The Roles of Quantitative and Qualitative Data When Writing a Case Study

case studies matt duczeminski philadelphia freelance writer

Ugh.

I know I said before that the “case study” I’m talking about isn’t as boring as it sounds.

But with terms like “quantitative” and “qualitative,” you’d think this article is going to be a snoozefest, right?

Not to worry. The jargon ends with those two Q-words.

What I want to discuss is the definitions of these two Q-words. We’ll look at the importance of involving both of these types of data in your case studies to maximize their effect on your potential customers.

Quantitative Data in Case Studies

You might think reporting quantitative data in a case study would be pretty straightforward. I mean, all you have to do is let the numbers speak for themselves, right?

Well, yes and no.

For quantitative data to convince potential customers to engage with your company, you need to present it effectively.

For example, let’s say your service helped increase your client’s email list by 500 people. If the client had previously only have 75 people on their list before you got involved, this is a huge increase. But, the CEO of a multibillion dollar company isn’t going to think much of an increase of 500 potential customers.

But what if you were to present this increase in terms of percentage? An increase of over 600% looks incredible, regardless of scale.

Similarly, you don’t want to give false hope to customers by claiming your service helped a previous client earn $10 million last year while neglecting to mention that the company earned $9 million last year. While it’s still an accomplishment, you don’t want startup prospects to assume you can make them overnight millionaires.

When presenting a case study on a former client, your goal is to provide evidence that your product or service will benefit prospective clients’ bottom line. But it’s up to you to figure out how to present this data in the most effective way possible.

The Role of Qualitative Data in Case Studies

While quantitative data gives potential customers an idea of the results they should to come away with after working with you, qualitative data tells them what to expect while actually working with you.

Qualitative data refers to the story your previous customers have to tell. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • The company’s background
  • The problems it faced before enlisting your help
  • The methods and processes it went through while working with you
  • The positive outlook the company gained as you helped them reach its goals

This information is vital to prospective clients. It will help them understand how your service works, and help them decide if it’s the right service for their needs.

It will also help them understand how your service will fit in with their policies and procedures. The last thing either side of the partnership wants is to sign a contract only to then realize the service to be implemented will clash with the system that’s locked in place.

Qualitative data also includes testimonials and select quotes from stakeholders within the client’s organization. Including positive statements from various individuals who have worked with your service is often just as beneficial as including numbers and other statistics in your case study.

Why Your Case Study Needs Both

Clearly, both quantitative and qualitative data have important roles in a successful case study.

Oddly enough, though, I’ve come across an incredibly large amount of “case studies” that only focus on one or the other (and sometimes leave the other out completely).

First of all, to truly consider a document a case study, it needs to be a mixture of both. Don’t call a document a case study when it’s really just a testimonial or a success story. It makes you liable to lose potential clients who know better.

But let’s take a look at why a combination of quantitative and qualitative information is so effective.

Quantitative Data Without a Story

Don’t get me wrong, here:

If a prospect is specifically looking for information regarding how your product or service has affected previous customers’ bottom lines, you should have documentation of such.

A spreadsheet with evidence of how you helped other organizations grow is good enough to get a new client on the hook, but it lacks the substance needed to reel them in (/endfishingmetaphor).

Quantitative data only focuses on results. It doesn’t discuss what a company had to do to get these results. Nor does it tell whether these results are typical.

Without taking these ideas into consideration, quantitative data is just meaningless numbers on a page.

Qualitative Data Without Results

On the other side of the coin, some testimonials discuss “how great it was” to work with a company’s product or service without mentioning any specific benefits of doing so.

Sure, a pleasant and comfortable experience is always nice.

But when it comes down to it, results are what truly matters.

Any business that prefers a pleasurable experience with terrible results to a difficult experience that leads to huge growth is not going to be in business for very long. And any business that chooses to purchase a product or service without taking proven results into consideration is going to be quickly disappointed.

As I mentioned before, qualitative data will keep interested prospects engaged, but they’ll never reach this stage of interest if you don’t use quantitative data in the first place.

