The online world is full of opportunities to earn extra money, or even start a whole new career.
There are lots of options out there, and the trick can be finding one that’s right for you. If writing is up your street, it may be a lot easier to get started than you think.
What is freelancing writing anyway?
While you may have heard the term “freelancing” before, you may not know exactly what it actually is.
Simply put, it means you are an independent contractor, writing for one or a variety of publications. While you will likely have to pitch yourself to potential clients, you will be your own boss, and this goes hand-in-hand with its own set of perks.
What are the benefits of freelancing?
Freelancing can be a lot of work, but it does come with a set of benefits that you may not find with a typical 9-to-5 job.
In many cases, you can set your own hours, and choose the work you want to take on. This means you can choose to focus on articles centred on a topic you are interested in, and this interest will likely be reflected in your work.
Another perk of online freelancing is that you can write from almost anywhere with a decent Wi-Fi connection, whether that’s in the middle of downtown Toronto, or a cottage rental down south. This makes it a good choice for students, “snowbirds” and others who find they are often on the go.
How much can a freelancer earn online?
There’s really no hard and fast rule for this, as the amount you earn depends on how much you write and what contracts you accept.
According to statistics from PayScale.com, the average income for American writers is about $23.90 per hour, and it’s similar for Canadians. Books like The Writer’s Market may be helpful, and the Editorial Freelancers Association also provides a rate guide.
What skills are needed to be a freelance writer?
While a freelancer should obviously have excellent language and grammar skills, there can be a lot more to it than that.
Time management, being organized, keeping track of your contracts and ideas are also all vital areas for you to develop. You will need to make sure you keep track of your records, and set aside an amount each month for taxes and to fill out your Form T2125.
It’s also a wise move to look into an RRSP program and an extended health care insurance plan, as you will be considered self-employed.
Many freelancers set up an online payment service such as PayPal or TransferWise attached to their business bank account so it will be easy for them to get paid. A business phone number and email account can also be important assets.
Polished writing looks professional
Whether you are a new writer or have been doing so for many years, it’s never too late to upgrade your writing techniques.
Brush up on your grammar skills, and if your work is focused on a niche market, put in plenty of research and use the jargon and other specific language used in the field, as long as you’re confident in doing so.
Set up your spot
An important part of being a freelance writer is setting up your work space.
How this looks will depend on what’s comfortable for you, and it could be anything from a coffee shop, a home office, or a corner of your living room.
Keep in mind that you may have clients that would like to connect with you through Facetime or another video chat platform, so it can be smart to reserve a space with an appropriate background for these calls.
One of the elements of working online that can be a struggle is balancing your family with your career. If you share your home with a roommate or family, make sure they understand that when you’re working, it’s “do not disturb’ time.
Make sure you have the right tools
While it may sound obvious, having a decent quality computer or laptop, as well as a good Wi-Fi connection, is vital.
If you plan on including any pictures or graphics in your work, it can pay off to familiarize yourself with photo editing software, and purchase a suite that works well for you.
Set up your own website
Once you’ve done your research and have your home office set up, you’re ready to go.
Setting up a blog-style website to showcase your work makes a lot of sense, and is something that many freelance writers do.
It’s a space where potential clients can view samples of your work, learn about your education, background and pricing structure, as well as submit any requests. There are a variety of platforms to choose from, such as WordPress and LinkedIn, and other options are available. It can help to do some research to find out which site works best for you.
What if you have no experience?
While this may all sound simple enough, getting started can still be quite daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
A good first step is to get lots of practice in. Write about anything and everything, even subjects you have little interest in. Have a friend or someone you trust be a harsh editor, which will ultimately help your work improve. Some find it helpful to use a notebook or device to jot down ideas as they come, so they can get back to them later.
Understanding the editing process
As a new writer, it can be really important to understand the editing process, as it may sometimes feel as if you’re not getting anything right.
In many cases, you will be asked to submit a draft, it will be sent back with editorial comments that you will be expected to incorporate. This cycle may be repeated several times.
Don’t give up, and don’t take it personally. They do so because your editors want you to produce superior work, and this is how your writing improves.
