Blogging offers writers great rewards. We get to share our words with others. We educate and entertain. If we’re really lucky, our blogs generate income or interest from book agents. To do any of this, however, you need readers, and in the early days of any blog, readers are hard to come by. [Read more…]
What Does it Take to be a Freelance Writer?
I’ve been a (more than) full-time writer for ten years. It takes talent, ambition and the ability to manage your time and money to be successful. Contrary to popular belief, you can be a successful freelance writer without starting your own business. However, if you have a habit of slacking or procrastinating, this probably isn’t the path for you.
My typical day includes writing for up to ten clients at a time. This includes everything from SEO-rich web content to brochures for international hotel chains. I scour job boards for new openings and apply daily, even if I have a full workload for the next few months. I’m also updating my resume, website and LinkedIn while learning new skills like SES qualifications as I accept new projects. [Read more…]
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Picking the Best Freelance Job
I usually have about seven projects at a time, and they’re not all created equal. As a successful freelance writer, I’ve been on the wrong end of a bad job. However, there are some warning signs that are easy to miss. If a job posting requires numerous, generic forms, you’ll be drowning in paperwork and red tape for the entire project.
Trust your gut during a phone interview. If the client doesn’t know what they want, they’re not going to be happy with anything you produce. The most lucrative jobs are from either well-established corporations or start-ups with solid investors. Tread carefully if a job posting seems too broad or it requires you to sign up for an account. [Read more…]
Freelance Writers and Typo Paranoia
The freelance writing community is getting a little paranoid. I find I can’t hold a casual online conversation with someone without that person apologizing for typos or errors. It’s getting a little silly. Excellent writers are posting thought provoking comments on blogs and in forums, and then turn around and post again apologizing for typos most others wouldn’t have noticed in the first place.
Relax, people. You’re human. You’re allowed to make mistakes.
When Freelance Writers Should Mind Their Typos
The purpose of this post isn’t to say we shouldn’t be diligent about our writing and do our best to ensure clean writing every time. Mostly it’s to say we don’t have to be so paranoid about our writing when we’re having an online water cooler conversation.
Just as there are times we should take extra care, there are times when we can relax a bit. I am always extra careful when turning in client projects or when applying for gigs, sending official correspondences, and on anything I consider “formal” writing. However, when I’m writing a letter to Dear Diary, I’m pretty sure I don’t need the grammar police looking over my shoulder. While I do try and be conscious of my errors (and many of you write to let me know when I miss the mark ) my genuine rule of thumb is to be particularly mindful when I have something to gain. For example, if a client is paying me, I’m creating a sign, or if I have to write a letter to my Congressman. If I’m posting a comment in a casual discussion forum and I “your” when I should have “you’re ‘d” I’m not going to be bothered by it too much.
You shouldn’t take it to heart, either.
Very Few People Give a Crap if You Forgot a Letter or Added an Apostrophe
I’m not decrepit, but I’m no spring chicken. I like to think I’ve been around the block a few times. Over the past four and a half decades, I have yet to find a person who is perfect. I’ll even go as far as to say that most people make at least a mistake a day, and many go beyond that. Yeah, there are the sticklers (Lynne Truss, I’m talking to you!), but I’m sure even the sticklers would agree that it’s OK for folks to let their guard down once in a while. If I’m having a conversation with another writer, I’m not going to be talking in the AP Format. I might notice horribly poor grammar (My pet peeve is “Where’s it at?” ) but there’s a difference between improper usage and honest mistakes. Only people with superiority complexes complain about honest mistakes in casual conversation , most people couldn’t care less or they realize a mistake for what it is and mind their manners.
Lighten Up, People. Everyone Make Mistakes Once in a While
Because the not-so silent minority are now policing the social networks to ensure we’re not “righting” when we should be “writing,” freelance writers are paranoid they’ll be called out as bad writers if they make the slightest mistake. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a casual conversation among writers where one apologizes to another for a typo. Both sides need to lighten up. We’re people, people, and we make mistakes. No one is going to think you’re a poor writer for having typos. Show me a writer who has never made an error, and I’ll show you a liar.
You know why you don’t see popular novelists or journlists making many mistakes in their writing? Because editors are proofing their work. What you see is the finished product. Chances are, those writers made a few errors before going to press.Of course I cringe when I see major gaffes in magazines or misspelled signs, but having gaffes get past a professional proofreader is a hell of a lot different than than a misplaced apostrophe in a Facebook comment.
