I’m super excited to share this episode with you today.
It provides a classic illustration of a strategy I talk about often: going deeper with existing clients.
Unfortunately, many writers fall into an order-taking mindset. They rarely ask their clients how they can continue to help. Or brainstorm ideas and then present those ideas to the client (which would be even better).
My guest is Lindy Alexander, a talented writer from Australia who has an amazing story. Lindy started her freelance writing business as a side hustle back in late 2011. She went full-time in 2017, and by the end of that year she grossed more than $100,000 in income.
What’s even more remarkable is that in 2018 she scaled back her hours to a part-time level and was able to maintain that same income level.
Her secret? There are a few different elements to her strategy. But for the most part, she went deep with her clients while reigniting and nurturing her professional relationships.
This is an amazing story I think you’ll really enjoy, regardless of where you are in your journey.
The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.
Tell us about yourself and the work you do
Lindy is a freelance writer based just outside of Melbourne, Australia. She writes for magazines, newspapers and digital outlets on topics such as travel and lifestyle. She also writes for businesses.
Her background is social work. But when she started her family at the end of 2011, she discovered she could make money writing.
As a new mom, most of her first articles dealt with parenting. But she eventually branched out into other areas. She really enjoyed seeing her byline in different publications.
You started working fulltime as a freelance writer in 2017. By the end of that year, you had over $100,000 of work commissioned. How were you able to get to that level so quickly?
Lindy was writing as a side hustle until the end of 2016. She never considered doing it fulltime. She had heard how difficult it was to make a living as a writer, especially with newspapers and other publications closing all the time.
But she continued to build relationships with editors. And she listened to my interviews with Jennifer Gregory and Kate Kordsmeier on making a living as a freelance writer. She started to believe it was possible.
In 2017, Lindy and her husband decided that he would stay home with the kids, and she would become the bread winner.
Up to then, the most she had made per month was $2000-3000. She knew she had to ramp up her earnings to make the situation work.
What did you do to make it happen?
1. She made sure she had a financial buffer. As a freelance article writer, you often aren’t paid until your article is on the newsstand, which can take months. And sometimes you have to wait for another 60 days after publication. Lindy needed to be able to pay herself consistently, regardless of her income for the month.
2. She set an income target. Lindy had aspirations of making a six-figure income, even though that would be a huge stretch. She make a simple Excel spreadsheet where she tracked all of her commissions. She also set an income target for every month.
By looking at the spreadsheet, she could see that she would never reach her target by charging $75 or $200 an article. She needed higher paying projects.
Before, she hadn’t thought much about who she was writing for and how much they were paying. She was thrilled to get paid at all! But once she had income targets, she started to pay more attention.
She still takes on some work that doesn’t pay well but that she really enjoys. But most of her work needs to be well compensated.
3. She focused on building relationships. Lindy looked at her existing relationships with editors and clients and wondered if there was more opportunity there. She let her editors and clients know that she had the capacity to take on more work.
For example, the publisher of one of her editors was about to launch an insert in a weekend newspaper. She asked for an introduction to the editor of the insert. That editor commissioned her to write an article at least once a month. She now also writes for the editor of their online site.
So she was able to leverage one relationship to build two more relationships.
She’s been writing for that publisher for about three years. Because she knows what they want, she can complete the work quickly. But she has kept her fees the same.
Having different contacts within one organization helps to steady your ship. When an editor leaves, you don’t have to start the relationship all over.
In 2018, you reduced your hours to part time and were able to maintain the same income level. How were you able to do that?
At the beginning of 2018, she reduced her workdays to about three a week.
She reassessed her income goals. She decided that $60,000-70,000 would be a high target. But she ended up reaching $120,000!
She was able to do this due to the strong relationships she had built in 2017. By 2018, those editors and clients were coming to her with work instead of her having to pitch to them.
She also continued to go deeper with existing clients. In one B2B company, she ended up writing for three different people.
She is able to complete the work quickly, which pushes her internal hourly rate up to $300-400 an hour.
That internal hourly rate can sound mythical. You won’t find these jobs advertised. You have to set the intention and then wade into the depths to find them.
But if you’re providing quality work and are easy to work with, there are many opportunities for freelance writers.
Setting income goals becomes a type of constraint. And constraints can be a beautiful thing. The more time we have, the more time we’ll squander.
What advice do you have for freelance writers who want to drive up their income?
1. Nurture the relationships you already have. Follow up with past clients. Reconnect in a genuine way.
2. Keep marketing. We all tend to drop our marketing efforts when we get busy. But you have to keep marketing, prospecting and diversifying.
3. Use constraints. If you’re trying to ramp up your earnings, limit yourself to certain topics or industries. Pick something and go deep — at least to start.
4. Increase your luck. Lindy feels very lucky. But luck doesn’t just happen by chance. We can shape our own good fortune by remaining aware of chance opportunities and acting on them. This concept is discussed by Richard Wiseman.
You’ve been very open about sharing your story and how much you earn. What inspires you to do it?
We need to change the conversation about money. Writers need to talk more openly about it.
She started her blog at the beginning of 2017 with the idea of encouraging other freelance writers.
At first, she wasn’t sure how much she was willing to share about her income. But she decided she needed to be more transparent. And the feedback and appreciation she has received has been tremendous.
Where can listeners learn more about you?
Lindy’s blog: www.thefreelancersyear.com
Lindy’s professional website: www.lindyalexander.net
Twitter handle: @alexander_lindy
The Excel income spreadsheet:
By the way … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:
1. Grab a free copy of my new book for writers who are NEW to freelancing.
It’s called “The 3 Magic Levers: How to Get Your Writing Business Off the Ground and Land Your First Paying Client.” — Click Here
2. Download a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.
You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here
3. Join our “Get Better Clients Academy”
You’ll get a personalized action plan based on where you are today in your business. Plus all the tools, scripts, checklists, cheat sheets and templates you’ll need to escape feast-or-famine … grow your income … and land clients who love and respect you. — Click Here
4. Get your website DONE!
If you’ve been struggling to get your website done … or if you’re not happy with what you’ve got today… let my team and me build you a beautiful website for your writing business. We’ll do all the hard work! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org … put “WEBSITE” in the subject line … and I’ll reply with the details.