How to get started with freelance writing?

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Cyath

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Topic. I'm looking into developing writing as a secondary (or primary) career choice. I have some experience in writing in a variety of fields - translation, copyediting, essays, news articles, webpages, etc. I also have three novels in the pipeline and a fair bit of poetry.

So...how would one potentially get started? Google is of course the first port of call, but forums are a close second, and I generally believe in asking the experts.

I'll be completely honest and also say that I am starting this thread as a way to boost my post count. :)
 

mrsmig

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The AW mods take a very dim view of members rushing to get to 50 posts. You might want to read some of the New Members stickies.
 

the bunny hugger

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"Freelancing" tend to be referring to a particular kind of writing-for-hire. not just any kind of writing that can lead to money. You generally start by applying for jobs, establishing a reputation in your niche, and networking.
 

spottedgeckgo

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Thanks for being honest, but you should add that you are boosting your page count while seeking help, and this forum serves both purposes.

Anyway. I would say starting off, know what exactly you want to get out of it. People on sites like Upwork take advantage of "freelancers" for a cheap way to put out a low quality product. There are exceptions, but it's hard to separate the gems from the ore. I've done okay with it, but I also reduced my monthly expenses, a LOT, and I'm not trying to make a ton of money on writing for other people. It's a long story, I won't bore you with the details.

Second, once you know what kind of work schedule you want, focus on jobs that cater to that. If you have tons of time and want to start slow, freelancing sites like Upwork will get you a few clients. Take a couple junk jobs to get some reviews, then shoot for a few cents a word, and get more reviews. I get offers from Upwork all the time now, and I don't even have to do the searching. That top-rated status changes the game, but it's not worth fighting for if you want 40 hours per week, or even 20.

If you are looking more full-time, talk to local business owners about writing blog posts for their websites and managing their media accounts. Even small businesses will pay 600-700 dollars per month for daily facebook posts and tweets, and maybe a couple blogs per week, but you need to be ready to wake up and spit something out in the middle of the night or early morning if they need it. (I was going back and forth on an offer with the owner of a few bars and restaurants for a bit).

Even if you don't intend to use them, it's probably a good idea to set up accounts on a bunch of services, and include enough information on your bio where customers can reach you off-site. I got an email from one of my current clients out of the blue, because he saw my profile on WriterAccess, which is a service I never even use because I don't like the interface. He visited my blog and my facebook page, and then shot me an email.

Check newstands. Most magazines will have their content-mill listed somewhere on the magazine, and you can hire on with one of those companies.

Call newspapers and see if they are looking for intern prospects.

Start your own neighborhood periodical.

Start blogging now and building an audience, you can monetize it if it starts getting a lot of traffic, but for now it can help to keep you sharp.

Oh yeah, get on linked-in. I don't remember how to set it up, but they have a special service just for people looking for clients. I signed up and never really put it to use yet, but it looks interesting and once things settle down a bit I'm probably going back there to find some more steady work. My current clients are a little sporadic, but that works for me at the moment.

This isn't an exhaustive list, just something to get the wheels turning. Writing isn't different than other businesses. You have to pound the pavement and scrounge up some leads.

~Geckgo
 

James W

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Put together a nice portfolio of your work. Create profiles on freelance sites. Get some clients and reviews. From there, grow and expand.

Good luck!
 

Tsu Dho Nimh

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Coming in late ... go to the contract agencies and get short term jobs editing and writing for local companies. They have a lot of stuff to do and you can usually show the work to potential clients.

Make a brochure of the services you could do for local companies as a freelancer (writing ads, proofreading ads, monitoring their web presence, etc.). A guy local to me charges local companies $20-50 a month to keep up data on the various business directories on the web and let them know about reviews they need to address. Sounds like a pittance, but he can work from home and has 15 companies so far. He spends a few hours a week on this.

I made a career of being a contractor in technical writing - but I had an electronics education.
 

_lvbl

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The way I got started honestly was by going to Craigslist and landing a contract job on there. From there, I had a few serviceable clips and reached out to local media companies that were producing content I wanted to get in on, and landed a contributing position from there. Then you begin to make contacts, and your marketability only grows.
 

RightHoJeeves

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85% of what makes a successful freelance writer seems to be a) the awareness that there are well-paying jobs, and b) the gumption to actually go after them.

I've seen a lot of people online complain about how they're slaving away for 3c a word (or less) on Upwork. Most of the content mill writers seem to believe that if they write enough content for cheap enough, they'll "pay their dues" and magically be given higher paying jobs. They won't, unless they take it upon themselves to find better work.

Another point about rates is the thing everyone is after: personal referrals. If you're working for 3c a word, you might get a referral, but it'll be to someone else who is only willing to pay 3c a word. I don't usually work for less than 42c a word, and just landed an ongoing gig that's 54c a word. While those relationships are harder to set up, they a) pay more, and b) lead to referrals that pay similar amounts.

In the beginning, if you need a portfolio, think about contacting a few well-known (and well-liked, as well as non-partisan) charities that have good design behind them. The good design bit is pretty crucial I think, because if you get a job writing for a local doctor's office, and their brochures look amateur, then your writing will look amateur too (even if it's really good). If you go for a charity that has good collateral marketing materials, they're more likely to actually present your words in a more professional product. That makes you look better.
 

Filigree

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This. Value the worth of your words. If you keep taking 3c per word jobs, that's likely all you'll get. 2 years ago I brazenly answered a cataloging job that led to an ad copy job that led to a pretty decent FT job. When I write for them, it's for the equivalent of 30c per word.

But to get the great writing jobs, you need skill to back it up...also something you don't generally learn from low paying gigs.
 

RightHoJeeves

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But to get the great writing jobs, you need skill to back it up...also something you don't generally learn from low paying gigs.


I think it also takes pretty extraordinary discipline to do low paying jobs really well. Maybe it's just me and I'm lazy, but if someone is paying me a pittance to do a job, I find it really hard to summon the energy to do it to the same degree if I was being paid a proper fee. Again, that just might be me.
 

Filigree

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I actually really enjoy the high paying 'boring' jobs where the business wants to boost their profile, but has no idea how, and they're not generally considered an exciting field. I love finding the spin angle that works for them. And those folks give me recommendations.

On summoning enthusiasm for low pay jobs: I can't anymore. If the gig can't pay at least 10c per word, I politely tell them I'm booked. I'd rather do customer service at Target.
 
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