But getting a company to bring you on can be a time-consuming process. Those who want to be a freelancer need to have patience and realistic expectations.
These companies can now, if they choose, work in a global marketplace, so there are plenty of candidates. True, writing in English in the states is different than in England or Australia, but those companies will make clear what they’re looking for.
For those just getting into the freelance market – or those frustrated that they haven’t received a contract yet – here’s what you can expect.
You’ll have to take a test. Most companies ask you to take a writing test based on their subject matter. They’ll give you a word count range that you have to hit – 500 to 520 words, for example --- and a deadline.
They may ask for additional writing samples. Some ask for links to your work, others ask for links to a portfolio. If you don’t have strong, published samples that you’re proud of, find a website that will let you write on a variety of subjects so you can point to five strong, published pieces. I am not an advocate of writing without compensation, but if you need to strengthen your portfolio, you may need to take this step.
Have patience: Many companies nowadays have the same disclaimer --- we get so many inquiries we can’t respond to them all, and will only be in touch if we want to move forward. Like any job seeker, I find that hard to swallow, but it’s the reality of today’s job market. So you’re going to need to be patient. Expect it to take several weeks – my experience is six to 10 --- from the application process to getting your first assignment. Why? Your work has to be reviewed and accepted; you’ll need to receive and sign a contract agreement; you may need to go through training; and then, you’re finally ready to write.
Don’t expect to get rich. Nope, not at all. Most companies pay five to seven cents a word, and that including time to research your topic and self-edit. Most pieces fall in the 300 to 500 word range, so you need to write a lot if you expect to make a living, and at first, you want write a lot. Companies will want to see you can consistently meet deadlines and produce quality copy before trusting you with more work. I’ve been fortunate (I think) because I can average about $35 an hour – not bad, and I can take as much or as little work as I want. Many make far less than that.
Searching for work: I set aside two hours a day to scour several site for opportunities. I've found that the most effective way to find quality work. I try to apply for three to five jobs each day, writing resumes and cover letters specific to those opportunities. It takes time, but pays off in the end. Remember, you have to treat this like a job if you;re going to succeed. Setting aside time each day to focus, I've found, is as important as the writing itself.
Don't get frustrated. Even the most experienced freelancers don't hear back from companies or get turned down for work they know they can do blindfolded. They'll also be offered work they won't do because the compensation isn't adequate. (I was once offered a writing job writing travel pieces that paid $2 each -- and required about 90 minutes of work!) But don't get frustrated. There are lots of opportunities out there; you just have to hunt.
Freelancing can be a terrific way to make money, especially for those who value flexibility and the ability to work and write when they want. Just remember – be patient and keep those expectations real.