3 Reasons to Use Case Studies as Social Proof for Your Businesss

case studies matt duczeminski philadelphia freelance writer

Hearing the words “case study” might be enough to make you cower in the corner, conjuring up images of all-nighters spent putting the final touches on your college thesis.

Don’t worry – we’re not talking about that type of case study, here.

For our purposes, a case study is simply another name for a customer success story. They act as testimonials from satisfied clients, but go much deeper than a simple one- or two-sentence clip about “how great it was to work with Company XYZ.”

These documents are beneficial to both parties involved. On the one hand, the satisfied customers gain extra exposure by having their story published on the company website. On the other, the company is able to provide social proof that their services are exactly what a prospective client is looking for.

Following are three reasons why case studies can be a huge boost to your company’s marketing and advertising campaigns.

Case Studies Tell Stories

Who doesn’t love a good story?

Seriously, though. Recent trends show marketing is all about weaving an intriguing and engaging tale as of late.

And it’s not difficult to understand why.

A well-crafted story can hook an audience from the very first sentence and leave them thinking about the narrative long after they’ve read the last word. What better way is there to keep your company at the front of your potential customers’ minds?

A case study should be a heroic tale of one company’s triumph over adversity.

Although each case study is unique to the customer, the story structure will always be relatively similar:

  • Setting the Stage: Discuss the customer’s hopes, dreams, and goals for their company.
  • The Obstacle: Talk about what issues got in the way of the customer attaining their goal.
  • Failed Ventures: Illustrate the ways in which the customer tried to fix the problem that didn’t quite hit the mark
  • Slaying the Dragon: Discuss (in great detail) how your company was able to alleviate the customer’s worries and move them past the obstacles they faced.

Though we’re all too familiar with the classic “Hero goes on quest, hero defeats bad guy, hero gets the girl” tale of olde, when it comes to real-world case studies, the story line never grows stale.

Case Studies Go Behind the Scenes

In the small section on “slaying the dragon,” I mentioned that case studies go into great detail into how, exactly, a company’s services helped a client overcome a major obstacle in their business.

Think about it. Most forms of advertising focus on one thing: Results. Check out any website offering a product or service, and the first piece of information you’re likely to come across is what the end result of working with that company will be.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it leaves out a huge part of the process. When you read an ad that says “Buy now and start losing weight today!” you’re not thinking of the fact that you’ll actually have to do something with the product to start seeing results – you’re just thinking about the endgame.

A case study, on the other hand, explains the exact process previous customers went through while working with a company.

They’ll come to understand that there is no quick fix to their problem, and that’s okay.

In fact, prospective clients who are willing to put in the work necessary to succeed will look forward to the journey they will soon be undertaking, knowing the endgame is worth it.

Case Studies are Real

Going back to those products you see on infomercials promising that you’ll lose weight without lifting a finger…

Most of us don’t fall for that crap anymore, right?

It’s become way too easy to disprove a company’s claim by doing about fifteen seconds of research on your phone.

In other words, you better be able to back up the claims you make about your product or service.

There’s really no better way to do this than by describing the actual experiences of youractual customers.

(On a side note: Do not make up case studies about imaginary clients. Your audience willfigure it out, and will see your company as completely untrustworthy.)

Think about it: Most companies simply ask prospective customers to trust that their word is bond. While established enterprises can get away with this, most people will be less likely to trust smaller businesses they’ve never heard of before.

By providing case studies of previously-satisfied customers, you show your audience that you are more than capable of following through with the promises you’ve made.

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Freelance Writing Career

freelance writing philadelphia

It must be nice, right?

Rolling out of bed whenever you feel like it.

Leisurely sipping your morning coffee while you think of what you’re going to write about all day.

Getting lost for hours as you tell your story to the world, all from the comfort of your living room, while your cat playfully bats at your elbow.

Yep. A freelance writing career sounds like the perfect way to make a living.

Unfortunately, all this is only part of what being a freelance writer is all about.

Just as teachers spend as much – if not more – time planning and grading than they do actually teaching, a freelance writing career requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work to be done before (and after) actually sitting down to write.

I’m not trying to dissuade you from working toward realizing your dream of becoming a writer. But I do want you to have realistic expectations, and I do want you to understand that, to be a successful freelance writer, you need to do more than just write well.

