Freelance Writer's World

Monday, August 04, 2008

How to Become a Freelance Writer Tip#1: Learn How to Write

Writer's Resources...

Hone Your Writing Skills

Some people believe "you either got it, or you don't." In this case, you either know how to write, or you don't. Personally, I don't hold to this notion. I believe that anyone with the desire to write, (and the willingness to improve their skills), can become a freelance writer.

Granted, it's easier for some people to write an article and become a freelance writer. Person A may be able to create a masterpiece within one hour, which includes the time spent researching, writing, and editing. Meanwhile, it may take Person B three hours to finish a short piece. But with practice, I believe that both persons can reach, or at least come close to achieving the same level.

If you've never picked up a pen and paper and attempted to write, you're probably a little rusty. I don't recommend anyone apply for a writing job without the necessary skills. If you don't know the difference between "its" and "it's", habitually end a sentence with a preposition, or don't know how to write a simple grammatically correct sentence, you'll be greeted with a ton of rejection slips and an unread manuscript.

Pick up a copy of a English grammar book, practice writing exercises, learn how to research, and let others critique your work. The more you write, the better you'll become.

Visit one of my other blogs...

Telecommuting Diva
The Serious Writer
No More Debt

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wanna Write? Start a Blog

Writer's Resources...

Start a Personal Blog, Get Writing Experience

I think freelance writing is one of the coolest professions, and apparently, I'm not alone. Whenever I meet someone for the first time, it doesn't take long for the conversation to turn to work. They'll ask what I do, and I'll nonchalantly reply, "I'm a freelance writer." Their eyes get wide and the usual response is "wow, how cool." I have to agree. But it doesn't stop there.

Sometimes I'm asked how to get started as a freelance writer. I'm no stranger to this question. In fact, I have a generic answer: improve your writing skills, write samples, create a cover letter, and religiously apply for opportunities. But I think I forgot one crucial tip.

I became a freelance writer six years ago - pre-blog days. Even though I applied for my first blogging opportunity in 2005, I didn't start my own blog until last year. And even then, I didn't immediately include a website link with cover letters.

Why? I don't really know.

Maybe it was because I started this blog as a way to help beginners, and a way to vent a few frustrations. But what I didn't realize was that this blog could function as a writing sample. And for anyone who wants to break into the business, blogging is a great way to hone your skills. Since newbies don't normally write on a everyday basis, blogs provide great practice.

So, you want to become a freelance writer. My advice: start blogging. Pick a topic and go for it. It's free, and once your skills improve and you're ready to apply for freelance opportunities, you've got a sample.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Freelance Writing Myths

Writer's Resources....

Know What You're Getting Into

If you want to be a freelance writer...I say write. But at the same time, you need to know the truth about freelance writing. Some people think it's the easiest job. In turn, they think anyone can do it. What's sad, some people who hire freelancers don't have respect for the profession, which is why you'll commonly stumble upon low-paying opportunities that target stay at home moms and people who desperately need to make extra money.

Freelance Writing Myth #1: Anyone can be a freelance writer.

I used to believe this myth. Now that I've been a freelance writer for six years, I completely disagree. Writing isn't for everyone. There's a difference between knowing how to write, and knowing how to write well. Non-writers mistakenly believe that writing is an easy job that anyone can do. Hence, many people with so-so writing abilities look for writing opportunities. Those who become successful do so because they're willing to improve their skills. Those who don't take the time to brush up on their grammar and writing normally give up.

Freelance Writing Myth #2: You need a college degree.

Different companies (print and online) hire writer's without college degrees. So you don't need a degree to freelance. The decision to complete a degree really depends on the direction you want to go. Because I've always wanted to be a writer and I love English, I decided to complete an English/journalism degree. Besides, I didn't want to limit myself. I enjoy freelancing, but who knows, I may decide to become a journalist or get into publishing.

Freelance Writing Myth #3: Freelance writers can't earn a full-time income.

The truthfulness of this statement depends on you. Freelance writers are able to make a full-time income. Unfortunately, some freelancers work morning, night, and weekends to make ends meets. The key to being a freelancer who earns a full-time income is picking jobs that pay well. You've got to hit the job boards, create a good cover letter, and sell yourself.

