Make Extra Money with Freelance Writing

This is my interview with Debbie Dragon, a Freelance Writer and Entrepreneur. Debbie explains how to make money writing.

Debbie, what is freelance writing?

Freelance writing is when someone writes for payment – but are not employed by a specific company. For me, freelance writing falls into two major categories – offline freelance writing, which is writing for magazines, newspapers, journals, and businesses; and online freelance writing, which is writing for websites and a variety of other online sources.

How and why did you get started?

Freelance Writing - Make Extra MoneyI got started as a freelance writer right out of college, 7 years ago. I was expecting my first son, and really didn’t want to put him in daycare. So I started looking for ways to earn money from home. I had a bachelor of science degree in computer information systems – so I figured I’d be able to find employment at home using my degree, but that proved to be impossible. Any company that would even consider a telecommuting arrangement wanted someone with 10+ years experience.

So I stumbled upon sites like Rentacoder.com and Getafreelancer.com – and started bidding for jobs. I tried transcription, basic web design work, data entry and article writing. I had always enjoyed writing but was told there was no money in it, which is what lead me to study computers in college.

At first – I relied on the freelance bidding sites to find work. Over time, I realized there were other ways to find clients and started establishing my own database of clients who would hire me for repeat work.

Editor’s note: Debbie mentioned using job bidding sites. Three other sites I’ve used to find freelancers are oDesk and Elance.com.

Do you do freelance writing full-time?

Very full time! Writing is the only thing I do to earn income.

How much do you actually make doing this?

In 2009, I joined forces with 2 other freelance writers because the demand for my work was too much for one person to handle. Together in our first year, we brought in about $100,000. We’re on track to triple that for 2010.

What skills make you most successful at freelance writing?

For online freelance writing, I honestly believe all that is required is basic writing ability. You need to be able to string sentences together in a way that everyone can read and understand. You need to know how to research information. Beyond that though, I think the most important skills for becoming successful as a freelance writer are on the business side of things. You can be the world’s best writer but if you don’t know how to find people willing to pay you to write it will never advance beyond a hobby.

How do you maximize your efforts?

As I mentioned, I’m no longer a single-person freelance writer. I wasn’t able to continue to grow my business and increase my income with my own limited time and resources. So expanding to a 3-person, full time business venture has allowed us to take on more work and start increasing our income.

Also in 2009, we realized that there are many web developers and technical companies online who have a need for online content but don’t necessarily have the time or desire to requests quotes from writers. We created ReliableWriters.com as a way to let people request their writing projects, see exactly how much it’s going to cost, and when to expect the finish work all without having to talk to a person.

We now have a team of several freelance writers available who help us fulfill large assignments as they come in; and editors who review each article before sending it on to the client.

What mistakes do people make when trying to make money with freelance writing?

I think it’s common for people to want to start out as a freelance writer making hundreds of dollars for every article they write. Many people turn their noses up at the lower paying assignments,and don’t realize that if the goal is to earn consistent income as a freelance writer you’ll make more by writing $30 and $50 articles all week long than writing one $500 article every other week. Does that make sense? If the goal is to become a part time or full time freelance writer, it will pay you more to accept assignments that offer repeat work, and fair payment than it will to spend a week marketing and looking for the handful of higher paying assignments out there.

What other advice could you share about freelance writing?

If your goal with writing is to earn income with it, I think it’s necessary to be willing to write about topics you may not have much interest in personally. If you’re too picky about what you write about, you’re going to severely limit the amount of potential work you find.

You can read more about how to make extra money in my post 5 Tips for Making Extra Money. Not a writer? Check out 52 Ways to Make Extra Money.

Photo by dbdbrobot

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Last Edited: May 15, 2013 @ 5:56 pm
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a husband and father of two. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

Comments

  1. “If you’re goal with writing is to earn income with it”… I’d suggest learning the difference between you’re and your…

  2. Hi Beth! Like you, I know the difference between “you’re” and “your”. Mistakes happen sometimes, thank you for pointing that out. A typo like this further supports my theory that it’s far more important to have strong business skills than to be a perfect writer who never makes mistakes.

    For blog posts and article writing for clients, if you make an error like this, readers may notice it, (like Beth did), but the reader will still know what was being said in the article, right? The information in the article hasn’t suffered because of the mistake – and you can still be a (well) paid writer despite imperfections.

  3. Wow, great interview PT, and thanx Debbie for being so forthcoming about your profession. Who knew that full-time money was out there for this type of work? I guess it IS a big world out there.

