So You Want to Be a Freelance Writer?

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 9.41.58 PMLast week I finally started my Ways to Earn Extra Income. A lot of you have questions, and today I figured I would continue my Extra Income series with how to become a freelance or a staff writer. A lot of you seem very interested in this. For the sake of this post, a staff writer = freelance writer, just to make this all easy.

Before September, I never thought I would be staff writing, and I never even thought about it. But once I began, I really started to enjoy it. I really love to write (yes, I do realize that I’m not the best and I probably should proofread more, but I do like to talk), and writing for different blogs was fun for me.

And I’m not going to lie, the money is nice also. Being able to write about topics that I enjoy, from the comfort of my home is great. I try (yes, try) to throw all of my extra money towards student loans, since I do have a $38,000 student loan payoff plan that I am working on.

I believe I started freelance writing in September of 2012. I DID make mistakes though. I signed up for way too much, and as a result, my own blog suffered. I feel like the content on my blog wasn’t the greatest when I had signed up for so many staff writing assignments. Luckily, that did not last long as some of the assignments were only short-term.

Then I ended up stopping a couple of others and right now I am at my perfect amount. Taking on too many writing assignments at one time was definitely a mistake that I made.

So You Want to Be a Freelance Writer?

Tips on becoming a freelance writer:

1. Start out slowly!

Don’t make the same mistake I did. I thought I could write for multiple blogs, but lets be for real, there are only so many personal finance topics that you can create in one week before you get extremely bored.

Determine how many blogs or websites that you want to write for. Start out slowly by adding assignments one at a time. Decide how many websites you want to write for, and how many times per week or per month. Get the feeling for it and be 100% positive before you start adding more assignments to your list of things to do.

I originally signed up for a ton of blogs. I never made the quality lower just so that I could fit them all in, instead I started slacking on my own blog. I now write for two personal finance blogs and for one hotel in the Caribbean. I prefer this mix the best.

 

2. Discover your niche.

There are many different blogs, websites, magazines and so on that you could possibly write for. And there are tons of topics that you can write about. What do you think you could write best about? Possible topics include: travel, fashion, home, do-it-yourself, personal finance (of course :) ), pets, family, and so on.

However, not everyone can write about travel blogging, and if you never travel, then this is probably not the best bet for you. Stick to what you know!

 

3. Search for staff writing assignments and let your services be known.

How are people supposed to know that you are looking for a freelance writing position? Over the summer, I was asked to be a staff writer for a blog. The e-mail came out of nowhere, but after I received it, I started looking into staff writing further. Having a blog (as talked about before), helped people find me and consider me for their staff writing positions.

After that initial e-mail, I then posted on Yakezie (a personal finance community with a great forum) and stated that I was searching for a staff writing position. After I made the post on the forum, I received a couple of e-mails and this is what launched my staff writing career. The power of throwing yourself out there and just asking was definitely helpful for me.

Also, there are the ProBlogger job boards, and there are a lot of staff writing positions on there. I know of a couple of people who have found their positions through that website.

If you do have a blog (see below for further information), then make sure you have a “Hire Me” tab if you are available. This will then let others know that you are looking, and also what you are available for.

Many blog owners might also be looking around, or they might make blog posts directly stating that they need staff writers. Keep an eye out for this. It doesn’t hurt to just e-mail the websites directly. If you truly want to write for them, try sending them a quick e-mail, and attach some writing samples, and/or link to your blog as well.

P.S. I have received e-mails in the past, and I consider all of them, however, right now I am not looking for any staff writers :)

 

4. Make sure your articles are always top quality.

There are many reasons for this. Many website owners will refer your work to others, and what they think is most likely the best representation of your work.

Don’t expect to just be able to sit down, think of a topic and write it all up in 30 minutes. I keep a running notepad on my phone about my possible ideas for article topics. This is a lot easier because I tend to think of my best topics when I’m not trying to think about it.

A good post that you research, write, proofread, etc. might take around 1.5 to 2 hours. Possibly longer, all depends on the topic and how much research is needed for it.

 

5. Start your own blog.

A lot of you had the same question: How did you find your staff writing assignments? I then replied to you all with the same answer: Someone contacted me directly. I think having a personal finance blog definitely helps because people already have an idea of how I would write for them.

This is important here! Make sure the posts on your blog are high quality, as this is how you will be judged. Having your own blog and staff writing are very similar in that you will be creating articles for both.

Starting your own blog is always a great idea if you truly want to get into freelance writing. This is of course a topic that I will be writing about separately in another post (the topic of starting your own blog), so today I’ll just talk about how it pertains to helping you out with increasing your chances of landing a staff writing gig. I do have some tips listed on my Extra Income page about starting a blog, so take a look there for a start.

When you have your own blog, then a person looking for a freelance writer will already have an idea of your writing style and quality. This makes it a lot easier for someone to hire and take you onto their website.

