Getting Started as a Freelance
by Peggy Deland
One of the biggest
challenges of homesteading, or even just living in a rural area, is finding a reliable
source of income. But if you have a computer with Internet access, a strong
command of the English language, and a knack for explaining things, you can almost
certainly work from home as a freelance writer. The real challenges lie in
avoiding scams and making a reasonable hourly rate.
Think Journalist, Not Novelist
The biggest source of confusion among new aspiring writers is over what a freelance writer actually does. Some people think they can write anything they like
and make a decent living from it. Unfortunately, this is not at all the case,
especially if you enjoy writing fiction or personal essays. Both are extremely
tough markets, and your chances of getting paid at all -- let alone an amount you
can live on -- are tiny. If you have a story brewing, go ahead and write it.
Just don’t expect it to pay the bills.
The vast majority freelance writing consists of non-fiction writing for a specific
client. Article-writing is the most common, but there are plenty of opportunities
in other areas. Press releases, grant proposals, sales copy, and curriculum
writing can also earn you a tidy sum if you have the right skills. Corporate
blogging also pays well, but bears little resemblance to writing a personal blog.
Instead, this job mostly consists of writing short pieces about new products
and industry news.
One of the best things about freelance writing is that there is no startup cost
at all, assuming you already have a computer and Internet access. You will,
however, need to devote time to learning how to write for your desired market.
Writing articles for websites is almost always the best place to start, so be sure
to research and practice writing for a general interest web audience. This
audience tends to be looking for specific information, so write clearly, concisely,
and in an easily-digested format.
Once you feel you have the hang of writing for a web reader, you’ll need to put
together a set of application materials. About half of clients want to see
a writer’s resume, but if you’ve never written professionally before, making one
can be tricky. Emphasize writing and communication skills when describing
your previous jobs. Perhaps you helped write a company newsletter, wrote memos,
or created training materials. You can also use your background to your advantage;
if you’ve worked in healthcare, a health website may give you a chance to write
your first paid articles.
Writing samples are the most important part of an application for a freelance writing
job. Samples demonstrate your ability to write well, and most clients value
them far more than your education or experience. A typical writing
sample should be between 400 and 600 words, written in the3rd person, and should appeal
to a general audience. You should have at least three writing samples ready
before you begin to look for clients.
Once you have your resume and writing samples ready, there are several ways to go
about finding freelance clients. A few major websites hire writers on an ongoing
basis, but most only hire occasionally. You can start by checking the "Careers"
section of websites you enjoy to see if they are hiring freelancers, and visit online
freelancing forums for job leads. A few websites offer daily lists of job
leads. You can also work through freelance bidding sites, but keep in mind that
most of the work available on bidding sites pays very little.
Aspiring freelance writers are a common target of Internet scams, so it's important
to be careful when you're looking for clients. Any website that expects you
to pay -- with the exception of freelance bidding sites -- is almost certainly a
scam. Beware of sites that say they'll hire almost anyone, especially if they
make claims about how much money you can earn. Watch out for clients that
want original, unpublished samples, unless they pay for the sample. Such requests
are a way to get writers to work for free.
Not every client that isn't a scam is worth working for. Some websites offer
an "online portfolio", where they will allow you to post your work for public viewing.
These sites often act as if they are doing you a favor by letting you give them
your articles for free! Other clients pay very little, or pay only a portion
of the profits they earn from your work. While revenue-sharing can be worthwhile,
many people find that they make only pennies from articles posted on profit-sharing
It takes time to establish yourself as a freelance writer, but the payoff is hard
to beat. You can make a living working from home on
whatever daily schedule
you please. Deadlines are usually generous. Clients are almost always
happy to accommodate you if you want to take a break between projects. Best
of all, you can have the satisfaction of hearing from readers who enjoyed your work
and are eager to read more.
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