Punctuality Rules!

Soliciting Advice and Encouragement

Soliciting Advice and Encouragement

When I was in college, and in the habit of studying and learning new things every day, I could sometimes–don’t ask me how–shift mental gears so that I was thinking at a higher pitch than usual. I couldn’t keep it up for long, but if I concentrated hard enough, I’d absorb more material or get better ideas before my brain sputtered back down to its normal thinking level.

I’ve been writing this writing blog for almost a year now. (Wow, that went by fast.) I’ve made a bunch of friends, found a lot of blogs that I wouldn’t otherwise have found, and have generally been having a great time. But … without getting into excruciating detail, our family finances are in dire straits and I need to do something about it.

It’s starting to sound like I’m going to tell you I’m closing down the blog, doesn’t it? But it’s not! In fact, quite the contrary–I need to shift up to a whole, new level.

What I really want–no, need–to do is figure out a way to get some paying writing gigs. Ways to get freelance jobs. Ways to use this otherwise pleasant little writing blog as a springboard for more serious writing (i.e. writing that pays me money).

So … let me ask you folks:

What do you think is the one, most important thing I need to do to make this happen?

There are lots of truly wonderful freelance writing blogs floating about the ether. In fact, I probably spend more time reading them than I really should–time I could be using to, you know, write. The tricky part of reading those blogs, though, is that while they’ve got great information, not to mention helpful things like categories, it’s still hard to find the posts that tell a beginner where to start.

I could (and do) spend hours reading tips about how to bill your customers, or how to find time for a vacation, or the importance of e-mail as a business tool. I’ve got a small pile of books about Freelancing next to my computer, to augment my library on general writing books. I’ve subscribed to online courses for writing for the web. Really, I’ve read so many helpful tips and instructions, I’m drowning under a sea of “Do this first” tips.

But what I really need is for somebody to look at this blog and tell me, “Okay, good. The first thing you need to do now is ____.”

So, this is your chance. How often do I ask you to tell ME what to do? Usually these posts are all about me telling you things like “Don’t mix up your pronouns and verb tenses.” Now’s your chance to give ME helpful tips.

What if you don’t have any helpful tips? Maybe you’re in the same boat I am? Or you’re here because you’re still struggling with when to use “Further” and when to use “Farther?” Well, you can help too. How about some words of encouragement? Affirmations that you believe I’ll figure it all out and write well enough to be able to make this work?

So–here’s the big question of the day.

What do I need to do to (quickly) launch a freelance writing career?

(And yes, I know, split infinitive in that sentence, but that’s a rule for old fogeys, anyway. Just like the rule about starting sentences with “and.” I do KNOW the rules, you know.)

Spread the word! I’ll take whatever (reasonable) advice I can get!

And, if you can direct me to some actual work, that would be even better (grin).

16 thoughts on “Soliciting Advice and Encouragement

  1. John Roach

    I think the quickest way is to go to your local Chamber of Commerce’s website, get their membership list, and start calling. Ask them if they have any upcoming press releases or other small writing projects they need written.

    I’ve heard good things about elance.com for picking up work, but their free plan only gives you 3 bids per month. Depending on how dire your straits are, the $7.99 membership may be too dear.

    Call local publishers and see if they need proofreaders. It’s not writing, but it’s work.

    Add a page to this site about your freelance writing services. Send your URL to every business in town.

    Get your hands on a copy of “The Well-Fed Writer.” It’s an excellent book on freelance copywriting.

    Well, that’s some of my best advice. I wish you the best of luck. My family’s not in dire straits yet, but we’re getting close, so I feel your pain. Moreso than McCain, at least.

    Ok, that was low-hanging fruit. I’m sorry.

    John Roach’s last blog post..Are your headlines costing you readers?

  2. John

    Deb, have you ever tried looking at freelance websites? I actually started my freelancing career two years ago writing course contents for some guy in the US but I have now concentrated mainly on data extraction (which I find much more challenging) plus I’m not much of a writer anyway. I recommend two websites which you can read about on my blog. Writing is a very in demand job nowadays, especially now that everyone seemed to outsource just about any content they can squeeze into their websites. Nice blog you have here by the way.

