The Reality Blog Concludes Week 2: First Income Totals

money_staircase

Dear fellow Web Writer,

Holy cow, the race is on. We’re barely wrapping up Week 2 of the Reality Blog and I already feel like I’m in survival mode.

NOTE: See The Complete Reality Blog Here

Why? Because things are happening all over the place — both in the web-writing world and in my own career. I’ve seen more client action this past week than I have in the last two years of web writing. I also feel more personally connected to this profession than ever before, like I’m finally part of something.

The funny thing is, I haven’t done much to prompt any of this. All my grand plans for the week are still in limbo. It makes me wonder what might happen if I were to actually follow through on all the goals I have in my head.

So today, I’m going to share three surprises that “happened” to me this week, then I’ll wrap up with my first grand summary of (let the cheering begin … ) INCOME!

Surprise #1: Good (and don’t I feel sheepish)

If I’m going to stay true to the reality aspect of this blog, I’ll have to start with a confession. I’ve let myself go underpaid by one of my clients for well over a year now.

You see, my longest-running client is a big marketing-affiliate company. I found them through AWAI’s Direct Response Jobs forum back in the spring of 2008.

At the time, they needed editorial copy. They had me write a test article between 800 and 1,000 words. I charged $100 for the test article.

The client liked my copy and hired me to write ten articles a week. I was thrilled, thinking I had a regular gig that would bring in around $4,000 a month. Yes!

Then, they came back and told me their research showed the market price for what they needed was $40 per article. At first, I balked. I’d subscribed to enough copywriter resources to know undercharging for your services is a big No-No.

But at the time, it represented steady work coming in. And $400 a week was better than zilch.

So, I signed on with the client and started churning out articles. One month quickly became two, then six, and before I knew it, a full year had gone by. I decided it was time to raise my fee. After all, I had consistently delivered assignments for a solid year.

This was the spring of 2009, when the recession was hitting everybody hard. Just as I got up the nerve to raise my fee, the client announced cutbacks. My editor said they’d let go of all their other writers — all except me. She also reduced my weekly load to six projects, still at $40 each. She asked if I wanted to continue writing for them.

I’ll confess … I was flattered they wanted to keep me. So, I wrote back an enthusiastic “Yes!” and chucked my plans to raise my fee. If they were making cutbacks (as everyone was), it seemed the best thing to do was sit back and be grateful.

So, I stuck with it. Again, the months flew by. That’s also about the time I gave birth to my son, so fees were the furthest thing from my mind.

Fast forward to the present. I now have a client who pays me $250 for every 800 – 1,000 word article I write. He gives me an average of one article per week. Which means it’s been getting harder to justify writing articles of the same length for $40 each. I’ve known I needed to approach my editor (who is actually lovely and easy to talk to), but I’ve been dragging my feet for the past month.

So, wouldn’t you know it — she got to me first! As any good web editor should, this editor subscribes to the Wealthy Web Writer. She saw the announcement last week about my Reality Blog gig and my six-figure goal. And, here’s the funny part: she wrote me to ask whether I still wanted to be part of our current agreement.

Sheepishly, I replied with the truth. I’d been meaning to talk to her about raising my fees, I was making 625% more on similar projects for other clients, but I knew she didn’t have a lot of wiggle-room in her budget.

I resigned myself to an imminent break with this client, but she surprised me by coming back with a terrific deal. She couldn’t raise the fee, but what if she cut the workload? What if I wrote six assignments per week at 200 words each for $40 a pop?

I enthusiastically agreed. She basically reduced my workload so it aligned better with what I should be paid, and I get to keep doing their articles, which I think works well for both of us.

I should add that I have a side interest in keeping this client. Though they don’t pay a lot, the projects have given me excellent experience in the world of web writing. I’ve written hundreds of articles and blogs for them, along with video scripts and Facebook notes. I’ve also gained a lot of experience plugging in SEO strategy. Because of them, I have a more comprehensive portfolio, and they’ve had good articles for a fraction of what I charge others. Everyone wins.

But, I have to confess — I feel a little silly for not being on the driving end of better pay. But so far, so good. 

Surprise #2: Very good.

Believe it or not, I actually had a second instance this week of a client boosting my income for me.

For over a year, I’ve been writing for a marketer who puts together launch packages for small business entrepreneurs. She basically finds professionals who want a better web presence and then I write all the content she needs.

I don’t work directly with these entrepreneurs, but I know that most of them plan to start e-newsletters or need autoresponders and similar services.

For a while, I’ve been thinking I should talk to my client to work out a deal where I approach her clients and offer to write their ongoing materials. I’ve hemmed and hawed for a while about how to do this, and so far, have done nothing.

