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Freelancer Spotlight: Nicole Dieker

I love learning from other successful freelancers and online business owners. It’s how I got so smart! 😉

And from what you’ve told me, you do too! So each week, we’re going to try to interview someone new for us all to learn from. (Check out the last one we published with Karen Marston.)

Today we have, Nicole Dieker who blogs at nicoledieker.com and pretty much all over the internet. Nicole shares what kind of projects she’d like to work on, why you always need to hustle and how she’s chunking down writing a long novel with the help of her fans. Thanks for joining us, Nicole!

What do you do and how long have you been in business?

I’m a freelance writer. My portfolio includes blogging, journalism, copywriting, advertorial writing, fiction, and more.

I write for a number of different sites and clients, but you might have seen my work in The Billfold, The Write Life, or Popular Science.

At this point I’ve been freelancing for so long that I have to think about how long it’s actually been!

I started freelance writing at the end of 2012, so almost four years. I’m pretty sure there’s another interview out there where I said I’d been freelancing for four years, but it’s almost four years as of today!

What got you into freelancing? Was it what you expected?

I got into freelance writing because I needed a way to earn additional money while working as a freelance musician. I was recording albums, traveling to perform shows, and so on—but I wasn’t earning enough to keep myself going, so I turned to content writing to bring in the extra cash.

I did not expect, at the time, that freelance writing would become my career.

But here’s what happened: I quickly learned that I was much better at freelance writing, as a business, than I was at freelance musicianry. I didn’t feel like I was banging against doors anymore, begging people to pay attention to me.

“I felt like I was knocking on doors and they were opening.”

What it takes to build a career as a freelance writer with Nicole DiekerWhat’s been most challenging so far?

Earning enough money is always the biggest challenge, and I say this as a person who is successfully earning a full-time living as a writer.

I’m always looking for that good, recurring freelance gig, and what I’ve found is that even when I land these gigs, with clients and companies who say they’d love to work with me forever, is that… well, a year later they send an email announcing the publication is getting shut down, or the department is transitioning to something new, or so on.

So I have to think about my career as a constant hustle.

I can’t ever think “I’m earning enough and I can stop thinking about how to earn more.”

Did you ever want to quit or give up?

I never think about quitting or giving up. I’m earning more as a writer than I’ve ever earned in my life, so I’m going to work on this career for as long as I can.

What would you love to pay someone to take off of your plate?

Even though I just said that I’m earning more than I’ve ever earned in my life, I still don’t feel like I have enough extra income to pay anyone to do anything at this point!

Like most of the people I interview for The Billfold, occasionally I pay restaurants to cook food for me and deliver it to my apartment—and I even feel guilty about that, because I know I could save so much money if I prepared every meal myself.

What task in your own business would you like to do more of?

I’d love to do more big projects.

A lot of my work is “write four short articles a day,” and it would be fun to have more jobs that I could dig deeply into. I’m starting to get more of those opportunities, but I’d love to expand that side of my portfolio.

What are some big successes you’ve had recently?

I’m writing a novel called The Biographies of Ordinary People and funding the process through Patreon.

I feel like I’m very close to the halfway point—which is a huge deal for me. I’ve been wanting to write this story for more than a decade, and so I created a system in which I could commit to completing a first draft!

When you know a project will take you 18 months to write and then another year to revise and polish, getting started is often the hardest step—followed, of course, by keeping the momentum going. So I feel very successful every time I hit another major milestone in my novel.

What are some specific strategies, tactics or pieces of advice that helped you grow?

In no particular order:

  1. Renegotiating my rates at the end of every calendar year.
  2. Renegotiating contracts. (Yes, you can do this!)
  3. Creating a structured workday for myself, including set hours and set breaks.
  4. Always hustling.

What are you most excited about for your business in 2016?

I’m excited to see what happens!

I can generally see about two months into the future, but after that I don’t know if I’ll land a new client or lose a client or write an article that does really well or what. I have to expect that some part of my freelance career will shift every few months or so, and I have to be ready for it.

I hope my business continues to grow, and I hope that I get some new, fun, career-building opportunities this year.

Nicole Dieker_Freelance writerNicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. She publishes daily at The Billfold, and her work has also appeared in The Write Life, SparkLife, Popular Science, Boing Boing, and more. Read her novel The Biographies of Ordinary People at Patreon.

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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