How to Stand Out as a Freelance Writer
Do you have a passion for writing? Do you see yourself as a journalist but need to build up a portfolio of clients first? There is no shortage of people looking for writers online.
There are many, many types of articles you can write, each of which requires slightly altered styles and methods. For instance, writing a standard academic literature review for publication will be vastly different from a feature piece for an online magazine.
Newspaper articles are often short and concise unless they are feature pieces which are printed on the main page. The language is very simple and usually written in an easy to understand format. The references used in a newspaper article are often quoted within the text in lieu of being printed at the end. The titles in a newspaper article are designed to give the reader some insight into the context of the article. They will often track the development of a story while offering a slant for the readers, by highlighting important key text. These articles can cover regional, local, or international information or events as well as interviews with notable figures.
Special interest articles are those written to maintain the attention of readers for a span of five to ten minutes. These are often pieces you will find while leafing through a magazine in the doctor’s office. These pieces can focus on hobbies or something which is of particular interest to the target demographic, such as sports cars or cooking. These articles are very short, again, unless they are cover pieces. Their length is often one to ten pages, maximum. The language is very simple but may contain technological phrases or terminology which a hobbyist would recognise. The sources are often cited within the article in the same manner as a newspaper article and the title speaks to the demographic it is targeting. These articles can be published on a regular basis, i.e. weekly or monthly, and therefore can provide updates about a current hobby or trend. They are also entertaining while covering topics that may be more challenging to locate elsewhere.
Professional articles are written by professionals for other professionals. The length can vary based on the content, audience, or publication from less than one page to upwards of ten pages. The language used in professional articles is specific to the profession but takes on a conversational tone that can be easily reproduced. These articles are written as if they were explaining something to another employee. In terms of references they could be in-text, compiled at the end, or not included at all. There should be words within the title that tell you the target profession. These articles are useful in that they provide information on what is happening currently within a professional field, opinions about the effects of new events, career and employment information, as well as the marketing implications of aiming toward certain demographics.
Research articles share information that researchers have gained. There are three types of research articles. The first explains an experiment which was conducted. The second reviews existing literature about a certain topic. The third is a case study whose purpose is to analyze aspects of business, society, etc…The length of scholarly articles can range between five and fifty pages and will contain highly academic language. Sources will be available in a list at the end and the title will convey the research involved. They are useful in that they provide original research, detailed information about a topic, and a list of references consulted in the research for further exploration.
SEO optimised articles
SEO articles are articles which are optimised for search engines. This means they contain a certain percentage of keywords which link readers to the company. They are often short, between four hundred and six hundred words and focus on a single aspect of a service, product, news event, or anything relevant to the company. They can be posted in article directories, on social networking pages, or on a web page. The purpose is to increase back links, or links that take readers back to the original website. The title will contain a keyword related to the company. These articles can also be “filler” pieces which are short, between two hundred and three hundred words and used to fill space on a newsletter or website or article directory.
Web content, such as a ‘home page’ or an ‘about us’ page should be short and concise with keywords appropriate for the demographic and niche market. It should be straightforward and easily understood by all readers. No references are necessary. The purpose of web content is to “hook” the readers, gain their interest immediately and keep them browsing through the available services or products a company is offering.
A press release signifies something new to the press. It contains the basic, who, what, where, why, and how of the event. It can be used to inform readers of a new company, a merger, a new book, a new website, and more. The length is often one to two pages and will contain contact information for those people involved.
A sales letter is similar in nature to a press release. It is designed as an email or standard letter and contained inside is information alerting readers about a new sale. This can be an eBook or an actual sale on products and more. It should be one to two pages with titles that grab the attention of the reader in bold font such as “100% guarantee” or “never before seen”. There should be links inside of the sales letter to the site where the product is being sold along with the price and an urgent call-to-action.
When you are writing an eBook you should bear in mind the most effective are short and concise – between ten and one hundred pages. Since the price for eBooks is much less than standard books—and the percent of profit you are allowed to take after the publishing company has taken theirs is smaller—the more concise the better. There are many rules regarding the formatting of an eBook depending on the type of online publisher you use. You can go through createspace.com or smashwords.com or even directly through a kindle publisher like Barnes and Noble. In any case the formatting rules should be viewed before you start writing so that you can adhere to the publishers requirements at all times. The content of an eBook can be the same as any book. You want to use a title that informs the reader about what the book contains while also keeping them entertained.
