Friday, June 19, 2009

Five Tips for Beginning Freelance Writers

My today's guest blogger is an up and coming freelance writer. Here, she doesn't hesitate to share what she's learnt with others. Check out her advice!

You've made the decision to make a living as a writer, hopefully out of love for the art and the fact that you've been scribbling away in notebooks and on computers for most of your life. Here are a few tips that can not only get you started, but help you out of a slump if you are in one.

1. Get some career experience first

Freelance writing isn't something I would recommend doing straight out of college. Get a job, any job, for a year or so in order to understand the head space that your future customers will be in. Even if you are working in a related field, such as publishing or journalism, get in somewhere where you are exposed to an office and management environment. You'll learn how to be diplomatic when presenting ideas, you'll understand what "busy work environment" means, and a million other small things that you just won't learn if you work out of a home office forever. You can also use this time to build your portfolio part-time so that when you are ready, you come out of the gate with a strong showing.

2. Look everywhere

Don't restrict yourself to looking on Craigslist and online bidding sites for work. These are really the low rungs of the freelance writing ladder and good jobs await you in other places. Sign up with an agency for creatives, such as The Creative Group, Aquent or another high-end agency. While they may seem like temp agencies on the surface, these agencies are actually the source of some lucrative contracts that can result in a killer portfolio. Also, explore sites such as, Darren Rowse's ProBlogger and Deb Ng's

I know that some will have fervent objections to my dismissal of online bidding sites such as Elance and Guru. However, my views are based on personal experience after giving these sites a good try for more than just a few months. Despite the opportunities that are available there after you spend a lot of time wading through the muck, you shouldn't have to pay a membership fee or commission for your job leads. The exception would be well-vetted sources like, which provides excellent leads for their low membership fee. Freelance Switch, in addition, wouldn't dream of asking for a commission on your project.

3. Join a professional association

In Canada, we have an association called PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) that offers its members access to premium job leads, a profile on its websites that prospective buyers look at, and seminars to upgrade your skills. There are similar associations in the US at both the State and the Federal level. These are sources of quality leads and excellent networking opportunities with your fellow writers.

4. Hone your skills wisely

I haven't had any formal training in creative writing since I left University in 1995. To keep myself sharp, I practice writing daily in my various blogs and read various books on writing from authors that know what they are talking about through proven results, like a long list of clients or a significant industry background. It is more important to write than read; start a blog journaling your experiences on Inked In, Blogger, or your own domain.

5. Learn Wordpress

Buy a domain name and hosting and start your own blog using Wordpress. This may seem like a huge step for most of you, but it is so vital that you have Wordpress skills if you want to get blogging gigs. Setting up your own personal portfolio site is the best way to start and it is dead easy. I recommend for their one-click Wordpress installation, and the fact that you can host multiple sites on their server for $10-$30 a month, depending on the plan you choose. Blog owners will like that you recognize what they are working with and are much more likely to hire you.

Lastly, recognize that you are in an industry where writers are in demand, not the other way around. Low payers often like to put down writing and editing skills as being worthless in order to manipulate you into accepting low pay. Don't fall for this. You are the one who is in demand, not the other way around. Adjust your rates accordingly.

About the Author

Angela West runs and has found success as as freelance writer after a year and a half researching various methods of finding contracts. She believes that anyone else with a talent for writing also can and has set up her blog to help her fellow Canadian writers drill down on the jobs that they are eligible for. Her professional site is Working Web Copy.


Keith said...

How could I miss the fact you came to California???

Too much work, I think I should quit ;-)

Ridwan said...

If you really did find a working formula that made you, say $1,000 a week online on average and it kept producing income no matter what, would you want to sell that idea to a bunch of noobs for $47 a pop and expect to retire on the proceeds? No way, man! It does not compute. It does not add up. And it does not make any sense to do that. I certainly don’t go shouting from the rooftops how I make my money online. Hell, I don’t want the competition taking a slice of my pie and neither would anyone who really does make good cash online.

Usha Krishnan Sliva said...

Hi Ridwan,
There's never a single formula to make money. And what works for one may not work for another. But most ebooks and ecourses do offer a lot of valuable advice, which you need to then take and combine with common sense and hard work. I've invested in a lot of books and courses and even if I use only a few of the tips I've learnt from them, they are really well worth the money I've spent.