Ever wonder if you can turn your side hustle as a freelancer into your full-time gig?
I know I did.
Maybe you’ve got a handful of clients, but you’re not earning enough to quit your day job.
You’re feeling good about the freelance work you’re doing, but you’re not sure how to move up and earn more.
Or maybe, you’ve been banging your head against the wall wondering how to turn your side hustle into the real deal.
For the last few years, freelance writing was entirely a side hustle for me. I fit in marketing and writing around being a mom and going to school.
But I finally reached that tipping point where I wanted more from freelancing like better clients and better pay.
So at the beginning of the year, I decided to go all-in, work smarter, do more marketing, and earn more from writing.
And in the first six months, I made $50K writing for magazines, newspapers, and digital publications. Here’s how I made it happen:
From side hustle to full-time freelancing
I don’t know a lot of freelance writers who find instant success starting out. For most of us, it’s a process.
I’ve learned a lot from trial and error and from other more successful freelance writers over the last few years.
When I decided to level up my side hustle, seven strategies helped me hit the $50K mark in my first six months:
1. Go after bigger clients
It’s going to be tough to turn your side hustle into a full-time gig if all your clients are small frys with limited content needs. Go after bigger clients, places where there’s plenty of work and more than one editor. For example:
After writing a couple of pieces for one of Australia’s best-known and well-loved food magazines, I asked my editor about writing for a weekly newspaper insert the magazine publishes.
I hope you are well.
I have a quick question – I’d like to pitch an idea for your lift out in the weekly newspaper. Should I pitch to you or is there a different editor in charge at the lift out?
If I need to pitch to a different editor, could you let me know their email address?
She put me in touch with the editor and recommended me as a freelancer, and it turned into a regular gig.
I also found that the same magazine publishes different content on the website than the print version. I pitched the online editor, mentioned I write for two of his colleagues, and scored another ongoing gig. And they all pay well at about $0.80 per word.
- Do you have clients with multiple platforms and editors? Find out if other areas of the magazine or business need your help. If you’ve already established yourself as a trusted freelancer, a simple email or phone call may be all you need to land more work.
2. Replace lower-paying gigs
I know this sounds obvious, but it still surprises me how many freelance writers stay horizontal with their pay rates rather than going vertical.
To make a good living as a freelance writer, I knew I needed to decide on a minimum-word rate that I would accept.
I started out writing articles for $0.20 a word. But to turn my side hustle into my full-time gig, I decided I would only write for publications that pay at least $0.80 a word.
One by one, I replaced my lowest-paying clients with ones that pay better.
- Do you know your per-word or hourly rate? Pick an annual or monthly income goal, and then work backwards. How much would you need to make per assignment to achieve your income amount? And how much work would you need to do? Once you figure this out, only pitch and accept assignments that line up with your rates.
3. Use the multi-pitch approach
If you are pitching a busy editor or marketing manager, it can be hard to get them to open their email. If they do open it (after you’ve written a killer subject line, of course), you want to make the most of their time. How? Use the multi-pitch approach.
- Pitch multiple ideas at once. Include more than one idea for a magazine article, blog post, or marketing piece. It’s a great way to show an editor you’ve studied their publication/site and have good ideas.
I’ve regularly put two or more article ideas in the body of one email, and more often than not, both ideas turn into assignments. The result: Less marketing, more work, more money. That’s how you turn a side hustle into your full-time gig.
4. Ask for more work
I mainly write for magazines and newspapers. It can be a hustle to stay fully booked with one-off assignments that require research, interviews with sources, finding the right publications, etc.
But it doesn’t have to be. When you complete an assignment, look for ways to book more work with the same client by doing things like:
- Submit another pitch to your editor.
- Ask your editor about upcoming stories, issues, blog posts, or special projects.
- Find out if there are other editors in the same organization in need of a freelance writer.
Asking for more work is a marketing strategy that can help put you on the fast-track to full-time freelancing. It’s a lot easier to work with a small group of clients with plenty of work than trying to manage dozens of clients with one-off assignments.
5. Stay in touch
In the six or so years I’ve been freelancing, every single editor I’ve worked with has moved on. But I’ve made it a point to keep in touch via Twitter, LinkedIn, email, etc.
Why? Editors often move to other editorial positions where they need to commission writers.
And you know what? Those connections have played a big part in going from a side hustle to full-time freelancing.
For example, an editor I hadn’t written for in four years recently offered me a gig paying $1 per word.
Here are some easy ways to stay in touch:
- Use an editor’s preferred form of communication (email, social media, snail mail, phone) to stay in touch.
- Send updates about new assignments you’re working on.
- Share an article your contact might find interesting or helpful.
- Acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries, or achievements with a card or message
6. Use LinkedIn to find clients and contact info
This is a gold mine for freelance writers who are serious about going from side hustle to full-time freelancing.
I’ve used LinkedIn for identifying clients in my niche and connecting with the right editors and marketing managers.
Taking the time to connect with people on LinkedIn has landed me many well-paid jobs, including gigs for $2 per word. Here’s how I’ve used LinkedIn to find clients, move up and earn more:
- Search for an organization or company
- Identify the right contact (content manager, editor, marketing manager)
- Connect via LinkedIn and send InMail
- Identify the right contact, and then find their email address
- Send a pitch or letter of introduction
7. Set a monthly income goal
When I was a part-time freelancer, I didn’t really have an income goal in mind. I did some freelance work, got paid, and that was it. I wasn’t really trying to make it a full-time gig. And that changed when I set a monthly income goal of $9,000 and starting tracking my progress.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I couldn’t keep writing articles that paid $200 each, and expect to hit my income goal. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
I found this enormously motivating to look at and see how I was doing. Setting an income goal made me think differently, work smarter, and earn a lot more than I ever did when freelancing was my side hustle.
- Do you have a monthly income goal? Take a little time to figure out how much you need or want to make. Then set up a way to measure your progress and track your income. If you’re not doing this already, I promise it will change the way you look at freelancing and your earning potential.
Make the leap to full-time freelancing
My first six months of full-time freelance writing were exhilarating, but they were also tiring. I went from earning a little from my side hustle to billing $50K. And so can you. It’s not only possible to earn a great living from freelance writing, but it’s probable if you go about things the right way.
Lindy Alexander is an Australian freelance writer who focuses on health, food, business and travel. She also blogs about freelance writing at www.thefreelancersyear.com.
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