Finding Work as a Freelance Writer

Chances are, if you are a freelance writer or you’re thinking of becoming one, you chose this path because a) you like to write, and b) you’re tired of whatever corporate employment solution you currently have. At least that’s why I quit my corporate job to write. I was tired of punching in, punching out, and working for someone that barely knew my name. 

So I did it. I quit my job and started writing and haven’t looked back. 

But there are some things that I quickly realized as a freelancer that you probably have, as well. One of those things is that having work handed to you is way easier than finding work yourself. As a freelancer (or any profession where you are your own employer), you have to go hunt down your work. 

The other awesome thing is that you really don’t have a guide as to how to do that. You don’t have an employee manual or a user guide to freelancing. So where in the world do you find this work? 

I know this is the worst answer in the world, but it’s true; it’s different for every freelancer. Some people are completely and totally devoted to corporate clients, some people are happy to work for content mills forever (which I don’t recommend but don’t condemn, either), and some people – like yours truly – do a little of everything. 

I believe that where you solicit work is kind of like deciding on stock portfolios. You wouldn’t put all of your money in one stock, right? (Riiight?) So don’t do the same thing with your work. At least not when you start out. 

I’m looking at my work tracker right now and I have 7 income streams at the moment. You would think that this would be a great thing. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that all those streams are flowing. Finding a balance is really difficult sometimes, but it’s required if you’re going to capitalize upon all the opportunities that exist for you. 

What I can’t do is tell you exactly what you should do for your own writing business. I’m not you. I have no idea. But what I can do, and hopefully it will help, is tell you what I do. You can pick and choose what you think might work for you or ignore it entirely or do everything on the list. 

I plan to follow this post up with another post about how I schedule my day so you can get a sense of what I do there, as well. But for now, let’s just go over where I find work. 

1. Textbroker

Yes, I still write for Textbroker. Some people think that writing for content mills is comparable to slave labor. While it might seem that way sometimes (the pay at my level on Textbroker, which is 4, is 1.4 cents per word), it’s still income, and the articles you can write there are usually pretty simple. Here are some of the reasons I write for Textbroker. 

  • They pay weekly, so I know that if I need some quick cash I can jump on there, write a few articles, and make some extra money. 
  • There is limited interaction with clients which makes it faster and easier to earn money. 
  • Since it’s a first come, first serve system all you have to do is grab an article, write it, and submit it. Sometimes you might be asked for revisions, but if you look at the client profile and choose clients that have a 5% revision rate or under (maybe 6), you should be good. 
  • It gives me a bit of an insight into what topics are currently trending, which helps when I write for other places, like Constant Content or even queries for magazines. 

#2 Constant Content

I love Constant Content. I could write several posts just on Constant Content and why I think it’s fabulous. Basically, you write articles on whatever you want, you submit them, they get edited, and then they are up for sale like products in a store. It’s a write it and forget it kind of thing. 

For instance, this month I made money on an article I wrote 45 days ago. Kind of cool. Also this month (in August) I sold every article I submitted. That’s not typical, but it was pretty great to have that added income. 

Here are a few of the reasons I love Constant Content. 

  • You have total freedom over what you write (just submit it to the correct category). 
  • You have freedom over how you price. 
  • You can make pretty decent money.
  • Having pieces that have already been edited are good sample pieces for other proposals, etc. (Unless you’ve sold full rights, then, of course, it’s no longer yours). 
  • You can make money while you sleep from something you wrote a week or a month ago or yesterday. 
  • It’s great experience.
  • The editors are really nice and they’re great to work with, even if you have revisions. 
  • I believe that working with Constant Content has improved my writing. 

#3 Yahoo! Voices

Would I try to make a living off Yahoo! Voices? No, not on your life. So why write there? Because technically it’s a published clip. No, it’s not the greatest published clip, but it is technically a publication with your byline. 

In addition to that, it’s fun to write about what you want and you can make minimal income based on what you write. For every 1,000 views or so you get around $1.50. Sounds horrible, right? But the good part is that if you write about popular topics and you write frequently, 1,000 views is not that difficult to get. I have 100 views on 3 articles, 2 of which weren’t really even on popular subjects. 

Also – and this might just be me – but I get to write in first person, which for some reason is just comfortable and it’s nice to be able to do that. Maybe that’s why I talk so much on here, huh? 🙂 

#4 Querying Publications 

I haven’t landed my first paid publication yet, but I do query. Not as often as I should, so I’ve added that into my “marketing” plan for the next month. Querying, though, is a really great way to possibly land some assignments from paid publications. 

