Jay recently asked me about getting started as a freelance writer. Kind of ironic since he is now part of the paid staff here at 4P. While I’ve never done freelancing myself, I have hired quite a few of them so I have a pretty good idea what is involved.
There isn’t any one obvious path to become a successful freelance writer. Here are some of the things that I would try:
Try to identify what type of writing you would like to do (or are willing to do). Can you do research on topics you aren’t familiar with and then write about them? Are you an expert in anything?
There are a number of freelance sites where you can go and bid on projects. Elance.com and oDesk.com are two example. I haven’t used oDesk myself but I know others who were happy with it. I have used Elance quite extensively and it is pretty good.
In order to get started you have to register and then start looking through the various job offerings and make bids to get the contract.
Those sites are worth checking out. If nothing else you can see what types of jobs are being offered in the areas you are interested in and what kind of $$ they are offering. It doesn’t hurt to sign up and try to get a small job or two. You have to start somewhere.
Copy writing companies
Textbrokers.com and ReliableWriters.com are two examples of copy writing companies. These companies hire writers so they would be a possibility for a job. The money would be a bit less than doing it on your own but of course they would probably have more work for you. This might be a tough gig to get for a new, inexperienced writer.
In the personal finance blogosphere there are quite a few blogs which hire writers for various reasons. I do this quite extensively. If you are going to apply for a position then you should try to get a few posts written so that you can show the blogger what kind of product you will be delivering.
The two main blog options are:
1) Regular writer. A lot of bloggers get tired of writing a certain number of days per week but still want the same amount of new content. Sometimes they will hire someone to “be their own voice” for 1 or 2 days a week. Mr. Cheap and I have had this exact arrangement since I bought him out in the fall of 2008 and I’ve just hired Jay (ironically enough) to a similar arrangement for one day per week.
2) Specific paid content. In this format a blogger will do the research to determine what type of content is likely to make some money and then will order it from either a freelance writer or a copy writing service. The main difference between this option and option #1 (regular writer) is that the blogger will completely determine the topic, length, style etc of the post. This type of post will often require some research.
Once you have gotten some work experience at the suggested areas then I would try to break into the corporate world to get higher paying jobs. Things like technical documentation etc pay a lot higher than a weekly gig at a two-bit blog like Four Pillars.
Do you have any other suggestions for someone looking to break into freelance writing? Writing course? Other ideas?