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How to Start Freelance Writing
The First Steps to Freelance Greatness
So you want to know how to start freelance writing? You've also come to the right place. Sit back and make yourself at home, and get ready to take notes!
Mind you, I'm just starting out myself (although I've already had some successes), so you're getting a first hand look at the glories and pitfalls of the process. If you want to read more about what I did, check out How I Decided to Quit My Job and Start a Freelance Writing Career.
Just think, if you follow my lead, you could become one of many successful monkeys with computers!
Note: One of my niches is writing humor (sometimes irreverent humor). Consider yourself warned when you click on my links!
Step 1: Be an Avid Reader (and Writer)
This is the Most Important Step
When learning how to start freelance writing, people often skip this step. I'm sorry to say this, but if you've never been an avid reader, chances are slim that you'll be a great freelance writer. That's like a football player saying that he doesn't actually like watching games, or a rock star saying she doesn't like listening to music. In order to get good, you have to get intimate with all aspects of your craft.
The same goes for being an avid writer. Do you tweak your sentences in emails, just to make them sound better? Do you find yourself perfecting reports into the wee hours? Do you play around with word combinations, just to hear how they sound? Then you might have what it takes.
I'm not saying that you won't stray from reading and writing, or that you won't turn your back on either of them for months or years at a time. However, if they're not in your blood to begin with, you'll just be making things hard for yourself.
Image by foolstopzanet on Flickr.
Step 2: Be Patient When You Start Freelance Writing
(And Have Thick Skin)
Everyone always gives the advice to "be patient" when someone says that they are headed for a goal, and most people ignore this advice. The ones who don't are the ones who succeed.
Remember the time that you had to take your dog out for a walk, and he took forever to do his business? You'll have to be more patient than that.
And the time you wanted to ask out that guy/girl, but they were dating someone else for three whole months? You'll have to be more patient than that.
And that time you had to wait for a redwood tree that you planted to grow several hundred feet tall? Well, maybe you won't have to be that patient, but you get the idea.
You know how when you're applying for a job, you only have a chance of being rejected once? Well, in freelance writing, you have the wonderful opportunity to be rejected several times a day. Every day. So get tough, and get ready to stick it out.
Imageby clearlyambiguous on Flickr.
Step 4: Start Freelance Writing for Up-Front/Performance Payment Sites
Yahoo! Contributor Network, Helium, Triond
This is where you may (or may not) first encounter some sort of editors. Associated Content and related sites allow you to publish your content instantly, after which you will receive a certain amount of money based on the number of people who view your content. However, you can also choose to write for assignments or receive upfront payments for your content: at this point, your articles will be reviewed before they are published.
At this point, you still have a wide range of quality in the accepted publications. Getting published on these sites doesn't mean that you're a great writer, but at least it's better than not getting published.
In order to succeed at any of these sites, you're going to have to work on your SEO (search engine optimization) skills, and also on promoting your content. It's up to you to make sure your stuff gets seen.
Note: You're probably not going to get rich off these sites, as many pay dollars or pennies for an article that would earn much more at an online magazine or newspaper. Sites like these require huge quantities to make any sort of decent return. They're good starting points, but don't settle here if you're looking for more.
See how I'm making use of these sites below.
Step 5: Expand Your Freelance Writing Career With Paid Article Writing
For Sites Like Made Manual
At this stage, the sites you're applying to will pay a little more per article. However, they also often don't offer any performance bonuses.
In general, you have to fill in an application before getting to write for sites like these. The applications can have some rather convoluted criteria for acceptance, so don't think that you're a bad writer if you don't get accepted.
If you do get accepted, you will be able to choose from among several topics instead of having to come up with your own (which, believe me, can be nice). You get paid a set amount of money per article, which you'll know up front. You also have to follow a set of guidelines as to how your articles should be written. If you can write articles quickly (and well), you can make a decent amount of money this way.
Note: After making a couple of dollars per article, $10-$15 per piece seems like a lot. But trust me, there are sites out there that pay much more. It takes a person very resistant to burnout who can reliably write ten articles a day, every day, to make any sort of a decent income this way.
Step 6: Go After Some Big Freelance Fish
This is where you start to get the big payouts. You'll also have to have quite a bit of talent and experience. On sites like Cracked.com, the other forum members (and the editors) will quickly let you know if you're writing caliber is good enough to make the big bucks.
You might think that writing humor is easy, but it actually takes a lot of work and a lot of research to write a Cracked.com article.
There are tons of big-fish markets out there, paying anywhere from $20 to $500 per article. Every writer has to discover which markets work for him or herself. A good way to start is by searching for "submission guidelines" and a niche you're interested in, such as skydiving, parenting, or flower arranging. And if you keep making yourself known in the writing world, the work will eventually come to you!
Image by spakattacks on Flickr.
You As a Freelance Writer - Share Your Thoughts!
After Reading These Tips, Do You Think You Could Be a Freelance Writer?
More Info on Freelance Markets
Markets I'm No Longer Writing For
It makes sense that, over time, some markets will fall to the wayside if they no longer feet a writer's needs. I've written for these markets in the past, but since moved on to greener pastures (for me, at least!)
Break Studios: The $8 an article wasn't bad when the topics could be easily written in less than half an hour, but they've since gotten more difficult.
eHow: Demand Studios, parent of eHow, has changed it's structure, making it more difficult to write for this site.
SEED: SEED is attached to the AOL network, and allows you to pitch whole articles. If they're accepted, you get paid. I've made some money off of this, but I've only ever tried for the super-short (100 word) articles because I don't want to spend time and then maybe get paid.
Associated Content: I've written quite a few articles for this site. Part of your revenue is in the form of up-front payments, and part of it is performance-based (if people view your articles). For the performance-based aspect, I'd rather write for Squidoo; and with up-front payments averaging $3 or $4, it's not worth it for me.
Helium: Very similar to Associated Content.
Examiner: This site wants you to be a reporter of sorts, regularly posting information related to your niche. If you get a good niche, you can do pretty well, but there are a lot of poor-return niches out there.
There are people who make decent money writing for these sites, and they did help me get to where I am today. Times change, though, and I'm moving on up!
Resources for Freelance Writers - Click to Visit!
- Freelance Writing Jobs
This list on About.com is a good place to start looking for new freelance writing markets.
- Ten Tips to Break Into Freelance Writing
A great article by another person who quit her job to start a freelance writing career.
- Writing for DOLLARS!
This excellent newsletter provides weekly updates on new freelance writer's markets, and, most importantly, gives links the writers' guidelines for these markets!