How I made enough from my writing to finally visit my family

I have lived an international life. I grew up in Brazil, then spent my high school years in a suburb of Chicago. After that, I immigrated to Canada with my dad, stepmom, and siblings. I was fortunate enough to have my mom also move to Canada some years later. My sister moved back to Illinois after a period of time. All in all, though, I have almost my whole immediate family in the same province where I live, and I get to see most of them several times per year. Because of that, some people tend to minimize what I’ve left behind.

My last 5 years in Brazil, I lived with my grandparents. These 5 years were formative years (I was 10-15 years old), when my grandparents shared in the raising of my siblings and me. When I left Brazil, I left my mom and my grandparents, who, by the time I left, were like my third set of parents (my parents were divorced, so I already had 2 sets).

Returning to Brazil is extremely expensive, no matter the time of year. Flying to Brazil is not something I was able to do frequently. The first time I returned to Brazil was for my honeymoon in 2007 – 10 years after I had left. I returned in 2009, then 2011, and after having my second and third children, it simply wasn’t financially possible anymore. I spent another 5 years without seeing my family.

When I started writing in February of this year (2016), I did it for fun – for something to do. I did expect to make some money, but not much.

Between then and now, my 90-year-old grandpa became quite ill. I needed to see him, and I didn’t know how much time I had. It dawned on me that if I worked hard,  I could use earnings from my writing to come see my grandpa. I worked hard, and I made it happen.

For now, it’s not enough to bring my whole family (husband and three children) down, but I was able to come.

 

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It should be noted that as a homeschooling mom of three children, I work on my writing part-time – often no more that six hours per week. Yet, even with such minimal time, in a matter of months, I was able to make enough to purchase my tickets (airplane and buses), spend a day at the beach (including 2 nights’ stay at a hotel), plus bring spending money.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy. I had to deal with a lot of people who didn’t believe my abilities, I had to put yet another to-do item on my already overloaded schedule, and yes, I lost many hours of sleep. It was all worth it.

I thought I’d tell you how I got to this point, so that you can use my story as inspiration (or maybe even guidance) if you also dream of becoming a writer. Here’s how my journey has played out (so far):

I got published on a multi-author site.

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To give credit where credit is due: I watched a free webinar about getting exposure through large publications. The webinar was useful, and I learned a great deal about getting my first clip.

I then paid way too much money for a course on how to get exposure by writing (the idea was to write for free to get exposure for selling books, coaching, and to get speaking gigs).

I have since completely lost trust in this person, and therefore cut any ties. It’s a long story that I won’t discuss publicly; however, the lesson learned was: if you’re going to put out an image on the Internet in order to connect with people (especially if you’re a blogger), you need to ensure that the image you’re putting out actually reflects who you really are. If you don’t, your cover will eventually be blown, and you’ll lose a lot of followers (and your progress will backtrack).

Having said all that, the information I received did help me to get published on a multi-author site, and I then used that clip to get into another, even better recognized site. I now have my doubts about writing for free for exposure, even in the beginning. However, writing one or two free articles will help you progress more quickly into paid writing, and if you love writing the way that I do, you won’t mind doing a bit of free work here and there.

I do have connections if you need to get your first published piece. Beware that it will not be paid. If you’re still interested, sign up for the mailing list to get some tips.

I got my first paid gig.

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I looked at writer job boards and was very selective in my applications. I used my clips from the non-paying websites in order to get my first paid gig. The pay was low at US$45 per 1,500-word post with minimum 10 sourced images, but you have to start somewhere.

When the publication randomly increased the required word count to 2,250 words with minimum 15 sourced images, I asked them to increase my pay. When they didn’t, I left. It’s important to know that by this point, I already had 3 other, high-paying clients.

I continued to work on my blog.

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At this point, this blog doesn’t get me paid. It does, however, serve three purposes:

  1. It provides a space in which to write about things that interest me;
  2. It provides a space in which to practice my craft;
  3. It provides a space in which to build a following (which is why I have a mailing list for each of my topics).

