As my blog followers come to nearly 3,000 I’m excited to see an uptick in the number of comments and people reaching out to me directly through my contact page. I’ve been fielding several questions each day from people interested in writing their life stories to requests for writing specific sequences of a person’s life. Though, one thing I hadn’t received directly was the question I finally received yesterday from a follower cfoster20, “I would love to write full time or even part time, but not sure how to get started. Any suggestions?”
In the past I may have fielded this question directly with a phone call or one-on-one emails. However, I think this is a question that more potential work from home writers are curious about. So, in today’s blog post I want to address this question. I have, in previous posts, addressed subjects such as 5 Essential Tools to Become a Working Writer, and other topics on scheduling yourself to write from home. I have addressed working with clients, how to write, and in the future may tackle issues such as how to define your rates and services. For a future writer, I have laid out there many topics for you, and I hope you find them useful. But, on how to begin the process of becoming a writer, I don’t believe I’ve touched on it. So, in this blog post, that is where we will go.
How I began
To be fair, I went to college to become a writer majoring in Journalism and Communication. My college experienced was mixed with two traditional college’s (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and The University of Southern Mississippi) from freshman through junior years. Then, a couple years later I began to buckle down more on my writing with several certificates and two associates degrees online through Writer’s Digest, Stanford University, Columbia University, and James Madison. Eventually, I rolled back to finish my bachelor’s via a program with Southern Mississippi and another advanced learning college.
Despite the education aspect of things, my experience began in a senior retirement home in Forrest County, MS. I was volunteering to read to the elderly when I was asked to write one person’s life story. He was a WWII vet and his family really didn’t know his life in the military. That led to another person, and then another. By the time I settled in Minnesota and had two boys in school, I’d written about 30 life stories. In the early 2000s, I was contacted by a business owner of one of my clients, then another, and another. I was introduced to a site called Guru.com (a bad first experience), and after several years I was able to use that to grow my part time business. It took time, but eventually everything came together. I lost my full time job and clients were asking me to do more work. My move into full time writing seemed more destined than planned. That doesn’t mean there were not ups and downs. In fact, I nearly lost my business twice and without perceiving when everyone else was telling me to quit, I may not be here now.
So, how did my business almost fail? First, I was focusing purely on ideals rather than running a business. I had decided when I was doing well that I would work only with companies who had a positive message and product. For example, a company that produced and sold bamboo socks, a company dedicated to environmental protection, a company who focused on feeding starving children and families with soy-bean based products, as well as small businesses bringing affordable technology to agricultural-based communities. I was thriving then. My clients were thriving. Then, the first round of tariffs hit and they hit my clients hard, trickling down to me. I lost nearly every client within a month. That would happen again when I built my business back up. Though, after the first time I needed to rethink how I ran my business, managed income, and diversifying my clients.
While I hope those two situations are the last time that occurs, I hope you understand that when you work from home as a writer, it is important to be open and understand how the world around you will affect your business – good and bad. Paying attention to political and cultural changes will help guide you forward – if you pay attention.
That being said, what I think you are asking is, “Seriously, just give me a starting point!” So, that’s what I’ll do. Below I will offer suggestions of where you can start with a couple pros and cons. But, first, heh heh, you knew that was coming, here are a few small tips to handle before putting yourself out there.
- Write 10+ articles on various subjects that you can use as samples of your writing. Save these articles in .pdf files. You don’t want to send samples of your writing as a Word document.
- Define your prices and stick to them.
- Don’t be afraid to price yourself a little lower to bring in new clients or build an ongoing list of clients. You can always raise your rates later.
- Determine how you will process invoices. Paypal, Square, Stripe, a business checking account, or processing through a website like Fiverr.com or Guru.com
- Develop a process early. For example, will you use a shared file system like Google Drive or Assana? Or, will you just use Word and email? I will write mor eon this in the coming months.
- Have your tools ready to go before you market yourself. Take a look at the link above on 5 essential tools.
- Familiarize yourself with the A.P. stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style
There are hundreds of tips I can provide, but I don’t think you need them all now. The ones above are basic and helpful, but also things you will develop as you grow into your writing career.
Now, where do you start?
For many new writers they just want to jump in and get started. While content mills have a bad name (often deservedly so) they can also be beneficial. Content Mills such as Guru.com, Upwork.com, and Freelancer.com control a large market for employers looking to hire cheap labor. Their standards are often high, their pay often low. You need to understand that the rates employers on these sites are after do not define the actual rates of the industry.
