This is my second installment of the 16 part freelance writing guide for new freelancers and is perhaps the most important for those of you who are anxious to get earning. There are so many ways to find work as a freelance writer that it would be impossible to blog about them all in one post. So instead of trying to cover everything known to me under the sun, I will concentrate on how I got started with my freelance writing business and where I found my first writing jobs.
Some of you might now that I came to be a writer naturally as a progression of my online education and that once I started blogging with serious intent, it was writing I focused on.
My first writing job
I got my first ever writing job on MPAM. MPAM is a content driven membership site that teaches people to make money online. They offer lots of stuff for those who look into making a full time income, but at a price tag of around $30/month, this is quite expensive if you don’t make money with them.
I joined for the sole purpose of getting paid for writing articles and that is how I started. I figured if I wrote 1 article/day I would earn $150 in my first month. If I subtracted the monthly membership cost I was still $120 in profit.
Writing 400 word articles for $5 a piece is what I did and while it was a good start, I can’t really brag that is was fantastic, since the pay was really poor. Also their affiliate program didn’t work well as most people join for free for the first 30 days, keep their profits (if they write at all) and then say goodbye, never to be seen again.
In the meantime MPAM have risen their rates and are now paying $10/article as far as I know.
While I knew then that the money was dismal, I also knew that it was important for me to build an online presence, gain experience as a writer and build my brand, before I was able to command the prices I wanted to be paid.
That is why I have a problem with people who state that you should be paid $50/article/blog post when you first start out.
To me this was more like an apprenticeship to something more grand and way more fun, once the real money started rolling in.
A chance encounter
My second job was found by chance. I applied for an ad where to owner was looking for a blogger in an industry specific blog. Despite the fact that the ad had been posted some 3 weeks ago when I first saw it, I still applied for it. Guess what, I got the job and still write for that blog today.
From there I got more confident and started to look toward online freelance writing job sites to bid for writing opportunities. Every day I trailed at least two of those sites to see whether something caught my interest. I applied to some job offers and tried to stand out from what everybody else had written in their application. I wanted to stand out from the rest and it was that fact that got me several jobs within my first two weeks doing this.
That is also how I got my third job, working for a niche marketer in the USA for $5/hour. I know, $5/hour is daylight robbery really (especially if you live in Australia), but the guy didn’t “have” any money to pay me more and I needed the money to grow my business. I worked that job for about three months until I could finally “sack my client” due to earning enough elsewhere. Naturally this was all done amiably as I actually liked that client very much.
Freelance writing job sites
In that time I trawled many of the freelance writing job sites you see on my other post. I signed up as a free member, scanned those sites for applicable jobs, applied and built my business bit by bit. There are no secret, no tricks and no hidden tactics I used. It was simply a combination of my own passion to become successful as a writer and hard work.
Except for the membership on MPAM I also never paid a cent to further my writing career! Even that didn’t end up costing me, since I got paid more than I paid them.
Every time I got new clients I raised my rates accordingly to build them up to my level of experience and knowledge in the field. I always used other freelance writers as a comparison, while applying for jobs on those sites. This helped me to stay competitive while advancing my business at the same time.
While I pursued this, I also kept blogging and built invaluable contacts within the industry. I was an all round active commenter and got to know many other bloggers in the MMO field and later on in the writing field.
Those contacts proved very valuable to me many months later and continue to do so today, since they brought me even more work that is also sustained over the long term.
For those of you who wonder which of these writing job sites did exceptionally well for me, here is the list:
When I say exceptionally well, it was great at the time and all up I probably earned a couple of thousand dollars from these sites over a few months. I don’t use them anymore for two reasons. I don’t have time to look for work as all the work I have been getting in the last three months has come from people seeking me out except one job. Secondly, with the exception of oDesk and perhaps oZLance, the rates wouldn’t pay me now what I’m worth.
While both Scriptlance and Craigslist have to be treated with some kind of caution (there are many shoddy operators taking advantage of people) they really have helped me to build my freelance writing business.
Scriptlance really is for many Indian writers who are happy to bid for $3 articles and I don’t really advocate them if you want to be paid decent money. Having said that, if you want any money at all, like I did, it will suffice until you are capable to get better paying jobs.
I also always ask my clients for feedback to use on my branded testimonial site. It helps to build your credibility as a writer in the industry and serves as valuable feedback to potential clients.
Moving into Pro-blogging came natural I guess because I had made so many contacts and also because I have been online long enough to have a good understanding of how things work.
Just to satisfy any thoughts on which industry to pro-blog for, look elsewhere than in the MMO niche! You will be paid better rates and the writing will be more interesting and creative, since those other niches aren’t overused by bloggers. It will be a lot easier to find fresh topics nobody else has written about yet.
To post your writing rates vs not to post them?
I tell you a little secret. I contemplated whether to do this for about 3 months, before I made a decision. Before my portfolio site had it’s flash make over, I got a decent amount of inquiries through this blog. However, my business really took off once my new portfolio site was ready. I paid a couple of hundred dollars for that make over, but it was well worth the investment. Within the first 4 days of being live with it I had made back triple my investment!
So for me, posting rates is a decision that has paid off rather well and hardly a day goes by when I don’t receive inquiries.
As you might know, my business success didn’t come overnight. I worked hard for this for many months and continue to do so. It took me 7 months from my first writing job with MPAM to become full time as a freelance writer.
What about offline writing opportunities?
I’m glad you asked. Offline writing positions can actually pay much better than online ones. There is however one major factor that needs to be looked at before you rush out trying to find the ideal writing assignment.
Introspect vs extrovert
Ok, this might sound a little strange to you, but let me explain what I mean. One of the great benefits of being a writer is the fact that we can do this from home without ever having to see anybody.
While this can become very lonely at times, it suits a person that is more introspect perfectly. Not everybody is comfortable pitching their services to business owners when they have to actually get there themselves and present their business.
Doing this can add a kind of salesy approach to the whole scenario and while I’m certainly not shy, I don’t like this, as it reminds me too much of my time spent in MLM trying to pitch my business.
I rather let the customer find me, than having to walk the local streets pitching my services to local business owners.
However, every now and then you will find an ad that offers writers an opportunity to work offline and if you do, go for it. Especially if the pay is good and the topic suits your expertise.
While writers can find offline opportunities by looking at ads in newspapers, magazines and even online platforms, these opportunities are often handled between insider contacts, therefore making them harder to obtain than online writing jobs. I have yet to crack that niche myself and this is one of the things I aim for in the future. Getting paid $1-$2/word is certainly great money for any writing assignment.
This post has turned out way longer than I intended and I hope that I didn’t bore you with it. I got asked by Brian on what the best practices are to start freelancing while still working a “regular job”. Here is the answer Brian.
I only quit my offline job after I knew for sure that I could sustain my full time income as a writer and pro-blogger. Which means once I became full time.
In the months before that I was lucky enough to be able to cut back my hours as my business grew and dedicate more and more time to my writing. For those of you who can’t do this, it means that you’ll need to sacrifice “playtime” for your writing and make amendments until you are ready to quit your offline job.
Another thing is that you don’t need to have a blog or website to start writing. However, I’m a strong advocate for it, since it has helped me to grow my business and without this blog and my portfolio site it would not have happened.
You alone have to make that decision.
If you landed here for the first time, you might want to check out the first article in my writing guide:
If you have questions, feel free to address them in the comments below.