Before beginning your freelancing journey, you might think you need a special education to land a gig. The truth is, all you really need is the ability to write well and the research skills to fill your articles with helpful information. [Read more…]
There are several ways to find freelance writing gigs. Answering ads posted on job boards is one method, and you probably want to try more than one approach in your search for gigs. Another way to find work (and one that may lead to a steady gig in some cases) is to approach websites that freelance writers for contributions for guest posts.
One of the questions that I get asked most often about being a freelance writer is where do I find clients. One of the strategies that works is to visit job boards for freelance writers and applying for available gigs.
Many freelance writers aren’t a fan of writing on “spec.” That is, to create an assigned article for a potential freelance writing client or publication without the promise of acceptance. This usually happens when a publication doesn’t want to commit to a new writer without giving him or her an audition first.
When you encounter a freelance writing job ad looking for a specially prepared (and possibly unpaid) sample, that’s almost the same thing as writing on spec. I call these request “special samples.” Special samples are writing requests beyond the clips that are submitted with the initial query or application.
Questions to Ask a Potential Client Who Wants Free Writing Samples
Most potential clients request clips and writing samples to get a feel for your writing. They want to be sure your voice and tone fits their own, and, also, they want to be sure you know the subject matter. In most cases, published clips will do just fine. For some clients this isn’t enough and they want writers to complete an assignment before they’ll agree to hire them. This is when we run into problems, especially if the client wants to keep all special samples without paying for them.
Before creating new samples at a potential client’s request ask him the following:
- Why do you need new samples when I already showed you several examples of my writing?
- How much will you pay for me to write this sample?
- Who owns my writing sample?
- What will you do with my sample if I’m not hired?
Many potential clients are actually very well-intentioned, they only want be sure you can handle the material. However, there are other clients who are looking for free content. Asking questions will prevent you from helping to stock someone else’s website without seeing anything in return.
There have been occasions where I’ve written on spec:
- About.com’s Prep program is a two week audition where potential Guides create content for their Guide Site. Several writers apply and build sites at the same time, but only one writer is chosen for the job. Those who don’t make the cut are left with nothing to show for their hard work. Fortunately for me, it paid off and I landed the gig. If I didn’t I probably would have used all of the content for my blog.
- One regular client asked me if I would try tackling a particular topic. The gig was lucrative but I never wrote about that particular subject before. Rather than lose this client to someone else, I wrote the piece on spec. I also got the gig.
Providing free samples or articles on spec is never a sure thing. While most freelance writers shy away from clients requesting free samples, there have been occasions where it’s turned out well for the writer. If you’re going to write a free sample, make sure you’re compensated, especially if the potential client will use the sample. If you’re not compensated and it’s only to be used as an “audition,” make sure your client knows he doesn’t own any rights to the content, he may not publish it without your consent, and it is yours to do with what you wish. If the client wants all rights to a sample even if you don’t get the gig, run. This is only someone looking for free goods.
Every day writers ask if they should submit free samples. My answer is always to consider the source and ask the right questions. I’m not a fan of writing on spec, but I did have success with it a couple of times, and I know other writers with similar stories. Just keep in mind you may not receive any form of payment for your work, and the potential client may very well end up keeping your samples to use as he wishes. For another side of the story, read John Hewitt’s excellent account at PoeWAr: The Dangers of Writing on Spec. While there are differences between writing on spec and turning in free samples, the outcome can be the same. Lots of work for nothing.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever submitted a free sample? Would you write on spec?
A couple of weekends ago, I took some time to clean out my four drawer file cabinet. Generally I organize files once a year in order to keep track of items such as freelance writing check stubs, invoices, contracts and receipts. This time I cleaned out the whole cabinet.
I found hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of writing clips from iParenting Media, LegalZoom, Oxygen Media, my old newspaper column and so many other markets I wrote for early on in my career. I also found tons of “idea” files. As I was going through these treasures, I wondered why I don’t do this sort of thing thing more often.
It got me thinking:
Lessons Learned from Cleaning My File Cabinet.
Everything old is new again.
- Reworking old clips: It was interesting to read articles written ten years ago and realize many of those ideas are still relevant today. I’m reworking some of my clips into articles with a different, more current focus in order to shop around.
- Old ideas can still be put to good use I knew I saved a few “idea” notebooks, but I didn’t realize exactly how many were in there. I didn’t go through all the journals, but I enjoyed reading my old thoughts and ideas. As mentioned above, many of my old ideas are still relevant today. I added them on to the editorial calendar so I’m sure not to forget about this time, and the rest of my notebooks are close enough to keep handy.
- Old markets are still around Even before I started freelancing I collected markets. I have three huge accordion folders filled with places to pitch. As I sorted through the files, I checked on many of the saved markets. A bunch are no longer in existence today, but many still are. I’m excited about having new places to pitch or share with you here. (This, by the way, was the inspiration for all the markets posts you’ve been seeing lately.)
