How to Cold Pitch & Run Your Own Freelancing Business with Colleen Welsch

I had the pleasure of chatting with my good friend and freelance writer, Colleen Welsch, owner of the Freelance Writer’s Guide this week! Colleen has built a freelancing business without using any freelancing marketplace, which makes her business structure something to consider for yourself. That’s the beauty of freelancing – there is no one right way to do it. Enjoy the interview below from the Freelance Fairytales Podcast:

Alex: Hi, guys, welcome back to the Freelance Fairytales Podcast, where we chat all things remote work, freelancing, mindset and financial freedom. This week, I’m very excited to welcome on my girl and buddy and fellow freelance writer Colleen Welsch. Colleen approaches freelancing on a part-time basis, which I’m excited to talk about, 10 to 20 hours per week, love it. She brought in $70,000 last year and is averaging $5,000 per month right now, which is incredible. She is also the owner of the Freelance Writer’s Guide and spends time on social media teaching other people about the world of freelance writing with 112,000 followers on Tiktok. Go Coleen. She specializes in writing blogs and general copywriting for beauty brands, but does take on work and other industries as well. With that, Colleen, Hi, buddy.

Colleen: Hi, buddy. Thank you so much for having me.

Alex: Thank you for coming on. I’m still laughing from your YouTube video I just watched I never knew I needed to subscribe to your YouTube channel, but I might binge it. I don’t know how many videos you have. But I think that’s what I’m going to do now.

Colleen: Please do I have like a dozen videos. I took a break for the summer. So I could just go vide and relax. Because as you know, I live in Ohio. So we have to take advantage of the night. All with more YouTube videos.

Alex: And you have a menagerie outside your window I see live on your Instagram daily. There’s a lot of animals on your porch.

Colleen: I love animals, I probably shouldn’t feed them but I do lol.

Alex: Totally hysterical guys, if you’re not following her on Instagram, you should go follow her because it’s packed with both freelance writing tips and live videos of animals in her yard. So I don’t know what more you could possibly want from a social media channel. Alright, so I know your story. It’s an exciting, and just very interesting backstory. So why don’t you briefly share with the listeners how you arrived at freelance writing where it is for you today? Because I know you’ve arrived at it multiple times. So why don’t you tell everyone about it?

Colleen: Yeah, so I didn’t get into freelancing until my late 20s. So you know, if you’re a little bit older, there’s no such thing as getting started too late. Yeah, I had tried freelancing twice and failed at it before I made it happen on the third try. And honestly, that was because I had no clue what I was doing. And I was also partying way too much. So I just wasn’t really taking it seriously. And I think a lot of that just had to do with like a lack of self confidence and self esteem. If I had really loved myself and believed that I deserved to have my dreams come true, I probably would have buckled down and just done it a lot sooner. But you you live and you learn.

So I made the switch to freelancing full time in 2017, I had been laid off from my job. So I knew that I was not going to have a job like six months ahead of time. And I did a lot of research and prepared and then the summer of 2017 I started freelancing by myself. And I was really lucky at that time because I had worked with someone who did freelance web design. So he gave me some tips on what to do about taxes and health insurance. But I just immediately ran out of money. And so at the time I was living in Los Angeles, which is obviously a very expensive place. And my dream was to be able to freelance full time so that I could work remotely and then I could just travel the world as a digital nomad. And I knew I had to get out of LA if I wanted to make that happen because I had to drastically cut my living expenses if I wanted to keep freelancing. So I moved in with my parents in Ohio and I spent a year working out of my office in the basement of their house. I really grinded for that year worked my ass off. Sorry, I don’t know if I can swear.

Alex: Oh, no, yes, you can.

Colleen: I worked my ass off for a year, I read lots of books on entrepreneurship, especially like service based businesses, small businesses. So I was very, like, investing a lot of time and my education at that point, and just how to be the best copywriter I possibly could. And one year into doing that, I got this mysterious offer on Upwork to do a project for Olay for $20,000, which I forgot to mention that at this point, I was 12k and credit card debt. So like the $20,000, after the fees and taxes were taken out, was enough to pay off my credit cards, and buy a one way flight to Europe and like pay for an apartment for the first month that I was there. So yeah, I was all in. So in 2018 I just took a one way flight to Paris and why not? Why not. And I really had a great time traveling. I traveled for a little over a year. And then I came back in the fall of 2019. I was gonna do holidays in Ohio, and then you know, COVID happen. Yeah, I bought a house in Cleveland across the street from my best friend. And then the house required like $30,000 worth of emergency repairs.