Eventually, the blog will be a space in which to sell my eBooks, courses, and possibly coaching – which is why I self-host through Bluehost instead of using a free hosting service.

I sought out and was interviewed by a popular podcast.

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I started out writing about health, but I am slowly transitioning into doing more parenting writing (although I might simply continue writing about both topics).

I thus sought out and was interviewed by the Family Adventure Podcast, in which I had a blast discussing our family cycling adventure. This helped me to continue building an audience for this blog as well as my Out-of-the-Box Families Facebook group.

I created a writer’s website.

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I already had this blog, but its purpose was not to attract freelance writing clients. I thought it would be useful to create a website solely for that purpose. I created a simple website with WordPress.com, which meant I got free hosting. I did, however, pay for a domain name (more on this on a later post).

The Dreams into Goals Writing website was ready, and I had a place to showcase my samples and services. It was also a place to refer people who inevitably ask, “so what do you do?” A question that by the way, needs to die. But while it doesn’t, I can omit some information while advertising my freelance writing services.

I invested in a freelance writing course.

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I watched a super helpful webinar about starting a freelance writing career, and although there was no hard sell, I was convinced to take the course that would dive into the topic in much greater depth.

The No BS Class on Freelance Writing had excellent information on how to start a freelance writing career, and it was well worth the small investment. I highly recommend it. I took the information I learned and applied it immediately to better pitch and create useful templates that would save me time and headaches later on.

I was contacted about editing and added this service to my writer’s website.

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My friends and most acquaintances know that once upon a time, I was an English teacher. Two of these people contacted me to ask how much I would charge for editing services. I decided that since I enjoy editing and two clients basically fell on my lap, I should advertise the services. Therefore, I added them to the services page of my writer’s website.

I took an email copywriting course and joined The Writer’s Den.

The Freelance Writers Den: Learn More

I follow Carol Tice. When she announced an email copywriting course, I didn’t hesitate to use some of my writing earnings to sign up. Signing up for the course gave me an opportunity to also sign up for The Writers Den. At US$25 per month for a membership, the Writer’s Den is a steal. The Den is a treasure trove of information for all aspects of freelance writing and blogging, from starting a career to creating passive income from a small blog.

Carol is an outspoken advocate of fair pay for writers, a veteran of the trade, and an inspiration. Even if you don’t end up joining The Writer’s Den, I highly recommend that you check out and sign up for the free mailing list on her blog, Make a Living Writing.

I joined a freelance writing challenge on Facebook.

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I love making friends, I love learning new things, and I love a challenge. Bamidele Onibalusi’s Earn your first 1,000 as a Freelance Writer challenge had all of these things.

I joined the Facebook group on the same day it was created, and I put my personal guidance phrase to use: “seek to serve.” I get a lot of help from the group, but I also offer as much help as I can, using the information I have learned thus far. As a result, I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends, and I earned their trust as readers of this blog. My mailing lists subscriptions have been slowly increasing since I joined the challenge. I get so much out of this group. It’s a wonderful place full of supportive people, and it’s so nice to know I’m making a contribution.

The Facebook group is now closed, and the only way to get in is to be invited by a member. If this interests you, send me an email at mcdougallmariana@gmail.com and let me know why you’d like to join.

I took a risk and applied for a job with a gmail address as the application email.

Sometimes I get a good vibe from a job add. Since this is extremely rare, I listen to my gut when it does happen. This time, it paid off in my highest paying client up to that point, and it led to more clients paying even greater amounts. In this case, I was/am ghostwriting for a client’s blog.

I continue to pitch potential clients and publications.

I curated a personal list of potential publications, using the lists I’ve compiled on my Pinterest account. I’m slowly pitching some of the publications on this list.

I discovered I’m a scanner/multipotentialite/renassaince soul,and I put this discovery to good use.

