When i first started to work from home, my initial goal was to freelance write for magazines. After a few failed queries to parenting magazines, I gave up. Even as my writing and credibility improved, breaking into the major magazines has been a challenge. On the other hand, writing for online markets is much easier. Plus they publish quicker and pay sooner.
Freelance writing online is different than traditional freelance writing. Many of these differences make online freelance writing ideal, including:
Of course, there are a few drawbacks:
What Online Markets Pay
Pay for online markets varies. If you want to write regularly for a specific company or content mill, you’ll be paid anywhere from $15 to $30 per piece. Some media sites pay up to $1 per word or $50 to $300 per piece, but usually you have pitch your idea and have it accepted. This is a great way to freelance, but it means writing a query and finding a resource who wants the article.
There are many opportunities to write for less, but I’d avoid those options, as it would be difficult to make a living writing for less than $15 an article.
You should also consider the time it takes to write your articles. I can write two how to fitness articles an hour. Those articles are 400 words, for which I’m paid $30 a piece or $60 per hour. Another place might pay $100 for an 800-word article, but if it has more hoops to jump through to get it written, such as in-depth research or interviews, it might take 4 hours to write, which equates to $25 per hour.
Most online writing jobs are done on a freelance or contract basis. That means the company does not take taxes or other fees from your paycheck. You’ll be responsible for paying quarterly taxes (if your tax liability is more than $1000 a year). This makes some would-be writers nervous. However, if you save a portion (i.e. 15 to 20%) of your pay for taxes, it’s not hard. Plus, working as a freelancer, you only have to pay the tax man quarterly as opposed to monthly, as in a traditional job. Finally, as a freelancer, you can deduct expenses needed to manage your writing career, such as home office, Internet access and more. You can learn more at the IRS online.
Skills Required for Online Freelance Writing
It goes without saying that you should be able to string words together in a coherent fashion, but writing online is different from others forms of writing. Here are skills you should have to successfully write online:
Many writing jobs don’t require any specialized education, training, or experience. However, if you have education or experience, it might provide opportunities not available to general writers. For example, LIVESTRONG pays a little more because it requires writers to have a background in health, fitness, or nutrition.
Sometimes life experience is enough to earn a writing job in a specific topic area. For example, About.com hires guides to write on tons of topics, including gaming, boating, soap operas, and cake decorating. While the company likes to have experts, often that status is earned through experience, not through education.
A Day in the Life of an Online Freelance Writer
There is no typical day for the online writer, but I thought I’d share some possible scenarios.
Writer 1: Writer one is a stay-at-home mom wanting to supplement her income. To afford to stay home, she has learned to live on nearly nothing. She supplements her income by making $800 per month writing for an Internet portal on affording to be a stay at- home mom.
Writer 2: Writer two works eight hours a day, sometimes more, cranking out ten $25 articles a day for a content mill earning $5000 per month.
Writer 3: Writer three wants to be a full-time writer, but can’t leave his day job yet. He earns $200 to $500 a month pitching to and writing content for a variety of online media.
Writer 4: Writer four makes most of her income copywriting for online businesses because it pays the bills. She pitches to and writes content for online media with the dream of focusing on article writing in the future.
Writer 5: Writer five writes for several online content outlets, cranking out several articles a day. Like writer two, writer five’s income is based on delivering as many articles for these resources as possible.
Essentially, you can mix and match writing resources to meet your needs. Content mills have a bad rap, but you get lots of practice writing and can earn decent income. You just have to avoid burnout while churning out several articles a day. Bloggers, online magazines, big companies, and many other online media hire content writers to keep their websites constantly updated with fresh news and information.
What Can You Write About?
While you can write about several topics, you won’t be able to write about all topics. Most online media sources will want you to show that you have knowledge along with writing skill before hiring you. For example, I can write for LIVESTRONG because I have an AFAA certification. I can write about parenting because I am a parent and I have a masters in social work. While you don’t necessarily need degrees and certifications, they can help. In this section, you’re going to inventory your education, training, experiences, interests, etc, for topics you can write about.
How To Write A Sample Article
Content mills, online portals, and many writing jobs require you to submit a sample, especially if you don’t have clips. Sometimes you’ll be given a topic to write about, while other times it’s your choice. I recommend having at least one sample article prepared for each topic area you want to write in. Here are tips to writing your sample article:
How To Write Your Bio
Queries and writing applications ask for a biography that shows your experience as a writer and/or knowledge of the topic. Often, this bio or a revised version is used when your article is posted online. The challenge of the bio is that you don’t have very many words to say how great you are. If you’re writing for a variety of publications, you’ll want different bios that best fit the topic area.
My suggestion is that you make a generic bio and then tweak it for each writing job you apply to or article you submit, based on the word count allowed and the tone and topic of the publication. To write your bio:
How To Use Social Media As A Freelancer
Lately, several of the writing jobs I’ve gotten included a requirement to share my work through my social networks. Most writers I know do this anyway, but some publications are vetting writers based on their social media presence. Because this is increasing in importance, I’m going to encourage you to create or beef up your social media involvement, starting with Google+.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t thrilled when Google+ came out because I didn’t want to have to learn yet another social media network. I’m still not thrilled with Google+, and I’m not very active there. You can’t automatically feed RSS or Twitter to Google+ like you can with other networks. If you change your header graphic to gigantic (which I did by accident), you can’t change it back to small. However, I’ve had three writing clients that required Google+ participation in order to write for them. Why? For a short time, Google had an authorship program, which would show photos of authors within search results on their articles. The idea was the photo would increase credibility of the listing and lead to more people reading the article. Google recently ended Google Authorship, but it will still show the author’s photo when search results refer to posts on the author’s Google+ page. Further, Google includes Google+ posts in search results. That means there is some benefit to sharing your published work on your Google+ page.
Along with submitting the usual information about you and your work, at Google+, you can list the sites you’re a contributor to through your profile.
I’m not qualified to go into detail about setting up and maximizing Google+, but here are some good books on the topic, including What the Plus! by Guy Kawasaki and Google+ for Dummies by Jesse Stay.
Facebook and Twitter are also a good bet when it comes to building a social media following. The good news is that you can set your Facebook account to pull your posts from Twitter, so you only need to share your articles on Twitter and they’ll automatically go to Facebook.
LinkedIn is a good option if your articles are career or business related, or targeted to professionals, or if you want to network to find more writing jobs. If you write crafts, recipes, and other articles that include photos, Pinterest is a good place to build a following.
Checklist for Freelance Writing Online
That is it for today. I’ll see you in the next article.