Posted in PostaDay, writing

A Forum on Freelancing

working at the State Park entrance booth--or, as Keoni preferred to call it, "the Kissing Booth"

Almost four months ago my seasonal job at the Idaho State Park near our house ended with the summer. My husband Keoni and I had been tossing around the idea of NOT searching for my “next job,” but doing something instead that I felt moved to do (namely, write) and treating that as though it were a job, even without a paycheck-prospect in sight… I’m blessed to have a husband who thoroughly supported, even argued for, this impractical plan–and who didn’t tie any financial qualifiers to its measure of “success” when we talked about the prospect.

I particularly consider his attitude a blessing in light of the fact that we truly aren’t in a financial situation where a second income is a negligible or disposable item.  The official “poverty line” for a family of our size is more than twice our own family’s income. (I’m not complaining; as I wrote last month, we are living richly and joyfully even with the odds stacked against us.  But I think it illustrates just how crazy the choice was, from a practical viewpoint. And just how generous it was of Keoni to encourage my craziness.)  Three years ago when we each made seventy grand, a choice like this wouldn’t have been an issue at all, but now…

I began to write...

Being an obsessive numbers-girl, I spreadsheeted this decision to death, trying to wrench it into some view that would make it arguably practical–but even math  isn’t that magical.  One small step for the spreadsheet-bound logician, one giant leap for the Writer. I began to write.

I’ve been at it for a few months now, and to my utter amazement, I earned more money this week than I ever did in a week at the park.  I write articles for an Idaho travel magazine, which hasn’t netted a paycheck, but the magazine pays to send me on trips.  I write book reviews, which don’t pay in cash, but in free downloads of novels to my iPad.  (If I did have extra money, the “luxury” items I’d spend on would be Travel & Books!)  And with the other work, I’m actually paying bills now.

Because I mention freelancing in this space, I’m often asked about where I find work, or if I can offer suggestions.  Well, I’m new to this, and my experience is limited–I can share what I have learned, but it occurs to me that the community of Writers here could be a great resource, both for others who are interested, and for myself!  So today I wanted to ask those of you who write in a freelance capacity to share your experiences with us!  A Freelancers’ Forum, if you will…

So here are my own beginner’s thoughts on freelancing experiences and ideas, and I’m hoping to hear from some of YOU on the topic as well!  I would welcome corrections, additions, new ideas, deeper experience, humorous anecdotes… Whatever you have in your pockets, I hope you’ll share!

Bidding for Freelance Jobs Online

Sawtooth mountains Idaho
Hard AT WORK (on copy for a car-rental agency) in the Sawtooth mountains while Keoni fishes for dinner...

I got my start at Freelancer.com, which allows writers to create profiles for free, designate the areas or topics about which they’re qualified to write, and bid on the hundreds of jobs posted there. [Clarification note: there’s another site called freelance.com–I haven’t used it so can’t say if it’s useful or not…] Freelancer takes a 10% cut of any bid you win, and because they don’t want to lose their middleman status, you’re not supposed to give any contact information–but several clients have actually done an end-run around that requirement and contacted me directly, offering a job outside the Freelancer venue where nobody was taking a cut. (Having said that, I’ll mention the fact that when you stay within the Freelancer system, there’s an avenue for recourse if another person deals unfairly with you or tries to stiff you for a job.)

As I scan the project bids on Freelancer.com, the thing that jumps out at me is the sheer number of people bidding who aren’t able to put together a decent sentence even when a job is on the line.  Seriously, it has become a regular form of entertainment at home for me to trawl through the project bids and read aloud the ridiculous ones to Keoni.  Aside from its entertainment value, it’s worth noting that although there may be dozens of bids on a project, a lot of those bids are pure throw-aways.