Alex: I’m over houses like I’m over it.

Colleen: So that’s kind of required for the house. Level up my game a little bit, which Yeah, if everything happens for a reason, but yeah, I’m I feel like my story is just gotten so long.

Alex: No, no, it’s I think it’s great. Because I have a bunch of stuff. I want to like pick apart.

Colleen: Beautiful. Thank you, Colleen. I also feel like in the future. I feel like stand up comedy is coming for you at some point. Well, I think I think now I’m at a place where I’ve worked really hard to get where I am. And I just, you know, in enjoying the fruits of my labor at this at this point, my business? Is it my top focus anymore? I’m more focused on building a community in Cleveland, where I live and, you know, dating and all that fun stuff.

Alex: Okay, I love that. So I want to talk about the mindset that you had to have the third time you’ve tried freelance writing that worked for you. Because if you failed at it twice before, naturally, a lot of people would have given up by then and said, You know what, this isn’t for me, this clearly isn’t going to work out whatever. What was your headspace to come back a third time and almost be you know, humble enough to give it a try again?

Colleen: Well, honestly, and I don’t know if we can talk about this, but I did shrooms for the first time. So that was in February 2017. Okay, and I just feel like it knocked a lot of stuff into place in my head. It really, like I just realized, I only have this one life on Earth and spend it going to some office doing shit that I hate doing and only getting paid like a certain amount. And I have to be there at 8:30am in the morning. Like I have insomnia. I can’t, I can’t live like that. Yeah, and you know, you only get to up two vacation weeks per year and like five sick days. And like I just there’s got to be another way I can’t live in a matrix like this anymore. So that was pretty much it. I was like, I will do anything and I will figure it out because I’m not going to give up this time.

Alex: Can I make that the thumbnail for this YouTube video? Like “does shrooms, becomes freelance writer.”

Colleen: Pro use of psychedelics in a responsible manner?

Alex: No, I mean, that’s I’m so open to any and everything. I love hearing just about different things and different approaches to everything. So that’s so interesting to me. So you came off of your shrooms feeling like holy shit, you know, I have one life, am I living it the way I want to live? It is that you know and then you just suddenly you’re like, I’m going to start living it the way I want to live.

Colleen: Exactly. And I didn’t want to live off fear anymore. I think so many people their whole lives in fear of going after what they really want and you know, you want you’re so lucky first of all to even have an idea what you want and you shouldn’t let your fear stop you.

Alex: What advice would you give someone right now who wants to have that certainty about what to do with their lives? Do you have like any mindset tricks? Or would you just tell them to go do shrooms?

Colleen: Now, I think that you have to approach life with a learning mindset like you are not going to know everything ever, you’re never going to know everything. And every day, you can learn a little bit more, and you’re going to get a little bit closer to whatever the truth is, but you’re never going to know. I mean, I’ve been doing this for four years, and I still don’t know everything living. And that’s what’s fun about life is you never know where we’re gonna end up and you don’t know what’s gonna happen. You just have to be open to it. And just, you know, catch a wave and just write it see where it goes.

Alex: I love that. I know I’m in the same place as you right now. And you were saying that you’re focusing more on like dating and your health and, and kind of enjoying almost the stability that you have now created for yourself, if anything is actually ever stable, but you’ve put in the time, and the effort to create a life for you that works for what you want and what you need. You said you’re up all night. So you need a life that is you know, accommodating of that. Now I know you say you do this part time, do you do anything else? Or do you use your time to just like enrich yourself and your life and your experiences?

Colleen: Yeah, so I work a total of no more than 20 hours per week on both my freelance copywriting and my coaching business. So that’s 20 total. And usually it’s more around 15. Now, that’s pure hours of work. So I use a timer to track like exactly how much I’m working. That’s not like me saying I work between like 12 and 5pm, three days a week, it’s because that is whenever I feel like working at work. But the rest of the time. Yeah, it’s just a lot of hanging out. I don’t really question a lot. I’m like, Well, I go to the gym, and then you know, I eat, really clean my house, I hang out with my friends.

