James, from the UK, took my freelance writing course way back in August 2014. James was a star pupil of mine, and I’ve loved watching his progress – both in business and in life. Not long after completing the course, he moved to Australia for a year, and in a few days he’ll be heading to Whistler, Canada. Talk about taking advantage of the lifestyle! But I’ll let him tell you all about that. Here’s his story:
If you could pin down your main reason for wanting to be a freelance writer, what would it be?
There isn’t really a main reason. Everything about this type of work was and is exceptionally attractive to me. The ability to make ends meet (and then some) by finding the right words to put on the page represented the holy grail of occupations. Then there’s the fact that you can work from home. My god, pinch me.
What was your life like before taking the course?
Directionless. Hollow. Boat without a rudder. And so forth.
I had just completed my MA in English. In fact, the dissertation deadline was the day before the course started. I’d done well in that degree and presented a few conference papers, but funding for a PhD was not forthcoming so everything had kind of ground to a halt.
For most of my life I’d been focusing on academics, positive that a good mark would eventually lead to a promising career. I’d already realised that the world is not quite so generous, but I’d been on that track for so long that I wasn’t sure how to jump the rails.
What were you unhappy with in your life before taking the course? What did you most want to change?
Jesus, this is getting pretty intense. I didn’t feel unhappy, but I did feel quite confused. Everyone else I’d known at school had done so much more with their lives, and there I was just treading water. I knew what I was good at, but I couldn’t for the life of me identify how the hell to turn my talents into a career.
So, what I wanted was to find direction. This course definitely helped with that.
What prompted you to finally make the leap?
There was absolutely nothing holding me back! Learning how to make a living by writing from home? It was the kind of opportunity I’d always hoped for, especially since it could be done from anywhere in the world.
For a little extra motivation, I worked out that I could live pretty much anywhere as long as I was making minimum wage. That gave me a very manageable goal to work towards, and it didn’t take long for me to reach it.
What were your biggest hesitations, both in signing up for the course and in trying freelance writing at all?
It crossed my mind that this was all some sort of elaborate scam. I just didn’t think that anybody would part with their hard-earned cash to hire me to write for them.
Bottom line, it felt way too good to be true.
How long after completing (or during) the course did you make your first money from writing?
I picked up my first piece of paid work about a week after the course ended, although I naturally didn’t get the money itself until the end of that month. I do remember that I had completely recouped the course fee within a month and a half. Cha-ching!
I should mention that my super-supportive parents let me move back home for a few months while I was trying to jumpstart this whole working from home deal, so I didn’t need to worry about money quite as much as other people do.
How has your life changed since completing the course?
It’s changed in every conceivable way. During June I spent a few days scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef. I never would have imagined that being possible the June before.
My life is also full of work. That’s certainly a hell of a change. It might not sound like a positive at first, but I’m now able to put my heart into something knowing that I’m building towards a better future. This is the first time in my life that I’ve had a career instead of a job, and I can’t even begin to articulate how good that feels.
What does a day in your life now look like?
Rock out of bed around 11am, then grab breakfast and make the commute from kitchen to spare room. I’ll then work on actual assignments until I hit a certain daily income level – that usually works out to around 7 hours. The next hour is for marketing, improving my website, etc.
After that I’m home free, so I’ll usually spend the rest of the day either reading or looking at new travel destinations.
Of course, it’s sometimes totally different. I spent last weekend in Sydney, heading to the attractions during the day and then working during the evening. I freaking love the flexibility that comes with this job.
If you could go back and do things differently, what would you do? Any regrets?
I’d take this course instead of going to university. Seriously. Around £20,000 for fees and maintenance costs versus £297 for your course, and it was the latter that snagged me a career.
I have zero regrets about the course itself.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve recently revamped my website and created a LinkedIn profile, and I’m really looking to convert my daily workload from lots of little pieces to just a couple of larger, better paid gigs. I feel like I’ve taken the basic SEO article writing path as far as possible – time to start going for more challenging work.
Where do you see your future headed, both in terms of your personal life and your business?
I’d really like to start my own blog and carve out a niche in the travel industry. Being in Australia has been great, but I’ve still been staying in one place 90% of the time. It would be fantastic to start moving to different locations every couple of weeks now that I don’t have to worry as much about finding myself without any clients.
Okay, personal life. I’d like to get a cat in the future. Does that count? I think that counts.
What advice would you give to somebody who’s thinking about signing up to become an Untamed Writing student?
Stop thinking and start doing, buddy. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that most people thinking about signing up will have spent a long time fantasising about making writing into their bread and butter. Well, here’s the first step.
I also think that it’s important to remember that what you have is a real talent. It’s natural for most freelance writers to possess an education based around the humanities, or else have simply developed a strong interest in writing. The problem is that we’re all so used to writing that we forget that most other people freeze right up when faced with a blank page, and certainly start to whimper and whine if they’re expected to give their words any kind of personality.
Keep in mind that people aren’t hiring you because they can’t be bothered to do the work themselves. Nope, it’s because you have a talent that they don’t!
(KM: I feel I have to butt in here, because although it’s true that writing comes easily to me and James, I’ve found that – in the beginning, at least – most of my students DO freeze up in front of the page. So don’t let James’s confidence make you think you’re not good enough. He does have a point about the talent thing though: most people CAN’T write for shit, and if those people happen to run businesses, well – they need you.)
Want to follow in James’s footsteps? Check out my freelance copywriting course.