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writingI worked in the financial services industry for a number of years. I saw all sorts of people come through the door, and I talked to people in a number of different financial positions. There were those making several million dollars per year, and there were those making $12 per hour. I discovered that those who were on the lower end of the spectrum often complained about not making enough money. I know this because I was in precisely the same boat. I wanted to make more money, but every time I would bring up the idea of a raise with my boss he would talk about how I’m not doing the quality of work that deserved a raise. Instead of arguing, I branched out on my own.

Earning More Money on the Side

If you Google around you will find plenty of websites that talk about bringing in money on the side. They talk about side hustles, side jobs, working on the side, and there are a number of great tips out there. However, there were never that many tips that specifically focused on my area of expertise: writing.

I loved finance, and had a passion for personal finance, but that isn’t something that you can do on the side since there are so many regulations and restrictions. Instead, I had to find a way to combine my writing skills with my personal finance knowledge. Here is the short version of how I went from nothing, to having my writing business as my sole income.

The Beginning of my Freelance Writing Journey

I had absolutely no idea where to start, so I began by Googling for “make money online writing.” It worked to an extent, but most of the websites I would end up at were content mills. If you have spent any time researching how to make money online writing, you know that content mills are terrible. They pay pittance, they often demand ridiculous rewrites, and you end up making about $5 per hour if you’re lucky. That didn’t deter me.

I plunged in and decided I was going to make money online by writing content for websites. So I wrote for content mills. I can write quickly, and I only took the jobs where I was well versed in the subject matter, so I was able to make around $15-$20 per hour on the side. Not too bad for just starting out, but the jobs were few and far between. So I kept looking.

My next hurdle was wading through Craigslist ads. I found websites that would combine all of the freelance writing ads from around the web, and post them in one convenient spot. I would go through and apply to all of them that I felt would be a good fit. I must have applied to hundreds of online ads; 99.9% of them fell through completely. And by that I mean I never heard a word back.

There were some, however, that panned out. I must have hit the editor’s inbox just right because they wanted to hire me as one of their writers. I found my way into 3 different blogs, none paying outrageous amounts of money, but they provided steady work and paid a lot more than the content mills. Over the course of a couple years I made a decent chunk of money from them. Nowhere near what an established writer would make, but I was happy to have them as clients since I was just starting out.

Progressing in My Writing Career

The entire time that I was freelancing on the side, I was also still working for the financial advisor. I wasn’t picking up enough work to interfere with my financial services work, but it was enough to boost my income. In fact, within a couple months of deciding I wanted to make more money, I was bringing in an extra $600-$800 per month. That’s enough to make a significant change in anyone’s lifestyle.

But I wanted more. I figured that if I could make some on the side, what was stopping me from making more on the side? All the while I was developing as a writer, learning more about search engine optimization, and diving deeper into the internet world and becoming acquainted with how things work. The next bit was largely a bit of luck.

I had started to market myself around town. I had some business cards made, I had my website going already, and I was getting my name out there as a writer. Around Christmas one year I bumped into a friend that I went to college with. We talked for a bit and I learned he had a side business with some other guys that built websites. It turns out they not only needed work done with them, but also the law firm for which he works needed regular content.

So I started providing a number of pages of content for them every single week. That lasted for a while, and then I decided to push my limits even more.

My Writing and SEO Career Now

I spent hours reading everything I could about search engine optimization, and I began to establish myself as an SEO expert in Billings, Montana. I wanted to learn this because people needed it. If I could fit that niche, I could excel faster than I could imagine.

After chatting with my friend about the law firm website, I pitched the idea of working on some of their SEO (specifically backlinks). They liked the idea and things took off on that end.

I had already dropped down to under 15 hours per week at the office. Not because I had so much outside work going on, but because I was taking care of my son after he was born. Because I wasn’t able to dedicate enough time to the office, I was essentially laid off. I can’t say that I minded because I could do so much better working for myself.

I joined a Biz to Biz group to help network and market myself. That was the absolute best thing I could ever have done. This group provided me access to professionals, referrals for more work, and a chance to show that I was the SEO expert in Billings, Montana that I was claiming to be. Within a month and a half of joining the group I had contracts that nearly doubled my business.

I am now providing search engine optimized content for a number of websites. I am the content coordinator for a local magazine, I have my blog, and I still provide personal finance content for One Smart Dollar, and outdoor adventure content for Billings365. Until my son is in school, and I have more hours during the day, I am very happy with the amount of work that I have going on.

That’s not to say I won’t take on anything else. If you have website needs, whether you need written content, or SEO work, email me and we can set up a meeting. If you just need some pointers on how to grow your business, I’m always available to talk about that too.

By the way, earning money on the side means you are responsible for all taxes due on that money. Do yourself a favor and hire an accountant in Billings, Montana to save yourself the hassle.

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