Hi WriteWorldwiders! Thanks for being here, and welcome to the latest in our series of advice-packed writer interviews. Today’s interview is with Christina Vanvuren, a digital health writer based in Atlanta.
We first heard of Christina through her awesome Earn Big as a Young Freelance Writer course. We knew she had lots of great advice to share with aspiring freelance writers, so we reached out to see if she’d like to be interviewed.
Thankfully she agreed, and was kind enough to share her insights! Here’s what she had to say …
1) Hi Christina, please tell us a little about yourself and your website.
Hi! So, by profession, I’m a digital health writer and I teach a course for people who want to earn more from freelance writing. I get way too excited about technology and all the breakthroughs that are making healthcare more accessible and affordable. I never even knew I could get excited about that kind of stuff!
2) Did you grow up wanting to be a writer? And how did you break into the industry?
Yes! I’ve been writing since I can remember. I wanted to write for magazines (and be a magazine editor), so I’d read literally any magazine I could get my hands on. My grandmother had stacks of old magazines (like from the 80s!) sitting around and I devoured them.
Not sure if you could call it breaking into the industry but I had a book published in third-grade. I won a contest and my book about a pumpkin thief was published for the school library. I’d like to think my writing style has matured since then!
As far as writing professionally, I started writing for some online publications in 2014. It was just an article here and there but it really fuelled my desire to write for a living. In 2015, I quit my job to write full-time.
3) How long after deciding on this career did you establish yourself as a full-time writer?
Since I quit my boring corporate job to write, I threw myself into it. I made the decision that it was going to work out, no matter what. So I worked really hard for the first year.
By early 2016, I had replaced my income and had a full client roster. But during the early days, I would literally write anything for anyone — I just wanted to write! Now, I have a sort of wait-list. I can’t take on every project that comes my way, which is an awesome problem to have.
4) What’s your opinion on the subject of choosing a writing niche?
I always say that, unless you’re very skilled in a certain area (like if you have a degree in bioengineering and want to write about that), you should let your niche find you.
I write primarily for digital health brands but I never set out to do that. I actually wanted to be a travel writer! But when I saw that a digital health company had received funding, I decided to pitch them. I got the gig and I loved it, so I started pitching more companies in the industry.
When you narrow down too soon, I think you limit yourself and miss out on potentially lucrative opportunities in a field that you wouldn’t have even thought to focus on.
5) 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?
When I first started, I read all these blogs about how to find clients and the kinds of emails you should send them. My method has veered pretty far from the traditional letter of inquiry, though.
I stay on top of industry news and when I see a company I want to work with (especially if they’ve just received venture capital funding), I send a short email — like 2 to 3 small paragraphs, max. — and ask if they need a writer. It’s so simple and I have about a 75% response rate.
6) What do you wish you’d known at the start of your freelance writing career?
I really wish someone had told me to just figure out what worked for me. I tried to listen to everyone’s advice and ended up burning myself out. I didn’t have a lot of clients — or very good clients — when I was doing that.
When I kind of threw away everything I thought I knew and started playing around with different ideas, I finally started gaining some momentum.
Oh, and you don’t need a blog to be a freelance writer. I don’t have one and it has never been an issue.
7) Name one book, one tool, and one article that have helped you in your writing career.
Book — The Freelancer’s Bible by Sara Horowitz. She lays out literally everything you need to know about running a freelance business and it’s insanely helpful.
Tool — Dubsado. It’s an all-in-one project management/invoicing system. It’s $20 a month and saves me countless hours.
Article — Oh, I don’t know if I can think of just one article. I love Seth Godin’s blog. Everything he says is gold. I also really like to read articles on HubSpot or Kissmetrics. Being a great writer is necessary but it’s also important to know how to make your content successful.
8) Keeping motivated can be tough for many freelance writers. How do you keep yourself motivated and productive as a writer?
So, I don’t always stay motivated. It’s impossible to be motivated all the time. There are days when I just don’t feel like working. This is my dream job but, still, work is work and it’s not always exciting.
Instead of trying to motivate myself, I stay disciplined. Even when I don’t feel like working, I do. When you show up for yourself and your clients 100%, you feel good. That motivates you to keep going.
As far as being productive, I set office hours and have an office space that I use primarily for work. I’m so much more focused when I get dressed (not in yoga pants but like real, adult human clothes) and sit down at my desk.
9) Who are your biggest influences and people you admire in the freelance writing industry?
Ya know, I really admire anyone who can take the fantasy of being a freelance writer and turn it into their career. It takes a lot of sweat and a lot of willpower. Carol Tice is pretty awesome (she’s the one who picked up my freelance writing course — I don’t know if so many people would have noticed it otherwise).
10) What does the future hold for you – are you involved in any writing projects other than freelancing?
Writing is both my passion and my career so I wish I could say that I was pursuing it more in my free time. I’ll probably write a book one of these days but, for now, I’ve got my head down and am focused on scaling my brand. I do write in a journal every day!