Working as a freelance writer

The world is your market

The Internet has opened up a wealth of opportunities for prospective freelance writers. The global market for the written word has exploded as individuals and businesses strive to get good content to enhance their sites and attract traffic. Writers have embraced the opportunity, in many cases in the hope of making a reasonable income from their efforts.

Unfortunately, this development is something of a double-edged sword. A global market also means global competition for the writer. It has always been difficult for freelance writers to find regular, well-paid work, but these days it can seem almost impossible – especially for the beginner.

There are three main approaches the beginning freelance writer usually takes. The first is writing articles under contract at a given rate of pay. The second is writing for their own blog or submitting articles to sites like Infobarrel in the hope of earning passive income from advertising or affiliate marketing. And the third is to submit articles to article repository sites like Constant Content in the hope that someone will buy them.

Writing under contract

Many new writers try to find work on sites like Freelancer or E-Lance, but on these the competition is enormous. If we look at Freelancer, for example, we will find plenty of job offers but mostly in the range of $1 or $2 per 500 words, which is hardly a rate that is going to put bread on the table. The problem is, of course, that there are large numbers of writers and writing teams from developing countries that can work at these rates because, for them, it is a reasonable return.

This sort of return is basically unacceptable for freelance writers in the developed world because our living costs are much higher. This makes it harder for us to get work. But should we complain as I have seen a number writers do? I personally think not. Some of these writers are really good and if they can provide what the client wants at a rate that I can’t, or won’t, match then good luck to them. It just means that writers from the developed world have to write better and work harder to find well-paid work.

I have found a few clients on Freelancer (I use a different nom-de-plume there) and consider myself lucky if I can make $5 for a 500-word article. Below that rate, it’s not worth my while by the time I have done the necessary research and put together something that I consider to be acceptable. And, again, I have been fortunate because the clients who have hired me have actually hired me again. I don’t, however, consider myself to be a particularly good writer. I just try to give the clients what they want and I do my best to ensure that the articles are accurate, unique and delivered on time.

For the average writer, the returns from writing under contract are not usually high (a reasonable month for me nets around $200 or $300) simply because the pay is low and the work irregular.  But, at least, you can be sure of at least some return for your efforts.

 Passive income

Making a good passive income is surely every freelance writer’s dream. But it is not easy, even for the best writer. The difficulty most writers face is attracting traffic to their articles – the best article in the world will not generate income if nobody reads it. To have the best chance of being viewed, articles need to be carefully keyword researched and properly back-linked to other articles and sites.

This is where many writers fall down. I’m guilty here – I’ve been writing on Infobarrel for a couple of months and this will be my 18th article. So far I’ve had 119 views (mostly thanks to family and other Infobarrel members like Introspective who have been kind enough read some of my stuff) and have made the grand total of 80 cents from AdSense (from a click from a friend). Why so few views, you might ask? The answer is simple – I don’t always do keyword research and I don’t back-link (I’ve never figured out how and I don’t have a blog or Facebook page to link to anyway).

To make money, writers must understand and use these tools, otherwise they are wasting their time – unless, of course they are writing for fun as I do. They also need to get their article count as high as possible. This means a lot of writing, unless they outsource which, to me defeats the object unless the writer's motive is purely pecuniary. In any event, it is possible to generate a reasonable income, but it takes time and hard work.

Submitting articles for sale

Submitting articles for sale to sites like Constant Content can be a very hit and miss affair. The advantages are that you can set you own price and write on whatever subject you choose at the time you want to write. It is fun and when you make a sale there is a great feeling of satisfaction. But, again, sales are not that frequent and once your article is sold you lose all rights to it (unless you are just selling a right to use).

Keep on writing

Freelance writing can be tough and many freelancers have to be content with seeing their word in print without too much financial benefit. The lucky (and hardworking) few will make a nice income, but the majority will have to be satisfied with just a little extra pocket money now and again.

But let’s keep on writing. It’s fun and one day, you or I might join the list of the higher income earners.