Reading success stories is one of the best ways to stay inspired, right? So, today we start our interview series with people who established successful online businesses.
When I started freelancing/blogging as a beginner, I learned a lot from these amazing people. The best part is they always wanted to help newcomers and show them how to become a successful online entrepreneur.
So, I hope this series might work as a platform to share knowledge and insights among experts and beginners who want to become an expert one day.
As our first in the series, we talked to Mr. Nikola Roza, who built a successful online business as a freelance writer. He mainly shares tips around affiliate marketing, SEO, blogging, freelancing, content marketing, etc.
Let’s jump into the interview with Nikola Roza.
Hi Nikola, Welcome to our interview series. How are you doing these days?
Thank you, Nirodha. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here on Daglega.
This is the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I’m happy to say I’m healthy, even though I know many are not.
I hope everyone pulls through this situation stronger than ever.
Who is Nikola? Can you please introduce yourself to Daglega readers?
I’m a full-time freelance writer that also dabbles in affiliate marketing. When I say I dabble in it, I mean I took it seriously and now have hundreds of lucrative keywords where I’m either on the bottom of page one or the top of page two.
Things are looking up in that regard, and it’s only a matter of time before I become a full-time affiliate marketer, besides already being a full-time writer.
As for something about me, I’m from Serbia, a country in Europe.
What is your primary income source nowadays?
It’s freelance writing. I’m full-time with it.
Let us know your average monthly income as an inspiration to our readers if you are OK with that.
I earn $1000-$1200 monthly when I don’t feel like working much and work as a part-time freelance writer.
I earn double the amount when I’m trying to get as much work done as possible without killing myself.
Thank you very much for the introduction and especially for revealing your income without hesitation.
I would like to do this interview under three main sections.
Freelance writing, Blogging, and SEO.
That’ll make our readers scan through quickly and as well as answer. So, let’s start with freelancing.
1. As my first question, I would love to hear how you started your journey as a freelance writer.
I started my career by doing a lot of cold email outreach. And that is how I landed my first client.
After that, my first client was so impressed that they recommended me to their friends, and a new freelance writer was born:)
Note: The process of cold email outreach to get your first client, I picked up from here.
So, I didn’t apply to any of the popular freelancing platforms.
And also, my inspiration was gnawing pain in my gut. That pain was, of course, hunger because after my mother died in 2015, I found myself basically starving, and there was no one there to help me.
So, I helped myself.
2. How do you find new clients now?
I used a lot of cold email outreach at the beginning of my career, as I said before. Right now, I have a few steady clients, and also, people find me on their own.
I also have a “hire me” page on my site, and I often get inquiries about my rates and availability.
3. When did you decide to become a full-time freelancer?
I decided to become one on the 16th of April 2016. That was the day I decided to either make it online or die.
I told myself I better do it as there was no future for me in Serbia.
And I was brave to decide that but also determined to succeed.
In fact, my site’s tagline reflects that.
It’s “Nikola Roza- SEO for the Poor and Determined”
4. Should we leave our 9-5 job to become successful freelancers? What did you do? Could you please explain it to our readers from your own experience?
I was a “full-time” freelancer even before I had my first client:)
It’s because I had no definitive work in my native Serbia.
So, my answer is simple- Freelance on the side until you feel confident that you can do it full time.
And that confidence stems from you having regular clients, getting paid, and doing excellent work with excellent recommendations.
So, don’t quit your job if you’re just starting out with zero experience.
That’d be irresponsible.
5. How do you feel about being a freelancer?
I like it as it has saved me from poverty and given me financial freedom. However, it’s not ideal, as I’m still working for others and trading my time for money.
In time, I hope to become a full-time affiliate marketer so that I can work for myself and myself only.
6. How many hours do you work on your freelance projects (Average per week)?
30-40 hrs per week.
The rest is dedicated to working on my blog+ sleeping, eating…
7. How would you suggest newbies prepare before they start their career as a freelancer
#1- Spend one week just reading about the experiences of other freelancers and especially how they started (and take notes, that’s helpful).
You can read all you want, but it’s all for nothing unless you start. And if you read for too long, you will get discouraged because new and new questions will crop up.
It’s best to start and see where the road takes.
8. Which option do you believe is better for freelancers, working with a few high-paying clients or many low-paying clients simultaneously?
I recommend working with a few high-paying clients. Then you can be better organized, and your attention won’t be splintered too much.
Life will be more comfortable while money will keep flowing.
And since these people pay well, it means they can afford it. So as long as you do a good job, you have job security.
