Why Not Me: Becoming a Freelance Writer

freelance writer board-1527807_960_720Guest Post
by Greta Burroughs

It is so frustrating to read blog posts and articles from folks proclaiming, “I made $1000 in one week by writing in my spare time.” Why can’t I do that? I’m not looking for any get-rich-quick schemes; I know better than that. I just want some writing gigs that will help pay the bills. I’ve spent the past year trying to break into the market, and I’d like to share what has worked (and not worked) in my quest to become a freelance writer.

Some of you may have thought about freelance writing, but don’t know where to start, or if it’s worth the trouble. Through my research, I’ve found out it is worth it. Many businesses, magazines, websites, and blogs depend on freelancers and will pay good money for quality work. The problem is getting your foot in the door. You need a portfolio with clips (published articles) from previous writing jobs, and know how to write a convincing query letter.

I worked as a freelance newspaper reporter years ago, but none of my articles are available online to use as clips. Therefore, I had to earn my credentials as I went along, starting with very low paying jobs. There are hundreds of legitimate platforms available for rookie freelance writers. Most of them are content mills where they find the clients, post the jobs, and the freelancer picks an assignment. I only made a few cents per word, but it did give me a few clips for the next step up.

Upwork is a content mill but instead of acting as the middleman connecting writer and client, the freelancer sends a proposal directly to the client for any job he or she is interested in. Many newbies have to send out a raft of proposals before someone considers them for a job. I was lucky. My fourth proposal hit pay dirt. I was fortunate to get a very nice contract working with a healthcare organization on a continuing basis for a decent wage. You have to be careful though; Upwork does not screen the jobs offered, so you have to choose cautiously to weed out the spam.

The best move I made was leaving the content mills and striking out on my own. I did gain experience and a few clips, but there was no future in it. I needed to expand my horizons and try to get some good gigs on my own.

My first step was signing up with Moonlighting.com. It was different, quite nice, and free. There are no go-betweens; clients post their jobs and freelancers list their services. I was very impressed with their platform, and I recommend it highly to everyone. Even if you have no intention of becoming a freelance writer, it can help bring in a few bucks during your downtime.

The best part is, it is not limited to just writing. There are categories for tech and web, handyman, family and pets, business services, and artisan, so as a freelancer you can find work utilizing other skills and hobbies you have – anything from walking dogs to building a website. Another benefit: you can also hire qualified people to help you out with projects as well. I wrote a blog post with links to sign up and post your job/service.

Between Moonlighting and my Upwork job, I’m moderately successful, but need more help breaking into the big time. I found it on Carol Tice’s Make a Living Writing website. Carol has been there, done that, and explains everything you ever wanted to know about freelance writing, but didn’t know who to ask. There’s a lot to learn. It won’t happen in one day, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll love it. Her advice and tips led me to successfully query and snag my first gig writing an article for a higher paying magazine. I’ve also sent out other queries and have leads to more opportunities. I wish I’d discovered this guide before slogging through the penny-a-word circus. But then again, I had to start somewhere.

I hope my experiences will help anyone thinking about becoming a freelancer. You can learn from my trials and tribulations while choosing your path to success. Give it a go. Try it. I think you’ll like it. I’m glad I persevered and made it this far. I may not be making $1000 per week, but I’m satisfied with myself. That’s what’s important, isn’t it?

greta burroughs 100x124pixelsGreta Burroughs is a freelance writer and author of children’s and MG/YA books. She and her husband, Robert DeBurgh, reside in the farmlands of coastal South Carolina with their four-legged children. You can learn more about Greta at her website and her Author Central page.

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22 thoughts on “Why Not Me: Becoming a Freelance Writer”

  1. Great article. I am a ghostwriter, and ghostwriters don’t share their portfolios (at least if they re ethical) with others. I went to the trouble of writing and publishing 63 books in lots of categories in order to show clients that I can write well. Well, that plus I want those books to sell.

    I do have an advantage in that I have 35 years of management, leadership and technical experience, and thus find it easy to get hired – once I find the right contact.

    1. Thank you, Richard. You are fortunate to have the experience from writing and publishing so many books. Ghost writing is a field that is difficult to break into, and you have the talent, skill, and expertise other freelancers envy. You have worked hard to earn your stripes and should be very proud of all your accomplishments.

    1. Thank you, Yvonne. I’m hoping others may benefit from my blundering around. Indies Unlimited has help me in so many ways, I just wanted to do my part and share something that may help another writer in this crazy business.

  2. Solid, no-nonsense advice! I feel like there is an absolute sea of bad advice you mention at the top of the article, so thank you for taking the time to work through your experiences with us.

    I too spent a while as a ghostwriter, and I got into this weird head-space where I didn’t want to publish under my own name to avoid complications with potential clients who may not like a particular topic or political opinion, etc etc.

    I particularly liked how you spent time going over the step-ladder process, and breaking down each “stage” of building success.

    Solid post 🙂

    1. Ben, I’m glad you liked the article. Every freelancer’s experience is unique, but we all have the same goal – getting published and earning some income in the process. Good luck with your ghost writing, and don’t worry about the subject matter of your own writing. Potential clients may not share the same opinions, but will appreciate your skill at presenting your side of the story.

      1. Thanks Greta! I’m getting out of ghostwriting, decided to try the full time job thing for a while, and so am feeling a lot less pressure on the freelance side of things. But I still want to keep posting content online, so this is still a great resource for me.

  3. And yet another ephemeral path to follow in the fantastic quest to become the ideal: a real, paid author 🙂
    Thanks for the info. Some day I may get up the gumption to do what you have done.

    1. ‘Some day I may get up the gumption to do what you have done’. Yes, me too! And just in case I do, I’ve bookmarked this article.

  4. Extremely helpful article, thank you. I’ve been looking for this information and it came at the right time! I’m an author of a book and many articles in various publcations, and also a journalist and reviewer for an online worldwide magazine for which I’ve written more than 50 theater reviews. I think I may just have a head-start and want to do it pronto. I will follow up on your leads and let IU know how I fare. Thanks again!

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