So You Want to be a Freelance Writer…

For me, the key to success in this profession has been flexibility. People tell me they want to write screenplays or speeches, or ghost-write books. My aim is simpler – I want to write. Of course, I have niches I prefer, but I’m willing to take on pretty much any type of assignment. The variety is what keeps it interesting! In fact, some of the projects I assumed would be humdrum have been the most fascinating, once I’ve waded in.

I try also to balance my business to include different types of writing. For me, the ideal mix is one-third corporate (the teamwork is fun), one-third news (short, fast, impactful) and one-third book-length projects (deep-dive into the research). That way, when one lane slows down, I can shift to the others and still manage to make a living.

How much is your time worth? Hourly rates are fine, and you should set them. Many good fee guidelines can be found online. My advice is to decide first how much money you need to make per month, and then determine what you want to do to get it.

Let’s say for starters, you want to earn $500 a month (and, for now, keep your day job).

If a local newspaper pays $250 for a freelance article, you’ll have to write and sell two of them. In your market, depending on what (and whom) you know, how likely is that? Or, set your sights on selling to a national magazine, where a single article could net $1,000 or more. In either case, it’s best to approach the publication with a fully-formed idea to see if there’s any interest before you spend a ton of time on it. Also, determine how much time it will take you to research, write and fine-tune it.

Particularly in the corporate world, be willing to accept a fixed price for a project if you believe the compensation is fair, or if it’s an effort you know you’d love to be part of.

I have resisted the occasional urge to sign up on one of the online “hire a writer” sites. When you have to bid on jobs, there will always be someone who’ll work for pennies.

I can’t afford to do that – but more importantly, why should I? I’ve built my skills and my reputation, and it’s up to me not to sell myself short.

That’s just some of what I tell prospective freelancers.