Last Updated on: January 2nd, 2021
Today Elna Cain is my F.I.T.S. (Freelancer In The Spotlight). Elna and I met by fluke. When she grabbed my blogging ebook, 20 Blog Post Must-Haves, she noticed my address was in Thunder Bay, the same city where she lives!
Elna reached out to me through social media, and we connected instantly. Now we meet regularly at Starbucks to discuss our highs and lows, our businesses, and our lives. (We sometimes annoy the other patrons, too… but we have fun doing it!)
Meet Elna Cain
During our last meeting, we took some pictures. Here they are:
Today’s F.I.T.S. entry is a bit different from past ones. Elna let me interview her! What’s awesome is that she has some REALLY GREAT TIPS for you, too!
Who are you? What do you write? How long have you been freelancing?
My name is Elna Cain and I’m a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. I’m also a stay-at-home mom to some very spunky two-year-old twins. You can say I have my hands full!
I never imagined myself as a freelance writer or even earning an income online. My background is in Psychology and educating children with autism.
Once I had my twins, I knew I wanted to stay home. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving them all day to go to work. Also, daycare for two children isn’t cheap where I live – most of my paycheck would go to daycare. So, in the end I made the decision to stay home and raise my twins.
My husband has always had his own business online and he often suggested to me that I could earn money by doing some freelancing work. At first I didn’t understand him – people from other countries will pay you to be a virtual assistant? A writer? A graphic designer?
I started researching online and saw that many stay-at-home moms dabbled in freelance writing and some even made it their full-time profession.
From that point on I decided to try it out – and I haven’t looked back! It’s been under a year since I made that decision and I’m glad I did.
Most of my client work is for blog writing, but I also have ghostwriting clients and have done some ebook design covers as well.
Do you have a degree in writing or related field? If not, how did you get into writing?
I don’t have a degree in writing or a related field. I have a BA in Psychology with a minor in Child Development.
I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing, however, so freelance writing isn’t such a big stretch for me. While it would be nice to write about psychology and education, for now I take the pleasure in learning about new industries and topics.
When did you take the leap to freelance writing full time?
Since I’m a stay-at-home mom I only really get 3-4 hours a day to write. The rest of the day I am with my children, but I still manage to do social media marketing, blogger outreach and content marketing for my business.
All in all, it adds up to a full-time gig. I What I have to focus on is not letting my work consume me. Once the kids wake up in the morning and diapers are changed, I immediately check my email and get my work tasks in order.
Sometimes, though, this can interfere with spending time with the children and my husband. So, creating a work-life balance can be a challenge, but it’s a work in progress.
How did you get your first client or gig?
I checked various job boards in the early stages of my business. One such job board, ProBlogger, seemed to have good paying gigs, so I made sure to check it regularly.
I also started applying to ads that weren’t in my area of expertise, but that I could still be able to use my knowledge to produce quality content.
One job on ProBlogger caught my eye – it was for an automotive site in Canada and they were branching out to incorporate a lifestyle approach to driving.
Even though I wasn’t a serious outdoorswoman or used my vehicle for car trips, I still applied to this ad and I landed the gig. It pays $100 for every 800 words. I’m happy to say I’m still writing for them and happy with my collaboration.
Were there any startup costs associated with starting your freelance career?
For me there were minimal costs to start my freelance writing business. For domain and hosting I paid less than $50 to get started.
About 5 months into freelance writing, I decided to sign up to Tom Ewer’s Paid to Blog job board. I only had it a month before deciding to cancel my membership. Most of the ads were from Craigslist and most of the pay was below my minimum rate of $100.
I also paid for Kirsty Stewart’s eCourse Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer Online (NOTE: this course is no longer available, although it’s supposed to be made into a video course.)
How did you get yourself out there and your business noticed?
One of the things I learned to do well is to market my business. I sort of became an expert in digital marketing tactics.
I made sure to start a blog on my freelance writing website. This helps with having fresh content on my site, drawing in new readers and providing free writing samples to boot.
I also started to guest post on sites within my niche and on popular sites such as Psych Central. I made sure my author bio contained the right information to attract clients.
