How to Become a Content Writer ft. Nikola Roza (SEO Content Writer & Affiliate Marketer)

Nikola Roza began writing online because he didn’t have a college degree. Today he makes a decent living through his online writing business.

Apart from writing, Nikola also creates affiliate marketing sites, builds content strategies for online brands, and he loves teaching white hat SEO to folks on the internet through his blog.

Nikola was kind enough to find time from his busy schedule to share some of his learnings with aspiring content writers.

Interview With Nikola Roza

1. Let’s start with your background…What did you want to be when you were young? And how did you end up becoming a content writer?

When I was younger I dreamed about being a teacher of Serbian language and literature. I was a literary buff as a kid, regularly reading 2 books per day at the expense of my social life 🙂

I went to university to get a diploma and become a teacher, but during my studying my mother got sick and I had to go back and take care of her.

After she died I couldn’t afford to go back so I tried finding work online and with a bit of luck and a lot of persistence I landed my first writing gig. 

I just kept on trucking from there.

2. Anyone who wants to build a career in content writing, how do you suggest they get started? 

First, they need to decide what they’re going to write about, what their area of knowledge is, and what they love to learn and write about. 

This is important because you don’t want to be a writer that writes on any topic under the stars. You will feel depressed with every new project and writing will become a chore instead of a pleasure.

Second, I suggest they create a handful of high-quality articles that showcase their best writing. These will be published online for everyone to see.

Third,  I suggest they create a portfolio website. There are sites for freelance writers where you can post your work for free, but having a pro website on a self-hosted WordPress leaves a much better impression.

I remember I started my portfolio site with HostGator’s basic hosting, and I recommend them to anyone just starting out. If they don’t like HostGator for whatever reason, here’s a list of hosts that are cheap and offer free trials so they can make the best pick without paying.

Third, once they have their portfolio site set up, I suggest they open up profiles on Fiverr and Upwork and start competing for gigs. These platforms are not the best, but they’re good for getting that initial experience. 

Later you can start cold pitching when you’re more confident and when you have a few successful writing gigs under your belt.

3. Any tips on how to improve one’s writing and job skills?

To boost the quality of your writing, you need to practice writing daily. 

Do a  minimum of 500 words per day. Write about anything you want; it’s all good as long as you write. It’s because writing every day teaches your brain you’re a writer and that it is normal to put words on paper daily and proficiently, so when you get a true writing gig, you won’t feel stuck and fighting a persistent writer’s block.

As for their job acquiring skills, if you’ve never worked online, then you’re going to stumble a lot in the beginning. And that’s ok because it’s part of the learning curve. As long as you don’t give up on finding paid work you will eventually have a breakthrough and afterward, everything will be much easier and faster.

4. How did you choose your niche (i.e. affiliate marketing)?

My niche is not pure affiliate marketing. Instead, it’s a melange of affiliate marketing, SEO, internet marketing, WordPress, and freelance writing. 

I found it by following and writing about the topics I loved and still do. The lucky circumstance for me was that these niches are huge and there are hundreds of mini niches within them with excellent earning potential per each.

For example, this post on the best Minecraft server hosting services is my main money maker. It doesn’t get the most traffic, but it converts splendidly and the Minecraft hosting commissions are very large.

Another example is this post covering the best ways for students to get a Grammarly discount.

Because it’s a post about a way to save money on a popular writing tool, the traffic it gets is naturally high converting.

So basically I followed my passion, and my passion was profitable.

This is what I recommend to anyone.

5. How did you find your first writing gigs? And any tips on pitching to new clients?

I didn’t find my first writing gig. It found me. Namely, my blogger friend needed a writer at the time and asked me if I was available. You can guess what my answer was 🙂

As for my best tip for finding that first gig, I suggest you start with Fiverr and Upwork. Open up profiles there and be very aggressive when looking for work. Most people give up quickly on those platforms. But if you don’t, you will see success.  You may also try job boards like Content Writing Work and ProBlogger.

However, I don’t have experience with job boards so I won’t talk much about them here.

Basically, finding your first writing gig is about being persistent and showing up every day, in multiple places at once.

A wide net has to catch something eventually.

