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Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet, author and owner of MehtaFor: Writing & Editing.
1) How did you get started working from home?
In the midst of the Great Recession, I was laid off from two (not one!) jobs, had an opportunity to move to Costa Rica where cost of living is much lower (but Americans can still collect unemployment), and found my very first client on Craigslist. I was perusing the writing gigs and found an ad so pompous and arrogant, I had to write to the poster and say he wouldn’t find a quality worker that way. I wrote for him for two years. That client was how I learned you really could make a living as a writer … working from anywhere.
2) How did you choose the work-at-home career you do?
While much of it was Craigslist magic, like a lot of writers I simply write because I have to. I have a master’s degree in writing, a bachelor’s in English, and even though I’m very Type-A and driven, I was never taught how to make a lucrative career as a writer. Specializing in online content including search engine optimization, link building, meta tag writing, and other web-based strategies for online content is what makes writing as a career possible in the mobile-ready, digital era.
3) How did you get started (basic initial steps)?
After I stumbled across that first client, things got easier. In one year, I was making six figures. However, I still look for new clients Monday – Friday, I write up to 20 pieces (around 500 – 1,000 words) per day, and I maintain my online presence and reputation as well as writing my own books. I was fortunate to have the safety net of unemployment, very low cost of living, and in turn the time to figure out which type of clients pay the most and what I was naturally good and fast at writing.
4) How did you get your first client or customer or job?
After securing a handful of clients solely from online listings, word of mouth took over. I found that in many case, writing about technology and niche industry like roofing, insurance, and even tree care are where the most money can be found. Hiring editors know each other, and it’s a lot faster, safer and easier to ask about a quality writer than to blindly post an ad. The vast majority of my clients still come from past/present client referrals.
5) How do you market your business?
Word of mouth is the biggest, but I do maintain a website for my business and for my author site. I also regularly update my LinkedIn profile and have had a number of clients approach me on that platform, all of whom pay my going rates. I also regularly contribute to other writers’ articles and blogs to maintain a list of “mentions” on my own websites. The more potential clients can see your online presence, the more likely they are to reach out.
6) What does your usual day look like?
I’m naturally a morning person and wake up between 4:30 – 6 a.m. I immediately take care of the strengthening part of my training program followed by a protein-rich breakfast. Not worrying about fitting in one of my workouts lets me focus on client projects from about 7 a.m. – noon. On some days, I teach a lunch yoga class, or I otherwise complete the cardio part of my training. Sometimes I still have work left to do, other times I’m done for the day. To align with my husband’s schedule, I try to only work on MehtaFor Monday – Friday.
7) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
Trust your gut with clients and projects. If you have a bad feeling, or if they seem clueless or needy, or if the on-boarding process is hectic, the rest of the project will be just as bad. Learn how to say no and when to end a professional relationship. Figure out what you a) need to earn and b) want to earn per hour (I charge per word, but calculate what I’ll make based on how long it takes me to write a piece) and choose clients accordingly. Also, only charge per word or a flat rate per project. Nobody wants to think they’re paying you $100/hour for an article, but when you phrase it as $100 for a 1,500 word article, they’ll sign right up … even if it just takes an hour (which it should).
8) What advice would you give someone who wants to work from home?
There’s a difference, sometimes, between wanting to work from home and being good at it. It requires traits that are often innate, incredible drive, and being incapable of being distracted. For the right person, yes, it’s as wonderful as it sounds. For others, the lack of formal parameters drives them mad. Also keep in mind that working from home can easily turn into working around the clock. Be in charge of your personal time.
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