Friday, March 9, 2018

Maddie Cohen Talks About the Ebb and Flow of Her Career as a Writer

Last Saturday afternoon I attended an event at the Duluth Public Library in which successful writers shared insights from their career paths on how to make money by writing. It was a surprisingly rewarding hour-and-a-half, for which I am grateful to Lake Superior Writers for assembling. I was also grateful to Facebook for having sent a reminder an hour beforehand while I was driving in to town. (Social media isn't all bad.)

One of the panelists was Lake Superior Writers board member Maddie Cohen whom I reached out to for this interview.

EN: Let's start with Lake Superior Writers. I see that you are on the board for LSW. How has being on Lake Superior Writers helped you in your writing career?

Cohen is on the board of
Lake Superior Writers
Maddie Cohen: Lake Superior Writers (LSW) has been a fantastic resource. I've met other writers-including some other freelancers-who I now turn to when things get stressful in my work. It's nice to talk to people who understand the ebb and flow of freelance writing.

I've also joined a few writing groups through LSW, and I've gotten some work through the people I've met in the organization. For instance, I proofread the content of a member who ghostwrites financial materials.

EN: Your website introduces you as a writer, editor and content strategist. I like how concise and specific it is. How did you come to choose this specific writing niche?

MC: Carving out my niche was a process of trial and error. Initially I intended to proofread and copyedit fiction, but I came to realize I preferred working on marketing materials and blog posts for corporations. I now write and edit content for a number of companies, and help some of my long-term clients develop content calendars.

What I like most about this niche is that the content has got to be--in your words--concise. My strengths lie in simplifying complex topics.

EN: I'm guessing there were people in the room Saturday who may have been surprised to hear that you make 4K to 7K a month. How long did it take from the first Fiverr assignment to reach this level today?

MC: My income took off when I substantially increased my rates in the spring of 2017. I was taking on more projects than I could handle and needed to manage what was coming in. It took me about two years on Fiverr to achieve this, but I could have done it sooner if I'd had the confidence to charge more earlier on.

Now I'm on Fiverr Pro, a "premium" version of the platform where freelancers are vetted and charge a minimum of $100 per project. With my current fee structure on Fiverr Pro, I make between $50 and $150 per hour depending on the project scope.

Fiverr, however, only accounts for about half of my total income. I also work with clients independently: a hospital, a law firm, and a travel marketing company, among others. These "anchor" clients give me steady work over email each month. More often than not, I'm so busy with these clients that I have to make my Fiverr profile invisible in the search results.

EN: For people who don't know what Fiverr is, can you briefly explain?

MC: Fiverr is an online marketplace where "sellers" (freelancers) list specific services, and "buyers" (clients) hire them to complete projects in their area of expertise. Buyers pay immediately-the site takes a 20% cut, but the commission doesn't bother me because I don't have to chase down late payments-and the platform holds the funds in escrow until the service is completed.

EN: You also do social media consulting. How did that evolve? And what are the biggest mistakes marketers make when using social media?

MC: Social media consulting allows me to combine my skills-writing and photography-into a single service. At one point I was shooting portraits and managing my writing business, and a client recommended that I consider social media strategy so I could make money writing and capturing photos. Now I've done social media for businesses ranging from restaurants to bookstores.

The biggest mistake one can make when using social media? Posting too frequently, or at the wrong time. As much as social media emphasizes "authenticity," you've still got to be strategic. There is definitely a formula for driving engagement and building a following.

EN: In one of your blog posts you mention that the freelance life is feast or famine, so you have to set money aside when you have it. What kinds of things do you do to increase or slow down your workflow?

MC: Fortunately, the last unplanned slow week I had was in November 2016. I followed up with some of my long-term clients during this time, and a few projects fell into my lap. Freelancers should always reach out to their existing clients when they're underbooked--chances are, someone will have work available.

Lately, I've been grappling with too many projects. I increased my rates again, which is one way I like to manage the amount of work that comes in, but I also hope to take a few days off soon to compensate for a recent chaotic period. To slow things down, I let clients know when I'm too busy. Projects are rarely as "urgent" as people say they are.

Balance is key to maintaining a steady workload. On the rare occasion I work 12 hours straight, I'll reward myself by taking the next day off. When I'm on a tight deadline and log a 60-hour workweek, I'll make a point of cutting myself off after 20 hours the following week. These are some of the strategies I rely on to take back control of what is often an unpredictable work schedule. By doing so, both the busy times and the slow times feel deliberate.

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Need a competent and responsible Freelancer? You can find Maddie through her website at

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