    John’s last blog post..Save Money and Spend Less Than Your Competitors

  3. --Deb Post author

    @John (the first)–Thanks for the list. I do have a day-job, of course, so that limits the legwork I can do during daylight hours. I’ll add the “Well-Fed Writer” to my list, too.

    @John (the second)–I’ve looked at elance.com but am wary, mostly because I’m unsure WHAT to bid (grin). (And, thanks for the compliment.)

    @Gillian–I HAVE read Zen Habits. It’s one of the good ones, but that’s part of the problem. There’s good information but it’s so spread out, it takes time to find it and just like the OTHER good ones, I end up getting sidetracked without getting anything DONE.

    See? Floundering! (grin)

  4. Melissa Donovan

    1. Add a services page to your site. Include as much (rates) or as little (portfolio/samples) information as you want 😉 and optimize your site so that its main purpose is pitching your freelancing services.

    2. Find paying clients. Google Ads. Network forums. CraigsList. Cold emails. Lots of writers start out on bidding sites but I never liked them (pay’s too low). I hear Guru is excellent but it’s also expensive.

    There is a lot more you can do – set up your quoting/invoicing system, establish your Ts and Cs, etc. You may also want to think about what you want to write. There’s a big difference, for example, in writing/editing business plans versus writing web content. My first gig was writing product descriptions for an online catalog.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Behind the Scenes: Writing as a Business

  5. Lillie Ammann


    You’ve already got some good advice that I echo: contact local businesses, decide what kind of writing you want to do (though you may want to take whatever gigs you can get to start and refine your interests and skills as you go along), and set up a services page on this site.

    You’re also off to a good start by announcing your intention here. Be sure to let all your contacts in the offline world know about your freelancing. A friend or relative may know someone who knows someone who needs your services.

    I don’t recommend the bidding sites, but I recommend you check the listings on freelance sites like Poewar.com, Freelance Writing Jobs, and Anne Wayman’s site.

    Although I usually don’t recommend writing for free, there is one situation where it can pay off. When you’re starting out, volunteering to write for a nonprofit organization can give you clips and get your name before people who are potential customers—both influential volunteers you come in contact with and readers of the newsletter (or whatever you write for). Often businesspeople who can use your writing services volunteer for nonprofit organizations, and you will have a chance to get to know them. People like to do business with people they know and like so the contacts can lead to profitable work. Do this only if you sincerely support the cause and would volunteer or donate to them anyway.

    Lillie Ammann’s last blog post..Change is afoot …

  6. Julie Roads

    Hey Deb…some good advice up there! I’ve written a whole series on my blog http://www.bloggingroads.com called “How to Become a Freelance Writer” (check the how to category and you’ll find them or email me and I’ll send you all the links) and I also consult on this topic (it’s one of my favorite things to do) – and for you friend, I would LOVE to help you out. You are a fantastic writer and there is no doubt you’ll be a huge success – I might even be able to contract some of my work to you! Email or call me!!!

  7. --Deb

    @Melissa–I know, I DO need to upgrade this site to change/improve it, but finding the time (not to mention the expertise) is hard! (grin) (Hey, I never claimed to be a programmer.)

    And, how DO you figure out what to charge? I’ve seen the formulas about figuring out what you need per month and dividing it by the number hours worked, or whatever, but I can’t figure that out. I don’t know how many hours I’ll have to spare yet (since I do have a full-time job, and I’m trying to help my Dad get his own business launched, too–(more computer stuff I don’t understand)–so the numbers are completely imaginary. And, um, “Ts and Cs?”

    @Lillie–I’ve heard about the “write-for-charity” thing and understand why and how it’s a good thing, but honestly, don’t know any local charities to write for!


    And, folks, I’m trying very hard not to sound like I’m whining, here. I feel like I keep saying, “But, but, but!” It’s mostly because I’m overwhelmed and can’t figure out exactly what to do first, when my list of “Must Do First” has so many items on it. Not just for this, but for trying to help my Dad, and the computer-programming-website thing really bogs me down a LOT because, while I can figure certain things out, it takes me a while. (And, no, I really can’t afford to hire someone to do it for me, darn it.)

    So, any responses that sound whiny–if any do–please forgive the tone. It’s not ingratitude you’re hearing, honest!

