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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Four Secrets Of Freelance Writing

I've been freelancing for the last year and I've been reasonably successful for the past three months. This doesn't mean that I'm getting rich, but that I have managed to replace the salary I was earning as a part-time lecturer. In fact, now that I've cleared the overdraft I built up over nine months of earning a pittance, my account is in the black. During this time, I've learned a couple of things about freelance writing. I'm sharing those with you for whatever they're worth.

Freelance Writing Is Not A Get Rich Quick Scheme

Many people see freelance writing as a glamorous life. You get to write and earn shedloads of money. Wrong. Freelance writing - successful freelance writing - is a job. Even if you love it, you still have to work hard to pay the bills. More than that, you have to promote yourself feverishly in the hope that someone will give you that first break. And once you start to build up relationships with people, you will still have periods where the earnings are lower than you want.

Freelance Writing Gigs Are Like Buses

The thing is, freelance writing gigs are like buses (or taxis in North America). Nothing for ages, then three or four at once. Every writer has slow periods. The people who run freelance agencies will tell you that writing work slows over the summer and around major public holidays. Freelance writers have to prepare for these slow periods by taking the work when it comes. The upshot of this is that you balance times spent twiddling your thumbs with times where you can't leave your computer long enough to eat. With practice, you learn to estimate how long jobs will take you and when you need to start bidding. Right now, for example, I've stopped bidding for jobs, because anything I get is likely to be due either while I'm mid-air or while I'm wrestling with an Internet connection setup. I've told everyone that I'll be unavailable for a week from next Thursday. But, I've spent the last month preparing for this by taking on lots of work to build up some cash reserves.

Freelance Writing: You Have To Give To Get

As a freelance writer, sometimes you have to take work at much less than your preferred hourly rate. Even if you are worth $50 an hour, the realities of the internet marketplace mean that you will rarely get it unless you have an established relationship with a buyer. Instead, you may have to write for as little as 1 cent a word. This is not a lot, it is true, but if you are getting lots of work at that rate, it will soon add up. The faster you write (and your speed will improve) the better that hourly rate begins to look. Where this pays off is that you earn the trust of someone, who may well be prepared to pay you more the next time round.

Always Say Yes And Panic Later

When the writing work comes in, I sometimes wonder how I'm going to do it. I have a three year old and I do most of my writing three days a week, plus naptimes and evenings. At the moment I say yes to most writing jobs, and then I fit the writing into whatever time I have (in fact, I should be writing an article on credit cards right now). The reasons for this are:

  • to earn some money for writing
  • to increase my writing speed
  • to write about new topics and build up expertise
  • to build relationships with people who might give me more writing work
The next step is to weed out the non-payers and accept more work from those who consistently have jobs and pay on time. That will make it even easier to make a success of freelance writing. The

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