9. What are the must-have productivity apps every freelancer should use?
I keep it simple
I use Evernote for capturing ideas, thoughts, and making plans.
I use Google Docs to write (and Google Spreadsheet)
I use a timer on my mobile so that I try to measure and control my time spent on any project.
10. When did you decide to start blogging?
In April 2016. Back then, I had no money and lived on state social help with $50 per month.
I knew I had no future in my country, so I started to learn and educate myself.
And I couldn’t start my blog then because I needed a hundred bucks for basic Bluehost hosting, which I didn’t have and had nowhere to get it.
So, I spent that year and most of the next picking fruit across Serbia and saving money.
And I started my blog officially on 4.12.2017.
That is when I felt ready and finally had enough money to buy hosting and essential tools.
11. Do you have more than one blog? How much time do you spend on your blog/blogs per day?
I have only one blog, my portfolio/an affiliate website.
I try to work on it as much as I can. My freelancing tasks come first, but after I’m done with them, it’s all attention I can muster for my blog.
12. Why did your blog has no appealing graphics or colors? Is it better to work on content than design?
I disagree that my blog is not appealing. I think we have different tastes.
My blog is pleasant to look at and has lots of white space, which I like.
I also make everything highly readable and scannable. Finally, I have decided on my brand’s colors, which I use throughout my site and blog posts.
However, I do need to hire someone to make me a logo, and I also need to hire a person to create custom graphics for me.
As I don’t have time to do them, and they’re important.
As for your question, focus on the content first, and pretty graphics can come later. Content is evergreen.
13. With your years of experience in blogging, what are the three productivity tips you would recommend to any blogger?
- Get up early in the morning
- Do the hardest thing first
- Have one important task (your A task) that you need to finish today, no matter what
14. Could you please tell us about your writing app/ word processor? Do beginners need a particular writing app?
Keep it simple and write in your WordPress editor or Google Docs. There is no need to use apps, and those won’t help you become more productive.
They could, however, mask your unproductivity, so it seems like you’re getting stuff done when you’re actually not.
I write in WordPress’s native editor.
15. Every blogger should read a lot, right? Could you please mention at least three blogs that you read every day?
Reading is crucial because you need to expand your knowledge and absorb new ideas.
The blogs I read daily are:
And every day, I read one SEO article, regardless of the blog that hosts it. If it’s interesting, I’ll read it.
So, I don’t have a specific SEO blog I read daily.
16. What are the three premium blogging tools that you can’t live without?
17. How do you monetize your blog?
Affiliate links. And I plan by the end of the year to write and publish my first ebook.
18. How to decide the right time to start blog monetization? When did you start yours?
The right time is as soon as possible. If you want to monetize with ads, you will need traffic of several hundred visitors per day.
If you want to monetize with affiliate links, start adding them from the start so you don’t have to go back and add them later.
19. What is your best advice for someone who wants to make a full-time income from blogging?
Be prepared to work hard. Arm yourself with patience. There’s a lot to learn.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking it will take you ten years to become successful.
Or at least it doesn’t have to.
- Learn, and then do what you learned.
- Repeat, but slightly better.
And that’s that.
20. What are your top traffic generation sources?
In this order:
My best referral channel by far is Zest. I get dozens of free and engaged visitors whenever I submit to them.
21. We would like to know your SEO plugin.
It’s Yoast. Excellent and free.
22. What is your worst SEO mistake as a beginner?
I tried to rank on authority alone without considering relevancy. What I mean is I tried to rank some of my reviews just by creating excellent content and by funneling link juice to them.
And I failed to realize that Google has evolved and now seeks site-wide relevancy to consider you for ranking high.
And I wasn’t going to rank unless I bulked up my site quite a bit.
That was when I had just ten articles published, and 3 of those were money pages.
Now, I have 27 blog posts, which is still not much but is also much better, and my rankings have exploded. I hit the first page for some massive keywords, which will only go up from here.
Now I know what I’m doing:)
23. Should we do keyword research before every piece we write? Why?
Because knowing what people search for helps you get found by these same people, and by knowing your keyword, you have a topic, and when you have a central topic for an article, writing gets more comfortable.
24. Could you please tell us your best tips for writing SEO content for humans?
First, write as if you’re talking to a friend. As if your friend asked you a question on a topic, you know a lot about it, and you’re explaining it to them.
Second, don’t worry about on-page SEO until you’ve done writing. Then before you publish, SEO the article.
That’s a practical approach because you need readable content optimized for Google.
You can’t have one but not the other.