 

6. Know your worth.

Different niches and websites probably have different starting rates for blog writing. Determine what you want to charge, and stay at least kind of firm with that amount. You don’t want to charge less than what you truly want or deserve, and then sacrifice quality because you think you aren’t being paid enough.

Determine how much you will ask for depending on the niche, the amount of words, and the amount of research needed for the article. There are many factors to think about. Are you purely just writing about your life? Or will the article topic take hours and hours to research, and then even more hours to write?

Obviously a 500 word article would probably be worth less than a 2,000 word article. The key is to keep all of the factors in mind and know your worth!

EDIT: Read about why Jordann thinks Staff Writing is the Perfect Side Hustle.

Do you do any freelance writing? How is it going for you?

If any of you know of any websites/forums where you can find legitimate writing gigs, please post it below. I will then add it to the post. Thanks!

Comments

  1. Laura S. says

    I am a fairly new reader of your blog and have to say you do a great job thoroughly explaining extra income. I do a lot of freelance writing (would love to get into staff writing). I have used sites such as Odesk to find freelance work. I never received much money through that, but it led to recommendations. Now I have a couple of regular and well paying freelance writing gigs. I always make sure clients know I have a blog and English degree. I believe both help me not only get the jobs, but negotiate better pay.
    My recent post Monday Musing-Ten Things About Me

  2. Holly@ClubThrifty says

    These are great tips! I agree that there are only so many personal finance topics that can be covered! I have thought about branching out my topics a little and trying to find somewhere to write about parenthood.

  3. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    Great tips Michelle! My wife and I both do our own freelance writing on the side to bring in some additional income. I agree that talking about PF all the time does get a bit boring and you can only cover a certain amount of topics. One thing I'll say about rates is to be careful not to lowball yourself. If you write for someone else and they refer you to their friends there might be the expectation that you do it for the same rate. Rates are always tricky and we've been doing it for several years.

  4. Lisa @ Cents To Save says

    In my mind, I think I would be a great staff writer but the reality is that I would definitely struggle with writing quality posts all the time. I admire your talents Michelle!
    My recent post Sunday Night Chit Chat

  5. mycanuckbuck says

    Thank you, thank you! I have sent this link to myself at home for future reference. It's really nice of you to share all your wisdom/experience. :)
    My recent post Easy ways to save money at the grocery store

  6. nicoleandmaggie says

    My freelance work also has tended to just come to me. But under my real name and unrelated to my blogging (I'm an expert on an important topic in economics). I have to fill out a form at work every time I do a freelance assignment, which is irritating. I've often thought that asking and soliciting would be the best way to go about freelance if I had time to do more. Scalzi talks about getting a copy of Writer’s Market and submitting stuff to places on it. I guess that's pre-blog though.
    My recent post Consumption value of chores?

  7. Ashlee says

    What a great read today, Michelle! Staff writing sounds very interesting. I'd love to read your articles on the Caribbean!!

  8. johnnyofb says

    Awesome saucesome post. Great info, Michelle!

    I work full-time as a writer for an advertising agency and my current side gig is our blog. So I get a little writing-ed out. :) I do much more freelance graphic design and web design work, and for the most part, all of your tips hold true for that line of work as well. I would also include tapping into your own networks. Most of my freelance work has come from former employers and friends. Throw a post up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or send direct emails and let people know you're accepting new freelance clients for X skillset. Even if they don't have any current work for you, odds are they'll pass the word along.
    My recent post Financial Baby Steps for Your Baby

  9. Rachel says

    Thanks! This was definitely helpful. I do freelance writing on the side (mostly unpaid though), I just find it hard to find paid work out there. I will check the Problogger site and keep trying to promote myself for paid gigs. Having a blog and online portfolio has helped me greatly- and I encourage both of those things to everyone reading this. If anyone knows of any other websites for freelance/staff writing jobs, I'd love it if you e-mailed me!
    My recent post 3 Things Every Blogger Should Do When Commenting

  10. Leslie says

    I have a free-lance writing gig that pays me in perks not money but that's okay by me. I was offered the position through Twitter. I retweeted a local blog enough times that they looked through my blog, liked my writing style, and asked if I was interested in writing for them.
    My recent post Goals are Challenges not Solutions

  11. Money Bulldog says

    I'm so glad it takes someone else 1.5-2 hours to write a post, I thought it was just me! I find myself reading a post through several times, changing the wording and ironing out any typo's as I go. Then there's the research. I hate to make a statement about something if I'm not at least 99% sure that it's fact. I'm sure I still miss things but I'd rather not post and leave it until the next day than send out something I'm not happy with.
    My recent post Making Money Online With HubPages

  12. eemusings says

    I am a writer by profession, so freelancing has probably been a lot easier for me than others. As always, it's hardest starting out – first you need to build your portfolio and get QUALITY clips, which will lead to more, bigger and better. The problem with online writing is it doesn't pay anywhere near what print publications pay (or used to pay). While I have one that pays REALLY well per post, the others are a lot lower, although the hourly rate works out OK (or I would drop them).
    My recent post Tuesday Three: Tech thoughts

  13. Sarah @ lovebites says

    Great post – and excellent tips. I've always heard that the only way to get started as a professional writer is by working for free – and I don't love that idea! :)
    Maybe I will get a little more serious about looking for paid gigs. Thanks for the inspiration!
    My recent post Recipe Tuesday – Easiest Satay Chicken Ever

  14. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says

    I freelance for a few travel blogs and it has been great for about three years, then I needed a break from the topic and now I am happy with my own blog. I still write a bit about travel but like you lowering the amount of work has made it more enjoyable.
    My recent post 13 money resolutions for 2013: #8 be happy!