If you write eBooks or articles and want to make money online with them there are a few methods for doing this. When you work from home one of the best ways to increase your profile and writing is to have great marketing. Writing high quality content is only half of the battle. You also need to know where to publish your content and how to draw attention to it.
If you write a great new creative fiction ebook you need to draw attention to its publication with a sales letter or a press release, as well as through information on a youtube channel or social networking profile.
If you are working as a freelance writer you need to make yourself stand out. You can do this by working with a few of the most prominent online freelancing sites. You can sell your previously written articles here and gain a reputation by working with new clients. When you are looking to write online full time by selling or publishing your work online you can try many of the highest ranking freelancer sites.
The first is to market your skills through a site such as Odesk or Elance wherein you join and take on jobs as they come. You can search jobs that focus on your niche or interest, or you can write on a wide variety of topics. In this scenario you have to create a profile which showcases your background and skills. You then pay for a certain number of “connects” or points (or bids) which allow you to bid on available jobs in your area of expertise. To place a bid you review the content about the job, then explain why they would be best for this position, what skills they offer, and then they set how much they would like to make for these jobs, and when they can complete the job. There is also a section to attach previous work as examples which encourage selection to make easy money. Once the client reviews these offers and selects a winner, they award the job, and the freelancer and client will agree to the terms and conditions. The freelance company funds the account for the amount which was agreed upon and these funds are held in escrow by Elance until the job has been completed, ensuring that you can make easy money. Elance takes a small fee which is around eight percent of the total earned. After completion, the client has the opportunity to rank the freelancer and add comments about the job. This feedback is what potential future clients will review before selecting a recipient.
For writing you can select from a wide variety of writing jobs including:
- Academic writing
- Article Writing
- Press Releases
- Travel Content
- SEO Web Content
- Description Writing
- Sales Letters
- Health & Fitness
- Technical Writing
- Magazine Column Writer
When you use Elance you must describe why you are a fit for the job at hand. You also have the option of attaching previous samples. Those who post the job can either pay hourly or as a fixed fee and the funds are always held in escrow for fixed fees and guaranteed with Elance tracker system. This system is a program installed on your computer. When you begin working on an hourly assignment you log in and it starts taking screen shot photos every ten to fifteen minutes. These screen shots are automatically uploaded so that the client can monitor your progress. Once everything is finished payments are made.
Odesk works in a similar fashion. People can post jobs they have based on their skills. You can select from the available writing jobs which are either fixed price or hourly.
Odesk is very similar, as the company holds the money in their version of escrow until it is complete. The difference is that oDesk uses a software which works at periodic moments throughout the work day (when the freelancer has logged in) to take pictures of the screen and sends them to the client so that they can see the progress the freelancer is making. Other top freelance writing sites include freelancewrite.com, writersweekly.com, and worldwidefreelance.com. No matter where you look, there are opportunities for easy money writing online.
In both instances many people want to hire someone with experience that is verifiable on the site. For every job you complete the clients can leave feedback regarding the work you did. This makes getting started a bit difficult as you need to be able to convince the client that even though you have no tangible feedback or online reputation with the site you are still the best match out of all the bids. Once you start getting feedback on both sites it becomes easier and faster to receive jobs.
With both sites you can showcase the skills you have to potential clients to increase your hiring rates. With improved neurological development you can test higher on these topics and increase your ranking among other freelance writers. Some topics include:
- English editing
- English mechanics
- English vocabulary
- English grammar
- English sentence structure
- English spelling
- English proofreading
- Microsoft Word
- Academic writing
- Business writing
- Creative fiction writing
- Creative non-fiction writing
- Grant writing
- Report writing
- Technical writing
- SEO writing
- Ebook writing
- Article writing
- Press releases
- White paper writing
- And more
You can add specializations within these categories such as partnership agreements and business plans under the category “business writing”.
Opening your online account
When you begin on elance and oDesk you need to create an account on the home page.
You create a username for both instances which should be something professional. After this you have to send them your contact information and a confirmation email will be sent to your personal email address. Once you click on the link provided in the email you have confirmed your account.
Once you start an account on elance or odesk or freelancers you need to link it to a method of payment. You can verify your bank account or paypal account or another credit card. You can do the same for Odesk. The verification process only takes a matter of days at most depending on your bank or credit card. Once this is established you can use the same payment method to transfer money to your Elance or Odesk account or to have money transferred to you once you are paid for your first job.
