Building a Freelance Writing Career: How Momentum & Compounding MatterThis week's freelance writing blog post is a topic that has always intrigued me, and with relatively recent developments in my freelance writing business and its explosive growth, this is a subject that is also very intriguing to me. There's a lot to be said for both momentum and for compounding, and while this post might seem a little more theoretical and abstract than most of my other blog posts about freelance writing, I think if you want a successful freelance writing career, and if you want to get from Point A of being a complete novice to writing online to Point B of making a comfortable full time living, and if you want to do it quickly, then these are two concepts that you will definitely want to study and pay attention to.
Oh, and this post is going to be LONG...so if you need to stretch, order pizza, grab some coffee, chase off some monkeys or secure your house from a zombie breakout, go ahead and take care of those first. Especially if the last one is in play.
Albert Einstein is often quoted as referring to compounding, or the concept of compound interest, as one of the most important mathematical concepts of all time and as the "Ninth Wonder of the World." Why is it such a big deal? You most often hear about compounding in the form of investment, especially in the many lectures that occur about opening an IRA earlier rather than later (and btw the numbers are staggering - whether you're 16, 18, 20, or whatever, go out of your way to budget and save to open one ASAP). In fact, this investopedia blog post describes the basic process in math terms fairly well.
But compounding isn't limited to just math or money or numbers. In fact, compounding can go hand in hand with momentum to build a business that grows faster seemingly by its own accord. While you will want to do planning and take action to keep working on your writing career, changing the way you go about can make a huge difference. I've learned this from first hand experience.
The importance of momentum.
The importance of momentum cannot be understated. This works on multiple levels, as well. At the most basic level of day to day work, don't multi-task, and don't open four different articles or web pages to work on at once. Why is this? Science has actually shown that there are physiological changes that take place in the body when concentration is needed on a task. The body only has so much fuel - meaning jumping from one project to another or trying to multi-task, even if you're relatively good at it, tires you out more quickly and makes you less effective as you work.
So rule #1 is if you want to build momentum focus on one task at a time and go crazy on that one task or project until you're done with it for the day. I've always been a good multi-tasker, but I will admit that after taking this advice, a lot more work was done by the end of the day. In the end, it's all about the word count.
Momentum is also important on a broad scale because there are times where getting a lot done and seeing tangible results is going to result in a huge adrenaline rush and confidence boost. When you're in this state, you simply can do twice as much work as when you're not. I don't know why, and I describe it as seeming like time slows down - you nail a 600 word article, look down, and can't believe that only 12 minutes have gone by instead of 30. There is something about using the power of momentum that can help you really launch off a freelance writing career - and I suspect that this is actually true of most careers outside the scope of writing, as well.
Most people in every day use don't normally discuss momentum in its original scientific definition - but it's worth taking some time to study that definition more closely. The way most of us use it is still related to the same concept, but it leaves out one CRUCIAL part. When we talk about momentum in every day life, or even often with our growing businesses, we talk about any type of forward movement. "Well I finally got another job, so I'm building some momentum now."
When talking about "building momentum," think of an avalanche, or a runaway miner's cart. Are these things scary at the very beginning? No, they're not. It's that constant gaining of speed, of force, that makes these two things dangerous. Getting more freelance writing work doesn't necessarily mean you're building momentum. In fact, sometimes getting more work means you're going in the wrong direction, insofar as building momentum goes.
If you're really building momentum, then at some point the work, the pay, the overall situation of your business should be built to the point where it is gaining from its own accord. When the weight and push of your efforts are done right, your freelance writing business will get to the point where momentum takes over and your income and the business seems to keep producing its own opportunities.
Now I'm not saying this eliminates the need to work. You stop working, that's like introducing inertia and everything slows down and eventually stops, but creating and riding out momentum, which eventually leads to the next part about compounding, is the single smartest way to set up a business. Which brings up the question of: how do you do this?
