6 Figures in Year Two: One Writer’s Success Tips


Ring the BellBy Shawndra Russell

If you’re a writer, you should be skipping in the streets, because we are needed more than ever.

Evidence: I was able to ramp my writing business to six figures by the end of my second year freelancing.

Some writers bemoan the fact that magazines and newspapers pay less per word or that attention spans are shorter.

If you want to write books, well, that’s a lost cause, too. More books than ever are published every day, so you have no chance of standing out, and fat advances have disappeared.

Plus newsrooms are shrinking, and becoming a staff writer is nearly impossible because no one hires salaried writers, right?

Snap out of it


This is the best time to be a writer because our words are needed more than ever. Copyblogger boldly declared  2013 The Year of the Online Writer, and I wholeheartedly agree.

As everyone desperately tries to make their voices heard, well-written, useful writing stands out.

The never-ending need for high-quality content means professional writers can write not only for media outlets but every single business on the planet — everyone is now in the business of storytelling and content marketing.

Maybe this isn’t the kind of writing you had in mind, but why not embrace it?

I’ve rapidly built a six-figure writing business because I write freelance articles and publish books — and provide content services for businesses. The content might be a tweet, Facebook post, or blog post, but no matter what it is, each item boils down to delivering stories in clever, engaging ways.

Expand your horizons

So how did I start landing these business-writing gigs? I pitched entrepreneurs the same way I do editors.

Small business owners are so overwhelmed that they aren’t creating job postings seeking writers. They just continue to push this need aside or slap something together and publish it themselves. The business owners I’ve approached have all been thrilled to hand over their content to-do lists.

I’ve written newsletters, blog posts, social media content, emails, website copy, brochure copy, guest blogs, and press releases for these busy entrepreneurs, and you can, too.

The very first entrepreneur I pitched was someone I’d read about in a local magazine. I emailed saying I loved his product and asked if he needed help with digital marketing. I worked for a low rate so I could get one client under my belt, and the rest is history.

I continue to work with small businesses but have also worked as the social media manager for a $2 billion global snack food brand. As writers, the possibilities for new sources of income are all around us.

Be the hero

You can be the hero for these business owners.

You can see if they don’t have a current blog, don’t have a solid social media presence, or need new website copy, and then approach them with your services. And you can deliver what they need because you are a content master.

Maybe this type of content is different than what you typically tackle, but if you want to break into six-figure earnings, you’ll accept the challenge and embrace these alternative revenue streams.

Have you tried online writing for businesses? How did you land your first gig? Tell us in the comments.

Shawndra RussellShawndra Russell is tourism and lifestyle brand journalist and the Savannah correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.  


  1. Angie

    I love this post, Shawndra! I’m nowhere near your six figures, but I’m currently in the middle of creating an actual marketing plan (I have to confess, I’ve been going at it by the seat of my pants until now). I don’t necessarily need to get to six figures, but my goal is to at least be living comfortably by the end of next year — and my entire strategy is built around creating content for businesses.

    • Shawndra

      Thanks Angie! Sounds like you are on the right track and don’t worry–my first year was flying by the seat of my pants too! Once you get a couple of clients under your belt, it becomes so much easier because you can then reach out to their networks. I’ve also found that it’s good to help businesses that are growing but just don’t have the time to manage and develop their online presence. Even if things are going well right this minute for them, the ones who “get it” realize that it’s important to future-proof their business, and having writers like us create content for them helps increase fan loyalty and grow their online presence.

  2. Kerry C

    Great article, Jennifer, thanks! I don’t know if this is taboo as I’m still trying to learn as much as I can about freelancing before seriously diving in, but how do you set rates for businesses, especially for things like tweets and SMM? Obviously – I’m assuming – they’re not paying you per tweet, but how do you go about determining a fair and reasonable rate?

    • Kerry C

      Shawndra, I’m sorry! The email byline is Jennifer Roland.

    • Carol Tice

      Hm? Where are you seeing Jenn’s email? I’m confused.

      Oh wait, I get it — she posted the post. Jenn is editing my guest posts now, is what it is. That’s why we put that nice bold byline for guest posters.

  3. Dava Stewart

    I’d like to add a word of caution, though. Pitching business owners who either had or needed email newsletters was my first foray into freelancing, and I made some critical mistakes:
    1. I called companies that were too small and didn’t have enough money to pay me.
    2. I called companies that didn’t KNOW they needed content — as Carol said above, it’s too hard to convince a business owner that she needs a blog.

    Otherwise, this is a fantastic post, and even when the business you write for isn’t glamorous, it’s fun getting to know entrepreneurs.

    • Shawndra

      Hi Dava, great advice. As Carol mentioned, people that have in their website menu “Blog” or “Newsletter” but then only have a few posts, haven’t updated in a while, or have never posted obviously see the benefit but just don’t have the time/manpower/etc. to carry it out and are excellent businesses to reach out to. Best to work with forward-thinking companies that value what we as writers can bring to the table for their business.

  4. Valerie Strawmier

    This is such a fantastic post and not just because it reflects my own excitement about a writing career at this time! Recently, I have begun writing for a local business in exchange for a membership that they provide. This is a small step but it has really opened my eyes to this kind of opportunity. Now that I’ve read this, I can see so much opportunity in front of me, especially taking into consideration the interest I’ve seen during previous conversations with other local business owners. It’s so true–the world of writing is full of possibilities and creating that virtual presence for busy entrepreneurs is one of the best ways to begin. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Shawndra

      Hi Valerie, I’m so glad this post was informative for you! Content marketing isn’t going away, and who better to produce quality content than professional writers like us 🙂 Make sure that you try and leverage any of the relationships that business has too. I have a new client that I landed as a result of another client being happy with my work. Good luck!

  5. Victoria

    This post has made me feel like a complete idiot. I pitch to companies everyday to review their products on my blog. I have very high success rate with this. However, I have never pitched to a company about starting a blog for them or anything of that nature. Now I am going to update my pitch letter to include those services as well. Thanks for this very informative post.

    • Carol Tice

      Start a blog, no. You don’t want to be in the business of trying to convince businesses that DON’T blog that they should. Too much of a long shot.

      Businesses that have an abandoned blog they can’t keep updated, though, we find are great prospects. 😉

    • Marcie

      Victoria, don’t feel like an idiot. Feel enlightened because you already have foundational relationships from which you can build. Most of us are starting from scratch.

    • Shawndra

      Great point Marcie! It has sometimes taken over a year to finally land a client from an initial interaction, so following up is key to make this strategy work!

    • Shawndra

      Go Victoria! It can’t hurt sharing the other writing services that you offer when you reach out to these businesses. Sometimes awesome opportunities are only an ask away 🙂

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