My Sweet November: Chronicling My Journey Through Gina Horkey’s Course, 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success

Welcome! I’m Cruz Santana, a single mother of seven kiddos living in San Antonio, TX. I will spend the month of November blogging my way through Gina Horkey’s course, 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success.

An entrepreneur since 2007, my first business was a security company I built with my now estranged husband, which I ran with him until we separated in 2012.

As an avid short story writer, I next set out to build a freelance business for myself. What began as a personal blog showcasing my works, developed into a venture offering ghostwriting and editing services. At first, business boomed. Lately, however, the money isn’t great, but I’ve managed to scrape by each month since I’ve been on my own.

Once a Would-Be Doctor


I went away to College Station to attend Texas A&M University on a full-ride scholarship. I never even bought a book! Just as I prepared to start my senior year on August 1st, 2013, the diagnosis came down.

I majored in Biomedical Sciences and absorbed myself in breast cancer research under my mentor, a noted physician and researcher in the field.

Chemotherapy and my advancing condition have kept me from finishing my degree. I hope to use my background in research and medicine in my freelance writing career.

My Physical Limitations

My illness causes inconvenient bouts of pain from time to time. There have been moments I’ve seriously thought my body was finally giving up. Circumstances keep me from getting a regular job. Disability payments wouldn’t be enough to cover my expenses and raise my children. Ergo, this has to work! There is no Plan B.

I’m frustrated by not making enough money. To adequately support my family, I need a change. I’m ready for it!

How I Found Gina and this Course
30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success - 1

It’s hard to believe that three months ago I knew almost nothing of Web writing and style guides. At that time, I still kept up with my personal blog, which I used to showcase and peddle my short stories.

In its infancy, the blog led to a surge in business. This turned into me working as a ghostwriter and editor. I’ve contributed to many short stories, novellas, and novels. I’ll admit I feel a bit cheated by not asking for a byline.

Constantly working and booked solid for several months at a time, in m naivety I believed the cash would always be there.

Today, I still manage to find work from content mills and subcontractors. I work twelve-hour days, seven days a week for $450, on average, per week. Being paid pennies a word for works varying between 3.000 and 10,000 words isn’t ideal. Editing isn’t much better.

In mid-August, two-and-a-half months ago, I sat miserably searching my usual sources for leads. Work from Home Adventures had shared an article on their Facebook page. 100 Non-phone Jobs is more of a directory than an article. It’s a packed database of potential employers who hire remote workers. The behemoth sorts the directory by category.

I scrolled down to the section containing writing jobs. After stopping once or twice to apply for several positions on my downward scroll, I saw the featured writing course was 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success. There was also an interview with Gina herself. In Earning $4K/mo Working From Home as a Freelance Writer, Gina revealed her story about her dissatisfaction with her career as a financial advisor. I could relate to that!

She began her freelance career in early 2014, and by the beginning of 2015, she took it full-time and quit her job in favor of running her own show, at home with her husband, Wade (a hard-working, stay-at-home-dad), and their two kids.

Immediately, I began taking notes on the article. Following that, I took to Google to find out more about Gina and this course.

The Following Two-and-a-half Months

My notebook grew with details and important information about Gina and her course. The more I read, the more I wanted to sign up and take it! Limited on funds, I instead signed up for her freebie newsletter instead.

Every day that passed I learned something new. In a short time, Gina had quite the impressive career! Within months, she’d been featured in The Huffington Post. A regular contributor to The Write Life, I wondered how she’d landed such prestigious gigs in a short time.

She openly posted monthly income reports and an accompanying monthly financial report to her blog. This is something I plan to do on my blog.

The piece de resistance was the blog post about a Kickstarter campaign for which she wrote the copy and press release. The campaign was a huge success! Fully funded in two weeks, it went on to generate five times the original goal amount in donations! After reading all about it, I thought, I want to be able to do that!


My estranged husband paid for my course. Grateful to finally be sitting face-to-face with the material, I thoroughly immersed myself in it. Completing my first read-through in four days. Brilliantly put together, each lesson builds on the prior one, making the content easy to follow and understand.

Until then, I had only Gina’s website to go off of for information. In the course, the minutiae of Gina’s site were neatly organized into 32 lessons, with two additional ones to follow upon completion.

Somewhere in Lesson 4, I wondered if it had occurred to any of her prior students to blog about their experiences as they completed the course. I asked her in an email. No one had. She said I could do it if I wanted, and sent me the site link to sign up for an affiliate link.

The Past 10-or-So Days

Upon getting the go ahead, it was on! Time suddenly sped up as November went from marching to sprinting at me!

After naming my new freelance business, I started a free WordPress site to post to until I can afford to buy my URL and hosting. Freelance Dance: Where words become content is the official home of my new business.

Eight years as an entrepreneur taught me that all steady business gains come as a result of successfully mastering a metaphorical dance. The better at the dancer you are, the more time you spend dancing. Like a Tango, the steps and rules must be learned, practiced profusely, and mastered.