25. Long-form content has SEO benefits over short-form content. It is a proven fact now. According to your own experience, what is your strategy?
For new blogs, the best strategy is to target low competition, long-tail keywords and to do it by producing long-form content that is better than what’s already on the first page.
And by better, I mean a little bit better. In word count, that is meeting and exceeding the word count by 10%
So you don’t need to 10X your content to rank.
In fact, 10X content is a strategy reserved only for high-volume, high-competition keywords.
And that is the strategy I employ, and that’s bringing me results.
26. What should beginners consider about Google’s latest algorithm updates when they do SEO for their blogs?
Beginners should learn to keep their heads down and ignore significant core updates. That is because you can do nothing about it, and worrying about them won’t help.
What will help is that you work hard during an update because most other bloggers (your competitors) will be frozen in fear and waiting for the storm to pass.
Well, once the storm has passed, you will be way ahead of them because you worked hard while they took the Google core update as an excuse not to work.
27. What do you practice as your primary link-building method in 2020?
Email outreach. It’s unbeaten ROI, and if you learn to do it right, it’s as if you have a blogging superpower.
28. Could you please brief us on how this Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic affects bloggers? Did it affect your blog?
No, I don’t think it affected my blog. And I won’t let it affect me. It’s business as usual with me, and in fact, I should say I’m now even more focused on what needs to be done.
And that is my advice to fellow bloggers. Use this situation to your advantage. Unless you get infected (in which case, get help), there’s no excuse not to double down while working from home.
This virus pandemic will stop in the summer, and if you take massive action now, in the summer, you will see the Sun, while other bloggers will learn the harsh lesson of not having their priorities straight.
Don’t let this pandemic become an excuse!
Thanks, Nikola, for revealing all the fantastic tips and tricks you’ve learned for years.
Over to You
You might find many great articles on how to build an online business as a freelance writer, but most of those articles hide the real struggle behind the scene.
So, with this interview, I just want to reveal the real story and how he grew as a freelance writer.
What are the main challenges he had to face along the path?
Which tools does he use to make his business a success story?
How he started his career as a freelance writer?
His income as a freelance writer?
And his life story.
So, if you are still waiting for the right time to begin as a freelance writer, I think you already got the answer from Nikola. He had nothing a few years ago, and see where he is now.
His story inspired you? So, share this with your friends who want to become freelance writers or start a business.
If you have questions for Nikola, let us know in the comment section below. I’ll ask him to answer your questions right away.
Be sure to check out his blog, and you can find him on Twitter too.
Guys loving the spot on content here. Nikola sticks to the basics to succeed. Smart strategy to me.
Thank you very much for stopping by and glad you liked it. I think mastering the basics of everything is his secret of success.
Yes, I agree with you, and wanna try his methods sometimes.
Thanks, Nirodha for bringing Nikola on your blog. So many interesting and productive Questions you have asked Nikola.
Nikola has been inspiring to hundreds of bloggers out there, I must use the word ‘influencer.’ He knows vast things about SEO, which made him successful in freelance writing, blogging, and thus affiliate marketing.
Overall, outstanding Interview, I learned so many new things about Nikola through this. Sharing on my accounts.
Cheers to you both!
Thanks Ryan and Mudassir. The truth is I don’t see myself as an influencer. I still have lot’s to learn and grow, though I’ve improved a lot from where I was a couple of years ago.
I have new blogging knowledge and new blogging friends:)
Good initiative, Nirodha.
It is not just sharing your own experiences. Adding experiences and thoughts to the mix from someone who already made the success is priceless.
And I agree with Nikola. For one of my Instagram businesses, I used cold emailing, and they always returned with a handful of clients. Then I stopped sending emails, as Word of mouth is way stronger than a cold-email. I got clients from my clients. It was good business until Instagram changed their algorithm :D
Thank you, Nikola for sharing your honest, BS-free thoughts.
Keep sharing guys!
Thank you very much for sharing your experience here and glad you liked our interview. Stay in touch with us for more like this.
Wow! Just when I need the motivation tip.
I’ve been trying to venture into being a freelance writer and this post hit the go button.
With this I’ll embark on the journey. Thanks for sharing this with us!
Thank you for such a wonderful info and bringing Nikola in your blog. I must say that Nikola have vast knowledge about SEO which made him successful in blogging and freelance writing. I do agree with Nikola that life will be more comfortable while money will keep flowing.
I am really thankful to you for sharing this outstanding interview. I learned a lot through this and surely try this method to make money as a full time freelance writer. Nice blog! Keep sharing!!