Right now I’m working on a fabulous financial product. And in the course of research, the two themes I kept seeing were: cut expenses and increase income. That got me thinking about all the various freelance opportunities I see around.
In the quest for answers, I decided to go directly to the source. I got six freelance writers to spill the beans about their jobs. What their days look like, how much they make, and- most importantly for you- where to go to get jobs. And wow! There answers were very informative.
Thanks to the following writers for sharing. Please go check out their portfolios or contact them for work!
- Neth Williams. I worked with Neth in the Navy (we were both nukes) and he was the first writer to jump on board with this project. You can contact him at: [email protected]
- Carrie VanHoose. You can see her Writespike profile at http://www.writespike.com/profile/cookiemomma and her portfolio at: http://www.cookiesbymomma.contently.com/
- Alissa Berry. Her website is http://www.highplainsarena.com/. She can be contacted at [email protected], otherwise all her contact information is on her website.
- Abbi Perets- http://SuccessfulFreelanceMom.com — learn more about how to be a freelance writer and http://SuccessfulFreelanceMom.com/writer — if you need an email sequence and sales page for your course.
- Veneta Lusk, freelance writer and blogger, http://becominglifesmart.com/.
- Chhavi at http://mrsdaakustudio.com and [email protected]
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If you want to learn more about writing, check out “How to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 DaysHow to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days.” <<<Click there to check out the course.
How much time does it take to work as a freelance writer?
As you might expect with a freelance job, our writers varied from working a few hours here and there to working at it as a full-time job. Almost all of them pointed out the variable schedule as being a perk.
Abbi is very specialized- she does copywriting and has been doing it over 20 years. She advocates that “The majority of your time should be spent doing the work that will ACTUALLY get you clients- which means actively marketing yourself. That does NOT mean creating vision boards and branding boards and tweaking your website- that means PITCHING CLIENTS, applying to jobs you see posted, sending emails, making calls.” Thanks for the great advice, Abbi!
Where do you find freelance writing jobs?
This is a long section. But I figured it was the one you would be most interested in. They all had great advice and I quoted them (almost) in full.
One theme that recurred was that as you start to write more, you’ll build up a client list. Over time- if your quality is good- you might start doing more and more projects for these clients. Almost all of our writers mentioned direct clients now being a good portion of their work. But I included the “starting out” advice they had for new writers.
Neth says “Starting out, I had put many hours into Google and joining mailing lists. One that was absolutely priceless was Freedom With Writing. They send links to various places seeking submissions, from websites to publishers…including the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. It’ll also send links to websites that directly seek contract copywriters, some of which I have registered with for paid work. Some of these charge an application fee (I’m not with them), but most are free. Almost all require you to submit a writing sample, which they will use to either give you a pass/fail, or a rating system.” Neth also recommends Textbroker and Fivrr (hasn’t used Fivrr but recommended by Freedom with Writing, a valuable resource).
Carrie gets work from Upwork.com. She also works with the CEO of Writespike.com, a new social media site for writers to showcase their work. Carrie also keeps checking Freelancer.com, Peopleperhour.com, and Guru.com.
Alissa has some excellent advice and experience to share, having done this for years. “I currently have three long-term contracts. One I found on Indeed, the other two in a Facebook group for land investors. I’ve found previous jobs on FlexJobs and highly recommend them. When I first started freelance writing in 2006, I found my first jobs on Elance (now Upwork), but as technology increased in third world countries, I had to compete against writers who would do the same work for a fraction of the price, and it was no longer worth my time. I rarely take gigs and instead look for long-term contracts where I am paid what my time is worth.”
Alissa also says “Facebook is an incredible resource for freelance writers. Join groups for things that interest you (for me it’s horses and real estate investing) and make real connections with people. Indeed is good for connecting with local companies who need writers. Be sure you have a stellar resume. Remember, you are competing with people from all over the world. You have to know how to hit the key words to get past the gatekeeper. Also, you need a portfolio. I use Clippings.me. It is free and my portfolio looks professional.” Veneta echoes the advice of Facebook groups, saying she got her first two jobs through there.
Abbi was yet another vote for Upwork! “If you’re looking for innovative ways to connect with clients, I am personally a HUGE fan of Upwork, and ignore anyone who says it’s all low paying bottom feeders. Those people are 1. wrong, and 2. using Upwork incorrectly. If you approach Upwork as a professional, you will connect with incredible clients who pay you top dollar.” She now works directly with clients and from referral.
Chhavi has built her career around cold-pitching clients. In fact she has a book for sale on her site that includes templates for pitching clients.
What is the best part of being a freelance writer?
