Freelancing in 2009: Resources for Writers

The sky is not falling. This may come as a shock: stop chewing yourself up about the economy. If you are a freelancer, stop even sooner.

Daily writing

Daily writing

Why am I being so seemingly callous? First, because you are not in charge of the economy, and simply worrying about it helps no one, least of all your bank balance

Freelancing is still lucrative. Second, because freelancers may have a break in this economy. There have been business layoffs, and the few are left to do the work of many. That makes freelancers more attractive than full-time employees.

  • Freelancers save companies money by not getting benefits
  • Freelancers don’t take up space
  • If we are smart, we don’t get involved in company drama
  • If we are smarter, we hand in work on time and within budget
  • That makes hiring freelancers attractive and smart. In turn, that makes being a freelancer lucrative. For those who are willing to work at it. (How do you know if you are freelancer material?)

    Having gotten that out of the way, if you want to be a freelance writer, you have to construct a list of resources.

    Below are some decent places to look for freelance work. Before you start opening links, please understand that these are not magic writer-ATMs, and that you won’t make money instantly by clicking on the link.

    Every resource has the potential to be a scam, not what you wanted, too much work. Being a freelancer means that you have to do your own heavy lifting to find work. Here, then are the resources.

    Suite 101 seems to be looking for writers all the time. Make sure you know how (or if) they pay. Many of these sites pay only after you have a certain number of readers.

    Craigslist.org is a old favorite, and offers range from outrageous scams to, well, real work. The trick is not to limit yourself to the city in which you live. Many writing jobs don’t demand your presence in an office. Check out larger cities in your state, or check various-size cities for your niche.

    Ed2010.com lists all sorts of editing/writing-related jobs, so you will have to dig, possibly hard. They also have how-to articles, which are a resource all by themselves. Yes, there are full-time, location-specific, must-be-here jobs, but that may also be an opportunity to explore. I have found good freelancing gigs by offering to work part- or short-time, giving the hiring manager more time to find the right person.

    Freelance Writing Gigs has a huge following. It has tips, hints, how-tos and lists that are, thanks goodness, updated regularly, which probably accounts for it’s huge following among freelancers.

    Freelance Success is a subscription-based site. It costs $99 a year, so it’s for serious freelancers. Before you shrug it off because you think everything on the Web should be free, you should know that the jobs are the better ones, at least $.50/word.

    Media Bistro offers classes, job listings, and articles. While this site is largely for media jobs (producers, music mixers) looking for full-time jobs, it’s useful for it’s breadth of work available, classes and the ability to set parameters for exactly the job you are looking for among the listing.

    Wooden Horse provides freelancers with a free newsletter and a fee-based database of new/existing magazines that provide writing, photography, poetry opportunities. You can access the database —one year for $119 (while it’s on special) or six months for $69.00 (also on current special).

    Writers Market is a listing of publications, their requirements and contact information. You may be familiar with the book, this is the online version. You can access their Website for free, but the database is fee-based.

    –Quinn McDonald is a freelance writer, life- and creativity coach. She runs workshops in business communications and personal journal writing.

    Seven Tips for Freelancers: Looking for Work Online

    My colleague Cynthia Haggard is a medical writer who is brilliant at demystifying science for general readership (and other writers.) Before you categorize her as purely left-brain, you should know she also writes historical novels. I love this balance and I think the historical research informs her scientific mind and abilities. Cynthia let me reprint this piece on improving your chances of finding work online.

    Here is her article for freelancers:
    You are new to freelance writing and you don’t have much money to spend. You’ve heard the Internet is brimful of interesting jobs, so you start surfing. You find an overwhelming number of sites targeted at freelancers who are looking for work.

    Typically, the sites offer several levels of services.  For a minimal cost, they allow you to look through jobs that are more than two weeks old.  For significantly more money, they offer a “professional” level, where you get to see new jobs as they come in.  Then there are the “business” or “business deluxe” levels that claim to provide extra services for a fee. You are overwhelmed with information.  Where should you put your money?  Which sites can you trust? Here are seven tips that might help.
    Try to get as much stuff as you can for free. Some sites will let you download e-books, tip sheets or job reports for free for a trial period.  Pay attention to how long that trial period is and time it so that you can do some serious downloading. It sounds obvious, but don’t end up paying for more than you need to. Company A cost $29.95 per month, which was discounted to $2.95 for the first trial week.  The site offered an e-book, a list of freelance web-sites, and free job reports.  When I tried to sign up for the free job reports, I was never able to get this service. I was forced to go to the web site and wade through all the jobs they had listed. Very time consuming and frustrating.

