Being a Writer-for-Hire
As with most things in my life, I sort of backed in to being a writer for hire. I was off work from my regular job due to an injury. I needed extra money. My daughter, who works in marketing, suggested I go to Textbroker.com and sign up as a writer-for-hire. She explained that her agency and many more simply do not have the time or the money to have a full time writer for many projects. So, she went on, they put the jobs out for freelancers to do, and pay them. The problem is many of these writers are not very good, and it is frustrating to people like my daughter who have to clean up the mess. She suggested since I know my way around a comma, I should give it a try.
Being rather desperate, I went to the site, took their writer tests and got signed up as a freelance author. I also opened up an account on Fiverr.com to do freelance jobs, and signed up on eLance to bid on freelance jobs. I investigated other sites that do similar work. There are literally hundreds out there, and I have no idea which are legit and which are scammy. I decided to stay with the three for now, as they had checked out as being at least mostly above board. A fifteen minute Google search for “freelance writing jobs” will bring up search results in the dozens for companies that pay you to write.
The benefits to freelance writing that I have found in the last 6 months of doing it are:
o Money – I have made several hundred dollars a month, after the first month or so when things were slow. Right now, with a big set of direct orders through Textbroker, I am looking at having a thousand dollar month. Since I am still off on Worker’s Comp from the regular job, getting an extra paycheck is super-nice. I’m hoping I can keep up the pace. I’m not saying anyone else will earn that kind of money. It pretty much depends on how good you are and how much work you do.
o Convenient – I do this job in my jammies, sitting in a recliner while watching TV or movies. I pick up the jobs I want, when I want them. If I want to take a day off, I can so long as my deadlines are met.
o Practice – I get to practice doing something I enjoy, and I get to improve my skills at it.
o Positive Feedback – I have been lucky enough to do well at this job, and to have several really dedicated customers. They give great positive feedback, as well as suggestions for improvement when I need them.
o Easy – Most articles I write are under 500 words, and take less than an hour to put together. A little internet research, some Google-fu, organizing things into some semblance of sense, run it through spell checker and three different plagiarism checkers, and done.
There are downsides, too.
o Work is not attributed to me. My name does not appear on a by-line or a credit, because I have sold the article or the work to the buyer. They get to take credit for it, which is part of the deal. It is basically ghostwriting.
o Dull – Most articles and assignments are not super-exciting. Some that I do for one company on Textbroker are just catalog descriptions of sex toys. Others are a one page article about a law firm in Tampa. I did a series of six articles about self-storage. This is not creative writing or investigative journalism.
o Isolation- As with any work-from-home job, it is easy to work most of the time and neglect things like interacting with other people. As a single person living alone, I really struggle with this. I am no social butterfly, but I do miss the interaction with adults that I got at the regular job. Online comments back and forth do not replace that. Try to find some balance with this in your life. Lord knows I need to!
So, churning out articles fast, how do you do it? I am usually given a topic and some key words to use in the article, as well as guidelines about the target audience. Then I do some research on the internet about the topic, and put that information into my rough outline. I include the attributions for quotes and statistics because plagiarism is not ok.
After I have my outline filled with quotes, statistics and information, I go back and turn them into a story. I rewrite quotes into my own words, and leave out the irrelevant stuff. I add connecting sentences, and organize the whole mess into a 6 or 7 paragraph short article.
I spell and grammar check on Word, then I run every thing through three sites. These sites – Duplichecker, Plagiarisma, and Grammarly, check the web to make sure none of my wording is word-for- word that of anyone else. Grammarly also checks for spelling and grammar errors. I go back and fix the issues these 3 programs identify, and run things through the checks again. I repeat if needed until I get a 90% or better on originality from the checkers. I save the article, and send it off to the client. With a little luck, they like it. If they don’t, I revise it till they do like it
I keep separate folders on my hard drive for each company, and subfolders for each type of order – artless, rewriting blog content, catalog descriptions, etc. Some articles turn out to be kind of interesting, so I rework and expand them and add them to my website or a Squidoo lens.
Resources: Try Fiverr.com to start with, as they let you create cheap ($5) “gigs” that you will do for customers. I created one “I will write a 400-500 word article for your website for $5,” It has been my most popular by far. Then go to Textbroker.com and sign up to be on their service. It is more complicated but there are more articles to choose from, too.
Finally, check out other sites. As I said, I chose eLance, where you place proposals to create work as requested by the customer. This site is really hard to get work from, though, so I am thinking about trying Helium.com or one of the others. Do some due diligence on the company background, just to make sure they are not scheisters.
After that, it is just a matter of picking the work, doing a good job, and building a customer base. The key to that is to deliver on time every time, and deliver a great product. Being a nice person and providing excellent customer service will also be points in your favor.
So, if you don’t mind not being famous, consider working as a freelancer or a writer-for-hire. It may not be the worlds most elegant or exciting part time job, but it is way better than flipping burgers somewhere!