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Freelance Writers: Show Me the Money!
Inspiration for This Article
I recently wrote an article about content mills; in that article I expressed my displeasure with them, and I explained why I think they are a disservice to talented writers. I obviously struck a chord with quite a few writers, because I received quite a few comments like the ones below.
From Karen: You make some valid points here. And I LOVE the picture! It's just hard for those of us just starting out to find places online that will pay more. Have you written any hubs about that, or can you?
And from Billie: You are EXACTLY right, Bill. Sign me up. I made about $1.60 last month. I have never sold one article anywhere! I am toying with the concept of taking my articles that have a thread running through them and making an ebook of them. However, everything needs promotion. The children's book I wrote as ebook and now in paperback doesn't sell, the app I just made for a kids' Halloween game hasn't gotten any downloads at the googleplay store, my audio essays that I made into an app is offered $3.99 and not one download. So, I'm totally frustrated and feel as if no one wants what I have to offer.
And from Agaglia: Thanks for an interesting article. You opened my eyes. So, where do I find the places that pay for my writing?
I’ve written before about alternatives to content mills, but perhaps we need to discuss it once again for those who missed it the first time.
I’ll share with you what I know from firsthand experience based on three years as a freelance writer. Hopefully you’ll find something in the sections below that will help you in this business.
Say Goodbye to the Middleman
In this case, the middleman is the content mill.
When I first started out in this business, I wrote two articles for content mills. I received a total of ten dollars for my efforts. I then promised myself to never again write for a content mill. I have kept that promise.
It does not take a business mastermind to understand who is making money in the content mill world…the owners of the content mills are paying low and charging high, and writers are left working for peanuts. I think that is nuts. Yes, that pun was intended.
So, I started looking for writing jobs advertised by individual businesses, and I landed my first gig with a real estate firm in Los Angeles. I have now been with them for almost three years. They pay me what they would pay a content mill, but they have a personal relationship with me and they enjoy working with an individual rather than a business entity. That gig led to three other real estate gigs, all paying me what the content mills charge, which is considerably more than what content mills pay the writers.
Go online and look for writing jobs offered. Craigslist actually has writing gigs, so start there. You might also try this site http://www.freelancewriting.com/freelance-writing-jobs.php and see what’s offered there. The important point is to apply for writing gigs offered by individual businesses and not content mills. Yes, you will receive some rejections, but all it takes is one score and more will follow.
Accept Rejection and Start Writing for Magazines
If you have visions, just starting out, of writing for a major mag, like Better Homes and Gardens, discard those visions immediately. It doesn’t work that way. When you are first starting out, you are a rookie, and I don’t care how good you are or think you are. You start at the bottom and work your way to the top.
The bottom of the magazine business is the smaller magazines and the online magazines. Get yourself a copy of the Writers Market. In it you will find a listing of most hard copy magazines in the United States. I say most, because you can find more online magazines simply by doing a Google search.
On the one hand, these bottom-feeders do not pay as well. On the other hand, it is easier to get published by them, and since the goal is to make money, then accepting less is better than being offered nothing. Once you have had an article published with a byline, you can then move up the ladder to more well-known magazines,
There are two approaches when you approach a magazine for publication. You can query an idea to an editor and await their approval, at which time you write the article…or….you can query an article you have already written. I have done both, and I don’t really have a preference. Either one pays, and that’s all I’m concerned with.
Also remember that as long as you don’t sign away exclusive rights, you can sell the same article to other magazines, and there is nothing more rewarding than being paid multiple times for the same article.
Yes, you will get rejected, but once you have an article approved, you then have a working relationship with that editor, and it is much easier to get published the next time with that editor.
Get out in the Real World and Find Jobs in Your Community
This is one area that I believe a lot of writers are missing out on, and it’s a shame, because it really is the best chance of getting a freelance gig. It requires you to actually leave your home and do a little marketing, but it can be quite lucrative.
Go around to businesses in your area and sell your talent. Many businesses have an online presence, but they don’t know the first thing about blogging, keywords, or SEO. You are the pro. Approach them like a pro and sell yourself.
Also consider approaching local newspapers. Most areas have independent, alternative newspapers, and those newspaper editors love working with local writers. I know a writer on HubPages who wrote a series called “Life at Boomer Lake.” She took that series to her local newspaper and for her efforts was rewarded with a weekly column. I have no doubt that her weekly column will lead to bigger and better things, and it’s all because she left her writing studio and actually spoke to someone in person. Another friend has a weekly column in an Iowa newspaper and, again, she actually left her home to find that job.
A Word About Marketing
I don’t know how to impress upon you the importance of marketing your talents. I know, I know, most writers would love to stay at home and let the world come to them, but in the real world, that rarely happens. If you are a freelance writer, then you own a business, and all businesses must get involved in marketing.
Writing an article is your product, but you still have to sell your product. How can I be any clearer on that point? If you are waiting for an agent to get in touch with you, or some marketing firm that is eager to handle your affairs, then get comfortable because you are in for a very long wait.
You need to do the marketing footwork or you won’t survive as a freelance writer.
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- William Holland | Helping Writers to Spread Their Wings and Fly
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That’s It in a Nutshell
There I go with the nuts again.
Listen, all of you freelance writer wannabees, this is not an easy path. You have to work at it, and you have to be willing to face rejection and failure. I’m being as brutally honest as I can be. I can only point you in the right direction. Whether you move in that direction is your choice.
When I started out three years ago, my hope was to pay my bills in two years. I did it in six months, but those six months were filled with hard work and constant legwork. I did not sit at home and hope the work came to me.
There are, of course, many other ways for you to make money as a freelancer. I can only squeeze so much into a 1,400 word article.
I wish you good luck, and if you want to discuss this in more detail, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be glad to answer any other questions you might have.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”