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3 Tips For Aspiring Freelance Writers
My journey to freelancing
I started writing for money about two and a half years ago. At the time I was a stay-at-home dad with one child in kindergarten and another in preschool. But I also had time on my hands. I have known since I was young that I am a decent writer, so I wondered if I could get paid to do it.
I was fortunate enough to have a connection to someone with their own writing business (my wife's friend's sister-in-law) and she gave me a shot working for her. For almost a full year, I wrote articles on mental health and substance abuse. Some months I wrote as many as 90 articles. But then almost a year into that job, a couple of her contracts got cancelled, so she had to downsize (which meant letting me go).
I had already caught the bug though and wanted to keep doing it for money, so I tried a number of sites and services. Now I write and edit all kinds of content for all types of clients - tech companies, trampoline sales sites, payday loan sites, and lots of others. I have had a steady amount of work over the years, and I still only do it part time.
Getting to this point was not as easy as it might sound, so in this article I give aspiring freelancers some advice from my personal experiences for building a career from writing and editing.
I use Odesk (now Upwork) to find the majority of my clients. Overall I have had a great experience. I am not getting compensated to name drop for Odesk/ Upwork (or any other site), but it is a reliable service with protections for both clients and freelancers and I would be doing everyone a disservice by not mentioning it
I have occasionally used Craigslist as well as other job search sites (Indeed.com, Simplyhired.com, and others) without much success. I don't necessarily advise using Craigslist - it is very hit or miss, both on the clients you'll find and whether or not you'll get actually get paid! No matter what site or service you use, beware of scammers who offer big money for writing jobs. Do some research to find out what current freelancers say about the reputation of different sites.
1. Take work that you don't want to do
When I struck out on my own, I did a lot of writing that I didn't like - subjects that I was either not interested in or didn't care about. It was tempting to be too particular when I choosing clients, but I reminded myself that I was working for myself and that having some work that I didn't love was better than no work at all!
To keep things in perspective, even though I wasn't in love with all the content I wrote, I still got paid for it. And on top of that, I built up my skills and my portfolio. Plus I was doing my ideal job (freelance writer who worked from home) so I wrote the content just the same.
Even if the subject of a writing project does not appeal to you, write it anyway. For me, I still write content that I'm not in love with, but that's part of the job.
2. Don't charge too much OR too little
There is danger in under or overestimating what a client will pay for your services. I was lucky enough to get started writing through a connection that I had. But after about 11 months, I found myself without work. So I pressed on and kept trying to be a writer.
I already knew how much money I could make in a month working for my previous employer. Once I struck out on my own, I did some homework to find out how much a writer like me would make in one hour. Then I chose an hourly rate slightly below that number so I could build up my clientele.
As I have gained experience and have become more established, I have steadily raised my hourly rate. So start with a modest hourly rate, then give yourself a raise as you build up your portfolio.
3. Don't get discouraged too soon
I have learned that freelancing comes in waves - sometimes there is a lot of work (more than you can handle), and sometimes there is very little work. There have been several times during my 2 1/2 years of professional writing that I have wanted to throw in the towel.
In the past few months, I had very little work at all and began looking for other (non-writing) jobs. I was so close to calling it quits, but then I got three nice projects in a row.
The key is to not let yourself get too discouraged too soon. If you have to take another job, do it. Just keep plugging away at writing and keep looking for clients. Good luck!