The basics of freelance writing

September 11, 2011 4:03pm CST
This is a discussion primarily for you wordy types. I'm just starting a series of posts about the basics of freelance writing, since people keep asking about it all the time, and wondered if there's any particular things you seasoned, wizened old veterans (or not) think it'd be good to cover. I'm talking real basics here. At the moment, there'll be an overview of the three main ways to earn, a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each, a comparison of the main two (rev share and direct sales) and a look at the odd one (generating your own revenue). I think that's about all anyone needs as the basics. Everything after that is resources, opinion or advice. Am I missing anything that you wish you'd had when you started?
4 people like this
11 responses
@celticeagle (117782)
• Boise, Idaho
12 Sep 11
I think how to navigate most sites would be very nice. And some good ideas on how to generate revenue. I think that some times some of the newer wordy types might really need this to be very basic as in how to step by step navigate sites and understand how to generate revenue. That would be of great help.
@celticeagle (117782)
• Boise, Idaho
13 Sep 11
I don't know what you are talking about.
1 person likes this
@celticeagle (117782)
• Boise, Idaho
14 Sep 11
I don't know how more plain I can be. I had alot of trouble finding things on Triond. I don't like the site. I feel it could be for user friendly. And by'generating revenue' I mean what are some good ideas on how to make more money on such sites. Does that make any clearer for you?
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@bagarad (11796)
• Paso Robles, California
12 Sep 11
It's obvious I will have to check out your blog. I assume the link is on your profile page. I have done any real freelance writing yet. It's mostly been self-expression on Squidoo and HubPages and Gather, with a few smaller sites tucked in. I haven't been very impressed with what I've heard about aricle sites so far, when I want to work I work my book business and when I want to play I write. It would be nice to give up books and just write, but I don't think it's going to happen.
12 Sep 11
As someone famous once said: "It's annoying how little you can achieve in a week but amazing how much you can achieve in a year." Or something. If you keep at it consistently, there's almost no barrier in the world that can't be knocked down. Just look at the Berlin Wall.
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@bagarad (11796)
• Paso Robles, California
12 Sep 11
Yup. I saw a chunk of it in person at the Reagan library last month and it didn't look at all like I thought it would. If I had 500 points, I'd share the picture here.
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12 Sep 11
That happened while I was at University - shame I was poor, as a bunch of guys flew over there to be part of history in the making. Apparently it was really great: even though it could have been seen as a dangerous revolution by East Germany, everyone was apparently incredibly friendly and happy. Hardly any trouble at all.
@GardenGerty (98203)
• United States
11 Sep 11
I am looking forward to seeing your discussions, I have a ton to learn.
2 people like this
12 Sep 11
They're going on my blog, not as discussions - they're a bit too long to fit here. You know you can ask me anything, though and I'll answer if I can.
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@GardenGerty (98203)
• United States
12 Sep 11
I will have to check out your blog some more, then. Thanks.
2 people like this
• United States
12 Sep 11
I think its a great idea. I will definitely be interested in what all you can share on this topic. Things have changed a lot since the last time I did any freelance work, and in trying to get back into the swing of things, I find that I have forgotten about half of what I learned, and there is easily twice as much information out about it now.
2 people like this
12 Sep 11
I can't say for sure but I have a suspicion that most of the extra information is the original stuff, regurgitated. Hope the posts will be of use, anyway - and if you think of anything I miss, just pop me a comment. I'll do what I can.
@Lauriedk (49)
11 Sep 11
If you lead the way I would be interested in creating a FreeLance Writing Steps To Get Started. And I do mean that it will start from Ground Zero as I know nothing about it except what it is. I've got time on my hands and was looking for a project that would lead to potential income.
12 Sep 11
The thing with freelancing is that it's just so variable: everything depends on what the individual wants. And no offense intended but I'm not writing this for the money: the whole point of my blog is to offer the information free - everything I've learned has been free (from whatever sources I've found online over the last 2-3 years) and I'd feel wrong asking for money when I'm just aggregating the info. Of course, there's nothing to stop you writing a complete guide and selling it, least of all me. Just don't copy/paste me.
2 people like this
@gk655321 (236)
11 Sep 11
Hi, SpikeTheLobster. I'm just recently getting into this scene and have been kinda going on trial and error. I've had a lot of misses with this kind of thing and not too sure how all of this works. So, just being able to listen/read about the basics would be great because I really don't know much about it.
11 Sep 11
That's reassuring. It kinda makes me think I've got it covered. The intro post's up already, now I just need to write the others...
2 people like this
@NoWayRo (1062)
• Romania
13 Sep 11
I think you got the basics covered. For a completely new freelancer, I'd recommend starting with revenue sharing to build a small portfolio (without earning much, of course), and then move on to direct sales. Quite possibly trying to post some more on revenue sharing sites, if they can. At least that's what worked for me, it doesn't have to be the same for everyone. I hope you get to develop this series, it could be really useful. I'd like to see the topic of tools covered (that was my biggest problem when I started - copyscape, dictionaries, styleguides, a small but decent image editing application, PDF to text conversion applications for clients who want editing but send PDF documents, reliable sources - you know the stuff). Some legal and accounting recommendations would also be nice, although that depends on the country of the freelancer and employer. During my first three months freelancing, I didn't even make enough to pay my accountant - mostly because I didn't consider that I had to pay an accountant. There's also the very stringent issue of copyright laws, which seems to cause a lot of confusion on the web today. How to create a backup plan in case of disaster - I still remember my first missed deadline - 120 pages that suddenly turned into dots and lines. Value-added services, in which you don't have to specialize, but you can add a few extra dollars to an order, if you do a bit of DTP or edit a bit of HTML code. I mentioned all of those, even if they don't fit in your series just yet, maybe you'll find the time to do something with them later on. Looking back, I wish I had all these things figured out before I started, I could have saved a few months of starving in the beginning, and planned my budget a lot better.
