In my experience, the assumption amongst people who want to make money online is that they will be able to do it without spending a great deal of money.
That was certainly my attitude — in fact, when I first decided that I wanted to leave work behind, I was loathe to spend anything. For instance, back in May 2011 I remember spending quite a while deliberating whether or not I should buy the excellent Market Samurai app (which I still use to this day).
This attitude can be pretty damaging, as I have discussed before. Generally speaking, you do need to spend money to make money. However, when it comes to establishing a successful freelance blogging business, the amount required is very little indeed.
In fact, I believe that you can establish a six-figure income from freelance writing without having to spend any more than $40.49 up front. In this post I am going to explain why, and show you how.
Money Isn’t a Necessity
The inspiration for this post actually came from an article I read recently over at Make a Living Writing – The Essential Item You Need for Freelance Success That No One Dares Name. The item in question is of course money.
I read Carol’s post with a great deal of interest and was compelled to leave a comment (something I rarely do these days):
I think you can launch a successful freelance career without spending a penny. Don’t get me wrong — it would be tough as hell and you’d have to hustle like mad, working harder than you might if you invested some money in key areas (e.g. hiring a web designer), and you might not advance as quickly as you would otherwise, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is possible. I pretty much did it myself.
You may be left temporarily puzzled by the fact that my comment runs contrary to the purpose of this post, but whilst I believe that you can launch a viable freelance business without spending a penny, I believe that spending a little will help you a great deal. And if I’m honest with you, if you can’t bring yourself to invest $40.49 in your fledgling business then you may want to reassess your priorities — I’m sure that 95% of the people reading this (if not more) can afford the cost.
Why Freelance Writing is a Low Overheads Business
Let’s consider the two very simple steps involved in getting paid to write:
- You write something
- You get paid for it
On the assumption that you already own a computer and have access to the Internet, those two steps don’t require any further financial investment. Whilst you can invest in any number of items that will help your business grow more quickly and effectively, they are not entirely necessary. By the time you need to invest money in certain things (such as an accountant), you’ll be making enough money to recoup the costs.
And you can make enough money — trust me. To prove it, let’s do a bit of quick and simple math. If we assume that you will write for six hours per day for 50 weeks of the year, you will need to earn $67 per hour. In December 2012, after twelve months of fulltime freelance writing, my equivalent hourly rate was $92. I don’t say that to boast — I say it to make absolutely clear what is possible in the freelance blogging business.
When it comes to making a start with freelance blogging, your required financial investment is merely a function of spending a very modest amount on the right things. And that’s where this post comes in.
Your First Investment: a Domain Name and Hosting ($18.50)
Freelance writers don’t need a blog, but if you want to be a successful freelance writer you should have one. If you want to know why, read this.
Whilst you can create a blog for free with the likes of WordPress.com, “http://yourfreelancesite.wordpress.com/” doesn’t project a particularly professional image. Ideally you should have an identifiable and branded standalone domain — something that you can hang your hat on and refer to with pride. “http://www.yourfreelancesite.com/” is much better than free the alternative.
So, you should invest in a domain name and a hosting account. For that purpose, I have held accounts with many of the major hosting providers (such as BlueHost and HostGator…ugh) and have just one effusive recommendation: WestHost. In my personal experience, the quality of their service and support is far better than the alternatives and their prices are comparable or even cheaper than the competition.
To start off you will need no more than their most basic package, which will cost you $6 per month for hosting (over a 12 month period) and $12.50 for the domain name. You’ll then need a copy of WordPress (which if you don’t know is a really easy-to-use content management system) which is completely free and can be installed in a couple of clicks. If you’re a complete WordPress newbie then I would recommend that you begin your education here.
Your Second Investment: The Yahoo! Style Guide ($21.99)
There is no such thing as a perfect writer — there are those that just write, and those that strive to be better. You need to be in that second category to grow your income, and as such, you need to learn as much as possible about writing for the web.
Whilst you could (and should) trawl blogs in an attempt to learn more about the art of writing for the web, the Yahoo! Style Guide is too good a resource to ignore. It is a complete guide to writing for the web, and when I say complete, I truly mean it. It is my bible — I learned more from reading it than I did from all of the “how to write for the web” blog posts I have read in the past 18 months.
Please note that I have stated the retail price above — at the time of writing the Yahoo! Style Guide is available for just $13.19 on Amazon. Grab it while it’s cheap!
Your Third Investment: Freshbooks ($0)
Whilst you could track your time with a spreadsheet and raise invoices manually, you’d be better off putting that wasted time to better use (i.e. by using it to make more money). That’s where Freshbooks comes in — a complete solution for time tracking and invoicing.
You may be wondering why this requires a financial investment given that I’ve put a big fat zero up in the header, but that is because Freshbooks offers a free 30 day trial. You get a month to figure out how awesome it is, at which point you do have to start paying $19.95 per month.
To put that in perspective, you should expect to be earning that much (or more) per hour within your first month of operation as a freelance blogger. And let me tell you — Freshbooks will save you a great deal more than an hour per month in the long run.
That’s All Folks
That’s it folks — above is the sum total of the investment that I recommend.
I am however going to mention one more thing. Regular LWB readers will know that I am not the salesman type, which is why I have deliberately neglected to mention my freelance writing guide up until this point. However, it would be odd of me not to mention it, since I consider it a complete A-Z guide to launching a successful freelance blogging business. I would of course heartily recommend that you grab yourself a copy, and with it costing just $27, you’re hardly breaking the bank.
With the above tools in your back pocket, you’ll have everything (and more) that is necessary to start a successful freelance blogging business. You’ll be able to:
- Create a blog and start writing posts to use as samples
- Submit guest posts to blogs to use as samples
- Scout potential jobs (both on job boards and elsewhere)
- Submit pitches and land your first set of clients
- Track your time and invoice your clients
I’ll sign off with a caveat, which brings me back to Carol’s argument that the essential item you need for freelance success is money. You already know that I disagree, so the question therefore is, what do I think is the essential item for freelance success?
The answer, in one word, is hustle (tweet this). You need a solid work ethic, courage, and a willingness to fail (and subsequently learn from your failures). No amount of financial investment will be enough if you do not have a strong will to succeed — always keep that in mind.
I appreciate that what I have outlined above is a blueprint — not a complete guide. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask them via the comments section below!
Photo Credit: mag3737