You’ll probably find typos all over this blog, and even some on Twitter and Facebook…and you know what? I don’t care. If Facebook wants to pay me for turning in clean writing, I can certainly be more diligent. However, if I’m participating in casual conversation and the odd typo comes out, I don’t owe anyone an apology.
There’s no excuse for improper grammar, but we don’t need to be so paranoid we’re constantly (publicly) apologizing for forgetting a comma or adding an apostrophe.
Go ahead, make a typo. I’ll still respect you in the morning.
How to Land Your First Freelance Writing Job
I’m thinking back to the early days of freelance writing. I’m remembering a time when the possibility of landing freelance writing jobs was overwhelming, yet seemed very real. I’m remembering the days when I couldn’t wait to look for work but was afraid to look for work. I’m remembering the time when fear and lack of confidence kept me from doing more than reading the freelance writing job ads.
Today, we’re going to talk to the folks who want to write in the worst way, but something is keeping them from taking that first step.
Today we’re going to discuss landing that first freelance writing job.
If you’re scanning the subheads below, you might think, “well that all looks easy enough, I can do that.” Yes, you can, but it’s not easy. I can tell you that you may not land the very first gig you apply to, and you will make all sorts of mistakes. Just because you’re taking those first steps, doesn’t mean you’ll actually land the gig.
However, nothing will happen if you don’t try.
Step 1: Assess Your Skills
I have an anecdote for you:
My friend Kurt wasn’t a writer, but he wrote well and his friends encouraged him to continue. He’s dabbled in novel writing, but never really sought out freelance writing jobs. When a friend with a car website approached me to ask if I knew anyone with a passion for cars, Kurt was the first person to come to mind. Kurt wasn’t a writer in the traditional sense of the word, but I didn’t know anyone else with such a genuine passion and enthusiasm for cars and motorcycles who also wrote well. Now my friend Kurt is lead writer for RideLust and works as an automotive journalist. As I write this, there’s a long list of luxury cars waiting for Kurt to have a turn at driving (for two weeks at a time) and reviewing them. Kurt is freelancing full time, talking about his passion.
You can be a generalist with your writing, this has worked for many people. In the beginning, I wrote about saving money and family finances. It wasn’t until I blogged for a few years that I began writing about writing and blogging. Think about all the things you love or the things you can do best and exploit your passion.
Passion alone won’t get the gig
So here’s the kicker – just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you can write about it. First of all, there may not be any gigs available in said niche, but also, you may not have the writing skills. It’s easy to get writing gigs every day. For some clients it’s more about cheap labor than hiring the best writer for the job. However, if you’re not a very good writer you’ll only get the cheap gigs. Be realistic about your talent and skill. If you’re always having your writing corrected or don’t know basic rules of grammar, consider taking some writing courses or having your work critiqued.
We all think we’re good writers, but sometimes we’re in for a major reality check. I can tell you that I thought I was one great writer when I graduated from school because my family and teachers told me so. However, when I began working in publishing I learned from the editors there that certain things needed work and I went to school. There’s no shame in brushing up.
Step 2: Think About the Types of Writing You Would Like to Do
Ok, so now you know you have mad skills and something to offer to the world. Where are you going to write? Do you want to write a newspaper column or magazine articles? Do you want blog or write web articles? Would you rather explore business writing? There are so many possibilities available to you. Think about the types of writing that most appeal to you.
But wait…you’re not done yet….
These gigs don’t just fall into your lap. Now you have to figure out what is involved with each. You can say that writing white papers looks interesting, but unless you’ve done so, you’ll need to know a little about it. No one is going to hire you if you don’t have a clue about white papers are and how to write them. Think about your skills and the best way to profit from them. Research all the different ways to break into these gigs and markets.
One of the biggest mistakes I made as a freelance writer is not researching markets enough. I knew about magazine markets from publishing, but I thought all markets were the same. Though I landed the first job I applied for, the rest didn’t come so easy. Not knowing a thing about approaching the markets wasn’t a smart move. I did better after I took the time to research.
Step 3: Figure Out a Rate
What do you want to earn? No, seriously, what do you want to earn? Do you want someone to set your rate, or do you want to take charge from the very beginning? Knowing how much to charge will help to shape your career from the get-go. What do you think your writing is worth? That’s not an easy questions as it encompasses several factors. You’ll want to consider the type of writing, the amount of research involved, whether or not you will conduct interviews, expenses, fees and taxes. So if you state off the bat you want to charge $50 per hour, also work out if you will be able to support yourself on that amount after all is said and done. (For help, try this freelance rate calculator at Freelance Switch.)
