You might be rubbing your eyes, trying to see if you read that title right. If you’re familiar with my page, then you’ll notice that I generally don’t give advice. I give long winded rants filled with profanity. However, I get a lot of questions posted and emails to me from hopeful freelance writers, who want advice on breaking into the field.
Now, as a disclaimer here, I’m comfortable, but I’m not millionaire. I live in an apartment and I drive an inexpensive car. I am the midlist of the middle class. I don’t have a lot of expenses, so the transition to full time writing was easy for me. Aside from my semi-regular illicit substance purchases, I’m a pretty low maintenance chick. The tips I’m going to give you might help you get to the middle of the pack, but they’re not going to make you a millionaire.
First off, you’re going to have to learn to deal with some incredibly boring work. My main goal isn’t to be a freelance writer forever. It’s to make money from my books and the stuff I like to write. However, that’s not something that can pay the bills instantly. If you’re planning on uploading your novel on Kindle and waiting for the profits to roll in, you’ve got a long wait. In the meantime, that means paying the bills by doing some incredibly boring work.
Who’s giving you that boring work? Business owners. The biggies are lawyers, doctors, financial execs, real estate offices and pretty much any type of sales work. There are also possibilities available in the alternative health, computer programming and technology industries, but those require a bit more expertise. Rule of thumb; if it has a website, it needs content.
How do you get to be the one that provides that content? First, notice the word I’m using. ‘Content’, not articles. If you’re going to make a living freelancing, it’s not about magazines and newspapers anymore. It’s about the internet. I don’t care what you’re writing about, that webpage’s goal is to have hits from SEO. If you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about when I say SEO, we’re already getting off to a really bad start. If you do, feel free to skip the next paragraph.
SEO is about how a web page is ranked in a website. The big one is Google, which takes about 80% of the market share on searches. Google has an algorithm that crawls webpages, finds keywords and indexes them. When a used types a search engine phrase like; ‘hot anal transgendered amputees’, those search results come back with pages where those words were found. Of course, those search results will include every page, regardless of whether the page is about ‘hot anal transgendered amputees’, or whether it is a page like mine that has nothing to do with the subject. To make sure the websites are given proper credence, each one gets a relevancy ranking based on how related to the phrase they are. When someone is asking you to produce ‘content’ they are asking you to get them to the top of that list. That’s what search engine optimization, or SEO is for. Learn it, absorb it, fantasize about it in the shower. It’s your life now and it changes every fifteen fucking minutes.
Before you even consider hunting clients down like the innocent prey they are, you need a resume and writing clips. Freelance writing is a tough business, because most of your work is going to be ghostwritten. Trust me, my opinion is all over the internet, but it’s not my name attached. When you ghostwrite, you don’t get credit, you lose the right to your work, and you usually can’t use it as a clip sample. However, you can note you ghostwrote for a company on your resume, and if with their permission, link to the blog you worked on.
However, the easiest way to get clips is to hook up with a site that allows newbies to post their articles. The site I started out with was the Yahoo Contributor Network. I barely do work on it anymore, but it can really help boost your credentials. It’s also network central. I got approached by 60 Minutes following something I wrote for Yahoo! News. They are a fantastic place to start getting the clips you need for your resume.
As far as getting your feet wet, and for some immediate writing gigs, you can try a few of these sites; Text Broker, or London Brokers . Sites like these are commonly referred to as content mills. They can be great starting out, or if you looking to make a little extra cash. However, if you focus only your writing career on these, you will learn to hate writing. They don’t pay very much, but they’re easy to get into and you don’t have to apply for jobs. You just pick an article and start writing.
What’s the downside, besides the low pay? Let me give you a verbatim example of what you will be writing about.
Please write an informative and creative article concerning “BEST NY TRANSMISSION SERVICE”. Article must be interesting and informative. Please write 500 words, use keyword 11 times. Adhere to the exact mode of the mentioned keywords.
Yup, boring as fuck. You’re writing filler, keyword focused articles and you’ll need to do about 10 an hour if you want to make any real money. On the upside, it will help with your creativity, because it takes a magic fucking computer to make transmission service centers interesting.
Again, content mills are great for getting your feet wet or if you’re just trying to make some extra cash. I would not recommend building a career on them. It can be done, I know several people who do it. But they don’t like writing anymore. That’s why you need to move on a bit, to getting clients who allow you a little more creativity.
Again, unless your one lucky fucker, you’re not going to start out writing something you’re passionate about. However, at least write about something you can tolerate. Alternate professional Essa writes legal articles, alternative medicine articles, jewelry articles and programming articles because I find them interesting. I don’t force myself to look into sports writing, because, aside from competitive drinking, I fucking hate sports. I write for clients whose work already interests me. Because of that, it requires less research and feels less like work.
How did I get my clients? Well, I started out on Elance. There are other sites like oDesk and Guru that you can also use, but I prefer Elance. These sites are bidding sites, so you need to be careful. DO NOT ALWAYS BID LOW! In the beginning, you might have to bid lower, but do not try to beat out the guy from India, offering to write articles for 1.25 each, who speaks English as a second language. I both hire and apply for jobs on Elance. When I apply, I bid a fair price that is not nearly the lowest. When I hire, I pick the best proposal, not the lowest price. Bidding what your worth isn’t just about you. When people come into the market charging rock bottom prices, everyone starts to drop their prices and we all make less.
So in conclusion, if you plan on starting your freelancing career this year, I hope my tips can help you out. At the very least, they’ll get you started. Of course, the best way to get started is to buy several thousand copies of my book, so I can retire and you can get me out of the market. I’m heavy competition. ;)