Freelance Writer

Freelance Writer

FreelanceWriter

Detroit, MI

Female, 30

After working in strategic communications and marketing for five years after college, I decided to make the move to full-time freelancing--mostly, to give me the freedom to travel. I've been freelancing for three years. At any given time, I'm writing for 5-10 print and digital publications, covering everything from engineering to travel. Common projects include copy writing, research reporting and academic writing.

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Last Answer on February 13, 2013

Best Rated

Do you ever go through periods where work is scarce? When it happens, do you wait for the lull to pass, or quickly start chasing down new projects?

Asked by A-Train about 5 years ago

I ran into a seriously slow period just once--the fear was enough to motivate me to change the way I work. I was working with only two clients at that point, and one of them lost their government funding. Luckily, I had another project coming right down the pipeline, but it was terrifying to realize that I could lose half of my income in an instant. Now, I've added more clients, so I have a very steady supply of work. I also put in place a few backups that I can turn to if things go south. One of them, which I hope I never need to use, is content mill work--Demand Studios and CloudCrowd. Both sites have a large supply of work, pay out frequently (and reliably), and don't have a minimum writing requirement. As a result, I can let my accounts sit for years on end and use them only if I need to. Content mills are a sensitive topic among writers. They're not really a viable source of full-time work, because you'd have to write forever to make a reasonable salary. The editorial standards are often VERY low. The pay is also low--ridiculously so, in many cases--one site I saw offered $2 for 500 words! While it is possible to make money on content mills, I'd advise that you do NOT attach your real name to your account to protect the integrity of your personal brand.

Are you required by clients to tailor your writing to be as SEO-friendly as possible? If so, do you feel like that compromises the quality of your writing?

Asked by Jason K. about 5 years ago

For print work, no. For digital pieces...it depends. In most cases, when you cover a topic thoroughly, it will be naturally optimized. You'll automatically use the key phrases in many different places and in many different forms. That, and search engines penalize website for text that is over-optimized. In fact, one of my clients expressly requests that I do not worry about SEO. He'd rather provide his Web visitors with informative text than achieve high search engine placement. Now, if I'm doing text that is designated for SEO landing pages, it's a different story. In that case, my definition of "quality" changes. Rather than judge the text on how beautiful it is or how well the sentences flow, I measure it against the client's goals. Do the keywords appear the correct number of time to meet the target frequency? Do they appear in titles, subtitles, lead sentences and in different forms? I always aim to write text that is readable and error free, but sometimes it's necessary to sacrifice lovely prose to achieve the project goal.

Are you able to do this full-time? How many hours do you put in, and how many pieces do you write per week?

Asked by Big Sol about 5 years ago

Yes--freelancing is my sole source of income. Usually, I put in 4-5 solid hours of work each day. (Though depending on how distracted I am by Facebook/Google Reader/news/email/Pinterest, I might be at the computer for 8 hours.) By working 4-5 hours per day, 5 days per week, I'm able to live comfortably. Plus, since I can work anywhere with Internet access, I often travel internationally for 2-4 months at a time. The number of pieces I write depends entirely on the project. Feature articles might stretch out over a period of weeks while I research, schedule interviews, draft and edit. With smaller marketing pieces, I might get out 10 or more in a day. On most days, I work on multiple projects.

How does 50 Shades of Grey get published written like it is? I get it: sex sells. But where's the editor / publisher stepping in to suggest grammatical changes to make it semi-legible?

Asked by grey about 5 years ago

I once read a Danielle Steele novel--it was the only English-language book in a tiny town in Mexico and I was desperate--and I had the same question. Appalling! Honestly, I don't know. My guess is that editors are overworked and underpaid. Maybe the audiences for certain books care more about the story than the writing? Actually, I just did a quick search and came across this quote, which seems to support that theory: "Writers make up a specialized but very small part of the reading public. As specialists of the craft, we’re naturally hyper-aware of technical gaffes and structural problems. The average reader isn’t going to be anywhere near as likely to notice or care about all the little things that drive us (rightfully, if perhaps over-zealously) mad. They just care that they’re given a good story." (From http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2012/07/why-do-bad-books-get-published.html)

I write as a hobby and would like to do it professionally, but how did you go about getting your first clients? Aren't there tons of uber-talented graduate writing students flooding the market every year?