That being said, these sites can provide a viable income for you. After all, when someone Googles, “Where to hire a writer” these sites pop up. After bad experiences many of these employers never return. However, if you are a good client, they will return to you. I can name about five companies that hired me long-term to work with them from these sites. When they wanted to move off-site we eventually did. To this day, they pay well, are consistent with work, and often refer me to others. As long as you do not get sucked into Content Mills and are discriminating toward bad employers you can do well, and fast.
- You can get up and running quickly
- They manage your payment processing
- Lots of potential clients
- User-friendly interfaces
- With vetting, you can earn a good income
- Often, employers are looking for lowest rates over quality
- Reviews and prior income on that site plays a big role in if you get hired
- Can be difficult for newbies to get their name out there
- More high demand, low pay employers than other outlets.
- Price structures are not always conducive to a writer.
- High fees
Content Mills are a good place to get started quickly or get your name out there, but please pay attention when I say you must vet your clients and not agree to abysmal pay just to get your name out there. It is not worth it. Stick to your guns and you’ll do well.
I separate Fiverr.com from content mills for a few reasons, mostly is because to me it seems a little more legitimate for those interested in picking up part time work. That is because you have better control over the projects you offer and rates you charge. I used Fiverr years ago for a couple small things to test it out. I now hire illustrators and voice-overs from there on occasion. My experiences have all been good.
Fiverr.com started as a freelance platform for people who charged $5 for their services. Obviously, the services were small such as editing up to 500 words. Now, though, the site has grown and I’ve seen writers who offer articles, short stories, and books as reasonable, yet realistic rates.
- Easy to set up and get going
- Offers ability to list several sample or previous projects.
- Small projects offer quick payments
- Easy to provide custom projects and rates
- Positive atmosphere
- A good place to have occasional easy side income
- Rates are a little lower than normal, though you can charge what you want
- High fees for work
- Cluttered with Freelancers
The following are a list of sites that are essentially job boards where freelancers can get work. If you are looking for legitimate companies to work for on a long-term basis writing content, blog posts and more, I’d suggest focusing your time and marketing effort (profiles, introduction letter, and sample work) on these sites. I feel these sites offer more potential for a long-term career in writing from home. I won’t go into each one specifically, but will link them below. If I mention them that means I have used these sites and support them.
- ProBlogger.com: This is one of my top two favorites. This site offers a ton of informational articles that will help you grow as a writer and help you find work. For examples, “How to Quit Your Job and Build an Online Business.”
- Mediabistro.com: My second favorite site. Mediabistro does a great job sending you updates for newly posted writing jobs. They focus on both in-office and remote work. They also have insightful articles such as, “12 Awesome Websites to Kick Your Freelancing Into High Gear.” Highly recommended.
- Flexjobs.com: This site is designed for people interested in flexible job such as remote and semi-remote work. Flex jobs prides itself on providing a source of already vetted businesses, and their list of well-known businesses is impressive.
In addition to these freelancer-specific job boards above you can find writing work on well-known job boards such as Craigslist, Monster, and Careerbuilder. I’ve found writing work on these as well, but haven’t focused much of my time here.
Looking for writing work, one of the best resources are other bloggers. Simply by Googling “Blogs that pay” you will find a huge depository of bloggers who have created long lists of websites and blogs that will pay you for your work. Yes, many websites and blogs will pay you for your insight. Most of these sites will require some experience in the industry and will ask for more than a single post. Though, you can often find parenting sites and others that will pay you for your knowledge as a parent. Popular topics are finance, health, parenting, and mental health. If you have a specialty or hobby you are knowledgeable with, you will find a site that will pay and offer a byline. By the way, bylines are often just as important as the pay, often more so because they are longer lasting.
One resource I can think of off-hand is Freelancewriting.com which will send you a daily or weekly email with vetted writing postings over several mainstream services such as popular job boards, Craigslist, and other posting sites geared toward writers. I’ve obtained several jobs this way.
The examples above are for people looking to start a part time or full time writing career. There are always the resources such as self-publishing eBooks and books, submitting to traditional magazines and newspapers, and more.
Another thing to consider, and also fits in with the services above, are similar, yet non-writing projects you may be suitable for. If you want a career in writing, don’t ignore careers and projects in the following:
- Formatting books for self-publishing
- Cover design
- Virtual assistant
These are jobs in related fields that can often support you on your journey to becoming a work from home writer, and many of these are related enough to provide a good resource of potential clients.
I hope that this helps. This is not a comprehensive list of places to find writing jobs or how to start your writing business, but they will give you a push in the right direction. If you do have questions or want help and mentoring to set you on a path to start or grow your writing business I do offer a consulting program that I cater one-on-one to people who want to get their writing career started.