In my continuing series on how to make money while on disability, freelance writing is up there as one of the more popular ways to supplement benefits. It's no surprise considering how many people dream about becoming professional writers, even if it means writing content for others. [source]
Many companies don't have the time or resources to write content for themselves and so they farm out the work to freelancers. There's a TON of opportunity for you to grab but with that comes tons of competition.
In this article, you'll learn how to compete with the big boys and land your first few freelance gigs. But there's no point reading further if you're not cut out for the challenges of the job so let's tackle this topic first...
IS FREELANCE WRITING RIGHT FOR YOU?
- Your English must be decent. While you don't need an English or Journalism degree, you must be able to write well to compete against native speakers.
- You enjoy the process of writing. This includes all facets of the job: research, editing, writing and proofreading.
- A willingness to improve yourself. Whether it's to become a better writer, faster writer, or continuing to learn about a specialized topic, you always look for areas to improve on.
- A can-do attitude and thick skin. Establishing yourself as a freelance writer takes time and perseverance (and enduring lots of rejection!) You need to believe in yourself if you expect to overcome the odds.
Are you still in? Good, let's go...
Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without exercise, the muscles seize up. – Jane Yolen
HOW TO BECOME A FREELANCE WRITER ONLINE
The first thing to do is prepare a bunch of writing samples at varying lengths on a variety of topics to make yourself more marketable. This is your opportunity to shine so make sure to check your writing for grammar, spelling, and quality!
Now, let's move on to the different paths you can take as a freelance writer...
You've probably heard that most freelance writers make next to nothing. Well, that's true if you stay as a writer for a content mill where $0.01 per word is standard fare (with some experience, you can make up to $0.05 per article).
A content mill is a crowdsourced website where clients post job offers which are made available to the content mill's staff of freelance writers.
Despite poor wages, content mills serve a valuable purpose: there are a place to gain confidence and experience where you have none. As long as you see them as a stepping stone to better writing opportunities, there are worth trying.
Top Content Mill Websites
A freelance marketplace is a system where clients post job offers, writers bid on them, and clients select the winners.
These websites always have plenty of writing jobs available to bid on, including articles for blogs, tutorials, reviews, and manuals. But the competition is fierce. In fact, the rejection rate is often as high as 90% for ordinary writing gigs!
Needless to say, building a reputation on these platforms takes time. But you can speed things up by first focusing on lower paying gigs where there's less competition. Once you receive some positive reviews, you can shift your focus to higher-priced gigs and have better luck winning bids.
So how do you land writing gigs in the first place?...
How to Win Bids in Freelance Marketplaces
Pay close attention to these suggestions as they can make ALL the difference between winning vs. losing bids in freelance marketplaces...
Have Writing Samples Available
Don't apply to writing jobs if you haven't prepared writing samples yet, you're just wasting your time!
Optimize Your User Profile
Employers have many applicants to weed through and little time to do it so make their job easier by listing the information they want to see FIRST: how you can help them. Only THEN should you discuss your background.
Follow Employer Instructions
A common way employers screen out contractors is by asking them to include a certain phrase or keyword in their application to see how well they follow directions. The thinking goes that if you get this part right, you're more likely to get your writing assignment right.
Employers can spot cut/paste copy from a mile away so make sure to personalize EVERY application. That means addressing the employer by his/her name, answering every question asked, and explaining why he/she should hire you.
No one likes working with a grouch so be likable in your correspondence!
A way to show interest in a job is by asking questions in your application. Just don't go overboard, one or two questions is more than enough.
Top Freelance Marketplace Websites
If you're like most aspiring freelance writers, you'd like to work for yourself, choosing your own projects and rates, right? Well, that means working exclusively with professionals who have the money to pay you what you're worth. For the average independent contractor, that means anywhere from $30 to $700 per article!
As a highly paid independent contractor, your role is to write personalized articles in specialized fields, a skill not as widely available in the open market where jack-of-all-trades writers are the norm.
Besides better pay, independent contractors have other perks…
- Repeat Business – So long as you deliver quality work, an employer will likely want to keep working with you rather than look for replacements.
- Increased Marketability – The more you write on a subject, the more knowledge you gain and the more marketable you become to employers.
- Less Hassle – Professionals have more realistic expectations than bargain hunters which make them easier to work with.
Now, if you think landing jobs in the freelance marketplace sounds hard, wait until you strike out on your own!
To become successful as an independent contractor, you have to become REALLY good at marketing yourself! And even after you've "made" it, you still might have dry periods where you'll have to resort to content farms just to earn a few dollars. Still, many independent contractors wouldn't want it any other way because they love what they do.
With that said, here are some basic tips to becoming an independent contractor...
Establish an Online Presence
Create a Website
Employers like to see writers actively writing so it's a good idea to set up a website and start blogging on a topic regularly. You can also use your personal website to sell your services via a Hire Me page where you can feature testimonials, rates and contact information.
So how will prospective clients come across your website? Through a combination of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), social media, and/or paid advertising.
The online university I'm a member of, Wealthy Affiliate, teaches you everything you need to know about getting traffic through these methods, plus more.
As an independent contractor, social media services like Facebook and Twitter are a great way to stay in contact with clients and build a following.
But give special attention to LinkedIn — the online hub of the business community. Everybody who's anybody congregates there so make sure to optimize your LinkedIn profile and spend time networking with other professionals.
How to Find Jobs as an Independent Contractor
As you'd imagine, newcomers have a hard time finding work as independent contractors which is why you need to hustle to get anywhere. So, here are some ways to find new clients...
Apply to Job Openings Online
- Blogging Pro - Job Board
- Constant Content
- LinkedIn ProFinder
- ProBlogger - Job Board
Spy on Competitor Websites
Visit websites of other independent contractors, look at their roster of clients and start contacting these employers for yourself (a bit sneaky but worth a try!)
To find freelancer's websites, check out their profiles on LinkedIn where URLs are posted.
Write Guest Blogs
Reach out to industry leaders in the same niche as your blog and ask to write guest posts for them. The resulting traffic to your website could lead to new clients!
Engage in Social Media
Join freelance writer groups on Facebook and start networking with like-minded people. Some of these writers have more work than they can handle so perhaps you can help them out!
Spread the Word
Ask your friends to tell their friends you're looking for work.
5 TIPS WHEN WORKING WITH CLIENTS
- Get Paid Your Worth – Don't sell yourself short, negotiate the price you deserve. Taking a hardline approach exudes confidence.
- Ask if Unsure – Make sure you clearly understand what your client wants. It's a terrible feeling to have to rewrite a piece because of some misunderstanding!
- Always Deliver Quality – Regardless of whether you're making $0.01 or $0.50 per word, always do your best. Remember, your reputation is on the line!
- Always Deliver on Time – Always deliver your work on time, if not sooner.
- Follow Up – Stay in contact with your client after completing a project:
- Ask if they need more work done. If not, check in with them periodically to keep the communication alive.
- Ask for a testimonial and their permission to post it on your website to attract future clients.
- Ask for referrals.
PROS AND CONS OF FREELANCE WRITING
- Get paid to write professionally
- Plenty of opportunities
- Reliable payouts
- Low-cost to set up business
- Dealing with customers
- Unsteady work ("feast or famine" business)
- Low wages when starting out
- High rate of burnout
Freelance writing is an obvious career choice for people who love writing and don't mind roughing it for awhile. If you're serious about creating a freelance writing business, I recommend enrolling in Elna Cain's course called Write Your Way to 1K, which is designed for writers with no professional experience to make their first 1K within 7 weeks.
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
Have you ever thought about writing for a living? What's held you back? Leave your comments below!