I have written articles for this blog, but most of them are not really oriented towards making money. My main focus on this blog is to write about my travels and review gear and services I use for living and working a mobile lifestyle.
I decided that I needed to switch things up a bit, so I applied to a Textbroker, a freelance writer exchange. I love writing, and I can write thousands of words in my daily journal!, but I sometimes don’t know what to write about on this blog. I thought that doing some freelance writing might a) give me some inspiration, b) see how other people are being successful, and c) earn some cash. Slowly watching your bank accounts get lower and lower until they are finally swirling the drain is not something I advise!
I looked at some websites to do freelance writing. I am going to try each one, and write a separate article about my experiences with each one. I will link each article here.
There are a lot of things one has to consider when freelance writing. Most of it revolves around money. Some sites/jobs pay by the word, some pay by the hour, and some are fixed prices that you set. There are pros and cons of each type.
I will get into all of that, but for now, I want to talk about my first freelance writing assignment.
I submitted a writing sample, which was evaluated by an algorithm, and I was given a rating. I got 4 out of 5 possible stars. It is right where I hoped to be. 5 is pro quality and gets paid 4-5 times what 4’s get, but there isn’t as much work. 4’s get double what 2’s make, and a good deal more than 3’s. 500 words could theoretically be written in about 30 minutes to an hour so that one could make $100 in 5-10 hours. Unfortunately, that is less than a third of what I used to make per day, but you can work anywhere. For example, I’m writing this right now from a Starbucks in downtown Baltimore. Living costs can be really low if you do the van or RV life camping on free land, live on a boat, or live communally with others. When you don’t have to spend $2,000 to $3,000 per month on rent or a mortgage payment, you don’t need to make as much money just to survive. I think $100 a day can be totally doable if your expenses are really low.
The key to keeping to that kind of production schedule is wisely choosing your assignments. I was hunting through the board looking for subjects that looked interesting, and I found a technical subject that I could do. It was 500-600 words. It had a four-day due date, which I saw as a positive. I took the assignment, did a bit of research, and started writing.
Then I started to bog down. I had to describe how to perform a technical procedure on three different operating systems, Linux, Windows, and Mac, and then further break it down on Windows 10, 8, and 7. (If you are still using XP now, I pity you and your virus-filled, out of support, ancient computer 🙂 I had to provision and spin up some virtual machines with the various OS’s, and my clunky MacBook Pro from circa 2009 that I retained for just this kind of thing. This takes time. There is no way this is getting written in 30 minutes. I decide to put it on hold, and I grab a beer.
Over the next couple days, I looked at it a few more times, did a bit of work on it here and there, but mostly just wasted time finding other stuff to do. I quickly found out that once you have one assignment, you cannot grab another one (edit: this is only true for new authors with Textbrokers. Once you successfully complete a few assignments, they let you work on a few at a time.) This is a problem if you want to take a break from writing an article. Maybe you are waiting for some inspiration, or you messaged the customer asking for clarification, and are waiting for a reply.
I think this is a good reason to sign up for multiple freelance marketplaces, so you always have something to work on. This is definitely something I am going to do.
So, short story long, I was bogged down for four days on this. I spent a few hours today on it, and finally got it done with about 38 minutes to spare!
Since it is a step by step technical tutorial, formatting and code and example outputs made the article submission complicated. I had written it up in Microsoft Word, I copied it to the clipboard, and then pasted it into the submission box. It looked like total crap! I noticed that there was a “Paste from Word” button. I tried that. It didn’t look much better. I ended up pasting into an HTML editor, and hand coding the post in HTML because the web-based WYSIWYG editors were mangling it horribly.
After feverishly marking up the text with HTML, I viewed it in a browser, and it looked good. I carefully pasted my code into the window, and it finally didn’t look terrible. 16 minutes to spare!
Lessons learned: technical HOWTOs take a lot longer than just vomiting words onto the page in an article that needs minimal research and formatting. If you are doing this to make money, you have to demand more money for these kinds of articles. I would do more like this, but I would need to make five times what I made.
Update: Just submitting the article to the customer does not automatically mean you will get paid. The customer has to “accept” the work. A couple days later, I got a message saying that my article was approved! Hopefully, I will write some more articles this week, and on Thursday, I can indicate that I want a payout. Then I would get PayPaled on Friday. This is exciting!
Update: This is the first in a short series of articles about my adventures in Freelancing. Go here for the second article.