In conjunction with my blog and guest posting, I made sure to make a presence on social media. I signed up for Twitter and Tweeted my posts, guest posts and other people’s posts regularly.
I started a professional Facebook page and I post content regularly, engage with my readers and promote my page on various Facebook groups.
I changed my personal Pinterest account into a business account and started creating Pin-worthy images on my blog. I also joined some group boards to spread my content reach and brand. If you want to learn more about using Pinterest as a marketing tool, check out my post on it.
LinkedIn has also been a great way to promote my business and land clients.
Other social media platforms I use are Google+, Triberr and StumbleUpon.
How do you pitch? What’s your #1 tip for pitching to publications?
My pitch letter has evolved a lot since I first began. I quickly learned, however, common mistakes I made and worked on creating a pitch letter that converts.
The only way I pitch is via email. I either respond to job ads with my pitch or turn it into a cold email when I approach companies.
My number one tip for pitching is to pitch like a man. What I mean is, pitch for job ads you may not be entirely qualified for. The more you pitch the better chance you have at securing a gig.
How do you know how much to charge for your services? So many people have trouble valuing themselves. What’s your advice for pricing your services?
When I first began freelance writing, I had no clue what to charge. I actually started on content writing sites like Guru and oDesk. I never landed a gig from them, but from the other freelance writers pitching on there, it seemed like $25 was a lot to ask.
So, in the beginning, I was under the impression that I could only ask for no more than $.03/per word. But, after I landed my first writing gig, I used what they were paying me, $100, as my starting rate.
As for pricing your services, never compare yourself with other writers. If you do, you will go down the slippery slope of doubting your abilities.
Your rate is based on how much you need to live on and your expertise in a particular niche.
What’s the most challenging part of being a freelance writer?
For me, the most challenging part of being a freelance writer is having effective communication with my clients. I have some clients that need constant communication while I have other clients giving me no communication.
So, I’m trying to find a way to be very specific in the least amount of words when I email clients. This will ensure I get responses from those clients who don’t communicate on a weekly basis.
What has been your biggest achievement as a freelancer? Major publication? Personal growth?
My best achievement is landing four clients in one week. The majority of clients sought me out, which tells me my inbound marketing tactics are working.
But, my biggest achievement is having clients come to me, instead me going to job ads. Now that I have enough clients, I can pick and choose which client I want to collaborate with.
What’s the best part of being your own boss?
The best part of being my own boss is being able to do whatever I want. If I want to diversify my income, I can. If I want to start a rigorous content marketing plan on Pinterest, I can. If I want to raise my rates, I can.
Having the freedom to decide where your business is going is an awesome feeling!
What about the business side – recurring expenses, tools you use to keep track of projects and clients and deadlines, day to day stuff. Do you have a few programs or apps that you love to use? how do you do your accounting? give us those nitty-gritty details!
There aren’t many tools I use for keeping track of my projects and day-to-day tasks. I primarily use Microsoft Excel to track my payments for each client. On it I have:
- Client/company name
- PayPal address
- Date I send the invoice
- Date I received payment
- Payment amount
- Running Total
I also have a project sheet detailing:
- Client/company name
- Services required (blog writing, eBook design, social media marketing etc..)
- Rate for each project
I also use Mac Calendar to keep interview dates, long-term projects and weekly deadlines.
I’m not one for apps, so I stick to the old pen and paper for day-to-day tasks. I have a notebook for each client. In them, I list topic ideas and outlines for writing assignments.
What is one piece of advice for someone who wants to do what you do?
The one piece of advice I would give to someone interested in freelance writing is to set up your writer website on a self-hosted domain.
While it’s tempting to make an account at places like Blogger, WordPress or Tumblr, it doesn’t make you look professional. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow.
Having free hosting means your URL will have a third party name associated with it (ex: myexample.wordpress.com). When potential clients view this they may think:
- Freelance writing is only a hobby
- You aren’t credible as a professional
- You don’t have any online knowledge
If you truly want to make a living from writing, having paid hosting is a much better option. You can definitely get hosting for a year under $50, so don’t let money stop you!
Interact with Elna!
Do YOU have any questions for Elna? Feel free to ask them in the comment section!
