Freelance Writing is still one of the best ways to make money online, and given the web’s amazing appetite for more and more content, it doesn’t look its going away anytime soon. So, if you want to succeed in the freelance writing business, what should you do?
Writing for clients is not like writing content for yourself. There are several differences, but the most important are
Here’s one way to approach a writing job.
Before You Start
Be prompt in your replies to inquiries. Politely mention upfront that you will expect to be paid in advance.
Be clear about what you can do, what the customer can expect and be especially clear about price and delivery dates. if you need information from your client before you can proceed, be clear what that is and when you need it by and be sure to point out that your delivery date is dependent on that.
Make sure you know what the client wants before you start. Lets say they ask for an article of 300-400 words. Find out how it is to be used. I’ ve had several clients ask for 300-400 word articles and then discovered they intend to submit the artilce to ezine articles.com. Ezine only accept articles of 450 words or more. Be especially careful when it comes to web pages and blog posts. Many clients expect a short text, 300 words or so, but in some cases, often call pillar or anchor pages, they want something a lot more meaty.
Clients usually supply a subject, a title or a keyword. Some provide all three. If there’s anything about the brief that you don’t understand, clarify it before you start. If you are asked to write an ebook, its a good idea to agree a table of contents before you start, but if the client is looking for an outline, that should be a separate stage of the project.
Once you’ve agreed on what you’re going to write and when, ask for payment. If your client is unhappy, then you may simply have to pass up the work. It may seem simple to wait until the client is happy before requesting payment, but I have spent a month writing content for a website only to be told when I delivered that the customer had changed his mind and didn’t want the work. This is rarely a problem with articles because of the short timescale involved. Ebooks however can take time and research. Having a client walk away because he changed his mind about the project and didn”t let you know is not acceptable, but it does happen.
Research Your Article.
I always start with the wikipedia entry. The trick is not to stop there. Wikipedia articles usually have links to other articles about the subject. That’s where the useful information is usually found. Best of all, consult a book. I try to write about subjects I know something about, and I have a LOT of books at home I can use to find information. Good article writers are also, typically, good researchers.
Once you have some facts, you may want to research your title using the google keyword tool. If your client has provided a title or keyword this may not be appropriate, hoewver if you are developing a series of articles around a keyword or idea, the keyword tool can provide you with useful direction. For example, I was working on some articles for a client where the keywords I was given were ‘sofa table’ , ‘wood sofa table’ and ‘distressed sofa table’. The word distressed led me to the whole design concept of ”shabby chic’ which gave me ideas for other articles.
In addition to using the keyword tool you may want to use a simple google search. Type in your keyword and then type a space and see what comes up. If you do this with ‘sofa table’ for example, you get
- sofa table with storage
- sofa table plans
- sofa table ikea
- sofa table height
all of which are good topics to cover in an article, or even develop articles around.
The last part of your article research is to find out what Google thinks about the keyword you’ve been given. Put it in the Google search box with a ~in front. This will give you some search results, but more importantly, you’ll see in bold the words that Google thinks are related to your keyword. Write them down. You’ll notice that they often include the plural of your keyword, but sometimes you’ll find a word which is a little different. For an article I wrote on ‘unusual bouquets’ I studied the output and found the equivalent words were ‘unusual, unique, interesting, odd,bouquet, bouquets’, but nothing at all about flowers. This useful information helped the page reach no1 on Google in what is a highly competitive (wedding) market.
Once you’ve made a note of facts and keywords in an ideal world, you should forget both. Close your notes and begin to write.
How much do you know? If it’s a lot, you can develop and article around a single fact. Go into some detail and cover it thoroughly. If you don’t know a great deal, divide the subject. List articles are always popular in article directories and there are an endless number of possible lists.
‘Three things to know before you buy …‘ is always a good one because it’s easy for a reader to see why they should read; buying the wrong thing could be a waste of money. Another useful title is ‘Three ways to … on a budget‘
Do not fall back on the old idea of telling your reader what you’re going to tell them, then telling them, the telling them what you told them. The ideal article plan is much more like this.
- Identify the reader and what they will gain from reading.
- Give some useful information and show how it can be used.
- Remind the reader what they have gained (what they can now do) from reading.
Always,always, always deliver on the title, and try to make it interesting, but not to the point of making it false. ’43 killer headlines that will skyrocket your profits’ has had its day. Noone believe that anymore, and that includes you and your client.
Develop a brief outline, use a conversational tone and don’t forget to spell check. Don’t use jargon.
The ideal writing process takes three days. Plan on day 1, write on day 2, proof read and edit on day 3. Some of the worst writing I have ever done has been when I carefully, deliberately and repeatedly used the clients keyword. Sometimes clients think this is the way you should write for the web, you may have to gently convince them otherwise or give them what they want on the basis that the customer is always right. Forget the keyword and just write well. When I’m finished I always check that I’ve included all the related words I found in my Google search. Articles can be quite formal, blog posts are typically informal and web pages can be either.
Meeting Your Deadlines.
Clients can be very forgiving once you have built a reputation with them, and may even wait to get your writing in preference to others. Try to set realistic deadlines and don’t over commit. It’s easy to do, the more you write the more you earn, but it is easier to increase your price when clients see that what they get is very high quality. If you find that you can’t make a deadline, contact the clients and explain. Never ignore it.
If your client gives you some anchor text and lets you have carte blanche when it comes to the article, your artistic freedom comes at a price. It’s your job to come up with ideas and article topics. Fortunately it’s not that difficult to come up with a months worth of content at a time.
If you communicate with your clients, deliver quality writing and always stick to your deadlines, you’ll find its relatively simple to build a base of customers who are also fans. As a last step, asked each one for a testimonial and you’ll be well on your way to making a good income writing and working from home.