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…
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
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.
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..
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:
- The bid itself should be written professionally and correctly, without texting-type abbreviations, and with proper punctuation.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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…)
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
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.
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…)
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.