Making Money As A Freelance Writer: Some Alternatives to Content Mills
Some Opening Thoughts
I was asked recently what alternatives there are to content mills. In other words, how can freelance writers make money and not work for those blood-sucking corporations that pay $5 for a 500 word article?
Let me begin by saying without hesitation that I will not work for a content mill. As the quote above states, time is of more value than money to me. I only have a limited number of years left on this planet, and I’ll be damned if I will spend an hour of my time for a five buck payout. Quite frankly I’m worth much more than that, and you are too!
Content mills, in my humble opinion, are the bane of the writing world. As a writer, you do all the work and get little in payment, while the mill makes tons of money. The mills have driven the price down and it is an industry I want nothing to do with. I would rather stake my future on my own marketing and writing skills and leave the dregs to someone else to scarf up.
So, if we are tossing content mills to the gutter where they belong, how do we make a living as a freelance writer?
Simply through hard work, determination and creativity.
There are no shortcuts in this business. If you are not willing to do the work then you will not make it, plain and simple.
So let’s get started. What follows are some suggestions, some hard-clad musts and some tips based on my own experience.
A Professional Face to Your Business
If you want to make money doing this writing gig, then you have to portray yourself as a professional writer; that means business cards and a website or blog. Writing is a business and it needs a business face.
You can see to the right my writing website and my writing blog. They are the online face of my freelance writing business, and they establish me as a professional in this business. Perception is so vitally important in any business. You are asking people to give you money for your services, so you had best look the part.
The website you see costs me about $100 per year. The blog costs me nothing. In the near future I will be discontinuing the website and using the blog exclusively, but I’m doing that because I am now established and making money. When starting out I think it is vital that you have both. Again, that’s only my opinion based on my experience.
I also have business cards that have my website and blog on them. Business cards are so inexpensive and they may be the best advertising investment you can make. Use them. Give them to everyone you meet.
Okay, you now have a professional face for your business. Now what?
My writing blog with tips galore
- Artistry With Words | A topnotch WordPress.com site
A topnotch WordPress.com site (by Billybuc)
Submit for magazine publications
- How To Submit A Magazine Article: A Step by Step Tutorial
Follow along with the author as he takes you through the submitting process.
Alternatives to Content Mills
Early on I realized that cutting out the middleman, namely the content mills, just made good sense. Why should they pocket the profit while I do the work?
I began by going to local businesses and introducing myself. I told them what I could do for them. In many cases I explained the value of their website and how blogging on that website could help them with their sales, and I explained that with my keyword knowledge that I could drive traffic to their website.
One market I found very lucrative was real estate. For two years now I have written property descriptions for two local real estate firms and one large brokerage in Los Angeles. They love the job I do for them because it frees them up to do what they are in business to do, to sell real estate. I just finished doing content for one website that paid me $100 for an hour’s work, and I got that job by cold-calling businesses. In other words, I left my comfy writing studio and I went out and sold my skills face-to-face.
I now make about $1000 per month working three hours per day doing work that requires very little effort. I am my own content mill and I get paid what content mills get paid by their customers. I could make more but that is not where my love is, so I spend the rest of my day looking for other freelance gigs that do not involve keywords or blogging or website content.
Let’s take a look at a few of those opportunities.
Magazines and Newspapers
I am a big believer in starting small and building upon that beginning. For me, that means looking at local markets first before I tackle the big markets.
I live in Olympia, Washington. Within fifty miles of my writing studio there are ten alternative newspapers, eight online magazines, five print magazines and seven major newspapers. They all hire freelance writers to write articles for them, and they all give preferential treatment to local writers.
Do they pay as well as national publications? Not by a long shot, but that’s not important when you are first starting out in the freelance business. What is important is getting published and having a byline, and what is also important is establishing contacts among editors and publishers.
I am willing to bet that one could make a comfortable living just writing for local publications once contacts have been made and a network has been established, but if you want to go after the truly big fish, there are literally thousands of national magazines and newspapers who hire freelance writers to fill their publications. Check out the Writer’s Market for a detailed list of those publications and their submission requirements.
Yes you will receive rejection slips. Oh well! This is a numbers game, and the more you submit work the better your chances of being paid money. Keep track of anyone who actually accepts your work and use that contact for future work. In other words, network, build a foundation and then keep building.
Janine's monetized blog
Blogging Is the New Wave
Yes, you can make money blogging. Millions of people have blogs, and many of them monetize those blogs and make money from the advertisements and promotions. I’m not going to spend much time on this facet of the freelance business, but I would suggest you check out my friend Janine’s blog if you want to see how she goes about the blogging business. She is quite successful with that blog alone, so check her out here and you might get some ideas.
I liken the new online writing world to the Old West. Back in 1850 there were fledgling territories, and opportunities were practically unlimited for someone with an imagination and a willingness to take a chance.
A freelance writer has no limits other than the limits they put on themselves.
I just heard from a writer friend of mine today who has started her own tourist website in Texas. She is going to sell advertising on it, and contact local businesses who will pay her to mention them on the website. Why is she doing this? Because the budget problems of many cities have forced those cities to cut back on tourism publications, but there is still a need for tourism information. Brilliant idea by Sydney and one I applaud.
I know for a fact that the state I live in, Washington, is the only state in the nation that has no tourism bureau. Because of the recent budget cuts they eliminated the state tourism department, thus slashing millions of dollars from the budget but leaving a gaping hole for an enterprising freelance writer to plug.
Do you understand the point I am making? Find a need and meet it. Look for opportunities and jump in with both feet. Don’t sit around waiting for someone to contact you with a $10 job; get off your duff and make a $100 job happen.
A must have for any writer
Too Much to Mention
Freelance jobs abound if you look for them. There is editing and there is copywriting and there is ghost-writing and there is grant writing. You can do marketing copy or you can do guest blogging or you can do Hallmark cards or you can do whatever new idea you can come up with….or…..
You can do content articles at five bucks a pop and sit on the outside wondering why others make more money while you sit at the little kids table.
The choice is yours.
As always, if I can be of any help, feel free to contact me with your questions.
Good luck and please remember that your time is valuable and so are your skills.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”