There was a time when freelance writers purchased envelopes in bulk, knew their local post-office staff by name and were always one missed check away from financial disaster. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case.
The advent of freelancing platforms, social media and online payment providers means freelancers can pick and choose their clients. They don't need to worry about work drying up, and they’ll always get paid within days of completing a job. I was introduced to this world a few short years ago, after spending my adult life as an author.
Within 12 months I had broken 6 figures. The main driving force behind this was my constant fear that everything would fall apart, and that I’d lose it all. To keep those fears at bay, I made sure I didn’t put all of my eggs in one basket. And in this article, I’ll show you how you can do the same.
As a freelance content writer, you should devote most of your time to Upwork. There are other platforms, but in my experience, nothing else comes close.
There are millions of freelancers on this site, all of which are in constant competition with you and most of which are prepared to undercut you. But many of them are not native speakers, most of them are not professional writers, and a large number of them just don’t have what clients are looking for.
If you work hard and deliver on time, you’ll outperform 99% of other freelancers. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. I have a client account on Upwork and have hired in excess of 50 freelancers. Only 1 of them—a coder—has never missed a deadline, and he is now my go-to man as a result.
There are a few other basic rules to follow:
- Set Your Price: Always set a fixed price. Clients don’t understand how quickly professional writers work. Many clients will refuse to pay you more than $100 an hour, but will happily pay you $0.10 per word, not realising that most writers will make in excess of $200 an hour from this.
- Focus on Feedback: Your feedback will make or break you early on. So, check that a client has a history of leaving good feedback before you work with them.
- Small Steps: To build feedback, work on small jobs. If you succeed, are paid and get good feedback, move on. If you get bad feedback, just refund them their money. Once you do, that feedback will disappear and you can try again.
- An Offer They Can’t Refuse: Most clients are business owners and are always looking to cut costs. So, don’t be afraid to make them an offer. It benefits you if they give you more work, so tell them that if they increase your workload, you’ll reduce your price.
“Write For Us”
On Upwork there will come a time when you have applied for all the jobs you can apply for and are just waiting for something to happen. This is common early on, but it doesn’t last. However, you can use this time to expand your network, and make a little money.
Just punch “Write For Us” into Google and you’ll get a plethora of content sites looking to hire freelance writers. Not all of these pay, so you’ll need to be selective. You can expect to earn anywhere from $0.02 to $0.10 per word on average this way.
Try to focus on pages indexed in the last week. These tend to pay less, but they get fewer submissions, have fewer rules and are generally easier to please.
A Different Kind of Blogging
I knew nothing about blogging before I began work on Upwork. Within 2 years I had worked on sites that were getting 5 million hits a month, and within 3 years I was in complete control of even bigger sites. I learned a lot about blogging and SEO in that time. The main thing I learned is that it is incredibly easy to make money in this industry if you can write.
99% of what makes a site successful is all down to the writer, from the tags to the keywords and the content itself. You can create sites from scratch, write for them when you have a little free time, and then profit further down the line, either by selling them on or by setting up affiliate links.
You should also check auction sites like Flippa. Here you will find sites that are relatively successful, but have terrible content. Webmasters like to buy these and pay a writer to fix the content, before selling them for a profit. If you’re creating the content yourself, then you can eliminate that overhead and enjoy a bigger profit.
Using Social Media
Thanks to Facebook ads, it’s incredibly easy to find targeted buyers, readers and clients on social media. You will need a little money for this, but not as much as you might think.
Your first step should be to create a professional Facebook page. This needs to advertise your services much like your Upwork profile would, and it should point to your blog/website and to your Upwork profile. Show samples of your work, as well as a picture of a price list.
Using Facebook ads you can then advertise your services to specific group of people. If you’re a freelance editor, target keywords relating to self-published writers, such as “Amazon KDP”. If you’re a content writer, target online businesses and webmasters.
You need to target your posts to English speakers in English speaking countries, before letting them run for a week or so. Make sure you have a PayPal purchase button on your website, as well as a clear link to your Upwork profile.
This works brilliantly for editors, but it also works for any other kind of freelancer. And the more visual you can make your posts, the better the results will be.
Set yourself up on LinkedIn at the same time that you setup your Upwork profile. Every time you work with a new client, add them. You don’t need to contact them via this method; the goal is to build a list of contacts. Some of my biggest clients have been introduced to me via other clients, and LinkedIn is the perfect platform for making these connections.
Showcase your work on your LinkedIn profile and when you have plenty of contacts, keep that work coming. Don't be shy either. If a connection posts a job available, then apply.
Freelance writing will open a lot of doors. You will work with webmasters, marketing experts, publishers and more. If you display a commitment to your work and a dedication to work hard, they will create more opportunities for you. If not for my work as a freelancer, I wouldn’t be a published non-fiction author. I wouldn’t own several websites, and I wouldn’t have my name on film reels, comic books and computer games.
As a writer, you are a commodity. You have a skill that few people have and that some people are willing to pay a lot of money for. Freelancing will connect you to these people, and the ones that don’t pay you in cold, hard cash, will give you the sort of opportunities that all writers dream of.
So, get out there and keep as many plates spinning as you can. Those opportunities will come eventually, that cash will begin to flow and you’ll be given a chance to make your mark as a writer.
P.J. Aitken is a novelist by trade, but following eighteen months of freelance writing he achieved a top twelve ranking on a freelance website with over 300,000 writers. He is the author of The Online Writer’s Companion: A Complete Guide to Earning Your Living as a Freelancer