In short, it comes down to marketing and finding the right audience. I can go on and on about today's intelligence levels but instead, I'll share with you some things I've learned. While freelance writing articles like this are a great template for getting started, these truths I've experienced can make the difference between being able to make rent and being tempted to put on a paper hat and go slang some burgers, fried chicken, or whatever sells in your area.
What I Learned From a Decade+ of Freelance Writing
- Keep calm. There's nothing worse than entering the process stressed out or wondering about the last rejection or job that didn't go as planned.
- Keep reserve cash on hand. Even if it's as little as $500, it can buy a little time when a person needs a break from the screen.
- Diversity is great but generalizations can bite you in the butt. Trying to know and write about everything is something I learned way back in the days of Associated Content. Because they paid upfront and residuals, I felt that as long as knew I how to research I can write about anything. Not only was I called out on my errors but it made my profile look strange when I tried to use it for branding.
- Have a set of resources outside of your browser search engine. This line of work is getting VERY competitive and being original is hard. Although you may realize that using Wikipedia can be a fail, know where else to look for the facts.
- Never, ever pay for resources. There was once an individual in my LinkedIn group who was a self-proclaimed expert on content writing. While his intentions may have been good, it was all to promote an e-book that costs $5. However, the buyer needed a password to open the book and had limited viewings. Unfortunately for me (I fell for the okey-doke), about half of the things mentioned were out of date (even the SEO algorithms and black hat techniques). Of course, the leads were out of date but back then, it was typical for a content writing company to go out of business without notice and take their works with them. Don't believe me, ask anyone who worked with Demand Media pre-2010.
This leads me to the bonus that very few writers today will do. Keep copies of your work. Even if it was rejected more than once, it's yours to re-tool/spin/repurpose. If you choose to work with a content mill as a way to get started and build some bylines, be aware of the risks. It may start off good but waking up to getting an Error 500 message and not knowing what happened to your work can be disturbing,