We’ve all seen the ads or posts from individuals telling us they’ve managed to quit their jobs and make a solid income just by working freelance; blogging or writing online articles. The term social media ‘influencer’ gets thrown around a lot and it seems that this way of living has some serious earning potential.
Or does it?
While these stories might be true for a select handful of people, there’s a lot more to it than what they let you in on. As someone who has worked freelance, writing digital content, for a number of years, it’s definitely been a great way to boost and add to my income, but it’s not always easy.
Below are my top truths about being a freelance writer and trying to earn an income from it:
- Writing takes time
Writing out a 500 word article is easy right? Except when you’re writing those 500 words for a company blog, and they want you to use 20 different keywords, quote a professional from the industry, provide a USP to their customers and of course include a paragraph about the company.
It takes time to craft a quality piece of writing that does exactly what your client wants it to. But by the third of fourth edit, you’ll hit that air-punch moment and it’s pretty rewarding.
- People will pay for quantity, not always quality, and sometimes neither
It’s a sad truth. Some of the freelance sites are riddled with job ads, asking for 10 blogs a day – and offering $2 per blog. Even sadder is that there are plenty of writers out there who will do the work for those fees.
My advice – pick a fee that you feel reflects your work and time commitment – and stick with it! Never budge on what you think your work is worth. Once you get the ball rolling you can reassess what you’re charging and grow your fees alongside your skills and portfolio.
- People will steal your work
It’s one thing to work with a client on writing ghost blogs or articles, it’s another thing when someone takes your work without asking and publishes under their name.
Unfortunately, there isn’t always much you can do, especially as a new freelance writer. My online portfolio has notes on all my pieces stating they are copyright to me and when I send samples to clients I’m pitching to, I advise that the work is copyright to whichever website it’s published on.
- Proof reading is everything
You are never going to write a perfect article first time round. You must proofread! I’ve seen so many blogs and articles online, even with top end publications, riddled with spelling, grammar, and sentence structure mistakes – and it’s awful!
I’m not innocent of this myself and I cringe when I see some old material online with errors. When I read a piece with errors, it makes me doubt the writer’s authority in what they’re writing about, because I know they haven’t taken care to check their work. I always read my work out loud now before submitting to make sure I’ve picked up anything major.
- Be prepared for someone else’s edits
When you submit your work for publication someone else will read it, edit it and make amendments. You’ll usually get to approve those edits, but not always and sometimes they can be brutal.
It took me a little while not to take this too personally. The person publishing it will have a different idea to you and will know more about what they want for their site or business. So you’ll just have to come to terms with those three perfect paragraphs and researched quotes/facts being edited away.
- You might have to write about some weird stuff
I was asked to write a product review on a breast pump, despite never having been a mother or used any breast pump let alone this companies product. You will get some off requests – some of them will be kind of okay and you’ll do them because, well, they’re paying you and things are a bit slow. But never commit to writing stuff you don’t enjoy or have no experience in whatsoever – it will be obvious in your writing!
- You might find you enjoy it
Some of those weird requests are actually pretty fun to write about! I predominantly write in the education and psychology space, so when I was asked to write a small series of articles about camping I was a little puzzled!
But I wrote them, and loved reminiscing about my own camping adventures and researching some of the topics for my own future use! Don’t always turn down something because it isn’t an exact fit, if you enjoy the topic and have some knowledge, challenge yourself and have some fun.
- It’s a pretty great side hustle
It takes a lot of work, pitching for new clients, writing articles, editing, editing and re-editing – but when that piece you spent a week on gets published with your name next to it and you start to see the audience engagement, it’s a pretty great feeling! And when a client keeps coming back to you for more work, that’s equally rewarding.
If you’re just starting out, my advice is to write often, but not always for clients. Build a portfolio of work you’re proud of, and keep going!