“I’ve Been Downsized Out of My Job and Want to Start a Freelance Writing Business: Where Do I Start?”

This past Wednesday, I received an email from a full-timer who was being laid off of her job. She wrote, in part:

As of tomorrow, I will be officially out of work one week. Last Thursday, the higher ups in the investment firm I worked for showed up with little white envelopes in their hands.

“We’re sorry,” they said, “but we are closing the office. We’ve lost too much money to keep it open. Here are your severance papers.” We cleaned out our desks, turned in our key cards, got our envelopes, and that was that. It wasn’t a complete and total surprise that they did this, but the suddenness of it was startling.

I have been following you for years and even participated in your ‘Ebook in 3 Days’ challenge. While reading your emails, I always wondered what it would be like to have my own writing business. And now, the Universe just handed me an opportunity to try it out.

I am going to dust off and re-read my purchases from you (How to Write SEO Copy That Sells, How to Make $250+/day Writing Simple 500-Word Articles, 7 Ebooks in 1, and Why I Almost Quit SEO Writing). I hope you don’t mind if I ask a few questions as I go through the material. 🙂

Wish me luck! And thank you, by the way, for sharing your knowledge.

Following is my response.

The First Step to Take to Become a Freelance Writer

The Very First Thing You Should Do When You Decide to Become a Freelance WriterFirst, congrats to this aspiring freelancer for taking the bull by the horns and turning lemons into lemonade, as I responded to her. Now, where to start?

The very first thing I recommend doing is defining a niche. Why? Because everything will flow from this – how you set up your website, what you’ll charge, the services you’ll offer, etc. Once you decide on a niche, the rest is basically doing the mechanics, eg, crafting writing samples, putting together a marketing list, writing copy for your website, etc.

How to Choose a Freelance Writing Niche: 4 Tips

1) Stay Broad: Whatever niche you decide on, make it as broad as possible in the beginning. For example, if you want to be a legal SEO writer, just stick with legal, don’t niche it down to “legal copy for malpractice attorneys.”

The reason you want to stay as broad as possible – especially in the beginning – is so you can cast your net as wide as possible, of course. Later on, you can create a more targeted niche if you want.

2) Your Rate: When you’re researching niches, be sure that the one you settle on pays what you need to earn to meet your financial obligations.

While you may love fashion, in most cases, that type of content is not going to pay as well as technology, for example. And there’s nothing that can cause burn-out faster than writing for slave wages.

3) Your Experience: Is it something you want to draw on? For example, this aspiring freelancer says that she worked for an investment firm. This happens to be an excellent, high-paying freelance writing niche. She can put the skills and knowledge she gained in her full-time job to use as a freelancer if she wants.

4) Your Desire: But, what if this new freelancer hated her job and the last thing she wants to write about is finance/investing? Even though she could potentially make a lot of money, is it something she should pursue?

In my opinion, no because she will be miserable. And there’s nothing more energy draining than doing something you don’t like, especially when there’s so much you have to do as a business owner that you don’t get outright “paid” for, eg, marketing, billing, research, follow-up, etc.

So if you don’t want to use an existing skill set – even if you can earn boo coo dollars as a freelance writer with it – then don’t. By all means, target a niche where you have an interest and/or a passion. This will make those endless, unpaid tasks so much easier to follow through on.

As an aside, there are always going to be projects you work on as a freelance writer that hold no interest for you. Just know that going in. But don’t choose a niche you hate just because it pays well. It will make the longest day on a job seem like a cakewalk compared to what it’ll feel like when you’re doing it as a freelancer.

Why Didn’t You List These 2 Things?

Competition and demand: why didn’t you say anything about these?” you may be wondering.

Because in my opinion – and experience – when it comes to demand, there isn’t a business niche in this world that doesn’t need some type of content. Your job is to figure out what it is, eg, white papers, blog content, viral marketing ebooks, newsletter copy, auto responders, social media content, etc. Every business can use the services of a freelance writer – just be sure to choose a niche that is wide enough (ie, where there are enough prospects so that you can make a living).

As for competition – I use them to gauge what to charge and what services to offer, NOT to determine if there’s too much competition. The reason is, I’ve learned that there can never be too much competition.

I’ve been a real estate agent and a recruiter – two of the most saturated fields there are – and there’s always room for another one. How many of you know a realtor? I bet you probably know more than one if you think about it. So again, there’s no such thing as too much competition because as I wrote on this post, it’s how YOU run your business that determines your success; not how “crowded” a field is.


I’ve lost quite a few jobs in my day and while it can seem like the end of the world – especially if you’re not prepared financially – it can really be a whole new beginning. It’s all in how you frame it.

I’ve been freelancing since 1993, and except for an 18-month stint between the spring of 2006 and the fall of 2007, I’ve done it full-time. When I got downsized out of my last job in 2007 – just like this aspiring freelancer – I looked for another job for a while. I got so discouraged though and in a fit of frustration, deleted my resume from my hard drive.

I was determined to make freelancing work because I didn’t ever want to be in that position again. It took a couple of years of non-stop work, but I finally got to a place where I felt secure in the knowledge that I’d never have to go back to work for someone else again. You can do the same. I hope this post has given you some insight into how to go about it.

P.S.: Learn How to Get Fiscally Fit In Order to Freelance Full-Time – and So Much More.

P.P.S.: SEO Is the Foundation of Writing for the Web. Get SEO Copywriter Training Today to Capitalize on the Many Opportunities Online Writing Offers.

The average salary for SEO writers has fluctuated from around $40,000 to about $70,000/year since I started tracking it in 2009; this is for full-time web writers. Freelancers can earn more because they get to set their own rates and can take on as many or few clients as they want. So sign up today and get started right away.

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FYI, did you know you can use Bill Me Later (aka PayPal Credit) to pay later? You can! I use it all the time to make purchases online – it’s a wonderful way to get what you need now if you’re a little cash strapped.

P.P.P.S.: We’re always looking for great, informative guest posts. 🙂

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    1. I really liked your response to #4 because I worked in Public Health/HIV & AIDS and never wanted to write in that industry once I left it and I refused to do it because I knew I would hate it.

      In regards to Competition, I loved your answer because, I believe I am my own competition- we all bring something unique to the table that the next person doesn’t(have).

      Great post as always and you surely have persevered and are a great role model and mentor!

      • Glad my answers resonated with you Esayo, and for being a real live example for not doing work that you know you won’t find joy in. So many don’t believe me when I say this, but it’s so true.

        Good for you for knowing yourself well enough to know what you want/don’t want from your freelance writing career. 🙂