The world wide web has revolutionized the life of a freelance writer. It has opened up countless new markets, all available through a simple search (no more poring through writer’s market guides) and has sped up the process of writing, seeing your work published, and getting paid. In the old days, it could take months – even years – to see submitted work in print, and checks would arrive long after you forgot making a submission. Today, you can write, post, and receive payment in a week or less.
Writing skills, of course, are as important as ever. Though electronic technology has changed the rules of grammar and punctuation for informal email communication and text messages, writers who want to get paid to produce web content or to find offline writing work using the Internet must be able to demonstrate strong writing skills. Although more opportunities exist for beginning writers who are still honing their skills, the standards for professional content have not changed.
As new markets have appeared online, so have websites devoted to writers. Many offer inherent freelance writing opportunities. Associated Content and Constant Content are two such sites many writers find profitable.
Associated Content (http://www.associatedcontent.com/) bills itself as “The People’s Media Company.” Nearly anyone can write an article for publication here, so it’s a great place for beginning writers to start. The site’s editors pay small amounts (usually about $3-$5) for full rights on well written articles that suit their needs, including articles on local attractions, products, events, and popular culture. Writers can respond to calls for content or submit anything they choose. Those articles that are not accepted for upfront payment are eligible to receive per-hit performance payments. Promoting articles is largely up to the writers, who comment on others’ work and post links on social networking sites to draw traffic to their AC page and increase performance payments.
Constant Content (http://www.constant-content.com/) accepts articles from skilled writers, who can offer three levels of rights – Use, Unique, and Full – which loosely correspond to the one-time rights and full rights offered in traditional writing markets. (Unique is much like first rights, but without the option to resell one-time rights to someone else.) Buyers browse or request articles to buy for use on their websites. Authors set their own prices. A commission fee is taken out of the sale price, and authors can receive a percentage from the sales made by writers they refer.
Freelance market sites, such as Elance.com, iFreelance.com, and Guru.com, help match freelance writers and other freelance professionals to companies with freelance projects. Elance.com charges commissions for projects and flat rates for listings. iFreelance.com advertises no commission but requires writers to pay a monthly membership fee. Guru.com charges writers both membership fees and project commissions. All three require you to compete directly with other writers for specific jobs, and pay varies by project.
Helium.com combines writing contests with topic guides and a marketplace for writers. Freelancers can submit articles on specific requested topics to earn $20 or more, submit articles that readers can rate, or enter various writing contests.
Several additional sites hire freelancers to produce content. Many of these promote themselves as “answer” websites, where freelance experts on various subjects write basic guides on the topics about which they are knowledgeable. Suite101.com pays writers a share of their advertising revenue and requires an application with samples to join. Mahalo.com, “the world’s first human-powered search engine,” pays for freelancers to put together search-result guides to websites on specific topics. Lifetips.com hires “gurus” to write tips on their niche areas of expertise.
For those who want to write what they choose, rather than writing for requested topics, blogging is a viable option. Many writers make a living from advertising revenues generated by their own blogs. Freelancers who have strong marketing skills, adequate computer skills, and the ability to write about life from an uncommon perspective should consider starting their own blog.
Alternatively, you may find paid blogging opportunities on established group blogs. Read blogs on your favorite topics and keep an eye out for announced writing opportunities. Blogs of medium popularity (which have established an audience but which don’t have too much competition for open writing spots) are the best for freelance opportunities. Those with their own sites, as opposed to those connected to sites like Blogger.com, also seem more likely to generate enough income to hire freelancers. Blogging for others can provide you with a regular income but without the hassle of continuously marketing your work.
Social networking sites also offer opportunities to promote your writing career. Reconnect with old friends on MySpace or Facebook; they may have writing work to offer you or know someone who does. Use your profile to promote articles you have published on sites that share ad revenue or pay you per hit. Sign up for Linked In, where you can list your experience résumé style and wait for professional writing opportunities to come to you.
A few social networking sites also pay directly for you to publish your articles. Associated Content (mentioned above) works much like a social networking site, where the more you comment, the more subscribers you attract. Gather.com, a niche social site for readers and writers, pays points (redeemable for gift certificates) for your participation – both publishing articles or photographs and commenting on others’ posts. The most active members can earn cash instead of points. Earning cash on Gather, however, requires many hours on the site; you are likely to earn more by writing for a variety of freelance sites.
Consider marketing your writing skills on general auction and classified sites, as well. Advertise your strengths and offer a specific service (such as writing copy for a brochure) in eBay’s Specialty Services category, which unfortunately does not have a writing subcategory, or try a less well known auction site, such as BidHire.com (a new site designed specifically for services). Post your availability as a freelancer on Craigslist.com and browse local job listings on that site. The Internet has a multitude of ways to find buyers for your work.
If your writing tends to be book length, and you can’t find a traditional publisher for your work, try self-publishing via the Internet. In addition to the online presence of old-fashioned self-publishing houses, sites like Lulu.com help you put together, promote, and sell your self-published book or e-book. E-books can also be created using Adobe Acrobat and sold through your own personal blog or specialty sites related to the topic of your book. To increase sales, make your e-book as professional as possible, with well written text and a cover that does not look amateurish. Perhaps you can enlist a copy editor and a graphic designer who are willing to work on a commission of your sales. (Check your contacts on social network sites!) Knowing your target audience and marketing directly to them also helps sell e-books.
Remember that organizations that offer you help in publishing or marketing your work are providing you a service, so expect to pay for their assistance. Before you pay for any services up front, consider whether you are confident enough that your work will earn you enough to make up the costs. Start with sites that pay a small amount or charge only a sales commission before moving on to sites with a membership fee.
Freelance writing does involve taking some risks, especially when you first start. You may spend many hours writing on speculation, only to receive a series of rejections. Writing is a competitive field, and even excellent writers sometimes have difficulty finding the right market for their work. Nevertheless, the Internet truly has opened up a whole new world for writers. While traditional venues, such as short story magazines that provided the staple income for F. Scott Fitzgerald, are becoming difficult to enter, the world wide web allows more and more people to earn money with freelance writing. As you explore the sites mentioned here, you will gain experience and build your portfolio, making your services more valuable to potential customers both online and off.
Photo Credit – Chaparral [Kendra]