Imagine my surprise when my client approached me and said “Hey, I think you should work with some of these people directly. I’ll pass on your name. I’ll suggest they each hire you to write a sales letter to start.”

And, presto! I’m now writing sales pages for four new clients, each at $397. My original client is taking a 30% referral cut from that fee, which I’m okay with because I now have four new clients.

But, once again, I don’t feel much like a go-getter. What on earth would happen if I went out and actively pursued new prospects?

I’d love to know about the things you’ve been thinking about, but not acting upon. I’m sure it’s not just me … right?

Surprise #3: A little sad.

I’ve suspected it for a while, but this week it became clear I’ve lost a friend to my new career.

I’m not even sure how to explain it. Essentially, I had a great friend in this woman for the last two years. Same interests, same amusements, and we even gave birth to boys around the same time.

But, over the last few months, we’ve had a disconnect. Unanswered phone calls, unreturned emails … very much like a break-up.

It finally came out via a mutual friend that she’s wicked-green-jealous of the fact that I work from home and make my own schedule.

I’ll spare you the dramatic details, but I will say this: Of all my friends, she was the only one who ever asked about the cons of being a freelance writer. She was also the only one who encouraged me to give up this dream and return to the common workforce.

I figured she just had a different perspective, but apparently it went deeper.

This experience makes me truly appreciate those in my personal circle who have encouraged me through all the rocky parts of this journey. The ones who wished me success for my own benefit instead of wishing I’d fail for theirs.

I encourage you to look around your own life and give your best attention to the relationships that will support the advancement of your dreams. Be careful not to get caught up in someone else’s “stuff,” especially if it puts you at risk of doubting yourself.

But, you know what’s cool? Just as this woman faded from my life, she was replaced by a new friend who is cheerful, relatable, and enthusiastic about what the writer’s life has to offer.

You know what else? I met her through this Reality Blog!

So, seriously — put yourself out there and connect with the other writers here at WWW. It’s worth it.

And, the numbers are in …

Okay, so here’s my first tell-all income report. For 2010, I’ve lined up $28,300 in planned projects and fees. I’ve actually only billed for $5,500 of this — which is a long way from my goal of $105,000.

What does that tell me? That I can’t sit back and let things just “happen” anymore. I’ve got to be a doer and really put myself out there. And if I fall down, which I probably will a few times, I’ve got a great safety net of friends and fellow writers. (By the way — as a member of WWW, so do you!)

I guess I’d better get to work on an actionable plan for next week. And this time, I’ll actually take action!

Good luck with your own action steps — and don’t forget to let me know about your progress!

Mindy

P.S. If you want to add white papers to your list of services, consider attending the White Paper Success Summit 2010 with me. It’s a live, online event taking place throughout February. Leading white paper experts like Bob Bly and Mike Stelzner will show us best practices in launching white paper campaigns that bring in $3,000 to $5,000 per assignment … might be worth looking into!

Mindy Tyson McHorse

Mindy Tyson McHorse

Executive Editor for The Barefoot Writer, Mindy McHorse writes for clients in the biz-opp, alternative medicine, and self-help world.

12 Comments

  • Congratulations Mindy on your success so far 🙂
    Its too bad that some people will feel the need to try and sabotage others on their path to success, and so often because of their own insecurities. Kudos to you for recognizing it and letting it go and moving on!
    I look forward to hearing of your continuing path to success!

  • Thanks, Marion! I think you phrased that beautifully. I had never anticipated my own jump into freelancing as something that would make others question themselves. Especially so since I often feel like I've got a long ways to go! But one step at a time, I guess. Life's a journey, right?! And thank goodness for like-minded, spirited, fellow writers! Mindy

  • Re: Surprise #3
    Reminds me of the story I heard where the crab fisherman is explaining to someone that his crab traps don't need tops, because if a crab tries to climb out, the other crabs will pull it back into the trap. We need to remember that as human beings we can choose to pull others up rather than down.
    It's better to be traveling with people going the same direction as you. Congratulations on your success so far. We're rooting for you.

    • Hi Kris,
      That's a great story – I love the metaphor of the crabs (though it makes me kind of sad for crabs!). It's been an interesting epiphany, though. For a long time, I felt so challenged and confused with the freelancing life that I wouldn't have dreamed others envied me. Maybe I was naive, but I didn't anticipate someone NOT wanting me to succeed. So you phrased it best – "better to be traveling with those going your way!"
      Thanks for sharing, I appreciate it! 🙂
      Mindy

  • Sorry to hear about your friends departure. Reminds when of what the bible says about God opening up doors and closing doors that no man can open or close. Maybe she would have been a big hindrance to you in the future…so God gave you someone else that will encourage you instead of hindering you.

    Again I want to thank you for this blog…your an inspiration to me…"hang in their, you can do it!"

