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How Laura Made $20,000 as a Freelance SEO Writer Last Month

You know we love sharing work-at-home job ideas outside of the proofreading world.

We’ve featured the lovely Yuwanda Black on the blog before. Her eBook on how to write SEO articles is still super popular with you guys. She’s so popular, in fact, that when she launched a with another awesome writer (and former Yuwanda student!), I knew I had to jump at the chance to help them spread the word.

So today I’m thrilled to feature Laura Pennington on the blog. Laura is a freelance writer, project manager, and public policy PhD candidate.

Laura is sharing how she went from SEO writing student to ultimately surpassing the six-figure mark in her business. Take it away, Laura!

Six-Figure Freelancing and the Magic of SEO Blogging Retainer Work

A photo of Laura Pennington, a freelance SEO writer

I first started my freelance writing business in 2012 after finding the teaching materials offered by Yuwanda Black.

I call myself an accidental freelancer because I had never been paid even a penny to write professionally — nor had I served on a college/high school newspaper.

Yuwanda patiently replied to my emails asking questions about making this career work. After putting the pedal to the metal for a couple of weeks, I made my first $1,000.

Overworked and Underpaid to Six-Figure Freelance SEO Writer

I was a former Baltimore City Public Schools teacher who was paid pitifully for what turned into 16-hour days. Imagine my shock when I learned that I could make this much money as a side hustle outside of my job.

I resigned from my teaching job, took a position working days at an insurance brokerage, and freelanced on the side for over a year.

Now, my freelance business took off pretty quickly, largely due to the fact that I focused specifically on SEO writing.

More people than ever are using the internet to search for things and to market their companies. SEO writing involves informational and keyword-targeted posts to help provide value and better search engine rankings.

I met and surpassed my day job income in just three months and began to focus on scaling my business beyond that point. I continued to manage my freelance business on nights and weekends while working during the day.

Just one year after I launched my freelance business, I was fired from the insurance brokerage. That firing turned out to be a huge blessing. I kicked my part-time freelance SEO writing biz into high gear and hit six figures the year following. Since then, I’ve been employed full-time writing blogs for others.

Generating $20k Per Month as a Freelance SEO Writer

In June of 2017, I hit my first $20k month. It took work, sure, but honestly, it was less work than it took to get from $5k/month to $10k/month. The truth is that once you’ve found your business, have great writing samples, and consistently market, it’s all about following a proven path. Honing in on my niche (lawyers and insurance agencies) allowed me to capitalize on my strengths and kick my speed up to the ninja level.

In the beginning, I used Upwork to land most of my leads. Formerly known as oDesk, Upwork is the biggest online job marketplace in the world. That site alone brought me more than $300,000 in work over the past few years. I was also the #5 ranked writer overall out of more than 11,000 after just a year on the site.

When Upwork learned of my success story, they sent me to a photo shoot. I was featured on their homepage for three years. From there, people started emailing me asking for tips about growing their freelance careers.

Laura on the homepage of Elance
A snippet of my homepage feature on the Elance website.

Upwork is still an important marketing component of my business. But starting your company now allows you to snowball initial opportunities into bigger ones when it comes to referrals and retainer work from current clients.

So What Does it Really Take to Get to and Beyond the Six-Figure Level as a Freelance Writer?

There are three main keys to getting to a six-figure income:

  • Excellent time management and deadline skills
  • Refining your process
  • Having a method you follow over and over again for work

Having my clients on retainer and monthly packages has made my life much easier. With SEO blogging, clients need blogs every single week. That makes my research process simple and provides consistent revenue for my business.

Over the long run, I get to know the client’s needs on a deep level. This allows me to provide expert-level content because of my industry knowledge and client knowledge developed over our relationship. Everybody wins.

Why Choose SEO Writing for Your Freelance Career?

See how you can earn money as a freelance SEO writer

There are many different choices out there when it comes to identifying the freelance writing project type you’d like to focus on. And I can share, having hired hundreds of writers for my own clients, that you’ll find work doing just about anything — product descriptions, white papers, sales copy, and more.

However, SEO writing is unique in that it’s needed consistently. Search engines rank sites that post content regularly. That means quality, keyword-rich content is needed by your clients every single week in order to show up on the first page of Google search results.

Consistent needs from your clients mean constant work for you — and the potential to grow your SEO writing business to the six-figure level.

I share my story to show that it’s all possible. I have no professional writing certifications and my college and master’s degree are not in English, journalism, or communications. What it really takes to succeed as a writer are excellent writing skills and the ability to serve your clients well.