Just for entertainment  examples of how-NOT-to’s, here are some real bids I copied just last week, unaltered (aside from removing names to protect the stupid innocent), with a couple bracketed comments from me. Most of them speak for themselves…

  • i am a experience writer
  • sir i am although new but very professional and talented
  • i am interested in your project and will give u. quality of work.
  • Hi i am can do fast and good
  • here are the skilled freelancer to give you fabulous services. 
  • I’m sure I am very much capable to do this type of job.
  • This is [name] working with mine team having 12 in member. Deliver more than 1000 articles a day with mine colleges.
  • I`m interested in this job,tel me know details.
  • I am struggling to earn a few good reviews being new on the freelancer site. With my unique style of writing, I am sure you could help me achieve what I came looking for. [A bid would be a good place to highlight what YOU can offer, not what you hope to get out of it…]
  • I always make huge research before going through the work. 
  • Hello brother i need that job.It is much comfortable for me.
  • you set the price range wrong [Wrong? If you don’t like it, don’t bid.]
  • Hello I am fresher and i understand your work . i am energatic and hard working .
  • I’m interested about your project and i can do fast better accuracy.give me a chance
  • I can deliver you this article. I am individual and also having good team of professionals.
  • I can write as good as a native speaker.
  • Hello sir, No more talk let`s do it.Because trust me and believe my work. Thank you Bye.
  • i have read your jod description and i am willing to pick the position of one of the prestigious writers needed by you..
AT WORK--on an expenses-paid trip for an Idaho travel magazine... "Pay" can take more forms than just cash.

Okay, I’ve had my chuckle. On a more serious note, here are some tips I’ve picked up from my voyeurism (and my own mixed-success bidding) on this site:

  1. The bid itself should be written professionally and correctly, without texting-type abbreviations, and with proper punctuation.
  2. Offering a writing sample helps–just don’t make the mistake of submitting a sample that’s an example of what the prospective client actually needs written for this project, because then you’ve just given away your work for free.
  3. A bid should highlight (and hopefully demonstrate) the skills and applicable experience of the writer.  Somewhere on the scale between “arrogance” and “desperation,” there’s a perfect tone of “confidence”–try to aim for that.
  4. I’ve found that a little sense of humor goes a long way in attracting a prospective client’s attention.  Even once you toss out the ridiculous bids on a project, there are usually a number of viable writers bidding there–and all other things being equal, the chuckle might be the little thing that makes the difference.

I’ve also picked up a couple jobs from Craigslist, and I know there are other freelance bidding sites out there, though I haven’t tried them yet.  Do YOU have recommendations of sites for finding jobs?

Writing Samples

The folks who are posting projects for writers don’t have a lot to go on when they’re looking at those bids (aside from being able to eliminate some of them pretty easily), but if you provide a writing sample, they don’t have to buy the proverbial “pig in a poke.”  (Ever wonder where that saying came from? Turns out a “poke” is a sack, and a sack-wrapped piece of undesirable meat could be sold as pork if the buyer didn’t check…)

ready-to-go "Writing Sample"

What I’ve actually started doing is providing the url for this blog as a “sample of my writing style,” and when my blog-stats show a hit “referred from” the Freelancer site, I’ve often gotten a job offer soon after.  That’s also how a couple folks did the “end-run” around Freelancer’s no-contact-information policy; they came here to check the writing sample, then contacted me directly through the blog.

It also occurred to me to plant a flag on the blog itself to say I’m available for writing jobs, so I added the Need a Writer? tab–and I’ve gotten a couple hits from that.  (One of them–two hundred articles on yeast infections–I probably could have done without, in retrospect…)

That’s also how I connected with my “regular” freelancing job, with a guy who gathers project orders from clients on his website, and farms out the jobs to the dozen or so freelancers he’s picked for his writing team.  He emails assignments to me daily, I turn them around by the next day, and he pays me every Monday.  This opportunity more or less fell into my lap (he found me through the blog), but for someone looking for regular freelance work, it might be worthwhile to look for websites that offer writing services, and then applying to write for them.  Do YOU have suggestions?

“Market Price” for Writing Jobs, and Getting Paid

a freelancer's best friend...