Well that's the problem with talking about a subject that is somewhat theoretical. There isn't exactly a "One Size Fits All" blueprint. However, based on the fact that the majority of humans on this Earth fall into similar patterns and habits, there are some suggestions I can make that I think will work for most people. Some of this seem pretty basic, others might seem counter-intuitive to everything you learned (but that's often a sign you're on the right track), and some of these seem simple, but you really need to dig behind the words to really decide if you're truly getting the full meaning of the tip, or just the surface.
Some Tips for Building Freelance Writing Business Momentum:
- Concentrate on one or two major projects at a time and no more. Make sure you get these done before jumping to anything else. No matter how much it SEEMS like you're getting done, often times multi-tasking kills results.
- Be result oriented. This is a HUGE one. Who gives a crap if you work 14 hours, but only get 3,000 words online. The person who only worked 4 hours, but got 3,500 words online had a FAR better day. You can't magically make $500 in AdSense in one month from scratch because you want to - but you can write 3,000 words a day working towards that goal. Focus on the actual production and results.
- Be brutally honest reviewing yourself. I review my work daily at 8 pm, because it gives me time to get work done, but I'm a late night person, so if I screwed off during the day, I still have time to get back in gear and get real freelance writing work done before the day is completely wasted.
- Use the 80/20 principal of Pareto's Principle that was popular even before Timothy Ferriss's The 4 Hour Work Week. Take some time to figure out what is giving you the majority of your best results. It's usually a small amount of work, efforts, or clients that is getting you the majority of your results. Restructure your business to spend MOST of your time in the highly productive areas.
- Have an extremely specific freelance writing goal to work towards. Making $5,000 a month is not specific enough. "Doubling my business" is not specific enough. You need extremely detailed goals that you make NOT for the purpose of having a goal to break, but because you've identified those goals as being specific ways to build momentum. For example, if you wanted to increase AdSense by 20% in a month, a good goal to build momentum might be: write 100 Xomba articles in one month, write 2-3 Ezinearticles to backlink to each Xomba article, and 30 HubPages to the articles that show the most promise.
- Act like a happy idiot when the momentum starts building. Seriously, there are huge advantages to this, and it will actually help your business grow and momentum keep going. There are huge arguments over why this is or if this is (I'll deal with those after compounding) but the point is, if you take HUGE joy in little victories, and intentionally get your body fired up, you'll be surprised to find out how often your production sky rockets and keeps feeding the momentum.
- Focus on building momentum. A focus on building momentum and being result-oriented will do wonders for you.
This isn't an exact science. What worked for my particular situation might not work for your situation or skills. That said, perhaps the single biggest piece of advice I can give to someone who wants to build a momentum based business but doesn't know how is to always take immediate supporting action any time you have a client, account, website, or project that is showing a jump in returns (and it doesn't matter how large or small). These are basically signs that momentum can take place, and if you pour your energy into the projects that want to become winners, you'll be surprised how quickly your success rate goes up and how much more viable your business seems long term.
Once momentum is built and you understand how to keep feeding momentum in your freelance writing or online marketing business (and as a very important side note here: you don't have to understand every detail of how momentum works and works in your business - in fact I'm fairly sure that's impossible - by understanding I mean you've learned to focus on results, focus on where your work is showing possible breakout potential, and on working with a momentum based focus as opposed to hourly fee or flat fee type of focus), that's when compounding can come into play.
A Little on Compounding
Compounding tends to come into play more with residual income rather than active income online, which makes sense considering the nature of the two businesses. Part of the reason for this is that AdSense, affiliate sales, pay per views, and all the other forms of passive online income are based around math principles that hold steady over time. If I get 1,000 visitors to HubPages, I know roughly how much I'm going to make from AdSense. The exact numbers may vary on different days or even weeks, but in the long run the average holds steady. I know what gets 3% click through, 5% click through, or 25% click through. The math will always work out in the long haul in this business, which makes the potential of compounding that much more powerful.