Alex: I mean, I think there’s something toxic about the world today that you have to fill every single second with monetary productivity because I you know, I think that’s backwards. And that’s human beings never lived like that until like the 1950s. So sometimes I think people get caught up in it because they think it’s what they ought to do. But when you think about like history, this whole concept of only getting two weeks of vacation is like very new, I don’t think it’s working out that well really, for people like or the environment or the planet in general. So I love having people on here. So everyone listening can hear that you work 15 to 20 hours a week, you make more than the average person does at a nine to five job and you can like relax sometimes or go to the gym or read a book or you know, all those things are still important. It’s not like you’re not doing anything. You’re you’re doing stuff. But stuff that you want to do.

Colleen: Yeah, I don’t think we’re put on this earth to be productive and make money.

Alex: I heard like a really good quote the other day, I don’t know, I was listening to a podcast and whether it’s God, the universe, whatever it is to you, to me, it’s God. It was saying, like, God didn’t put you here to be productive for him or whatever. Like he already can take care of it or the universe like that. He’s already got it on lock, like you’re just you’re just here still. So you know, just try not to be miserable while you are here, maybe try and help other human beings along the way. Because they’re in the same, you know, shit pile that you’re in. And you don’t need to prove to God that you’re like this hyper productive person, like he gets it. Right. Yeah, I don’t know. I just like the way I heard that. It made me think about it in a different way. But okay, so for people listening, what services exactly do you offer, and then I want you to also talk about how you are not on Fiverr. So everyone, you know, is always on Fiverr. And I love that you’re not I want to hear about that.

Colleen: So as a freelance copywriter, the number one service that I offer is blog posts. I write blog posts, mostly for businesses in the beauty industry. I also do website copy product descriptions, branding. I don’t do that stuff as much anymore though, I pretty much just focus on blog posts because I really enjoy writing them and I like that is a recurring project with the same client over the years and you can build a real relationship with your client and deliver great content for them.

Alex: And how much of your business would you say is like returning clients because you know, you’re doing the real freelancing off of the platforms, so how much of your business is people who come back?

Colleen: 100% of it. I work with recurring clients or someone that I feel is going to be a recurring client at this point. Because it is too much mental energy for me to onboard someone just like a $600 project, you know, I want to make sure that this is gonna go on for many months, hopefully.

Alex: Yeah. So then where I know, people would now ask, where do you go find these clients? Where are they hanging out?

Colleen: So for anyone who’s listening to this, like, has to understand that I have been doing this for a few years. So if you do want to get to that point, you know, you need to make sure that you have a beautiful looking website with your portfolio on it, you need to make sure that you have a very professional process from start to finish for the client so that they feel comfortable with you. And you know, they’re going to recommend you to other people. Mm hmm. You need to have your LinkedIn profile built out because I do get people contacting me through LinkedIn quite often, or they’ll find my website, or through Upwork. So Alex mentioned that I don’t do Fiverr. And Fiverr is first of all, when, in 2017, when I started freelancing, it just wasn’t as big of a thing. But also I’m like, I’m not doing anything for $5. No, I won’t even smile at someone for $5. Especially like when I was living in LA, and it just like, wasn’t worth it to me, I needed more money than that. And so from the very beginning, I was like, I gotta find a way to make like, a lot of money from this pretty fast.

And how I found clients when I started was through my network. So I had already been working for a few years at that point, actually for, like, five. So I did know people on a professional capacity. I told everyone what I was doing, and like asked around, and I did find clients doing that. They’re like, Oh, I know some lady with a skincare line. And she needs help. So that that works. You have to be brave enough to tell people that you are now a writer and are looking for work. Yep. Most people won’t laugh at you. And if they do, they suck, and you shouldn’t talk to them anymore, because they’re not your friend.

Also just cold pitching clients, just sending them an email, because I had worked in marketing for a beauty brand before I was a freelancer. So I knew how the blog was just neglected, nobody had time for it. We heard about it except for me. And I realized that there must be dozens, if not hundreds of other beauty brands with the same problem. They have this website with the blog, no one’s updating the blog, no one has time for it. And if I just emailed them, and showed them that I could write for them, then maybe they would hire me.

Alex: What would be some tips, you would give someone to creating an effective cold pitch, like what should go in that email if you want to win a brand over?