Networking and Marketing is Vital

It doesn’t matter if you’re the greatest writer since Hemingway.

If you don’t know how to get your name out there, you’re not going to make it very far in your freelance writing.

Think about all the poets and artists who never gained recognition until years after their deaths. Many of them were shut-ins who spent every day of their life toiling away on their artistic ventures. Whether actively shunning the public or passively shying away from it, these geniuses never allowed their value to be seen, and suffered throughout their lives because of it.

In the freelancing world, you need to know how to present your skills as marketable assets to prospective clients.

This means joining the conversation on social media and other forums.

It means taking the initiative and asking others if your services are needed.

It means knowing your value and guiding prospective clients to the realization that they absolutely need you.

While all of this might, at first, be a little difficult for the introverted writer, it needs to be done if you want to experience success as a freelancer.

Freelance Writing Does Not Equal Freedom

In the intro to this post, we daydreamed for a little while about the perfect day in the life of a freelance writer.

Freelancing does allow you to escape the monotony of being stuck in a cubicle from 9-5 every day. But there are some caveats to this freedom.

Many of us, while working in a traditional desk job, end up checking the time every ten minutes, hoping five o’clock is on the horizon. As a freelancer, you do the opposite: when you check the clock, you’re hoping you still have time left to finish a project before what should be your quitting time sneaks up on you.

If you aren’t finished when five o’clock rolls around, guess what? You’re going to be working overtime – and you won’t be getting any extra pay for it, either.

Just because you’re free from having a schedule created for you by a supervisor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a schedule. Figure out the system that works best for you, but be sure to include time for:

  • Writing
  • Networking
  • Marketing
  • Breaks (Meals, downtime, etc.)

You’re your own boss now; Act like it.

Another problem you might face is drawing the line between work and home when you call it a day. You might find yourself thinking about all the work you could be getting done after-hours, when you should be lounging on your couch with your significant other watching Jeopardy!

Along with creating a schedule, you can combat this in a few different ways:

  • Do a portion of your work somewhere other than your home (library, Starbucks, etc.)
  • Designate a specific area of your home to your work
  • Pledge to you and your family that you’ll leave work at work – once you close your laptop and notebook for the night, keep them shut.

Don’t Forget About Taxes

Taxes are confusing as it is, even when you work in a traditional job setting.

When you start freelancing, the way you do your taxes changes completely.

First of all, it’s up to you to know how much you’ve made throughout the year. If you haven’t been keeping records throughout, you’re going to end up scrambling in April.

Sure, the companies you’ve done major work for will send you 1099s – but only if they paid you more than $600. Anything less, and you’re going to have to do all the backtracking.

Also, you may not have considered the amount of deductibles you accrued over the year. As a freelancer, the IRS sees you as a business. This means you can partially deduct the cost of equipment such as your laptop, phone, internet subscription, and even notebooks and pens. Obviously, this is a good thing – but you need to remember to keep all of your receipts whenever you make a business-related purchase.

You also might need to pay your taxes quarterly rather than all at once in April. If this is your first full year as a freelancer, you don’t need to worry about this. If you continue working primarily as a freelance writer in subsequent years, you’ll ultimately need to start keeping much better track of your taxes than you likely would have while working a traditional job.

Anything Else?

Oh, God yes.

There’s a lot more I wish I knew when I started freelance writing. And there’s even more.

But I think we’ve had enough for today, haven’t we?

What are some things you wish you’d known before even getting your feet wet as a freelancer? Is there anything you’d like to know more about? Look me up on Twitter @mattducz. I’m always looking to connect with new writers and help out as much as I can!

Oh, and be sure to check out Invoice2Go’s blog for an infographic featuring some of the advice from above, as well as input from other experienced freelancers! (Ah, man. I should have mentioned that freelancing is a collaborative effort. We’ll save that for another day!)

Invoice2Go is a mobile invoicing app that helps freelancers get paid on the go.

Case Studies and Success Stories: What’s the Difference?

case studies success stories philadelphia freelance writer

You’ve seen them before.

