How would you like to turn your writing talent into a successful business? This case study reveals how Mridu Khullar Relph transformed her love for writing into a full time digital business.
Writing is an art. But just because you can write, doesn’t mean you’ll be successful at it.
That may have been a little harsh, but it’s the gospel truth. There’s more to building a thriving writing career than just sitting in front of a computer.
After being a journalist for several years, and with 700+ bylines scattered across several publications, both big and small, Mridu Khullar Relph has tread the path that many are still hoping to get started on.
As a freelance journalist and digital entrepreneur, Mridu transformed her writing talent into a skill that has allowed her earn a living on her own terms.
Mridu has written for major publications such as The New York Times, TIME, CNN, ABC News, The Independent, GlobalPost, Elle, Vogue, Ms., and several others. But her ability to conquer these “big dogs” didn’t come from just writing, but the ability to learn new skills and apply them in her business.
Now, she pours out her knowledge and years of experience through books, online courses and several blog posts to writers who want to earn internationally. She does this through her website, The International Freelancer.
A more in-depth look at how Mridu Khullar Relph built her digital business from her love for writing is today’s Talentpreneur story.
Develop your talent into a skill worth paying for
As if being from a developing country wasn’t enough, failing in school just made matters worse. While some people cringe and settle for mediocrity at the sight of failure, Mridu tried something different.
As she stated in this interview by Reeti,
I failed my first year in college, so I started freelancing to prove to myself that I wasn’t completely useless.”
But she didn’t just start any freelance career because it made money. Mridu discovered she had a talent for writing, thanks to affirmations from others. With this knowledge, she found resources, read up and took action on the many ideas in her head.
I was a college student in India, studying engineering, and I had just failed my first year. I was looking for things to do as I retook my exams and the words of my English teacher, who had always told me to explore writing, echoed in my head. I looked for resources online and pitched a story to a US-based magazine for college students on surviving failure in college. I earned a cool $100 and I was hooked!”
Don’t hide your creativity
People get started with their talents in different ways. While some create in secrecy, others like Mridu get started by actually putting themselves out there. No one will get to know what you’re good at if you don’t come out of your shell to show them.
Becoming a freelancer wasn’t all rosy for her. But it was a viable way to get her message out. As she further stated,
My location probably put several editors off hiring me and understandably so…The way I overcame it was by one, writing near-perfect query letters and proposals that would impress editors greatly (even if that meant I was putting in a lot more effort than my Western counterparts) and two, by focusing on stories in my own backyard.”
“The more you write, the better you get” – Mridu Khullar Relph
To get from raw talent to a skill that can be paid for requires continuous practice. And that in itself requires a good level of commitment and consistency – qualities that most people don’t believe are important.
Transforming her talent into a professional skill that paid well wasn’t exactly smooth, as with most people. As she further shared,
I practice. I write a lot. That’s who I am, what I love to do. I can easily do 7,000-word days when I’m in the zone. The more you write, the better you get and I’ve now been writing professionally for 12+ years.”
What do you love to do? And do you really want to see it succeed?
A lot of people look at the idea of running a digital business and think it’s all unicorns and rainbows. When you’re just getting started, that’s so far from the truth. The early days of Mridu’s freelance business wasn’t all about watching movies and shoving work aside till when she felt like it. It was the direct opposite…
“I spent hours on writing websites, soaking up as much information as I could, and sent out dozens of pitches each week.”
The peculiar thing about her statement above was that while she learned all she could, she took action.
Surround yourself with the right people
When I first got started online, I had a mentor who helped me down the right path. And till now, I still have a close group of friends who do the same thing I do, and encourage me at every step of the way.
Regardless of what you’re good at, get to know dozens of other people in your field. Why? Because at the beginning, your success will be little. And these are the people who will spur you on, either through their own exploits, or their encouraging words.
Having people there to support you and to help you can be hugely important, especially in those first few years when you’re having little success and people in your life think you’re crazy and/or stupid for trying to do what you are.
I’m convinced that the difference between freelancers who succeed and those who don’t is that the ones who succeed have a support system of other freelancers who simply don’t let them quit.”
Share your knowledge, no matter how little
As an international freelancer herself, Mridu saw the need to show others how to achieve what she’s been able to do. But she didn’t manufacture that need.
Asides from the fact that she wanted to share her knowledge, she was part of the freelancing market and knew where the shoes hurt for many freelancers. This formed the target audience she knew she could reach.