Colleen: So there’s two things we have to think about here, because cold pitching is a numbers game you’re going to send out, I recommend people send 100 per month. So that’s a lot. So you want your cold pitch to be one that you can kind of have set up as a template. So you can just use the same one over and over again, for each client, you have to change it enough so that they’re not going to immediately mark as spam. So finding like a nice balance with like a little bit of a Mad Libs style, where you can plug in their name and like a few things about them that you like, but then just kind of tell the same story about yourself over and over again.

First things first, just tell them what the point of the email is, I’m contacting you because I want to write your blog, like that should be at the very beginning. Don’t be like my name is blah, blah, blah, like nobody cares. You emailing me. And then then you can go into your introduction and say what you can help with and why you’re a good choice. And if you don’t have professional writing experience, that’s okay. But what you do need to have is a good base of knowledge and a passionate about the subject because you know, if you’re contacting someone who has their own, I’ll just use a beauty example because I work in beauty but if you’re contacting someone who has a CBD skincare line, and you’re really interested in CBD and skincare, make that known to the person because they want to work with someone who’s on the same page as them and that’s it because there’s nothing worse than hiring a writer who does doesn’t know anything about skincare. Like, I once had a guy that I was like trying to subcontract for, or he was trying to subcontract for me. And he like, didn’t know, like what lotion did. And I’m like, I can’t help you.

You can to communicate that you do have knowledge and passion around the subject and then definitely link to some writing samples because people need to see what you can do. It’s all about transparency.

Alex: It’s all about the portfolio. No one cares where you went to school. I have to ask this because you put it in your YouTube video. How much do you pay in taxes, though? Do you know how often I get that?

Colleen: I get that every day of my life.

Alex: Oh, and people don’t get my sarcasm like on TikTok. Like, yeah, let me send you my tax return. Can you just give me your address? Like, and I’m kidding. I’m joking when I say that, and I’ll send that to people and they’ll write back like, Wait, are you serious? It’s just like, everybody pays taxes. So I don’t understand why like, that’s a question like, why is that even an interesting question? Like, if we’re all in America, we’re all paying taxes, or we should be anyway.

Colleen: Okay, so last year, I made $70,000, around $70,000. And I paid $10,000 in taxes. Now, I don’t keep all that money. When I say $70,000 I have people that work for me. And I have, you know, a lot of different services I had to pay for out of that. But yeah, I paid 10,000 in taxes.

Alex: That sounds pretty standard. And that doesn’t sound crazy. And I don’t know why people kind of cling to that as their like, reason why they’re not going to try it.

Colleen: It’s really not that hard. But I didn’t have an accountant for the first few years.

Alex: Yeah, I use TurboTax I think the first like three years that I did this, and then I got a CPA once I started like all these different side hustles and now I’m like, this is crazy. Now I need help. Speaking of side hustles Oh, this is kind of like your main hustle. Still, the Freelance Writer’s Guide. I love the graphic design stuff you do with it. By the way I love like the colors I repost it to my Instagram story all the time. I love the branding, what gave you the idea for it? And what is it? What is the freelance writers guide?

Colleen: So the Freelance Writer’s Guide is my educational resource on how to be a freelance writer, how to do what I do, and what you do. Because basically, as soon as I started having some success with it, people were like, well, how can I do that? And after COVID started, a few of my friends got laid off. So then they were really asking about it. And I realized that I have a lot of knowledge on this subject that apparently other people don’t have. Because you see people like struggling to stay afloat or they’re like accepting rates that are like one cent per word.

So first of all, it was realizing that I did have knowledge to share with other people. Yeah, so I put together a course and I will say like I had help with this, my assistant Lindsay helps me with all these things. But we put together a course and we had started like posting blog posts and Instagram posts about it and stuff. But then when I got on TikTok, things really took off. I’m now on tiktok on YouTube, on my website, the freelance writers guide comm we have tons of free resources and information about how to be a freelancer. And I mean, I feel pretty confident that if you if one wanted to, they could take all the information on there, put together a plan, execute it and get clients and make money and I have had people that that’s what they have done, which is amazing. I love to hear that because I mean, I just feel like freelancing has given me my life back and if I could just give out to another person.

But if there if people want more guidance, I also have a course called the Freelance Writer’s Guide to the Galaxy and it is a step by step Game Plan for how to be a freelance writer. So if you need someone that is like literally like step one, do this. Now step two, do this step three, and then like in the middle of a be personally review your portfolio make sure you’re good to go. So you can go out and get clients. There’s that. I think I might be turning that into a membership soon, actually, but TV on and then I also do one on one coaching to help people get their businesses launched.

