For this week’s “Feature Me Friday” segment, we’d like to introduce to you Jacqueline Bodnar, a freelance writer and author of the book, Starting Your Career as a Professional Blogger (Allworth Press, June 2013). Read on to hear her advice about setting rates and getting insurance, and the importance of marketing your skills.

Guru: How did you get into freelance writing?

Jacqueline: A few months after graduating from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I made the decision to become a freelance writer. While attending UNLV I had taken a newswriting course and wrote for the college newspaper. I made the decision that it was the route I wanted to take. I went for it and never looked back!

G: Do you freelance full-time or part-time? In addition to a full-time 9-5 job?

J: I’m a full-time freelance writer. It is the only job that I have and the only job that I want. A couple of years ago I was offered a position teaching writing at a local college. I ended up turning it down because I couldn’t imagine giving up the writing career I have built.

G: What was the most challenging obstacle you faced as a beginner freelancer, and how did you overcome it?

J:The most challenging obstacle that most freelancers face is not charging what they are worth. Too many will work for next to nothing. Then they begin believing that it’s impossible to earn a living in this field, which is completely untrue. They may give up simply because they were selling themselves short. I avoided this by determining how much it is that I wanted and needed to make per-hour, calculating how long projects took, and then charging a fee with which I was comfortable. I also quickly learned that there are a lot of low-paying projects out there, but there are also higher-paying ones. You have to learn to focus on those that are going to be worth your time. Another way to make sure you earn a good living as a writer is to build relationships to earn repeat business. You do this by doing a good job, meeting deadlines, and having happy clients.

G: What is your favorite thing about Guru?

J: Being able to log on every day and bid on writing jobs that I would otherwise not have known about. It has made prospecting a much easier process.

G: What is one thing you’d change on Guru?

J: I think that when people see your earnings and feedback on your profile, they should see it all, not just the last 12 months. I can’t see the harm in the client seeing the total amount you have earned through the site, as well as the total number of pieces of feedback you have received. Showing them 12 months back is not telling the whole story, and I think most don’t realize they can click to get all of the info.

G: What other sites do you use to find and manage your freelance jobs?

J: I also use Elance, although not as much as I use Guru. Guru is the site that I use most often to find freelance jobs. I have tried several others over the years, but didn’t care for them.

G: What assurances do you ask for before beginning work with a new client?

J: I always require that the funds have been placed into SafePay before any work is started. This way I don’t waste my time working for someone who may never respond again or who may be trying to get work done for free.

G: What are your usual work terms?

J: My work terms really depend on whether it is a new client and the specific requirements of the project. If it is a new client I always require the funds to be placed into SafePay. If it is a big project I will set up milestones, so that I am receiving payments as the project is moving along.

G: Do you have any tips for freelancers who need insurance?

J: This is a big concern for freelancers in the U.S, and is one of the biggest challenges that all self-employed individuals face. You have no choice but to purchase your own health insurance. If you become a LLC, rather than staying a freelancer, you can at least use that expense as a tax deduction. This helps to offset some of the associated costs.

G: What do you consider your specialty when it comes freelancing?

J: My master’s degree is in Professional Writing, so I have had in-depth training in a variety of areas. I consider my specialty areas to be blogging, article writing, and press release writing. I consider myself an expert blogger; in fact, I authored a newly-published book to share my advice with others who wish to become professional bloggers.

G: What do you find most rewarding about freelancing?

J: I love having more control over my career and work day. I choose the hours I will work each day, and if I need to take a break to go do something else, I can do so. I meet my deadlines, but I enjoy a lot of flexibility as well.

G: What has been the most unique or memorable project you’ve taken on so far?

J: I have ghostwritten three books so far, having found each of the clients through Guru. Those would be the most memorable projects that I have worked on. Although my name doesn’t go on them as the author it was a good experience being able to write a book-length project, do the necessary research, and test my skills in finishing such a project. I also have a national magazine client that I found through Guru. I have had several memorable projects with them, including opportunities to interview interesting people such as television producer Mara Brock Akil, an auto industry executive, and quite a few members of the military.

G: What is ONE lesson you learned while breaking into the freelance world?

J: Simply having skills in a given industry and category (e.g., writing, graphic arts, administration, etc) is not enough. You must know how to market those skills. Without knowing how to market your skills, it won’t matter how well you do them. It is essential to learn some basic marketing skills so that you can promote your skills and services. It is important to have a professional Website, a good proposal for making contacts with potential employers, and a professional portfolio that they can view. All three of these items will greatly help with your marketing efforts.

G: Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed!

Want to learn more about Jacqueline? View Jacqueline Bodnar’s profile on Guru

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