As she stated on her About page,
I realized that writers, especially international freelancers who don’t have access to many of the resources US and UK-based writers do, need a place to call their own, a safe forum in which to find like-minded people and a community they can trust. Likewise, US-based writers ask me all the time about opportunities available globally, about reporting abroad, or selling their work into European and Asian markets. They too, need an international community to support them. My goal is to make this website that community.”
Start from where you are…with what you have
There’s a quote that has really influenced my actions for several years and it is “use what you have to get what you want.” Now I mean that in a positive context of course.
One of the biggest questions in entrepreneurship is “should I start big?”
And the reason is because we believe that to make impact, we need all the horns and whistles at the beginning. So we get that expensive office space, use that expensive software, get that loan from that rich Uncle and hire 20 full time staff, all before checking if our idea is even viable.
That’s all a waste of time in my humble opinion. In this interview on Women on Writing, Mridu’s point of view wasn’t so different. As she stated,
You don’t have to take giant leaps to make big changes.”
Making impact is a process and isn’t instant. You have all the resources you need.
Take control of your life
One of the ultimate benefits of building a digital business that helps you earn from your talents is the control you get over your time and life.
As she further stated,
I like that I can work twenty-four hour stretches if I need to and then take two weeks off just because I feel like it. I love that if the words aren’t coming together, I’m not stuck at my desk because someone else decided I should be. I can call a friend, clear my head, or just plain give up. I love that there are no rules.”
– Mridu Khullar Relph on WOW! Women on Writing
Build relationships to promote your business
Social media exists not so that you only share how your cat winked at you that morning, but to build relationships with other like-minded people.
These relationships can be professional or friendly. As Mridu shared,
Marketing is also a form of building relationships, but this time around, you’re connecting with prospects. Marketing is something you really can’t do without.
As she advised,
Learn the fundamentals of marketing and start applying them, and then figure out what’s working best for you and devote more time to doing that.”
What you do need to find out is what social network is more appropriate for marketing your talents and skills.
For her, LinkedIn has given her results with respect to getting writing assignments. As she also stated,
I really like LinkedIn because it’s a platform that’s been built for the sole purpose of networking and building professional relationships.”
Set Goals for yourself
Building a digital business out of your talents and skills doesn’t mean you’ll magically become a millionaire overnight. And it doesn’t mean that everything will play out nicely every time. Sometimes, you have to spank yourself and put your head in the right direction.
Mridu lays out four questions you should ask yourself, if you really want to get anywhere near having a fulfilled life,
I think we each need to step back from our careers and ask ourselves four questions:
(1) What does my career look like right this very minute?
(2) Why does it look like this? As in, what choices have I made to bring myself to this point?
(3) What do I want my career—eventually—to look like?
(4) What choices do I need to be making to take myself to that point?”
You also need to be accountable to yourself and know the difference between what you want and what you don’t want, especially when it comes to income.
Here’s what she stated in this case study about her on Business to Community,
Most successful freelancers I know run their numbers constantly—how much do I need to earn, what have I earned this month, how will I make up the difference, etc.—and are never afraid to walk away from rates and contracts that don’t make sense to them or align with their goals.”
Create a near passive-stream of income
It’s possible to sell both products and services. The advantage of this is you get to diversify your income. But you first have to discover what you can sell. And it has to be tied to what you already have – your talents and skills. As Mridu stated in this interview on Write Naked,
With certain things (such as online classes and books), you can automate a lot and create a near-passive stream of income. More importantly, multiple streams diversifies your income so that if one area of your writing life slacks, your entire income doesn’t go down with it.”
Asides from her freelance career, Mridu also earns online from her books and courses. She’s the author of the following books:
Her online courses include:
A few pointers from Mridu’s story:
- When it seems like the chips are down, put in more effort than those you’re competing with. You’ll get results.
- Don’t just learn, because that won’t help you. Take action on what you learn.
- Learn how to market your talents and skills. This is a skill that could evolve into a passive income stream for you.
Take the first step
Do you also have writing talent? And how does earning from it sound to you?
From Mridu’s story, she grew her business by first spreading her work online instead of creating in secret. And she did this by creating a website and sharing her knowledge as blog posts and courses. She did all this with a mindset to help people. From there, everything else took off.
Like Mridu, you too can take your love for writing to the next level. All you need is to know how to use the right tools to get started.
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Also published on Medium.