Today on WriteWorldwide we interview Aly J. Yale, a freelance writer in the USA. Aly talks with us about niching, how to balance a successful freelancing career with a full-time job, how to set rates, and more.
1) Hi there, Aly! Please introduce yourself to the WriteWorldwide community – tell us a little about you and your career as a writer.
My name is Aly J. Yale, and I’m a full-time freelance writer based in Houston, Texas. I specialise in mortgage, real estate and marketing-related content.
2) Did you grow up wanting to be a writer, and how did you break into the industry?
I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing, but it wasn’t until college that I really considered it to be any sort of career option. I started as copy writer at our campus newspaper and eventually worked my way up to reporter, news editor and, finally, managing editor. I loved the experience and knew I never wanted to do anything else.
Once I graduated, I began working for The Dallas Morning News. When I went freelance in 2011, I already had plenty of bylines and professional writing experience under my belt—as well as many contacts in local media—so the transition was pretty natural.
3) What advice do you have for beginner freelance writers?
Put some savings aside for a rainy day. In freelancing, your income really ebbs and flows. Once month, you’ll make $10,000, and the next, you’ll only make $3K or $4K. If your household depends on that income for mortgage payments or rent or even just groceries, you don’t want to find yourself in a bind just because work was slow for a week.
4) Do you have any advice for writers juggling freelance writing with a full-time job?
I did this in the very beginning before I took my freelancing full-time, so I know juggling both a 9-to-5 and freelance clients can be quite the struggle. The key is establishing set chunks of time each week that you can devote entirely to freelancing. Maybe it’s 8 to 9 every night, or maybe it’s 6 hours on a Sunday—whatever works for your schedule. Just make sure you don’t take on more gigs than you have time for, and be up front and clear about how quick your turnaround times are with each new client.
5) What’s your opinion on choosing a writing niche?
I think focusing on a niche is crucial. It’s really the only thing that separates you from the next writer out there. I mean, we’re all good writers. We all have a way with words—otherwise, we wouldn’t be at this game. Having a niche—as well as having plenty of clips and samples within that niche—is what can really make you stand out to a potential client. It also allows you to charge more, since you come with a level of knowledge other writers simply don’t have, and it makes finding new clients immensely easier.
6) Winning new clients is always a hot topic on the WriteWorldwide blog. What’s the most effective prospecting method you’ve used to find new work?
Hands down, the best way to bring in clients is to have a great website—one with your bio, your best samples and your contact details. It needs to be tailored to your niche, and if possible, you should optimise it for search to ensure it’s found by the type of clients you’re looking for. I’ve also found LinkedIn to be a great tool for attracting new clients.
7) What do you wish you’d known at the start of your freelance writing career?
I wish I’d known more about rate-setting. I worked for pennies in the early days, and now I realise how much of a commodity great content really is. Customers come to us to improve their businesses—and most of them are willing to pay well for quality copy that makes them look good. We shouldn’t sell ourselves or our talents short by accepting bargain-basement prices.
8) Name one book, one tool, and one article that have helped you in your writing career.
Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi is a great read, and it’s something I find myself going back to time and time again. As far as tools go, I love Wave. It makes invoicing and accounting easier—which are often the worst parts of being a freelancer!
9) Who are your biggest influences and people you admire in the freelance writing industry?
There’s no one specific, but I am a big fan of sites like ProBlogger, The Freelancer and Copyblogger, as well as the content they produce.
10) What does the future hold for you – are you involved in any new projects related to writing?
I have a few magazine cover stories coming out: one for DS News and one for MReport. Both stories allowed me to speak with some pretty special and influential people—people who’ve had a lot to do with the civil rights movements of our country. Those are both pieces I’m particularly proud of.
For more on Aly, visit her website. What’s your top takeaway from Aly’s words of wisdom? Let us know in the comments!