If you haven’t yet, pick up the book or e-book “The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters that Rock”. I learned so much from this book and my query letters are far and away better after I completed this book. I read it over every month. It’s great. 

So why query publications? I’m sure you already know, but if you don’t, here are my top reasons: 

  • They pay well. The lower paying publications are around 30 cents a word or so, and the higher paying publications are between 1 and 2 dollars per word. Yes, you heard me, dollars. Per word. Breaking into bigger pubs is hard, but worth trying for. 
  • Being published does wonders for your writing career. 
  • Having relationships with editors at publications can help you gain further work. 
  • You establish yourself as a professional writer and have more leverage when soliciting other work. 

#5 Corporate Clients

 If you don’t want to cold call, don’t worry, you don’t really have to. Although it would be beneficial. But whether you call or email your prospective corporate clients, having them is a great idea. 

Corporate clients are those who have established businesses with websites that need content, blog posts, web copy, white papers, business reports, etc. on an ongoing or sporadic basis. You might have to send out a lot of emails before you reach those who want your services, but it’s worth it. 

Working for corporate clients affords you some great experience in web copy, technical writing, SEM, SEO-optimized content, as well as invoicing and working with professional companies. 

Word of mouth is great in the corporate world, and freelancing for corporate clients is a great opportunity. Focus on industries that need updated content on a regular basis, like technology, or choose to focus on industries where you are extremely knowledgeable. It’s up to you. 

Also, don’t limit yourself. While staying local gives you that local edge, I have marketed to companies in just about every state and in other countries, as well. 

#6 Elance

Elance is a bidding site where you submit proposals based on what you’d like to obtain from a job, attach samples, and write up a query of sorts to jobs you see that suit your preferences. Some think of it is as a race to the bottom because most of the time the only people who seem to get the jobs are the ones who work for a penny a word. However, it’s very feasible to be selective and ask for higher pay because many of the lower-charging writers (not all, but many) are not skilled. 

Inevitably there are clients who have experienced this and are willing to pay more for the professionalism and skill of writers like you and me who do this for a living, or at least are very competent writers. 

For more on Elance, see my blog post “Is Elance Worth the Trouble?”

Spoiler alert: Yes – for me, it is. 🙂 

#7 KDP (Kindle)

Did you know you can publish articles on the Kindle? I didn’t either, until I read a great e-book about it called How to Publish and Sell Your Article on the Kindle: 12 Tips for Short Documents by Kate Harper. Simple, quick, easy to understand and follow, and great information. 

You can publish directly to Kindle for free and earn money from what you write. Kind of awesome, right? Quick tip: Price your article, at least, at $2.99. Once you drop below this price range you earn something like 30% of all sales, but you earn 70% of sales at $2.99 and above. There is a great discussion of it in the book. 

Also, you can say you’re published and use it as a credential (particularly if it sells well – that’s always a plus) when marketing to other areas. 

Bonus: 

There are a few other things you should have/do that aren’t listed here because they aren’t exactly paid – at least not up front. But they do help you establish credibility. 

  • Have a writer’s website. (Shameless self-promotion coming up.) You can see mine at Courtney Herz Writes. 🙂 I have received positive feedback from prospects who wrote me back specifically to tell me they loved (and bookmarked) my writer’s website, so while it’s not the end-all be-all of writing sites, I guess it’s at least presentable. I use Wix. Love it. Do it. Now. 🙂 
  • Have a blog. It’s fun, you can express yourself, you appear human (I hope), and you can interact not only with people who do what you do but people who are interested in what you are interested in and yes – even potential clients. 
  • Have many blogs. If you can professionally manage it and you are passionate about several issues, go for it. Eventually I will have four because there are four main areas of what I do between crafts, cooking, health and fitness, and writing. 
  • Have business cards. It helps when someone asks what you do to give your elevator pitch and then say “Have a look at my website!” while handing them a card. 
  • Know what to say when someone asks you what you do. “I write on the side” is not a good answer, even if that’s what you currently do. I would suggest “I’m a professional freelance writer.” As Captain Jack Sparrow might say, “I like it! Simple, easy to remember.” 

I hope this has helped someone out there! I promise this is the short version. 

Let me know – where do you like to write? Which of the above would you like a more in-depth discussion of or a how-to guide about? What is the main obstacle you have come across in your freelancing career? 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. J. Dominique says:

    Thank you for the advice! I’ve been looking to make some extra money, so this helped a lot. 😀

    1. courtneyherz says:

      Awesome! I’m glad it helped out! If you have any questions, let me know. 🙂 Good luck!

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