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Online Writing Jobs: 3 Reasons NOT to Bid for Freelance Writing Assignments

Updated on February 7, 2010

There are many online writing jobs where you bid for work. I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993 and I can tell you, most of these sites are, in my opinion, a waste of time. “Write what you want” sites (like Hubpages)” are far better. Following are three reasons why.

1. It’s Easy to be Outbid: When you bid for online writing jobs, you are competing with everyone from experienced freelance writers, to newbies who’ll take jobs at almost any rate.

And this is fine – for them – because they may be just trying to get their feet wet and need all the experience they can get. And, a few dollars is better than nothing at all.

But, if you’re trying to make a living as a freelance writer, you can’t afford to work for such low rates.

Good freelance writers KNOW what it takes to create a good press release, a hard-hitting sales letter, an effective brochure. You cannot simply fire it off. It takes constant writing and rewriting to get it right. So, while some freelancers may be willing to tackle an assignment to build up their portfolio – someone with more experience who makes their living as a freelance writer already has the skills.

One thing I've learned about freelance writing bid sites is that you will rarely paid a decent rate. And as a side point, this is why freelance writing rates are all over the place. You have some freelance writers who make a very good living, while others struggle to just get by.

But, you may be thinking, "How else can I find online writing jobs?"

It’s actually quite easy – and old fashion. Target a niche, put together some writing samples in that niche and start marketing to them (eg,  cold calling, sending email queries, doing postcard mailings, etc.).

The Best Time/Way to Find Freelance Writing Jobs Online

The best time to contact a company as a freelance writer is when they are NOT hiring. Why?

Because there’s less competition. Everybody and their mother hasn’t sent in a response to a job that was advertised online.

As an example, when I ran my staffing agency, Inkwell Editorial, in New York City, I would often send resumes of qualified writers, editors, copy editors, graphic designers, etc. to clients even when they weren't hiring.

This is because, if a company had contacted me in the past about a, for example, medical writer with knowledge of AMA, I’d file this information away for future use. Then, when I came across a candidate with that skill - even if the company was no longer hiring for that position, I’d pass it along to my contact. Usually, they would respond in one of two ways:

(i) I would receive a phone call immediately saying they’d like to see the candidate; or

(ii) my contact would keep the resume on file  and three, four or five months, I may get a call saying something to the effect of, "Do you remember that medical writer candidate whose resume you send over in October? Well, I know it's been a while but our senior editor's wife is being transferred and we need to fill that position. Can we schedule an interview with that candidate? Her skill set is exactly what we’re looking for."

And for the record, this is how many positions at companies get filled; they never even make it to the open market. Proof?

According to Career Services International's website (careersi.com), "only 20% of all jobs are in newspaper classifieds or posted online; the rest are filled beforehand through informal contact or referral networks."

It's the same with freelance writing jobs – online and off.

3 Reasons Most Companies Hire Freelance Writers

Most companies hire freelancers for three reasons:

i) to beef up an in-house staff that is too small to handle an assignment;

ii) because they have an impending deadline that they can’t meet without additional help; and/or

(iii) because they don't have in-house staff with the requisite experienced required to complete a project. And, this is why many companies keep freelancer writer’s information on.

So a good way to get freelance writing jobs is simply to target companies you'd like to work with and make contact with them. Then, stay in contact via a monthly email campaign, for example. While they may not need you for an immediate assignment, they may keep your information on file so that that when they are ready to contract out work, you will be the first one they think of!

2. It's Easy to Lowball Yourself: After being outbid on many online writing jobs and losing out, it’s natural to want to adjust your prices just to land at least one assignment and “get your foot in the door."

This can be a death knell to your freelance writing goals. How/why?

Think of it this way: freelance writing is your livelihood. If you do somehow “luck” up and get an assignment, you are probably not going to be satisfied with the pay. And, how good are you going to feel working on the assignment all the while knowing that you’re not being paid a decent wage.

It can make you feel used, overworked and angry. And, if the client happens to request changes before agreeing to pay, then you are going to be even angrier. This is not exactly the way to land more freelance writing jobs from this client because you can wind up alienating them, rather than forging a long-lasting relationship – which is what applying for online writing jobs was all about in the first place, right?