In addition, learn how to work fast. You may find a job that pays $15 per short article, which isn't bad. Complete two an hour and you're averaging $30 an hour. On the other hand, if it takes you two hours or more to complete the piece, it's not worth it.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How to Make Money with Associated Content?

Writer's Resources....

Discover Passive Income

Admittedly, I haven't written new content for Associated Content since October 2007. I don't have a problem with the website. However, it was around this time that I took on a few new assignments, I couldn't devote as much time to the website.

I wrote my first article with Associated Content in May 2005, and since then, I've had more than 200 articles published. Although I've heard other writer's complain about receiving $4 and $5 offers for their content, I've only had one ridiculously low offer in three years (one that I can remember). The reason: the website already had a number of articles on this particular topic - 30 to be exact! I didn't do my research, so I can't blame anyone but myself.

There are varying opinions about Associated Content. Some feel that writing for the website can ruin a writer's reputation, and I've heard that some editors won't accept clips from Associated Content. But I think it's a great way for new writers to break into the business. Several of my articles published on the website have been re-printed on larger websites. And I've even snagged a few gigs as a result of my Associated Content profile. So, I tend to ignore the "naysayers." Besides, I receive a satisfying performance payment every month - and I haven't submitted new content in eight months!

I say give it a try, what do you got to lose? And if you're worried about a tarnished reputation, use a pen name. I do. Not because I'm ashamed, but because I write under three different names.

There are different ways to make money with Associated Content:

1. Write accurate, timely content: I have several articles that appear on the first page of Google. In turn, this increases my AC page views and my performance payments. Pick topics that are on the minds of web surfers. Next, check the site and make sure there isn't already an exhausted list of articles on said topic. Find a unique topic or angle, and watch your payout increase.

2. Feature a link on your website or blog: Look up in the left hand corner, and you'll notice an Associated Content link. You can invite others to write for the site, or include a link to your articles on your personal website or blog. If your objective is to make passive income with Associated Content, website traffic is the key.

3. Include keywords in your content: The more keyword or keyword phrases you have in your articles, the higher your rank on Google. Don't forget to include highly searched keywords in your article's title. An ideal keyword density is 3% - 5%. Keyword selector tools such as Overture and SEO Tools (my favorite) offer information on the best phrases, and the average number of monthly or daily searches for each phrase.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Check Bounced?!?

Writer's Resources...

Getting a Client to Pay Up!

I love writing, and I'm thankful for the opportunities I have to freelance. Thus, I won't speak ill of my career choice. But I have to say, there's one aspect of this business that annoys me.

About two weeks ago I received a check from a client. I deposited the check two days later and went about my business. Five days later I went to check my bank balance, and to my surprised, the check bounced. Now, I've worked with this company for more than seven months, and this was the first returned check - so I didn't get upset. I simply e-mailed my contact person to make her aware of the situation.

According to my contact person, the company sent out an e-mail to all writers to notify them of the situation. I didn't receive an e-mail. As a matter of fact, I spoke to someone who also writes for this company, and they didn't receive an e-mail either - red flag alert.

By this time I was due another check, so I didn't get mad. Just mail me my money, and I can go on with my life.

Well, I received another check today...but it didn't include funds to cover the check that bounced!

Do they honestly think I forgot about the money?

I sent a very "nice" e-mail inquiring about the missing money. Her response, "the bank should automatically submit the check for payment."

Yeah, well here's a news flash: my bank doesn't do that! Besides, I already received the returned check in the mail.

I'll attempt to re-deposit the funds.
But this time, I'll take the check to their bank.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

How to Determine Freelance Writing Rates?

Writer's Resources...

Get Paid What You're Worth

Every business has a learning curve, and sometimes, new business owners price themselves too low. Understandably, you need customers. Without customers, you don't work. If you don't work, you can't make a living and you're forced to return to a traditional workplace setting.

I don't want that to happen, and neither do you. So, it's important to pick jobs carefully and establish a rate that's fair to you and your client.

You need to determine freelance writing rates on a case-by-case basis. Yeah, it's a lot easier to have a set price per word or page. However, if you don't take into account the amount of time it takes to research and edit the piece, you may end up slapping yourself. I've made this mistake, and it's no picnic.

You estimate it'll take one or two hours to complete an assignment, and you bid low. In actuality, it takes twice as long to write the piece because:

1.) There are few resources available on the topic, in which you have to dig deep to find useful information.

