5 Common Freelance Writing Questions Answered
Back in the 80s, universities started catering to the post-hippie movement and offered groundbreaking studies such as courses on The Rolling Stones, Understanding the Beatles Lyrics, and Creative Writing. So, armed with my dreams and a suitcase full of Kraft Dinner, I started down my yellow brick road with hopes of graduating with the skills of a Pulitzer Prize writer. What they didn’t teach me at university, is that it isn’t that simple to become a writer; and especially a writer who has a job with a guaranteed income. As a result, I moved on to become an English as a Foreign Language trainer.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I love the challenge that my work offers and meeting the most interesting people from the four corners of the globe. I am able to travel the world every day from my home office without ever having to board a bus, plane or train. But, throughout the years, that writing bug lay restlessly smoldering in my soul.
No longer able to deny this gnawing desire, I started to write custom poetry for birth announcements, wedding speeches, and invitations. I charged for my services, but hardly enough to buy a meal at McDonald’s. Then came the internet, and with it, a smorgasbord of writing opportunities.
As I am a firm believer that, “it’s never too late,” I dipped my toe into the vast waters of freelance writing. Experience is the best teacher, and for me, it was the only teacher. But like any novice in any field, the new writer will have questions which should be answered before taking the freelance writer’s plunge—especially online.
5 Common Freelance Writing Questions Answered:
1. How Do I Get Started?
You probably already have some excellent sources before you’ve even put fingers to keyboard. If you are just beginning your freelance writing career, family and friends are the perfect diving board. No one wants to see you succeed more than they do, and in these early stages of your career, they are probably your best marketing/advertising tool.
Update your status and let the world know that you are a freelance writer for hire. Social Media is perhaps the best place to announce your new creative path and plans. Retweets and Facebook “shares” will spread the news quicker than the neighborhood gossip. You never know, your first client may just be one of your friends or followers.
Finally, to help enhance your professional image, create a professional and unique looking website or online portfolio so that future clients and customers can easily find you and see samples of your work.
2. What should I charge?
Like anything else, you have a skill that people are willing to pay for. But some may not be as generous as others. I started at rock bottom and pathetically earned $3.00 for a 500-word passage, more times than I care to remember. I eventually came to realize, (as arrogant as it may sound) that I’m better than that. Depending on where you work, or whom you work for, you will see the full spectrum of pay schedules.
Some writers work by the hour or word. Another variable in payouts is determined by what you are working on: article, blog, or academia passage for example. What is important to consider is how much your time and your work are worth.
Sometimes, beggars can’t be choosers, and lower paying jobs may be needed just to get your name out there and your foot in the door. This is also a good opportunity to build up your online portfolio, and a chance to add new and fresh material to your website. A good plan of attack when in doubt, is to ask your potential client what their budget is, and take it from there. As you become more experienced, and your portfolio becomes loftier, so can your salary demands. This helpful guide can help you maneuver the waters and figure out how much you should be charging as a freelance writer.
3. What should I write about?
Here is the short list:
Write about what’s important to you and to the world at large. There are people out there who share your passion for the environment, politics or a myriad of other subjects. More importantly, they may need your services as a freelance writer to express just how important those topics are.
Show your diversity on your personal website, blog, or portfolio. Don’t limit yourself to just professional writing. Get creative. Try writing poetry, such as a haiku or a free verse poem. Write dialogue or even some stream of consciousness passages à la Steinbeck. Do some research on a topic of which you were not familiar with, to show off your research skills. Spend some time writing as many sample articles as you can muster in all of the different areas that interest you.
Once you have a solid base of samples, you can use them on your online portfolio and when applying for jobs.
Always remember, You are your best (and often only) sales rep.
4. Do I need a contract?
In a word, YES.
The internet is technology’s gift to humankind, but it also spews up thousands of victims of fraud and sordid activities every day. Insist upon a contract for online OR “real-life” activities.
Most reputable online enterprises, e-commerce businesses and brick and mortar establishments will offer contracts for their own protection in any event; and if they don’t, ask for one. Without a contract, you will have less of a chance of receiving payment should your client default.
5. Can I make a living from freelancing?
Far be it from me to destroy anyone’s idyllic dream of living the freelancing life under the swaying palm trees on a secluded Pacific Island. However, there are variables which determine the answer to this question.
For one, are you responsible only for yourself and ready and willing to suffer for your art? There will be times when your plate is so full with projects, you won’t have time to think.
Conversely, there will be times when the pickings are slim, and if you don’t have a second job already, you may have to get one. Such times are not conducive to having a family to support.
I have read of established freelancers making a living from their craft, or freelance writers who eventually become staff writers to some very prestigious media outlets. Networking and forming solid relationships with clients can help you to secure your place in your field. If you do have to supplement your income at any time, try to get employment related to writing. Such employment can only help to increase the value of your credentials too.
Perseverance is the life jacket that will keep a writer afloat in the dangerous waters of freelancing. Rejection will happen often, but use it as an opportunity to learn where you can improve your craft. Do your part like adhering to deadlines, and delivering quality work to help you get select jobs and a stellar reputation. Educate yourself in the lingo, terms, and assignments of freelancing. Eventually, you will find your niche—figuratively and literally.
Freelance writing as a career is not for the faint of heart. It takes a person with a lot of heart, skill, and determination to dive head first into a freelancing career. But for those who pursue it fearlessly, it can be done.
Ready to take the plunge? This Step-by-Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success can help.