Since I created Untamed Writing back in early 2013, I’ve been gradually shifting it in the direction that feels right to me at the time. (Which is how I make most of my decisions.) And this year is going to be no exception.
Before I dive into this post, I just want to warn you, it’s a fucking BEAST at nearly 4000 words. (I’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Hey, I’ve been away for 7 weeks and I’ve done a LOT in that time.) For that reason, I’ve created this handy little table of contents so you can skip to the bits that interest you.
- Phases 1-3 of Untamed Writing
A look at how the site has evolved since its creation in 2013.
- Phase 1: The Creation of Untamed Writing
- Phase 2: Starting to Teach
- Phase 3: Rebranding & Shifting Focus
- What Phase 4 Means for Untamed Writing
An explanation of the new direction I’m taking the site in.
- What’s Changed Since My Hiatus
An overview of everything I’ve updated on the site since starting my hiatus in December.
- Sexy New Design
- New Tagline
- Refreshed Blog Archives
- New Pages
- The Self-Study SEO Writing Class is Back
- First Week of Start Content Writing Now Available for Free!
- Specific Mailing Lists for Course Notifications
- Get Blog Posts Delivered by Email (Again)
- A Better Newsletter: The Untamed Lowdown
- Other Announcements
- Start Content Writing is Now Open for Registration
- I’m On The Write Life’s List of 100 Best Websites for Writers!
Phases 1-3 of Untamed Writing
After I started my hiatus back in December, I came to think of what I was working on behind the scenes as Phase 4 of Untamed Writing. These were the previous phases:
Phase 1: The Creation of Untamed Writing
This is when I ran the site exclusively as a portfolio for my freelance writing services. I’d already been freelancing for four months using a different site when I got the idea for Untamed Writing, and after a couple of months of working on it behind the scenes, I officially launched the new site on 1 April 2013. It looked like this:
Isn’t it cute? Just shows you how much can change in three years. This period only lasted until August 2013, when I struck upon the idea to create a course teaching other people to get started with freelance writing in the same way I did.
Phase 2: Starting to Teach
The idea to create the course just popped into my head one day. I was a member of Location Rebel, and in the forums I’d seen lots of people requesting feedback on their SEO writing websites and articles. I realised that not only did people want to know what SEO writing was and how to do it — they also wanted to be told exactly what to do, what order to do it in, and that they were doing it right. I decided I was the gal for the job. I created a sales page for the course, and I pimped it out wherever I could. I told people I met in person about it, I posted in relevant forums and Facebook groups about it, and I tweeted and Facebooked about it.
I hadn’t actually created any of the course content at this point, because I wanted to make sure it was something people would actually buy first. And they did! I listed the price as £99, and ten whole people signed up. Ten! That’s nearly £1000! I was ecstatic.
I never intended to become a freelance writing tutor. It was never part of the master plan. (Haha, as if I have a master plan.) It just seemed like a good idea, so I rolled with it.
At the start of 2014, my teaching seemed to be going well. I’d put the price of my course up to £199 and run it again, and I’d got another ten people signed up. That’s £2000! I figured I could be on to something here. Eventually I put the price up to £299 and regularly got around 20 students at a time. Whether I liked it or not (I did), teaching was now my main source of income. Later in the year, I also rather magically found myself on the first page of Google for search terms such as ‘how to become a freelance writer’. So that was nice (and helpful; not sure my business would be where it is today if not for that).
Phase 3: Rebranding & Shifting Focus
Up until the start of 2015, I battled with the notion that Untamed Writing should be my copywriting portfolio, despite the fact that I knew most of my readers were other freelance writers. I’d mulled this over in Phase 2, but I didn’t want to be one of those people who taught others how to do something without actually doing it themselves. (Fortunately, that hasn’t happened: I still take on copywriting clients, they are just fewer and further between, because I’m in the wonderful position of being able to choose who I work with and, more importantly, who I don’t work with.)
But at the start of 2015, I couldn’t deny it any longer: it just made business-sense to direct my focus towards helping people who wanted to become freelance writers. Plus, I really enjoyed doing it, and I prefer writing about that stuff. So I made the commitment to gear the entire site towards other freelance writers instead of copywriting clients.
