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Student Success Story: Vanessa Infanzon

Ready for another great Student Success Story? Here at Horkey HandBook we love sharing the stories of people who took 30 Days or Less courses and took massive action with what they learned. 

Every story is unique, but they all have something in common – following a dream and taking action! 

In this Student Success Story we’re featuring writer Vanessa Infanzon. Read on to find out how she turned a hobby into a career, and her hacks for juggling 12 clients at a time while still maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Thank you for sharing your story, Vanessa!

Name: Vanessa Infanzon

Website: www.especiallyben.com

Course enrollment date: May 2016

Business launch date: July 2015

Date hired by first client: 2012

Hours worked per week: 20-30

Average monthly income: $1500

Top services: Articles, stories and blog posts for newspapers, magazines and websites.

Hi, Vanessa! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Writing is my third career – if you count motherhood. I was a college administrator for more than a decade before “retiring” to be a SAHM. This summer, my husband and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage.

We live in a 100-year-old home that we renovated with our own hands when we first married. We have three sons – ages 14, 12 and 9.

I am an avid reader, have been known to binge on 90’s television shows and love all things superheroes.

Tell us about your business:

My freelance writing business has developed slowly. At first I wrote for my own site, which was not meant to be a money-making endeavor. Then I ventured out to one local magazine. Next I pitched a web-only news and entertainment site and wrote for them extensively for one year.

In May 2016, I signed up for 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success. Everything changed after that. Writing became a career, rather than a hobby.

I work 20-30 hours per week, writing 3-5 stories for 10 to 12 clients.

I need to have balance between work, family and stress. If it’s been a good week and the weather is beautiful, I’ll take an afternoon to paddleboard on the river.

How did you decide to start freelancing or working online?

I started writing a blog, eSpecially Ben in 2009. It is about raising our son who was born with special needs. I loved writing about our experiences and sharing what we’d learned with others. I received good feedback from readers and started thinking beyond the blog.

In 2012, I made a new year’s resolution to contact the editor of a local parenting magazine. She assigned an unpaid short story about Ben and later hired me for other articles. Charlotte Parent is still a faithful client.

And how long did it take you to earn your course investment back?

I made my investment back almost immediately.

I added five new clients after taking the class and generated income through an affiliate link. I used the techniques taught in the class: I started pitching to other local outlets; added Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, gave my business a name and hired a graphic designer to create a logo.

Some clients found me through my new social media presence and others were gained through my pitches.

What was your biggest fear before you started your business?

My biggest fear was doing the wrong thing. I don’t have a journalism or English degree. I was worried I wouldn’t do the “right” thing or I’d use the wrong terminology when working with a client.

Now I have other writers to ask, and I can use the Horkey HandBook Facebook group as a sounding board.


What was the most challenging part about getting started?

I remember one writer telling me he had this organized chart to keep track of his writing assignments. I always thought he was crazy. I realized I was wrong. I needed to be uber-organized to succeed.

How did you overcome that?

Once I started building a client base, I had to develop an intricate spreadsheet to keep track of clients.

Everything I do is tracked on some sort of spreadsheet. Often, it is important to take a few hours to make sure I am organizing all my work. It keeps me sane, and it ensures that I meet deadlines, follow up on forgotten pitches, keep important contacts and story ideas and get paid.

What has been your biggest success since you’ve started?

Last year, I set a low goal of $12,000 and a high goal of $20,000.

I made $18,500 and I am really proud of that amount. I doubled what I made the first year in 2016.

I set the goal because Gina sent out an email at the end of 2016 with a challenge to set income goals for our freelance writing business. She told us to email her directly, and this made me feel accountable.

This money has allowed me to pay for home improvement projects, but more importantly, I look at this income as a way to help my sons pay for college in several years.

It’s also a huge amount of fun. I love what I am doing and sometimes wish I could write 24 hours a day.

Can you tell us about your highest paying project?

Two of my highest paying projects have been out of my niche – and each were good learning experiences. Both involved too much stress for me – tight deadlines, many edits or changing topics.

For me, I prefer a strong relationship with an editor, a topic I am passionate about and a pace that allows for me to live the other parts of my life.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I have 10 to 12 clients – newspapers, magazines and websites.

My goal is to file five stories a week and pitch 15 to 20 stories a month. I cover outdoor excursions, small businesses and entrepreneurs, parenting and other topics related to travel, brides and social issues.

What are you looking forward to most over the next 12 months?

I spent 2017 building a strong base of clients. Over the next year, I want to focus my attention on these clients – pitching and writing stories for them.

I also want to push myself to pitch a few national magazines on two local stories that have larger implications.

Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer in Charlotte, North Carolina. Follow her @morethanVMI on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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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