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How to Become a Professional Freelance Writer: Don't Make the Rookie Mistake

Updated on June 19, 2013

Freelance Writing Professional

Richard Alley, freelance writer, photographed at Otherlands Coffee
Richard Alley, freelance writer, photographed at Otherlands Coffee | Source

A Donkey on a Basketball Court???

Whatever is about to happen, it can't be good.
Whatever is about to happen, it can't be good. | Source

A Mascot Making a Rookie Error


When Mascots Fail Against a Rail

When wearing a mascot suit for the first time, you may notice that your field of vision is limited. Try to avoid jumping and attempting athletic moves when you are in precarious locations. (see picture above).

The Ball is in Your Court


Have You Ever...

Have you ever performed freelance writing work and did not get paid?

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Don't Make The Rookie Error

The first huge mistake when seeking out an online writing gig is when you fall into the pit of taking on a sample writing assignment without pay.

Spending a lot of time on a custom writing sample makes about as much sense as having a donkey on a basketball court.

But I do know one thing:

You are gonna have to scrape poop off of the hardwoods, and you may get kicked in the process. (see picture to the right)

"How do I overcome this hurdle?" you may ask.

It's quite simple. Refuse to do any custom samples without pay.

Legitimate and credible companies and individuals swill offer to pay the writer for any samples required, regardless of if they choose to hire you. I have learned this the hard way. I have done way too many custom writing samples thinking that I would land that perfect writing gig.

From my experience, very few of these screening requests yield a real writing job.

My solution: I don't do them anymore.

However, I have found that a company or individual that is willing to pay the writer for a writing sample is the kind of employer that you want. They show that they will pay, and they won't cheat the writer. Two excellent traits for a potential employer.

This kind of writing employer values your time, and has integrity.

The Ball is Now in Your Court

Once you attract the attention of that potential employer, then the ball is in your court.

You now know that they are interested in your writing skills, now it is time that you figure out what kind of boss they will be.

  • Does the job listing require too much work (outside of actually writing)?
  • Does the boss provide adequate pay for the work?
  • Do you feel comfortable working for this person for the long-term?

Consider these questions and make an educated decision. That second step (the compensation to work) can hold you back as a writer if the online writing job is really not for you.

That First Paycheck Feels Good

Once you have landed that online writing job, then the writer should walk cautiously until he gets his first paycheck.

Why is that?

Because when you take on an online writing job, there is no guarantee that you will get paid, until you actually get paid for that first assignment. After that first payment, then you can rest assured that this gig is legitimate, and reliable for income.

So my heed to tread lightly, or walk cautiously is to let you know that while you don't want to blow an excellent paying writing gig, you also don't want to get scammed by doing work and not getting paid.

A good indicator that they are reliable is if they ask you to fill out a form that indicates they will supply the tax information to the IRS. Always use good judgment, when pursuing an online writing gig.

I had a really excellent writing gig that paid well for the first two assignments. Before I was paid for these two assignments, I was persistent in finding out when the payment was coming. I was respectful, of course, but apparently the individual that gave the assignments did not like being asked about payment, so I was not contacted further. Yet, I know my work was used, because it was up on the site for a period of time.

So I tell you, walk cautiously if you land a great writing gig, but at the same time, look out for your own interests.

Do not continue to do writing work if you have not been paid for the first gig yet. You could be conned into performing a boatload of work, and not get paid a penny for your efforts.

Don't Go Towards the Light


Don't Go Towards the Light!

Moths that head toward the light usually don't make it through the night.

Here's your last piece of advice: Write about what you are passionate about to avoid getting burnt out.

I can tell you from personal experience that if you take on a recurring writing job, make sure it is in a field that you are passionate about.

That is because you will have to come up with articles on a regular basis, and if you are not passionate about what you are writing about - you will burn out.

You can avoid this in the first place by making an informed decision up front, and don't accept jobs that you cannot competently take on. Otherwise, you will wind up having to resign from your first writing job early in its infancy - which won't help build your writing resume.

Hopefully, the above tips will empower you to become a successful online writer and take you from the beginning of your writing career to the next big phase in your life.


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    • zeke2100 profile image

      zeke2100 4 years ago

      wba, if you have a system or method of applying, you can increase your chances of getting an online writing job. I send out about 15 queries a week and get responses every week.

    • profile image 4 years ago from upstate, NY

      So many employers try to low ball writers or get writing samples. You really got to watch out for yourself, because you will get taken advantage of for sure. In reality its not that easy to find true writing opportunities.

      I agree with your idea to make sure you only write about what you have a passion about. The only exception to this for me would be to occasionally writing something a good customer wanted me to write.