  15. Cassi says

    This as very helpful and interesting! Also, like people above have said, I think number four is the most important tip you have given. No one wants to read something that the author obviously didn't take time on. Quality over quantity!

  16. Jessica @ Budget for Health says

    I never thought I’d become a staff writer but Derek at Life and My Finances helped me start my blog up and later asked me to start writing for him because he liked my unique financial twist I offered as a registered dietitian.
    Jessica @ Budget for Health recently posted..Budget Review: October – December 2012My Profile

  17. Christopher @ This that and the MBA says

    I love how ambitious your readers are. I think having a few blogs and a job takes up all my time. Right now I am interviewing virtual assistants to take some of my work load so that I can focus more on writing. The promotion aspect of blogging, I don’t really care for, but I do enjoy just getting out there and reading other blogs and just news in general. I come to work everyday and sit down and just crank thru my reader just soaking up all the information.
    Christopher @ This that and the MBA recently posted..Todd & Cue – The Importance of Business InsuranceMy Profile

  18. Jon says

    Thanks for such an informative post on freelance / staff writing. I have been reading blogs for years and finally decided to start my own. I think your site was one that really encouraged me to just get out there and start writing. And I'll agree with Christopher – your readers are just as inspirational. Thanks for the great post! I have saved it in my Evernote folder of blogging resources.
    My recent post Family Devotional: Interested In Spiritual Things – Week 3

  19. becca112971 says

    not sure i could do this I mean I love to write but i'm not sure my writing is good enough not only that but I tend to write fiction and poetry not many people want that
    My recent post Weighing In WK#7

  20. Canadianbudgetbinder says

    Thanks for the tips Michelle. Blog posts take me a while to put together as well. I wish I could whip one up in 30 minutes ( I could) but I know it won't be my best work. I hope the fans appreciate the time, effort, personalization, pictures, and structure that goes into a blog post especially if one adds in SEO etc. Keep up the great work. I don't staff write but maybe one day I'll branch out, that's the goal. I start out with one and see how I like it but know I have you to come bug for more tips… :-) Cheers mate.
    My recent post A Personal Story:Chores and Money Lessons Growing Up

  21. Suba says

    Thanks for sharing the tips Michelle. I am planning to dip my toes into freelance writing this year. But before that I want to improve my writing. I take a VERY long time to write each post. So I will be working for pennies an hr, if I keep up my current pace. I want to bring in some income from my blogging addiction this year, so I definitely want to improve my writing and start looking into some freelancing.

    Have a great weekend!
    My recent post How to get cheap prescription drugs and save money on medications

  22. @MySixthCents says

    I agree with you 100% that admitting denial is probably the most important step in achieving a debt-free life. I can say this because I have experienced a financial awakening of sorts just in the past year due in large part to people like you in the PF community who make known their debt goals and then TAKE ACTION to kill it! So keep on keeping on, sister :).

    But, cooking every meal at home is just not gonna happen when you live in Los Angeles. The food around here is too ridonkulously delicious.

  23. EDELMIRA WREBSTE says

    Thanks for this article. This article is very informative and innovative. I really appreciate your help. It is very useful for freelancing. After reading this remarkable paragraph I also glad to share my familiarity here with friends.
    EDELMIRA WREBSTE recently posted..Freelance Writer WebsiteMy Profile

  24. Crystal Yorker says

    Freelance writing has been a lot of fun for me over the past couple of years. I don’t do it full time, but its nice to get a PayPal transfer every few weeks for dinners/gadgets/etc

  25. Harry says

    Hi Guys,
    I wanted to be a writer. I am searching for sources for the best platform to write a novel & publish it. But I found this lithasa http://www.lithasa.com/ which says you can earn and build network when we start writing our first chapter.

    And they have created a new publishing model. They are looking for writers. So I would like to know more about it. Let me know.
    Thanks
    Harry.

  26. janice says

    FANTASTIC advice! I really love the content on this blog– it resonates with what I’ve been trying to build (ie. Freelance career, paying down my enormous student loan, etc). I enjoy your blog articles and helpful advice. Keep ‘em coming! :)

  27. Karen Martínez P. says

    Great post, Michelle!

    You’re right, it’s so tempting to write about everything we like and lose focus when we could be writing about a specific topic and get better results.

    I started my own blog already (it’s about freelancing, actually) and I hope to make a living from it next year.

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