My Journey to Freelance Writing
Prior to blogging I had a lot of writing experience, but not much of it was paid. Writing was something that I enjoyed doing and wrote for magazines and websites on mental skills, as that was my area of professional expertise.
I thought about branching out a bit, and that it would be nice to get paid for writing so I decided to join a couple of sites where I thought I’d be able to find paid freelance writing work. What I found were content mills that paid very little for writing (.01-.04 per word), and that the topics of the writing weren’t very often in my niche (no, I won’t name the sites, but if you find places that pay that low, it’s usually not worth it in my opinion). Freelance writing can be so much more than making a few cents per word on uninteresting assignments.
Once I started blogging, I learned about a whole new world of freelance writing where I actually was paid well to write. I was able to apply directly to companies and websites without the “middle man” website taking a big cut of payment. I was able to call myself a freelancer!
I want to share some of the top tips I’ve learned and my favorite freelance writing resources. Some of these resources are free (or low cost) and several you may want to pay for. I have found that the money I have spent to learn about freelance writing or to get more access to higher paying jobs has paid off.
My Top Tips for Freelance Writers
- You need to be skilled at writing. Yes, writing on your own blog is great, but that doesn’t mean you’re good at it. When you’re writing for other people, you need to be able to write well. Work on further developing your skill as needed. Grammarly is a fantastic and free site that you may find helpful.
- Be aware of the requirements for a job, and your ability to fulfill them. Some sites will look for bloggers and you might think “Yay! That’s me,” but when you look closer, they’re looking for someone who can do research and write about complicated topics in a user-friendly way. This might not be you. Apply to the jobs that you’re qualified for. It’s okay to stretch yourself a bit, but many writing positions will require specific and/or technical knowledge that you may not have.
- Be able to respond professionally and quickly via email. 90% of my freelance writing work has happened without live contact with anyone- application for the job, offers for writing, acceptance of a project and the information and edits specific to it are often all through email. You need to be able to handle this part of the business.
- Keep track of deadlines, and don’t miss them. Be early if you can, especially if you’re working for a new client. You may need to make additional edits and it’s helpful if you give extra time.
- Don’t be afraid to go outside of your current niche. You may have a blog, but chances are that’s not all you can write about. On my site I write about parenting, work-life balance, and mental skills. I have been paid to write about those topics, but also photography sessions, restaurant openings, weekend getaways, and more. There are topics that I don’t know about and won’t pursue, but think about the different niches that you are qualified to write about.
- Stay organized. Trello is a free website that many people love, but I couldn’t stick to it. I use my trusted paper planner and reminders on my computer. However you do it, you need to have a system to stay organized not only for your due dates, but for following up with your applications and pitches.
- Don’t be afraid to turn work down. If someone isn’t offering you enough, the assignment isn’t in line with your values, or for any other reason you feel that the fit isn’t quite right, it’s okay to say no. While there are times I’ve worked for lower pay, or an assignment I didn’t love, I decided to do so because there was a bigger reason for the choice, for example getting my foot in the door for other opportunities.
- Be willing to pitch yourself to blogs, magazines, or companies that might benefit from your writing skills. You don’t always have to wait for a job posting to show up; pitch your services to the companies you want to work with.
- Share about your freelance writing with others if the opportunity arises. For example, I do ghostwriting for photographers (I write blog posts for them, but they publish under their name); I am in a group with photographers and whenever one mentions how they dislike blogging, I share that I’m a ghostwriter and to let me know if they’d like to chat.
- Hire an editor if you need more assistance. You may want to have someone review your work before submitting; an editor can help not only to improve your work, but to help show your value, and justify higher pay. Yes, you may be spending some of the money that you make, but if this expense helps get you more work and higher pay for those jobs, then it just might be worth it. And guess what, I also do editing, so feel free to send me an email if you’d like to learn more and see if we’re a good fit.
- Take care of the relationships with the editors you work with and the people who hire you. Case in point: At the end of 2016, an editor I had been working with for several months was asked if she knew any writers who are moms. She immediately thought of me, referred me for the job, and I landed it. That new job paid almost $3,000. I would have never expected that job to happen, and it wasn’t one I would have ever found on a job board because it was a personal recommendation. The first editor referred me because I was doing a good job with my assignments for her, I was taking care of that relationship, and I am always timely and professional with those assignments.
Freelance Writing Resources
Websites for freelance writers
I referred to this webpage’s list everyday when I was first starting out. It was through the sites on this list that I made my first several hundred dollars in freelance writing. Instead of content mills where I was possibly making .04/word, through these listings I was paid closer to .10/word. This is a great FREE resource for freelance writers. Craigslist is another site where you might find freelance writing jobs, though I usually forget to look there.
Contena is a paid site that collects writing jobs all in one place. Since I joined Contena, I’ve spent less time looking at the site I just mentioned. Part of what is great about it is that you can easily see the industry that the job is in and payment information. I’ve been a member for several months; they seem to have posts from MANY different niches, and payment seems to average .10/word at the minimum.
I also want to add that Contena is not always available for people to sign up; they have periods of time where they allow new members and as of publication date, they are accepting new members. In addition to their job listings, they offer their own education and resources as well as individualized coaching. Now, Contena is definitely an investment, but it’s a great way to maximize your time and find quality job listings. If you want to give it a try, use the code sara15 for 15% off.
My Favorite Course for Freelance Writing, and a Book for Freelancers
I have been able to find a lot of great information about freelance writing that is free. However, as you probably already know, sometimes it’s useful to pay for education.
Here are the two paid resources I highly recommend:
Write your Way to your First 1K by Elna Cain. This course is amazing. I literally can’t say enough good things about it. If you’re new to freelancing and want to turn your writing into a business, I would recommend you take this course. Elna is so knowledgable about freelance writing and she shares everything she knows in this course. She sets you up for success by walking you through all of the steps you need to become a freelance writer including creating a portfolio, finding clients, and pitching clients. Even if you’ve been writing for a while, you’ll probably learn more than a few new ideas in this course. If you want to make money as a freelance writer, this is the course I’d recommend you take. Part of what’s amazing to me is the amount of information you get from her. As of now this course is $180 if you pay in full. The value is well-worth the cost. Check it out here.
If you’re not quite ready to take a course, then this book by Gina Horkey is a great resource to start out with. Gina has also been very successful as a freelance writer and just like Elna, helps teach others how to do the same. This is another resource that’s very appropriate for beginners and a smart choice if you’re not sure if you want to put a focus on growing a business as a freelance writer, or if you simply want to be able to make a bit of money from being a freelancer.
Is Freelance Writing for Me?
It’s a good idea to ask yourself if freelance writing is for you. It might not be, and that’s okay. Perhaps your talents and skills are better suited for being hired on as a writer for one company. If that’s the case, then freelance writing may be a means to an end that you still would like to pursue. Or, perhaps you realize that you don’t like the idea of being a freelancer at all. That’s okay- know yourself and know that this work isn’t for everyone.
However, if you’re someone who:
- Is skilled at writing and enjoys it,
- Has areas you can confidently create content around,
- Has some ability to research,
- Can manage multiple projects,
- Is able to communicate well, and
- Is comfortable pitching and getting rejected (or you’re at least willing to try) . . .
Then freelance writing may be for you. You might not know unless you give freelance writing a try. Hopefully these tips and resources for freelance writers will help you along the way.
What are your favorite resources for freelance writers?