Develop your talents while helping others
A great way to get in some extra writing practice is by offering your services for free to charity, or not-for-profit-groups you support and believe in.
This allows you to hone your talents while giving yourself the satisfaction that may come from helping others, and your passion will come through in your article, making for a more interesting read.
Find an agency can be helpful
Many writers find that reaching out to companies like Words of Worth can be an excellent way to get their feet wet, and some even choose to stay on for the long term.
This offers authors an opportunity to “earn while they learn”, as the editors will provide them with helpful feedback that can improve their overall skill set.
Networking is nifty
Without even realizing it, you may already have a business or social network that may be helpful when it comes to launching your new career.
Just as with other sectors, authors often come across writing jobs by word of mouth or reaching out to their connections. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Networking with other writers can also be helpful. You can share resources, best practices and tips as well as your mutual tales of woe, and you may even be able to help each other out if you take on more than you can handle.
You can use social media to connect even if you can’t meet up in the real world, and you’ll find there are lots of other writers out there hoping to connect.
Craft your contracts with a professional
As an independent contractor, you will need to prepare contacts for your clients to agree to. These protect both of you, and it can be a smart move to have a lawyer look over your template to make sure it is adequate and appropriate.
Consider content mills
Also known to many as “content mills”, content networks such as VeryWell and Writing Bunny can be an option for freelancers who are just getting started.
These sites depend upon having huge volumes of content on a variety of topics, and this helps drive traffic to the site. They often utilize affiliate links, and it may be a good chance to score a first client.
Keep SEO in mind
Also known as SEO, search engine optimization is a technique writers can use to increase the chance that an article will rank higher in search results. These are actually a lot simpler than one might think, and there’s lots of free resources out there to choose from that explore this in depth.
Put your best foot forward
One of the tasks you may have to take on as a freelancer is pitching yourself to potential clients.
When preparing your pitch, make sure you send it to the right individual and address them personally. Keep it professional, and explain how you can benefit them.
It’s smart to keep it short, and include a call to action at the end.
Craft a cold pitch
While you may not feel comfortable blowing your own horn, the truth is that as a freelancer, it’s something you’ll have to do.
Cold pitching companies can add to your customer base, but before you get started, do your research. Find out about the company so you can prepare a piece that is attention grabbing and outside the box. You can then use this to pitch yourself to a business or organization.
One group that is often overlooked when it comes to cold pitching is the small business community. Visit their websites and see which areas could stand some improvement, create some content, and then submit your suggestions. The results may be pleasantly surprising.
You might also find an opportunity in revising abandoned blogs. Companies often start them, but find it hard to keep the momentum going. You can offer, for a fee, to bring them back to life using SEO and other techniques to attract higher volumes of traffic that could be converted to new customers.
Peruse online job boards
Online job boards set up by companies such as FlexJobs, Writers Work and Indeed may all offer job opportunities for writers. While many are free, some do charge a fee to join.
It can be a smart move to do lots of research before you make any commitments, especially if you are asked to pay an upfront fee.
Discover the power of niche news
If you have a special area of or expertise in a very specific niche, you can offer to cover this area for a local paper or other media. This is all part of getting your name out there and creating an increased demand for your services.
Search for startups
Google and other search engines can prove to be helpful tools.
Do a check for startups or other new businesses in your area, so you can be the first one to offer your services. A Chamber of Commerce director can provide a list of business contacts as well as details about any grand openings taking place.
Be great guest poster
One easy way to get your work seen and read is to offer to be a guest poster for another blog in your particular niche.
You can then return the favour, and this will offer the secondary benefit of helping to build your network. As your reputation builds, you may even find that you get more requests to be a guest poster.
The work can be very rewarding
As a writer, you will have the opportunity to help your business and not-for-profit clients find success. While it may be a lot of hard work at times, the financial payoff may be quite lucrative. The emotional pay off can also be quite high, especially when you see your efforts make a real difference.
Freelance writing can be a great career for those who enjoy crafting quality work. At Words of Worth, we help our writers develop their skills in a supportive environment, and we pay them well for doing so.
Get in touch with us to find out how you can put your literary talents to use writing from home.