- There’s a reason I saved those old back issues of Writer’s Digest My husband has a basement shelf filled with back issues of Car & Driver and I have a file cabinet draw filled with Writer’s Digest. These past copies are a bonanza of information, especially the gold mine of opportunities found in the markets section. Though I’ve contemplated tossing them out over the years, re-reading the back issues justified my decision to keep many of the copies.
- Those old newspaper and magazine clipping saved to give me ideas? Update them! When I first began freelancing I wrote mostly personal finance articles, especially for my weekly newspaper column. Every now and then I came across relevant magazine or newspaper articles I felt required further discussion or investigation. I saved many of these in folders to revisit when I was looking for ideas or have time to spare for research. Now, I still have those old clips but they’re giving me ideas for a more modern slant.
- My old contacts are still around. I also went through a rubberbanded bundle of business cards. I think it’s some of these collaborators, colleagues and clients a call to say hello.
It’s OK to let go of the stuff that isn’t working for you
I’m one of those people who have problems letting go. I’m not a hoarder, but I do hold on to ideas for “some day.” Last weekend I got realistic about the usefulness of some of the articles and clippings I collect. Needless to say shredder has been pt to good use. Being organized allows me to run my business more efficiently.
Your new idea file is waiting for you, but don’t forget to revisit it from time to time
Those old ideas are terrific, but don’t forget to start new idea files and notebooks. Fill them with whatever comes to mind. This time though, don’t forget to check back with them often. The last thing you want is for your best stuff to get locked away in a file cabinet for ten years.
Have you cleaned out your files lately? If so, what lessons did you learn?
Today’s freelance writing clients are looking for a lot more bang for their buck, especially those looking for web writing. Many aren’t looking for a mere writer, they want someone who uses SEO, builds traffic, moderates and responds to comments and more. Before accepting a project and setting a rate, always find out what the job entails and set a freelance writing rate equal to the task.
Straight writing is one thing, but if your client is adding bells and whistles, make it clear the rates are going up. We all know interviews, research, mileage and expenses are often added into rates. However, there are other considerations as well:
- SEO: Are you expected to research keywords, use them a certain amount of times in an article, and, in general, write an entire article around keywords or phrases? This is extra work and should be figured into your rate.
- Promotion: Are you expected to create a social media presence and visit blogs and forums to promote your blog or website and bring in traffic? If so, this adds additional time to the project and should be included in your rate quote.
- Community: Are you expected to moderate and respond to a community? If so, this is additional work and should be negotiated into your contract.
The above-referenced items are all things that will add more time to each project. Your time is worth money and it’s up to you to make sure you’re adequately compensated.
What are some of the extra items that your clients tack on to a project? Do you raise your rates to reflect the increase in work?
Tip: Use the Freelance Switch Hourly Rate Calculator to help determine a rate for your project.
Today we’re offering up some parenting markets.
We’ve been listing magazine markets and other writing guidelines this week and many valid questions are being raised. For example, how do I know these markets accept freelancers, and also, how do I know the pay rate is what they say it is?
It’s simple, I did some research. Research that’s easy enough for every single freelance writer to do if he or she wishes to write for certain markets. I looked up many markets on the web and, also, backed them up with a copy of the Writer’s Market – the 2010 edition. If some of the markets were still a little fuzzy with the details, I emailed or called to verify. If the market accepts freelance pitches, they’re more than happy to email current guidelines.
If you query any of these parenting markets and learn my details aren’t correct, please let me know so I can make any necessary adjustments. However, as of January 2010, these markets appear to be accurate.
When researching markets online, always consider how long ago each market may have been posted. If you’re unsure of whether or not they’re current, go to the library and confirm by checking the current Writer’s Market or contact the editors for up to date guidelines. If you’re reading this two years from now, the parenting markets listed here will offer a starting point.
As always, familiarize yourself with several back issues before querying any market.
19 Parenting Markets
- BabyCorner.com – Parenting Web Magazine – Pays .02 – .04 per word. Online guidelines.
- Bay State Parent – . Pays $60 – $100. Hyperlocal market only. Query: [email protected] or [email protected] at least two published clips.
- Brain Child – Pays a “modest” fee. Please see online guidelines.
- Charlotte Parent – Pays $15 – $75. Freelance contributions welcome. Please see online guidelines.
- Chicago Parent – Pays $25 – $300. 60% freelance written. Query for current guidelines at [email protected]
- Children’s Advocate – Pays $225 – $450 for assigned articles. 60% freelance written. Contact for complete guidelines.
- Dabbling Mum – Pays up to $120.00
- Family – Pays $10 – $200. For Central NJ parents. 75% freelance written. Contact for full guidelines.
- Hudson Valley Parent – Pays $25 – $120. 75% freelance written. Please see online guidelines.
- Island Parent – Pays $35. 98% freelance written. For Vancouver parents, please see online guidelines.
- Kid’s Life Magazine – Pays $20 – $25. Query for guidelines at [email protected]
- Indy’s Child – Pays .10 – .12/word. Please see online guidelines.
- Mothering – Pays $200 – $500. Please see online guidelines. Accepts unsolicited submissions.