Now stick with those freelance writing rates
You may be tempted to fiddle with those freelance writing rates. You might want to bargain in order to get your foot in the door. Sure, you could try that. Consider this though, when you negotiate lower rates, clients catch on quickly. They know you won’t stand firm. They know they can talk you down. If you’re firm, you will land the clients who will respect your rates, but make no mistake, they will expect value in return.
Sure, there may be times when negotiating might be in order. For example, if you’re tackling a variety of projects or if you want to offer a trusted client a discount to reward customer loyalty. For the most part, your rate is your rate. Stand firm. It may be harder to find gigs with this rate at first, but once you land a few clients you’ll be happy you held your ground. Be the one to set your rate and clients will be less likely to lowball you.
Step 4: Press Send
It’s time. You know you have skills, you know what you want to do and you know what you want to charge. What else is there left to do but start querying and submitting. Notice I didn’t say “look for work?” That’s because if you’re like me, you spent a lot of time looking for work already. You know what’s out there. You can look for work until the cows come home, but unless you actually sit down and start typing those queries nothing’s going to happen. Stop looking and start taking action.
Create some samples
Notice how everyone wants samples of your writing? This shouldn’t be a deterrent. Unless a potential client specifically asks for “published” samples, you can create a few relevant samples to send with your query or application. Samples are meant to give potential clients an idea of your writing style. If you put your best effort into some samples, some clients will hire you, regardless of whether or not you have published work.
Research query examples
So, yeah…you’re going to have to send a cover letter or query and it’s going to have to be better than everyone else’s. Your query is your first impression. An editor or client should look at it and say, “That’s it! This is the person I want writing for me.”
We’re starting a query letter series here at Freelance Writing Jobs, and also, Linda Formicelli often features “query letters that worked” at her wonderful and helpful Renegade Writer blog. Do investigate successful query letters before submitting your own.
Editors are sticklers for details so proofread several times over before hitting “send.” If necessary, enlist another pair of eyes. As you gain more experience, the query and application process will get easier.
Step 5: Follow Up
When I worked in publishing, many of the editors had stacks and stacks of queries and submissions to go through. Many of them put it off as long as possible. I know one editor who only looked at queries once a month. When freelancers called to inquire about the status of their queries, we would unearth them from the pile and take a look. Not hearing from an editor or potential client is frustrating. Many times, they only respond to the person who landed the gig. Many times your query is lost in a pile somewhere. There’s nothing wrong with waiting a couple of weeks and sending a polite follow up.
A few years ago, there was a gig I really wanted. The pay was terrific and the subject matter was right up my alley. I sent in a cover letter and some of my best writing samples.
Three weeks later I sent the client a polite letter, only a few lines long, to follow up on my application. I told him I’d love to discuss the gig in detail more. The client sent me back a note telling me he already chose someone for the gig. However, two weeks later he contacted me again saying his first freelancer didn’t work out and since I seemed to really want the job he offered it to me. We still work together from time to time.
Step 6: Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Now that you sent out your first query, cover letter or completed your first application, what will you do? I hope you’re not going to rest on your laurels. You may not land your first gig. You also many not hear from a potential client right away. Continue querying. Use it for practice. Don’t stop after one try. The third time might be a charm or you it may take until your 20th try. Eventually your persistence will pay off, but only if you continue looking for work.
Are there easier ways to find freelance writing jobs?
As a freelance writing blogger I’m not supposed to tell you this. I’m not supposed to encourage this type of writing, but if we’re going to talk about the ways to find freelance writing jobs, not mentioning web content sites would be a glaring omission. In 2010 plenty of freelancers are earning a living this way. Keep in mind that “easy” doesn’t always equal “lucrative.”
There are plenty of easier ways to find work, for example you can work for content sites. However, most content sites are not high paying opportunities. You’ll have to see how they fit into your game plan. Is this the type of writing you want to do? Is this the rate you want to earn? If so, by all means start out writing for content sites. After a little while, take that experience and your new found confidence and look for higher paying gigs.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing for content sites, I did. Be careful though. You can find yourself getting caught up in the “easy” lifestyle. Content sites can be a terrific springboard to more lucrative gigs, but the easy way isn’t always the realistic way. Sometimes writers start with content sites to get their feet wet and that’s all they’re doing three years later. Make a game plan if you’re going to take on content site work. Use it to start out or supplement your work. Use it full time, if that’s what you want to do, but make sure it fits in with your vision.
