As I take my first bumbling steps into the world of freelance writing, I wanted to start this “column” where I talk about my experiences with freelancing. There was so much information I wanted to know about what I was getting myself into, and while I found a lot of information, I wasn’t finding answers to the questions that I had. I’m not entirely sure that I’ll be answering questions here, either, but I figured putting information out there for anyone else who’s interested in starting up couldn’t hurt!
So, for Freelance Friday #1, I thought I’d start with the basics. How did I start freelancing?
Freelance writing never really entered my mind as something I could do. I was a novel writer, and I was going to publish books, not articles. Of course, it’s never that simple. As I got older, I realized that not everyone became an instant J.K. Rowling. Writing was still my passion, but I needed a day job to have a realistic shot at a comfortable lifestyle.
When looking for a college, I knew I had to go for something I was passionate about if I was going to be happy. Instead of majoring in something more practical like business, I decided to go into the creative writing program at Hollins University. Even then, freelance writing wasn’t really something that was discussed by professors. It was sort of like there were people in the world who did freelance writing, but as far as many people were concerned, it was off their radar. There were no discussions about how to get into it, probably because I–and many of my classmates–never thought to ask. I was a novelist, after all. I was going to write novels.
When I graduated, I knew only one thing: I was going to Australia to live with my fiance-now-husband and I had a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing (and history–the things you pick up on the way!). Now what?
What I really wanted was to go into publishing. It seemed like a logical choice, it was associated with my degree, and it involved books, which I loved. But the publishing business is extremely tough to break into–I couldn’t even manage getting an internship the year before, and that was with inside contacts! So for Australia, I thought I’d get a job in administration somewhere–I had four years of experience doing admin work in college–but it turns out the whole job market is pretty rough, especially if you’re a foreigner on a working holiday visa.
I ended up getting a job as a full-time nanny, which was a fantastic experience. But when my six months were up, the little boy started going to daycare, and I was once again searching. I thought with a bridging visa–which didn’t have any work restrictions–I would have more luck, but alas, I found myself weeding through rejection after rejection in my e-mail inbox. I just shrugged and thought, “Aside from the money, I didn’t really want to work for you, anyway.”
On a whim, I decided to look for writing jobs. A few classmates who had graduated a year or two ahead of me had started writing, and while I didn’t know the details, freelance writing came into my view for the first time. I thought, “Why not try?” and, keeping in mind that I probably wouldn’t be earning a livable wage, I sent off a few applications not expecting much. I didn’t have a portfolio other than a few personal blog posts and some college essays. I didn’t have any experience writing professionally. All I had was an eagerness to actually do something with my degree and something I was passionate about.
I found a few ads on pedestrian.tv–one for Top Shelf Magazine, which didn’t pay but would help boost my experience, and another for TodayIFoundOut.com, which asked me to quote my own price per article. I applied to both and expected rejections within a few days. What I received were acceptances.
For TodayIFoundOut, I was picked to write a trial article by picking one of three topics provided and writing an article about it. I’d be paid for the trial article whether or not I was chosen to write more–and a few weeks later, I was asked to contribute regularly. It all sort of fell into place without any kind of expectations. While I’ve kept up the workload easily enough–last month being the first month to write my quota of eight articles–I was unprepared for one of the most important things: how much should I charge for each article?
The quote-your-price thing was rough for a newcomer, because I had no idea how much I should charge for a 1000 word article, especially as I didn’t have much prior experience. I said $20, which seemed fair enough. I’d seen everything from $5 to $50 and up on other writing job sites, and I tried to take into account that these articles would require some time to research, too. However, after a few articles they upped my pay to $30/article–which makes me think I probably under-quoted! (Which, to be honest, I’d rather do at this stage than over-quote and risk not getting chosen due to unrealistic expectations!)
Having looked over more and more job ads, I think I have a better idea about how much money can be expected from different projects, but some of it’s still a mystery to me. Obviously, every project is different, but does anyone have a rule of thumb they go by for quoting prices? Your average price per word or page? Or do you do an hourly rate, which I’ve also seen? Let me know in the comments below!
So, to sum up, I’m just getting started with my first few freelancing jobs. It’s not enough to live on yet, but it is enough to cover my college loan payments every month, which is a plus! I’m lucky enough to have a husband who recently got a well-paying full-time job, so he’s able to support both of us while I attempt to pursue freelancing further. Instead of focusing on finding that “real job” I’m able to focus on something I actually enjoy–freelancing as well as writing a novel–and, hopefully, it’ll turn into something more lucrative in a few months or years.
I guess the point of this post is, if you want to write for a living, try it. I jumped in and I’ve had great experiences so far.
Are you freelancing? How did you get into it? Are you still working your day job, or are you doing well enough to make a living on writing? I’d love to hear about your experiences!