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Contena® is an online program designed to help you get started with remote writing. We help you to create everything you need to get paid to write from the comfort and safety of your home. We also find jobs and companies that hire remote writers.

We have helped thousands of writers to make money from remote work and our community includes many of the top freelance writers from around the world.

Write With Warnimont: An Interview with Joe Warnimont
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6 minute read

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 any more 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.

Published December 26, 2019
Interview with Elna Cain: Full-Time Income from Freelancing Part-Time
5 minute read

Elna Cain of Elnacain.com and FreelancerFAQ’s is a freelance writer and mom, earning a healthy full-time income from freelancing part-time.

Both of Elna’s sites serve as an excellent starting point for freelancers. Contena is even mentioned in a few of her guides 🙂 So I’m really glad that she agreed to do this interview. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, what did you do in your previous life?

Hi! My name is Elna Cain. I’m from Canada, a freelance writer and a mom to twin toddlers.

They just turned three and life as we know it is never quiet, but full of laughter, gripes, yells and hiccups (they’ve been getting a lot of those lately….).

I’ve been freelance writing for a little over a year now and have been able to earn a healthy full-time income doing this part-time.

Before I had my twins I taught children with autism in the school setting. My background is in education and psychology, but I primarily write about digital marketing for my clients. Go figure!

Besides writing about digital marketing, I also do copywriting and I’m a ghostwriter for some key influencers online.

I also run a freelancing blog called FreelancerFAQs alongside Alicia Rades. It’s a place to get your freelancing questions answered.

How did you first get into freelancing?

After having my twins, I decided that I wanted to stay home and raise my children.

Maybe I was over protective or it was my “calling,” but I had a strong desire to stay home. Plus, the cost to put my twins into a quality daycare would’ve surely eaten up most of any paycheck. So, working outside the home just didn’t seem like a viable option.

I knew I had to find a way to contribute to our finances and it was my husband who actually introduced me to making money online. Since he works from home, he suggested I do something like virtual assisting or freelance writing.

I’ve always enjoyed writing and the creative side of it so freelance writing seemed like a great fit for me.

I really love your blog on ElnaCain.com where you share advice for writers who want to break into the business. Why did you decide to write about writing?

When I first started my blog – over on my professional website, Innovative Ink – I was so interested in freelance writing, I wanted to write about it.

I used my blog to write about writing and being a work-from-home mom. Since I didn’t have a clear direction of what niche I was ultimately going to specialize in, I felt freelance writing was something I was learning about and I was interested in – so I wanted to share my excitement.

Now, over a year later, I moved my blog over to ElnaCain.com – since it didn’t fit well with my professional writing site – and found a whole audience of new writers wanting to learn how to break into freelance writing and to be told how it really is.

What does an average day look like? Are there any tricks you use to increase your writing productivity?

My days are busy and different each time. Luckily – crossing my fingers – my twins are still taking their daily nap. They just turned three so I know my days are numbered.

The only time I can truly do my client work is when they are sleeping. I can average around 4 hours of solid work a day. This means I start my writing at 2 pm and can write until 3:30 or 4 pm.

Then I can write again from 8pm until around 10 pm. It’s not ideal, but it’s working.

When my twins are awake, I sometimes manage to sneak in some other business-related tasks such as invoicing, email, graphic design for clients, or updating and research for client pieces.

These tasks don’t always require my total focus and they can get done when my children are running around playing.

As for productivity hacks? I try not to check my email or social media profiles – or approve comments on my blog – when I’m writing for my clients. I also listen to music – loving Ludovico Einaudi’s album Divenire – and that seems to help me to keep focus when I have to write.

Are you writing full time? If so, how and when did you make the decision and transition?

No, I’m not writing full-time, yet. My twins are still young and I want to keep them home and take care of them.

So, when they go to school I’ll probably do this full-time.

Is there anything you regret or would have done differently early on?

The one thing I regret is not knowing about job boards sooner. I started my freelance writing with a content mill. I barley made $2 for my first writing piece and I started to doubt my ability to have a successful freelance writing business.

Then I moved on to Guru, which is similar to Upwork. I didn’t land any projects there so I finally made the (right) decision to do this on my own. I created Innovative Ink, guest posted and searched job boards for quality gigs and it paid off!

How do you think freelancing has changed your life the most?

