In this Writing Wednesday episode, I am starting a new 4 part series based off my recent episode How I Made $20,050 in 30 days of Writing. In this series, I will talk about the 20 lessons I learned from that month. I recently wrote about this on Medium but wanted to dive deeper into each lesson on the podcast!
The First Five Lessons From My Best Month of Freelance Writing
In September of 2019, I made $20,050 as a freelance writer. That was an insane income month! Let’s dive into the first five significant takeaways from that month.
1. Figure out your Hourly Rate.
As you start to get clients and earn money writing, make sure to calculate your hourly rate and then anything that doesn’t meet that hourly rate, outsource. This led me to outsourcing some items to a virtual assistant (VA).
2. Outline Before You Write.
One of the biggest mistakes I have made over the years was not outlining my work ahead of time. Instead, I would try to research, write, and edit at the same time, which led to a lot of wasted time. I talk about having set days for writing tasks in this episode here.
3. Buy Grammarly Pro.
Not editing can cost you your biggest client!
4. Eliminate Distractions
On writing days, put the phone away! It’s a huge productivity killer. Also, get rid of clutter on your desk.
5. Write and Edit Separately
While outlining before writing helps, the same goes for editing and writing separately. If possible, I recommend writing one day and editing the next day or at least a few hour-long breaks in between the two sessions.
Stay tuned for the next 5 tips and if you implement these tips I would love to know!
Are You Ready to Start Your Freelance Writing Career?
If you are ready to take the next step and launch your freelance writing career, I would love to help you build momentum!
I still have a few spots left in my coaching program, fill out an application to learn more 1/1 coaching.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
You are listening to episode number 74 of inspire your success podcast on today’s episode. It’s actually the first part of a four part series where I covered 20 lessons from earning $20,000 in a single month. As a freelance writer coming up, you’re going to learn the first five.
Speaker 1 (00:24):
All right, welcome back to the show again. This is writing Wednesday here. This is your host, Michael Leonard. And thank you again for being here. I know we got a lot of great podcasts and choices out there, but uh, yeah, it seems like more and more people keep coming over here and listen. So thank you. And if you’re sharing the episodes with others, friends, family, coworkers, social media, thank you. Um, you know, whatever, uh, we’re doing over here, uh, just keeps working and uh, like I said, March was the best month ever. And uh, here we are into April, so very excited. I hope to just keep this momentum going. Um, because again, I love sharing my journey and just helping others, uh, freelancing, writing. And even on Monday, as I talked about with the mental health stuff, I think that it’s just so important that we talk, that we get this stuff out there that you, that you a don’t just sit at home alone with your thoughts and let them get the best of you.
Speaker 1 (01:16):
So hopefully stuff like this is helping you. And if you haven’t had a chance to listen to that one, I really would encourage you to, if you’re, if you’re someone that has had some doubts and fear, some anxiety, maybe some depression, or maybe you’re just going through a tough time right now in life, go back to episode number 73 of the last episode. And a, I’m not gonna lie, I just kind of poured my heart out on it and I got a little bit emotional because I know what it’s like and, and I just don’t want anyone else to be where I was and go through it alone. So hopefully you can get a few pointers out of there and really get some different resources and ideas to start figuring out ways to take care of your mental health, improve your situation, and improve your life and ultimately just again, have a better quality of life.
Speaker 1 (02:00):
So this one, uh, again is a writing Wednesday. So we are going to cover a specific writing thing and we’re going to do something new as well. But before I get into that, I gotta stick with my new habit, which is again, Sharon, a little bit more about myself and, uh, I just want to let people know who is this Michael Leonard guy behind the brand of inspire your success. So the random fact for today is I absolutely love dogs. Now I know a lot of people are listen to this and I think studies show like eight out of 10 people love dogs. So I get it and majority of people do. But I absolutely love dogs. I don’t want to have kids. I want to have probably like 10,000 dogs if I could. Um, really my biggest goal right now is actually to partner with a dog charity and to have a portion of all of the freelance of 5k sales go directly to a dog charity.
