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Freelancing: What It Is and How to Do It

If you're like me (a stay at home mom), you're probably looking for a way to bring in a little extra money: that's where freelance writing can come in.

Before Landon and I had Britton, we worked hard to make sure that we could live off of one income. Not only did this tactic allow us to put more money towards responsible things like buying our first house and paying down our school debt, it created the opportunity for us to travel to Scotland and have a baby.

When we had decided that the time was right to start a family, we agreed that whoever was making the lesser salary would stay home with the baby. As it turned out, our salaries at the time of getting pregnant weren't that far apart, so we decided that I would stay home with Britton because I had the flexibility to work from home through freelance writing.

As luck would have it, I had started freelancing just after I found out I was pregnant. I loved writing, so the idea of getting paid for publishing my work was a great fit for me. Plus, I could do it in my spare time away from my full-time job (which, at the time, was teaching English at a homeschool program). After some research, I found several places that would kick start my freelancing career. Freelancing is kind of like getting a book published: no one wants to take you on unless you've been published, but you can't initially get published unless someone hires you. While I won't ever buy a private island with my freelancing income, the jobs I've taken on have given Landon and I some extra fun money that we wouldn't have otherwise had with me staying at home with Britton.

So, here are my tips and tricks on freelance writing and editing:

  • You have to LOVE to read and write. I don't say this lightly. Clients sometimes ask me to research and write a 500 word article in just a few hours. While 500 words isn't that much (most of my blog posts are probably longer), creating and researching an article of that length while also watching a six-month-old isn't the easiest. Someone who only kind of likes writing, editing, and researching should consider a different work-at-home position.
  • You have to be able to adapt quickly to whatever comes your way. With freelancing, clients are paying for both quality and quantity. They don't want an article filled with poor writing, factual mistakes, and grammar errors. They want a well-written, cleanly-edited piece that their readers will be able to easily follow. I've written articles on everything from Disney World (which I know a TON about) to faucets and energy-efficient plumbing (which I knew NOTHING about before writing the articles): if I don't know about a product or company, I need to find reliable resources that will allow me to write about them as if I'm an expert. 
  • You have to look for the jobs--and the competition can be vicious. A freelancing job hasn't ever fallen in my lap. At minimum, I've had to send in writing samples, references, and links to past jobs. My most intensive application process was about a month long and required me to produce multiple new sample pieces and demonstrate that I could do basic HTML coding. There are a ton of people who are qualified to be a freelance writer and editor, so you have to be on top of your game constantly. Double check your work. And then check it one more time. If you don't, you will lose jobs because of poor editing.  
  • Start with the people you know. If you're looking to get into freelance work, collect your best blog posts together and post them on Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest. Let your family and friends know that you're open for business; you never know who might be willing to give you a shot. My first freelancing job was for a high school friend who had recently opened his own marketing company. He wanted to focus on the business side of things without having to worry about the quality of the writing on the client blogs and websites. Just remember to have your expected minimum wage, completion timeline, and job requirements in your head from the very start, or you could lose the client due to being unprepared.  
  • How you get paid varies. Some clients want to pay me per word; other will pay me per paragraph. Some will want me to bid on a project--these are the scariest since you don't know what the other writers are bidding. As a freelance writer, you get to set your own rates most of the time; ask around to see what other freelancers are getting. Don't sell yourself short! Also, open a PayPal account if you don't already have one. This is a safe, easy way of getting paid, and most clients are very comfortable completing a transaction through PayPal.
Places to start if you're just getting into freelance work:
  • About.com. I worked for them as a wedding invitations topic writer before they restructured their website (they phased out the topic writers in favor of the guide positions, which require a much larger commitment). They are owned by the same company that owns the New York Times, so they are an extremely reputable company. The application process for these positions are insane, so be prepared to pull out all the stops. If you get one of this positions, you have arrived as a freelance writer, as an About.com position is considered the gold standard of freelancing. They pay per article and you are guaranteed a paycheck each month for completing your minimum. If you are extremely knowledgeable about a topic, check out their open listings: there are available positions in everything from jewelry to DIY home repair to powerboating.
  • Craigslist. As with anything on Craigslist, approach with a healthy dose of caution. However, if you can weed through the scams, there are often some great writing and editing jobs to be found here (both local and remote). Just remember: never accept personal checks or send out your financial info without knowing the person. Any legit company will work with you to make you feel comfortable in all aspects of the writing process. 
While there are a million other places to find freelance positions on the internet, I'd start with these if you're new to the game. 

Happy writing!