Alex: I love it. I mean, guys, you know, I feel like you can now ever learn enough about freelancing and freelance writing. Plus, Colleen does it in such a different way than me that even if you’ve read my stuff before, whatever that doesn’t mean, you shouldn’t go read her stuff. Because I encourage everyone after a year or two on Fiverr to get off of Fiverr, don’t make that your forever thing. If I were to go under or disappear, your business is gone, right? So you know, Colleen’s a great resource for building out your own personal business that you own and nobody else owns. And you can take control of your life with it and all that good stuff. Now, I know you probably have this all over your website. But let’s say there’s a person listening right now who wants to do this so badly, and they just they just can’t execute. You know, they’re they’re overthinking it. They are just, they’re their own worst enemy. What would you say to them?

Colleen: I would say go set a timer and set like the Pomodoro, which is 25 minutes, and just spend 25 minutes working towards your business. And also don’t make it researching, make it like an action. Because if you’re like me, you’ve already been researching this stuff for a year, but it’s time to actually make some money moves and get going early. What is the worst that can happen? What like you fail? Someone laughs at you? Who cares? At least you tried. Most people don’t even try most people, which is around whining about how much they hate their life until they die. And you don’t want to be like that you have this one precious life and what is literally what is the worst that can happen?

Alex: Sometimes I feel like though there’s a moment when they’re supposed to actually hear that and you can’t like wake everyone up or help them break out of the matrix. They have to like, be ready to do it. And that’s why I do and I know you do. Like, that’s why I create all these free things for people. So I’m like, maybe they’re on my TikTok right now telling me to go die, but maybe in like five years, they’re gonna have a light coming to moment. And like this podcast will be like right there for them. You just never know.

Colleen: I am always here.

Alex: We’re gonna be here. We’re not going anywhere. Oh, are you singing anytime soon? Like, do we have any singing shows on the horizon? I love that you saying?

Colleen: Oh, thank you. Well, right now going into the winter, my focus is going to be to finish my album. And then slash summer I’ll be releasing it and I want to like do it. Right. You know, having music videos, like really investing in it and doing the best that I can. I mean, I could not write my music video. Like let’s just do it. Who cares? Like, I’m luckily at a point in my life where everyone I surround myself with is positive and cool. I’m sure like my ex boyfriend will be like, What a bitch, but know most of the time when people are new, they’re just projecting their own bullshit. So who cool yeah, here’s what they say.

Alex: You’re making an album? Like is there gonna be an album release party? I will fly to Ohio for this and hang out with the groundhog in your yard for this.

Colleen: There should be an album release party.

So I also decided for my YouTube. I’m gonna like incorporate my music into it more but like, in a silly way. Like I just feel like, people. Are these concepts better if there’s a silly song to go with?

Alex: I feel like we’re in such agreement mean yeah, the world is so serious today. That I feel like everyone’s problems could be fixed if they just either lightened up or like just laugh at the joke. Like if someone makes a joke, like just laugh just like, just loosen up.

Colleen: Yeah, just relax. Just relax.

Alex: Like go sing the songs. Wait, what kind of music do you sing? I feel like I’ve asked you this.

Colleen: You know, pop song I’m working on now as a country song. Okay, so it’s eclectic. It’s I like I listened to a lot of different types of music. So I’m sure that that will be reflected. I was working on track recently and I’m like, this.

Alex: Ok so tell everyone where they can go learn more about what you do?

Colleen: So you can if you’re interested in freelance writing, you can follow me on Instagram or Tiktok at the freelance writers guide. Also, if you are interested in my music, my music career I also post on a personal Instagram at Colleen Welsh. And if you would like to work with me, have me teach you how to freelance. Right? We could work one on one together, visit the freelancewritersguide.com. That’s where you’ll find all my free resources, information about coaching and my course freelance writers Guide to the Galaxy. And also if you’re listening to this and you’re like I need a blogger to write about my skincare line. You can check out my portfolio at glossy type calm.

Alex: Beautiful. Thank you, Colleen. I also feel like in the future. I feel like stand up comedy is coming for you at some point.

Colleen: I am sure I will do it again – I’ve done it before.

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