Monday, June 16, 2008

Can You Make a Living as a Freelance Writer?

Of course you can. I sometimes see speculation about whether it's possible and who is actually doing it. I know of quite a few who do, and all of them are Web writers or copywriters.

I'm not sure whether it's possible with magazine writing, though. Magazines may pay a lot more, but there are far fewer paying markets and it can take months before you see payment.

If you've ever look at a Robert Bly book, the entire process of becoming a commercial copywriter is spelled out fairly thoroughly. According to him, much of it depends on cold calling. Copywriters that I'm acquainted with have reported the same thing. If you can't do it, and I can't, there's Web writing.

Web writing may not pay as much per project in most cases, but there's plenty of work and no limit on how much you can earn. If you're getting started, it's a good idea to have a monetary goal in mind. Without that goal you may be taken advantage of by unscrupulous people looking for what is essentially indentured servitude. To reach a weekly or monthly goal, you need an hourly goal. Starting with a reasonable hourly figure, with hard work you should be able to increase that rate steadily until you are able to work fewer hours and still reach your goal every month.

Reaching an hourly goal sometimes means having a specific per-word rate. The rates for Web writers vary wildly, but there are a few norms. One norm is that the bottom feeders will try to tell you that .01 a word is the standard. It isn't. Even starting out there is no reason to write for that rate. Another norm is that charging a super-high rate means getting little work. I do know of people who charge .30 a word or more for Web articles. That rate will probably work for one or two clients, but it would be hard to succeed long term at that rate. If you are writing sales letters or other commercial copywriting online, that is a more reasonable rate. Of course, it may take longer and involve revisions. In the end, the hourly rate may be the same.

If you seem to be working all the time but are wondering where the money is, calculate your hourly rate. Try it for at least two days- using only one day may be affected by mood, energy level or distractions. If you can get a two or three-day average, you might be surprised by what you see. It may make you ask for higher rates or it may impress you so much that you put on a bow tie and hit the town. Either way, you will know where your business stands and what you need to do next.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I work as an editor for an online company. We pay anywhere from 5 cents to 30 cents a word, depending on the expertise and quality of the writer. However, the expensive ones involve intensive research and possibly interviews. I did a 2000 word piece at .25 a word, total payoput $500. But it was a last minute deadline, I worked all night researching, and I had probably 16 hours into it. I got pneumonia from not sleeping for 2 days. Most of our writers take a load of 1 to 5k words a week and earn $800 to $2800 a month from us.