This is an interview with Lauren Nelson, a freelance web content creator and communications consultant. Her blog, Part-Time Diva, Full-Time Mom, covers writing opportunities, productivity tips, family insights and the struggles of being a “write at home mom.” A former speech and debate whiz, Lauren is a self-proclaimed “communication geek” and single mom to her precocious 2 year old, Ava.
Continue reading for an excellent interview about how she is making it as an entrepreneur and her tips for your success with writing online.
1) First things first, because I love to hear how people got started. How did you find your way into freelance writing?
It was tragic. I was at the tail end of an awful year. My fiance and I had split, I was raising my daughter on my own, and I was waiting tables. I felt like an idiot. I’d done speech and debate for eight years, I was two classes away from finishing my degree, and I was asking people how they’d like their steaks cooked.
I had been looking for some kind of secretarial work on Craigslist when I found someone looking for an “excellent writer who could work from home.” Turned out to be a terribly paying SEO gig, but I took it anyway. As I worked, I searched and began to discover a wide world of web writing that I never knew existed.
2) What was your “9 to 5” work experience like, if any? This is very much connected with my first question, but what led you away from a traditional job (if you even had one to begin with)?
I was largely driven by pride and my daughter. I had initially taken that serving job as a stop gap measure, and I was determined to avoid being a career server. I wanted to go back and finish my degree, and I wanted to make my own way.
My daughter was a big part of things as well. She’s almost 23 months old now, and that kid keeps me on my toes. She is a barrel of energy, a drama queen to the extreme (she gets it from her mother), and in a state of awe over the world still. The idea of being with her instead of her being at daycare was extremely appealing.
3) I imagine trying to balance life as a freelancer and a mother is challenging at times (or perhaps, all the time). Most of us are trying to make it as entrepreneurs, but few of us are doing it while raising a child. How do you manage it? What’s been the #1 thing that has allowed you to stay focused?
You know, maybe I just got really lucky, but Ava is such a great kid. Very self-sufficient in an almost frightening way. I also am incredibly immune to distraction. Between growing up in a loud house full of kids and being trained to ignore distractions during my competitive speech and debate days… it takes a lot to rattle me now. The other day I was pushing Ava on a swing at the park, on the phone with a potential client and finishing up an article with my laptop on my hip while surrounded by a gaggle of screaming and running six year olds. Snagged the client, got the article in on time and was able to chase Ava around the playground for about an hour, so it was a successful day!
I think the key to this is to never take yourself too seriously. We are not writing Pulitzer Prize material; we’re filling a need. I respect the heck out of the people who write like that, but that’s not where my priorities are right now. My writing work functions as another task on a very diverse and long “To Do” list.
That does not mean I don’t think you shouldn’t value your work. In fact, I just put up a post on my blog about how to defend the value of your web content creation to naysayers. It’s just important that we realize that writing is another job. You’ve got to keep your priorities in order. I love writing, and I think it’s an awesome job, but at the end of the day, it is just a job.
4) What has been your biggest success to date, as an entrepreneur?
May was a crazy, crazy month for me. Due to some family issues, I was traveling back and forth, with baby, to and from Chicago and Bowling Green, KY. If you don’t have kids, you don’t know how hellish the airport can really be. In any case, all of the travel and family time really cut back on my work availability. I had maybe a third of the amount of time to work that I would in an average month. Even with that, I was able to bring in 2K with my articles.
I also saw some really cool growth on the blog. It’s weird now to think that I only started it on May 5th! I think pushing through and producing results in the midst of chaos was, for me, a huge success, largely because it served as proof to myself that I can make this happen. I can work from home, support myself and Ava, and still have a life!
5) What has been your biggest failure and/or source of frustration? What did you learn from it?
I think some of the judgmental tones I’ve encountered in the community have frustrated me the most. Perhaps part of the problem is that the freelancing community attracts so many problem solvers, and everyone thinks that their solution is the best one. Don’t get me wrong- I am a firm believer in the value of the freelancing community. There have just been a sprinkling of headaches along the way.
The only other real frustration has stemmed from the development of the layout for my blog. I won’t lie to you; I’m a communication major. Math, science, computing… it’s all Greek to me. When I started out, I was broke and clueless. It’s been a process of trial and error, but in this world, you get fast or you get out of the way, so expect some changes in the next month or so on the site!
6) What is your biggest source of motivation, and why?
I’m really stubborn and very independent. I cannot tell you how many times my parents have asked me to just move home. I can’t do it. It would be a million times easier in so many ways, but I am determined to show Ava that you can do anything you put your mind to. It’s important to me that I set an example as a strong woman for her. Doing well freelancing is how I’m going to make that possible. It drives me from sun up to sun down.
7) What’s your favorite article site or platform to write for (e.g. eHow, Squidoo, HubPages, etc.) and which has earned you the most money (if they’re not the same)?
On the suggestion of Pat over at Smart Passive Income, I went ahead and started writing on Infobarrel. I have to say, it’s pretty awesome. I’m in the middle of testing out a bunch of different platforms for a review series on the blog, but I have a lot of fun with the Infobarrel community. I can write about whatever I want, so important reflections that are a little too far off topic to make it on the blog tend to find a home there. Not a big money maker for me yet, but I certainly understand the potential there.
My biggest money maker is easily Demand Studios. It’s basic, formulaic and easy work once you figure out the guidelines, and if I select my titles correctly, I can crank out a $15 in about 20 minutes. It’s not my favorite only because I get bored. I’m hoping that they’ll change their revenue share program up a little bit, and then maybe my perspective will change. Perhaps meager upfront pay with residuals upon title approval? That would be sweet. In the meantime, some crazy editors and boring work is tolerable in exchange for reliable pay twice a week.
8) What tips do you have for someone who doesn’t currently write, but wants to get into internet article writing?
There are two big things to remember. First, writing isn’t rocket science. If you’re looking to write articles that will make people lay down and weep, internet articles are probably not where you need to be focusing your efforts. Internet writing ends up being very simple, and if you can put your ego to the side, I honestly think that almost anyone with a basic grasp of writing skills can make a few bucks online.
Second, don’t be afraid of your voice. With a myriad of hyper-specific writing guidelines floating around out there, it can be difficult to maintain a level of personality to your writing. People who keep their personal voice in their work as time goes on are the ones that clients want to hire for bigger jobs, because they are the ones that can create high quality, unique and engaging content.
Thanks to Lauren for taking the time to answer my questions. Again, please check out her blog at Part-Time Diva, Full-Time Mom and follow her on Twitter! If you have further questions for Lauren, feel free to ask them in the comments.
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