Speaker 1 (02:51):
I mean, I’m super obsessed. I absolutely love animals. Um, you know, I think there’s so many things out there. Anytime you just see something, it’s like just really passionate to me. And I, I didn’t really have that as much until I got my own dog. Uh, we got munchie here. Uh, our little corgi, she’s, um, she’s five, so we got her. Yeah. Was that like 2015 and February of 2015 and so I really just love dogs. And so I know you might be there if you follow me on Instagram at I am Michael Leonard. I’m sure you’ve seen munchie either sleeping as I’m working or sleeping when I’m watching TV or just sleeping in general or growling at any and everything. Cause that’s kind of how she is. But, uh, yeah, I actually, when I quit my job, I went and volunteered at the shelter for awhile.
Speaker 1 (03:36):
Um, absolutely love it. I had dogs or just a man’s best friend. And I truly believe that. And uh, yeah, that’s my random fact for the day. So if you’re a dog lover, let me know. But moving on, April is going to be a little different with Wednesdays. I want to try something new where I do a little bit of a series because I’ve got a lot of positive response from that. Uh, different posts, a episode that I had, I believe it was number, let’s see, 71 and when I talk about, uh, making $20,000 in a single month as a writer, um, that has got a lot of response. People obviously are intrigued by numbers and making money online. And it also is my highest rated medium post. I have the most claps, most engagement, most, um, medium income from it, all that stuff. So I actually wrote another post about it because earning 20 K in a month, I’ll tell you what that is.
Speaker 1 (04:25):
That is a, that’s a lot of money for sure. I mean, it, maybe it’s not a lot for Jeff bayzos I guess. But you know, for most people, 20k a month is a solid month, but there’s the next month I’d like a hangover and the following month, cause I was like, not actually a hangover, but like I was exhausted. I wrote, I wrote over a hundred thousand words in a single month, maybe more, I don’t even know, kinda felt like I blacked out and I woke up and I was like, wait, what happened? Like I published a book for a guy, I did all those blog posts, but I want to talk about some of the lessons that I learned from it because it was crazy. I mean, looking back on it again, that’s not something I want to do on the regular basis. It was a ton of work, but it really helped me in my business and, and uh, shatter some beliefs.
Speaker 1 (05:10):
Obviously save up money, pay off debt, all that good stuff. But I learned a lot of lessons from it. And so it’s a big post. I don’t want to try and get all 20 lessons in in one episode. That would be probably too long for most people. So I want to break it down and that’s going to be the focus of Wednesdays here in April is five different lessons each Wednesday and I’m going to elaborate on them. So I have the medium post up here. I’m going to kind of glance over it, but mostly we’re going to go way more in depth. So let’s get started. Again, these are going to be the next four Wednesdays. The first lesson was I realized the importance of calculating your hourly rate. And if you can only remember one tip from this entire podcast series or posts, I would probably say this is the biggest one because most people think that you have to just charge more.
Speaker 1 (06:02):
Like that’s the biggest thing and if you charge them more for each client, you you’re going to make more, right? The math makes sense, the logic makes sense. But after writing for two plus years, I’ve learned that that’s actually not how I think is the best strategy. Instead, you need to calculate your hourly rate. So for the first 15 months of my writing career, I never did this and it cost me big time. Not only was I writing, but I was trying to grow a blog. This podcast I was doing YouTube, Oh. And that side thing of professional golf. So my time was spread thin and I wasn’t doing anything good or anything great. I was doing a lot of things good. But what made matters worse is I was trying to do everything myself. I mean I had this limiting belief that you got to do it yourself.
Speaker 1 (06:49):
No one can do it as good as you. And um, you know, I was only writing a couple hours a day and that was the one thing that was actually making me money when I first got started. Yet I was doing all this other stuff like video editing and blogging and social media captions, like literally everything, just trying to be a solo preneur right? But if you really learn about context switching and how ineffective of a situation that is, you’ll learn that that is just not the best way to do it. So instead, I was on a call with one of my clients who’s a multimillionaire entrepreneur. And I was kinda just talking about the struggles. I was kind of just venting. I was like talking about scaling and I didn’t know what to do. And he told me, well how do you spend your days? And pretty pretty soon he was instantly like, well, you’re kind of just doing it wrong.
