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Freelance Writing - Make it Work For You

Aug 17, 2007
Freelance writing may sound like a dream job - but is it? It certainly has a lot of benefits: working from home, setting your own schedule; the opportunity to write about hundreds of unusual and interesting topics; seeing your name in print, are all wonderful job perks, but what about the other side of the writing biz?

Becoming a professional freelancer is not a job for everyone. Even some of the world' most prolific writers admit that the long lonely hours at the computer with no human contact, combined with an erratic income, is enough to send even them back to the world of fulltime staff writing.

Is Freelance Writing A Viable Option?
For some, freelance writing is a wonderful way to use their talents in a creative way, and make a few bucks at the same time. But, before delving into this unknown, and often unreliable field, every writer should consider these important factors:

-Are you disciplined enough to handle freelancing? Not everyone is organized and disciplined enough to get the job done without supervisors and other workers around. Those who find it difficult to stay on-task by themselves, may want to consider another type of writing job.

-Are you financially secure enough to handle the ups and downs of the freelance income? Writing is tough work. Making a living at it is even tougher. With no promise of a sale today, tomorrow, or even next week, being the sole family income-generator can make fulltime freelancing hard on the nerves - and the pocketbook. Remember, independent workers are responsible for all those things employers usually cover: health benefits (or a large portion of them); disability insurance; 401K contributions; employer taxes; sick, holiday and vacation pay, among others. Consider all of these 'extra' expenses when deciding whether to make the move out of the corporate world and into the freelance one.

-Are your skill sets versatile enough, do you have enough experience, and enough contacts to find continuous work projects? Selling one book to one publisher, or selling a few articles to a local trade magazine doesn't mean that you'll have a steady income once you make the move into fulltime freelancing. The goal of every freelancer should be to establish enough long-term relationships with a variety of clients to ensure the bills get paid. Versatility is essential to making this happen. Stretch your offerings to include as many types and styles of writing as possible. The more you can offer the publishing world, the better chance you have to succeed.

Finding Clients:
Finding regular work as a freelance isn't as difficult as it may first seem. Clients are everywhere. You just have to find a way to use your skills as a writer to tap into their needs. First, consider the type of writing that you are good at: fiction, non-fiction, articles, blurbs, books, press releases, consumer tips, advertising prose, etc. Next, think of all the places that may buy your writing - both big and small.

Traditional Publishing Conglomerates:
Whether you write books, magazine articles or hard news, traditional print publishing is still the best way to get the most buck for the bang. Payment is generally higher for this medium, but quality and experience is essential , leaving many new freelancers out of the game. Book publishers usually offer some sort of advance and ongoing royalty payments for published work, while magazines pay a set by-the-word rate. Both generally pay more than their more non-traditional counterparts, but these high-end publishers expect their writers to know what they're doing and give them superior work. Newspapers (especially neighborhood ones), as well as local tabloids and magazines, may be found much lower on the pay scale, but are usually willing to give good freelancers more work than they can handle. One trick into breaking these markets: study these publishers and their guidelines carefully. Prove to them you know what they want - and can deliver quality prose on time - and they're likely to give even the newest freelancer a chance.

Non-Traditional Publishing:
Today's freelancer can find hundreds of writing jobs within minutes, thanks to the internet and its resources. From content servers and blogs to e-book publishers, jobs for freelancers are everywhere. The internet has caused a surge in business for even the most inexperienced writer. Today's market features a myriad of opportunities for any writer willing to put in long hours at the computer for little pay while they build their portfolio. Many sites offer even a fair writer the chance to do small how-to and consumer pieces for fees ranging from $2 an article to $50 or more. Of course, the more experienced writer can generate articles at a faster speed, making their per hour income more lucrative.

Business Writing:
Good business and technical writers are at a premium. With literally thousands of companies worldwide scrambling to find good quality writers to prepare their proposals, write manuals, develop public relation/marketing and sales campaigns, as well as write simple website text, letters, and more, the possibilities are endless for any writer with business experience. When considering this type of writing, keep in mind that these clients are looking for writers with true business knowledge. It's a highly competitive field, but if you have what it takes to break in, you'll find the benefits and income more than worth it.

How Much Can A Freelance Writer Make?
What you make - and how you make it - is totally up to you. As a freelancer, you have the discretion whether or not to accept or turn down work. Take note: what seems like a lousy deal today may turn into a more lucrative opportunity tomorrow. For instance, many website text writers often start off doing small 200-500 word pieces for just a few dollars. But as they gain experience, speed, and trust, they are able to increase their per-article fees, while also increasing their daily output, for what turns out to be very high hourly rates. Others find it important to make a 'certain amount' per word. Your billing criteria is totally up to you. When setting rates consider the taxes and business extras you are responsible for, the type of writing job (and the types of fees it generally commands) that you're bidding on, and the time it will take you to complete it, as well as the annual income you need to survive. Then set a reasonable and competitive fee.

The good news is the freelance writing business is booming! Writers with a keen business sense, the ability to keep themselves on track (and on schedule), and an overall good writing style, should find the freelance writing life both rewarding and financially stable.
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