Articles, blog posts, and brochures posted on Company A’s website in which Company B describes how purchasing A’s product or service solved a major issue B had been facing for years.

(Sorry, I know how confusing that was)

You’ve heard companies refer to these documents as case studies, success stories, or even testimonials – sometimes interchangeably.

Though success stories and case studies may appear to be similar – and have similar goals – they are two distinct documents.

Success stories and case studies differ in three major areas:

  • The purpose of the document
  • The audience the document is written for
  • The process the writer goes through while creating it

The differences between the two documents are sometimes glaring, and sometimes they are nuanced. Regardless, it’s important for marketers to understand these differences and use them correctly. Used the right way, both success stories and case studies can prove to be valuable assets to a company’s marketing plan.

What’s Its Purpose?

If you look at the big picture, both success stories and case studies have one purpose: attracting more clients.

But just as pitchers and batters play two different roles in winning baseball games, success stories and case studies go about attracting clients in different ways.

The Purpose of a Success Story

Success stories offer an overview of a customer’s experience with a company.

They summarize:

  • What the company offers
  • Why the customer sought out the company in the first place (i.e. the problems the customer needed to solve)
  • The improvements the customer experienced while working with the company
  • The end results

Success stories aren’t about diving deep into the process of working with a company. Success stories provide general information and get potential customers interested enough to dig deeper. For this reason, success stories are often quick and to the point. They don’t include too much technical jargon, and are skimmable by those with a passing interest in the subject matter.

The Purpose of a Case Study

Case studies come in once a success story piques a customer’s interest.

A case study is a much more focused document that goes into great detail about a specific area of a company’s service. While a success story offers proof that a product or service works, a case study will dig into how it achieves its desired effects.

Say a company hires a growth-hacking service to improve their overall business results. A success story would focus on the huge results the company saw after working with the service, such as a 500% increase in leads generated. A case study would focus on the methods and practices the service provided the company that led to these results.

Don’t be mistaken, though. Case studies do discuss results. However, the majority of a single case study focuses on how a company achieved these results.

Who Is It For?

Success stories and case studies are not written for individual people; they’re written for companies.

Of course, the companies these documents target are made up of dozens, hundreds, even thousands of individuals. Though they all work for the same company, these individuals all have different responsibilities and purposes within the organization.

To maximize the effect of either a success story or a case study, it’s important to know who will be reading it. Failure to do so will result in a waste of time for all parties involved in the process.

Who Reads Success Stories?

Success stories are more general recollections of the experiences a company had with a product or service (as well as the benefits of such). As such, their target audience is usually C-level personnel. These individuals have way too little time on their hands, and will only want to know how a product will affect their bottom line.

While success stories offer a soup-to-nuts summary of a company’s experience with a service, the main focus will be on the quantitative results. How did the service increase the company’s ROI? How long did it take to recoup expenses? When will the company start seeing results?

As mentioned, a success story will still include other details for its readers to check out once it’s caught their eye. In general, though, the bulk of a success story will end up getting skimmed, with its reader looking for the few quick sentences that will tell them how the service will affect their business.

Who Reads Case Studies?

Compared to success stories, case studies focus more on the process of working with a product or service.

As such, they focus more toward employees who are “on the floor” throughout most of their workday. This includes decision-makers and managers who have a more technical understanding of the day-to-day goings-on within a company.

These employees need to understand exactly how to implement a new product or service, and how it will affect operating procedures. Instead of thinking “How will this product benefit my company?”, these individuals need to know what they will need to do to make the product work efficiently.

While managers and decision-makers will, of course, need reassurance that the product they’ll be working with will actually lead to positive results, they want to know they’ll be able to achieve these results while working within a streamlined system that’s free of bugs and hangups that will just make their job more difficult.

Summary

While success stories and case studies both aim to attract clients, each document serves a separate purpose along the sales funnel.

Customer success stories usually act as the lure that gets potential customers on the hook. However, as these customers will still need to be convinced to go with a specific service, they’ll need multiple case studies to help solidify their confidence in a company to best provide this service to them.

Ever Wonder Where Great Writers Get Their Unique Ideas? It’s Not As Difficult As You Think

Generate ideas to write about by analyzing the world around you.

