This week we have another great interview! Ariel Rule is a WordPress designer turned freelance writer! She started Freelance Freedom Fighter. Today’s interview actually has a bonus for all of you WordPress users out there. In addition to sharing her freelancing story, Ariel also shares some of her favorite tricks for making your WordPress site look even better.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, what did you do in your previous life?
I’m a 25-year-old work at home mom with a house full of boys: my hubby, two boys and a boy dog called Rambo (Yes, like the movie…). Needless to say, my life is pretty crazy, but totally awesome — if I do say so myself.
I was born and raised in the NW of America which is a fancy way of saying I love coffee, I wear dark rimmed glasses, and I think it’s cool to not own an umbrella even though it rains 9 months out of the year where I live.
How did you first get into freelancing?
I started my own business back in 2012 as a WordPress web designer, but since I had just had our first little guy, I found it hard to go and meet with clients face to face or even take phone calls. Plus, most of the leads I got weren’t willing to pay what I was charging so I felt like my business had flatlined.
But then, in 2014 I stumbled across an ad on BloggingPro that said someone would pay $50 for a post about WordPress plugins. I decided to just submit my application, but I didn’t think anything would come of it.
Much to my surprise, I got the gig and I’ve been freelance writing ever since.
I want to talk a little about Freelance Freedom Fighter, a blog you started that offers freelance writing advice. What was the inspiration for starting the site? How is it going?
I really just wanted an online space to write about what I was learning and to where I could have other bloggers I knew share their thoughts and journey.
Plus, I needed a place to send my potential clients in case they wanted to hire me.
At first, I didn’t expect much out of my blog in terms of traffic or promoting anything, but the past few months, I’ve changed course a bit with it.
Since there is so much more that goes into running a freelance writing business than just writing, I plan to expand the topics into entrepreneurship, running a one-gal business, and how to use your writing skills to break into other niches like copywriting and social media.
Many writers use WordPress for their resume and to provide examples to clients. You founded the blog WP Arsenal and are a WordPress Pro. Do you have any favorite tricks or free plugins that our members can quickly implement use to supercharge their site and look like a rockstar?
Though I’d hardly call myself a WordPress pro, WP Arsenal does hold a place near and dear to my heart — though it is very much in the baby phases.
I could probably go on and on about tips and plugins that writers should have on their WordPress site, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll just list a few:
I love Easy Google Fonts for easily changing the font and colors of fonts in a theme to customize the look a little bit.
I also never use the the default contact form in WordPress. I prefer Contact Form 7 which I can customize to my needs. Right now, I’m using that on my portfolio and have added sections that asks what type of work a client is looking for, how much they have in their budget, and how long they want someone to work with them.
It eliminates a lot of emails just in them answering those few questions alone.
What does an average day look like? Are there any tricks you use to increase writing productivity?
Since I’m working from home with my kids, each day is a bit of a toss up. I do what I can to wake up before my kids do, but even that doesn’t always work out since my youngest is still very little.
I gave up managing my time a long time ago. Instead, I manage my energy.
There is a lot that goes into being a freelance blogger: I have emails to send every day, graphics to create for blog posts, articles to edit and re-format, and research to do for most of them.
Each of those takes a different type of focus and attention level. When there is a lot of commotion going on in the house, I focus on menial tasks like emails and graphics — things that don’t require a ton of concentration.
Editing and research goes down usually once my kids are in bed so that I can focus more, and then save the times during the day to write when my coffee has hit my blood stream and I can just go at it.
I also make sure to always work with outlines for my posts or mind mapping them. Not having an outline to start out with can easily tack on and extra hour or two since many of my posts require data and facts that need to be backed-up and I have to find that data to link back to.
Is there anything you regret or would have done differently early on?
Honestly, my biggest regret was listening to everyone in my life that told me I couldn’t be a writer because it didn’t pay — and that includes me doubting the possibilities of being a writer.
Writing was always a hobby but never something I took seriously until I saw that I could make a living from it. If I knew that from an earlier age, I would have taken certain aspects of my school more seriously and pursued all the aspects that would have helped me be a better writer.
How do you think freelancing full time has changed your life the most?
I can take my work anywhere. Seriously. Anywhere I can get a good WiFi connection means I’m open for business.
It gives me (and my husband) some peace of mind knowing that if we had to drop everything and move or if something happens to him, there is still income coming in to pay the bills and feed our kids.
Not just that, but I’ve had some pretty awesome opportunities. I get to talk with editors and interview people from all around the world, and I’m not hampered by writing or doing only one thing.
One day I could be writing a blog post. Another day I’m working up a social media strategy for a client. Another day I’m studying a magazine that I want to submit a query to. The next day I’m writing email copy for someone else.
Plus, I think freelancing gave me a new sense of pride in myself. I feel a bit more confident and excited about all these opportunities that are now open to me.
Do you still write for fun? Are you working on any side projects?
Creative writing is where my deepest passion lies. I’ve been writing small fiction novels since I was kid, and I make a note to creatively write every day. It’s one I find the most enjoyable and one that helps keep my love for writing alive.
I don’t have any plans right now to publish the books I’m writing, but I’m certainly not closing the door on that. Writing and publishing a fiction book is on my bucket list and one I plan to check off.
Lastly – what is one small thing that an aspiring writer can do today to improve their freelancing business?
That’s a great question!
I think the best one any writer can do is to set goals. Not vague ones like ‘I’m going to write a book’, but goals that are more actionable.
Here are some examples:
- I’m going to send 3 cold-pitches today.
- This month I will land 2 new clients.
- I want to make $3,000 per month in my freelance business.
- I will write 1,000 words in my book.
Write them down. Print them out. And then check them off.
I recently started keeping what I call My Journal of Wins. I write down the date and then write down all the things that I accomplished that day or the good things that happened. That way, instead of focusing on everything I didn’t do I can look back and see how much I’ve actually managed to do in a week, month, or year.