2.) You have absolutely no knowledge (or interest) in the subject, which calls for a crash course in said topic before you're able to write a simple introduction.

3.)The style guide and content requirements are so extensive that you have to spend an excessive amount of time checking and re-checking the document for style compliance.

I enjoy freelance writing, and the above situations come with the territory. However, this isn't always the easiest job in the world, which is why I'm determined to get paid what I'm worth.

Some people - including clients - sit back and think freelance writer's have it made. We can work from home, take time off, blah, blah, blah....

What they fail to realize is that writer's deal with a lot of mess.....eye strain, sore hands, mental fatigue, and the annoying task of making sense of an awkward keyword phrase. And through it all, we'll have several clients who want a creative masterpiece, but aren't willing to cough up the cash.

So, how do you determine whether your freelance writing rates are too low? Consider this...

Was the assignment worth your time? If not, maybe it's time for a pay raise.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Write Spontaneously....Edit Later

Writer's Resources....

Learn How to Turn Off Your Internal Editor

Every writer has their own method and technique. And what works for one writer, may not work for another.

Like most freelancers, you're probably juggling multiple clients and assignments. Every minute and hour counts, and we can't afford to spend too much time on one assignment. From what I've read on blogs and freelance websites, it looks as if most writers try to average at least $20 an hour. How they earn this hourly wage varies. Where some writers have to create two or three short articles an hour, another writer can earn a quick $20 with a single piece of content.

Whether you're creating short product reviews, hotel descriptions, or search engine optimized articles, you can reach your hourly goal - whatever it may be. The key is to write fast...but accurate. Writers have a tendency to edit as they write. While this method works, it can slow the creative process, and your words don't flow as freely.

With every assignment I like to write first and edit later. I don't worry about sentence structure, correct punctuation, grammar, or typos. Instead, I focus on my ideas and spontaneous thoughts. Once I turn off my internal editor and yield to uninterrupted creativity, my hands take over and the words spill out.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Three Easy Proofreading Tips for Freelance Writers

Writer's Resources....

Don't Rely on the Spellchecker

It doesn't matter if you're a new writer or a professional writer, typos and minor grammatical errors are a reality, and they will eventually show their ugly face in your content. I can't tell you how many times I've stumbled upon a typo in a blog post or website. Often times, the typo is minor. The writer may have accidentally dropped a "s," or used "a" instead of "an." The way I see, minor typos are going to happen....that's why we have editors. If typos and awkward sentence structures didn't occur....a lot of people would lose their job.

I don't minimize the importance of proofreading our work. In fact, I feel it's a necessity. At the same time, there's something about our brain that makes us blind to our own mistakes. For example, I once wrote a feature piece and re-read the article several times - five times to be exact. It was perfect - or so I thought.

Then, my husband read the piece. And there it was....on the second line....a BIG TYPO. Instead of "you're," I wrote "your." I could had smacked myself....I hate contraction mistakes!

I say all of this to make a can't always control typos. But you can adopt a few tips and techniques to ensure error-free content.

  • Read Your Work Out Loud: Before you hit the submit or print button, read your work out loud. This is one of the easiest ways to catch grammar mistakes and awkward sentence structures.
  • Double Check Contractions and Homonyms: Pay extra attention to contractions and words that sound alike. These include words such as its and it's, their and they're, affect and effect, compliment and complement, etc.
  • Proofread Another Day: Don't proofread immediately after finishing a piece. If you can, wait until the next day - or at least a few hours. This way, your brain isn't blind to obvious mistakes, and you're able to pinpoint errors.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Finish a Boring Assignment without Losing Your Mind!

Writer's Resources...

To Accept or Not to Accept a Boring Assignment?

I can think of a few good aspects of freelance writing. My favorite: being able to research and learn about various topics. As a freelance writer, I've developed an in-depth understanding of personal finance, real estate, marketing, relationships, and mental conditions. This is primarily due to the fact that I've created several web content articles and blog entries on the aforementioned topics.

Prior to writing my first personal finance piece, I didn't know how to refinance a mortgage loan, negotiate a better credit card deal, or get an auto loan with bad credit. Even if the title of an assigned article didn't immediately raise my excitement level, I usually developed a sincere interest once I researched and discovered a unique angle.

