Before I tell you how I made enough money to finally visit my family, I need to give you a little bit of background on why it was important for me to visit them in the first place. So grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and sit back, because this is going to be a long story.
If you’re impatient or have little time, scroll down to #1 on the list, where I start explaining how I reached my goal.
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In 1997, my family (father, stepmother, sister, brother and me) moved to Chicago for what was supposed to be a 1-year portion of my father’s PhD. IIT liked his research and offered him a grant that allowed him to finish his PhD there.
And that’s how our 1-year move to the U.S. turned into 4 years. After 4 years away from Brazil, we knew there was no way we were going back. And that’s how we ended up immigrating to Canada in December of 2000, in the middle of a snowstorm.
My mother was able to immigrate to Canada some years later as well. My sister returned to the U.S. for university, met her dream man, and stayed in Illinois. But all in all, I have most of my immediate family in the same province where I live, and see them at least 3 or 5 times a year (my sister at least once).
That doesn’t mean I didn’t leave dear family members behind when I moved away twenty years ago. For the last 5 years I lived in Brazil, my family lived at my paternal grandparents’ home, and my grandparents shared a great deal of responsibility in raising my siblings and me. That made it hard to move away, and even harder to deal with the distance and the inability to visit them.
When I left Brazil in 1997, we didn’t know we were moving away forever. We left behind our grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, dog, and a large extended family whom we love dearly.
And then I didn’t return for 10 years. People died. My dog died. Cousins’ children were born. And we missed participating in a lot of major life events for people we were used to seeing every week and having lunch at my grandparents’ home with almost every weekend.
I finally went back to Brazil for a visit during my honeymoon in 2007. My family met my husband, whom I had dated for 5 years, for the first time. My cousins, who were children when I left Brazil, were now fully grown. It was a very special visit.
My husband and I were able to return in 2009 and then again in 2011, but after having children, it became financially impossible to travel that far. Tickets from Canada to Brazil are extremely prohibitive any time of year, and so a number of years passed and I coudn’t visit my family.
In 2016, my grandfather became very ill. He had been ill for a number of years and had some major health issues, but this time we knew the time was near to say goodbye. And I knew I had to see him one last time.
I had been writing online for fun for a number of months, and I decided that if I worked hard, I could make enough from my writing to be able to purchase a ticket to see my grandpa. It wouldn’t be enough for my whole family to go yet, but at least I would have a chance to say goodbye. So I got to work and earned enough not only to see grandpa, ,but even to enjoy a couple of days at the beach before coming home to Canada.
Here are the steps I took to reach my goal. Perhaps my story will inspire you to have confidence that being a professional writer is possible and that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams.
Here’s how I did it.
1. I got published on a multi-author site
I invested in a course and learned what I needed to learn to get published on a multi-author site. To be honest, I could have learned what I needed to learn without the course, but taking it did help me get published faster. I explain the steps I took to get published in this post.
I wrote a couple more articles for that site, and then used the clips to get published on another, larger, and more recognized site.
Both of these sites do not pay writers, and while I disagree with this practice, writing for them did allow me to get published on paid sites. I’ll discuss when and why to write (or not) for free on a later post, so stay tuned.
2. I got my first paid gig
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 (and that I work part-time, so that’s about all I could handle at the time).
3. I continued to work on my blog.
In addition to this site, I also own www.marianamcdougall.com. I consider marianamcdougall.com my personal project, and therefore, it does not get me paid. It does, however, serve three purposes:
- It provides a space in which to write about things that interest me;
- It provides a space in which to practice my craft;
- It provides a space in which to build a following and to get to know my readers.
As I’m building MultiTalented Writers, I’m not posting as often on my personal blog, but I will be taking it up again as soon as I understand what I’m doing here more fully (WordPress is absolutely wonderful, but there’s definitely a learning curve for the non-techy among us).
4. I created a writer’s website.
I already had marianamcdougall.com, 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.
5. I invested in a freelance writing course.
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.
6. I was contacted about editing and added this service to my writer’s website.
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. Editing is now a major part of my business, and currently, I do more editing than writing, though I enjoy both.
7. I took an email copywriting course and joined The Writer’s Den.
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.
8. I joined a freelance writing challenge on Facebook.
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 my personal 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.
It’s also one of the few writing groups on Facebook where I feel everyone wants to help each other and not just get something for themselves. There’s genuine interaction there, and I enjoy participating.
9. 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 ghostwriting for a client’s life coaching blog. I’ve since written web and ad copy for all kinds of small businesses and edited a number of pieces, from novels to MBA applications.
10. 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 also pitch companies whenever I feel like I can handle more clients. Because I work part-time and my family always comes first, I choose to only take on as many clients as I can handle with my limited time.
11. I discovered I’m a scanner/multipotentialite/renassaince soul,and I put this discovery to good use.
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 multitalented nature. That’s when I started creating niche mind maps for members of Bamidele’s 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 then encouraged me to create an eBook of my mind maps, saying they’d be useful for other writers. And that’s how this website, multitalentedwriters.com, was born. I did write that Mind Map guide, and you can get your free copy when you sign up for a free lifetime membership to this website.
There are so many writers out there who feel pressured to specialize, when they work best when they write in multiple niches. Don’t feel like you have to follow the dime-a-dozen advice to “niche or else.” That’s just not reality, and it’s not how creative people are built to work.
12. Goal achieved: I used earnings from my writing to purchase my ticket and see my grandpa.
In less than three months, working part-time, I was able to earn enough to purchase a ticket to Brazil, bring spending cash, and rent a little hotel room by the beach, so I could have a little down time before coming home.
I was able to spend time with my grandpa and say my goodbye.
My grandfather passed away in August of this year, so I am deeply thankful that I had a chance to see him one last time. Without the earnings I was able to make from my writing, that visit would not have been possible.
I’d be lying if I said I was able to accomplish all of this on my own. There are several people who I rely on when I feel like I need an extra push, and at several points, when I felt like I had no support system, these people lifted me up and gave me that support, sometimes without even realizing it.
I’ve thanked them before, but I’ll never tire of thanking (and embarrassing them), both in private and in public.
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 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 visited my family in Brazil, and for being my rock for the last 16 years.
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 also cared for my children while I visited my family in Brazil.
Thank you to Rebecca Fraser, who also helped us with childcare while I was visiting my family.
Thank you to my in-laws, who helped Daniel while I was away.
And thank you to all my readers and social media followers, without whose support none of this would be possible.
I’m continuing to work on my writing and editing, and I’m confident that if you have a dream of becoming a professional writer of any kind, you can do it. There are many different ways to make a living as a writer, and if you can think outside of the box, there are many things you can accomplish to turn your dream into reality. Here’s a mind map to get you started.
I believe one of the main reasons I was able to achieve my goal is because I remembered to set one in the first place. What is the first goal you wish to accomplish as a writer?