Speaker 1 (07:36):
He’s like, you got to calculate your hourly rate and then outsource everything else you don’t want to do. So when I did that, I realized at that time I was baking anywhere between a hundred to 150 an hour, uh, writing. And so for every four hours of writing, I had maybe one hour of editing. So that was kinda like the whole thing that I had there. And once I calculated that I just stopped doing everything else and I either just stop doing it or I delegated it. So that’s when I hired my virtual assistant and that’s when I hired a podcast team. And that’s when I started hiring freelancers and hiring video people and just doing things I was good at, which the things I’ve, I focused on my zone of genius, which is writing this podcast. And that’s about it. That’s a really the two things that I focused on writing and podcasts.
Speaker 1 (08:24):
Like, cause you can’t be good at, you can’t be amazing at everything you do. But I’ll never forget that. When I first hired, uh, my, a virtual assistant and she did something that I was normally doing and she did it a hundred times better and I, my belief that I had from my past was you got to do everything yourself. That was instantly shattered because I was like, Whoa. She did it way better than I did. Which again, just proves you can’t do everything really, really well. So the point here is that you, you shouldn’t do everything. And that’s like a blogging background maybe for, is that, I always heard that like, you gotta do this, you Pinterest social media, SEO writing websites though. So I was like, blah, blah, blah. Just took for ever. Right. And so calculating your hourly rate, it makes everything else a yes or no.
Speaker 1 (09:10):
So if you calculate your hourly rate and say it’s 50 bucks an hour or 100 bucks, if something requires your time, you either say, yes, do it, but then do I need to do it or yes, I need to hire someone or no, I’m just not going to do it. That’s it. That makes everything so much easier. Once I started doing that, I talk about it in the last episode too. Once I stopped feeling overwhelmed all the time, I stopped being like so down on myself because I wasn’t wasting energy doing everything. So I kind of talked about it right at the beginning, but that’s why I think calculating your hourly rate is more important than charging or thinking that if you just charge people more, you’re going to make more. Because here’s the thing, I have clients that I have, you know, some writing or some golf clients.
Speaker 1 (09:52):
I just charge less to. The niche isn’t as profitable as some, so I just charge less, but it also takes me a fraction of the time less to write it. So it doesn’t really take me as long, which means I can crank it out versus, and then I don’t usually have much editing versus some clients I have, you know they’re 25 or 30 cents a word, but they have a lot of research and I have a lot of editing and then I had to jump on the phone with people and all that stuff adds up. So that’s a big thing is like calculate your hourly rate and understand kind of how that plays a role because I promise that will be one of the biggest things you can do to help you make more money writing. That’s the whole goal of this is these Wednesday episodes, I want to help you make more while working less.
Speaker 1 (10:35):
That’s the goal here, right? So calculating your hourly rate makes it very easy to say, yes, I’m doing it, or no, I’m not. And then figuring out what the next best step is. All right. The second lesson here from the a, the article is really all about outlining before you write, and I’ve talked about this in other episodes on writing Wednesdays, and I’m just going to keep saying it again guys, because it’s that important. If you have a writing assignment, whether it’s a 500 word blog posts or a 10,000 word blog posts, or you’re writing a book like I did or you’re doing podcast scripts, whatever you’re writing about, if you go into it and you don’t have a plan, it’s going to be way harder and it’s going to take you twice as long. When I first got started, writing a thousand word blog posts probably was a three or four hour process for me.
Speaker 1 (11:25):
Now it’s an hour maybe. I mean I can like crank out content now and part of that is of course just doing it over years, right? You’re, you become more confident, you learn a tight faster, you’re, you know, get better processes, all that stuff, which is important. But the other thing is is that I never look at a blank document. I always have an outline. I always have research done so that way I basically wake up and I just write. I just get this stuff done, get that stuff that’s creatively challenging. Sometimes it takes a lot of mental energy to get it done, get it done early in the day if you can. That’s at least the best for me. Maybe you’re different, but I think that is one of the biggest things that you can do is that you just have a plan. Like I said, it’s all about, this whole series is about making more money in less time and if you don’t have an outline, you’re just going to make things a lot harder.