It’s given me many opportunities that I couldn’t have possibly dreamed of. I’m a writer for Blogging Wizard, I ghostwrite for some big influencers, I was approach by Kevin Duncan to write for OptinMonster and I’m in the works to collaborate with other successful writers, bloggers and entrepreneurs.

It’s amazing how much my business has grown in only a year. I can only imagine what my business will look like a year from now.

Are you working on any side projects?

I just launched a new freelance writing course for aspiring writers and bloggers called Write Your Way to Your First $1k. It’s a 7-week, self-paced online course.

I wanted to create a course that shows a proven framework and provides step-by-step lessons from the initial stages of deciding if freelance writing is for you, all the way up to marketing yourself, submitting your pieces to your clients properly, and growing your business.

Since it’s self-paced, students can go through the course material as fast or as slow as they want, and they can go back and review important lessons. And, I’m always adding new videos and material to keep things up-to-date and current. Oh, and there’s a private Facebook group where we all hang out and help each other out – it would be hard for someone not to succeed.

You also offer coaching for aspiring writers. Can you share more about how that’s structured? What does a typical coaching session look like?

Yes, I offer coaching to new writers and it’s going great. Currently I’m offering 30-minute phone calls.

During our phone call I get to know the writer and what their problems are. From there we hatch out a plan to tackle each problem. After our initial phone call I send out a summary report going over what we had discussed.

They can choose whether to do bi-weekly coaching calls, monthly coaching calls, or talk on an as-needed basis.

I’ve had great success with this setup and many of my coaching students also join my freelance writing course, which tells me they all want to succeed at the highest level.

Lastly – what is one small thing that an aspiring writer can do today to improve their freelancing business.

The one thing an aspiring writer can do today to improve their freelance business is to stop doubting yourself.

I know this can seem impossible to do, but just know that everyone doubts his or her ability at one time or another. Even the most successful freelance writers still let doubt creep in once in a while. The thing to remember is how you deal with it. Face it and take action! And once you get over that, anything is possible.

Published December 26, 2019
Interview with Nicole Dieker: Musician to Full Time Writer in 6 Months
5 minute read

Today I’m excited to share my recent interview with Nicole Dieker. Nicole has written for high profile sites like The Billfold, Yearbook Office, The Penny Hoarder, and Boing Boing. She also chronicles her earnings from writing each month on The Write Life – a blog that helps freelance writers create, connect and earn. Nicole is also in the process of writing a novel The Biographies of Ordinary People.

Hi Nicole, great to have you. Let’s jump right into this… How did you first get into freelancing?

I got into freelancing because I needed a way to make money while working as a performing musician. I knew that if I took a job that tied me to an office (or coffee shop or retail store), I wouldn’t be able to keep up my performance schedule. So I signed on to a content site called Crowdsource, and began writing short articles for around 3 cents a word.

From there—well, I’ve always been good at writing, and what I quickly realized was that I was really good at freelancing. I could turn around a post in an hour, and I could write four or five short posts a day. I was reliable, I hit my deadlines, and I could turn in clean copy. Plus, I started to love the work. It was very different from being a musician and begging bars to let me play to an uninterested audience!

So I very quickly began to ramp down the music work and ramp up the writing. I got better clients, I got contributor roles at publications like The Billfold (which is the closest a freelancer gets to a guaranteed monthly income) and I built a career.

Every month you share a breakdown of your income from freelancing on The Write Life. What motivated you to start doing that? What has the response been since you started sharing your writing income publicly?

I started sharing my freelancing income back when I was a full-time performing musician, as a way to show the disparity between the amount of work I was doing and the amount of money I was earning. There’s this idea that if you’re a musician who is playing a couple of shows a week, you must be earning a living, right? Not true. I’d make two hundred bucks, and that was it.

So I began posting This Week in Independent Musicianry on my Tumblr, sharing my income and struggles with my readers every week. That was in in 2012. It has since evolved into This Week in Freelancing, and I still post my freelancing income to Tumblr every week, in addition to doing the monthly roundup in The Write Life.

You write for high profile sites including The Billfold, Yearbook Office, The Freelancer, SparkLife, The Penny Hoarder, and Boing Boing. How do you find balance with all of these demanding clients?

Ha ha ha ha, “demanding” is your word, not mine! I love my clients.