Freelance writing is work. It’s not a fun “bon bon and bunny slippers” gig. We work hard to find work, we take pride in what we do, and we work hard to give our clients the best writing possible. Before you embark upon a freelance writing career, be sure you can deliver. Take it seriously as you would any other job and you’ll do fine.
Do you have any questions about finding or landing freelance writing jobs?
75 “Write for Us” Pages
When I first began freelancing, I found clients by searching for “Write for Us” pages of different websites. In fact, I found a couple of cushy gigs writing for websites that weren’t very well known. I’ve been wanting to compile a list of many of these types pages for some time, and since we’re talking about markets this week, it seemed to be as good a time as any. You’d be surprised at how many unadvertised opportunities are out there. Today’s offering is only part one.
Keep in mind that I did my best to find paying markets. If the “Write for Us” page clearly states it’s a non-payer, I didn’t include it. I also didn’t include those markets only paying a rev share. Some pages here didn’t indicate one way or another whether they pay. If I thought there was a chance, I dropped it on the list. If payment is indicated, it’s noted next to the link. In many cases, it’s noted there is pay, but the amount isn’t specified. Also, some of these are book publishers. Since many members of the Freelance Writing Jobs community are aspiring book authors, I felt it appropriate to add them here.
I hope you find something here that interests you!
75 Write for Us Pages
- About.com – Pays $675/month plus bonuses
- Adobe Press – Accepting book proposal.
- American Ceramics Society – $35/blog post – $350 – $900/article
- American School Board Journal – Payment varies
- American Speech – Language Hearing Association – Unspecified pay
- Archaeology Magazine – Payment varies.
- AskDeb.com – Unspecified pay. (no relation)
- AuctionBytes – $20/article
- Bilblio Buffet – Pays $10 – $30
- Brady Books – Textbook publisher accepts proposals
- BrothersFit – $20+/post
- The Business Edition – Unspecified pay
- Business Today – Unspecified pay
- Campus Nut – Unspecified pay
- The Change Agent – Pays $50
- Cisco Press – Looking for Book Proposals
- Code Gravity – Send rate quote with query.
- Complinet – Unspecified pay.
- Consumerist – Not sure about the pay.
- CraftBits – Unspecified pay.
- CrazyLeaf Design – Payment starts at $20/post
- DatabaseDev. – $30 – $50/article
- Developer Tutorials – $30 – $100
- Dollar Stretcher – Pays .10.word
- Dropzone.com – $100
- EclipseZone – Unspecified pay.
- Expat Daily News – Unspecified pay.
- Freelance Switch – Pays $60/guest post
- GoMediaZine – Pays up to $300/article
- Graphic Mania – Payment varies
- Green Options – Payment varies
- Green Prophet – Unspecified pay.
- HackNMod – $10 – $40/post
- Hand Cell Phone – Pays $8 – $15/cell phone review.
- Head First Book s– Accepting proposals
- Home School today – Payment varies. Averages .10/word
- The Humanist – Unspecified pay.
- IBM Press – Accepting book proposals.
- International Living – Pays $50
- ISHN – Contact for guidelines
- Jewish Daily Forward – Payment varies
- Killer Directory – $15/post
- LabMice – Pays $60 – $100
- Los Angeles Restaurants – Pays up to $40/article
- LoveToKnow– Pays $20 – $25 for a 650 word article.
- Lutheran Digest – $35/article
- MakeMeHeal – Pays $10 – $20
- Messaging Talk – Pays up to $100/article
- Michigan Metro Parents – Pays $30 – $250.
- Microsoft TechNet -Unspecified pay. Writers who are employed by Microsoft aren’t eligible for paying opportunities.
- Miller-McCune – Unspecified pay.
- MobiForge – Paying market but unspecified pay.
- Neutral Existence – $20 – $30
- PeachPit Press – Accepting book proposals.
- Pervasive Computing – Unspecified pay
- Philadelphia Restaurants – $5 – $40
- Port Iris – $10 per short story.
- ProBlogDesign – Pays $125/post
- PS Deluxe – $50/tutorial
- Qatar Vistor – $75/article
- Rough Guides – Accepting proposals.
- SAPCookbook – Unspecified pay.
