Name: Clint Proctor
Location: South Daytona, Florida
Bio: Clint Proctor is a freelance writer and founder of WalletWiseGuy.com, where he writes about how students and millennials can win with money. When he’s away from his keyboard, he enjoys drinking coffee, traveling, obsessing over the Green Bay Packers, and spending time with his wife and two boys.
How long have you been doing freelance work?
Less than 1 year
Tell us about your freelance business, in 200 words or less.
I’m a freelance personal finance writer for several websites and blogs, including Business Insider, Credit Karma, Student Loan Planner, and several others.
What do you consider to be your specialty. How does it help you in your business?
My ideal target client is a blog or website in the personal finance space. I work with websites that have less than 100,000 visitors all the way up to Business Insider which receives over 16 million page views a month. Over time, I hope to focus mostly on high-volume SEO companies. One because they pay the best. And, two, because it’s just cool to know that when I write for one of these companies, my work has the opportunity to influence a ton of people’s lives.
What made you become a freelancer?
It was partly out of necessity. Last May, I realized that I was ready for a career change and wanted to find a way to make a living writing about personal finance. I started my blog around that time which I naively hoped would be able to generate a full-time income for me within a year. I was wrong. I’ve learned that if you’re going to be successful at blogging, you better be willing to play the long game, which I am. But in the meantime, I’ve been able to create a nice monthly income for myself with my freelance writing. And I was able to quit my job and become a full-time freelance this past June.
What do you love most about freelance work, and why?
I love a lot of things about freelancing, but two things are top of mind. First, it’s obviously nice to be able to set my own schedule. But second, I like that I have no income ceiling. My income is directly related to how hard I work and the clients that I’m able to land. And I find that incredibly motivating and exciting.
What do you hate about it?
I hate the Self Employment tax! All kidding aside, the hardest thing about freelance writing is probably just trying to keep track of my assignments from 7 different clients that all assign work through different task management apps. Having a master calendar that every assignment gets put on as soon I receive it has been key to me keeping my sanity.
Tell us about your first paid job. How did you land your first client?
Oh, I definitely remember it! It was a client that I landed as a result of a financial blogger’s conference (FinCon) that I went to last September. I was given a trial article and the topic was “Places to Cash a Money Order Near You” and the pay was 5 cents a word. Yuck! But despite the “gag me now” topic, I researched the fire out of that article and even visited a few bank branches in person to ask about their policies. I would never do that today for 5 cents a word, but when you’re just getting started you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to break in to the industry. I ended up working for that client another 6 months after getting that trial article accepted. But more importantly, my work with that client led to 3 more clients coming my way that paid much better.
Do you think aspiring freelancers should take unpaid work to gain experience? Why or why not?
I have a hard time with this one. I personally never took unpaid work so I’m probably not an unbiased source. I tend to think that instead of taking unpaid gigs or doing a bunch of guest posting, a writer would be better served creating content for their own blog. First, it fulfills the goal of getting writing samples online. But, second, that work could create passive income down the road if your blog grows. That being said, I know several writers who got their start by guest posting on other established sites. Because of that, I’m going to stay neutral on this one and let each writer decide for themselves which strategy they want to take.
Do you feel you’re charging what you’re worth?
I feel like I’m charging what I’m worth “now.” Depending on the client, I receive 15 cents to 50 cents a word per article. But as I gain experience I totally plan to raise my rates. Ultimately, I’d love to be getting paid 50 cents to $1 a word for every article I write. But I’m definitely not there yet.
Describe your process for finding new clients? Where do you look?
Honestly, all but 2 of my clients have sought ME out which has been kind of crazy. But my two highest-paying clients I did reach out to myself. For both of them, I used LinkedIn. I connected with editors both clients and then sent them Letters of Introduction (LOIs) via LinkedIn’s messaging system. In my LOI, I’d make sure to mention some of the top clients that I wrote for and include links to several published articles.
Have you ever had to ‘fire’ a client? If so, why and how did you do it?
Not “fire” per say, but I eventually outgrew my first client that was paying me 5 cents a word. They couldn’t pay more than that and my business grew to the point that it simply wasn’t worth it to work at that rate anymore. I get along great with everyone on that team, though, and they were very excited for me. I will always be grateful to them for being the first ones to take a chance on me as a writer.
Name 3 tools (apps, equipment) that you can’t live without. What makes them so great?
Google Docs / Google Calendar / Freshbooks
What is your #1 productivity hack?
I try my best to always keep a 7:30-4 pm schedule. In other words, if I finish an article at 3:00 pm, I don’t just stop for the day. Instead, I’ll work for an hour on the article that I wasn’t supposed to work on till the next day, or I’ll respond to emails, or send out interview requests, etc. This is a productivity hack that I honestly stole from Holly Porter Johnson, but it’s been huge for me. Little 30-minute and 45-minute pockets of lost time per day add up to a lot less productivity over an entire week or month.
Do you outsource tasks? Why or why not? If so, which ones?
No, not at this point…unless you count using Freshbooks to send invoices as outsourcing.
In your opinion, what is the most important skill required for freelance work, and why?
Attention to detail. When I get sent a credit card review or a review of a financial company, my editors aren’t just looking for me to regurgitate the information that other people are already saying. They want me to add data and perspective that’s unique. In order to that, I have to dig deep into the nitty-gritty details. I want to find that “nugget” of information that nobody else has discovered. Or if there’s a downside to a card or company that no one ever mentions, I want to be the one to point it out. When you pay attention to these kinds of details, it impresses editors and they won’t want to lose you.
Do you consider yourself a strong time manager? How do you stay organized?
Yes, I think so. I stay organized by immediately putting every article on one master calendar (Google Calendar) as soon as i receive them. I also don’t let emails sit. I try to respond to them as soon as possible to avoid the risk of an important email getting “buried.”
Do you also work a 9-5? If so, how do you balance it with your freelance business?
Not anymore. But for 7 months I worked a 9-5 while freelance writing. I would wake up at 5 am and write my 5-8, before going to my day job and working till 4:00. Sometimes I’d have to work a little more in the evening after the kids went to bed as well.
Where do you do most of your work?
I work in a variety of places, but most often in a coffee shop. Getting stuff done at home is difficult to impossible when you have a 2-year old and 4-year old in the house. My dad is a pastor of a local church and he lets me use one of their empty offices whenever I’d like. This is a really nice option, but it’s one that obviously most freelancers don’t have.
Do you use a co-working space?
Tell us a bit about it. No I don’t, although I have considered it.
Name an entrepreneur/freelancer/influencer who inspires you. What is it about their story/message that resonates?
I really look up to Holly Porter Johnson and the amazing freelance writing business that she’s built. I’ve learned so much about how to be a professional writer from her.
Name 1 thing you would do differently, if you were starting over today?
I would have taken Holly Johnson’s writing course sooner. Once I completed that course, I started landing clients fairly quickly.
What is your #1 tip for aspiring freelancers?
Make one client VERY happy and there’s a good chance that more will eventually come your way. I think focusing a little less on sending out cold pitches and a little more on perfecting your craft would be a good idea for most freelance writers.
Read more from Freelancer Success Stories: Laura Gariepy, Freelance writer and coach