This week we have a really great interview with Joe Warnimont of Write with Warnimont. Joe is a full time freelance writer, author and blogger and his stories don’t disappoint! In a previous life he was chased by Harrison Ford’s dog and asked to transport $20,000 in an “oversized suit”. Enjoy.
Hey Joe. Tell us a little bit about yourself… Where are you from and what did you do in your previous life?
I’m located in Chicago, after a few years of bouncing around. It all started growing up in a small Chicago suburb called Roselle, after which I went to beautiful Bloomington, Indiana to study business at IU.
Throughout all of college I had a strange inclination to become a talent agent, so I worked for an agency in Chicago for two summers and ended up out in Los Angeles, running errands in the mail room at United Talent Agency.
This led to rather strange stories like running away from Harrison Ford’s dog after trying to deliver a script to his front door, and tucking $20,000 in my over-sized suit to deliver to one of the top agents. Overall, I wanted a more creative, and less hectic job, so after graduation I began writing on the side and took a job at a golf software company, where I worked on the marketing team.
You mentioned that after college you started a marketing job before writing that you did not really enjoy. Can you tell us a little more about this – why wasn’t it a good fit?
Looking back, I’m not sure any job, where I wasn’t working for myself, would have been a good fit. However, I think it’s important to spend time at a job you don’t enjoy, since it gets your mind going on what you truly want to do with your life.
Like many jobs straight out of college, this simply didn’t fit, because I wanted more creativity. The job entailed designing with Photoshop and working on websites, but my favorite part of the day was biking home to get back to writing stories and building a blog.
How did writing for magazines and blogs transition into Write with Warnimont?
I actually started Write with Warnimont prior to submitting for magazines and blogs. I wanted to become a children’s book and short story author, so I enrolled in an organization called the Institute of Children’s Literature, where I learned about drafting manuscripts, submitting to magazines like Highlights and seeking out agents.
My writing skills certainly improved, but dozens of rejection letters came in, prompting me to create Write with Warnimont. I assumed it would serve as a way to pitch my writing without having any published work under my belt, and it turns out I was right.
I noticed quite a few job board listings where the clients were interested in people who knew about WordPress. Having plenty of experience from college, my old job and from building my own blog, I submitted and started accumulating clients. Although I enjoyed developing children’s stories, my focus organically shifted to the world of writing about WordPress, mobile apps and eCommerce for blogs and small businesses.
So, Write with Warnimont served as a way to bring in clients, but it did turn into something more when I began monetizing it and shifting the strategy to a more motivational/tech-based blog.
Have you ever lost any big clients? If so, how did you handle it and is there anything you wish you could have done differently?
About three years ago I went on a vacation to Italy and Switzerland, putting a few of my clients on hold for two weeks. At that point I hadn’t put my business degree to good use since very little tracking was involved with my freelance process. After returning, one particular client said he didn’t have anymore work for me. I’m still not certain whether it had anything to do with my vacation or not, but I soon realized that this client had accounted for around 50% of my freelance income.
The problem was that the majority of my other work was ghostwriting and developing webpage content, so I either received zero credit for it or the work was sporadic. I had to change my strategy, fast. Therefore, I put all of my pitching efforts into locating jobs that gave me credit as an author, while only accepting gigs that promised consistent work, like blogging for online publications or corporate blogs.
In short, I learned that ghost writing isn’t the greatest when it comes to building your own portfolio, and one-off jobs burn you out quick.
Are you still doing other freelance work on the side?
Yes, most of my income is from my freelance client work. Unfortunately, I had to put Write with Warnimont to the side for a few months, because I wasn’t able to handle the amount of freelance work I was accumulating. I say unfortunately, because I firmly believe that building your own platform is better than working to build someone else’s. Therefore, I’ve rebuilt my strategy and plan to come back in full force with Write with Warnimont in November.
What do you focus on to help other writers on Write with Warnimont?
Upon inception, Write with Warnimont mimicked blogs like GoinsWriter.com and MichaelHyatt.com, striving for an inspirational take on the writing world. After a while, I turned the site into a hub for writers who needed help with technology, from Scrivener to WordPress themes and mobile apps to self-publishing.
In addition, I’ve revamped the strategy to still incorporate some of the root topics that helped me initially gain momentum with my blog. Write with Warnimont is now catered to what I call “malcontents,” or people who are looking to enrich their lives through writing, whether it be for fun or to make a buck. After that, I give them the technological tools needed to achieve their writing goals.
Is there one particular success story that you would like to share?
As unusual as this may sound, a cost-cutting experience is one of my favorite success stories. I enjoy the little triumphs, since they are generally harder to come by, and they can lead to bigger successes. In this instance, I decided to network with some folks at the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago. Out of my comfort zone, I chatted with journalists, self-published authors and this one guy who had run his own freelance business for ten years.
We got to talking about how writers have few expenses, seeing as how all you need is a computer and an internet connection. This prompted me to suggest that PayPal fees accounted for most of my costs. He recommended a tracking and invoicing tool called Harvest, which not only helped me discover that one client was wasting tons of my time, but that I would only get charged $0.50 per invoice (still through PayPal) regardless of how much the invoice was. That pushed me to think of my work like a business, and I soon discovered it saved me $3,000 that first year.
You published a book in the past, what was that like? Can you share a little more about the process and how it came to be?
My book, Rise of the Writer, was a first attempt at writing a book. My goal was to give out a free item when visitors subscribed to my email newsletter and to learn what it was like to go through the self-publishing process. Much of the book came from old posts on my blog, yet it included several expanded thoughts on tech tools and the process of building your own freelance and blogging business.
It’s a short book, so it took maybe two months to write, edit and publish, but I found it interesting how crappy the book was until I completed several rounds of edits. That’s the main point I learned, that no matter how good you think you are as a writer, the first draft is complete junk. Even the greats say that, so it can discourage you once you spend all that time pouring your heart into something. Having an editor, and completing revisions yourself, morphs a worthless compilation of thoughts into a good read.
Any advice on how to avoid multitasking or distractions while writing?
Find a room that’s completely quiet, lock your phone outside and consider a tool like StayFocusd to keep yourself from navigating to Facebook or other useless sites while you work. Music helps drown out noises, but unless it’s only instrumentals I can’t think while writing. Finally, consider using multiple writing spots in your work space, like a couch, desk and lazy boy.
It’s revitalizing to shift spots from time to time. For example, I complete most online work at my desk computer, then I write on a futon I have in my office when journaling, drafting stories and scribbling thoughts for my blog. I consider this more creative work, and it’s all done on my stomach, with pen and paper.
If you could share one piece of advice with an aspiring freelance writer, what would it be?
Find a niche, and build your own platform where you truly connect to visitors with your own voice. Although it’s nice to have people to pull inspiration from (like I did with Jeff Goins and Michael Hyatt,) I neglected the fact that my own voice was naturally laid back, with hints of comedy.
It wasn’t until I started embracing this when I felt true to myself. Also, no matter what you do, keep your platform as your #1 priority, since you may end up working for someone else, which never expands your career as a writer.