Here is a brief video from Tony Robbins using a real life example on what compounding has the power to do, and I'm not saying I agree 100% with his arguments or how easy it sounds (although everyone calling the video a scam because of the 15% number have completely missed the overall point - that this works and has been done by thousands), but the way he talks about it is important because changing your mind set is a huge part of succeeding with an online writing business. Or you can skip it and keep reading, but it's a good resource for what I'm talking about in very general terms.
The point isn't exact numbers, it's what happens with compounding, which an inherent requirement is reinvesting the profits from the immediate benefit. It is theoretical math to most people, because most people are lazy. They want a 20% interest savings account or it's impossible, despite millions of people who started from $0 and got to over a million. They don't think beyond basic, easy, and simple, so compounding is out of reach. How about the story that was mentioned of Ted Johnson? Or invest in dividend stocks that pay 6-7% a year even if the stock price never goes up - doubling money in a decade or less.
So what if after building momentum, you learned to focus your work efforts on the actions that helped to build a compound effect?
Now I'm not getting metaphysical or hyping a soon to be released rip-off e-book or any crap like that. And I'll even admit that I'm NOT using a 100% accurate definition of compounding, but I am using an understanding of the concept and how it works to go about building my business in a very different way than I ever have in the now going on 6 years I've been freelance writing.
But this is a very legitimate question, and the combination of momentum and compounding has literally changed my business and is very rapidly changing my life. Right now I'm experiencing compound growth of my passive income that's roughly matching pace with my AdSense growth (meaning although I'll use just the AdSense numbers, the percentages are happening across the board with my other passive income endeavors, as well). So for the first 6 months of this year (June numbers are obviously estimated - and I even rounded those down so they're lower than what I'm actually going to do this month), the numbers look like this:
Jan. $132.24, $4.27 a day
Feb. $136.60, $4.88 a day, improvement of 14.28%
Mar. $184.47, $5.95 a day, improvement of 21.93%
Apr. $192.59, $6.42 a day, improvement of 7.89%
May $221.28, $7.14 a day, improvement of 11.21%
June $257.93, $8.60 a day, improvement of 20.45%
Overall per month average growth of 15.15% so far this year. If you want to know why compounding is so strong, consider this: if you ADD all the percentage growth together, it comes out to 75.76% on the year so far . . . which would lead to monthly earnings of $232.42 - a full $25.50 LESS a month than I'm actually looking at already. And I really underestimated the June numbers (this post was written on the 12th, I divided the total income by 12 for the per day avg and included $0 income from today). This discrepancy only gets bigger in my favor as the numbers get bigger.
Those numbers aren't even completely accurate. I changed my approach to my online residual income writing business and my freelance writing business about one week into March, and you can see the immediate jump. Because of really difficult and tragic family circumstances, there was one month I did virtually no work at all, and the first two weeks of the next month suffered, as well. Obviously by the numbers you can see that was April and May. But if anything, that only makes me more excited about the way my new focus is working.
So even though this isn't exactly the scientific definition of compounding, using the ideas and principals behind that mathematical theory, I readjusted my goal back in March, which was to grow the passive income part of my business 15% every single month. That was my entire focus, and I didn't mean 15% flat from January's number, I meant a compounded 15% every single month, which on the year I'm on pace...and if there are no more disastrous months, maybe even quite a bit ahead?
So let's say that hypothetically this works. What would that mean for my AdSense growth? If my business grew exactly 15.15% a month, every month, as it's averaged so far, the rest of the year would look like this:
July $9.90 a day for $306.90
Aug $11.40 a day for $353.40
Sept $13.13 a day for $393.90
Oct $15.12 a day for $468.72
Nov $17.41 a day for $522.30
Dec $20.05 a day for $621.55
Now I know these numbers won't be exact - for example December is BRUTAL on AdSense earnings (although a gold rush for Amazon affiliates), so I know my earnings for AdSense will go way down that month...but that will also mean an incredible rebound in January. But are you seeing how the compounding would work? 15.15 added 6 times is 90.9%, but $20.05 a day is 102.5% higher than July's average. If you compare January earnings to December, the difference is easy to see.
