Patrick ONeill’s story is similar to so many writers we’ve connected with over the years who faced rough times … but the difference lies in what he did to overcome it. Paid writing projects were his chief tool for rising up out of the ashes, and Patrick has since established himself as a respected professional in a field ripe with income possibilities. Read on to learn how he pulled it off.

How did you come to be a Barefoot Writer?

In 2008, I lost a well-paying high-end retail sales manager job, literally overnight. The combination of that company’s bankruptcy plus devastating medical bills and the economic collapse that year created a perfect storm of desperation and self-doubt in my life.

I sold most of my possessions, including my vehicle, to give myself a six-month cushion of living expenses. I began walking one mile to the library to use their Internet, because I couldn’t even afford the low-cost of Internet at my apartment. I walked to the library seven days a week, no matter what the weather, devouring every piece of information I could find about sales, online marketing, and writing for a living. Fast-forward to 2013, and I was making a full-time living as a Barefoot Writer.

Now that you’re a freelancer, what do you appreciate most?

Getting to work where I want, when I want, and spending my time with whomever I want, whenever I want. I also never forget my “Big Why.” For me, my Big Why is that I never want to give any other person control over my life. This is exactly what you do when you decide to work for someone else in a traditional J.O.B. (just over broke).

What does your ideal writing environment look like?

Few distractions, with a view of my patio and small garden here in Jacksonville, Florida. Sometimes I will head to Panera’s and work outside. There is a natural preserve that looks out over the marshland where I also sometimes work.

Any organizational tips you can share?

I am the least organized writer that has existed since the beginning of human history, so there’s that. I guess if I had to credit some type of technology for my success, there is no doubt it would be Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software. I experienced a 30% increase in revenue without working any extra hours when I purchased Dragon.

What books have inspired your life as a writer?

As a copywriter, I highly recommend CashVertising by Drew Eric Whitman, and Maria Veloso’s Web Copy That Sells (third edition). She is regarded by no other than copywriting genius Mark Joyner as “the best web writer” he has ever encountered. Both of those books are actionable, by the way. You can implement one or two simple strategies from each in a few minutes and begin to see an impact quickly.

What helped your writing business really take off to where it is today?

Because of need, I was writing 50 to 70 low-paying articles each week in the beginning. When I began respecting myself and started offering copywriting services at a decent wage, my income took off overnight.

I now target B2B companies that I know have advertising budgets, and who understand the value of a talented copywriter. When I find a marketing director or small business owner that looks like a perfect client, I scour the Web, finding out everything I can about the person. If I discover he or she is a big sports fan of some particular team, or a cat lover, or whatever, I mention that in my initial email subject line. This is a great way to break the ice and develop an instant rapport with a cold prospect.

What’s your advice to new Barefoot Writers? 

Write and prospect every day, and work hard for each client. Do little extras for your clients. If I see something I believe will be important or valuable to a client, like a relevant article, white paper, or piece of news, I contact them immediately. I cannot tell you how many jobs I’ve gotten because I took the initiative to try and help a previous client by letting them know about some industry trend or piece of information applicable to their business. Evidently, very few writers do this.

Once you get that first client, you have a testimonial and a sample. Now all that’s required is for you to ask for a referral. Then begin aggressively seeking clients, anywhere and everywhere, online and offline, and do whatever you have to do to be successful.

Fact File:

Previous Job: High-end retail sales manager

Current Writing Interest: B2B Lead Generation and LinkedIn Specialist

Best Part of Barefoot Living: Having personal control over my life

Top Advice: Always remember your “Big Why”