I also wanted to make the site look more professional. I was making more money now, so I could afford to hire people to help me with stuff. I got a new logo designed and settled on a new colour scheme, both of which suited me and my brand much better. I’d also planned to have my site professionally redesigned, but that didn’t pan out and I ended up having to scrap that plan, accept that I’d wasted a few hundred quid, and fiddle about with the site’s design myself. It was better, but still not great. It looked like this (up until very recently):
The final part of Phase 3 was creating Start Content Writing, my new freelance writing course. It’s bigger and better and more advanced than Start SEO Writing, and I love it so much more. Confession time: I didn’t like the fact that my main source of income was coming from teaching people to start SEO writing businesses, even though I was helping people to quit their jobs and realise their dreams of becoming freelance writers.
SEO writing is not something I think highly of. However, many people are too scared to dive full-on into ‘proper’ freelance writing, and they want an easier, less daunting way in. SEO writing is it — for now. I’m under no illusion that SEO writing will not remain a viable route into freelance writing forever. When that days comes (or perhaps even earlier), I will stop selling Start SEO Writing.
But I’m okay with that, because Start Content Writing is really what I wanted to create all along. Start Content Writing is designed to help people build freelance writing businesses they love. I show people how to write things that are worth reading, as opposed to drivel that ends up clogging up the internet’s cesspit. The guidance I give is way more personalised, too, which makes it more useful to my students — and also a lot more interesting for me. I believe Start Content Writing is the thing that’s finally allowing me to push through to Phase 4. Because it’s made Untamed Writing what it’s meant to be.
What Phase 4 Means for Untamed Writing
Don’t panic. This is still a place for writers. But it’s no longer going to be a place just to learn about the business side of things, which is mostly what it’s been for the past couple of years.
I’ve mentioned before that I want to write more about the personal and lifestyle side of running an online writing business, but I’ve never gathered the nerve to do it. I don’t know why. Maybe because I wasn’t sure it was what you wanted to read.
However, one of my guiding lights is to do things the way I would like to see them done. And this is what I’d want if I were you. So I’m finally going to bloody do it.
The thing is, I created Untamed Writing — began freelance writing at all — because I wanted to live a life of total freedom. A life I enjoyed, essentially. For me, that means not having to take shit from a boss, or slog into an office (or, in my case, a pub) every day, or do work I hate. It means getting to make my own decisions about what I do each day. It means working on things I love and am interested in. It means creating something that matters.
But more than that, it also means having the freedom to explore the world. To learn new things. To become the best person I can be. To give myself the best possible chance of happiness. Because this is my life — it’s my responsibility and I shouldn’t waste the chance I have to do it my way. Nor should you.
Mostly what this means for Untamed Writing is that I’ll be writing on a broader range of topics, with a slant towards the lifestyle a freelance writing career can offer. I’ve created new categories for the blog to reflect what I think’s important in that respect, and these are the things you can expect to read more about on the blog from now on:
This one is self-explanatory, and the one most posts are currently categorised under.
A big, all-encompassing one, this. Arguably everything else could fall under this category too, but I’ll be using it for the macro-level life stuff. For talking about the big things that make life special, like your perspective, your values, your work, your passions, and your health.
- Personal Development
I like to think of this as being the micro-level life stuff. Making small, regular improvements to yourself and your daily life to add up to one monumental, awesome life. I expect there’ll be a big focus on habits (to do with productivity, health, mindfulness, and so on) and my 28-day experiments.
I wasn’t sure whether to include this one, but it’s something I’m passionate about, and it’s a huge component of being a successful writer. So in it goes. Plus, I really want to start sharing book lists. (I’ve got an idea for a column where I share what I’ve read each month. I ADORE reading other people’s reading lists.)
This may not be for everyone, but personally I think travel is one of the most expansive, freeing, fulfilling, life-affirming things you can ever do. And running an online writing business makes it easy to incorporate it into your regular life, not just your two weeks’ vacation each year. To me, travel and freelance writing go hand-in-hand.
This is also pretty self-explanatory, eh? Mmm, writing.