So what if I could just keep this up through May of next year before taking an entire summer off (maybe)? I won't bore you with the month by month numbers, but for May I would be making $40.59 a day for $1,258 month, or almost $15,000 a year of completely passive income. Well before December I would never have to work again.
But is this sustainable?
Now whether or not I can keep up 15%, I don't know. The practical side of reality says no chance in hell. But I don't do well when I listen to "reality." Something in the area of 90%+ people never reach their dreams, and even many people who are happy are that way because they've sold out for less than what they really wanted. And if that leads to happiness, I will NEVER condemn or come down on someone for doing that. Happiness is a hard thing to hold onto, but don't tell me realism has anything to do with anything, and don't say you're happy if you're not.
So some interesting tidbits that I want you to chew on if you're still with me at this point - and bravo to those of you with the pain tolerance to do so :) - because I think even if what I'm going to say about my freelance writing career and residual income business doesn't give an immediate and clear blue print of what you should do, I think maybe it will help open your mind and thinking process to looking at things in a different light and questioning how you write and how you progress and maybe lead to the same type of breakthrough I'm really enjoying right now.
So beyond the fact of not doing any work in April and not much in the first ten days of May, think about a few things:
- Anywhere from 62% to 90% of all businesses fail depending on whose numbers you use. Logical conclusion: thinking, working, and acting the way other people do is almost a 100% sure fire way to FAIL UTTERLY AND COMPLETELY. Why is my business exploding? Because I've completely rearranged the way I do everything. Naysayers can tell me I'm an idiot all they want, but I'm the one on pace to retirement at the age of 30.
- You can't get the right answers without asking the right questions. By changing my perspective of how I was going to focus on growing my business back in March, I had to re-question how I was going to do EVERYTHING. The end result of this? I found out that I had to ask completely new questions, get completely new answers, and I figured out that some of my biggest "successes" were holding me back. I didn't understand what my true obstacles really were until I changed course. So don't be afraid to re-evaluate everything you've been doing.
- Don't take advice from people who haven't done something. Plenty of people who have run businesses (some successful and some failed) are telling me I can't run a business based on pursuing an "abstract idea" like compounding. But none of them ever tried it, did they? My numbers are telling me otherwise, so be wary of who you take advice from, even if at first glance they seem like an expert (like business owners).
- Take the time to build and infrastructure or strategy that can help generate its own momentum (and by doing so, help keep up compounding).
For this blog post not only will I write 2 Ezinearticles and a few other linkbuilding articles pointing back to here, but I'm also going to write a Squidoo lens, two or three HubPages (usually I'd do one, but this is a mega blog post), two or three InfoBarrel articles, a couple Xomba articles, and a Xomba bookmark. Why? Because not only do all of those give links, but the Squidoo lens, HubPages, InfoBarrel articles, and Xomba articles ALL allow me to also make money from them through sharing AdSense, making affiliate sales, or revenue share programs.
Then to make those links stronger, I'll interlink the HubPages, the Squidoo lens, and the articles. I'm also going to write InfoBarrel and Xomba articles just for the HubPages and the Squidoo lens. I'm going to bookmark all of the support articles with Xomba, as well. Then I'll re-write a bunch of articles to get links for all my money making articles. The end result is you have three layers of links eventually all pointing back to this blog - which is great SEO and link building. But even more importantly, I'm using platforms that allow me to make money while I'm building my backlinks. This is what I mean by setting yourself up to build momentum.