Long-term success is a by-product of dancing the freelance dance with skill. We writers court clients and do all we can to get them to choose us time and again. This relationship, one built on proven results, can yield fruit for years to come. For a loyal client, freelancers write and edit, write and edit, in repetition, and on command. We make our clients wishes priority number one until the final product is perfect. All of this in hopes the dance will continue.

Why I Chose to Blog My Way Through

After nearly three months of research, I trust Gina and her method. Upon completing it, I know I’ll be 100% better off than I am right now.

As a habitual journal-keeper, if I weren’t blogging about it, I would write about my journey every day. The blog has the potential to help people experiencing similar hardships. Perhaps they’ll be introduced to the course in the same way I was. Maybe they’ll take action within their lives and begin their journeys to success. People who take the course after me can also use this record as a reference. Helping others succeed is my main reason for doing this.

Although I’m a decent coder, Writing for the Web is fairly new to me. The entries in this blog will act as a record of my improvements as the month progresses. It’s the story of how I will have changed it all for the better.

Schedule for the Month

To dedicate sufficient time to the course and writing work, I made some modifications to my daily routine. Making these changes in my life allows me to commit to a daily posting schedule.

All efforts will be made to adhere to this schedule. In the event a change must be made or an entry postponed, I”ll create a post outlining the change in posting schedule.


Lesson Lesson Name Sched. Date
Lesson 1 Determine Your Why 11/1/15
Lesson 2 Creating Income Goals 11/1/15
Lesson 3 Surround Yourself with Support 11/1/15
Lesson 4 8 Different Types of Writing You Can Do 11/2/15
Lesson 5 Choose Your Niche 11/3/15
Lesson 6 How to Bootstrap Your Business 11/4/15
Lesson 7 6 Ways to Get Hip with Google 11/5/15
Lesson 8 3+ Tips for Formatting a Post or Article 11/6/15
Lesson 9 All You Need to Know About Sourcing and Crediting Photos 11/7/15
Lesson 10 3 Ways to Build Samples for Your Portfolio 11/8/15
Lesson 11 3 Options for Your Web Homebase 11/9/15
Lesson 12 Setting Your Rate 11/10/15
Lesson 13 Developing Your Pitch – Part 1 11/11/15
Lesson 14 Developing Your Pitch – Part 2 11/12/15
Lesson 15 4 Successful Habits of Pitching Jobs 11/13/15
Lesson 16 Sourcing Freelance Writing Work 11/14/15
Lesson 17 6+ Questions to Ask a Prospect 11/15/15
Lesson 18 Accounting for Your Business 11/16/15
Lesson 19 Securing Testimonials 11/17/15
Lesson 20 Draft Your Bio 11/18/15
Lesson 21 Your Social Media Presence 11/19/15
Lesson 22 Your Hire Me Page 11/20/15
Lesson 23 3 Ways to Brand Your Business 11/21/15
Lesson 24 4 Ways to Protect Yourself Online 11/22/15
Lesson 25 2 Ways to Maximize Your Email Presence 11/23/15
Lesson 26 3 Tips to Building Strategic Relationships 11/24/15
Lesson 27 Add a Gravatar and Connect with Other Bloggers 11/25/15
Lesson 28 Hire a Mentor 11/26/15
Lesson 29 On Blogging and Email Lists 11/27/15
Lesson 30 Diversifying your Freelance Business 11/28/15
Lesson 31 Your Writing Resume 11/29/15
Lesson 32 Affiliate Sales 11/30/15
Course Conclusions Congrats! You’ve finished 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success 12/1/15
Course Followup 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success Follow-up 12/4/15

In Conclusion

Months of serious preparation have led to this. I hope that by openly and honestly sharing the highs and lows of learning, and eventually mastering, the rhythmic to and fro of my new business, readers will be motivated to make meaningful changes in their lives.

Learning the material is only the beginning. Growth and long-term success are achieved with time and by not giving up. And I’m no quitter!

About Cruz Santana

Cruz Santana is a cancer-fighter, professional writer, editor, and business consultant specializing in web building, content management, bookkeeping, and traffic optimization strategies. A nine-year veteran of the entrepreneurial world, she has a handle on which techniques work and which don't. She isn't afraid to step out of the box to overcome challenges. An alumni of Texas A&M University, she's well-versed in science and medicine. A voracious writer, she's been featured in The Huffington Post and The Write Life. Her VA clients benefit from her experience in content management and bookkeeping. In addition, she is the author of "Phenomenal Dad: Ten Lessons on Single Fatherhood from a Tougher-Than-Nails Single Mom," her first published book! When not developing marketing strategies that flirt with the avant-guard, she loves kicking back on the couch with her small army of seven babies to watch old movies. Hitchcock films are her favorites!
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17 Responses to My Sweet November: Chronicling My Journey Through Gina Horkey’s Course, 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success

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