When I was in second grade, I wrote a story for English class. My teacher, a lovely woman named Mrs. Finck, loved my story and told me I was going to be a writer when I grew up. I’m now almost 30 and writing is what I do for a living. This is my day job. It’s also my night job, my hobby and my passion. Writing is my life and I’m lucky enough to get paid to do it.
From the second grade on, I never questioned what I wanted to do with my life but I took a lot of deviations from the path I chose. I worked in a music store for seven years and it was pretty much my dream job. Writing was always the end goal but the music store was a pretty great way to earn a living before I figured out a way to become a full time writer. I was promoted to manager when I was 24 and was unceremoniously fired not long after because I was absolutely terrible at being in charge.
In desperate need of a job, I turned to the local call center where I took calls for AOL tech support. Let me say this about that experience. Don’t get angry if you’re speaking with tech support and they ask if your computer is plugged in and turned on. It isn’t far more often than one would think. From AOL tech, I was transferred to AT&T cell phone activations and then on to Blockbuster Customer Care. That was about all I could handle. Getting yelled at all day just isn’t as fun as it sounds and I left, deciding it was time to try something new. As it turns out, “something new” wasn’t as easy to come by as I thought.
Around this time, my good friend suggested I take writing more seriously. He pointed me to a website where potential employers posted ads looking for content writers for their websites. This is how I became a freelance writer.
I know there are a lot of people out there who are interested in writing online. This article is for those people. It isn’t an easy career path to take if you’re actually interested in writing. There are a lot of advantages though. Some of those advantages include:
- Doing something you enjoy doing and getting paid to do it. I love writing so being able to get paid to do it is awesome. Sometimes I just sit back and think about the fact that I have somehow managed to find a way to get paid to do something I’m passionate about. That always brings a smile to my face.
- Setting your own hours. This is a big advantage if your sleep pattern isn’t exactly conducive with a 9-5 work day. I am routinely up until 7am and tend to sleep until noon. This sleep schedule works for me but would probably cause a lot of problems if I suddenly had to get up for work at 9am.
- Lots of opportunities to learn new things. As a freelancer, I’ve had the chance to learn a variety of things I probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. For example, I now known all sorts of interesting things about hardwood flooring, cold sores, boils, rugs and proper car washing methods from various e-book assignments I’ve had.
- Working from home. I live in my pajamas. I’m not kidding. Stop by my house at any given time and you’ll likely find me in front of my computer in pajamas with my hair a mess and a cup of coffee close by. After working in a call center with a business casual dress code (no jeans, no t-shirts etc), being able to be comfortable while I work is a pretty big deal to me.
Of course, as with any job, there are some disadvantages and for some people, those disadvantages are pretty hard to get past. The biggest disadvantages include:
- The impact on your social life. If you want to make a career out of writing online and you want to live comfortably at all, your social life will suffer. Unless you’re able to stumble into a high paying job right away, which is fairly unlikely, you’ll have to spend a lot of time writing if you want to make ends meet. This means things like going out and hanging out with friends suffers which also means friendships suffer. It’s hard for people to understand that writing online (especially since you work from home) is an actual, full time job. Expect some hurt feelings. It sucks but it really is part of the job, at least when you’re starting out.
- Lots of opportunities to learn new things. Yes this is both an advantage and a disadvantage. When I was first starting out, I did a lot of product reviews. That included writing about erection pills, vaginal creams and all manner of things that have burned images in my mind I’d really rather not have.
- Financial issues. Unfortunately, there are times when it’s nearly impossible to survive when you’re a freelance writer. Clients drop you without warning or cut back their orders, leaving you scrambling to find more work. There’s always plenty of work out there but finding someone willing to pay you what your work is worth? That can be a bit difficult. I struggle. I struggle a lot but it always gets better. It’s just a matter of surviving until it does.
- Getting ripped off. I’ve never spoken to a freelance writer who has never been ripped off. I got ripped off in a big way on my very first writing job. I spent three days straight writing 80 articles about pirates and pirate maps only to deliver the articles and find the client missing in action. I was out three days of work (including working through New Year’s Eve, by the way), lost the articles and lost the money I was expecting for them. I then had to begin the painstaking process of tracking down all of those articles and having them pulled off the websites they were published on. Good times and a great lesson learned right off the bat.
It might sound like the disadvantages outweigh the advantages but that’s not the case. I love what I do and I love who I work for. It’s taken a long time to get to this point but I’m happy that I’m here. It can be exhausting and it can be daunting. I don’t’ eat as much as I should and there are times when I don’t leave the house for months but it’s worth it. If you’re still interested in pursuing online writing, here are a few quick tips to help you succeed.
- Allow yourself time to build a solid portfolio. Your portfolio is your resume. Don’t be afraid to take lower paying jobs when you’re starting out. You’ll earn less money but you’ll also build up your portfolio so you’ll have something to offer higher paying clients.
- Ask for at least half of your payment upfront for large orders that will eat up a lot of time. Most clients will not pay a new writer a full payment in advance but demand at least half. Getting the first half of your payment upfront and the rest upon delivery of the completed work is the best way to discourage scammers who are out to rip you off.
- Don’t settle for less than you’re worth. You’re not going to be able to earn top dollar for your work without a decent resume but once you start building that resume or building relationships with your clients, you should expect to see your pay improve. If you have a solid resume and aren’t getting complaints from clients, you can start charging more for your services. The rates I charge for blog work, for example, depends on the size of the post, the budget of the client and most importantly, how much of the content I’m responsible for. If I have to find pictures, videos or other content, I ask for more money because it takes longer to do the posts.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of blog work. Aside from my work here on World of Female, I am a paid contributor for several blogs. I don’t write under my name on most of those blogs but I offer links to all of those blogs whenever I apply for a new job. Blog posts offer a quick, easy to digest glance at your writing style, the types of topics you can write about and also shows that you’re a reliable writer.
- Understand your limits. It is extremely tempting to take on every job you can get but you need to understand that there is a cap on how much you can produce. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Say no to a project if you don’t have time. Focus on your turnaround time. Don’t tell a new client you’ll have x number of articles to them within 24 hours if you’re not going to be able to do it. Know your abilities and work with them. Otherwise, you’re going to wind up very stressed out and completely overwhelmed.
So I guess that about does it. I hope this article has been of some help. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me on Twitter. Also be sure to check out my personal blog, Girl in Stereo. Thanks for reading.