getting started.
After I had impressed a few clients, I leveraged my newly formed network. At the end of each project, I asked each of my clients to respond to a quick survey about my services and areas I could improve. Then I not-so-covertly asked them for referrals to other women-owned businesses that could use help in improving their websites and online sales.
This was a winning strategy for me. I found that everyone liked helping me get started. My clients also liked knowing that I had a purpose with my business – paying for a wedding. They felt like they were part of the experience with me and took a vested interest in my success.
How Much I Charged
Starting out, I offered my copywriting services on the cheap, around $100 per 500 words.* Four months into business (and six months into my engagement), I doubled my price.
Depending on the month’s workload, I earned anywhere in the range of $500 up to $1500 per month – all while holding down my day job.
*Note: This looks like a lot to freelancers who write blog posts, magazine articles, and similar types of content. However, when you write content that directly ties to increasing sales, you can command a higher price.
Pros & Cons To Freelance Writing
The best part about being a freelance writer is that it plays well to my strengths. I love filling blank pages with content that my gets my clients more sales, higher conversions, or just a more vibrant presence online. I also adore the business process. I find it tremendously fun to talk to prospects, turn them into clients, learn about their businesses, and find unique marketing angles that work.
More practically, I love that I can work whenever and wherever I want. I’ve been known to hustle in my apartment, in coffee houses, in airports, and even in my car.
The cons are obvious to anyone who freelances. First, it’s often feast or famine. You never can tell exactly what your pipeline will look like from one month to the next.
A second downside is the occasional difficult client. It’s important to learn how to manage clients of all types, but it’s no fun when the client asks for free work, or changes their mind a lot, or forgets that you’re a human who needs to eat and sleep.
Lastly, there are those pesky taxes, which I know J. Money loathes just as much as I do!
How You Can Freelance Too!
If you think you’d be a great copywriter, start building your portfolio and network as soon as possible. Pick a niche you like working with (and whose businesses have enough money to pay you well!) and email people with a short introduction about how you can help.
Your email can be something like, “Hi, My name is Bob and I recently started a copywriting business. If you’re interested, I’d be happy to send you three suggestions as to how I can improve your website. Thanks, Bob”
Or, if you’re new and don’t have a portfolio, you may want to do a couple of free projects to get experience. In exchange for free projects, request either a testimonial or referral to further your business in a non-monetary way. This was a huge factor in helping me ramp up my business and network quickly.
[Editor's note: We did this when launching our consulting services earlier too, and it ended up working well! You can even ask for testimonials from PAYING customers too who are happy with your work ;)]
It’s a rollercoaster of emotions in the beginning (it took me 2 months to get my first client!), but so worth the effort when you finally get a ‘yes!’
How The Story Wraps Up
Over the course of seven months I helped 15 women businesses sell more of their services online, which has since paved the way for my business to last long after our wedding was over. I ended up making $5,000+ which went toward both our wedding and our honeymoon in Antigua.
Bash the big wedding if you will, but I couldn’t have been happier to spend that time with my closest family and friends. And working for it made it that much sweeter!
Leah Manderson is a freelance copywriter and personal finance nerd. She believes that earning more money is the most fun and rewarding way to get everything you want – whether that’s a great big wedding or an early retirement.
**Do you have a Side Hustle to share with us? Let me know! :)
(Photo courtesy of Leah also)