Here’s the latest installment of our interview series where we talk to successful freelance writers in the hopes that their stories will inspire you to make that leap from part-time to full-time writing.
This week we’re talking to the newest member of the WriteWorldwide crew Ciaran McEneaney. When he’s not helping us out here at WriteWorldwide, Ciaran runs content and translation agency Gecko Create.
Now we won’t ask Ciaran to introduce himself as he has already done so and explained how he got into freelance writing right here. But we will ask him a few more questions about his journey.
What steps did you take to launch your freelance writing career and how quickly did you see results?
I trawled the jobs boards and applied for every single job I could find. Now it’s not necessarily something I would recommend, but at that time I had no real guidance from websites like WriteWorldwide as I didn’t even know such things existed.
I adopted a strategy something akin to spaghetti marketing where you throw stuff at a wall and see what sticks. In my case I just applied for everything that was related to writing regardless of my experience, or should I say lack of experience.
It worked pretty well as within a month or two I had several clients although they were quite low paying as I explained in my post From $15 to $300.
Tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced. How did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge was imposter syndrome. Early on I genuinely felt as though I was cheating my clients out of money because I wasn’t that good. I would forever question my worth and the value I brought to the table, and that didn’t stop until some of my clients recommended me to other businesses.
My other major problem (and it still kind of is) has to do with pricing. I used to have a habit of undervaluing myself and therefore charging less than I wanted to for my work. It was only in the last couple of years that I began to realise that the only thing that happens when you set higher rates is that the quality of your clients improves.
For both challenges, I didn’t really overcome them so much as I started to see things clearly.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you at the start of your writing career?
Charge what you’re worth! I hate to beat this drum, but it’s so true. Had I known back then that clients would pay once my work was good I could have bought that boat by now.
Seriously though, the only other thing I wish someone had told me was not to spend so much time building my website. I spent hours on end learning how to do stuff that I really didn’t need to do when I could have been sending out hundreds of cold emails instead.
What techniques did/do you use to grow your business?
I spend quite a bit of time on Facebook and LinkedIn offering advice to business owners whenever possible. I think that relationships are key to a successful business and so I try to make connections wherever I can. However, I rarely pitch to those connections. Instead, I just let them know what I do by helping without expecting or asking for anything in return.
What’s the most effective method you’ve used to find new clients?
Cold email without a doubt. What I will do is choose a niche and then target businesses within that niche that either have blogs, a catalog of products, or who I think could benefit from regular content updates. The last one I did was alloy wheel makers for no other reason that it popped into my head, so you really can choose any niche at all.
I find a contact email for the company using an add-on like Hunter, or I search on LinkedIn for people that work there. I send them an email, but I make sure not to point out anything negative about their site. I do this for about 50 to 100 companies, and I usually get at least one or two jobs out of it. It takes time, but it is effective.
What does your daily routine look like?
I get up at 6.30 have breakfast with my kids, walk them to school, and then start my day’s work.
In the morning I like to get through client work because that’s usually when I’m at my best. I try to get as much done as I can before 12, so I can relax and enjoy my lunch and read for an hour.
I start again at 1pm, and this is when I send out a cold email or two or start writing up proposals for upcoming projects. I try to fit my client meetings into this block of time if possible, but with clients in different time zones, I could be on a client call any time day or night.
After I have dinner, I try to spend as much time as I can with my family. I hear a lot of talk about hustling 24/7, and I did that when I was teaching and writing, but once you’re full-time writing, there’s really no need.
Sure, you should always be on the lookout for work but what’s the point in having such a flexible work schedule if you can’t have some free time to relax.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire in the freelance writing industry?
I’ll be honest I try not to spend too much time worrying about what other people do and so I don’t really have many ‘heroes’ or people I look up to when it comes to writing. Steve Roller from Café Writer is someone who helped steer me in the right direction early on in my career, and my friend Niall who gave me that first writing job has been a constant help throughout the years but influences? None really.
I admire a lot of my clients as I see firsthand how much work they put into their businesses. I also admire the other guys here at WriteWorldwide and enjoy the way we can bounce ideas off each other before we take action.
That answer may sound like a cop-out but it’s true!
What advice would you give other writers looking to break into the industry.
Take action. The biggest obstacle a new writer will encounter is their own fear or reluctance to take action. Just get out there and start looking for work wherever you can find it. And once you have those first two or three clients, you’ll never look back.