I learned nearly everything I know about freelance writing from writing courses. I took everything I learned over the course of five years on the Elance/Upwork platform and condensed it into one online course to help others succeed in the same way. If you commit to marketing yourself consistently and you have a writing talent, you’re all set.

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    How SEO Writing Relates to Proofreading

    Freelance SEO writing is also wonderful as a complementary service for existing editors and proofreaders. Why? Because you already know the English language’s ins and outs.

    It’s easier to succeed as a proofreader and editor if you know how to write. SEO writing is also one of the easiest styles of freelance wordsmithing to learn, so the barriers to entry are low.

    Most clients also don’t bother you much as an SEO writer (win!). They trust you know what you’re doing and simply care that you meet a deadline. You’ll find that you can have limited phone calls with a client and still deliver exactly what they are looking for on your own time.

    To those of you out there thinking about it, what do you have to lose? My biggest regret is that I discovered this only in 2012! In graduate school, I was making $1,100/month as a teaching assistant. Being a freelance SEO writer would have helped me tremendously.

    Becoming an SEO writer has allowed me to:

    • take three-week vacations
    • move five times in seven years with my military fiancé without the struggle of finding a new job
    • visit my mom for six weeks at a time while working from my laptop

    I wake up every day knowing that I have great clients and that I’m going to learn something new that day. What are you waiting for?

    Our Take

    I am so impressed by Laura! She went from hustling on nights and weekends while working her full-time job to FAR surpassing her regular income. And it’s all thanks to SEO writing!

    Your Turn

    Does SEO writing sound like something you’d be interested in? Maybe as your main hustle, or even in addition to other services you already offer? If you’re interested in other side hustles, how to become a proofreader, or how to start transcript proofreading we have the resources for you! I’d love to hear about your plans in the comments!

    Leave a Reply

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    1. I am very interested in learning more about your SEO writing course as a way to supplement my income!

      1. Please look into it., Marnie! Yuwanda is the real deal and I learned a tremendous amount from her. We combined forces to share our 25+ years of experience in freelancing to help people jumpstart their business. If you can teach yourself some basics, there’s such a huge demand for it!

    2. This sounds interesting….would like to learn more for myself and my daughter.

    3. Hello! I am a 49 year old, retired Law Enforcement Investigator, Supervisor and Instructor. I also worked in the surgical field for 12 years and have many years of experience in transcription, per say, as well as skills that cover the note taking, legal/medical documentation, etc. I hope to find the perfect “fit” for me in this fast growing field. I would love any tips or suggestions to getting started. I am in a financial crunch at the moment without any help in the financial area from family or friends. So, the faster the better. Thanks for all the information and training that you provide. I hope to be able to purchase something from you soon. Any advice regarding how I can obtain additional information will be greatly appreciated.

      1. I think the fact that you have experience in medical and legal positions you PERFECTLY for SEO. Why? Because I’ve made my living largely writing SEO pieces for lawyers over the last five years. Many people are not comfortable writing for these industries, but you can easily position yourself to achieve success here. Of course, I’m the person featured above and can speak quite strongly to the value of what Yuwanda offers in her SEO copywriting course- please check out our bundle and Yuwanda’s site (www.inkwelleditorial.com) to see more of her style. You can also check me out online, too, to see if you like the way I write and share! I have a free course on finding your freelance writing niche you might like at http://www.laurateachesyou.com

    4. Congratulations on your successful freelance business! You have an awesome story. I’ll keep this in mind after I finish the PA course.

    5. Very impressive story Laura! You said that you have hired hundreds of writers for your clients; how much of your income is outsourced compared to your own writing projects? And when in your freelance journey did you start utilizing other writers to scale your business?

      1. Right now I write everything myself. I outsourced for all of 2015 but found I was faster myself, honestly. I do no have any writers on staff. I also still edit my own work. I started using other writers a few years in, but found I did not like managing other people. This has been a fully solo effort in 2012-2014, and then again since January 2016.

        1. Ah! Sorry for the typo- should say “I do not have any writers on staff.” However, my clients will sometimes come to me in a project manager role and ask me to hire their writers for them. I am doing this currently with a company managing 15 SEO writers- I recruited and trained all of those writers directly. Hope that clarifies- I only work with other writers in situations like this.

    6. I have a question about this statement: “You’ll find that you can have limited phone calls with a client and still deliver exactly what they are looking for on your own time.”

