Guest author: Derek Thompson
First, let’s start with the basics. Can you write? How do you know? (Doodling doesn’t count.) You need to be clear about your strengths and weaknesses, as a writer, before you boot-up and search for easy money. And the actual writing is just one aspect of your business (did I mention you’re in business now?). You also need the discipline and adaptability to handle deadlines, last minute changes to requirements and idiosyncratic clients who, when all’s said and done, are sending their money in your direction.
Okay, let’s assume you’ve got the foundations in place. Your pen is poised, your computer’s fired up and there are bills to be paid. Hold on a second, though; think about football (or soccer, for our American cousins). At the very top of the pyramid there are players earning millions and then going down through the leagues you come to the JFF (just for fun) Sunday leaguers. Where do you see yourself and where do you want to be?
In the beginning, no one will have heard of you. It’s like opening a shop, but nobody knows where you are. So you start small.
There are many sites that will welcome beginners and which offer payment by the word, per piece, or by the number of views. In the past, I tried many such sites, including: Associated Content, Demand Studios, eZine Articles* and Copify. (I also attracted criticism for it, but that’s another story.)
Along the way I picked up some valuable lessons:
- If you’re not already part of a large and active online community, or you don’t plan on writing about controversial topics, don’t go for payment based upon the number of times your piece is read. Adsense is fine in principle, but in my case it was more like Absense.
- If you’re writing for a low rate (or even, whisper it with me, for free), in order to build up a portfolio, you still need to be discerning about where your work is displayed.
- Whatever you’re being paid (or not being paid), treat all writing jobs the same way. Monitor your time (including any time taken to do research) and make sure your work fits the market you’re aiming for.
The more writing you do, the more you learn and the more experience you gain – it’s as simple as that. So, if you keep at it, all those bylines and backlinks (plus the screenshots you take and convert to PDFs) can soon become a portfolio.
Now you’re ready to take things up a gear. In my case, I went on to Craigslist and identified cities in the UK and US under their Writing Gigs and Writing & Editing Jobs categories. As long as you have Paypal and you can demonstrate your capability as a writer, you can write for clients anywhere. The jobs tend to be one-offs, but if you impress a client it can develop into a longer lasting – and lucrative working relationship.
* My experience there led to ghostwriting pieces on the site for a client.
Guest author: Derek Thompson
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