    By this time, my one-week trial period had expired and I was paying $29.95/month for Company A’s services. This seemed a lot for a little, so I cancelled.

    Do the math. Always convert the rate they give you, so you can see how much you are being paid by the word or by the hour for easy comparison. Company B allowed me to post my profile and résumé online and provided me with organizational tools for managing projects.  I signed on at the basic membership level for free, but the basic membership was so restrictive it was useless.  So I upgraded my membership to the Professional level at the cost of $74.95 per quarter. After I upgraded, the jobs started to flow in.

    The problem?  I was swamped.  As I scrolled through, I noticed one job that wanted you to do 40 reports for $10 per report. It didn’t sound too bad; I would be making $400. However, when I did the math – 250 words per page at a penny a word for 4 pages equals $10 – that job translated into less than a penny a word. How many reports do you know that are four pages long? They’re usually much more. Facing a daily deluge of useless jobs, I discontinued my subscription after six weeks.
    Join e-lists to meet people and get jobs. Many professional organizations have electronic discussion lists of like-minded people looking for jobs that are free.  Rather than paying expensive fees, join one of these lists, lurk for a couple of weeks to check it out, and then make a decision about staying or quitting.

    Remember, the point of these lists is to get you in touch with good jobs.  If you’re being subjected to lots of gossip that fills up your email inbox and your time without generating paying projects, then you should quit.  Never fall for requests for extra money. Keep records of how much you spent and how long the subscription lasts and put it in an easy-to-use format, such as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or a table in Word that you can keep in a handy place like your desktop or your Documents folder.

    Company C cost $25 per quarter.  The site worked by soliciting bids on projects from its freelance members. You had to be able to estimate how much time it was going to take you to do the project.  (This is difficult to do if you are starting out and learning your market.)  About a month after I’d joined, I was in the middle of bidding on a job when I received a request to bill my credit card for $75 to “automatically continue my service”.  I checked my records and confirmed that I was up-to-date with my dues.  So I stopped the bid cold and wrote an email to Company C asking them about this.  I got no response.  But at least I had not spent any extra money.  Needless to say, I stopped my subscription.

    Always check out the website before you put money down. Check the name of the website on Google.  Has it been endorsed by the Wall Street Journal? Or Fortune magazine?  Who is the founder? Has this person worked for a well-known organization in your field?  How long has it been around?  What is its mission?
    Stop surfing; start networking to get well-paying jobs.

    Meeting people can be the most valuable thing you can do. Go to networking events held by your professional associations.  I found my first client by networking at a local American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) event.  I found my second client when a medical writing colleague gave me a job she did not want.  By going to the annual AMWA conference and talking to people on the exhibition floor, I learned there was a great need for medical writers who prepare documents for the FDA.  Further investigation revealed that it paid well, so I decided to make that my niche.
    Make it your business to find out what the going rate is. Many professional organizations provide salary surveys.  Before you join, ask if the organization provides this service to its members.  Knowing the rate for your kind of work is invaluable in deciding whether you want to take on a job.

    Remember that spending time doing badly paid work costs you, not only in the actual time you spent doing the work, but because you were prevented from seeking out a better-paid opportunity.  Knowing the rate will give you the confidence to ask for decent pay.

    Remember also that under-charging hurts everyone. Your expertise and time should be valued and paid for accordingly.  Giving time and expertise to clients effectively takes food off the table for other hard-working professionals.  Making a living doing freelance writing is hard enough as it is; so don’t make it more difficult! Never work under your rate.

    (c) Cynthia Haggard, 2008. All rights reserved.

    –Quinn McDonald, who hosted this article but did not write it, is a life coach who helps people through change and transitions. Visit her website, QuinnCreative.