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

An idea for a blog post hits you like a lightning bolt.

You rush to your computer and open up Google to do some research before you actually start writing. You type your idea into the search box, hit enter, and…

Find a list of dozens of articles with the exact title you had in your head. Word for word.

Turns out your awesome idea wasn’t as original as you’d thought.

At this point, you can do one of two things:

You can quietly back away from your laptop and pretend you were never naive enough to believe the idea you had was that original in the first place.

Or:

You can recognize that your initial idea will almost never be worth writing about.

Tweet: Your initial idea will almost never be worth writing about. http://ctt.ec/Ygnf0+

Seriously.

This doesn’t just go for writers, either.

Whether you’re an inventor, musician, scientist, or any type of creative mind: The first idea that pops into your head will almost certainly be unoriginal, uninspired, and uninteresting.

But that doesn’t mean your idea was absolute crap.

It just means you need to dig deeper.

Use experiences from your own life to discover the unique angle that’ll catch people’s eyes as they scroll through a list of otherwise average content.

Which article would you rather read:

“Six Ways to Improve Your Love Life”

or

“Six Dating Lessons I Learned from Fishing With My Father”?

5849901118_3573845422_b

“When you get a lunker, hold on tight to her.” “Uh…thanks, Dad…”

Both of these articles may very well touch on the same subtopics and ideas, but the latter is much more likely catch your eye. And, because of the unique angle (ugh, I swear I didn’t mean that as a pun), it’s also more likely to stick with you after you close your browser.

So how do you move away from creating boring content that’s been done to death and begin penning articles that connect ideas, concepts, and connections that haven’t ever been explored before?

In short: You need to always be “on”.

Tweet: As a writer, you need to always be

This world – and your life – is absolutely teeming with potential concepts for a new blog post. You just need to recognize them when they arise.

They won’t slap you across the face, either. If it were that easy, every amateur blogger in the world would constantly be churning out unique and intriguing blog posts day after day.

Anyone with a mobile device and internet connection knows: we’re constantly bombarded with stimuli from all angles. But we’ve gotten so used to it that we tune most of it out.

The same goes for the personal interactions we experience on a daily basis. We have our boring chit-chat with coworkers and passersby, then move on with our lives. We overhear hundreds of conversations every day, but never actually tune in to what’s being said.

We read books, magazines, and blog posts – supposedly to learn something and enlighten ourselves – but how often do we actually do something with this information?

Think about that for a minute:

Many of us go through our days without thinking twice about most of our day-to-day experiences. But within these experiences is a treasure trove of ideas for blog posts, articles, and even full-length books.

With a few tweaks to your mindset, you’ll be able to connect seemingly unrelated events and ideas in unique ways that nobody else has ever thought of. When you can do that, you’re almost guaranteed to come up with posts and articles that your readers will find irresistible.

Staying “On” At All Times

I know what you’re thinking:

“It just isn’t plausible to always be thinking of something new to write about.”

I get that. You have too much going on in your life to stop every time something happens to wonder if you’ll be able to write about it later on.

Like I said before, if it were easy to do, everyone would do it.

But if your goal is to separate yourself from the herd, you’re going to need to put in the work to do so.

Position Yourself Effectively

If your goal is to derive ideas from experiences, you have to actually experience the world around you.

That should be a no-brainer, but how many times have you tried (unsuccessfully) to come up with topics to write about while locked up in your apartment or office, staring at the wall?

(Don’t worry – I’ve done it, too)

Trying to generate ideas while staring into space is like trying to make a car run without any gas: With nothing to fuel your thoughts, you’re not going to get anywhere.

You might start by reading a book, listening to a podcast, or watching a movie. When I say “reading”, “listening”, and “watching”, I mean it. Focus intently on whatever it is you’re doing. You don’t want to let information that could possibly lead to an interesting idea slip through the cracks.

Alternatively, you might choose to get up and out. Check out the world around you instead of letting it pass you by. An interaction with a barista or a fellow passenger on the bus could be the springboard you need to get moving on your next piece. Even an hour-long “people watching” session may prove to be invaluable.