- Seattle Dining – Pays $50 – $60
- Sex, etc. – $75/article
- Simple Talk – Unspecified pay.
- SitePoint – Pays $100 + bonuses
- SmallBizLink – Makes no mention of pay, but owned by Monster.com.
- SQL Server Performance – Pays $25 – $200
- Strategy Page – Pays $20/article
- Trazzler – Pays $1000/month
- Tutorial Reports – Unspecified pay – only pays contributors in India and U.S.
- Web Services Architect – Unspecified pay.
- The Woman’s Media Center – Unspecified pay.
- Youth Specialties – $40+
…To be continued. There are plenty more where these come from and I’ll be posting them here!
Please let us know if you successfully pitched one of these markets and how you did it! Also, don’t miss our lists of greeting card markets, poetry markets and our regular Monday writing markets….plus be sure to check out this list of writing markets paying over $100.
Image via stock.xchnge
The Writing Process: 5 Steps from Start to Finish
A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, I threw out a very simple question, “what shall I write about?” I received a variety of comments ranging from donuts to my own awesomeness, both of which are excellent topics, but I’m pretty sure they’re not what you’re looking for here. The truth is, it can be a challenge to find fresh topics to write about on a regular basis. After four and a half years of writing about writing, the last thing I want to do is bore anyone or get redundant on you.
Admittedly, I asked the question to stimulate discussion more than anything else, but I was intrigued by some of the responses enough to consider adding them to my “to do” list.
One Twitterer suggested I get back to basics and discuss my own writing process.
I liked it.
I liked it because the writing process is different for everyone. We all have our own order of doing things. Some of us can’t write without an outline and others prefer the top of the head approach. Some of us need a gallon of coffee to get us through while others prefer a diet soda or some tea. I like this topic because we can all share what we do, and there will be no wrong answers.
So in following that advice about getting back to basics, I’m going to share my writing process with you and show how I organize my thoughts from start to finish. After that, I’d like you to share your process as well.
Deb’s Writing Process
1. Choose a topic: I find inspiration everywhere. Shopping, reading, listening to the news, talking with friends and by visiting the social networks and asking questions. There are so many different ways to choose topics, though it’s more of a challenge to choose original topics.. The drafts section of my WordPress is filled with ideas as I generally enter about two or three titles each day. When I make up my week’s editorial calendar I revisit each of the titles and work out ideas. Some titles have been sitting in draft for months because I’m still not sure which way to take the, others are a no brainer.
Step.Away. From. The. Google.
Web searches come later. Before I start gathering research for my topic, I like to think of the different ways I can gather research without having to resort to search engines. Considerations include reading books and magazines at the library and interviewing experts. Once I’m ready for the web I like to use government, university and other official and reliable sites to ensure I’m not writing from someone’s already regurgitated and factually incorrect content.
3. Create an Outline: I’m a firm believer in the power of the outline. Outlines help to organize thoughts, find the piece’s natural progression and create a cohesive article. If I’m ever stumped for where to go next, I only need to create or look to an outline for inspiration. Many of the list posts you see at FWJ are the result of an outline. Yeah, I’m a fan.
4. Write: After I gather my research and create my outline, I begin writing. Sometimes I use the outline points as subheads (as I did with this piece) other times, it’s a reference point. I don’t worry about spelling or usage at this point, I let the words flow freely until I’m done.
5. Tweak: When writing for my clients, nothing is done until it gets a proof or two…or three. After I write, I tweak. I read what I write, tighten my sentences, fix typos and consider whether more information is necessary. If it’s not a piece for me or this blog, I check it against my clients’ instructions to make sure it’s what they’re looking for. I admit to not being as diligent to proofreading before publishing here. I always give my posts at least a quick once over, but if I’m in a hurry, they don’t get the same attention as I give to my clients.
The piece isn’t done yet. It gets another proof and more tweaks and reads until I feel it’s perfect. No matter how many times I have my glasses upgraded, I still don’t catch certain silly mistakes – I’m sure that’s happened to you as well. Sometimes, I’ll have a second set of eyes look over important works because I want to be sure I’m turning in clean writing. I can be very insecure about my writing and having another person proofread gives me peace of mind.
Now, this isn’t what you have to do. I’m just sharing how I like to work out a piece of writing. I use this method for blog posts, ebooks, articles and even speaking gigs.
I’m interested in learning how you do it. Do you just write or do you have a list of steps you go through? Please share…