Can you really make a living as a freelance writer?
Are you trying to get work as a freelance writer, only to continually run into ads that say things like this:
As Much Work as You Can Handle: The project involves profiles of 500 to 1000 words. Samples are based off of our work log, so accepted ones will be compensated. Each accepted sample will be paid for at a rate of $12 each.”
Oooh. As much barely compensated work as I can handle? Sign me up!
It took me about three and half seconds to find a ridiculous job ad to post here because there’s such a depressing wealth of material out there.
So where else can freelancers go to find paying jobs? There are some sites where freelancers can hawk their services, but that begs this question:
Are Elance and Odesk a scam?
If you create a profile on a site like Elance or Odesk, the idea is that work should just come to you. People always ask me if these sites are scams. I can’t say for sure, but even if they’re not, there are plenty of other reasons to hate them.
On its homepage, Elance boasts that it has 386,500 writers. Let’s put that into perspective. Wembley Stadium holds a max capacity of 90,000 souls. So you actually have a better chance of being randomly picked from the crowd to dance onstage with Bono during a sold-out U2 concert than you do to get your profile seen on that site. (And in case you’re wondering who U2 is, here ya go). You might as well buy a lottery ticket.
Say it with me, peeps: F*ck that shit. (‘Scuze the profanity, but sometimes a “f*ck that shit” is called for.)
The high cost of unpaid work
No wonder so many writers are down in the dumps.
Continually coming up against absurd job ads or nearly insurmountable odds to make a few bucks — or in some cases, not even that — can take a toll.
The fact is, there are a lot of people who de-value writing. Since most people write all the time — emails, social media updates, etc — they argue that writing isn’t all that hard, so they shouldn’t have to pay out to get someone to fill some space on their website.
But listen, just because everyone can sing in the shower doesn’t mean everyone should cut an album. You and I know that there’s a difference between updating your Facebook page and writing a quality article that’s going to connect with readers.
There will probably always be those $12 job posts floating around out there. The key is to divorce yourself from that world entirely and start playing on a different level.
Why now is a great time to be a freelance writer
Most of the aspiring freelance writers I know fall into two groups:
- People who have professional writing backgrounds but can’t find/can’t land or don’t want a full-time job. Many of these people are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to translate their considerable skill sets into paid work at a time when the traditional publishing industry is on life support and many businesses are only hiring writers at entry-level salaries.
- People who have never made their living as writers, but who write a LOT. These people have probably done unpaid work creating articles for various sites in exchange for “exposure.” They probably have their own blogs, which they may have tried to monetize through affiliate ads, sponsorships, or memberships. These people want to make the leap into serious PAID writing, but struggle to be taken seriously as anything more than hobby bloggers.
I have good news for both groups: You’re probably more employable than you think. You just need to know how to package your skills in a way that the right businesses will see your value (and let’s be clear: by “see your value” I mean “pay you money”).
Can we call it PAYlance instead?
Over the next buncha weeks, I’m going to post a new article every week showing you exactly how to get paid work. There’s a lot to say, so we’re going to take it all in bite-size chunks.
Since this is our intro week, I’m going to give you a deceptively simple homework assignment — however, it’s hugely powerful if you ever want to make a living as a freelance writer. (Can I just smack the idiot who coined the term freelance? Talk about a misnomer.)
You have to take to the PAYlance Pledge. And yes, I’m going to insist that you stand up and raise your right hand and say this out loud for the world to hear it.
The PAYlance Pledge:
I hereby promise that I will no longer de-value my time and my skills by applying for jobs that pay a lower hourly rate than that received by fast-food workers. I will not write in exchange for ‘exposure’ unless I have solid proof that the website is going to build my professional credibility in a way that will eventually lead to dollars in my pocket. From today on, I will honor my skills and my talent by only conducting business with people who see my worth.”
(Favor? I’d love to see this in action. Tweet me a pic of yourself taking the pledge @TrishSammer. Tag it #PAYlancepledge.)
Gettin’ down to the nitty gritty
Here are some topics we’re going to cover in the coming weeks:
- How to best match your skill set to legit businesses that pay real money
- Strategies for bringing in a consistent, predictable monthly income
- How to identify the right (and wrong) companies to work for
- How to figure out what to charge
- How to network effectively (and in way that doesn’t involve tweeting at strangers until they notice you)
- How to stop begging for work by building your referral pipeline so works come to you
- How to wow your clients once you land them (and how to deal with the difficult ones)
Next week, we’re going to dive into something really meaty that you absolutely should not miss: The #1 way I make money blogging for businesses.
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Here’s to getting PAID for your work in 2015!