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  • Writer's pictureZanny Merullo Steffgen

How I Made Over $5000 in My Eighth Month of Freelancing: The Specifics


After a five-year restaurant career that was both comfortable and lucrative, I decided to take a risk and switched full-time to freelance writing in April of 2021. It may have taken eight months of hard work and learning how to grow my freelance business, but finally in December of 2021 I had my highest earning month yet — over $5000. Here are a few steps I took along the way that aided in my success and some specifics to help you take advantage of these strategies, too.

  1. Starting Slowly

I’ll admit it — I jumped pretty quickly out of my restaurant career without much of a solid freelancing foundation to build upon. Although I had been published several times before and had worked as an SEO copywriter for a tour company, I had yet to establish myself on popular freelancing sites.

I started by making a profile on both Upwork and Fiverr, and browsed through a few articles about how to generate a following on those sites. Most of what I read recommended charging low prices in the beginning in order to build trust and accumulate reviews. So I started slowly. $30 for a 500 word SEO blog on Fiverr. $25/hour for content writing services on Upwork.

I now charge $45 for a 500 word SEO blog and $50/hour for content writing services. The reason I’m able to charge reasonable rates now? I waited until I’d racked up some reviews and generated some buzz about my skills before raising my prices. Each time I hit a new milestone (like becoming a level one seller on Fiverr or a top seller on Upwork), I raised my prices commensurately.

2. Subscribing to Newsletters By far the best move I’ve made on my freelance writing journey has been to subscribe to writing opportunity newsletters. Each month I pay between $1-$4 for subscriptions to weekly emails that arrive in my mailbox and contain dozens of calls for pitches from different publications.

It was thanks to these newsletters that I got pieces published in magazines such as Pix Wine or had my writing featured in Glug. Each day I receive a newsletter, I comb through the opportunities and start a list of which calls best match my skills and what ideas I have to pitch them with. Then, whenever I have free time or am taking a break from writing for a client, I’ll go through the list and send a pitch.

One month, I sent about eight pitches and got four yeses. That’s a win in my book! While these magazine gigs aren’t something I can count on for a regular income, they can provide a little financial boost. Plus, they often pay better than the projects I find on Fiverr or Upwork. The best magazine rate I’ve gotten? 50 cents per word. My typical Upwork rate? 15 cents per word.

3. Providing Quick Turnaround Time With the sheer volume of freelance writers out there, it is important to set yourself apart somehow. One of my unique selling points? A super fast turnaround time. I would set aside most of my days entirely for freelance writing, so if a new gig happened to surface, I would try to get the client a draft or other material as quickly as possible — often within hours.

This strategy ensured that I hooked clients as soon as they expressed interest. You want new SEO copy for your website? Let me give you my suggestions in an hour. Looking for a blog post that sells your product? I’ll get you a draft by end of day.

I thought of this as “fishing for clients.” By “fishing” I mean that I threw bait in the form of an enticing freelancer profile into the seas of Upwork and Fiverr, then hooked clients with my fast response time. Before they could swim away, I’d reel them in with quickly completed work that were of the highest possible quality.

4. Making a Good Impression on Clients

My quick turnaround time was just one way I made sure to provide my clients with a positive experience. Other ways I’ve achieved this?

  • Open Communication (I keep clients updated as I work, check in on completed projects to make sure clients are satisfied, and clearly communicate any schedule changes)

  • Being Thorough (It can be tough to fully understand a client’s needs when working on a freelancer platform. That’s why I have a thorough list of questions I ask before starting a new project and I make sure I do my research as well. This means looking through a client’s website, reading up on the competition, and using tools like SEO or plagiarism checkers to ensure an excellent final product)

  • Offering Deals (After I had accumulated great reviews and had plenty of work coming in, I started offering deals to repeat clients. This meant a 10% discount on bulk orders or honoring my early prices for old customers when I raised my rates. They certainly appreciated it!)

In the beginning I took on new clients each week. Now, 90% of my clients are long-term or repeat. Plus, I’ve gotten more than 5 new gigs thanks to recommendations from former clients. Definitely worth it!

5. Saying Yes to Opportunities

Part of the fun of freelancing for me has been saying yes to unique opportunities that I might not have come across elsewhere. I’ve found so many short-term writing gigs for different industries that allowed me to learn something new and gain valuable experience.

So you can get a sense of the variety of projects I’ve taken on, here is a list of some of the seemingly random gigs I’ve worked:

  • Script editing for a guided meditation business

  • Ad copywriting for an outdoor adventure company

  • Ghostwriting for a mental health blog

  • Writing lists of “magical” words for an Instagram influencer

  • Email marketing for a hospitality platform

  • Blog writing for a men’s skincare brand

  • Copywriting for a catering company

  • Menu description editing for an Italian restaurant

Each experience has taught me something new about a different niche, which has then allowed me to take on more work in that area. A real win-win!

6. Suggesting Further Milestones

If there is one thing I’ve learned from building my freelance writing career, it’s that being persistent is a really valuable quality. Often clients are so busy with other projects that they will simply pay for a task and then drop off the face of the earth. What I started doing the last couple of months is proposing more work once a task is completed.

Sometimes this means reaching out and simply asking if a former client has any additional work they need done. I’ve been surprised how often this leads to new projects! Other times, I will suggest other services. You loved the blog post I wrote and I noticed your website could use a copy update, would you be interested in hearing how I can help with that?

Parlaying one gig into the next has been a real secret behind my success during the last few months!

I hope some of my freelance writing experiences can help you build your own freelance business. Have questions? Leave a comment or reach out!

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