Entry Level Freelance Writing

By Michael

You know in your bones that you’re a good writer, and you have something worth writing about. How do you make that first step into getting paid for it?

Ways to break into writing

  • Start a blog. If you’re going to promote a website, why not make it your own website? Start a blog and see if you can make it popular. Writing regularly teaches you how to write.
  • Volunteer to write for a charity. Find a favorite non-profit agency or website. Offer to edit their website or write news releases for them. They probably won’t turn you down. Make sure it’s an organization you care about. Ask them to give you a job title to put on your resume. If what you write gets published, you can put that on your resume too.
  • Accept boring assignments to earn more exciting money. Few novelists get rich quickly (and, alas, even fewer poets – but you knew that already). You’ll make money faster by writing a brochure, a white paper, a press release, a technical manual, or a trade magazine article.
  • Apply to join a blog network. If you’re chosen, you’ll receive training, support and some cash. Some of the best are About.com, KnowMoreMedia, and b5media.
  • Search the freelance writing job boards. My favorites are About Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Jobs, Writers Weekly, and Writer’s Resource Center.

Who’s hiring writers?

Many people think that freelance writing is limited to suggesting a story idea to a magazine editor, who hires you to write the story if the idea is good. But there are so many other places to sell your work than through magazines. And pitching a story idea or querying an editor may or may not lead to your becoming a regular member of the publication’s stable of writers. Being a family man, I value opportunities for consistent work, so I’ve approached my writing career more conservatively.

Here are some companies I’m familiar with who are paying writers for long-term work, in bite-sized pieces:

  • Mahalo, a human-powered search engine: $10-$15 per page.
  • SearchSays, another human-powered search engine: about $1 per 1000 characters
  • Google, not exactly writing, but they want writer-types for temporary, part-time jobs: $15 per hour
  • Brijit, abstracts of high-class popular magazines: $5 each
  • Historical Abstracts, abstracts of scholarly articles about history and social science: $5.50-$8.50 each, more if you can read other languages (They also recruit volunteers, so specify if you want to be paid).
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13 Responses to “Entry Level Freelance Writing”

  • Michael

    I’ve recently done some work as a freelance business reporter/stringer for Trenchmice, and I’m very pleased with how it’s going.

  • cmdweb

    Like you say, a lot of freelancers turn to technical writing on occasion to keep the earnings coming. It can, however, be worth noting that technical writing carries some inherent risk and liability considerations that many people fail to acknowledge.
    My name link here will take you to an interesting article on what these liabilities can be, depending upon what type of tech writing you’re getting into.
    While much technical writing will not place you in a risky position, it’s worth asking yourself some basic questions as a freelancer before you get into it.

  • Sheniqua

    Hi. I am a sruggling youth who has one large goal of building my own business from the bottom up. I also enjoy writing so much, and any job that would alow me to better myself at it would be a true blessing for me. I am currently enrolled in college and it is apart of the plan to achieve my goal. I am searching for a writing job that can give me some extra cash. I am on a road to success, but I keep hitting the speed bumps in the road! What can I do to get closer to my goals?

  • Michael

    Update: I’m no longer working for any of the “companies I’m familiar with” except Historical Abstracts, now purchased by Ebsco. One reason: most of them seem to be out of business. Google isn’t, of course, but they just laid off thousands of temporary workers. KnowMoreMedia laid off their bloggers too. But don’t give up – good writers are still needed.

  • Philip

    Thanks for the update. I actually visited some of those sites and found them defunct. Mahalo might still be of some interest though.

    It would probably be useful if you updated the main article rather than just adding a comment, as that’ll save people clicking through to sites that don’t exist.

  • Michael

    Unfortunately, I don’t have edit privileges for old posts, but maybe Daniel will have time to do it.

  • (Lefty)

    I am a young man who just had the most beautful baby girl in the world. My writing has been inspired by her and I think my level of writing is getting a lot better. I am not a college trained writer, I write from the mind. I have tried a lot of different writing web sites but they all say you need college expirence, For the lack of a better word that is bullshit, What makes my work any different than someone going to college……..Money!

  • Michael

    Some writing teachers warn against depending on college to turn you into a writer. It can’t. College can give you time and motivation to read other writers, and your tuition supposedly pays for someone to read and critique your writing. I’m not the only writer who’s afraid of what a MFA Creative Writing degree might do to him. I’m afraid it might turn me into a writer than only MFAs, professors and book critics can understand. The only way you can write is as yourself. College can turn you into somebody else. The question is, do you want that?

  • Master Dayton

    Hey Michael,

    Great article for beginning writers. I started off as a freelance writer shortly after college and also went to grad school and finished my MFA. While I can see the benefits of it, if you’re really keen on the freelance writing, don’t go to grad school. I was fortunate to land some really good writing jobs with bosses who were patient in developing me as a freelancer, because I had to unlearn most of what I learned in grad school to become a good freelance writer. Now I have a blog (albeit an ugly one) I keep up to try to help beginners out, because it is a hard business but the opportunities out there are amazing. So anyone who’s discouraged, just keep at it. It’s worth the fight!

    Shane “Master” Dayton

  • Jev

    I’m a senior in high school at the moment, but I think (read, “know”) I’m as good a writer as most in the fields, be it freelance, full time; hell, maybe even book writing, I’ve yet to try my hand at that. Of course, I know that most places aren’t going to go for the kid still in high school to write for them, so I’m not too hopeful to find anything anytime soon. The thing is, once I’m out of high school, I’m not going to take any sort of writing classes in college because I assume from everything that I’ve heard that it is widely a waste of money.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to ask is this: once I’m out of high school and looking for some sot of work to get by with, how likely am I to find a place that’ll hire me without any sort of college credencials to the “creative writing” affect? Do I stand any chance at all?

  • Pamela

    I have currently been writing two columns weekly in a couple county papers. Each column has about 30 column inches, making that about 60 column inches published weekly to a circulation of about 5, 500 readers. I have been writing about life in rural Iowa from the perspective of a 50-something woman for 2 1/2 years now.

    How might I take a bigger leap into more writing, and where would that potential be?

  • ekta

    i am really passionate and fond of writing since when i was in school.i love to read everything and anything regardless of any specific writer or poet or language. i always wanted to do something in this field, but as a elder child had to follow the path my parents and elders showed to secure my career and to make money.
    i have done MBA-HR and working as an HR Executive but not getting that thrill and passion to work. i still write in free time when my mind is chilling.
    For me writing is just keeping your views,experiences, thoughts and beliefs forward
    I lost my friends but had a lovely moments with them and i want to share my experience to all those people who value friendship and love friends. I want to write a book on my friends.
    I really don’t know how to start of being a writer or a poet. I will try and help myself to achieve my dreams

  • Jessica D. Gambalan

    I am a mother of 2, an accountant but I found it boring, i love reading, watching English movies and I have this realization in life that the income of an employee like me will not compensate the daily needs of my family or maybe I know that for a long time just ignoring the fact that I have to get out from my comfort zone and tried something new. Suddenly all I did after I finish my routine for the day is to search for a home base job or business that can bring an extra income to my family and the funny thing is I don’t have any talent or skills to start something or any resources, so sad. Bookeeping? Accounting is not my passion, I just took the course because you can easily find a job if you are an accounting graduate, sometimes I have this regrets that I did not took teaching courses, maybe an educator will fulfill my cravings to share what I learned. Searching the web, I encounter this word ” writing keyword, freelance writers and SEO”, this word brings me here. I can speak english, I can read and understand it, but why I can’t put all this things in my mind into writings?

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