I guess what’s really happening here is that I’m going to spend a lot more time writing about the things I’m passionate about, which, yeah, is all the things I just listed.
I’ll also talk more about my own personal experiences, both in business and in life, because that is exactly the sort of shit I love reading on my favourite blogs. It’s all about the stories, folks. Stories inspire you to strive towards your own dreams. They make you have those dreams in the first place! They make you want to do better — to be better. To live the best damn life you can. (And they show you how to do it, too, which is just spiffing.)
The final piece of the Phase 4 puzzle is the publishing schedule. I’m dropping it completely. I’m not going to post every Tuesday and Thursday like I did last year, nor every Wednesday like I did the year before. I believe having a publishing schedule was one of the things holding me back from writing the sort of things I’ve been meaning to write. That sounds weird, I know, but hear me out:
I’m a leave-it-to-the-last-minute-er. As I mentioned in my previous post, having a strict publishing schedule to adhere to often meant I wrote blog posts at the last minute. And it’s really hard to write things you’ve been yearning to write, things you really want to take care over, when you’ve got a deadline looming. And you can’t just hit publish minutes after finishing those things, either. They need time to percolate and settle. They need thought and care and attention and pondering over. Plus, they’re often just plain longer, which in itself means they need more time and attention.
What’s Changed Since My Hiatus
Sexy New Design
This was one of the goals I set myself for 2015, and after the failed redesign of earlier in the year, I was surprised to see it come to fruition. After announcing my hiatus, my original intention was just to tweak certain elements of the old design a bit more, but I found myself getting frustrated and browsing other sites I liked for inspiration instead. I ended up stumbling upon a new theme which seemed to fit the bill, so I went for it. That’s right, kids! This sexy site you see before you? I did not have to hire a designer to get it this way. It cost me a meagre $59, as opposed to the thousands I would’ve had to spend to have a completely new site designed and developed. (The theme is WP-Prosperity, by the by.)
I copied the entire site onto a new database and played around with the theme until I got it how I wanted it, then I transferred it over to the live site. I LOVE IT, and am truly amazed that I’ve been able to get such a gorgeous website just through buying a premium theme for $59. The old site was too childish and plain, and it still didn’t reflect the brand I wanted Untamed Writing to be. Now, it’s strong and sopisticated — still with an undertone of the wild and badass — without being childish or girly. It’s just, ah, it’s perfect.
Along with the new design, I’ve also shuffled things around a bit. The blog now has its own dedicated page, and I’ve created a proper home page. All other pages on the site have had a bit of a polish, too, and a couple of new ones have sprung up.
Yes… another new tagline. I’d already changed it late in 2015 to ‘Bullshit-free advice on getting paid to write’, but that didn’t seem to fit with the new direction of the site. It was too specific, because this isn’t just going to be about getting paid to write any more. It’s going to be about all the other wonderful stuff that comes along with that, too. Hence: Start writing. Get paid. Seize life.
Refreshed Blog Archives
It’s now more enjoyable than ever to navigate the blog’s archives (because they’re so god damn beautiful), as well as easier to peruse and share articles. I’ve added slick, relevant featured images to all posts, and implemented a system of categories and tags that actually makes sense (as opposed to the haphazard mess of crap I previously used). I’ve also put all the posts back to their original dates. In the past, I’d changed the dates of my earlier posts to make it look like I’d published regularly instead of sporadically, but I decided to put them back because I figured it’s better for you guys if you can get an accurate picture of my blog’s growth. I don’t know, it made sense to me. Anyway, it’s done now.
I’ve added an Around the Web page, which collates all noteworthy mentions of me and Untamed Writing across the internet, as well as contributions I’ve made to other sites (this is a little thin right now because I’ve been pisspoor in my marketing efforts… again), and a Subscribe page, which is an easy way to decide what email communications you’d like to receive from me.
The Self-Study Start SEO Writing Class is Back
Yup! Finally. At the start of last year, I had to remove it from sale because of some annoying new EU VAT regulations. I’ve now worked with my accountant to get myself legally set up to sell it again, so you can go and pick your own copy up, right now, for £99. (Get your copy here.)