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My friend, mentor, and editor at The Good Men Project introduced me to the term “scanner.” I watched Barbara Sher’s video, and it really resonated with me. Instead of feeling scattered, I started feeling like I had potential. But I still felt pressure to specialize as a writer, or run the risk of never finding success as one. Thus, I forgot about the term “scanner” for a while.

Later on, however, one of Nick Darlington‘s posts on the Facebook group reminded me that generalists don’t necessarily fail. His post really spoke to me on a personal level, and I decided to embrace my multi-talented nature. That’s when I started creating niche mind maps for members of our group. These maps allowed me to show other writers how to write for several different types of clients and publications while still building authority in their niche.

Several people have since encouraged me to create an eBook of my mind maps, saying they’d be useful for other writers. I’m going to be doing just that – stay tuned.

I’m currently creating products that will help me with passive income later on.

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I’ve learned a lot in a short time, and I’ve been quite successful with my writing, especially considering how little time I can devote to my work (my family will always come first). I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned so far in the following ways:

  • I’m creating and will be delivering a free course for beginning writers. This course will focus on the business of writing, rather than on the writing itself.
  • I’m working on an eBook of my mind maps.
  • I’m creating and will be offering a free mastermind group for what I’m calling versatile writers. This group will focus on helping scanner/multipotentialite/renaissance soul writers to create businesses that honour their personalities.

If you’re interested in any of the above initiatives, please sign up for the mailing list. I’ll be sharing details for each of the above in my mail-outs.

I am in Brazil with my family, after 5 years away

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I’m writing this post on November 12th, 2016. I’m currently at my grandparent’s house, writing this while they rest. This visit has been a long time coming, and earnings from my writing made it possible.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the people who encouraged me and helped me to believe I could become a successful writer in such a short period of time.

Thank you to my friend, editor and mentor, Lisa M. Blacker, whose encouraging words were so helpful, I taped them to my desk. They inspire me on a daily basis to keep working hard, even when I feel like throwing in the towel.

Thanks to Bamidele Onibalusi, who selflessly provides help to beginning writers, and who encouraged me to leave a publication that did not value my work in order to pursue bigger and better things.

Thank you to Nick Darlington, whose words inspired me to finally embrace my multi-faceted personality, both as an individual and as a writer.

Thank you to my husband, who agreed to get care for the children once per week so I could write uninterrupted during the day (thereby adding some hours of sleep into my nights). I also thank him for taking care of the children while I visit my family.

Thank you to April Lansing, whose friendship and words of encouragement I always depend on, and who always believed in my abilities as a mother, friend, and writer.

Thank you to Andrea Haynes, whose beautiful care and love for my children allow me to pursue my writing career once per week. She is also caring for my children while I’m away.

Thank you to Rebecca Fraser, who also helped us with childcare while I’m visiting my family.

Thank you to my in-laws, who have been helping Dan while I’m away.

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Thank you so much for reading! What has been your writing journey so far?

 

 

 

 

 

24 comments

  1. Awesome ~ I get so much JOY from reading of your success!
    Looking fwd to connecting with you when you arrive back home.
    Have a safe trip!
    Cheers,
    Linda 🙂

    1. Thanks Bamidele!

      There’s several missing from this photo!

      My brother, his wife and three kids, who live in Canada
      My sister, her husband and two kids, who live in the US
      One of my cousins, who was working
      Another cousin, his wife and daughter, who were preparing their house for the party the next day
      Another cousin, his wife and three kids, who live in Canada
      Several second an third cousins, who live in different cities 🙂

  2. Wow! This is interesting. Bamidele is really changing lives. I couldn’t meet up with the challenge but my life really changed. I have been able to hit the five digit figure consistently through freelance writing. May be this should challenge me to sit up and get more serious.

    1. Keep working at it. Bamidele is inspiring people, but the people themselves are doing the changing 🙂 Belief + hard work = success!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind comments!

      I have always loved writing – it’s both fun and therapeutic for me. I don’t think I’ll ever stop 🙂

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