Imagine relaxing in the back of your yard or sitting on a beach while drafting your next blog post, or scribbling down your thoughts while you enjoy your favorite coffee at Starbucks. Sounds like a dream, right? That is indeed the life of many successful authors. Freelance authors can work from anywhere until they have access to a computer and a good internet connection.
Knowing how to write impactful articles and marketing yourself correctly will determine your earning potential. You don’t have to be the most sophisticated writer using the most difficult words in the English dictionary to be successful. But, you do need to know how to get your thoughts across in neat and coherently written sentences. You also need to do in-depth research before writing that very first sentence!
Do you need any formal education?
A college degree in English, communications, or journalism is generally required for a full-time position as a writer. Once you establish a name for yourself, your experience matters more than your education credentials. For starters, it is a great way to earn some extra cash.
A freelance writing career is a lot about freedom and to let your mind wander and express itself in words. You get paid to write for websites, magazines, corporate blogs, or press releases.
How much do writers make?
According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for writers in 2019 was $63,200 per year or $30.39 per hour. In May 2018, the median wage was $62,170 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,700, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,670. There were 123,200 job openings in 2018. Technical authors are among the highest-paid writers with a median pay of $71,850 per year in 2018.
How to start?
Establishing your career as an established author takes 2-4 years of hard work. But how do you start?
- Start with project bidding sites:
Many online platforms help writers to reach out to potential clients. Project bidding sites such as Freelancer.com offer a unique way to make money. On these sites, clients post their requirements along with their budget, and freelance authors bid for it. Let us assume that the requirement is to write an article is about how does a small business collection agency works, and the expected payout is $200 for a 1000 words article.
New authors who do not have any positive reviews yet try to win the project by placing a lower bid (say $100 or even $50). Experienced authors may put a bid of $175 to $250. Top-rated authors who have hundreds of positive reviews can place a bid of $250 to $300 for the same article. The idea is to acquire enough positive reviews before you start to increase your rate.
- Fixed budget assignments:
If you want to eliminate the hassle of bidding, then go to sites like Fiverr.com. All you need to do here is create a detailed profile and market yourself like crazy. Create various gigs or tasks you can do and for how much. For example, You might create a gig – “I will write a 700 words finance article for $50”. Then another one, “I will write a 1000 words artificial intelligence article for $90”. Clients who like your profile and rate may hire you to complete their assignments.
- Pay per hour sites:
There are sites such as Upwork.com, where a client can hire you on a per-hour basis. Rates vary from as low as $10 per hour to $100 per hour. It all depends on your experience and ratings left by previous employers. Maximum money can be earned from these types of sites. This also gives you an opportunity to be hired full time by an employer.
Eventually you will need to create your “seller” profile on all three types of websites and keep looking for new projects.
Resolving client disputes and accumulating perfect 5-star reviews
As a freelance writer, you’re a sole entrepreneur who provides services to real human beings with their own visions, own emotions and unique personality.
So, at times we will disagree with each other. This is a normal and inevitable part of doing business. However, there is a resolution for it. You can always offer 2-3 free revisions for an article written by you that eventually matches the expectations of your client. Inform your client that you are willing to revise the article as many times as needed so that your article meets or exceeds their expectations. Your clients will definitely leave a full 5-star review that will eventually help to build your reputation and increase your billing rate over time. Many of your clients will start liking you and hire you repeatedly all year long.
Just as service providers like freelance authors take the measure of the client by checking out their testimonials and ratings, the opposite holds true as well. The better your ratings are, the higher your chances become to get hired by new clients. Keep up your networking and ensure that your work speaks for itself, so clients would have no hesitation in recommending your services to others.
Biggest challenges when you work remotely
Although, as a freelance writer, you have the privilege of working from wherever you want, whenever you want. No soul-crushing commute. No managers or co-workers are hanging over your shoulder.
While this might all seem nice and dandy, working from home is not always as much of a joy as it seems. Loneliness and lack of human interaction can also adversely impact your career. Working from home can bring so many challenges with it, such as overworking. Some freelancers will work longer hours than a typical full-time job. Work from home has its own challenges such as distraction from kids, or that UPS delivery person needing your signature. All this can mess up your train of thoughts and can cause instant writer’s block.
What can negatively impact your career?
Make sure your work is always plagiarism-free. Plagiarism is a big no-no in writing and can significantly damage your reputation as a writer. Before submitting your final work, cite your sources, link back to data and statistics found online/offline, and run it through a sophisticated plagiarism detection software. Spelling mistakes and sentence formation mistakes must be avoided.
Determine who your clients will be
First of all, you’ll have to decide which topics you’re comfortable writing about. Most writers can write on at least a few different subjects. You want to find those clients whose requirement matches your interest and expertise. Most clients would like to see a sample of your previous work, which could even be a blog published online. You can draft up a few articles and upload them as a Google Document or post it on Medium. Another way to create sample work is by doing guest-posting. These are websites that accept guest-writers. Demonstrating sample work is especially crucial if you are a new author and do not have reviews.
Form 1099-MISC is the most crucial tax document that applies to US-based freelancers. Any client who pays $600 a year must mail you this form by Jan 31st. Even if a client pays you less than $600, it is still deemed as a taxable income and must be reported to the IRS. If you are going to claim your business expenses in your taxes ( ex: domain, hosting, advertising, software purchases, office supplies, car mileage, meals etc.), you should keep all the expense receipts. You may also need to file Form 1040-ES to pay your quarterly estimated taxes.
There is strong competition in this area therefore many people pursue this as a part-time career only. One cannot force himself or herself into becoming an author. You need a certain kind of thoughtfulness, patience and personality. One can complement their writing career by providing Explainer-videos and offering some basic level of SEO services too, although all these additional skills can be learned over time.