    (Yeah, right, like THAT disclaimer really helped….)

    –Deb’s last blog post..Soliciting Advice and Encouragement

  8. Lillie Ammann

    You don’t need to be a programmer to add a services page to your site. Upgrading and redesigning is great but not necessary at this point. Just add a page about your services.

    As to what to charge, if you apply for gigs listed on the various writing sites, you’ll find that many of them have an established price they will pay. If you read them regularly, you will start to get a feel for what’s typical (if such a thing exists). But you’ll see payment for blog posts fall into a range, SEO articles a range, etc. As a beginner, you may need to charge on the lower end of the scale (though not necessarily at the bottom). Apply for a few jobs and see what happens. You will get more familiar with the market, and you will hone your query skills.

    Lillie Ammann’s last blog post..Change is afoot …

  9. Amy Derby

    I don’t have that one perfect piece of advice, but I do want to wish you luck in finding the path that’s right for you. For me, the beginning was a combination of scanning craigslist (although craigslist seemed better then) and pitching my services around to business people, but that won’t necessarily be the right path for you. We’re all as different as the writing we do, I think. Chamber of Commerce is a good idea.

    Amy Derby’s last blog post..Fiction Friday: Stories & Markets

  10. --Deb Post author

    So MANY things I need to do–and why are so many of them “Do this FIRST” kinds of items. Not everybody can be first. Stop pushing in line!

    Keep the tips coming, folks…. Just remember, I’ve got a full-time job and that limits what I can do during traditional business hours.

  11. --Deb Post author

    Okay … I started to create a Services page, and got stuck. Melissa said, “Include as much (rates) or as little (portfolio/samples) information as you want,” but … I don’t know what my rates should be (I told you I was uncertain), and I don’t yet have any published work outside of my quartet of blogs and some of the promotional stuff I write for my day job.

    What kind of information should I have on my Services page? What kind of samples?

    Or should I just say something like, “Contact me if you’re interested in my services,” and quote rates on an individual basis?

    And–what kind of writing samples would YOU offer, if you were me?

  12. John Roach

    I would recommend against quoting rates. Anything you put up here would have to be so vague as to be meaningless.

    You’ve probably got a good idea by now as to how long it would take you to write a given project. I’ve just decided that you charge $50/hour on simple projects that involved little research and $75/hour for more complex tasks. You’re welcome.

    But never give out your hourly rate! Do the math in your head and quote a project.

    Back to your question: Anything you’ve put pen to paper for can go be a sample.

    I would put up 1.) a press release, 2.) a brochure, 3.) a sales letter, and 4.) a link to some website. That’s probably a good starting point. Unless you’ve got experience, you probably don’t want to be chasing after annual reports or similar projects, and with a day job, you probably don’t want such complex jobs anyway.

    And don’t get hung up on your samples being published. You’re not pitching a novel, you’re pitching your writing abilities, which you have in spades. Write a press release about your newly created writing services and put that up there.

    John Roach’s last blog post..That which doesn’t restrict you makes you non-essential

  13. --Deb Post author

    John said, “I’ve just decided that you charge $50/hour on simple projects that involved little research and $75/hour for more complex tasks. You’re welcome.”Well, thank you, John. That certainly does save me all sorts of headaches… (grin) (No, really, thanks.)

    And, actually, seriously, I DO have a novel I’d love to get published, but that really IS a discouraging process.

  14. Amy Derby

    Deb, I think links to your blogs would suffice, along with whatever else you have (from your job, etc). For a long time I only had ghostwriting gigs, so I had nothing I could post and say “this is mine.” So what I did was write up a few articles on different things I’m interested in, upload them to pdf documents and posted those as writing samples. Unless you’re doing hoity toity magazine writing, most folks don’t care if the samples have been published; they just want to see that you can write. I suggest leaving off rates information. I still don’t list my rates. It’s way too difficult to quote a rate without first knowing what the project entails. One 500 word article might take me an hour, while another might take me three hours in research. I know a lot of writers disagree with me about the rate posting thing, but it’s worked for me, so it could work for you too I think.

    Amy Derby’s last blog post..Word of the Day: proponent (pruh-POH-nuhnt)

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