4 Basic Things I Learned in my First Year as a Freelance Writer

Last year, I made the jump. After a year of planning, I decided that I was going to work remotely as a freelance writer full time. That’s part of the reason why you’ve seen my post count drop over 2018. Freelance writing is romanticized a lot, but it isn’t without its drawbacks, and therefore isn’t for everyone. Here are some of the things you need to know.

1. First Phase – Always Be on the Lookout for the Next Job

The good thing about freelance writing is that there’s always a lot of work available. People will always have a need for people to write stuff for them, because they either don’t want to spend the time or are terrible at it. The rough time is during the transition and finding the proper batch of sources that you need to make a good income out of it. Make sure you plan accordingly. Having other sources of income when you start out is important. You should first decide if you’re the type of person that’s comfortable with potentially starting at a slow pace, without work or with work that isn’t as rewarding. Then, plan around this. It might take you time to start up.

Thankfully, there are ways to make good money fast if you find the right employers, and there are a lot of ads out there. You’d be surprised what you can find on basic sites like Craigslist. There are also many other remote job boards out there and ones which list numerous opportunities. Bookmark every last one of them.

There’s an old saying that you have to treat finding your next job as a full-time job in itself, but this is especially true as a freelancer.

The best start would be to find a publication that will pay a certain amount of money for every post you do. Be good at contributing to them and you’ll have a more or less stable basic source of income.

After that, you should look for gigs from companies that will pay you more. I’ve landed some good, recurring deals from publishers and academic companies, which pay a lot higher per project.

Finally, there are “content mills” out there, where buyers congregate to buy work, such as Verblio (formerly Blogmutt). I’ve had some success on this platform, but the problem is that you’ll be doing a lot of work for little money at first. Sure, those posts are only about 350-500 words, but you’d be surprised at how long that can sometimes take. You can eventually get up to $90+ apiece posts when enough people buy the other posts, but I haven’t devoted enough time to that when I had more lucrative deals elsewhere.

Mills should be the last arrow in your quiver, if possible.

I’ll talk about more employers you can potentially find as a freelance writer in a future post. It’s too long a list to get into here.

2. Second Phase – Cut Out the Middlemen

The thing that separates the top from the rest is that they do their own deals and cut out the middlemen. This is the area I want to expand in during the coming year. The good thing about having a blog and doing work like I mentioned above is that you’ll be able to build a decent portfolio for yourself in the process, so that you can show you’re the real deal when it comes to doing the real, big money work.

I’ve used writing samples from this very blog to land some work, and it’s in this area that I’ll be expanding this year. I know I have to brush up on what I know about this kind of contracting, though, so I’ll be probing deeper into it.

3. The Freedom is the Best Thing – But Be Careful

It’s cliche, but the primary reason to go the freelance route is the freedom that you get. Instead of spending your time in a constricted office having people to answer to, you do everything on your own time, in your own place. On cold days, you don’t need to freeze your ass off in a commute. On warm days, you can go out and enjoy the weather, even working outside if you like.

Work where you want, when you want. Many people will find that sort of control worth more than the money. You have to make sure that this kind of freedom doesn’t go to your head, however. You need to set up a work structure that enhances your productivity. You can come up with a flexible system as a freelance writer, but you need to treat your working time as you would when working in an office. Otherwise, you have a hobby instead of a business and will be paid accordingly.

Egyptian Scribes
These guys didn’t get as much freedom as you will as a freelance writer.

4. The Work May (At Times) Be Even More Exhausting than Office Work

Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean that freelance writing is easy. It isn’t. Everyone has a different tolerance level, obviously. I have a more flighty character by nature, so I need to come up with structures that impose harsher discipline (see above).

Failure to impose structure will lead to wasteful days and less money in your pocket. It’s hard to come up with good material and put it into words, but you need to bite the bullet and get to work when it gets down to it. Beginning by writing a few words can help, since your brain will want to finish what you’re writing. Whatever your method or structure is, you just need to make sure that you find one that works.

Structure matters so much because of the exhausting nature of the work. You’ll try to make excuses to avoid doing it and then find yourself behind the 8-ball, frantically working even harder to meet a deadline. This is one of the prices you’ll pay for the freedom of being a freelance writer.

Selling is crucial if you’re going to go full time as a freelance writer (or any other kind of freelancer). Learn how to do it by reading Stumped.