Then, of course, there are the special events you’ll attend throughout the weeks. Holidays, golf outings, birthday parties…the list goes on. While you’ll undoubtedly want to kick back and enjoy yourself during these times, always keep in mind the idea that each of these occasions can provide you with a vast amount of material to write about.

Get Analytical

As I’ve alluded to, if you’re aiming to generate ideas to write about throughout your day, you’ll need to change your mindset a bit. You’ll need to be continually wondering “Is this something I could write about?” whenever anything happens – whether it’s out of the ordinary or not.

This sounds like it might take away from your overall enjoyment of life, but it, in fact, may do just the opposite.

As you analyze each situation you encounter, instead of simply moving through your day-to-day life and letting experiences fall quietly into the past, you’ll begin to actively experience every single moment of your life.

You’ll start to find excitement in the seemingly minute details of the world around you.

You’ll begin to connect ideas and thoughts that, otherwise, would have never once crossed your mind.

You’ll stop taking certain things for granted, and realize how important each passing moment in your life truly is.

And, you’ll end up with a ton of unique and intriguing ideas to write about.

Solidify Your Thoughts On Paper

I cannot stress this enough:

If you don’t write down your thoughts, they will get lost in the ether.

Tweet: If you don’t write down your thoughts, they will get lost in the ether. http://ctt.ec/Ygnf0+

I don’t care how you write them down. Carry a pad and pen around with you. Use your phone. Write them on your arm for all I care.

Write. Them. Down.

As a writer, there’s not much worse than thinking of the perfect idea for an article or blog post, only to let it slip away into oblivion. You don’t want all that analytical thought to go to waste, do you?

When you take these notes, be specific as possible. You don’t want to be like Jerry Seinfeld and his Flaming Globes of Sigmund. (If that goes over your head, what I mean is you don’t want to take the time to jot something down only to later on have no idea what your notes mean).

Whenever you reach for that notepad (physical or virtual), record the following:

    • The date and time you had the thought
    • The situation you were in when the thought came to you
    • The actual thought you had
    • How the thought came to your mind
    • Why the idea was important enough to write down
    • How you plan on using the idea in your writing

It may seem like a lot. It is. And you might not use every single idea you jot down, either.

But the ideas you do use will lead to the most intriguing pieces of writing you’ve ever come up with.

Now, To Get Started

I don’t expect you to start writing down everything that pops into your head. I know I don’t. I doubt very many writers do.

But to get the ball rolling, start with recording at least three abstract, oddball, out-of-left-field ideas or concepts that pop into your head over the next week.

Once you’ve got your list, pick one to write a full-length article on.

I bet it’ll be one of the most unique pieces you ever write.

How I Haphazardly Launched My Freelance Writing Career, and Why You’ll Do Better Than Me

Freelance Writing isn't as easy as you'd think

You long for it, don’t you?

The ability to work from wherever you want.

The freedom to pick and choose projects to work on rather than be told what to do and how to do it by a boss who doesn’t even know how to do his job correctly.

To be paid what you decide you’re worth, rather than what some CEO thinks you are.

I always have, too. I just didn’t know it until early last year when I found myself unemployed and in need of a change.

The Prequel to My Freelance Writing Career

In my college days, I discovered two websites that allowed me to make some spare cash when I was in need: the now defunct Associated Content, and the likely-soon-to-be-defunct Demand Media.

On these sites I could either a) upload a paper I’d already written for a class, or b) whip up a quick article on the topic of education (my major) that didn’t have to be all that great, and make enough to pay for a few rounds of beer with my friends.

I didn’t know much about writing for a web-based audience, and, frankly, I didn’t care.

If an editor sent back my work, I’d take a few minutes to make the changes they wanted (despite not necessarily agreeing with them) and send it back, hoping it’d get accepted and I could afford to drink that weekend.

I didn’t see any point in improving. Why would I put any effort into something that had little to do with my career as an educator?

Where I Went Wrong:

I wasted opportunities to work to my highest potential. If I hadn’t half-assed the articles I wrote for Demand, I would have had a major head start when I actually began my freelance writing career.

