Congrats! You’ve come far as a freelance blogger.
You’ve been featured on reputable publications. Fellow bloggers come to you for advice. You have engaged subscribers on your email list. The blog posts you create attract comments and shares. Clients find you, leaving you more time to do the stuff you enjoy doing as opposed to feeling like you have to market all the time.
The problem? You’ve grown comfortable.
Maybe you haven’t raised your rates in a while. Perhaps you’re still shying away from pitching some of your favorite blogs and brands because even though you know you’re good, impostor syndrome is making a comeback in the middle of your career. The list of things you ought to learn more about keeps growing, and overwhelm is pissing you off.
Relax. We’ve all been there.
The thing about being a freelance blogger is that there’s always something new to try and something else to improve. And that’s fantastic! Your career will never be boring. (Challenging and occasionally frustrating, yes. But boring? Never.)
So where do you begin with leaving your comfort zone? How do you raise your rates, expand your reach, get more awesome bylines, and update your website? Worry not, we’re here for every step of the way.
1: Pitch to publications that seem out of reach
If it seems scary, think about your first few bylines. Imagine the feeling you got when editors responded to you with an enthusiastic yes. Then take advantage of the adrenaline, pour some coffee, and start composing those new pitches. You already know your market by heart; go for it!
And don’t let the first few rejections or no-replies discourage you. You know rejection is not about you as a person. Sometimes, it’s not even about the idea itself. If you made sure you pitched a suitable idea professionally and succinctly, the editor isn’t displeased with you — even if you didn’t make the cut this time.
Also remember that writing for prestigious publications, even if they aren’t necessarily blogs, will open doors to well-paying content marketing and blogging clients.
It might be your second pitch that gets you in, it might be your tenth. (Which reminds me, I’ll go follow up on my pitch to the New York Times.)
2: Try new mediums to reach a bigger audience
If you’ve been only writing so far, it’s time to experiment with podcasts, videos, webinars, or audiobooks.
For me, the time has come to create video. I am, and have always been, a writer. But it’s strange I feel weird in front of the camera (and when I hear my own recorded voice) since I’m not shy, and I plan to be a part of the movie industry in the future.
In the past, my excuse was not owning a camera. But with laptops and
smartphones, I can no longer stay in my comfort zone. I started with a short
Instagram video where I actually spoke to the camera as opposed to just
capturing the scenery and people. Then I applied for a dream job in Cancun, whose application process included shooting a video of yourself explaining why you’re right for the gig.
Now I plan to record writing-related videos since my hands are suffering from nerve-entrapment again, and it’ll be killing two birds with one stone. I’m also thinking of planning a webinar and crafting a video course. Eventually.
You shouldn’t try everything at once. Do your research, and pick the medium where your audience hangs out the most. Find out their favorite ways to consume information. Think about your own resources, and go with whatever makes the most sense to you, your readers and your clients.
3: Try premium accounts on established career sites
This can be purchasing a paid membership on LinkedIn or paying for premium content from your favorite bloggers. I currently have a Mediabistro unlimited membership, which means I access all of their courses for free.
A lot of these courses teach skills that either directly help you find clients or
build on what you can offer to them. If you don’t want to risk spending money on something you think you might not like, go with sites that offer free trial memberships.
Whenever LinkedIn gives me a free month for premium, I take it. When CreativeLive offered a full-pass for seven days free, I took a course on how to write and publish an ebook to see if I could learn some new stuff (and I did).
Pro tip: Whenever you sign up for a trial membership, don’t forget to mark the end date on your calendar. This way, you can make the most of the site in the time you have, and reach a more informed decision on whether the investment is worth it. Moreover, you’ll also remember to cancel it if you aren’t content with the product.
4: Find a mentor or coach
You’ve taken courses. You’ve read books and attended webinars. You’ve applied everything you learned. Now it’s time to work with a business mentor or coach to help you plan and grow your career.
You know it’s time to work with a professional coach when you’ve done everything you can and are stuck at your current level.
But how do you go about finding one when there are so many established, well- liked blogging coaches out there?
The key is to make a list of people who:
- have a similar (or at least a compatible) personality
- have worked with clients at your level and above
- have helped their clients achieve significant improvements
- have worked with freelance bloggers in your niche, or niches similar to yours
Compatible personalities matter. For instance, if you’re at your worst in the mornings, and this person adamantly recommends regular office day working hours for your business, you might not be able to implement their advice, and end up not making the most of your investment. (And it will be an investment you will feel, because these are successful people who charge their worth.)
While it’s possible a freelance blogger with an entirely different niche might help you, their recommended resources and tips might not always be applicable. Great clients in different niches tend to hang out at different places. A freelance technical or medical blogger might not provide the best tips for someone in the lifestyle niche, and vice versa.
5: Pay for design, or learn to be a better web designer
When you started out, any decent-looking portfolio website was fine and free themes did the trick.
But you feel your website lacks a certain awe-inducing factor. It could look better.
Web designers can be expensive, but they are worthwhile investments. If you aren’t ready to let someone else spruce things up, you can always develop your own skills. There are plenty of free and paid courses to help you level up.
If you want to pay for design but don’t have a big budget, collaborate with a designer who is starting out and looking to build their portfolio and testimonials in exchange for a discounted rate. You might also try bartering services. For instance, you can work with a designer who hates writing. So they can design your website for you, and you can write their copy for them.
An alternative is purchasing an easy-to-use, clean looking and highly customizable premium theme that you can play around with yourself. A popular choice among professional freelance bloggers is StudioPress’ Genesis. (Sophie and I both use child themes of Genesis on some of our blogs.)
6: Advance your social media skills
It’s awesome that you’re active on your preferred sites and have a loyal following. You’ve managed to find and attract clients through social media. But when your growth stalls, and it will, it’s time to take an analytical look. Can your profiles be optimized further? Can you draw more engaged eyeballs? Could you reach more clients?
When I evaluated how I use my social media, I realized I haven’t been as active on LinkedIn and Twitter as I should have been. Clients have found me through both platforms, but my pitching numbers are disappointing.
While it no doubt feels better when a client approaches you instead of you approaching them, waiting for clients to come to you is usually not enough to make a better living. But you can still start by contacting clients who have shown interest in you first, by pitching people who have followed you on Twitter or viewed your profile on LinkedIn.
After you shift your comfort zone, it will be easier to shift once more to start actively pitching clients who might not have known about you before.
And if you’d like to be approached by more clients yourself, then you need to step up your social media marketing game. Maybe you can start by taking promising free courses and reading free ebooks, and then see if there’s a need to invest in paid products and services.
Social media constantly evolves. What worked in 2017 may not hold water now. Be critical, and elaborate your game plan.
You don’t have to be everywhere. You just have to be where your ideal clients and readers are, and improve your skills when it comes to those sites.
And the best part? If you get really good at any one platform, you can charge more for sharing your client work on these platforms, or add social media consultancy, management and/or writing to your services.
Comfort zones are hard to leave because they become second nature. We internalize our habits and tend to forget (or neglect) the fact that this comfort zone didn’t exist a while back. We created it. And that’s the great news! Comfort zones might be tricky to leave, but we just need to remember the rewards awaiting us after the initial challenge.
If it seems far away, just remember what you charged for your first paid blogging job. Then think about what you charge now and how you got here. You’ve got this!
Which comfort zones are you working on leaving now? Share with us in the comments!