Why It’s A Great Time To Be A Freelance Writer

    A guest post by Ali Hale from DailyWritingTips.com

    “I’m going to quit my job and be a freelance writer.”

    They probably weren’t words my then-boyfriend, now-husband wanted to hear. We lived in London at the time – not exactly cheap. I had a “good” day job – one which paid pretty well, considering that it was my first job out of college.

    Oh, and it was spring 2008, and we were at the start of a recession.

    But … I’d been dipping my toes into the freelancing waters, and I’d realized that it was a great time to be a freelance writer. That was three years ago – and today’s new freelancers are in an even stronger position.

    Why do freelance writers have it so good right now? In short, the internet.

    The internet has created an unprecedented demand for new content – and new specialisms, like SEO copywriting. For three years, I’ve been working as a paid blogger, something which didn’t exist when I was in high school.

    It’s much easier to get a foot on the ladder now. A couple of decades ago, if you wanted to be a freelancer, you had to gradually build up a portfolio of clips – starting with writing for tiny local publications for free. Now, you can email guest posts to blogs with a circulation of hundreds of thousands – and you can be published the next day.

    However, getting started isn’t quite as easy as some people would have you believe. I’m sure you’ve seen ads online saying “writers wanted” – and promising that you can succeed without any previous experience at all. You’ve probably also come across ads on Craigslist or similar, offering a miniscule rate of pay (like $2 per blog post). Sadly, there are some unscrupulous and misguided folks out there who want to take advantage of writers. And there are some desperate writers who fall prey to them.

    Over the past three years, I’ve learnt a lot – sometimes the hard way! Like:

    #1: Have a Strong Online Presence

    I started out with a … well, in retrospect, pretty awful website. I’d designed it myself and hand-coded all the pages in html. (And I’m neither a designer nor a coder by training.) Plus, the only visitors I had were a few intrigued ex-colleagues and my mom.

    I pretty quickly realized I needed a much more enticing website if I was going to attract clients. I highly recommend using WordPress – it’s free, robust, has tons of features, and is a lot more user-friendly than when I first started out. It’s definitely not just for bloggers, either – you can create almost any sort of site using it.

    #2: Learn to Write for the Web

    Although there are still plenty of paying print markets around, the web has been a game-changer for freelance writers. It’s easy to pick up jobs online, and web editors want a constant stream of fresh content.

    The problem is, writing for the web isn’t like writing for print – especially if you’re used to academic writing or factual journalism. We read differently online, skimming through pieces, and I had to learn how to write in a more engaging conversational style, and how to use formatting tricks to keep readers (and editors) engaged.

    #3: Find the Great Jobs

    If you’ve ever looked for writing jobs online, you’ve probably ended up trawling through a whole bunch of scammy-looking “opportunities”.

    Avoid anything which offers a revenue-share based on advertising income. Sure, they might make impressive-sounding claims – but you’re likely to end up with pennies. Look for positions which offer at least $40 for a blog post.

    #4: Get Business-like

    When I started out, with a couple of gigs on the side, I could keep track of all my work pretty easily. Once freelance writing became my full-time income, I had to get a lot more organized – for my own peace of mind, and to make sure that I kept my clients happy

    One simple trick which really helped was to give myself more time than I needed for every deadline. If I thought I could have it done by Tuesday, I’d say Friday. That way, I had some slack if anything went wrong – and I could turn work in early if not.

    #5: Use Social Media Effectively

    I only got started on Twitter because a bunch of my day-job colleagues joined and I didn’t want to miss out. But once I started freelancing seriously, I realized that Twitter was a great way to build up a network of fellow writers (some of whom have sent work my way), editors, and even readers who’ve enjoyed my work.

    If you’re not on Twitter, or if you’re not using Twitter effectively, take some time to learn about it. There are loads of writers on there – including famous authors like Neil Gaiman and Alexander McCall Smith – and it’s a great place to make new friends.

    #6: Become More Productive

    When I was a student, I thought it was a good day if I managed to write a thousand words or so. Now, I can knock out three thousand words before lunch. The online world is full of distractions – but if you’re going to make it as a freelancer, you have to be able to focus.

    For me, that means avoiding my inbox, tweeting only sparingly, and ignoring the washing up until after my writing’s done for the day…

    If you’re keen to start freelancing online, but you’re not sure where to begin, then I’d urge you to check out the Freelance Writing Course that I’m running with Daily Writing Tips. Registration is only open for 72 hours. This could be the course which changes your life – just like freelancing has changed mine.

    And even if it’s not quite the right time for you, do give freelancing some serious thought. A lot of the people I talk to worry that they’re not good enough – but the truth is, with a little work, you’re probably more than capable of writing professionally.

    So, what’s stopping you from giving it a try?

