One of the biggest benefits to being a freelance writer is ALL the options you have.
You can work from home, on the go, or you can even work in a shared space or office with other freelancers in your area.
In the morning, you can get up at 6 a.m., put on your best suit and tie and stick to a rigid schedule or, if you’d rather, you can lounge in your PJs and wake up when the mood strikes. The choice is all yours.
The freedom of freelancing doesn’t stop at your wardrobe, office or schedule though. You also have a lot of options in the type of work you do and how you can get paid to write.
Unlike other careers, there’s no hard-and-fast description of what a freelance writer must do.
Instead, you can take whatever path you like. You can write blogs, web content and marketing materials for corporate companies, you can start a blog about your passion, or you can even write a book.
All of these options? They supply you with INCOME.
Sure each one is a little different, with unique pros and cons, but there are SO many ways you can get paid to be a freelance writer.
Some pay more, some pay less, and some are just a means to an end. Others will help get you to that six-figure career you’re looking for, while others will just help you pay the bills in a pinch.
They all serve their purpose though, so I want to outline each of them in this post and provide you an overview of the online freelance writing landscape.
Familiarize yourself with these online freelance writing options and be aware of the opportunities each presents.
1. Content Mills
Content mills use freelance writers to create content for their clients – usually corporate businesses and companies that need blogs, articles, web content or other written copy.
Content mills act as a middleman between you and the client. Clients go to them for work and they contract out the writing to you.
Most of the mills operate on a strict payment and assignment schedule. You get paid a certain amount per word or per piece, and you log into a dashboard to retrieve your assignments, submit your work and get feedback.
They’re generally easy to use, and there’s not much barrier to entry. Content mills will usually let even the most beginner writer jump on board, as long as you take a brief grammar or writing test before or they approve your writing sample.
Here’s the catch though: Content mills don’t pay well.
They pay pennies per word. That means you could write a 1,000 word article only to get paid $5 or $10 dollars. It’s a lot of work for very little pay.
That doesn’t mean content mills aren’t without merit though. For a freelance writer just starting out, they can be a great way to get your foot in the door.
- Get experience writing for professional clients
- Use editorial feedback to improve your writing chops
- Build up clips (if you’re getting bylines)
- Become more knowledgeable in a niche
- Boost your confidence as a writer
- Get a quick infusion of cash
If you’re just starting out, a content mill can be a good place to start.
It will help you pay the bills, increase your confidence and you can also get some experience while you learn the ropes.
If you want more information on my top 3 content mills and how to get started, check out this post.
Just don’t plan to stick around content mills for too long. There are bigger and better opportunities out there waiting for you.
And if you have been working with content mills for some time now, consider transitioning into working with clients directly. There are plenty of companies and individuals who are willing to pay you what you are worth.
2. Bidding Sites
Bidding sites are websites that allow freelancers to bid on jobs like an auction.
They pit you against other freelancers out there and let clients choose whichever writer fits their needs and budget best.
These sites have some major pros and cons. For one, they can pay well – as long as you set your rates high, bid high and you are careful about which jobs you apply to.
They also usually guarantee your payment, so if you put in the time, you will never get stiffed – no matter how high the bill is. You don’t even have to create an invoice!
The big downside is that bidding sites are competitive. Some of the more popular sites have millions and millions of freelancers on them, so it can often be hard to get noticed. If you want to command a higher rate, this will be difficult to do as well.
There are many budget freelancers on these sites that will undercut your rate at every turn, and that’s important to a money-conscious client.
You have to be good at proving your value, showing your worth, and applying for jobs that fit the talent and skill level you have to offer. It can take some time to build a reputation on these sites.
If you decide to work exclusively on bidding sites, build your resume and writing brand outside of these sites as well. This way, if you decide down the road you want to expand your horizons, you won’t have wasted all of that time.
Some bidding sites I’ve used before include:
If you’re an expert on a certain subject matter or you just have a great story to tell, self-publishing can be a way to earn some cash, too.
Using tools like Amazon Kindle or NOOK Press, all you need is a PDF version of your content, and you can convert your writing to eBook form. Then you can set a price and put it up for purchase.
Be aware of the financial gamble here though. You won’t get paid right away for your work, so you’ll likely need other income to float you while you work on your content. Payments for self-published works won’t come until much later – once your copy is finalized and your eBook is available for purchase on an online platform. You also have to factor in the time it takes to market your eBook and gain sales.
If you are interested in the Kindle platform, check out this article that explains how to get started self-publishing on Kindle.
With a blog, you can earn content in a number of ways.
- You can sell your own products on your blog. These could be physical products that you ship out, or they could be digital, like eBooks, white papers, PDFs and more.
- You can also earn cash by selling advertising space on your blog. If you have a specific audience, you may be able to approach companies directly and sell ad space, but if not, Google Adsense makes filling up your page with related advertising pretty easy. Select what categories and sites your readers might be interested in, and Google populates the page with ads they’ll like. Then, the more those ads get clicked, the more you earn.
- Affiliate marketing is another way you can earn money on your blog. As an affiliate, you promote other people’s products, and they give you a portion of the profits if it results in any sales.
Use these three money-making methods separately or all together. Your choice will depend on the nature of your blog and your audience.
I also recommend using your blog as a way to build up your portfolio. If you’re short on clips, create blog content to show off to potential clients. Then, use those links to fill up your portfolio and resume the next time you apply for a new gig.
5. Direct Clients
Working with direct clients is what most people think of when they hear “freelance writing.”
It involves working one-on-one with clients, providing them writing services directly or from your agency if you have one.
I can tell you from experience that working with clients directly is your best route to a high-earning freelance writing career. It takes a little hustle, some good negotiating and marketing skills, and a little hard work, but you can do it.
If you want the cliffnotes version of how to find and land MORE freelance writing jobs and clients, check out my Ultimate Client-Getting Masterclass. It’s a short video training where I show you my EXACT steps to attracting, finding and contacting clients who will want to work with you.
There are a few ways you can start to solicit more direct clients:
- Create a portfolio / resume website – Create a great website with your bio, clips, and resume. I also recommend including a blog, and if you know SEO, optimize it so potential clients can find you in the search engines.
- Get active on LinkedIn – You’d be amazed at the number of clients I get through LinkedIn, so tend to your profile often and connect with as many people as you can. Upload writing samples, get recommendations from past clients, and network as much as possible.
- Check job sites – Many companies will post ads looking for freelance writers to help with their needs. Make it a daily habit to search these out, and craft customized applications for each.
- Pitch your services – Reach out to companies and prospective clients you find online and send them a pitch for your services. If a company has a website and online media, they will need content writers.
- Do great work – After some time working for direct clients, I didn’t need to go on the hunt anymore. They came right to me, and you know why? Because past clients told them I did great work. Word-of-mouth referrals are your strongest selling point, so leave every client satisfied. You never know where your next great gig will come from.
Direct clients come more and more easily the longer you’re in the business. Over time, you reach a tipping point where clients come knocking down your door, and that’s when you can raise your rates, take it easier, and enjoy that rewarding writing career I know you can have.