There are different types of freelance assignments. Personally, I love pitching an article idea. This way, I can write on topics that interest me. Yet, I have received assignment articles from editors on many occasions. Assigned articles are - okay. I know how it feels to go through a slump. Therefore, I appreciate every assignment that comes through my inbox. But sometimes, writing an assigned article is torture. I once wrote an article on NASCAR - the longest week of my life. Halfway through the article I felt like throwing in the towel. But, I honored the commitment and wrote a so-so piece.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson.

Some people feel that writers should only "write what they know." I take it a step further and feel that writer's can write on any subject, given that it sparks their interests. However, I feel that writers should also recognize their limitations. With every boring piece I've ever written, I always had the option of turning down the assignment - but I didn't. I'm all for challenging myself and taking my business to a new level. However, there's a difference between being unfamiliar with an assigned topic and having absolutely no interest in a topic.

Let's be real: a boring assignment can zap your drive, leave you frustrated, and monopolize too much of your time. I've been there....many times. Nowadays, I try to stay off that road. I listen to my gut and turn down any assignment that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If I don't care about the topic...I can't write a compelling piece.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Freelance Writing Jobs: Should You Accept All Work?

Writer's Resources....

Good Opportunities vs. Bad Opportunities

If you want to make money as a freelance writer, you've got to stay busy. This involves looking for new opportunities on a regular basis, expanding your niche, and so on. However, this doesn't mean that you should accept every freelance writing job that comes your way. For example, a potential client might present a seemingly perfect opportunity. You're expert on the subject, and can create quality content fast. The downside - the client doesn't want to pay a livable wage.

You have a choice - either accept a low wage and complete the assignment, or wait for a better opportunity.

Freelance writers often stumble upon slow periods. Projects end, and it can take days or weeks to find a new assignment. During these "in-between periods," you might be tempted to accept a bad opportunity -

Think about it from this standpoint - the energy dedicated to a bad or low-paying freelance writing job can be spent looking for a better opportunity. Actually, this would be an excellent time to research different markets and mail a few query letters.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How to Grow a Freelance Writing Business

Writer's Resources...

Make More Money as a Freelance Writer

Some freelancers run a profitable writing business, wherein they may be able to work less than four hours a day and earn a sizable income. On the other hand, you have a few freelancers who scramble to meet their monthly expenses.

Growing a freelance writing business isn't always easy. True, you'll come across a handful of writers who didn't have to pay any dues. They likely had their first query letter accepted, followed by their first article appearing in a national publication - which opened the door to other higher paying opportunities. Now, they only write two or three feature articles a month, and call it a day!

That's going to me - someday.

I've been a freelance writer for five years. And throughout the past five years I've learned how to grow a freelance writing business - and how to work smarter.

Freelancers realize that the key to working less is finding freelance writing jobs that pay more. I've been able to reduce my work hours by more than half within the past two years. And ironically, my income increased. Thus, I'm confident that one day I'll be able to write only a few pieces each month and still earn a decent living.

Here are a few tips on how to grow a freelance writing business - and hopefully - work less hours.
  • Increase Hourly Rate: Nearly all freelance assignments pay per article. Currently, the majority of my assignments are web content. Personally, I try to average at least $20 an hour. This might involve completing two small SEO articles (250 words or less) for $10 each, or a larger assignment. For example, I used to write travel guides for $80 each. Each guide took between two and three hours, which put me around $26 to $40 per article.
  • Earn Performance Bonuses: A few writers are uncomfortable with freelance opportunities that pay performance bonuses - I'm one of them. However, I've had success with Associated Content and Both websites offer up-front payments for content. Plus, writers receive monthly payments based on the article's performance. It's been several months since I submitted new content to either site, yet I receive (on average) a performance bonus of $150 each month.
  • Learn Other Markets: It's easy to get comfortable with one type of writing. However, if you want to grow a freelance writing business, you've got to diversify and think outside the box. Don't rely on web copy assignments. Yeah, these gigs are easy to find and opportunities are steady. But, if you want to make more money as a freelance writer consider other niches. Write business plans, grants, press releases, medical articles, and so on.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

How to Get Freelance Writing Jobs without Clips?

Writer's Resources....

Getting Started without Writing Clips

Starting a freelance writing career can be a Catch-22. You'll stumble upon editors who'll only consider writers with clips. But to get clips, you need to be given a chance, right?