One of the things I've learned over the years as a freelance writer is to charge what I feel is a fair rate for my services. Then, within reason, stick to them.

Working for less than what you feel you're worth is not only bad for your financial health, it’s bad for your mental health as well. No job(freelance or otherwise) is worth that.

3. You Risk Getting Burned Out: The last reason I think bidding for online writing jobs is a bad idea is that the rates can be so low that you can wind up literally working yourself to death. How would you like to work 10 or 12 hours a day, but be earning less than minimum wage by the time you took into account your time investment.

Yeah, you’re “making a living” as a freelance writer, but what’s it doing to your health – physical and mental.

To make a good living as a freelance writer without working yourself to death, go after niches that pay well – and target companies directly. 

One Final Note About Bidding for Online Writing Jobs: The "More Work" Promise

Many times a potential client will dangle the "more jobs down the line" carrot in front of you in order to get you to cut your freelance writing rates.

To find out how feasible this is, ask them how often they need your type of writing and do they usually outsource this type of work. For example, if they do an annual report every year, ask them if it’s something they routinely hire a freelancer to do.

Asking this question will give you good insight into the possibility of future work because sometimes the person who usually does the job you are being hired for may be out on vacation, sick leave, maternity leave, etc. Hence, it's a "one off" assignment; not something they outsource as a matter of course.

If they can give you specifics and you feel like you could be a good long-term fit for their needs, then by all means, feel free to negotiate your rate.

However, don’t cut them to the bone in hopes of getting more work. It may never work out and you will have cut your fees and be working twice as hard for half the money. This is time that could be better spent marketing for other (better paying) clients.

The Bottom Line on Bidding for Online Writing Jobs

In my experience, companies that use freelance bid sites are usually looking to pay below market rates. And if you’re serious about making a living as a freelance writer, you need to think of it as a business -- and price it that way.

Learn more about how to start a successful freelance writing career.

Comments

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    • bydojo profile image

      Ramona Jar 

      5 years ago from Romania

      True and sad at the same time. I work as a web designer and am shocked to see the rates many writers receive.

    • rhondakim profile image

      rhondakim 

      6 years ago from New York City

      Since my last comment, I've gotten a number of jobs on bidding sites at a decent wage. How? I'm very careful to only accept jobs that pay what I'm worth. Those jobs are out there, but you have to find them.

    • Vegas Elias profile image

      Vegas Elias 

      6 years ago from Mumbai

      You have a point but I beg to disagree a bit. I feel good companies will not be so much attracted by a ridiculously low bid as with the experience of the bidder. This is the same way as we normally do not wish to buy very low priced articles from a shopping mall.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Thank you so much for the information in this article. I am definitely bookmarking this one. I just signed up for two of these sites today. I am going to try it and see how it goes, with the stipulation that I will only work for the rates that I have set for myself.

      I like your ideas for marketing the old-fashioned way and I want to get doing some of that. Take care.

    • Stephen Crowley profile image

      Stephen Crowley 

      7 years ago from Wales, UK

      I have read Ywanda's ebook some time ago on writing for cash , think its called $100 a day writing articles, cant recall, a while ago. I do recall what i learnt as 2 years on, I still practice it. Its right to target companies directly, niche ones in your interest and where you feel you can add value. Bidding sites are not so much a waste of time as not a 'good use' of your time. Partly due to the 'lowest bidder' paradigm on these sites where writers are willing to write for $1 an article...(ridiculous) against your higher quality bid. You can find good projects and long term clients from bidding sites, I have one, but time is better spent targeting companies speculatively and use Google alerts to flag 'write for us' opportunities in your niche.

    • rhondakim profile image

      rhondakim 

      7 years ago from New York City

      Great hub! Exactly the kind of information I need! Thank you!

    • astigpinoy16 profile image

      astigpinoy16 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      Very good hub about freelancing job. Now I am thinking if I still wanted to bid for a freelance writing job. It's a bit hard to get one, if your competitors are experienced writers.

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