Michelle NickolaisenName: Michelle Nickolaisen

Website URL:   http://www.bombchelle.com

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On your website, you say, “My specialty is in taking potentially dry, boring subjects and making them entertaining and engaging.” How do you help writers transform their writing?

I think the biggest things in making boring subjects less boring is to:

  • Ground the writing in real-life examples. Include them wherever you can.
  • AVOID JARGON. All caps necessary! Unless you’re writing to a very specialized audience, your article/content/copy should be at least vaguely understandable to a layperson. Otherwise, you’re alienating a solid chunk of your potential audience.
  • Aside from that, writing like you speak helps a lot. One exercise that I do with ghostwriting clients is record a conversation, get a transcript of the conversation, and then clean up excerpts of the transcript and work them into the final content/copy.

What are some common business mistakes that writers make?

The biggest one: never, ever, ever base your freelance rates off of employee hourly rates! As a freelancer, you have less than 40 billable hours a week and you also have more costs than an employee (business operations costs, healthcare). If you’re billing 40 hours a week, you’re either neglecting admin and marketing (things that are necessary to keep your client funnel full and your business running smoothly), or you’re working more than 40 hours total. If you want to do that and it works for you, that’s one thing, but for a lot of people it’s unsustainable and leads to burnout in the long term.

How did you come to do what you’re doing today?

It’s actually fairly roundabout! So, I had planned to start off freelancing by easing in, but life threw me a curveball and I jumped in with both feet instead. I started out freelance writing, got super burned out because I was working too much, for too little money. I switched to doing freelance project management and did that for a few years, then, after a short stint at a marketing agency, I went back to writing and marketing. It’s been a little over seven years now.

How can writers create additional streams of income?

The easiest way is to write/create something that you can sell over and over again, instead of just once. Whether that’s a book in the Kindle store, a course on Udemy, or a workbook that you sell through your own site, slowly build them up over time, and eventually you’ll have money trickling in from several sources that can really add up over time.

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

The freedom and flexibility! I can leave in the middle of the day to go to a class, stop work early as long as I get my work done, and talk to my dog as much as I want and nobody thinks I’m a weirdo for it.

Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?

Chris Guillebeau was a huge inspiration to me when I was starting out — he’s a genuinely nice guy on top of being business smart. I’m also a huge podcast nerd — favorites include the Nerdist Writers Panel (interviews about screenwriting, but a lot of it applies to all writing) and Writing Excuses. The Fizzle podcast is good for small biz inspiration, too.

What are some tips for productivity that you can share with our readers?

Two of my favorite things are timeboxing and endcapping. In short, timeboxing is assigning specific things to specific times (in my case, for example, I do my projects on Mondays and Fridays, and work on client work Tuesday through Thursday). Endcapping is working on “fun work” (or a specific project that you want to make progress on, but that’s hard to make the time for) at the beginning and end of your workday. (I don’t want to make my answer too long, but you can read in-depth tips on implementing those two techniques at this guest post, if you want!)

Can you share something that people may be surprised to learn about you?

This isn’t particularly surprising if you know me, but new people might be surprised to find that I practice Brazilian jiu jitsu (and am mildly obsessed with it). I’ve been training for a little over a year now and I like to train 3-4 times a week — it’s great stress relief!

What’s next for you?

Aside from continuing on with freelance writing, I’m working on novel number two, two nonfiction books (one shorter/workbook style, one full-length one), have two creative side projects…and ideas for more! Game development might be in the future, but I’d have a lot of work to do to get to that point.