This guest article is written by veteran freelance writer Sarah Russell.
Over the past month, Onibalusi has shared a ton of great information about working as a freelance writer – including everything from writer productivity tips to freelance writing challenges to some of the lessons he’s learned working as a freelance writer.
(And seriously – if you haven’t read those posts yet, go do so right away. Oni’s got some good advice to share if you’re serious about earning money online as a freelance writer!)
But his recent post titled, “Why You Might Never EVER Make Money as a Freelance Writer,” got me thinking. While I think there’s a lot of merit to the factors he included that might prevent someone from earning a living as a freelance writer, I think he’s missing one of the most obvious reasons. Simply put – you won’t ever make money as a freelance writer if you don’t have any clients!
So today, I want to share with you some of the resources that have helped me make money as a freelance writer. I’ve been getting paid to write since 2007 in various capacities, from writing as a part-time job to supplement my day job all the way up to running my own content agency with a staff of 7 writers. I hope you find them useful as you begin your journey to making money as a freelance writer!
Finding Freelance Writing Jobs Online
Let me start out this section by saying that one of the worst things I think you could do as a beginning freelance writer is to go out and start bidding for jobs on sites like Guru or Elance. Your results may vary, but after experimenting with them several times over the past few years, here’s what I’ve found:
- You’ll spend less time writing and more time bidding for jobs (which you won’t even get noticed for if you don’t upgrade to the expensive premium profiles on these sites). Don’t forget – you don’t get paid to draft and submit job proposals…
- You’ll get beat up on price. If you’re comfortable getting paid $.01/word or less, go for it. But if you’re worth more than that, stick to your guns and stay away from these “race to the bottom” sites.
- You’ll wind up being asked to do more than the original scope of your bid. Whether it’s adding a few extra rounds of revisions or writing longer articles than originally requested, it’s incredibly common for employers on these sites to ask you to do more than the original contract without extra pay.
I’m also not going to use this section to tell you about revenue sharing sites that’ll give you a portion of the ad income generated by the articles you post (I’m looking at you – Associated Content…). Although there’s certainly a time and a place for that, I’d rather focus on sites that guarantee a payment for the work I’ve done.
So where can you find good freelance writing jobs online from clients who will actually pay? The following are some of the resources that have yielded the best results for me:
Problogger Job Board – Over the last few months, I’ve been ramping up my freelance writing business again after taking some time off to focus on affiliate marketing, and the Problogger Job Board has been the single resource that’s contributed the most to the $2,000-$3,000/month I’m now bringing in as a part-time freelance writer. Seriously, I think I owe Darren Rowse a pretty big fruit basket…
To get started, simply click over to the board and look for posts that interest you and meet your income criteria. Each listing will specify how the poster wants you to apply, but most of the jobs listed here will involve sending a resume and writing samples for consideration. Simply follow the instructions in each posting in order to be considered for these writing positions.
Warrior Forum Warriors for Hire Board – The thing I love about this particular WF board is that it gives you a chance to interact directly with content marketers – my favorite type of writing clients. These people always have a need for fresh articles, and the true professionals know how much a good article can be worth (which means no writing for a few bucks per article…).
By putting up a listing here (or by responding to posts in the Warrior Forum “Wanted” board), you’re putting yourself directly in front of the content marketers, increasing your odds of finding online freelance writing work that pays.
(On a side note, if you’re active with the Warrior Forum, I don’t recommend running WSOs for your writing services. The people looking for WSOs are looking for immediate gratification, and I’ve found that posting article writing specials – which require follow-up and waiting – don’t perform as well as product download WSOs.)
Flippa – Yes, that Flippa – the place where you can buy and sell websites. It sounds goofy at first, but think about it – where else can you get as much information about websites, their content strategies and the people who own them than from Flippa product listings? For example, if you tracked the listings on the site and found a content-rich site that’s just been sold, why not shoot the buyer an email asking if he or she anticipates needing writers in the future?
And before you dismiss this option entirely, know that my first major writing contract (which wound up topping out at $4,000/month) came about because the company that bought a blog I was selling on the site liked my writing style so much that they asked me to write for more of their websites. If you want to learn more about how I took this single contract and turned it into a five-figure content agency, check out my free series titled, “How to Start an Article Writing Service“.
