Location: Pennsylvania, United States
Bio: Marc has been a full-time blogger and internet marketer since 2008, with blogs in different industries like web design, photography, and finance. He is the founder of the personal finance blog VitalDollar.com.
How long have you been doing freelance work?
More than 5 years.
Tell us about your freelance business, in 200 words or less.
I do freelance writing in a few different niches: web design, photography, and finance. I started freelancing in 2007, but I haven’t been doing it that entire time. I wrote for multiple web design blogs from 2007-2009, and then in 2009 I scaled back because income from my own blog had increased. I did some freelance writing, again related to web design, from 2013-2014 after I sold my blog and while I was working on building up the income from a new site I had started.
In 2018 I sold a photography blog and for the past year I’ve been doing freelance writing for a few web design and photography blogs, and I’ve also moved into the finance space as well. Basically, I’ve used freelance writing as a way to make money until my own projects grow. After selling a website, my income drops. So at those times it’s nice to be able to do some freelance work and bring in some money.
What do you consider to be your specialty. How does it help you in your business?
Right now I have 4 clients and they are all people that I knew before I pitched my writing services to them. So obviously networking has been a really big part of landing those gigs. I prefer working for smaller blogs because they are a lot easier to work with than the extremely popular blogs that have a team of editors and writers. With 3 of my 4 current clients, I deal directly with the blog owner. I have one client that uses a freelance editor as a middleman, but she’s been really good to work with.
What made you become a freelancer?
I actually stumbled onto it accidentally. I started my first blog in 2007 and I wrote guest posts for a few different blogs to start getting some exposure. One of the bloggers really liked my guest post and asked me to write one article per week for him on a freelance basis. I tried it and found it was a pretty good way to make money, so I looked for a few other clients and scaled up a little.
What do you love most about freelance work, and why?
I love the flexibility. It’s a great way to make money without long-term commitment. I can stop doing it whenever the income from my own websites and blogs gets to a certain point, and I can find work pretty quickly whenever I need it. I’ve never freelanced full-time, but it’s always been kind of a back plan that I know I can turn to in an emergency.
What do you hate about it?
Writing can be draining. I enjoy doing it part-time, but I think it would be hard for me to write full-time.
Tell us about your first paid job. How did you land your first client?
Yes, it was through the guest post that I mentioned earlier.
Do you think aspiring freelancers should take unpaid work to gain experience? Why or why not?
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to do a small amount of unpaid work if you are able to do it. A lot of people may be in a situation where they need to make money and get paid for their time, so that makes things tough. But I’ve written a lot of guest posts for different blogs over the years, which is unpaid work. While it has given me some valuable experience, I mainly did it for exposure. I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing any unpaid work on a regular basis for the same client, unless it is part of an official internship.
Do you feel you’re charging what you’re worth?
Yes, I think so. At times when I’ve had my own websites and blogs doing well (before I sold them) I made more than I could have made by freelancing. But I don’t take freelance gigs unless I feel like I’m getting paid a fair rate. I’d say I got there just by taking the right jobs. I’ve had very few freelance jobs over the years that I felt were underpaid.
Describe your process for finding new clients? Where do you look?
I really don’t have much of a process other than looking at people in my personal network to see who might be in need of my services. I’ve thought about looking for some additional clients, and if I do that, I will start by contacting a few companies/websites that I know to hire freelance writers.
If you know of a few freelance writers who cover the same topics as you, you can do a Google search of their name to find out what sites they write for. By doing this, I know of a number of sites that I could pitch, and I may do that in the future. From my experience, the jobs that you find on your own will usually pay better than those that you find on a freelancers’ job board.
Have you ever had to ‘fire’ a client? If so, why and how did you do it?
I would’t say I’ve fired clients, but I have stopped working for several different clients over the years. It’s not really because the client did anything wrong, simply because I felt my time was better served managing my own websites and blogs.
Name 3 tools (apps, equipment) that you can’t live without. What makes them so great?
Grammarly, WordPress, and Google Docs.
What is your #1 productivity hack?
As far as freelance writing goes, my biggest thing is tracking the amount of time I spend on each article. I’m paid either per word or per article, depending on the client, but I want to know how much I am making per hour. I have a spreadsheet where I track the details for each article, like how much I am paid and how much time I put in. That way I can easily see how much I am making per hour. It also keeps me motivated to work quickly and stay on task because I know that will impact my hourly rate.
Do you outsource tasks? Why or why not? If so, which ones?
No, not related to my freelance writing. I do outsource some tasks related to managing my own blogs. I actually hire other freelance writers, which may seem odd, but I have a reason for that. I hire other writers to write content (for my blogs) that is outside of my area of expertise. Also, my rates are higher than some freelancers, so I might be able to write one article as a freelancer and turn around and use that money to get two articles for my own blog.
In your opinion, what is the most important skill required for freelance work, and why?
Communication. You have to be able to communicate effectively with clients. I know that is the biggest thing for me when I hire freelancers. If the communication is poor, I don’t even want to work with them. Good communication goes a long way.
Do you consider yourself a strong time manager? How do you stay organized?
I think I’m pretty good with managing my time. I’ve been self-employed and working from home for almost 11 years. I have to be effective with my time or my business won’t survive. I stay organized by using a simple to-do list. I create a new list each week, and then at the end of each day I create a list for the following day. It really helps me to stay on task and to keep moving forward.
Do you also work a 9-5? If so, how do you balance it with your freelance business?
My 9-5 is managing my own websites and blogs. Right now, I’d say I spend about 75% of my working time on my own websites and blogs and about 25% of my time freelancing. For the first year I was freelancing, I did have a full-time job as an auditor. I would come home and work in the evenings to grow my own blog and do work for clients.
Where do you do most of your work?
All of my work is done in my home office, except for times when I’m travelling with my family, which is a few weeks per year.
Do you use a co-working space? Tell us a bit about it.
No, I don’t. I don’t think I would work very well in that environment.
Name an entrepreneur/freelancer/influencer who inspires you. What is it about their story/message that resonates?
I’d say Nick Loper from Side Hustle Nation. I’m a big fan of his blog and podcast because he covers so many different and interesting ways to make money.
Name 1 thing you would do differently, if you were starting over today?
I don’t think I would do anything differently, other than start sooner.
What is your #1 tip for aspiring freelancers?
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I think a lot of aspiring freelancers see the appeal of working as a freelancer, but they get nervous about trying to find clients or feel like they’re not good enough to get hired. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t put yourself out there.
MMM: Thanks for sharing your wisdom on the blog! I found it interesting that you prefer to work for smaller websites/blogs when, for many freelancers, the tendency seems to lean towards constantly striving to work for bigger brands and clients.
I’m so excited for next weeks guest! Kim is a full-time freelance engineer from Wyoming, who specializes in sustainable design and construction. One of my goals with this interview series is to feature freelancers across a wide variety of fields. So when I found out Kim was an engineer, I knew I definitely wanted to feature her story here on the blog. Stay tuned!!
Tools & Resources
- Vital Dollar
- Connect with Marc on LinkedIn
- Follow Marc on Twitter
- Like Vital Dollar on Facebook
- Side Hustle Nation
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