First Week of Start Content Writing Now Available for Free!
Since I’ve been editing and polishing the materials for Start Content Writing anyway, it made sense to release a free version of Week 1 of the course, in the same way I did with Start SEO Writing. That way, you can grab a copy and get a feel for whether it’s right for you before you sign up. You can get it for free on the Subscribe page.
Specific Mailing Lists for Course Notifications
I realise that not everyone who’s signed up to my main mailing list actually wants to take one of my courses, so rather than spam them with emails they don’t want, I decided to create individual notification lists for each course. That way, you can sign up to get notified when the course you’re interested in opens for registration, and when registration is about to close. You can get on these waiting lists over on the Subscribe page.
Get Blog Posts Delivered Via Email (Again)
Before I started sending out a proper newsletter, I used to just send out my blog posts whenever they were published. I switched to the newsletter model because I was listening to my ‘what I would like if I were you’ voice, which didn’t like getting blog posts straight to its inbox. And I know there are others who feel the same, whether because they like to visit the site, because they use an RSS feed, or because they just don’t like to receive too many emails. Maybe all three.
However, I also know, thanks to a short questionnaire I sent out last week, that many of you do want to get blog posts emailed to you. My answer to this conundrum was to create a completely separate list, which I will use solely to send out my posts as they’re published. If you’d like to get my blog posts in your inbox, you can now do so. (And you can unsubscribe at any time without affecting your subscription to the regular newsletter.) Just head over to the Subscribe page and fill out the relevant box.
A Better Newsletter: The Untamed Lowdown
Speaking of the regular newsletter, which up until now has been sent out on a weekly basis, it’s going to be dropping down to a twice monthly schedule. This is partly so that I can send better messages to you. Without a blogging schedule, I’m not sure I’ll be publishing enough content to make it worth emailing you every week, and I don’t want to get all spammy on you.
I want these emails to be special. Worth reading. The plan is to share deeper personal musings about business and life than I have done previously, as well as the usual links to my latest published pieces and other awesome shit from around the web. I will no longer be archiving these emails publicly, which means that unless you’re actually on my email list, or someone forwards one of my messages to you, you won’t be able to read them. Because if just anyone can read them, they’re not really that special, are they?
The other reason I’ve decided to start sending out emails twice a month is because of the second question I asked in the questionnaire: How often would you like to receive newsletter emails from me? I gave three options: once a week, twice a month, or once a month. Most people actually wanted to continue receiving them weekly, with only a handful wanting to receive them monthly. However, the twice-monthly gang wasn’t far behind the once-weekly voters, and I figure the monthly voters would rather get emails twice a month than once a week, which brings twice a month out on top. Maths! This may change again in the future, but for now it feels like the right thing to do.
And, oh yeah, from now on the newsletter is going to be called The Untamed Lowdown. If you want to receive The Untamed Lowdown, you can sign up on the Subscribe page.
Not strictly Phase 4-related, but exciting all the same:
Start Content Writing is Now Open for Registration
I’ve been working on upgrading the content over the past few weeks, so it’s now much slicker and better structured than it was the first time I ran it (I wrote it as I was teaching the course). With student feedback and a fresh pair of eyes, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how to make the course the best it can possibly be.
I’ve now listed the full course content on the sales page, as well as some testimonials from people who took the inaugural class. It’s been a lengthy process, but I’m really excited about it. I can’t wait to start teaching it again! Class will begin on 9 February. You can sign up here.
I’m On The Write Life’s List of 100 Best Websites for Writers!
Yesterday The Write Life released their list of 100 Best Websites for Writers 2016, and I’m excited that I made the cut. I won this award last year, too, and I’m just as pleased this time as I was then. It’s a big honour, and I’m dead chuffed to be listed alongside some of my own favourite sites. Needless to say, this was a rather lovely way to come back to Untamed Writing.
Whew, how’s that for nearly 4000 words? I’m on a bit of a catching up mission now, since I returned to blogging a little later than I expected, so next up on the blog will be these:
- 2015: A Year in Review
- Plans for 2016
- What I Read in January 2016 (the new column!)