  4. Thanks, Jason. Yeah, I was lucky to find Debbie who was so forthcoming. This is pretty much the blueprint for anyone wanting to get started making real money with freelance writing.

  5. Hi Debbie, thanks for sharing your details. If you made $100,000 with 2 other writers, does that mean each writer made $30,000 on average?

    How do you know if you are on pace to triple your income to $300,000 in 2010 when we just started the year? Is it because of writing commitments so far?

    At $50/article, does that mean you wrote around 600 articles in 2009, or about 20 a month?

    Are you writing more articles in 2010, or charging more to triple your income?

    Very curious!

    Thnx!

    Sam

  6. Hi Sam,
    Yeah- this particular business actually made slightly over $100,000 in 2009. There are 3 owners of the LLC; and we also have several subcontractors who have helped us fulfill larger writing assignments or meet tight deadlines. It’s true the 3 owners made about $30,000 each.

    As a BUSINESS (not an individual person) we write way more than 20 articles a month. (They are not all $50 per article. Rates depend on word count and amount of research required.) I don’t actually have an exact figure for articles off the top of my head, but it’s probably closer to 20-40 articles per WEEK. We have many clients who get a set number of articles each week, which I believe is the key to building consistent income through writing.

    We also go beyond articles and blog posts and write around 15 ebooks and book projects a year, too. This is an area of our business that is also expanding through referrals and I am anticipating an increase in this type of project for 2010 as well.

    I know we’re on track to triple last year because of new clients we’re bringing in, and new partnerships we’re creating with large companies who have the need for repeat work. We have only officially been a 3-owner LLC for 1 year, but we worked together as sole proprietors for 2 years before that (and worked individually for several years before THAT! Now I’m showing my age!) and we have learned what types of marketing efforts deliver the best results – and are using that information in our business planning for 2010 and beyond.

    We have been using the same rate structure for writing for most of 2009 and do not currently have plans of changing it – but we always reserve the right to quote higher if a project seems like it will require more research time.

    Hope this helps answer your questions.

  7. Hi Debbie,

    Wow, 20-40 articles a week is a lot! I guess not that bad if divided by 3, and this is your full time job yeah?

    If the rates are staying flattish, and with new clients, does that mean you guys will start writing 60-120 articles a week now?

    Sounds like putting out a quality e-book for people to pay a nominal amount would be the way to go no?

    Do you have a list of articles we can easily access (like a blog) which displays to your clients some of your top work? Thanks.

  8. Forgot to write, great work expanding the business so rapidly! If publicly traded companies can do that, shareholders would get super rich! :)

  9. We had an order from one client this week for 60 articles. :) That was on top of our consistent weekly work.

    eBooks definitely pay more than articles. But they are time consuming. Research. Writing. Editing/proofing. We can turn out articles very quickly, and maintain a great hourly rate; ebooks are hit and miss. Sometimes we get a better hourly rate on them; and sometimes we get a lower hourly rate because there are more opportunities to run into situations and roadblocks!

    I don’t display much to clients anymore, to be honest. The bulk of our work comes through referrals and the internet now, and word of mouth is the best form of advertising. If you are in “good” with an internet marketer for example, who has a following of a few thousand people who are always in need of writing, their relationship with their following automatically creates a relationship with me if they refer me. Does that make sense? I’m sure prospective clients probably Google my name and/or my business partners names to see work we’ve done under our own names. Most of what we do is ghostwritten though, so that’s why the word of mouth and referral process is so important.

  10. Very interesting Debbie. Yes, referrals is a great way to go. I understand now how it works, as I assume your client who gave you 60 articles to write is being contracted out by its clients.

    Would a good strategy be to start a blog that gains in popularity, and then advertise on your post that you can be a ghost writer too, and hire someone to do the work for you and take a cut? One could hire an A student english major to work on your behalf. A middle man’s middle man if you will.

  11. The 60 article client owns a blog. The articles will be posted on his blog.

    Sure – if you had a blog with a good following you could advertise your ghostwriting services. The only problem with that is your blogs readers may not be people who need writers. They may just be interested in the topic of your blog.

    The idea of hiring someone to do the writing for clients you may have is good. Then you need to add good people skills and management skills to your list of characteristics to make it work :)

  12. Oh WOW! The plot thickens! The 60 article client is a blogger! And the blogger proceeds to put his/her name on all the articles you’ve written yes? That is AMAZING! I’ve never heard of a blogger not writing his/her own content for an extended period of time.