When I first started looking at Freelancer.com, I had no idea what range was reasonable for a bid, so I did a lot of reading of other bids…  I can say now that the “going rate” seems to be around $2-$2.50 for 500 words, although when a project’s price-range is set higher than that, I don’t argue.  I also see plenty that are set lower, and I don’t bid on them.

PayPal is my new best friend when it comes to collecting pay.  All a client needs is my email address, and the money shows up instantly in my account.  On the subject of pay, it’s also worth noting (shh, don’t tell) that these jobs don’t come with a W-4…

I’ve also joined the Freelancers’ Union–free membership, and the organization provides writing resources, newsletters, community connections, and tools.

Social Media

The blogosphere has turned out to be an incredible resource–readers and writers and publishers hang out here, as you’ve probably noticed!  There’s not only a lot to be found in the way of reading-resources, but also the opportunity to form friendships and find out about opportunities. Bloggers are a generous lot, sharing tips about writing contests and book-review opportunities and give-aways and reading suggestions and all kinds of things.

Twitter turns out to be a great connector for some of the same reasons, although I didn’t initially know what it would be useful for.  I’ve learned not to underestimate the power of networking, though–the power of people when they reach out to one another–and I’m finding that to be true with Twitter as well.  (Besides, it’s a writing exercise in itself to craft a thought in fewer than 140 characters…)

Writing Environment

AT WORK--from Keoni's hospital bed last week

Happily, my iPad fits handily in my purse, and my job can go anywhere with me.  I’ve been able to work from an Idaho mining-town in the mountains, from a lakeside beach while my husband fished for supper, from the sidelines of the kids’ karate lessons, from the comfort of my quilts, from the middle of a family-cuddle-heap when everyone has their noses in books, even from my husband’s hospital room last week in the days following his knee replacement…

I was thanking Keoni again last night for his unwavering advocacy of this “illogical” decision to leap into freelancing, and he had just one sentence for me.  “I just wanted to see you smiling.”  Done!

That’s more than enough out of me–time to hear from YOU on the topic of freelancing, if you’ll be so generous as to share.

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Author:

I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

50 thoughts on “A Forum on Freelancing

  1. Not necessarily a source but a resource that I trust … http://www.hopeclark.blogspot.com/

    If you scroll down a bit, on the right side, you can sign up for her ‘Funds for Writers newsletters, which is a great source. She mails it out on Mondays.

    Now that Solstice is over and it’s a new year, I need to focus on earning an income, that’s a bit more than what my book sales bring in. Thanks for writing about your journey. A timely post!

    Like

  2. Kana, I have been reading over and over that writers who maintain blogs with lots of followers, preferably from all over the world, are being favored by publishers. Also, some of the regional magazines and newspapers and health services that publish all manner of issues are always looking for editors and re-write wizards. Research centers look for technical writers quite frequently.

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  3. Aloha Kana da Iguana, I realize that if you looked up and to your left a little from your typing that you would see me laying next to you. However, to me this is a Most Excellent medium to say, “Welcome Back! I really, really missed your blog posts.” Malama Kakau Mo’olelo

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  4. Thanks, Kana! I’ve been wondering how to go about doing some freelance writing. I’ve been contacted by a couple of sites which claim to give writers jobs, but I’m pretty skeptical. I will take a look at Freelance.com.

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  5. Great post. I’ve done a lot of what you’ve recommended on Freelancer.com and Guru.com, but have received no ‘hits’. Maybe I’ll set up a “need a writer’ on my blog. What could it hurt? Thanks for all the great tips. Do you have a sample proposal letter you wouldn’t mind sharing so the rest of us can see how to set one up?

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  6. There is another site called taskhire.com and they do post up some links for writing jobs from time to time! I got a blogging job through them!:)

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  7. I’ve written a few pieces for Constant Content. They take 35% off the top, but the pay rate averages around 30$ for 500 words, and authors can request more for a well written article in most cases. Wait, what am I doing, I don’t want to compete against you! ;)

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  8. Thank you so much for being so open! I’ve been thinking of a career change. Maybe I should try it. At least, I’ll find out whether I have the knack for it or not. Thanks for the tip!