… and don’t forget to pick up your free gift. Get it when you subscribe to my author newsletter.
Also, please thank Elna publicly for this interview!
Check out the other freelancers in this series:
Some Life Updates and Info about Freelancing from #freelancewriter Lorraine Reguly
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Candace Simonson
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter DD, an Addicted-to-Heroin #Freelancer
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Alicia Rades
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Corinne Kerston
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Ali Luke
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Joe Warnimont
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Brian Morris
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Janine Ripper
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Harleena Singh
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Crystal Nay
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Christy Birmingham
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Tom Bentley
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter William Ballard
“F.I.T.S.” SERIES: Featuring #freelancewriter Deevra Norling
Freelancing Tips From Kirsty Stuart #freelancingtips for #freelancers
7 Reasons for the FITS Series on Wording Well (with results!)
If you want to raise your freelancing rates, read How to Ask for a Raise (and Get One!) from your #Freelancing Client.
If you want to know why you should be gathering testimonials you can use on your website, read about The Power of Client Testimonials.
11 thoughts on “An Interview With “F.I.T.S.” Series #freelancewriter Elna Cain”
You are too kind! I feel bad that I don’t go over to your blog as often as I like to. But, I’m glad we network on Twitter! And thanks for the “shout out” about my getting paid to write series. I’m hoping in the future to maybe turn it into an eBook? Not sure though.
I have a feeling if you lived in my town you’d kick me into shape! You are one serious businesswoman!
Deevra, thanks! When I first learned about the FITS series I wanted to join in. Then I learned I lived near Lorraine, so it became easier to just ask her!
Thanks again Lorraine for having me here on Wording Well.
What a pleasant surprise to see both of you here today. Lorraine, great choice in interviewing Elna and I’m so glad you two are meeting on a regular basis. I’m so jealous, how fun you two must be having.
I really enjoyed this one and having known Elna for a short time myself I knew some of what she’s shared here. I love her series that she recently wrote about how to do freelancing and as she does know, I’ve recommended her to a few people.
Although I’m not a freelancer I still enjoyed this post and thanks for sharing this with us. Good to know how you’ve done and I’m so glad that you are able to stay home with the kids Elna.
Way to go ladies and hope you enjoy your week.
Thanks, Adrienne! Elna and I always have a great time yapping away! LOL
I’m glad you enjoyed learning more about her, too. She’s pretty amazing!
Thanks or having me on your site! I’ve grown to know you and your family and of course your blogging success.
I was excited when I learned we lived in the same town – Thunder Bay is a small northern city and there aren’t that many bloggers here (well I don’t think so?).
I hope we continue to foster this relationship and I can’t wait to see ya again.
Elna, I feel the same way!
I’m pleased to have you on my site. Us freelancers have to stick together! LOL
I don’t think there are many bloggers in our city, either.
I’m looking forward to our next face-to-face, too. Talk soon!
Whoop, whoop Elna! What a great team you two make. Jealous that you get to meet in person regularly, but happy for you as well! I love seeing other people working hard and killing it in the freelancing space. (And I’m totally a pen/paper, rather than an app girl too!)
Gina, I love meeting Elna and chatting the evening away! We not only have fun, but we enhance each other’s freelancing careers, too, by sharing our ideas and experiences.
Too bad you didn’t live here… you’d be welcome to join us!
Regarding the whole pen-and-paper issue, I have a pen fetish, AND I like to write (sometimes I like to print), so I can totally relate to you there! I find that I get more enjoyment from writing than typing. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I think you know what I mean. It’s just more satisfying to feel the flow of the words from your brain to your arm to the pen to the paper.
However, I’m finding that I can write well on the computer, too, although I have to use different techniques to curb my innate desire to edit as I write.
Elna, great to see you guest posting on Lorraine’s blog! Thanks for sharing your freelance story and some great tips! 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Deevra!
Thanks so much for having me on Wording Well!
I look forward to our meetings at Starbucks and gabbing about blogging and freelance writing. With running a house and twins, it’s hard to steal a few hours a way from the house.
Elna, I’m happy to feature you on Wording Well. I can’t imagine how busy your home life is…