Making money as a freelancer

This is very much a good news/ bad news situation.  It is possible to make money freelancing.  It’s even possible to make a living at it.  But the market is saturated with writers and with clients who will usually take cheep over good.  The good news is that if you can write at any sort of speed and once you have found the right client, you can build up  a good long term relationship with them.  A lot of the better clients will pay small bonuses for work completed quickly and well and will find you more work if they like you, with better terms.

There are a couple of things to look out for when sifting through the garbage heap to find a writing job.  I’ve found some examples of things to be careful of.  That’s not to say don’t write a proposal for these clients, they could be great, but be wary of them.

This post is a great example of a job I wouldn’t go for, the money’s ok at over $1000, but the client may be problematic.

“Ghostwriters required for Books.
Industrires: Varied.
Look forward to working with you.”

That’s the whole post.  There is no information about the actual assignment.  How much they want writing, their style/ genre preferences and their time scale are all a mystery.

It’s always a red flag when a client doesn’t even proof read their own job.  While the temptation to write in various “industirires” can be quite high, especially when you’re getting desperate, you really need to think this sort of job through.  Websites like upwork.com do offer some protection against not getting paid, (Upwork charges the client at the beginning of the project, and the money for a milestone is deposited in escrow) there’s a always a risk the client could screw you and a client with a job listing like this one is the most likely type.

Another red flag for me is the increasing number of platforms who think that writers should be grateful for the opportunity of exposure and want to pay us pennies.
“This will be a flexible internship job, compensation will be $3/article.

This will be a great opportunity for new aspiring writers, or even seasoned writers to have a platform to professionaly publish their work, and to put their work out in front of a large global audience.”

Let’s ignore the fact that they want to offer a space to “professionaly” publish your work online.  (No professional platform should let a mistake like that slip, especially in this day and age – I’m getting red lines on my screen from it ant I hate it.)  That’s tosh.  Total tosh.  Writing (or for musicians playing) for very little or free in order to get exposure is like asking an accountant to do your accounts for free because you’ll be submitting them to HMRC and that’s a very professional body.

$3 per article would get maybe 100 words from me – more like 80 if we’re honest.  The reality is that the intermediary website will take anything from 10%-25% of your takings.  upwork only take 10% but that would leave me with$2.70.  I’m British so that works out at £1.90  – paypal fees of 3.4% I’ll be left with less than £1.65.

While I am quite a quick writer and could do an article like this in about 20 minutes including research, even if I didn’t have to re-set my brain between articles and could do 3 an hour, that would be a pay rate of less than £5 an hour.  And that doesn’t include the time it takes to find the jobs and write the proposals, which is usually about 10 minutes per job.  If you count that in, it would be 30 minutes per job.  That would mean you’re paying yourself £3.30 per hour.

In the UK the minimum wage for me (over 24s) is £7.20.  I could flip burgers for more than twice money and at least then I’d talk to someone other than the mad animals all day.  Here’s the thing, while no one really writes for the money, you still have to pay the bills.  If you lived alone and had bills/food/ rent to pay you’d have to work 60 -70 hours a week to make enough to do that.  (unless you live in London, in which case you’d need to be working 100+ hours).  That negates the point of being a writer.

When you’ve found a job you like and applied there are always more pitfalls.  These are genuine responses I’ve received this week.

“I like your work, I’m struggling with the price though. let’s start the first book at 120$, I usually start at 100$, and if successful, we will negotiate for the upcoming work”

You read that correctly, $120 for a book.  (-10%=$108 into £ and minus paypal fees is £74.20)  I quoted cheep, too.  It’s really disheartening and the temptation at this point is to focus in on the ‘negotiations’ and the “upcoming work”.  Don’t.  This kind of client will generally hire you for one job and offer you the same rates for future work.  It’s a little  depressing but remember that if you are working you should be paid for working.  Full disclosure here, it wasn’t a 70,000 word novel he wanted, but 10,000 words.  That’s still 0.742 p per word. I wouldn’t mind 0.74 p per word if I was writing 70,000 words.  That at least would look OK when £500+ landed in my account, it would feel like I’d been paid, at least.

“Thank you for applying for this position. I have decided to go another way and not publish a book in this genre, so I will not be filling this position.”  This is another common pitfall when looking for writing work – people just pulling out of their own job.  It would be better manners to decide weather or not you had a position to fill before putting it out there, but at least this client let me know.  It’s a pain in the behind, but there it is.

That said, there are some fantastic clients out there who are looking for writers.  These are quite useful websites

upwork.com

http://www.journalismjobs.com/

http://www.freelancewriting.com/freelancejobs/freelance-writing-gigs.php

http://jobs.problogger.net/ (this one’s a little clunky, but the work’s on there!)

Writerslabs.com

oDesk.com

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3 thoughts on “Making money as a freelancer

  1. Interesting. For me, as for many bloggers, the thought of one day making a living through my writing is a wonderful dream. I’ve always suspected that it’d be tough work in practice, though. I also think I’d be far too slow. I’d starve within a month or two.

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    1. It’s always worth trying to find a smaller project to have a practice with. There are always people who need articles written and while it may not be worth while financially when you cost your time it could be a good way to test the waters – can you do it quickly enough? Could you just fit in a couple of articles a week to supplement your income/ pay for chocolate and wine?

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      1. Chocolate and wine? Yep, those are always welcome. I guess writing is something that may be worth investigating a little further. Perhaps I could write quickly enough if the finished pieces didn’t have to be too polished.

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