Freelance AdviceFreelance, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated
2013

How to Earn Money as a Freelance Writer


Cormac McCarthy, American novelist, Pulitzer Prize winner and playwright, once said, I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this.

This monumental task—figuring out how to do what you love (write) and pay the bills while doing it—is one that every writer faces, regardless of ability. However, before making the decision to quit your day job and launch out into the uncharted, and often stormy, waters of freelance writing, there are a few things you should know. Most importantly, you should know that the success you find in the field of freelance writing will be due to a mix of luck, fortitude and networking, and it will take a healthy dose of all three to thrive financially.

Freelance websites

In the Information Age, when everything has turned global, websites that offer freelancers the opportunity to create profiles and bid on jobs can be one of your best resources to earn steady money as a freelance writer. Websites like Freelancer.com and Guru.com are some of the most commonly used online portals for bidding on freelance writing jobs of all types—from ghostwriting to copywriting to everything in between. Both of these sites offer limited bid submission for proposals without having to pay a monthly fee; however, if you want to bid on a lot of proposals to increase your chances of getting the work, you will need to pay a small monthly fee to do so. The more proposals you bid on, the more money you will be able to make; so for some writers, this additional fee is worth it.

The best thing about websites like these is that the site administrators will ensure that you indeed get paid. They do this through setting up an escrow account in which the client requesting the work has to fund an account with the amount that is owed to you. Once you complete the job to the satisfaction of the client, the website will then release the funds to you. However, both Guru.com and Freelancer.com take a small percentage of the payment as their fee for facilitating the transaction.

The current going rate for most projects on freelance websites is approximately .01 - .02 per word. You will be hard-pressed to find clients who are willing to pay more, especially since the sites are international, meaning that there are thousands of international freelancers available through them who are willing to write for that amount if you aren't. While there are certainly jobs posted that do offer more money, signing up with the expectation of this amount of payment is your best bet in entering the field with a realistic understanding of what you can make as a freelance writer through these types of websites.

While freelance websites can offer you unlimited amounts of freelance writing work, the work itself is often unfulfilling for many writers. Copywriting includes writing online content about different topics—ranging from law for attorney blogs to sales copy for marketing companies. While the work is often steady, the writing can become extremely boring and repetitive the longer you do it. In addition, most of the clients you will find on these freelance websites want you to ghostwrite the copy, meaning that your name will not be attached to the content. If you want to just be able to work from home as a writer and make money doing it, these websites are a great option; however, if you want to make a name for yourself as a writer, you might try other avenues, such as writing for a magazine.

Magazines

For most freelance writers, writing for a magazine provides a better opportunity than freelance websites to find success as a freelance writer and build a solid reputation. When you publish an article for a magazine, your name is generally placed in the by-line and you are able to share your accomplishment with your friends and family, as well as use it as part of your "published work" portfolio to gain even more clients.

The best way to break into the world of freelance writing for magazines is to build a relationship with the editor of that magazine. This can be done in several ways but usually starts by sending a résumé and portfolio to him or her, and let the editor know that you are available as a writer for any freelance work that the magazine might have available in the future. If an editor is in need of freelance writers due to not having enough staff writers (which is often the case), he or she is likely to give you an assignment based on this interaction. However, if the editor doesn't immediately give you an assignment, it is up to you to be proactive and begin to look for stories that would catch the attention of the editor and the readership of the magazine.

Once you have an idea for a story, go ahead and query the editor with your idea by sending a letter or email with details about the article you'd like to write. For an even better chance of getting published in the magazine, write the article before querying. This will not only give the editor a glimpse of your ability but will also help "sell" your article, if it is written well.

Most magazines pay anywhere from $70-$100 for a feature story, so this is a great way to start making decent money as a freelance writer. However, it also requires you to be constantly creative and always observant in order to find the best content to pitch.

Get in-depth guidance delivered right to your inbox.
Subscribe
Chat With Us