Everything you need to start a profitable freelance writing business
Hi, I’m James (That's me in the picture above).
Back in 2014 I was a dead-broke shoe salesman trying to clear $18,000 worth of debts.
I dreamt of being a freelance writer and having more freedom. To travel, to work from home and to spend more time with my family. But, I felt bound to my day-job.
People kept saying to me, “James, you need a stable income”. And I kept believing them.
I had no qualifications, no training, and I’d just scraped through high school English by the skin of my teeth. Who was I to be a professional writer anyway?
So, I continued to drag myself out of bed, don my starchy red uniform, and venture into work for 10 hours of customer-service hell in a shop that stunk of the sewage plant over the road.
One May I thought I’d hit the jackpot. My Boss offered me a tonne of hours. “Wow” I thought to myself, “This could really make a difference to my debts”.
After five long weeks of hard work and even harder customers, I eagerly awaited my pay-cheque to see how much I’d earned.
To say I was disappointed would be the understatement of the year (here’s an actual screenshot of my bank account):
£615.12. Yep. And that was a good month.
When I saw this I knew I needed to make a change in my life. I was shackled to this dead end job that made me miserable, and it wasn’t even paying me well.
“If I’m going to be broke” I said to myself, “I might as well be a broke writer”.
That evening I went for dinner at my friends house and I told Rebekah about my idea. She showed me a freelancing job board she’d be trying to find work on, and suggested I set myself up on it too.
It had thousands of people looking for a writers like me. I couldn't believe it! But...
...that’s when the fear set in. My hands began to shake and I had this sinking feeling in my stomach. I began to ask myself, “Am I really going to do this?”.
There were so many jobs. That meant there had to be so many writers to fit them. I asked myself lots of questions:
- Would my writing be good enough?
- Would people laugh at my work?
- How would I cope without a "stable" income?
- How would I get seen with no portfolio and no experience?
Just thinking about it almost gave me a panic attack.
But my dream kept coming back to me: my dream of writing, travelling and spending more time with my family, without worrying about my debts. I couldn’t escape it.
Driving home that evening I found myself pulling my car over to the side of the road, and in the dead of night, looking at freelancing jobs once again.
I decided to set myself a goal to see what I was capable of:
Match day-job income through writing and quit before Christmas.
That meant earn at least £615.12 in one month through freelance writing in the next five months.
If I didn't achieve it, I'd give up on my dream and resign myself to the world of normal work. At least I'd tried.
...But how was I going to do it? How was I going to achieve this goal?
Do I start a portfolio? Do I write for my own blog? Do I reach out to people on LinkedIn? Do I look for local businesses? Do I learn how to pitch? Do I...you get the idea.
It felt like I was trying to climb Everest without a map, a sherpa or even a bloody backpack. I’d just sit there, looking at the mountain in front of me, unsure of which trail would take me to the top.
Then one day I saw Tim Ferriss talking about dietary “Lead Dominoes” on YouTube.
These were the foods people would eat and send them into a frenzy of eating all of the cakes, biscuits and sugar in the house. (I’ve been there). But that’s when it hit me…
What if I could find the lead dominoes for freelance writing? The main tasks that would help everything else in my business fall into place.
I decided to create a 60 minute a day plan - the amount of time I could spare around my job - to help me tackle these tasks. Kind of like a gym program, but for starting a writing business. I wouldn’t allow myself to go to bed until I’d completed one of these tasks.
The first few weeks were tough. They made me question my entire decision to do this. Sometimes it made my day-job look like a walk in the park!
Some clients hated my writing style. Others rejected me through lack of experience. Some of them never even acknowledged that I’d written to them.
I always imagined I was competing against Jack. I don’t know why he was called Jack. But he was a tall, dark, handsome man and a great writer. He had an amazing portfolio, an incredible writing style and could woo clients with little effort.
Throughout my life I’d been rejected for someone better; for people like Jack.
Every university I applied for. My dream job in the Royal Air Force. The girls I was smitten with. The other kids at school. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why would this time be any different?”.
