Last Updated on: June 20th, 2017
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.