    Oh by the way some guy accepted a bid I proposed to write a sales letter on Freelancers.com. My first accepted assignment. I'm nervous about it but excited also. I won't know any details until Wednesday.

  • WOOHOO Malisia! That's fantastic news! I'm so glad to hear about your first project. Enjoy this moment – it's the beginning of something VERY BIG!! And remember, if you feel like you need a little input as the sales letter comes together, feel free to post it on the forum for peer review.

    And thanks for your comments on my "bad apple," as one friend called this experience. You're right… a door closes, but a window opens. Or as another copywriter put it, "The Universe abhors a vacuum." So the hole left in my life has since been filled many times over!

  • Hi Mindy,

    Thank you for your story. It helped to know that someone else was making money too before really putting their full force behind it. Now I am inspired to put myself out there to see what I can really do. I have been making money with very little marketing.

    I can identify with your situation with your friend who is jealous. I just left a really unhealthy job situation to pursue copywriting full time. It is a place where everyone complains and no one will do anything to improve the situation. It turns out that hardly anyone that I worked with will communicate with me so I have moved on to this forum to make connection where I will really find the support.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Mindy it is admirable to see that you have the stick-to-it- in you work ethic. Staying with a client or a project that under pays takes confidence and endurance in ones quest to become a master in ones trade. It is encouraging to hear that now you are moving along to finding and securing assignments that will begin to reward you for your skill and expertise. The question I have for you now is, "Have you been asking for referrals or introductions from those lower paying clients in return for your discounted fees?" Consider the trade off and the benefits to ones own practice/business when the fees are lower that desired but the consistant flow of opportunites are being brought through the door by someone who believes in your work as they are paying you month in month out for your services. It is a golden opportunity if you practice the skill of asking for referrals on a regular basis. The question Mindy is, "Will you feel that this will be a fair trade off?"………Continued success to you.

    • Hi Reuben,

      What a great way to put it! I like the way you point out the upside to being underpaid. I think for me, a lot of what kept me going was the positive feedback and appreciation from the client herself. I knew she was constrained by a budget that was out of her hands, but she made me feel valued despite that.

      This contrasts quite a bit with someone I met a year ago who was interested in having me write for his business, but upon seeing my fees pronounced quite emphatically that I was "overpriced" and there was no way he'd put out that kind of money. Of course, I cut relations right there, but there's a marked difference between someone with that attitude versus someone who can't pay what you want but values what you do.

      I appreciate the point you've made about how I can leverage these underpaid client relationships as new opportunities. I admit I haven't given it much thought, but I will figure out how to do that and will get back to you.

      Thanks again for the comments!
      Mindy

  • Hi Sue!

    Wow, I feel like I could have written your post. The job I left before turning to copywriting was very much like what you described – lots of complaining with little positive action. It was a very stifling environment. When I realized I was beginning to complain just like everyone else, I knew I needed to make a change. I guess I hadn't recognized the same situation could occur regarding a single friend as opposed to a whole office, but – live and learn!

    And like you said, thank goodness for forums like what we've got here at the WWW for connection and support – I thrive off of messages like yours! Also, I love what you wrote about making money with very little marketing. That's one of the amazing things about being a web writer – the fact that we can say things like that, because they're true! So I'm right there with you in terms of seeing what happens with serious effort.

    Thanks for your comments!
    Mindy

  • Hi Mindy,
    I'm reading through all the blog posts today to get "caught up". When you described work, income and changes simply coming to you without you really putting out a concentrated effort, I was reminded of the law of attraction. You have basically activated the law in your life whereby a small effort guided by a specific intention yields huge outcomes. By choosing to do this blog for the next year and taking specific action steps, you have engaged certain laws that will simply begin to assist your efforts. Actually, they've been assisting you all along! Instead of continuing to function on a default setting, which continuously yields the same results, you've taken the reins on establishing a new outcome by creating a vision in your head of what you want in your future. An inspirational website with daily short encouraging thoughts can be found at tut.com with Mike Dooley. TUT stands for thoughts you think and he writes a daily 'Notes from the Universe" which focuses on this entire concept.
    I look forward to interacting with you and seeking your wisdom throughout this year.

    • Wow Jennifer, thank you for sharing that! I think you hit the nail on the head about activating the law of attraction in my life. I've wondered many times why good things seem to come to me, and after the movie The Secret came out I realized the full power of the law of attraction. I'll be the first to admit I make a lot of mistakes (a LOT of mistakes) – but I guess being idealistic has its perks – I generally just assume things will work out!
      Thanks for sharing that website – I really enjoy tidbits of inspiration, so I'm going to bookmark it for a rainy day!
      I hope everything you've got your sights on this year starts working out – I can't wait to hear about it!

      Thanks again,
      Mindy

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