1 person likes this
13 Sep 11
Sounds like we had the same start - rev share, then direct. Common route, as you say, since it works well and is less pressure for a new writer (rev share = no client breathing down your neck!). Hadn't thought of tools: that's a good idea. But which are really necessary? Dictionary's online, style guides depend on the client, I've never used Copyscape (since everything I do is original and written from scratch), images are graphic design rather than writing... they're all really useful but not absolutely essential. I've never used a PDF-to-text app, either (must have smarter clients, hehe!), though I have Acrobat so could always edit in there. I'll have to think about that one! Legal and accounting is too dependent on the country, to be honest. Backup plans... hmm. I consider that more of an IT issue than a freelance writer one (though that may be because I'm an IT geek by profession). Could be worth adding something about online (free) backups and so on. Value-added services... I suppose I'm old-school. I consider my job to do whatever I can, rather than a specific thing (writing) and everything else is extra cost. Probably why I'm so poor.
@NoWayRo (1062)
• Romania
13 Sep 11
OK, no idea which tools are essential and which can be added when you need them I have a different perspective, given that 75% of my work is in translation, and 20% is writing in my own mother-tongue, so I tend to mix in everything I ever needed, while most tools weren't really relevant for the little English content I write. Copyscape was really useful when I had to write short sentences and trivia questions - because with 40 words or so, it's not impossible that you get a match of over 85% with something that's already been written. So it saved me the embarrassment of having the content returned by the client. I don't use it for longer pieces of text; but I was absolutely paranoid when I just started freelancing (and also discovering the Internet), I thought everything had already been written. With backup plans, I was also thinking about limiting the risks you're exposed to. I mean, what if you manage to mess up a small project, 1,000 words, but which was essential for the client's release of a new product? They can sue for the damage caused by delaying their new release - which is not funny. Some freelancing sites clearly state in their TOS that the freelancer can only be liable for the amount of the contract, and nothing more - but not all. Also what I've found useful as back-up plan is to ask for a phone number. Phones still exist these days, I've heard. It's good when I need a few more details and the client needs forever to answer the e-mail, or if something went completely wrong and I really can't deliver (blackouts on one-day orders are a joy).
1 person likes this
14 Sep 11
I think the list of essentials would be pretty short. But then the more tools, the more types of work you can do with 'em, I guess. Definitely need to think about that one! Good point for Copyscape: with single phrases I can imagine the chances of duplication skyrocket! It's always worth knowing about it, at least, in case it's needed. Noted. The risks thing depends on what you do and a whole bunch of legal stuff to do with contracts. Since I'm not a lawyer, I don't really want to touch that side of things: it's very case-specific. A single word in a contract can make the difference between acceptable and ludicrous - not my area of expertise at all. Good point again, though, and probably worth mentioning in a list of "passing subjects"...!! I hate phones. Seriously. Yuck. I know some people love them but I've never liked them, even back when they had dials on the front. Good point again, though. One for the customer service bit, I guess. Thanks - I know you always write pretty long, descriptive responses and I really appreciate them here.
@maharlikah (1045)
• Philippines
14 Sep 11
It's quite a good idea when you first think about posting this topic... I learn a lot on the following discussion and exchaneg of ideas. I'll be removing some widgets on my blog I guess...I realized they are an eye sore..Heheh
1 person likes this
14 Sep 11
Would you believe I visited a site today that still had one of those automatic music-playing widgets on it? Aaargh! I thought they'd been extinct for years!
@Gargi2010 (639)
• India
13 Sep 11
Hi friend You are right but there are many sites which pays for writing articles to them but there is a question about their legitimacy i still not work in any writting articles if some one send me latest payment proofs of the site if any site pays then i will join there because i want only legit site and do not want to waste my time Regards
1 person likes this
13 Sep 11
Places to work comes under 'resources'. I'll remember to include a list.
• India
12 Sep 11
Hi spike...Its interesting discussion..I think we should know the correct english also...lolzzz... And we should write in a user friendly mode. And about making money...you tell nice idea and I m looking for more suggestions...
1 person likes this
13 Sep 11
I don't think I'll have room for an entire English course.
@talfonso (246)
• United States
12 Sep 11
I have been freelance writing since 2009. I have written for Triond, HubPages, and Associated Content. One of the most valuable tips are to use proper keywords and create what veteran bloggers and article marketers call "evergreen content." When I first started out, I didn't grasp the concept of such content, thus I start it out with close-to-nary traffic to my articles. I read that such content lasts at least a decade or half a decade and doesn't limit itself to a season. When I created that type of content, my views went up, and so did my revenue. So the best advice I learned when I was a neophyte to article marketing is to generate evergreen content. Keywords, grammar, spelling, and so on are other parts of the story.
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