I’ll tell you honestly, it took a while to find balance. For a while, it was a question about whether I’d have enough work to earn the money I needed, but there was a tipping point around the beginning of this year where I started to get a lot of new gigs. Most of them were clients who reached out to me and asked if I would write for them, which is a great place to be in as a freelancer.

Anyway, I started saying yes to a lot of stuff, and got myself in a position where I was putting in 12-hour days. That is not sustainable in the long term, so I started figuring out how many pieces I could actually complete each week, and how I could configure my client work so I was writing the majority of my pieces for my best clients. (These aren’t necessarily my best-paying clients, although most of them pay at the top of my range. A client that is easy to work with and puts my writing in front of a big audience is equally valuable.)

So I found balance by saying no to things, and now I’ve gotten my workweek down to around 40 hours. But I was only able to say no to stuff by first doing the work of saying all that yes. If you don’t have enough paying work, and if you don’t have good relationships with your clients, you won’t have the leverage you need to say no when you need to.

What does an average day look like? Are there any tricks you use to increase your writing productivity?

I tend to work from about 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., give or take, with an hour to 90-minute break in the middle. There’s usually one night a week that I keep as “overflow night,” to pound through everything I couldn’t finish during the day.

As for productivity: I am the child of two classically-trained musicians. This means I learned, from a very young age, that you sit down at your instrument every day and you practice every day. So finding the motivation to write, even when it is “hard” or “boring,” has never been much of an issue for me. Some of it is like playing music, and some of it is like practicing scales.

Also, if I don’t write, I don’t eat. I have money in a savings account, but I have no real other source of income at this point. So that encourages me to be very productive!

Are you writing full time? If so, how and when did you make the decision and transition?

I was never in the position where I had to choose to quit my job and pursue freelance writing. I was in the position where I had no job, and I wasn’t earning enough from music performance, and I had to figure out how to earn money. That’s how I started freelancing, and I built it up to a full time gig within maybe six months. (Keep in mind that at that time I was doing low-paid content work for 3 cents a word. But I was doing it 8+ hours a day, Monday through Friday.)

I am very glad that I am able to do this full-time. If I hadn’t started working for Crowdsource, I might have gone back to temping, or working retail. But Crowdsource took me on, and I was able to earn a livable wage with them, and from there I was able to build a career.

Is there anything you regret or would have done differently early on?

I’ll frame this as a piece of advice: start looking for a new client as soon as you start having problems with a current one.

It’s like any other job; if you don’t have a good relationship with your boss, it’s time to think about working somewhere else. But don’t burn bridges, either.

Find your new client, and say goodbye to the problem one in a way that maintains the relationship and encourages that client to refer you to other clients in the future.

How do you think freelancing full time has changed your life the most?

This is the first career I’ve had where I’ve been paid for my ideas. Previously, I was paid for my ability to answer a phone, or my ability to complete administrative work. (Or, in many cases, not paid for being a musician.)

When you get paid for being you, it changes everything. It makes your work more valuable. It gets you a little closer to indispensable. People want to work with you just because you’re you, and they’re willing to pay for that.

Do you still write for fun? Are you working on any side projects?

I hate this question. When I go on dates with people and they ask “okay, but do you still write for fun,” there is no second date. Nearly all of my writing is fun. I love my entire job, and I dislike the implication that freelancing is somehow “less fun” than the fiction writing I must be doing “on the side.”

I get paid to write fiction for sites like Yearbook Office. That means it isn’t a side project; it is an integral part of my freelance portfolio.

Right now I am writing a novel titled The Biographies of Ordinary People (my second novel) and funding the process through Patreon.

I hope you take the time to check out my novel, because I’ve gotten a lot of great response from my readers.

I’m also still writing and performing music, by the way. But now I can be very selective about the gigs I take—no more terrible bars!

Lastly—what is one small thing that an aspiring writer can do today to improve their freelancing business?

When I started publishing my income online, it incentivized me to earn more money every week, because I wanted to share a narrative of progress and success. The knowledge that I’d have to tell everyone, every week, how I did helped push me to send out that extra pitch, take on that extra piece, do anything I could to get that income number higher.

What gets measured gets managed, as the saying goes. 

So start measuring what you want to change in your career, and figure out what you need to do to improve that number.

Published December 26, 2019