Obviously, I had no reason to anticipate the career change that would come years later, but I should have seen the value in working hard to create my best work possible.

Instead, I focused on making quick money through less-than-stellar work. Needless to say, the money is long gone.

But long before the money dried up, I had already lost the opportunity to do better work.

What You’ll Do Differently:

Never take opportunities to learn and grow for granted. When you’re just starting out on your journey as a freelance writer, embrace every challenge that comes your way.

If a pitch is rejected, figure out how you can improve it instead of just deleting the rejection email. Failure can be just as valuable to your future as success.

If a client asks for edits on an article, take the time to truly understand how to better deliver what they’re asking for. They took the time to provide you with feedback; you can at least respect them enough to listen.

You might initially be paid the same regardless of the quality of your work, but the experience you gain creating a flawless article or other piece of work is absolutely priceless.

Where It Really All Began

In January of 2015, I unfortunately found myself unemployed.

I’d been debating leaving the field of education for some time at that point, but had invested way too much time, money, and effort into actually doing so voluntarily.

But life has a way of making these decisions for us. At any rate, having just lost a job in which I was overworked and underpaid and didn’t really enjoy anyway, I figured the time to switch careers had come.

At first, I decided to jump back onto Demand Media while I looked for another “real job.”

I had enough saved up that I could look for another nine-to-fiver and survive on making $50-75 writing a couple articles a day for at least a little while.

I found a few other sites to write for that offered similar pay – enough to get by, but not enough to live on.

Little did I know the solution to my problem was literally right in front of me.

Where I Went Wrong:

It took me at least a few months to realize that making $25 an article was not the be-all-end-all of freelance writing.

Even after I realized I could focus on writing instead of finding a “normal” job, I didn’t think I’d be able to just immediately dive into the big leagues.

I thought I’d have to spend months and months building up a portfolio in order to move up the ranks, much like you would in a typical line of work.

I focused on writing for sites like Demand Studios (which, I now know, are derogatorily referred to as content mills, and are pretty much the laughingstock of the freelance writing world).

I passively chose articles to write from a list of potential topics. When the list dried up, I didn’t write.

I was completely unaware that my passive, take-what-I-can-get way of getting work was about the worst way to get moving in my freelance writing career.

What You’ll Do Differently:

You’re going to make moves, and you’re going to make them right from the get-go.

You’re not going to wait for a topic to be assigned to you – you’ll find topics to write about and pitch them all over the place.

You’ll focus on quality of writing rather than quantity of articles in your portfolio. Three incredible articles will get you farther than 50 decent ones.

You’ll understand that working as a freelance writer means that you determine how much you make on a day to day basis, and it all depends on the effort you put into your work.

A Shift in Perspective

Though writing for Demand Studios is technically where I got my start, it was only when I started writing for Lifehack that I truly saw potential in writing for a living.

To my utter amazement, I saw an overwhelming response to the second article I ever wrote for the site. Within a week or two, it was shared on various social media sites over 5,000 times (13,000+ times to date).

Every time I loaded up my page, it had been shared a few hundred more times.

Though I was only paid a one-time fee for the article, the value in seeing my writing being reproduced on hundreds of other blogs and sites was a huge ego boost.

The problem with having my early work go semi-viral is that I had no idea how to take advantage of it.

Where I went wrong:

When that first huge article took off, I didn’t have a website. I didn’t have a blog. I didn’t even have a Twitter page.

It was blatantly clear that I was an amateur.

People were retweeting my article – but they were tagging Lifehack’s Twitter account, and I went unnoticed.

Those who gave me credit when linking to the article on their blog listed my name, but not my email address.

If people enjoyed the article and wanted to read more of my work….well…I didn’t have anything else to show them.

If I’d have set up a hub for people to use to contact me before that article went live, there’s a good chance my freelancing career would have taken off much sooner than it did – and with a lot less work on my end, too.

What You’ll Do Differently:

You’re going to anticipate your writing getting shared, and you’re going to be ready for it.

And you’re going to have something else to offer fans of your work.

Even if all you have is a free WordPress site (for now), you’ll at least have a page that allows your new fans to connect with you.