Social Media/Internet Marketing Consultants – Another favorite strategy of mine is to pair up with social media and internet marketing consultants. These are people who approach other businesses (both online and offline) and offer to help them improve their websites’ performance. The thing about these people is that they often have a need for content for the websites they’re advising, but they’re usually too busy to do it themselves.
Unfortunately, there’s no master directory of social media or internet marketing consultants out there, but you can find plenty of people to connect with by simply Googling terms like “social media consultant” or “internet marketing consultant”, or by hanging out in the forums where they discuss strategy. Once you’ve identified a few candidates, a nice email sharing your experience and a few writing samples is a good way to get your foot in the door – even if they don’t have any work for you immediately.
Learn Copywriting – The kind of long-form copywriting that’s frequently used to sell products online is a particular type of writing that’s always in demand. It can be tricky to learn, as the goal of this type of writing is to employ advanced psychological triggers to make sales, but if you’re willing to invest time in improving your technique, it can pay off big time.
The cream of the crop copywriters can earn upwards of $30,000-$50,000 for a single sales letter, although it’s not uncommon for less experienced writers to make $2,000-$5,000 for average quality work. To develop your copywriting skills, subscribe to the Copyblogger website and post test writing pieces for critique on the Warrior Forum Copywriting Forum. As your skills improve, you’ll likely find plenty of potential clients within this forum alone.
Offline Options for Freelance Writers
For the record, all of my writing experience has occurred online, in part because I’ve had no trouble finding enough work to keep me busy this way. However, there’s a great big world out there – and plenty of people who need good content written – so I wanted to share a few of the best offline options for finding freelance writing work as well.
Advertising and Marketing Agencies – Ad agencies and marketing firms have a constant need for content, whether its written material for their clients’ websites, ad copy or other promotional materials. And given the current economic recession, many of these businesses are cutting expenses by eliminating staff writing positions and shifting their writing work to freelancers instead.
To connect with these companies, research agencies in your local area or firms around the world that specialize in an industry with which you have personal experience. Once you have a few potential contacts, call them up and find out if they ever take on freelance writers and who specifically is in charge of hiring for these positions. Send a portfolio to these people and follow up with them periodically to see if they have projects you can help with.
Small Technical Firms – The ideal candidate here is a small company in a technical field (think computer software developers, medical product manufacturers or other engineering firms with their own products) that’s large enough to launch its own commercial product but still too small to have a writer on staff.
These agencies often have an enormous need for technical writers to work on things like white papers, support documentation and SOPs. If you’re a detail-oriented writer who doesn’t mind the tediousness of writing “how-to” manuals, there’s plenty of work to be found in this field.
Large Fortune 500 Companies – Increasingly, large corporations are moving away from hiring salaried writers in favor of outsourcing work to freelancers. However, writing itself can be difficult to outsource, given the challenges resulting from having work done by a non-native language speaker. For this reason, many of these companies hire freelance writers from within the countries where the content will be deployed.
Non-Profit Organizations – Although the pay might not be as high as what you’ll find working with for-profit businesses, non-profit organizations are notorious for running short-staffed. What this means is that, although they frequently need content for member materials, press releases and more, they rarely have someone on staff with the necessary skills.
Finding work with both large Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations is similar to the process described above for contacting ad agencies. Find the companies you want to work for, figure out who’s doing the hiring and then forward on your materials. Follow up, but don’t be too pushy – remember, hiring managers are often busy and over-worked. If you contact them too frequently or come across as being too demanding, you can bet that your portfolio will be headed for the waste bin!
If you’re interested in pursuing offline freelance writing work, I highly recommend the “Well Fed Writer” series by Peter Bowerman. His books have tons of great information about building a portfolio, finding clients and managing multiple writing contracts, and can usually be found for free at your local library.
Are you currently earning money as a freelance writer using any of these methods? Or do you have another strategy aspiring writers can use to find clients and make money by freelancing? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Sarah Russell is a freelance writer and affiliate marketer who blogs about ethical internet business on her site, Common Sense Marketing. To learn more about how she launched a five-figure content writing service or to see the exact strategies she used to take a group of internet marketers from newbies to successful webmasters in eight weeks, stop by today! (PS – Don’t miss her totally free, no pitch “25 Steps to Awesome Marketing” email newsletter series!)