Have you heard the story of Roger Bannister? People believed that a runner couldn’t complete a mile faster than four minutes. It couldn’t be done. The world is flat. A pure fact.
That is, until it wasn’t.
On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister shattered beliefs about what is possible when he ran a mile in three minutes, 59.4 seconds.
And do you know what happened next?
About a month after he broke the record, John Landing did it again — but faster than Bannister. Three runners broke the four-minute mile during a single race a year later.
Breaking the four-minute mile clearly wasn’t just about physical fitness. Sure, that was important, but it was about something more.
As a freelance writer, getting new clients can feel hard.
How do you land better assignments and higher-paying work?
But here’s where the four-minute mile comes into play. What if the reason that you’re struggling to get clients isn’t so much about the task being hard?
What if it has to do with thinking it’s hard?
Let that sink in … $50K in two months.
What if this guy isn’t that different from you? What if he’s Roger Bannister, and you’re one of those guys that breaks the record months after he does it first?
Here are a few stories to show that high-earning writers are just like you, and what you can do to break your own four-minute mile.
Carol Tice — No College Degree
During 2010, I was writing articles for content mills and convinced that writers earning $1 a word were unicorns. I can’t remember how or where, but I stumbled upon Carol Tice. She is like that friend that tells you how it is and never holds back the truth. So, I started paying attention.
Soon enough, I too was a unicorn.
One of the things I love about Carol is that she started as a freelance writer without a college degree. Let that work on your imposter syndrome for a minute.
When I talk to people who want to become freelance writers, they often say, “I don’t have a degree in English, journalism, marketing, blah, blah, blah,” and the list goes on.
Imposter syndrome is real.
Carol started as a songwriter, but she wanted to earn more. So, she entered — and won — a writing contest, pitched assignments to publications, landed more assignments, and ultimately secured a staff writing job.
Eventually, she got into freelancing, earning more than in her full-time staff writing job. And remember, this is all without any college degree, let alone one as specific as English or something related to writing.
She admits that she made mistakes during her early years. Don’t we all? But she didn’t let those mistakes get her down. She kept going.
Here’s something else to consider. There is no club of marketing managers that secretly decides that “you’ll never work in this town again” if you accidentally mess up.
So go ahead, make mistakes. It’s the only way to get better.
Not sure how to find high-paying clients? Download the exact template I used to land thousands in new work.
Ed Gandia — No Formal Writing Experience
I came across Ed Gandia after I started following Carol, and what I love about Ed is he has really awesome sales skills. Plus, he’s got a cool story.
Ed had no formal writing experience, but he was a top-performing sales guy, totally rocking his job. He wanted to write sales letters but didn’t have internal marketing support.
So what did he do?
He convinced his employer to pay for him to take a copywriting course so that he could learn. He put those skills into play at his job and eventually started a copywriting side hustle.
At first, he admits, it was hard.
Ed was working a demanding full-time job and taking on around 20 hours a week of freelance work — and he had a young family. But he wanted to stop traveling so much and spend more time at home.
Eventually, his part-time copywriting business started doing so well that he quit his day job and expanded his business to be his full-time gig. In the first year, he earned $163,181.
So, Back to Tim Denning’s “Mark” — How Did He Do It?
Remember Tim Denning’s Mark, who earned $50K in two months? I bet you wonder how he did it.
I know I did.
Mark had a tiny Twitter following of 199 but still leveraged the platform to build his freelance business. He used a couple of strategies, and the first was targeting a specific niche of clients — software-as-a-service companies.
He sent a ton of direct messages to prospects.
Another strategy was zeroing in on prospects he wanted to work with, rewriting a piece of their content (unsolicited), and sending it to them.
This is risky. I have to admit, I’ve never done this before. I’m super protective of my time.
But Mark is an awesome writer, he believes in himself, and it paid off. Sure, he got plenty of rejections, but the yeses added up to $25K monthly in work.
How to Break Your Four-Minute Mile
Okay, so you might be sitting there thinking, wow, that’s awesome, but what am I supposed to do next? Here are a few ideas.
Don’t have writing samples? Get them this week. A couple of writing samples. That’s all you need to get started. Write a blog post on Medium, get in touch with a non-profit and offer to complete a small unpaid project. Do one thing this week. Once you have a few samples, you’re good to go. No more taking on unpaid work or reduced rates to “get more experience.”
Pitch, pitch, pitch. Do you know what Carol, Ed, and Mark have in common? They pitched hard. I’ll give you a personal example. When growing my freelance business, I was pitching 400 prospects a month at one point. It didn’t take long until I was fully booked at professional rates.
Know that there is no club that reports your failures. Making mistakes sucks. It feels bad and can make you hesitant to try again. But do it — try again. And then do it again and again. Nobody is keeping track but you. Stop keeping track.
Get outside your comfort zone. Whatever is holding you back from starting or growing your business is hanging just outside your comfort zone. Go there, even if it’s just a little each day, because it’s the only way to accomplish what you really want.
Make a system for your marketing. James Clear wrote in his book Atomic Habits: “You do not rise to the level of your goals; you fall to the level of your systems.” If you’re not earning what you want or landing the clients you want, consider creating a new system. For example, if you send 10 prospecting emails five times a week, that’s 200 a month. If you do that over a month and don’t have a new client or two, I’d be amazed.
After a few months, I suspect you’ll be fully booked. Yes, you could raise your rates on existing clients, but you’ll feel way more empowered to do so if you have a bunch of awesome prospects knocking at your door.
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