Getting your first job and correctly marketing yourself is the key when you join. Grabbing that first feedback is critical for each of these sites and some people go months before they get a job. When you are new it is important that you understand the first impression a potential client has is your profile. This is why you need to correctly market your skills and provide a thorough profile. When you place bids on jobs on any of these sites you need to know that cookie cutter responses will not work well for you. Each job is different and therefore your description of why you would be best for the job must be different. You might highlight a completely different set of writing skills for a technically minded job versus an academic one. When you fill out a description to go with your bid you need to tell the client why you are better than the competition. This might be uncomfortable at first especially if you do not like complimenting yourself but it is necessary if you ever want to make a name for yourself on these sites. You have to sell yourself as well as possible, giving the most glowing and honest review.
Some jobs ask for samples of previous work. If you do not have any paid writing pieces you might try spicing up an old report you wrote in school or taking an hour or two one day to write a creative reflection piece on a current event. Even a simple 500 page article you write on a topic of your choice can be used as a sample for every job until you start writing more.
Another way to land your first job on these sites is to look at the client profile. They are looking at yours so it cannot hurt. Most clients know that if they want the highest quality work they will have to pay more. However not every client wants to pay for the highest worker. Sometimes they select the lowest bid or the fastest delivery time. You can learn a lot about catering your bid to their needs by reviewing who they have selected in the past for previous jobs and determine the link between them. Were they all the lowest bid? Were they all the fastest turnaround time? Were they all people who attached writing samples? Were they all new hires?
In some cases you may get lucky. There are often people who seek out newcomers to these sites. These jobs typically pay less than the average job but they give you a chance to get great feedback in exchange for working less. You can often find these based on their job description and/or title which will clearly state something for “beginners” or “newcomers” or “newbies”.
Another alternative is to pre-write articles on whatever niche you want and sell them to an article directory. Certain sites such as DemandMedia allow you to browse through topics that have gone unanswered and write an article in response. The articles you can select from are listed in order of their price so you can write on topics pertaining to the price you want to charge. The prices per article range from three dollars to fifteen dollars. Obviously the three dollar questions are much simpler than the fifteen dollar questions. You can select generic topics or follow a niche of your choice. If you are better at financial writing or technical writing you can narrow down the topics to only those topics. They must then pass inspection from an editor and once they are approved you earn the money.
There are certain directories which allow you to post as many articles as you want and give you the profits gained from Google Adwords on that article. This encourages you to develop well crafted articles that people want to read so that more traffic comes to the page. Alternatively some sites will only give you credit based on how many of their readers read and like your article or comment on the content. Other sites serve as a third party through which you can post your articles and list some descriptions about it such as length. Then you select the price and people looking to buy articles off the internet can search for your article and make a purchase. Some methods work faster than others while others may reap more profits in the long term but require a lot of effort initially. Finding the right balance for you is important.
The last bastion in our list is Fiverr, now Fiverr is not the best but it is not the worst place to offer up your writing talents. Fiverr is quite different to the other sites listed above. What I would say is that Fiverr is a good place to build a portfolio and if you are creative with how you offer your gigs you could go a long way. There are writers on Fiverr who always have 100′s sales, at minimum you might say $500, how long might that take you? A month? 3 months? 6 months? It is not really much but when you start using Fiverr to upsell with the gig extras, under promising and over delivering that is when you start to build a strong reputation and maybe even become a featured seller. Make sure to use the forums to let people know you are there! Offer up a range of services, if you are up for it make a video of you so people can see who is actually selling the service, people will be much more inclined to buy. Fiverr is in abundance of graphics designers, video testimonial sellers, social media marketers but writers… writers just haven’t picked onto it yet. You don’t have to sell 400 word articles for $5, that is just ridiculous, what you can do is sell 100 words for $5 and sell 400 for $10 (2 gigs). No one is going to want 100 words for $5 but they will want 400 for $10 and for $20 you could write a 1000 word article. Just some ideas!
Other notable outlets to sell your services and build a portfolio
- SEOClerks – A big opening for people to sell writing services on the site… click here.
- Triond – Site that allows you to earn through Goolge Adsense based on the traffic your articles receive on the site. See our guidance on Triond from our writer and experienced user of Triond Gemma click here.
- Textbroker – Marketplace solely for writers online – click here.
Hopefully you have found that this article has helped you in how to stand out as a freelance writer. If you have any other tips please share them below also if you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article feel free to join the YWB forum.
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About the Author: Oliver Neely
Oliver is a 20 year old web-enthusiast and entrepreneur from the UK. He enjoys Marketing, SEO, Technology and Business.
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