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  9. Congratulations on your success! I think the key to success is doing what one loves to do. Oddly enough, it takes most of us a lifetime to 1) figure out what that is and 2) have the guts to do it. What I have learned during the last few months of blogging is that writing is a second love for me – I want to be a reader! Is there a market for that?

    Excellent post – thank you for sharing!

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    1. I think you can get paid to do book reviews! I am currently looking for a good source for that! I will definitely share it with you once I find it but I am starting out with doing them for free:)

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    2. If your like me, when you read a lot you have a feel for the flow of a story as well as a sense for what sound off. You could look into editing books or short stories. I do it for a friend for a few free lunches ; D But like riatarde said, book reviews would work too.

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  10. Most informative! I have really been enjoying your blog since you found mine and, thus, I found yours. Looking into freelancing just became an option for me, so I found this post just in time. Thanks!

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  11. Great post and thank you so much for the information and your tips. I laughed like crazy at the what not to do – oh my I actually will quit passing up things that have so many bids as I never realized anybody would really bid on a writing gig and make those kind of mistakes. I mean really? This was great and timely – I wish I had something to add but I have only just started thinking and looking. I do look for the things that are a little less mainstream and I practice writing out of my comfort zone i.e. technical stuff, and completely proper instead of the casual way we sometimes do on the blog. I did get an offer from a site to join and make lots and lots of money writing lol…It is for a fee of course which started out higher than I was wiling to pay – but every time I tried to back out of it, they tried to lower the price. Actually got to a number I could live with if it ended up being like the survey sites that just listed more survey sites to look through for a fee back a few years ago. Yes I fell for it a couple of times 8-O If I had it I probably would have done it but I am leery of the language and promises they used as a lure. Happy writing!
    :-) Peace

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  12. Oh, I wish English were my first language or that at least I could write like if it were.

    Anyways, thank you for this post; it is great! In the future, when my writing skills and English are better, I will give it a try. Thanks again.

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  13. I often meet with friends to talk about freelancing, and your post is the equivalent of one of those long, chatty lunches! Here are a few of the things we discuss over salads and coffee, in no particular order:

    (1) I started out by taking a course from The Institute of Children’s Literature (www.institutechildrenslit.com). They also have a sister company called Long Ridge Writer’s Group. I got my first-ever magazine publication from one of the assignments.

    (2) Find ways to write in your field. No matter what job you do, you likely have a store/office/company newsletter, magazine, or professional journal for which you could write articles or even offer to do a regular column. Do the same for your church, clubs, hobbies, and volunteer activities.

    (3) Once you start getting writing assignments, say “I’d love to!” no matter what the topic or pay. If it’s physically impossible due to other deadlines, say, “I’d love to, but I’m writing [fill in the blank, but no propriety information about topics or products] for [magazines/publishers]. However, I’ll be available on [date], so please don’t take me off your list!” Since editors want writers that other editors want, this never fails to garner new assignments in the future.

    (4) Pay close attention to everything Kana said about being professional in your contacts. Even an email should have complete sentences and correct punctuation and grammar. Proofread every correspondence as if it were an article.

    (5) Also pay close attention to what Kana said about using your blog to showcase your writing. I use a website as an online portfolio (www.edwriter.com) and my blog for fun, but I’ll probably roll them all into one someday.

    I could go on and on, but I’ve already taken up way too much space. Thank you, Kana, for always encouraging other writers, and may all your dreams come true!