Speaker 1 (12:17):
You’re going to be jumping around or you’ll be doing research and then you’re going to be grabbing a quote and then you’re formatting and editing, all that stuff like no, please work ahead of time. So like here’s a, here’s how I do it and I talk about this in several episodes, but I have an outline beforehand, so I have a day, let’s say like tomorrow is a perfect example. So this, I’m filming and recording all of these on a Wednesday. This is not a writing day for me. This is a inspire your success day. So what I will do later though is I will prep for tomorrow, which means I will have outlines ready, I will have the tabs open, I will have the song playing literally ready to go. And I, that way I can wake up and I just start writing. So that way I don’t have to worry about anything else.
Speaker 1 (13:00):
I literally just have my phone off or airplane mode or away from me, whatever. So that way I can wake up and just get to it. And that’s the biggest thing is you gotta be ready. You gotta be prepared because if you like wake up and you’re like, Oh, I’ll figure out this blog post. I got a ride, even those client and really give me anything and I don’t have an outline. Then you’ll be sitting there and waste a couple of hours and then you’re all of a sudden you know it and then it’s like, man, you just lost a couple of hours of your life and you still don’t really have a good blog post or you don’t have good content for your client. So the biggest thing is guys, be prepared. Outline before you write. It’s so, so simple but so effective. Everyone. This is one of the most highlighted sections of this big posts I was telling you about.
Speaker 1 (13:40):
So clearly it’s important to others. So make sure that you’re planning ahead so that weekend actually right when you have time and that way you are ready to go. The third thing is to use an editing tool. Um, in the article I talk about Grammarly pro, um, kind of fallen off the wagon with it because it just doesn’t work a lot. Um, another one I think I’m using right now, let’s see what this thing’s called. Language tool. It’s a Google Chrome plugin. That’s pretty good. It’s free. But regardless, you need to use some sort of editing tool. And I actually hadn’t been using one. I don’t know how I, I’d just been trying to do it on my own. Um, but when I had all this writing in September, when I had my big 20 K month, I mean, like I said, I had like a hundred thousand words that I published.
Speaker 1 (14:29):
You know what, that takes a lot of editing and if you’re trying to just look at it and net it, S is not going to be effective. And so the, the biggest thing is, is that I had this, this tool and I actually paid for Grammarly pro. That’s why I’m kind of pissed that it’s not working very well. Um, I mean it was only a hundred bucks, but it still should work. Right? Uh, but the biggest thing is, is that you need to have editing, uh, in place, because a lot of blogs will not have editors and a lot of clients you’ll work with won’t edit themselves. So it’s up to you. And if someone, like, if they read it and they’re like, man, this is full of grammatical errors and it’s not good. It’s a poor reflection of you. And you know, that’s for me, that’s a, that hits home because in may of 2017, I lost my bigger biggest retainer.
Speaker 1 (15:11):
Client was 3000 a month, um, because I was lazy and I sucked at editing and uh, they left and they dropped me. They just ghosted me and I was ghost writing. Literally. I was ghostwriting though for a multimillion dollar, uh, company, very successful entrepreneur. He is a bestselling author, signed an NDA. So I can’t tell you who it is, but I mean it was a very big gig, especially early on in my writing career. And then I got fired because I sucked at editing. So please don’t be like me by Grammarly or some other editing tool because the small investment can save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run by not getting fired or getting dropped like I did. So by your editing tool, if you hate editing like me, trust me, it makes it a lot easier. All right. Before we jump into tip number four, a just another update again.
Speaker 1 (16:02):
We got that training coming up here in April. So just another thing just reminding you, uh, April 13th through the 17th that week to learn more about it. Now you can go to inspire your success.com forward slash training register for it. Uh, you don’t want to miss it. Again, it’s gonna be live training on how to get clients and make your first thousand dollars as a writer so you’re not going to want to miss it. That again is something I know most people struggle with. So I want to help you get those clients you can make money and get these kinds of results that I’m getting as well. So just a little side note. All right, number four here, uh, is about eliminating distractions. So as I talked about in the earlier part is that if you don’t have an outline and you’re just like looking at stuff and then you know, trying to write, he might jump on your phone, check your inbox, all that stuff, your phone and notifications in dings and pings and all that stuff.
