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Marketing, Branding and Work-Finding Strategies for Freelance Writers


The Geekpreneur article Digital Entrepreneuring: The New Blog Marketing Strategy outlined some of the ways that blog publishers are monetizing their websites. In that article, I suggested that freelance blogging, however, was not an easy way to make a living. That may not be the case, especially if you broaden your approach and think of yourself as a freelance “online” writer.

Now Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb recently wrote an article based on a survey of top bloggers’ writing rates. In it he suggested that of the top bloggers who responded to his survey, most are making about $25 per blog post. That doesn’t sound very promising, but here are two facts. First, the sample size of 10 people is hardly indicative of reality. Secondly, there are freelance bloggers who make much more than $25/post on a regular basis and they are not top-tier bloggers. Albeit there are probably not many of them and these types of gigs are not easy to come by.

Quick Profiles

Now unless you take a more broadminded approach to your freelancing writing – even if you limit yourself to online venues – it seems tough to make a living this way. Except that there actually are some people doing it, including Chris of Chrisblogging and Yuwanda Black of Inkwell Editorial.

Chrisblogging/ Freelance Writing

Chris of Chrisblogging.com announced in July 2008 that June freelance writing income hit the $10K/mth. Prorated, that’s $120K/yr. There’s no breakdown beyond stating that the total projects completed amounted to thirty. So on average, each project is paying over $300. (Hint hint: those do not sound like blogging gigs.) Compared to June 2007, total projects went down but income went up.

Yuwanda Black/ Inkwell Editorial

Yuwanda Black of Inkwell Editorial says that she regularly bills $200-500/day for SEO articles, and sometimes even $1000. Her comfort limit is a maximum of 15-20 articles in a day, at about $25 apiece for 400-500 word posts. That’s not a bad day’s work. If you’re organized and know your topics, a good article does not have to take long. From what I can gather, she’s not always getting a byline.

Now the hardest part about handling that much writing in a day, every day is building a good workflow system. A good, well-organized writer can pull off more than 20 articles in one day, but it’s not easy to sustain. Quality can also suffer, and that can lose you clients.

Approach

Setting a Business Goal. Setting a financial goal for your freelancing business is an important starting point. Are you looking to make a full-time living, or supplementary income? How much do you want to make? Have you factored all the non-billable work necessary? E.g., research, finding clients, administrative tasks. Those are hours you need to allocate but will not earn any money for.

It’s easier to gauge your relative success when you know what you want to earn. So write down both short-term and long-term goals. Break large goals down by applying the reverse tunneling method of problem-solving. This allows you to understand the series of efforts you’ll need to take to get to your future goal. You will then have a small starting goal, then a plan for moving up.

Branding and Promoting. Some methods of building your personal brand and promoting yourself are as follows:

  1. Blogging. You’ll need your own site as a sort of home base. By blogging there, you demonstrate your writing skills, and make yourself more visible in search engines.
  2. Guest write. Make friends online and offer free guest posts with a byline, and preferably with a link to your personal/ freelance website.
  3. Use new media content. Supplement your website with relevant podcasts, vodcasts, screencasts, and other web media. Remember to watermark your site URL into any web video that you post on video sharing sites.
  4. Implement viral ideas. Viral marketing can mean almost anything that catches the attention of a large group of people online. This could be a great WordPress blog theme, a WP plugin, an entertaining web video series, a free ebook that you allow people to redistribute (for free as well). Provided that your site URL or a personal logo or brand name is present in all these types of content, you increase your own noticeability.
  5. Use social media. Promote yourself via Twitter, Plurk, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and so on. Just make sure you temper your self-promotion by sharing other useful links, and most especially conversing with other members of microblogging and social media sites.

General Work Tips

  1. Balance big and small gigs. For example, taking several $200-500/mth gigs can take you closer to a full-time income. Write related posts in batches to minimize research time.
  2. Don’t focus on just freelance blogging. Take other types of writing gigs, including ghostwriting for blogs and minisites, ebooks, reports, survey summaries, interviews, whitepapers, resumes and more. Edit documents, do SEO work, consult.
  3. Think long-term. A stable gig that pays less per post but offers higher volume over a long-term might be better than just a large one-off project. If you can handle both, even better – something that’s possible with good workflow.
  4. Be efficient in your workflow. That’s absolutely crucial to freelance writing (or any type) of success.
  5. Work for a former employer. Even during a recession, writing work has to get done, and employers save money on casual/ temp workers over employees, when it comes to short-term work.
  6. Check freelance writing job boards. Problogger Jobs is one such, and Freelance Writing Jobs aggregates listings with a bit of commentary. There are a wide range of rates for gigs, and the choicest ones are often announced via word of mouth (or more specifically through email or IM/chat between colleagues).
  7. Consider bid sites. Be cautious, use a reputable site such as Guru or eLance. Check the profiles of each buyer. There are buyers who use bid sites to find slave-labor writers, but there are big-budget projects as well. Start by creating a “vendor” profile. Some experienced bid site users suggest having a friend or two offer a closed project that’s awarded to you, which quickly builds your vendor credentials. Provided you do real work, this seems like a reasonable approach.
  8. Save long-term. Recent events show us that stability in career doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Build your own stability by being future-minded. When you save a dollar for next year, try to save several for many years down the road. When you have money in the bank, you’re going to be more relaxed and therefore are more likely to produce quality work, which will eventually attract more work.
  9. Always network. Be professional but let people know you run a freelance writing business and are available.
  10. Worst case scenario: take some local temp, part-time, or driving work to pad out the rough spots.

Build up to as much work as you can handle. Establish good working relationships with colleagues, in case you have to say “no” to a client. You could then pass on the work to someone you trust.



One Comment

  1. Joseph Rueter Says:

    I could see a page with links to all your writing in context, i.e. at talentzoo.com or the like, collected all in one simple place being very helpful for writers looking to show off their work. They could share just that one place as an introduction to their work.

    I started http://www.extendr.com , a free service, and it could work really well for certain contexts like what you're talking about. Writing a blog is great, but if you have your stuff out on a major site, why not link to it and leverage their brand. Maybe it could be right for you. If you stop by to check it out and have ideas about it I'd love to hear them. Cheers.

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