- Parent Guide – Pays $25 – $150. Please see online guidelines.
- Plum Magazine – Pregnancy publication for women over 35. Pays .75 – $1.00/word. 90% freelance written.
- San Diego Parent – Pays $22 – $90. Query for full guidelines. 100% freelance written.
- Sonoma Family Life – Pays .08.word. Please see online guidelines.
- Today’s Parent: Pregnancy & Birth – Pays up to $1/word. 100% freelance written. Please see online guidelines.
- Working Mother – The only guidelines I can find are from 2009, with no mention of pay. I’m still waiting to hear back from the editors, but you can try on your own using the online guidelines in the mean time.
As always, let us know if you successfully pitched any of these markets. If you have any tips for the FWJ community, please post them in the comments. If you like these markets, maybe you’ll also enjoy some of this week’s other offerings:
- 19 Grants for Writers and Other Creative Types
- 40 More Freelance Writing Markets Paying $100 or More
- 21 Poetry Markets
- 75 “Write for Us” Pages
- 16 Greeting Card Markets
- Plus don’t miss our regular Monday Writing Markets.
Image via stock xchnge
Over the past few years we’ve compared freelance writing to many different entities. For me it’s kind of a challenge to find off the wall comparisons. I’m going to issue that challenge to you today as well. What are some of the comparisons you can make to freelance writing? Tell us here in the comments, on Twitter or your own blogs. Let’s see what you can come up with.
Since I’m busy compiling markets this week, I haven’t had a chance yet to do much real blogging. So we’re going with a greatest hits post this afternoon.
How freelance writing is like…
- 4 Ways Freelance Writing is Like Dating
- Top 10 Ways Freelance Writing is Like Working Out
- 5 Ways Freelance Writing is Like Thanksgiving
- 5 Ways Freelance Writing is Like Black Friday
- 7 Ways Freelance Writing is Like Acting
- 5 Freelance Writing Lessons Learned from My Dog
- 10 Freelance Writing Lessons Learned from the People of WalMart
- 4 Ways Freelance Writing is Like Christmas Shopping
- 6 Freelancing Lessons from Tony Start a/k/a “Iron Man”
- 6 Ways Freelance Writing is Like Halloween
- 7 Important Lessons Freelancers Can Learn from Working in Fast Food
- Customer Appreciation Lessons Learned from Barnes and Noble
- Hiring New Freelancers is Like a Box of Chocolate
Now let’s have your analogy. What is freelance writing like….and why?
Your favorite pair of jeans is comfy enough to wear every day, but you can’t. You’ll have toss them in the wash every now and then, unless you really don’t care for company. You don’t mind taking them off for that, though. With every washing they become softer and more conforming. You can sit with ease and walk without effort. You wish you could wear them every day.
Sometimes, you’ll have to wear something completely different.
Brand new dungarees are stiff, bright blue and the mark of a denim-wearing amateur. No self respecting blue jean wearer would step out of the house in a pair of those without first running it through the wash a couple of times.
Well, almost no one.
Every now and then we’ll run into someone who’s pulling off those brand-spanking new dungarees. He doesn’t care that they’re bright indigo and he doesn’t care what others think. He knows that to get noticed he has to break out of his comfort zone. He has to go beyond worn reassurance and branch out to something completely out of his element…and it’s working.
What’s my point?
I feel about blogging and writing for the web the way some people feel about their worn out dungarees. It’s comfortable and if feels real good. It feels safe and warm and it suits my casual style.
Why would I want to give up my happy place to travel outside my element?
- To get ahead.
- To get noticed.
- To reach a higher pay rate.
- To take my career to a whole new level.
I’ll always have my comfy jeans….
My worn, blue jeans will always be there for me. Even when I had to rock the business casual attire every day, I knew my faded glories were hanging out in my bottom drawer waiting to get me back in to my element.
Writing is the same way. To get ahead we need to venture into the unfamiliar. It may not feel good at first, but trust me on this, it will feel great later. As you take more chances and find new opportunities, the new will become old and comfortable. You’ll be glad you went for it. Meanwhile, your old comfortable opportunities haven’t gone away. Use them for filler. Wear them for comfort. No one says you can’t have more than one favorite pair of jeans, and no one says you have to be married to one particular form of writing.
Here’s my challenge to you…
Do one thing this week to step out of your comfort zone. Take a chance. After you do, come back and tell us what it was and how it worked out for you.
How are you going to break out of your comfort zone? What are you going to wear besides your old blue jeans?
Are you reading our daily lists every day? If not, you’re missing out. Each day we list:
- The latest freelance writing jobs and opportunities
- New stuff from around the Freelance Writing Jobs Network
- Recommended reading from around the blogosphere.
Every day look for the daily “Freelance Writing Jobs for ….” posts to find our daily lists. If there’s anything you think we should add, do let us know. We hope to share all things freelancing. If you visit the recommended reading blogs, do be sure to comment and let them know how much you like their stuff.
Check it all out at the Freleance Writing Jobs for Web and Print blog, while you’re there, browse some of the standalone jobs as well.