Today’s post is a guest post from I’ve Tried That reader Halina. She’s written posts for us before and they have always been of the highest caliber. Today, she has another treat for you guys as she’s going to outline a few year’s worth of experience and share how she reached the point of being able to work for herself free time.
Halina’s story is both exciting and inspiring and I’m thrilled to hear of her success. Be sure to show her some love in the comments section.
How Writing for “Content Mills” Allowed Me to Quit My Job and Become a Full-Time Freelance Writer
Two days ago, I resigned from my job at a biotech firm. It’s been a good ride for these past 5+ years, but it’s time to move on. I must say, my resignation left many questions in my coworkers minds!
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I have no other “official” job lined up at the moment. I have told almost nobody in my family about my resignation; folks would think I’m crazy to give up a good-paying and benefits-laden job for what I’m about to embark upon. And yet, in the midst of my fears about how I’m going to handle private health insurance, mortgage bills, etc., I feel excitement…an excitement that I haven’t felt in a long time. This can only be the feeling that one gets when one is about to start a business of her own.
What is the business that I am starting? Why, it’s none other than my sole proprietorship, Haelix Communications (HC). The nature of HC’s business will be freelance and general writing on-demand.
Of course, I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that I was going to quit my job and become a freelance writer. No, this decision is the result of 10+ years of writing privately and for work, conversing with other bloggers and writers, and attending many upon many networking events for entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, I also created my personal finance website, Your Money and Debt, took up affiliate marketing (check out Gelato-Maker sometime), and wrote extensively for so-called “content mills”. After all these years, I point to content mills as being the biggest reason why I can afford to quit my current job and go solo.
In early 2007, I started writing for a forum site called myLot. Although the pay was miniscule (~$0.01/post), I was thrilled that a website would actually pay me for posting to its forums. One day, while perusing site topics to comment on, I came across a post discussing the writing site Associated Content (AC). It sounded decent enough, so I applied to AC and started writing.
My first submitted article to AC netted me $14, an amount that would’ve taken several months to compile on myLot. I was hooked. I started writing on every topic imaginable and submitting my content as fast as possible. When AC introduced page view payments, things got even better; my monthly page view earnings went from $5 to $25 to even $40 per month. It wasn’t long before I was dreaming of retiring and becoming a full-time AC writer.
Then, about six months into my AC stint, my earnings per article were cut dramatically. I started receiving $5, $4 and sometimes under $3 for my content. It became apparent that writing for AC was no longer worth my time and I began looking elsewhere.
Through various review articles posted on AC, I became aware of Constant Content (CC) and Examiner. CC accepted content that was submitted on behalf of specific client requests; the site also accepted “free form” content for sale. The best thing about CC was the fact that I could set my own rates and author rights. The worst thing about CC was that the site took one-third of my earnings from the article sale price. Also, some clients would request time- or subject-specific content and then never buy the content I created. This led to my wasting a lot of time with CC writing requests, at least until I figured out that I should stop writing for specific client requests and just submit “evergreen” content that anyone would want to purchase.
Examiner was another bag entirely. The site paid only via page views. Since Examiner is well known in journalistic circles, my pay per article was initially quite high. Then, just like with AC, Examiner underwent some kind of Google reconfiguration. My 50+ articles, each of which earned me a buck per month, went to earning me maybe 10 cents per month. It became fruitless to continue writing for Examiner, unless I just wanted to broadcast some big news.
I kept looking for new writing sites with which to sign on. I tried Helium but didn’t like how member earnings were determined by votes. I also tried HubPages, InfoBarrel, Demand Studios, and Triond. Through I’ve Tried That’s Free Directory of Online Money Making Opportunities, I found out about and later posted a review of Textbroker, a freelance writing site that can fetch $0.05 per word or more. To this day, I write content for Textbroker; it is by far one of my best money-making writing sites.
An interesting phenomenon occurred every now and then: potential freelance writing clients would contact me directly using either my personal finance or Haelix Communications websites. The clients were finding me through my published content on sites such as AC, Examiner, InfoBarrel and HubPages. I began obtaining direct writing assignments from these clients, and often for a higher rate of pay too. This got me thinking about the amount of clients and money I needed per month in order to “retire” from my current job. Given that I already generated as much as $1K from certain clients and ”content mills”, my proposed retirement might be possible. The question I now had was, how could I empirically determine if freelance writing would support me financially?
Looking at my monthly expenses, I knew that my mortgage bill of $930 took the biggest bite out of my income. There were also monthly utility bills totaling about $400 per month. I added up my income from AC, Google, my websites and Examiner and decided to track it for a period of four months. This would help me understand if I could survive without my current job. My reasoning was that if I earned enough money to at least pay off my mortgage every month, then working full time at my freelance writing “gig” would provide enough of an income for me to quit my job.
The breakdown of my earnings outside of my regular job for the next four months were as follows:
When I added up all of my earnings from the above noted freelance writing and freelance writing-related activities, the total amount was $3,771.69, which worked out to $942.92 per month. I had earned enough money to actually pay off my monthly mortgage.
What happened next? Well, I didn’t just quit my job the next day. Instead, I continued tracking my freelance writing earnings month-by-month, making sure that I could make it if a client “fired” me or otherwise terminated my contract. I also began looking for more long-term writing projects with magazines and periodicals. Interestingly enough, one of the “content mills” that I’d all but given up on, AC, was acquired by Yahoo! and started sending very lucrative writing assignments to its more seasoned writers. As a result, I was able to pick up an extra $200-$300 per month just from AC alone.
Inevitably, I felt confident enough in my skills as a freelance writer to announce my resignation at work. This was a scary, and yet an incredibly exhilarating moment in my life. I have no regrets, and I look forward to my new career.