    Ali Hale is a freelance writer, blogger and writing coach. You can read more from her and get all the details about her course on DailyWritingTips.com

     

    About the author

      Ali Hale

      Ali Hale is a freelance writer, and is studying for a postgraduate degree in creative writing. She writes for a number of blogs, including her own recently-launched Aliventures.

    • I regret that I haven’t tried being a freelancer before. But I am glad that I was able to get some freelancing gigs, which could be a sideline for me. I wish that I could be able to get more freelancing gigs so that I could generate more extra income. Maybe I should check out Freelance Writing Course to enhance my freelancing writer course.

    • Hey all,

      Just wanted to give you a heads up that we launched a site for freelance writers to find paid gigs (http://www.scripted.com). Have a look, and let us know what you think! We have a bunch of open projects at the moment, so please feel free to apply! Thanks, and look forward to hearing your feedback.

      Best Regards,

      Sunil Rajaraman
      Co-Founder and CEO
      Scripted.com
      [email protected]

    • Archan Mehta says:

      Ali,

      Thanks for your contribution–some solid tips here.

      The point that stood out for me: how technology has transformed the lives of freelancers. Even a non-tech bloke like yours truly can have access to latest information. And I would not call myself computer savvy.

      A while back, I wasn’t even aware of blogs, bloggers, etc. I did not about their existence. And I was not even curious. Most of my information came from books and daily newspapers and so on.

      Slowly, however, I made the transition. Today, there is so much available on the internet. People like you have made a career out of writing, for example, just by taking advantage of on-line opportunities.

      A generation ago, this would not have been possible. Probably, you and I would have ended up writing for the local, smaller scale print media. We would be earning peanuts. How things change.

      I appreciate the fact that you have been so transparent. Your honesty shines through your posts. I feel inspired by your personal struggles. Your ability to overcome odds is something that is remarkable about you. You started from scratch and yet you have come so far. You are one heck of a writer. Cheerio.

    • I am learning from more and more people like you to stick to your guns and don’t settle for the low-paying jobs. I wouldn’t say it is “easy” to get away from the $10 articles, but it can be done if you hold your ground. Setting up a website is also a critical part. I have obtained many of my clients that way! Thanks!

    • Hi Ali,
      I’m not a freelance writer however I like your tip of being more business-like. I’m going to give myself some extra time with guest posts. I also don’t wash up until my writing is finished. LOL

    • Grace Tangeleno says:

      Even these days, nothing beats a good, solid education in English or journalism from a respected institution of higher learning. Set yourself apart with credible training and experience. Be more than just another person with a keyboard and internet access.

    • Ali Hale says:

      Thanks Joe, glad it helped! And yes, do watch out for sites that pay based on advertising revenue. They often seem to promise great things, but in reality, most writers won’t make more than a couple of dollars per article. You might want to google for reviews of the site/company in question, to see what other writers have said about their experiences.

    • Joe says:

      Enjoyed the article. Solid tips and appreciate about no advertising revenue for articles, was getting ready to do that. Thanks again.

    • doug_eike says:

      You are right, of course, that the Internet presents writers with opportunities that didn’t exist a decade ago. The problem is in positioning yourself to take advantage of them. Making a living wage at freelance writing is probably harder than ever, but for writers who have income from other sources, the field is wide open. Thanks for your insights!

      • I think the key is differentiating yourself from the word-monkeys (e.g., people to write articles for $2 a pop, with terrible quality). If you become a content marketer instead of a mere writer, for example, you’ll be able to charge premium rates for your services, and your clients will love the results they will get.

        • Ali Hale says:

          I completely agree with Daniel. Yes, there are plenty of frankly awful “opportunities” out there (steer well clear of anything which appears as a flashing red ad calling for writers). There’s also a huge demand for high-quality content; you just need to do a bit more work to find really good gigs and editors who’re producing a professional publication rather than running a content mill.

    • Thanks for the steps to think about. I tend to get passionate and focused, then flail around a bit, then get discouraged, do some slip-shod work, realize I’m doing it wrong, and then get passionate and focused again.

      But! Each time I go through the cycle, I learn a bit more, and articles like this one teach me a lot.

      Thanks!

      • Ali Hale says:

        You’re welcome! And good luck … it’s great that you keep *doing* as well as learning. I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning of my freelancing career, but I would never have got to where I am today if I’d not jumped in and started trying…

    • AD Bane says:

      Thanks for the post. I really enjoyed it!

      It’s very true. The internet makes it easy to be successful as a writer today! And you suggested that almost anyone has the capability to be a successful writer — I agree. Motivation and hardwork can do literally ANYTHING. The only thing holding you back is YOU!

      • Ali Hale says:

        Thanks AD! And yep, I believe that being a successful writer isn’t about raw talent (although some people are lucky enough to have plenty of that) — it’s about continually learning and working to improve your writing.


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