Speaker 1 (17:01):
Is that just killer for a writer? I mean, it is a, just the worst thing you can do. Um, you know, if you’re like most people, you live and die by your phone. Look, I get it. We are addicted to these little boxes that we don’t even talk on anymore. But they kill your productivity. I mean they just sabotage it. So one of the biggest things that I can say is if you, when I was like really writing that much again, that was like what, 25,000 words a week on average. I just didn’t have my phone. Not a lot. My phone usage was down. I was just had that thing in airplane mode or I put it in the living room. Uh, you know, I just had to do that so I wasn’t tempted because, you know, sometimes I would, I would just be focused on it and like want to know what was going on cause they get bored writing.
Speaker 1 (17:45):
But you got to eliminate distractions and the phone is one of the biggest, the other thing is to get rid of clutter, mental, physical and even on your desktop. Clutter kills productivity. Uh, for me, you know, that meant cleaning my desk regularly. I know it sounds stupid guys, but it really works. Um, I think there’s a book called the magic of tidying up or something like that and that’s actually kind of talks about it, but I mean, think about it. If you have a clean desk and if you know, feels good, you’re going to just be much more likely to get stuff done and not having that mental clutter that comes with it as well. So clean your desk, have a quiet workspace, not have distractions, maybe you have headphones. Um, you know, if you have 12 tabs open, close them, you know, like get rid of your inbox.
Speaker 1 (18:30):
Like I said, you don’t want to be jumping around. So hopefully that makes sense. Again, the whole goal here, right? More work less, earn more, work less. So you can’t do that if you’re constantly distracted. As a Robin Sharma said an addiction to distraction is the end of your creative production. So Robin, one of the most successful authors out there, very, very great guy. I loved him on the podcast soon, hopefully. And, uh, yeah, just learn from him and just learn from my, my stuff there that you gotta focus on just being really intentional with your time. And then the fifth tip, which we’ll end the day with and again, continue on next Wednesday, is you’ve got to write and edit separately. Um, you know, like I talked about I have writing days and I have editing days and are never the same day, uh, outlining before you’re writing helps.
Speaker 1 (19:20):
The same goes for editing and writing differently. I recommend at least a day in between. If you can’t and you procrastinated or you got a short deadline, at least give yourself a couple hours. Get out of the house in between writing and editing because it’s hard to write and edit at the same time. And like I said, guys, I got fired from my biggest client cause I sucked at editing. So I stress this again because you got to figure out what works for you. But for me, when you write and edit separate days, it allows you to have a little space and then you can go look at it the next day objectively. And you’re not emotionally tied to it, you’re out of this flow of it. And then that way you can just again, provide your best work possible for your client and that way you don’t get fired like I did.
Speaker 1 (20:05):
So, uh, hopefully that makes sense. And again, those are just the first five. I appreciate you come into this new, uh, April edition of writing Wednesday where again, we’re going to share 20 lessons from earning 20 K as a writer. I think you’re going to find it really effective. And I want you to use these tips guys, like use them, don’t just listen to and be like, yeah, that sounds good. And then go back to your old routines. Pick at least one. So again, the five we talked about today were to raise your, uh, excuse me, calculate your hourly rate outline before you write. Using that inning tool, eliminate distractions and write and edit separately. That’s pretty simple. I mean, honestly you should use all five of those, but if you’re not using any of them, pick one right now and let me know. You can always shoot me an email support and inspire your success.
Speaker 1 (20:50):
You can tag me on Instagram at [inaudible], Michael Leonard, shoot me a DM. Whatever you want to do. I just want to make sure it’s helpful. And again, if you’re going through a tough time right now and you’re a little bummed, or you’re depressed or anxious, or just disappointed with your lack of results, go back to 73. I promise that episode will give you some motivation and guidance on where to go because I’ve been there and you’re not alone. If I can help with anything, always, always, please let me know. So thank you again guys. I’m really, really appreciate all of the support and, uh, as always, I hope you have an Epic day.
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