    Must be a big blogger we’ve heard of, who is rationally make a lot from his/her site.

    Will you purposefully write in a different style to suit your clients needs? If so, you have to really read his/her site to get an understand of his/her voice yeah?

    If you come to my site and read my articles, I’m not sure if you would be able to replicate my voice though… and the topics at hand or could you? (Read: Be A Sloth And Don’t Roth)….

  13. Lots of bloggers hire writers. You might be surprised.

    If we’re writing for a client who has an established “tone of voice” we do our best to mimic that. We write in the style requested of us – but you are right, it’s not always possible to get the ‘voice’ exactly right.

  14. PT, great post and extremely informative. Debbie, thanks for the open and honest sharing of this information. I’ve recently start free lance writing and have really enjoyed this work. It has provided some extra money going and is still very much doable in operating my own website at One Money Design. I think you make a good point in that you need to be able to write in a way that people will understand, but also be able to do research. Many times I’ll sit down with an idea, but definitely have to do some research before spending the time writing and pulling it all together.

  15. Awesome example of how a person can make a business from their home these days. As easy as it may seem to write it’s actually a difficult art to accomplish consistently.

    If you want to make money find something that someone needs and do it well.

  16. I am surprised that “lots of bloggers” hire writers. Guess it makes sense if they start treating their blog 100% as a business.

    This rabbit hole is DEEP! Thanks for all the insights.

  17. Hi, I thought I might chime in… I’m the real owner of this site. My name is George. I outsourced this blog to the Philippines a long time ago. “PT” has been managing the content really well for me. ;)

  18. Haha nice PT. Actually, you serious or being facetious? haha.

  19. Great interview Debbie! I’m an independent contractor who is incorporating this year and it was great to read about your success with partnering with others. How did you find each other? Are you all local or did you meet online?

    I can vouch for writing for bloggers and Marketers as being a good way to go, and a great way to get some quality referrals.

    Keep in mind Financial Samurai that not all bloggers are what I’d call “personality” bloggers. Many bloggers use a blog as a platform for information on a specific topic so in those cases the content written would require research and not a whole lot of “voice.” But it does help to read the voice and have a style in mind…for example, I have a blogging client that loves exclamation points and in your face content, so when I write for her I make sure I have a lot of caffeine in my system. ;)

  20. Sounds good Courtney. Seriously I had NO IDEA that bloggers wouldn’t want to write their own commentary.

    Not it makes me wonder how many PF bloggers on Wise Bread’s list don’t write their own stuff! Do you know of any on the top 100 who don’t? Don’t have to out them, just wondering.

    It just feels really really weird for me to have someone write for me. If I don’t have the time to do the research, I don’t don’t post. I would feel like I’m misleading my readers, esp if I put my name on it.

    Am I abnormal to feel this way?

  21. I believe, Debbie, that you were correct the first time. I would say that Beth is incorrect when stating that you were in error with the sentence, “If your goal with writing is to earn income with it”. the word “you’re” is a contraction of “you are”. However, “your” is possessive. For Beth to be correct you would be able to change the sentence to ” If you are goal with writing “….., etc. Of course, as you can see, the sentence no longer makes sense. Debbie was using “your” correctly, in the same manner as “our” or “my”. My goal is, our goal is, your goal is……

  22. FS – I have used Debbie’s company in the past and will do so in the future as well. I also buy content from other sources as well.

    I normally publish bought content under a different name ie “Lance” so that the readers can tell it is not my work. If the post is intended for search engine visitors then I won’t publish it to the blog feed so most of the regulars will never see it.

    I highly recommend ReliableWriters.com.

  23. Thanks for swinging by, 4P. I agree follow the same process and also vouch for RW.

  24. Hey Debbie,
    Just wanted to say what an inspiration you are to all the aspiring freelancers out there! Keep up the hard work… maybe you could compile an e-book of tips for all your hungry admirers? Just a thought :)

  25. SadhanaArun says:

    Hi, being into freelance writing field, i know the demand for writers. Quality and unique content writers are always welcomed. I entered into writing field for above an year, now i’m among one of famous writers. Visit my profile in 3to30.com.

  26. Freelance jobs online says:

    If you love to write and you want to earn money from home, then freelance writing is the ideal way to make money for you.  <b><a href=”http://www.freelanceracademy.net/how-to-make-money-as-a-freelancer/”>How to make money as a freelancer</a></b>

  27. Nice article. People will get lot of inspiration from that. Thanks for your sharing.