Almost unanimously, the best part of the being a freelance writer was being able to work whenever and wherever they were needed. The flexibility was the biggest benefit.
However, there was also a passion for writing apparent in multiple responses. Carrie says “My favorite part of freelance writing is being able to create something people enjoy reading that gives them ideas or information they didn’t know before.” I agree with her! I love blogging because I feel like I’m contributing something of quality to the world.
Alissa loves the writing aspect of it. She also loves getting paid to research interesting topics.
Chhavi says she loves “the ability to decide everything and write on topics of your choice. I decide who I work with, how I work with them, when I get paid, what I get paid and so on. I am in total control of my schedule and it helps. Freelance writing allows you to be location independent and its lovely.”
What are the downsides of being a freelance writer?
In case you thought it was all roses, it’s not. There are some downsides to being a freelance writer. Variable income can be one of them. That’s why its important to have multiple streams of potential writing jobs.
Neth points out: “Another downside is that it can take a while to build the business into something that pays enough to consider income. You really do have to do all of the legwork on your own to get started. Even with a knack for the written word, some clients will want experience as a paid writer in their writers (to weed out the people who hop online and call themselves writers).”
Carrie points out the competition (there are so many freelance writers) as being a downside. She also mentions that she personally needs to learn more about SEO.
For Alissa “The biggest downside is that when you work from home it is hard to get people to respect your work time. Just because I am at home does not mean that I am available.”
Abbi says “You have to be the kind of person who can work without external motivation. You don’t have a boss telling you to sit down and write. You have to manage your time effectively and not get caught up in those branding boards, because they don’t actually make you money.
For me, it can be hard to disconnect from work, because I love what I do, and I care deeply about my clients. Being self-employed in the US is hard with healthcare. I live outside the US, so that’s not an issue, but there are other expat tax issues that I have to manage on my own.”
Chhavi says that the variable income isn’t a problem, but the constantly having to hustle after clients requires self-motivation.
Advice for future freelance writers
Side note: I completely did not come up with the coincidental references to Stephen King. Two of my writers gave me those examples by themselves.
Read a lot. Neth says “Fiction and non. News articles, books, blogs, instruction manuals…reading is crucial to a writer grasping what works when communicating with text versus spoken word. Reading good and bad writing helps to illustrate the difference enough for the writer to know what to do and, equally important, what NOT to do. Even Stephen King has said “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
Write a lot. Neth worded it simply with “write a lot.” Alissa also echoes the advice to write a lot. “If you want to be a writer, you need to write every single day. Learn to let the words flow. It does not matter if you do not have clients yet — write for yourself and publish your work on a blog or in your portfolio. Make writing such an essential part of your day that you cannot imagine life without it.”
Remember your inner critic. Carrie echoes some of their advice and adds a bit of her own: “My advice to someone wanting to be a writer is do it for the love of writing, always keep reading and learning, and remember that we are all our own worst critique. Even Stephen King thought his writing was bad and threw away his first novel, Carrie. His wife found it in the trash and helped him fix it and now look at his success.”
Find a niche. Abbi says “You get to make decisions in your business. Choosing a niche simply makes it easier for you to market yourself, to get known for something, AND to get REALLY good at what you do so that you can charge a premium price for it. The first step is to identify WHO your clients are and WHAT you write for them. This is the step that new writers want to skip. The thought of niching down terrifies them, because they think it means they’ll never get work. I believed that for a lot of years — like, over a decade — and it kept me earning a steady $4000/month. Now that I’ve specialized, I earn more than 3 times that, so do the math.”
Always be excellent. Veneta says “Put your best foot forward every time and leverage your expertise to land gigs. Then make sure your clients are very happy with what you deliver and want you to continue working for them.”
Show me the money- how much do you make on average? Or good rates?
- You should not be penalized for working efficiently.
- The VALUE of the work isn’t always related to the time it takes. “
First of all, a giant thanks to the writers who contributed to this article. You were thoughtful, thorough, and very open about your experience.
I was struck throughout by the very different experiences people had. It gives me hope for your future freelance writers out there that there is plenty of work. Work for how many ever hours you want to work. And what rates you think the market can bear.
If you want to learn more about writing, check out “Earn More Writing.” <<<Click there to check out the course.
It’s a course that has been featured in Forbes and The Write Life and comes highly recommended. Holly says “If you want to earn money online, getting paid to write is one of the best gigs out there. I created Earn More Writing because I wanted to design the best possible training program for online freelance writers. I’m excited to show you the strategies I’ve used to create a six-figure income from the comfort of my own home. Thanks for stopping by!”