You can only use guest blog posts and Ezinearticles - but then you'll never get any additional money from HubPages, Xomba, Squidoo, or InfoBarrel. By setting up a wheel the way I do, all of those have a chance to make you more income when you rank - meaning your link building work and your make money work don't have to be separate. If any of these end up ranking, they're only going to make everything else in the network stronger, as well, because of their linking to one another. This is a prime example of building momentum in your business, and critical if you want to take advantage of compounding.
So back to more freelance writing thoughts on momentum and compounding:
- Concentrate on strengths over weaknesses. Most people go nuts trying to fix weaknesses, and I'm no exception. That being said, it is inefficient, ineffective, and often completely unnecessary. Concentrating on your strongest pages not only builds momentum and makes you stronger, but there's less stress because you can see results and feel confident.
- Only if there isn't an obvious strength or potential to breakthrough should you work on weak pages and low to no earners - and even then scatter gun it. Do 3-5 articles on each with a Xomba bookmark, any other social media bookmarks you have, and then let it be. If the pages show signs of life, then work on them. Otherwise, let them sit and go on to more productive areas.
- Okay, am I working hard right now, or just goofing off and wasting time?
- What are my newest pages showing potential? What can I do RIGHT NOW to strengthen them even more?
- What are my strongest projects that still have room to grow? What can I do RIGHT NOW to make them even stronger.
- What projects can I work on that can make me money even while building a support structure? What projects build their own momentum?
- Do I have any potential "Jackpot!" projects that are long term that I can give an hour a day to? What actions can I take that have the most impact right now AND down the road to get those projects going?
Some Real Life Examples
To get to compounding, you have to start with momentum, and I was no exception. Part of the reason a lot of this has all opened up for me is because of the momentum I gained in the spring from re-examining everything I was doing. One of my first steps was to stop writing for three websites I had previously wrote for, because the return wasn't worth it anymore, and the time was more valuable to me than the income they were barely producing.
The second was shifting the way I thought about work. Previously writing for Demand Studios, I thought of articles in terms of $7.50 or $15 or $20, and while I kept in mind that smaller pay articles could be better if I did more in an hour, I didn't bother to examine much beyond the basics of what each type of article wanted. Originally there were the Golflink articles, which were $20 for about an hour worth of work on average. When there were a lot of Answerbag requests, I could do 3 an hour with time to spare, for $22.50 an hour, which was a momentum boost for me, because I could earn more in less time.
When those dried up, I realized I was no longer content with trudging along at $15 an hour at a relaxed pace. I didn't want to lose the momentum that earning over $20 an hour had given me. Since I was thinking differently, I re-examined DS and realized there was a way for me to make even more. List articles were very easy to write in 30 minutes as long as you choose titles that do not require contact information. Suddenly I was up to $30 an hour, which meant in three hours and change I could do an entire day's freelancing work and turn my attention elsewhere.
Some people will call this luck, some will call it a fluke, some will argue for the power of positive thinking, but I noticed after I focused on keeping momentum going, "coincidences" happened all the time. Every time one income source dried up, a better one took its place. Once I was result and end game focused, amazingly I could ALWAYS find a way to get to a point I never reached before. To put that simply: once the end result was $30 an hour, somehow I keep getting there even though a year ago that rate seemed impossible for me.
Freelance jobs from past clients came in, and once my focus was the per hour earnings, my body responded as if I had trained it, and I could write faster, do research more quickly, and knock out the same quality in less time...always enough to get right around that $30 an hour mark that momentum had helped to bring me to.
A friend of mine who has basically traveled a parallel road, albeit a little later than mine started, shared how her freelance earnings have changed as she's made the same type of adjustment in how she choose to think and focus. She's much more into the spiritual interpretation of quantum or meta physics, along the lines of What the Bleep Do We Know?, so our exact interpretations are somewhat different, but we've both changed and modeled our business around the same fashion.