Several publications and online editors welcome new writers, in which you can submit a query or manuscript on spec. This is a great stepping stone to bigger jobs, and a huge confidence booster. Rejections are inevitable, and many newbies become discouraged and doubt their skills. However, once you see your name in print, negative thoughts go out the window.

Don't let lack of clips hold you back. In fact, you probably have a few writing clips tucked away.

  • Memos, College Papers, Etc. - Have you ever written a business letter or term paper? If so, you've got clips. Most of the time, editors use clips to assess your writing style and ability. They don't necessarily care about the topic. They are more concerned with whether you can spell, punctuate, and use correct grammar.
  • Create Your Own Clips - Put together a writer's portfolio before applying for freelance writing jobs. Write three or four short articles on varying topics (ex. personal finance, home improvement, relationships, parenting, etc.) Try to include relevant writing samples with your cover letter.
  • Create a Blog/Website - Many writers showcase their ability on a personal website or blog. And the best part... you can start a blog free. Blogger and Wordpress have several available templates and easy-to-use features.
  • Spruce Up the Cover Letter - If applying for a writing assignment without attached clips, be sure to play up your strengths in the cover letter. Why are you a good candidate for the position? Do you have exceptional writing skills? Do you have a degree or specialized training?

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Monday, January 14, 2008

How to Write a Great "List" Article?

Writer's Resources...

Top 5 Ways to Create a Great List

As mentioned in previous posts, I've made it a goal to get published in a national publication before my 30th birthday, or at least by the end of this year. I brainstormed ideas all weekend, and even flipped through the pages of a couple of magazines. Through my research, I discovered that print magazines love list articles. Even if a topic has been written on exhaustively, creating a list article and putting a unique angle on the subject seems to work. Readers enjoy lists. It's like a how-to article with personality: "7 Ways to Enjoy a Cheap Vacation, " or "Top 5 Ways to Say I Love You." Of course, there's an art to writing a great list. The article should be informative, yet entertain.
  • Pick a Good Topic: Before pitching a magazine with your idea for a list article, read the publication. If your idea isn't a match, you've wasted time and the editor will reject your pitch. Also, browse the archives to ensure a similar article hasn't been published within the past six months.
  • Research New Information: If you're writing a list article on a popular topic such as "ways to improve credit," don't offer common-sense advice (ex. pay bills on time or reduce debts). Rather, look for less obvious tips. For example, some persons have been able to boost a low credit score with funds from a home equity loan. Plus, an auto loan can give people a fresh start after bankruptcy.
  • Intro, Body, & Conclusion: It's easy to forget the introduction and conclusion with list articles - I'm guilty of this! Before jumping into your list of the top 7 ways to do such-and-such, write a two or three sentence intro. Wet the reader's appetite. Make them want to read the article. Once you've completed the list, conclude the article with a one/two sentence blurb.
  • Give an Explanation: Don't just list a few tips and call it a day. A good list article will expand on each tip. If you're writing an article on how to improve credit, and a list item is "pay off debts with a home equity loan," the explanation might highlight ways to apply for such a loan, the benefits, and loan requirements.
  • Keep List Explanations Short: Ideally, list paragraphs should feature two to four sentences. If your explanations are too long, the reader might lose interest.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Get Published before 30!

Writer's Resources...

Breaking into the Big Leagues

So, my goal for the new year is to become a regular magazine writer. Four years ago I made myself a promise - get published in a national magazine before the age of 30. Well, I turn 30 this upcoming October and I've yet to accomplish my goal. It's my own fault. I got too comfortable with web copy. Yeah, the payout is low compared to print markets, and I occasionally deal with slow-paying clients. But the jobs are plentiful, and I don't have to wait months for a check. Still, I think it's time to step outside my comfort zone and live my dream.

While I don't plan to give up web copy entirely, I would love to step back a little. It would be nice to devote more time to writing pieces that pay $1 a word, and spend less time on assignments that pay $0.10 a word. It's an old cliche and every freelance writer's motto - work smarter, not harder!

Although I've been published in two print publications, they weren't national publications and the payout wasn't anything to get excited about. Even if I have to send out five query letters a week, this is my year to get published in a national magazine.

Look for me in Essence, Ebony, or Redbook!