You’ll have a byline that prompts your readers to take action instead of just reading your work and moving on to something else.

You’ll adopt – and exhibit – the attitude that you’re not just testing the waters; you’re in this for the long haul.

Embracing the Business End of Freelancing

Despite clearly having a knack for writing – and getting confirmation of this through the success of my first few articles – it took me a while to realize that freelance writing involves more than just creating well-crafted articles.

To be blunt, I was quite clueless when it came to the “behind the scenes” work freelance writers need to do in order to become successful.

I had no idea how to pitch an article.

I had no idea how to negotiate a well-paying rate.

I had no idea how to create opportunities for myself and potential clients.

My work had been shared across the globe.

It had been translated into different languages.

I’d received kudos through email and LinkedIn.

But I still wasn’t hearing back from any of the clients I’d written to in response to job postings.

Looking back, I can tell you exactly why that is…

Where I Went Wrong:

My first foray into pitching articles was totally me-centered.

I pitched article topics I thought were interesting.

I thought being a good writer meant I could write about anything.

I thought clients would trust that I could do the work they needed just because…well…I don’t know. I guess because I told them I could.

To be fair to my novice self, I had absolutely no training in pitching articles, so I really didn’t even know what I was doing. Whenever I sent an email out to a client, I was 95% certain I wouldn’t be hearing back from them.

Looking back, I guess I was still in “wing and a prayer” mode, hoping that someone out there would take a chance on me, leading me to subsequent gigs after I proved myself initially.

What You’ll Do Differently:

You’re going to realize that freelance writing is a business, and businessmen don’t take chances on anything less than a sure thing.

And they certainly won’t hire you just because you think you’re worth it. They don’t care how you feel – they care what you can do for them.

Knowing this, you’re going to focus 100% on your clients’ needs when prospecting.

You’ll know what they’re looking for, and how you’ll give it to them.

You’ll provide specific evidence as to why you’re the person for the gig. You’ll understand that “People say I’m a good writer” means absolutely nothing to them.

And, most importantly, you won’t waste time – your client’s or your own – pitching articles if you haven’t done any research into how to actually do so.

There’s Always More To Learn

As in any other area of life, when it comes to freelance writing there is always more to learn.

There are so many resources out there for fledgling freelancers. The list of quality material available really is inexhaustible.

In fact, with so much out there, there really is no excuse for you to not be an informed, and ultimately successful, freelance writer.

But there are definitely a few things that might hold you back.

Where I Went Wrong:

Simply put, when I looked for resources to help grow my freelancing abilities, I opted for the free material the experts provided.

To be honest, I was very skeptical of the paid content I’d come across. Which so much available for free, I wondered what more I’d be getting for paying $200 for a course, or $25 a month for a membership to a forum.

Finally, in December of 2015, I bit the bullet and signed up for Carol Tice’s Freelance Writer’s Den and Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging course.

(Disclosure: The link to Carol’s program is an affiliate link, so I earn a little bit if you sign up through it).

At first, I was a little let down – but only because I was just scratching the surface. Having already learned a lot in the first eight months of my freelance writing career, I didn’t really get much out of the first few lessons I checked out of either.

But when I got to a point where I was actually learning something new, holy crap was the information valuable.

Because of these programs, I’ve accomplished more in the last four months than I did throughout all of last year.

And the deeper I go, the more I learn – and the more I earn.

Oh, and by the way: Through Carol’s forum, I got hooked up with a gig in which I earned $250 for about four hours of work. In four hours, I paid for almost an entire year’s subscription to her services. Worth it? You freaking bet.

What You’ll Do Differently:

You are going to take professional development seriously from the very moment you decide to start a freelance writing career.

You’re going to sign up on mailing lists and actually read the emails as they come in.

You’re going to sign up for courses, workshops, and forums, and absolutely scour the websites, squeezing every bit of value you can out of the material.

You’re going to learn in about one to two weeks what took me about six months to figure out on my own.

You’re going to see your income absolutely explode, and make even the most expensive trainings out there immediately worth it in dividends.

And you’re going to one day pay it forward by providing the same information to others just getting started in their freelancing careers.