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  14. Kana, thanks for an informative and well written blog, as always. I have just started trying to make a career at freelance writing myself, so I value any helpful knowledge from those who have already broken trail on this career choice. Something you should be aware of regarding Freelancer.com however is the alarming reports of fruadulent practices and scams that are part of their business. I am always very careful about who I work for these days, and always do some research into any company or site before agreeing to do any work for them or providing them with any of my personal information. Please check out this website link below regarding scams and read what is being said about Freelancer.com, and share it with your blog readers as well. I wish you and all of us freelance writers the best of luck and prosperity doing what we love.
    Sincerely,
    Larry
    http://www.scam.com/showthread.php?t=135356
    Also information about freelancer.com on a blog from a writer who uses them. Be sure to read the comments at the bottom of her three blogs about freelancer.com.
    http://lisaamartin.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/the-trouble-with-freelancer-com/

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing–always good to keep an eye on those “red flags!”

      Regarding the first link, I’m wondering if perhaps it’s referring to one of the similarly-named sites (like freelance.com, perhaps?) because in my four months of using Freelancer.com, I’ve never deposited a penny (I only TAKE payments) and never had a problem with a payment coming through (aside from the cut they take, but the site is upfront about it)…

      Again, thanks for sharing what you’ve seen–it’s one of the things I love about the growing writers’ community here, the generosity of information-sharing. :)

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      1. I’m glad to hear you haven’t had any problems with Freelancer.com. There seem to be some mixed reviews as to what is going on there, but there does seem to be a lot of scam activity on the site, so I’d still be careful. I am looking for any and all ways to make money as a freelance writer, so hopefully I can avoid the many pitfalls that are out there as well. I will certainly share any information I come across when I can. We’re all in this together people and the more informed we can be the better it is for everyone in my opinion.
        Sincerely,
        Larry

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  15. This post is awesome and very well timed. The information in your post and the following comments are very very helpful and give me hope that maybe, just maybe I can make a go of this writing thing.

    this one is going to be booke marked :-)

    thanks so much!

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  16. 1.) Your husband is my hero! 2.) I laughed out loud at “I am a experience writer.” 3.) Jerry Seinfeld said he believes in and personally followed the line “do what you love and the rest will take care of itself.” You’re living that. So awesome.

    I did some freelance writing for a while (years ago) but got burned out writing about things I wasn’t passionate about (i.e. camera reviews, geriatric facilities, physical therapy, train collectors). I don’t think I have the drive to be a writer in that respect. I wish I had advice/resources to offer others but I sort of just fell into my past gigs.

    Best of luck to all.

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    1. True enough, some of the writing is tedious! I try to balance it by making sure I also do some writing-for-FUN every day (here, for example) and reminding myself of the tedious aspects of OTHER jobs I could be doing, which don’t come with the “perks” of this one… And then there’s the fun stuff like book reviews (oh darn, I “have” to read a book!) and travel write-ups… All in all, I’m staying happy! :)

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  17. You are indeed a marvel for sharing your feedback on freelancing. Sorry, I have none to share at present.

    I can’t stop blinking when I see anything written with the expertise of the examples you included in your post. I cringe and blink and grind my teeth and there are a LOT of them out there. It’s downright painful.

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  18. Thank you so much for this post. I found it incredibly inspiring and useful. As a writer who has only just started her “career,” I am writing for free. However I am writing about a subject I am extremely well-versed in, belly dance, and so being published in a respected belly dance magazine has given me not only a new addition to my resume, but also street cred among people who may favor me down the road for a paid gig.

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  19. you’ve started an invaluable dialogue for a subject and issues near and dear to my heart… I’d also love to see if anyone has suggested resources for freelance editors adrift in a sea of TMI…
    thank you so much for sharing your experiences and resources, Kana… you are a beacon for those in seeking an experienced-eye-view of the “scene”… btw… you are soooooo very fortunate to have met Keoni when you did… best of everything to you and your family… :)

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  20. Thanks for this great post…. writing will reclaim me in 2012!

    And there are great tips in here for writers starting out. I’ve shared this with my daughter, just graduated from college, who will 1) love the bid samples, and 2) gain much more insight in the “new” world of freelancing than I could ever offer her — new to me at least: I was phasing out of the field to have babies just about when emailing attachments became the cutting edge mode of article submission.

    Like

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