Rejection was always scary. The thought of hitting send on a pitch or publish on a blog post and getting knocked down by it turned my stomach inside out. To find out I just wasn’t good enough.
...but the fear of spending my life in that dead-end job was much worse. To fail at freelance writing would mean I’d spend the coming years of my life back in that storeroom with the stink of sewage.
In the face of rejection and failure, I ploughed on.
I found the “lead dominoes” and did what I could to knock them over. If I failed, I wrote down what happened, and tried to find a new way to tackle it.
One morning before work I got up at 05:45.
I took a look at the job boards and found a writing gig that sounded too good to be true. It was perfect for me and had been posted just a few minutes ago. (Late in the USA, early in the UK).
If I could pitch now, I’d probably be the first person in his inbox. The opportune moment.
I took what I learned over the last few weeks and put it into my pitch. I used every technique I could think of and poured everything into it.
...then the cursor hovered over the send button.
I just couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger. My heart was pounding and my hands shook. If I got rejected from this it would crush me. But If I got this, it could change my life forever.
I closed my eyes.
I took one big, deep breath.
Then I clicked send.
The adrenaline coursed through my body and I had to go for a run just to try and bring myself back down from it.
The rest of the day was spent locked in the store room away from my phone. The suspense was killing me. I spent all day waiting to see if I’d got a response. If my fate had been decided.
After my shift I turned on my phone and…
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
Another moment of silence and rejection, I guessed. I was heartbroken.
Then, at around 23:00 as I was getting ready for bed, a notification came on my phone. It was an email from the client…
He wanted to hire me.
Jesus, I could have cried. Someone wanted my writing and thought I was good enough to write an entire eBook for them. And he wanted to pay me more than my current monthly salary for the two week project.
It was then that I knew I could make a success of this. That I had a future in freelance writing. Using the momentum from getting this job, and the 60-minute a day plan I’d created, I carried on pitching for more freelance writing work.
And, on September 20th 2014, I walked into the manager’s office with a big smile on my face and handed him my letter of resignation. A couple of months ahead of my December deadline.
Over the next three months, I went on to earn more than $4,779 from my writing. Something that would have taken me seven months to achieve in my dead-end job:
But more than money, I’ve gained the freedom I was always looking for.
Since that September afternoon: I’ve travelled to over 20 countries. Hiked across Spain. Spent more time with my friends and family than ever before. And, relocated to Germany to be with my girlfriend. All thanks to freelance writing.
And, my income? Well my individual invoices look a little different than my entire monthly paycheck used to.
Now, I want to turn the focus to you…
If you want to learn how you too can knock down these “lead dominoes” for yourself, and unlock a world of freelance writing freedom, then I have an offer for you.
I’ve created a free email course that shows you exactly what these dominoes are, and how you can knock them down in just 60 minutes a day. (It’s a system I call The 60 Minute Writer).
It allows you to identify the 20% of your business where you should be focusing 80% of your time, and how to make your business stand out, even if you have no qualifications or experience running a business.
If you’re serious about starting your freelance writing business, breaking free of your dead-end job, making more time for your family, and getting your voice heard, then go ahead and sign up to the mailing list below.
I’ll send you the first email after you confirm your subscription to the mailing list.
I look forward to seeing you over there,
James “Lead Domino” Johnson
PS: In your first email you’ll also learn about how a Celtic-Rock band absolutely SAVED my business, and taught me the most profitable lesson I’ve ever learned. It’s a lesson you definitely do not want to miss!
Free 60 Minute Writer Email Course
What other writers are saying:
James knows his shit. After a few months of following his advice, I was making more money from freelancing than my day job. This gave me the ability to quit working for "the man" and be my own boss.Daniel Wallen, The Wallen Way
When James took me under his wing I was struggling. But he was able to take a step back, look at the bigger picture for me and put me on the best path. It wasn’t a cookie cutter solution, he really cared. The guidance I had turned things around for me. Now, have the confidence to work for clients I choose, on my terms.Rebekah Donovan
Everybody looking to carve out a career in freelancing can learn something from James. He helped me make the best decision of my career.D.J Falconer, Dan The Writer