I’m quitting proofreading.
That thought actually went through my head for a second when I first met Holly Johnson, who earns $200,000 each year as a freelance writer.
That’s a big chunk of change! She’s doing what she loves and making some serious bank at the same time. If that’s not inspiration to get moving on your own dream with your own skills, I don’t know what is.
What I love about Holly’s story is that she created her own career — and fantastic income! — without a degree in writing. In fact, she used to work full-time in a mortuary!
(Seriously. I can’t make this stuff up, folks!)
One of the biggest mental blocks for people considering proofreading or any kind of career in the English language is the misconception that you’ve got to have some kind of fancy degree.
Degrees are not required for success. I swear.
And Holly’s story is just more evidence of that. Did I mention Holly’s married and a mom of two beautiful little girls?!
I had the privilege of meeting Holly and asking her burning questions about her journey. She has some incredibly valuable insights and resources to help you earn more as a writer, even if you’ve never been paid for writing before.
Hey, Holly! So… you used to work in a mortuary, eh!? Talk about black n’ white. So then how’d you get started with writing?
Although I have always been passionate about writing, I didn’t seek out writing jobs until we started our blog, ClubThrifty.com. Once our blog idea was brought to life, I started using my online presence to get paid writing work.
Since I worked full-time at a mortuary, I had to write on the weekends and during evenings. I put in many 80-hour weeks as I got started, but it did eventually pay off. After around a year of writing full-time, I was able to quit my full-time job to write full-time from home.
What kind of writing do you do now?
I mostly write about topics of personal interest to me –frugality, credit card rewards, personal finance and travel. However, I also write content for college and university websites.
Some of the bigger publications I write for include The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report Travel, Frugal Travel Guy, Lending Tree, and Wise Bread.
Whoa, those are some big names! If you don’t mind us asking, how’s the pay for that kind of work?
When I first launched my writing career, I earned between $75 and $150 per article. Now I generally earn anywhere between $300 and $1,500 per piece. It depends a lot on what I’m writing, how long it is, and client specifications. It also depends on what I’m writing about. Where personal finance and higher education pay well in general, travel writing doesn’t pay much at all. It’s more of a hobby.
Holy cow, Holly! So you don’t have a writing degree, yet you’ve still been wildly successful.
What are your thoughts on the importance of practice, training, and building skills and how they are all linked to generating income?
Not having a degree in English or journalism won’t necessarily hold you back, but your work ethic will. In my mind, the most important quality a writer (and any other self-employed person) should have is an excellent work ethic.
You can become a better writer just by writing and reading more often. If you work hard and never give up, you can use those skills to get paid writing work. A lot of people give up along the way because they lose faith in themselves or feel they don’t know where to start. A good work ethic will push you to keep trying even when you’re not getting anywhere.
What’s the one thing every wannabe paid writer should do first?
The first step is building an initial portfolio. If you don’t have writing samples on the web, you can use a blog or online portfolio site to host your writing samples. You need writing samples to get paid jobs. Period.
How about the biggest mistakes new writers make?
I think a lot of writers give up too soon. They’re not sure how to get started, and they flounder quickly. When things don’t go their way quickly, they throw their hands in the air and move on.
That’s part of the reason I created my course, EarnMoreWriting.com. Through almost 6 hours of video and a ton of printable resources, I explain how a new writer can get started and the exact steps they need to take to get their career off the ground.
What are your suggestions for new writers on how to improve their writing?
Practice, practice, and practice some more. You’ll improve your writing skills if you read and write often. Even though I had plenty of writing experience before I started writing part-time, I have improved tremendously over the months and years.
You know someone’s reading this and thinking, “I love to write, but I’ve never written for pay before. How do I get started?”
My best advice is to create a blog or online portfolio site. You can’t get paid writing work unless you have writing samples people can access online. Obviously, my course (Earn More Writing) walks you through this process and explains each step.
What a privilege to dig into Holly’s world a little bit to find out how she got where she is now. And what an inspiration! Holly is no doubt living, breathing proof that hard work pays off. Having kids, working full-time, and not having a degree ARE NOT VALID EXCUSES. I’d say maybe not having working fingers would be valid, but then there’s the incredible Stephen Hawking, amiright?!
Usually the only thing standing in our way is us. And we’re too smart to let anything hold us back.