The first and most important thing you should know about freelance writing is that it is a way of getting paid to write. If you are serious about making a career out of writing, you have two options: freelancing or working for an employer in a more permanent salaried or hourly position.
In a sense, freelancing means being your own boss, deciding what work you want to do and when you want to do it. Freelance writers seek out jobs from clients, and when a job is finished, there is no further obligation to the client. Therefore, freelance writers typically end up doing a wider variety of jobs than writers who seek permanent employment.
Clients are looking for almost any type of writing you can think of: sales copy, memos, newsletters, novels, children’s books, instruction manuals, resumes, blogs—even marriage proposals! In today’s market, the most common freelance writing jobs involve writing web content, typically consisting of blogs and articles, 500-1000 words in length, that cover specific niche topics.
Sometimes freelance writers will also take editing jobs. There are a lot of aspiring novelists out there looking to get their first book published, and often they will seek editing help from freelancers. Additionally, many clients are looking to have copyediting and proofreading work done on pre-existing text.
While the freedom and variety that come to mind when someone talks about freelance writing seem alluring at first, working in this way certainly has its drawbacks. The decision to devote the time necessary to becoming a successful freelance writer is not one that should be made lightly. Nothing is more valuable to you as a writer than your words and the time it takes you to create them. Therefore it is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of freelancing.
One of the best parts about working freelance jobs is that you don’t have to do any job you don’t want to do. If you need a vacation, you don’t have to ask for time off—all you have to do is stop seeking work. The downside to this is that if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. And just as freelancers don’t get paid vacations, they don’t get medical or dental plans either.
Being a freelance writer is like running your own company; you are responsible for paying your own salary, maintaining a positive image and good relationships with clients, meeting deadlines, keeping financial records—a lot of work for one person! However, the advantage of working in this way is that if you are successful, the rewards—both financial and personal—belong to you alone.
Another advantage that attracts many people to freelance writing is the freedom to choose what types of work to seek out and accept. But this freedom also has its limitations. The competition for the most desirable jobs is fierce, and limiting yourself to working a particular type of job could mean going a long time between jobs.
If quick profits and consistent income are what you’re after, freelance writing probably isn’t for you. Landing your first job can be downright difficult. Positive reviews and samples of work from previous jobs greatly influence clients’ decisions of who to hire, and writers starting out with a blank slate have to work hard to convince clients they are worth hiring as new freelancers on the block.
Getting hired for the first time takes a lot of determination, and it is likely that the initial payoff will be small, since overcoming your profile’s empty job history often requires that you outbid other writers. But even this can be dangerous, as bidding too low on a job will give the client the impression that you undervalue your work and/or don’t understand how much work the job involves.
Despite all of this, the satisfaction of being awarded your first job is truly gratifying, and things will get easier from here on out, provided your first job is a success. Supporting yourself as a freelance writer is by no means an easy path, but neither is it an unrealistic one if you are skilled and determined.
Being a successful freelance writer isn’t just about getting jobs. It is about getting jobs that you can do well, satisfying your clients, building a reputation, and then getting more jobs. Accepting a job that you are less than qualified for hurts not only the client, but you as well. It is a good idea to seek out jobs that require you to write on subjects about which you are already knowledgeable or can easily educate yourself. This way you will be more likely to receive a positive review that will catch the eye of a potential client or two.
Just as important as knowing your abilities is knowing your market and your competitors. Browse through the profiles of the writers who are being awarded the jobs you want. This will help you to gauge what attracts clients and get an estimate of the going rates for various jobs. Know your skills and credentials, and bid accordingly. And keep in mind that the written content on your profile is the first sample of your writing the client gets to see. In other words, you should spend more than five minutes creating it.
Once you start getting jobs it never hurts to keep tabs on clients you have done work for. Often if they are satisfied with the work you have done in the past they will be happy to hire you again. And the less time you spend between jobs, the more profitable your freelance writing endeavor will be, the more experience you will accumulate, and the more likely you will be to get the jobs you really want. If you are thinking about freelance writing as a career, or even just as a way of making some extra cash, there are plenty of opportunities out there for those bold enough to pursue them.