Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t add “blog daily” to my New Year’s resolution list. I would’ve already failed. 13 times. But that’s okay, I don’t always feel the blogs need to be done every day. Blog posts should be created when you have something to say, and while I frequently have something to say as it pertains to this blog, it’s not always daily. Hopefully that means when I do post something, it is of value to you. Please let me know if I’m wrong. 🙂
Obligatory apologies for my delay aside, I wanted to take a quick moment to post about something that I think is really important for freelance writers. I have probably mentioned this before, but I think it’s worth repeating.
I’m currently working on an e-book about the top 25 mistakes that freelance writers often make, and I find myself mentioning one particular thing several times. The reason it comes up several times is because it touches so many areas of your freelance writing business. Because of that, I wanted to make my first post of the new year about prospecting for long term work. By long-term work, I don’t necessarily need one client keeps coming back over and over again, although that is helpful as well. I’m talking about the work that you do today, but you don’t see the money from for 30 to 60 days.
I know it’s very tempting, particularly if you’re just starting out in your freelance writing journey, to take the work that pays you now. After all, you have bills to pay, and most of them aren’t due in 30 to 60 days, they’re due yesterday. Much of the time this leads freelancers to places like bidding sites and content mills, which usually pay weekly or on completion of the project, and are more or less guaranteed income. However, while a certain amount of this kind of work is usually necessary when you’re first starting out, and even later on, it should not be your only source of income.
Making low pay but fast paying work the only type of work you do will only trap you in a cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, or sometimes article to article. You didn’t quit your corporate job or decide on freelance writing career so that you could work 20 hours a day just to make ends meet. So don’t set yourself up for that kind of lifestyle by failing to cultivate work that may not pay you right now, and might not be guaranteed, just because it’s a risk. Taking calculated risks is essential to any business, and no business will survive by doing only what is guaranteed. You are a business as a freelance writer, so learn to cultivate long-term work on which you can survive, as well as work that may not pay as much, that pays you continuously.
Below are some examples of work you can obtain that is either long-term or continuously pays you.
Constant Content is a site that allows you to write articles on basically whatever you want and post them in a catalog for people to purchase. The freedom to write what you want is very nice, and you can command a higher price on Constant Content then you can in content mills and, usually, on bidding sites. The reason I consider this long-term work is because it only pays you once a month. Also, there is no guarantee that your work will be purchased. But I find that I sell about half of the articles I post, and it can make for a nice payday at the end of the month. The best way to sell a lot of articles on Constant Content is to write on topics that are evergreen, such as business, real estate, weddings, home improvement, environmental issues, finances, and the like.
Nobody will argue the querying magazines is a fast way to make money. But once you land your first article in a publication, you have essentially kicked open the door to the rest of your career. Not only do many of the top publications pay $1-$2 a word, you will be able to establish yourself in the world of freelance writing once you start to be published. Oftentimes you will have to wait between 30 and 90 days to hear back, and sometimes you never hear back. But that doesn’t mean that you should query. The better your query letters become, and the more persistent you are, and the more ideas you have, the more of a chance you have of becoming published. Once that happens, the world is yours. It might not be the shortest sales cycle in the world, but it is definitely worth it.
Many freelance writers who are just starting out, and even some who been doing it a while, don’t prospect businesses for work. It might be because they don’t know they can, or it might be a fear of rejection, but whatever the reason, these freelancers are cutting themselves off from a great deal of possible work. I would suspect that the reason most freelance writers don’t prospect businesses is for the same reason that I originally did not. For one, I didn’t realize how great the market was for content, nor did I realize just how many businesses actively seek out freelance writers. But aside from that, I thought it was a waste of time to market to businesses when I didn’t have a guarantee of getting any work from it. However, even though it’s not guaranteed and can have a long sales cycle, working for corporations can mean a big payday. A few high quality corporate accounts a month can go a very long way to taking you from getting by to getting ahead. It is certainly not instant gratification, but it’s something you should definitely do. Try to write in a niche so that you can establish authority. I’ll go into this in another blog post, but for now suffice it to say that prospecting corporations and businesses for writing work is essential to a long-term career as a freelance writer.
Kindle Articles and E-Books
Kindle Direct Publishing is a great outlet for freelance writers. Whether you want to write a 6000 word article about your favorite animal, publisher of 100,000 word romance novel, or publish a memoir about a hiking trip that went bad for which you narrowly escaped, the world is your oyster on the Kindle. I’ll be publishing my first e-book/Kindle article this month, and am very excited. Taking the time to write a long article or e-book that isn’t guaranteed to sell a single copy might seem like a waste of time. But of all the freelance writers I have talked to who have used Kindle articles or have published e-book on the Kindle, I have never heard one of them say that they never sold a copy. Perhaps you won’t get overnight success and sell thousands of copies, but even if you sell 20 or 30 or a few hundred, it still money in your pocket. Kindle only pays 60 days after the end of the month, so if you sell $100 worth of Kindle material in January, you won’t see it until March. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for, because in March you’ll be very happy you did. If you publish every month, eventually it won’t matter that you only get paid every 60 days because you will always be getting paid for 60 days prior. In other words, if you remain consistent and at least publish one thing per month, you will likely have some residual income coming in every month once 60 days has passed. The best part is, people will probably continue to purchase your items as long as they are available on the Kindle. So once you have a good amount of articles are e-books for sale, it’s feasible that you could be making an extra couple of hundred dollars every month. It’s no guarantee, but I’m guaranteed to earn absolutely nothing from the Kindle if I don’t take time to write for it.
Residual income is also long-term, but it’s something that you can get paid for forever. Yahoo Voices is probably never going to be the vehicle that makes you hundreds of dollars per month. However, if you write consistently and build up your online portfolio of articles on Yahoo, you can start to see income every month. Yahoo pays you per thousand views, and Yahoo Voices pays out once a month. If you only have one article on Yahoo, you will have to rely on that one article getting 1000 views before you see $1.50 come in. However, if you have 10 articles up, you only have to wait for each of them to get 100 views. I have about seven articles up on Yahoo so far, and each of them has an average of about 25 views. However, I know that if I had more articles up, I would probably already be seeing money.
As you can see, it’s really a numbers game. The more you write, the more you prospect, the more you sell and the more you make. I keep a productivity tracker on a spreadsheet so I can keep track of all of the “outgoing” activities that occur in a day. I track how many Yahoo articles I write, how many Kindle publications I submit, how many articles I submit to Constant Contact, how many businesses I marketed to, how many query letters I sent, and so on. It continues to be true that the months in which I have more items on the productivity sheet are the months that result in the highest payout. When I stick to the “right now” work, I barely scrape by month-to-month. Scraping by month-to-month is no fun, but flourishing is.
It takes time to build your business, and sometimes it can seem as though there is no end in sight. Sometimes it can get downright scary when you have bills coming due and you’re not sure where the work is going to come from to pay for them. But the worst thing you can do is panic. Being strategic is the key to success as a freelance writer, and it is strategically to your advantage to obtain income from as many sources as possible, including the right now and long term. Plant seeds for the future, even if it seems like a risk, and you will very likely be rewarded with fruits of your labor. However, what is true and gardening and farming is true in business: you will get absolutely nothing from the seeds you don’t plant.
Sorry for the very long introductory post to the year, but I hope it has been helpful and thought-provoking. I’m trying to get a little more technically savvy this year, so hopefully I’ll have some videos and graphics to share as the year goes on, too.
I hope everybody is having a happy and healthy new year, and I look forward to a very successful 2014 for all of us.
Until next time, God bless and happy writing!