So you want to be a writer, eh?
Freelance writing jobs are in high-demand. How do you make yourself stand out amongst all the other talented writers and score one of the best freelance writing jobs?
There are a few specific types of freelance writing jobs. Each one has it’s own unique twist and demands specific skills from their writers.
Copywriters specialize in writing for very specific audiences and for a very specific purpose. The final copy is usually carefully designed to be persuasive and elicit emotions from the readers. Freelance writing jobs for copywriters are usually high-paying if you can demonstrate that you can write quality copy that solves a specific problem.
Ghost writers are often used when someone needs some robust content, but lacks the time or writing ability to do the work themselves. Believe it or not, many bestselling New York Times and Amazon books were written by ghost writers. Freelance writing jobs for ghost writers are fairly involved and you’ll need to demonstrate that you have both the domain expertise and the the ability to write long-form content before you’ll get hired. Ghost writers are most commonly used for full-length books, medium-length ebooks and occasionally articles that will be used to position someone as a “thought leader” in a specific field.
Amazon has created an environment where ANYONE can become an author. They did this through their Kindle Store (where you can publish your own ebook and maintain full control of it) and their CreateSpace product (where you can create physical books on demand as they are ordered). The CreateSpace product is especially useful because the old-fashioned method of book publishing required the printing of many books at a time (500+). The problem with that is most books never sell 500 copies and the cost to print them is never recovered, whether that cost was covered by the author or a publisher.
Books don’t need to be “full-length” if they are published on the Kindle store. Kindle requires a minimum of 24 pages, but the page count will vary depending on things like font size, font type, images, margins, etc. Follow this link for a full list of Amazon Kindle publishing requirements.
Jon’s note: For what it’s worth, I have a New York Times Bestselling author friend who actively discouraged me from pursuing a traditional book contract. He said that “unless I’m famous for some other thing” that chasing a book contract is a fool’s errand. Apparently, the book publishing industry has been turned upside down by Amazon, advances are low or non-existent for unknown authors (like me) and the authors are being told THEY are responsible for all the book marketing expenses. Plus, even if I was okay with all of that, the amount of money authors are making on their traditionally published books is about $1-2 per copy sold. Ouch. You can make much more on Amazon and maintain control of your book. If you have to do all the marketing anyway, why not publish it yourself?
White papers require some specific domain expertise and technical knowledge. They are basically a version of a research paper, although they are commonly used as corporate marketing and sales fodder. You should check out jobs writing white papers if you have some technical expertise in a specific field, or you are great at learning complex subjects.
The difference between websites and blogs (formerly known as web logs) has been blurring for a long time. I bet you regularly visit websites that share all of their content on their blogging platform. Blogs are useful for many things, and becoming a blog writer is a very versatile skill to have. Every company will have a different agenda for their blog posts (sales, SEO, informational products, etc.) and you may have to do some hunting to find a good fit. The good news is that EVERYONE who understand how Google ranks their websites in the search engine results is interested in high-quality blog content.
News and feature articles
Many online outlets will pay for original news or feature articles. If you have an interesting angle or pipeline to fresh information/stores/current events that isn’t being covered by anyone else, you can hit the jackpot here. It often helps to have some journalism experience or a journalism degree here. The style and formatting requirements for new and feature articles are usually quite specific, so be sure to read through the details before submitting a story to one of the outlets that pays for them.
Social media and marketing freelance writing jobs
Social media is an important part of any marketing program these days simply because that’s where people spend the majority of their time online. You don’t have to like it, but you need to be aware of it. Getting a freelance writing job that’s focused on social media content should be pretty easy once you have taken the time to learn what works, best practices for social media content writing, etc. If you’re interested in this sort of writing gig, start by studying what other brands are doing–specifically the ones that have a big following and lots of sharing.
Technical writing jobs
Technical writing is best for those who have deep technical expertise in a certain subject or industry. It doesn’t have to be science or technology-related to be considered “technical” writing, but it’s usually a deep dive into some facet of a complex subject. If you have experience or expertise in a particular category, this sort of writing could be a good fit. Technical writers are valuable for companies that need technical content (because you can’t just hire any writer off the internet and expect them to know your industry well enough to write about it).
Many of the freelance writing jobs mentioned above will have some element of SEO to them. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is a highly sought-after skill in the world of writers because optimizing websites for the search engines helps those websites rank higher when people are searching for related terms. If people can find the websites because of the related content on the site, that means the site owners don’t have to pay any advertising costs to get those visitors (or customers) to their site. Savvy website owners who are taking a long view of their business will invest heavily in search engine optimized content because they know it makes a difference over time. The tricky part? It takes a while (think six months as an average) for quality optimized content to start producing results. There are about 200 ranking factors Google uses to rank websites, and properly optimized content is a big one. Get good at this sort of writing and you’ll have an endless supply of freelance writing work.
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We will do a follow-up to this post that lists some of the best places to earn money as a freelance writer, along with their compensation ($$$) per article. Be sure to subscribe for updates so you don’t miss it!