She's agreed to share her earnings since I'm not sharing any name or personal information, but here's how the last five months have gone:
5 months ago: $1,561.87
4 months ago: $2216.51
3 months ago: $2468.50
2 months ago: $3,592.30
1 months ago: $4,271.73
She's looking at breaking $5,000 a month for the first time this month. I'll be doing the same next month. People with the ability and willingness to try, fail, and think outside the box get rewarded. Like the earlier business stats showed: most people and businesses fail. Doing what most people do, by that definition, doesn't make any sense.
So kind of tying it together (yeah right)
So although this has been about freelance writing in some degree, in many other ways it has been more theoretical and gray matter. I've tried adding in some concrete steps for people who are interested, but in the end, although there is a lot of science to this, there's plenty of art, too, and this one isn't exact.
So how do you "compound" your efforts on residual income? I focus more and more time on what works, and worry less and less about underperformers - to the point of more or less not worrying at all. The pages that make me money or show some potential get love. The others aren't getting my time and effort.
I also outsource on a very limited basis. I'll take my earnings from passive income and hire freelance writers when I have a list of very specific, very targeted keywords that I know have the potential to make me money and strengthen pages that have potential, but which I might not get to on my own. If I don't have a clear list, I don't spend all my earnings. I NEVER outsource for the sake of outsourcing. However, if a page on "Rare Iberian Hybrid Muskie Bass" starts making me some serious money when I'm barely ranking for anything, and I have a keyword list of 50 keywords, I will outsource 40 and then write 10 myself.
The key here: I'm not taking time off. While other freelance writers are working on those 40 articles, they're saving me 20-30 hours of time that I'm spending writing articles for other successful websites, setting up link wheels, writing HubPages, or even setting up new URLs for large specialty sites. As I make more money, I can turn that to more momentum by having more people writing more articles or doing more research. I'm never going to be able to write 1,000 articles in one month. But if I hired outsourcers to write 800 of them, I could get 1,000 total done and posted in one month. That momentum definitely makes compounding a lot freaking easier to achieve. Especially as the full effects of what you do online are generally not seen for weeks, months, or even a year down the line.
We've already talked about changing focus and thinking patterns and taking action, but even beyond all of those important things, I can summarize what one of the most important actions for me has been. You know that old saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," (another Einstein quote by the way)? I do the opposite. I find whatever works and I repeat it.
And that's not just conventional "work stuff" when it comes to online freelance writing.
When I'm happier and excited and loud and not using my inside voice, that emotional swell and improved mood usually means I also get a lot more done in a short time. I become very proficient. And I don't care about the why. I don't care if it's because of physiological changes in the body that flood me with positive hormones, if it's because the Universe reacts positively to happy people, or if it's simply because the happiness comes from success with naturally makes it easier to be motivated. I don't care as long as it consistently works.
And that's part of what it comes down to with the whole power of compounding, with an nontraditional approach to a freelance writing career by thinking differently and approaching work differently, and why I don't care how "positive thinking power" works or doesn't. If something works in my life to make me more effective, productive, or capable of growing my business at a ridiculous rate ((even forgot to mention almost have my time is NOT spent on passive income or freelance writing right now since I'm pursuing other ventures)) I don't need to know how or why it works - only that it does.
And for right now that's more than enough for me. So there's a new record for what might be the new longest freelance writing blog post ever at 4,998 words. Future posts will be more hands on with practical steps, and if I ever figure out a way to make something somewhat abstract like compounding and momentum ((which I know I didn't explain well, as my understanding of how to use both far exceeds my ability to explain how to do so)) easy to harness in a step by step fashion, you'll all be the first to find out.
I know I didn't explain everything well, so if you have any questions, comments, thoughts, philosophical contemplations, scientific insight into a more accurate way to label my bastardized version of compounding, or anything else, feel free. Critical is fine, as long as it's respectful and clean in language use.
Hope everyone is doing well, and don't be afraid to take chances to run your business in a way that allows you to receive all the blessings that are out there for people willing to break away from the herd mentality and try something different.