Asked by Ignatius about 5 years ago

My first freelance clients came to me when I was working a full-time job, so I was able to learn the ropes without risking my income. One editor came across my personal travel blog and contacted me about writing a destination-specific article. My first corporate client came to me through a referral. After I quit my job, I didn't take on a full client load right away. The last year of my job was unbelievably stressful, so I took some time off to travel and shake the stress. By the time I connected back into the professional world, word had gotten out that I was no longer with my former agency. One of my old clients reached out to ask if I would take over his company's marketing writing. I turned him down out of respect for my former employer. He was really understanding--in fact, I'm pretty sure he passed my name on to other businesses, because I started getting project offers. A month later, another past client--who had moved on to a high-level position in a different corporation--called and asked if I was interested in writing for his new company. Years later, they are still one of my biggest accounts. It's hard to be specific without knowing your situation, but I'd suggest that you start by looking for writing opportunities in your current industry. If possible, tell your boss you'd like to take on some writing responsibilities, either internally or for clients. Frame it as cross-training. It's a fantastic way to learn. If you build a reputation as a skilled writer in your professional network, people may start sending referrals your way. If you're not comfortable going that route, look for writing opportunities outside of your personal network but inside your industry. Trade publications and topical magazines are a good place to start. For story ideas, use what you have--insider knowledge, unique access to sources, or information about upcoming challenges/trends/catastrophes/developments. If your company's R&D department is pioneering a new manufacturing technique, for example, you'll have an interesting topic and firsthand access to the researchers. As an industry insider, you will automatically be a step ahead of other writers. You'll have an in-depth, working knowledge of the target audience, the jargon, the major players, the ins and outs of business operations, and the challenges facing businesses. In my opinion, corporate clients are the way to go. They always have writing work and they understand the value of industry experience. (I can't tell you how many engineers have audibly sighed with relief when they realized that I was able to speak their language.) Plus, the pay is often higher than print/digital journalism and you don't have to jump through the querying hoops. If a business likes you and your work, they'll keep coming back. The project range is endless: annual reports, project proposals, feature articles, corporate magazines, print marketing copy, website copy, white papers, newsletter articles, client work, employee profiles, research reports... As for the grad students...yes, I imagine they are out there, though I haven't run into them. :) The thing is, there is absolutely no substitute for practical industry experience. A strong writer with five years of industry experience will almost always win out over a recent grad with five degrees and no experience.

Do you think becoming a paid, full-time writer is easier, harder, or the same level of difficulty as it was 10 years ago?

Asked by bella belle about 5 years ago

I was in college 10 years ago, so I can't speak from personal experience. Older writers I know have said that it's more difficult now. A lot of companies are outsourcing their writing work to countries like India and the Philippines because people there will work for pennies. (Literally, pennies.) American writers can't--and shouldn't--drop their prices far enough to compete with that. However, most of those workers speak English as a second language, and their writing reflects it. Clients worth working for understand the value of strong , fluent writing. I think "serious" journalism might be harder now, especially as many print publications die a slow death, but the Internet has opened up a whole world of options. Journalism as we know it is changing. Writers now can write for any number of websites. In most cases, it doesn't pay as well as print, but it's a completely viable way of making a living. There's more room for style freedom, the tone is often more informal and the variety is endless.

Let's say I'm a talented writer, but I've never written professionally or had any training beyond mandatory high school & college courses. If I were looking to become a writer, would you recommend that I take a class or two, or just dive right in?

Asked by Shrugs McGee about 5 years ago

Why not do both? Diving in will give you practical experience, so you'll have more specific questions to ask in class. If you do take a class, choose one that meets or exceeds your level of experience so you don't waste your money. It's much better to be the least experienced writer in the class--you'll learn more and get more feedback.