6. How did you deal with the initial rejections?

I dealt with them like everyone else who was struggling in the past but is now successful. I realized that failure is a part of the journey and that by blowing past it, I can and will reach the success I’m after. 

And I was right in thinking that.

7. How do you maintain a good relationship with clients?

I make sure to deliver my work on time and I always give them excellent articles that they only have to post on their website and keep going with their busy lives.

The key to having a good relationship with a client is to make their life easier and also honor deadlines as much as you can.

8. Would you say building a website is necessary for beginners?

Yes, you need to have a portfolio site to display your work and to give them a way of contacting you. 

Without it, you’re depending on some freelancing platform which also takes a big cut out of your earnings.

If someone is really strapped for cash, then they can try one of the many free blogging platforms (I recommend; though there are hosts that let you pay with bitcoin so you don’t really need money to start your portfolio site. 

9. How much should freelance writers charge per word?

In the beginning, you need to set lower rates (but not too low) so you can get that first client through the door. Then after you’ve become comfortable with the process and after you’ve seen that your clients are satisfied with your work, you can consider raising prices for all new clients.

As for how much to charge, that depends on the quality of your writing, the market, and also where you live.

For example, I charge $0.35 per word and I live in Serbia where prices are about 7 times lower than in Western Europe and the USA. So I can make a great living with those rates. If I were living in the US, I’d probably have to charge significantly more.

10. When is the right time to increase one’s rate?

Increase your rates after you’ve already had a few clients and after you’ve seen that you can do the job and do the job well.

Increasing freelancing rates has a lot to do with your confidence. If you know you deserve more money because you’re regularly doing a good job for clients, then asking for more won’t be awkward for you because you’ll feel like you deserve it.

11. Do the rates include on-page SEO and outlining?

In my case they do. I always make an outline before I write and I love to have my outline because it helps me write better and with more confidence in following my own train of thought.

As for on-page SEO, I don’t charge for it specifically, but on-page is by this point so ingrained in me that any article I produce is going to be optimized for Google even if I didn’t specifically focus on it.

Of course, it’s up to them to put the article into WordPress and optimize it further with an SEO plugin.

12. Do you use any invoicing software?

I do not use any invoicing software. Instead, I create my own invoices using this free invoice builder, and then I manually send them to clients after the job’s completion.

13. What is the best way to accept payments?

The best way is what works for you and that depends on where you live. For example, I use PayPal, but PP doesn’t work in all countries of the world.

I suggest you have several payment methods available so that if something fails, a backup can kick in and you still get paid. I personally have PayPal, Payoneer, and a bank account for foreign transactions.

14. In the freelance writing space, what challenges do you believe aren’t talked about enough?

Race to the bottom is something that I’m sure is not unique to the freelance writing space, but I see it all the time. It’s when freelancers compete on price instead of on the quality of service. That’s how you get writers charging 2c per word for articles, and the quality is just abysmal.

 Of course, content mills like iWriter and the rest are just putting gasoline on the fire with their approach to cheap content.

And with the advent of AI writing software and AI-powered paraphrasing tools, I’m very curious to see how things develop in the near to medium future.

I mean, I love Quillbot (AI-powered paraphrasing tool) and Jasper AI (GPT-3 content generator), but I’d never use them to write complete articles for me, even if they were able to do it.

I like to put the human touch in my writing, but understand that not all freelance writers are like that.

It’ll be interesting for sure.

15. What tools do you use to manage your own time and workflow?

I keep it simple, Google Calendar for scheduling and Evernote for task management. I find that simplicity works best for me and I understand that to have success you need to do less planning and more doing.

16. What are some non-fiction books that helped you in your career?

Paradoxically, even though I love to read, I never read a single business book. That’s because I never intended to be a freelancer and an online entrepreneur. Instead, I wanted to be a teacher so all I was reading was fiction, especially the classics like Dostoyevski, Nietzsche, Goethe, Dante Alighieri, Boccaccio, Homer, Shakespeare, etc.

17. And finally, if you had to go back in time and offer advice to your younger self at the beginning of your writing career, what would you say?

I would tell myself to stop being timid when dealing with others, to start thinking bigger, and to start requesting more from this life.

Because life will pay any price you ask of it.

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