Thursday, June 30, 2011

How I Got Started as a Freelance Writer

By the time I reached middle school, I had filled up journal after journal with rants, raves, poems, stories, song lyrics, and experiences. I wrote about breaking news events, what was on the radio, the latest fashion trends at school—you name it. Writing was my escape and my love of the written word has never wavered.

Writing was, and still is, one of my favorite past times. I will admit, however, that I used to share too much information in the days of MySpace. Ah, youth.

By the time I was 17, I had started a blog. I instantly fell in love with it. Blogging—essentially speaking to the world—opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me. A light bulb went off in my head. Just shy of becoming an adult, I finally knew what I wanted to do when I "grew up."

And so, as the story goes, I became a writer.

Whether you've been published or not, if you write, you're a writer. When I started out, I hadn't been published anywhere, ever (well, except for maybe those books that they put your poem in so that your parents would purchase a copy). I had no professional background in writing, no degree, no connections—I literally had nothing to back up my skills.

Instead of diving in first, I slowly made my way into the shark pool that is the freelance writing world.

I started with a simple Google search:

make money writing online

Both established and aspiring writers have likely searched that exact term at least once. If you have, you know that it brings up over forty-million results—and it was those results that changed my life...

...okay, so maybe not all of them. There were plenty of scams sandwiched in between some of the legitimate results—scams that promised that I would earn thousands of dollars per day, working only a few hours per week. Would you believe that all I had to do to become rich was purchase their e-book for only five easy payments of $29.99?

Fortunately, I wasn't reaching in my pockets to pay anyone to tell me how to make money. I knew that I had all of the resources I needed at my fingertips. I started by researching every single opportunity in depth before applying. To this day, I cannot stress the importance of researching the companies you intend to work with or write for.

So, I found a website—a website that I'm a bit embarrassed to talk about today, but also grateful for because it got me started—where I began my journey. It was the now defunct, Niner Niner. Before signing up with Niner Niner, I browsed the site, did a little research, and found that people were actually getting paid...but...

...the site was littered with rotten grammar, horrible misspellings, and content that was atrocious. I wasn't even sure that I wanted my content on Niner Niner. Did I really want my name associated with a website that is, for lack of a better word, inferior to the skills I have to offer? No, not really.

But I had just turned eighteen, the work was easy, and even though I was only earning $2 per post, I was easily pulling in $8 per hour (about minimum wage) just sitting in my bedroom. I was 17-years-old. I stayed. I now understand that such a low pay rate is considered slave wages in the freelance writing world, but I knew nothing back then. I learned quickly.

After writing with Niner Niner for a few months, I realized that I could be ruining my future chances of success by associating my name with a website riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes. That's around the time that I found Yahoo! Voices. At this point, I had turned 18. With Yahoo! Voices, I was earning around $4 per post, plus revenue share. I could easily earn $8-12 per hour, so I stuck around for about a year. I also started my own website around this time and made my first $100 with Google Adsense.

Toward the middle of 2008, I was hired as an independent contractor for Demand Media Studios.

I am incredibly thankful for DMS. Not only did they help me improve my writing skills, but they also allowed me to establish myself as a writer in the freelance world. Some of my published pieces even appeared on websites like USA Today and The Houston Chronicle.

And the money was good, too—at least for someone just starting out like me. I was easily making $200-250 a week with DMS, working only 10 hours. This was a fantastic supplemental income. Some writers were earning up to $900 per week.

"Content farms" or "content mills," as they're so endearingly referred, get a really bad rap. I'm honestly surprised at all of the negative reviews. I don't knock 'em. They helped me get my start.  I wouldn't be where I am without them.

I went on to start this blog and work with hundreds of brands on marketing campaigns. For awhile, I worked as head blogger for a small business that sold baby products. I later worked as a contributing blogger for a popular fashion retailer.

These days, I focus mainly on my blog and producing content for private clients. This allows me more control over my work and more freedom to dictate my worth as a writer. I've sure come a long way from writing for pennies.

If you’re a freelance writer, how did you get to where you are today? What was your journey like? What road blocks did you experience along the way?

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