      How do you take calls from clients if you work full time during the days? Is it possible to communicate with clients primarily through email, or do clients prefer phone calls?

      1. The good thing about SEO work is that you hardly, if ever, need to do phone calls with clients. I worked at my day job for a year before making the leap to do this full-time, and I did all my client calls during my lunch hour. And yes, it’s quite possible to stick mostly with emails! I’d say I spend less than 1.5 hours per week on the phone with my clients for any given week. Some weeks it’s more like 15 minutes. <—Most of your busy clients won't want their schedule cluttered up with calls, either! If you work with busy folks (CEOs, doctors, lawyers, etc.) they likely won't want calls.

    7. Oops, clicked post comment before I was done…to clarify my previous comment, when you started SEO writing as a side job during the evenings, how do you work out communication with clients when you still have a day job? Thanks!!

    8. This was really eye opening – I’ve been considering a proofreading / editing / freelance writing business, but never even thought of SEO writing. It’s so doable and so in demand. Thanks very much for the info – great article! 🙂

    9. I am so pleased to read a follow-up story on Yuwanda’s SEO writing. I remember when Caitlin featured her on the blog but I wasn’t sure if I could be successful in that type of writing. Well your story has made me rethink that! I will look further into this. Thank you for sharing!

    10. Thanks for this article. I am researching different types of writing and considering SEO. I’m curious, Laura. do you need to do a lot of interviewing as part of your research for your SEO articles? I work full time, and I don’t think I could fit in interviews during regular business hours. Thanks!

    11. Hey Laura
      This is simply phenomenal. I can’t wait for another offer. Yours is the best.

    12. Very interesting story you have shared. Thanks for sharing and also Congratulations for your successful freelance business!

    13. I just can’t believe what you’re saying. Now I’m just taking my first steps in freelancing, and so far I can’t believe that it’s possible to earn such a huge amount of money. Thank you for sharing your experience and advice, and I hope that you will continue to do so.

    14. I am very interested in learning more about your SEO writing course as a way of working toward an alternative employment or to supplement my income

    15. I’m sorry if I sound stupid, but what is an SEO Writer?

    16. I'm intrigued by your SEO Writing and what it offers. I have been told I write well; particularly in my work as an early childhood mental health consultant. I find I have a natural eye to how words are used; how to streamline expressed thought; as well as an eye for correct grammar and spelling.

      I'm currently retired and interested in considering SEO Writing as a side hustle as I pursue part-time consultation opportunities.

    17. Hello,
      I am extremely interested in learning more about this course. I have two children in college, and extra income would be so very beneficial.

    18. This is very interesting information. However, I feel a bit frustrated because I can't find a definition of "SEO" in this post. I don't know what it means! Can you enlighten me?
      Thank you.

    19. is this a field that's too saturated? I've been interested in several freelancing gigs only to find it's too saturated.

      1. Thanks to the worldwide BOOM of self-publishing, millions of books are written and published each year. There is an obvious demand for proofreaders — not just for books but for anything you can read! Anything that’s posted or published for the public can use a proofreader! ???? For more information and prices on General Proofreading please click here: https://learn.proofreadanywhere.com/gptpwso

    20. What does SEO stand for? I enjoy writing but am not sure I understand what this will entail.

    21. I'm having trouble understanding what SEO stands for. And why do you state there is a free Lifehack summit 2017?

      1. We’re in the process of updating all of the articles in the blog as well as adding fresh new content for our viewers, so please bear with us!
        SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by enduring that your website ranks high on a search engine results page like Google. There are millions of articles and How-To tutorials for beginners you will find on Google that will explain SEO to you step-by-step if you type your question in the search bar. ????

    22. it sounds amazing. almost to be good to be true. I've been dreaming of a way to make a better life for myself and my kids. can i really do this?

      1. This opportunity could change your life! What do you have to lose by clicking the links and checking out all of the information?????

    23. Good morning,
      I guess I have some professional writing as when I was in the Army, I worked in an S2 (Security and Intelligence) office of the 101st Military Intelligence Battalion of the 1st Infantry Division (also S2 in the 1st Squadron, Second Armored Cavalry Regiment at Ft Polk). I was given the task of writing the Command Inspection Program, which from what I learned, seemed to be a big deal. Bigger then my pay grade of course.
      This says nothing of all the documents you have to write in such a position. I have the feeling that once you learn the jargon it becomes easy to do the writing because you know the verbage they seek in what you write for them.
      I think I can do this. I am interested in your SEO writing course, to supplement my retirement pay for being injured in the Army.

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