Will Write for Food (and Rent, and Utilities).
October 22, 2012 3:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm pretty sure I'm about to lose my job. How do I identify and pursue freelance writing opportunities in short order?

My current job apparently has an expiration date, as in the next two weeks or so and I'm kind of totally freaking out. I have some savings, but not enough to last me more than a few months. I'm looking for full-time jobs, but in the meantime, I need some way to supplement what money I have while I continue the job search. I have a decade of writing and editing experience including articles, op-eds, annual reports, speeches, blog entries, and web copy in the public policy arena.

What is the best way to secure freelance work? Are Craigslist postings useful? Odesk? Are there some outlets or websites that are more reputable than others? I've done some Googling and research, but I'm so stressed and overwhelmed, I can't seem to sort through it all.

At this point, I'm willing to do content farm work, admissions essay help and editing, basically whatever might help pay the bills while I hope that I can find a full-time position ASAP. Honestly, I'd also like to consider writing/communications freelancing as a career as it suits my skills and I like the idea of trying to do something independently, but that is of secondary importance to finding a way to bring in some kind of income in the immediate future.

I know that there is no way to truly answer the question of how much money I can expect to earn given there's no guarantee of even getting a job, but is there any ballpark figure on what I could expect monthly?

(And yes, I know I have left out geographic location--I'm a little paranoid about people finding out about this as I am ashamed and stressed and don't want to poison the waters of potential future opportunities.)

Any hints, tips, websites, or suggestions would be hugely appreciated. (I'm also willing to look for any other kind of part-time work, but I don't have any background or experience in things like retail or restaurant server work, and I think my professional resume would work against me in this kind of thing because it just screams "I'm here only until I can find a full time job doing something else!" and I clearly have no experience in these areas.)

Sorry for the rambling. I promise I am usually a better and clearer writer, but I am, as stated above, freaking out and would be incredibly grateful for any guidance people have to offer. Anonymous email: writingjobshelp@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Not freelance writing, but you may want to apply to the search rating companies: Leapforce, Lionbridge, and Butler Hill.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:45 PM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here's one content farm. I don't have any experience with them, but I've heard that at least they pay reliably (even if the work is not particularly fulfilling).
posted by three_red_balloons at 4:14 PM on October 22, 2012

I used to do textbroker.com. Check out nojobformom.com for some ideas and feedback on particular sites. Demandstudios.com and suite101.com are two others. They all have their shortcomings. I found freelancer.com to be pretty shitty but you can get lucky if you can sell why you're worth more than the other bids from a lot of third world places. They do have a big demand for native English speakers. I've never used elance.com or londonbrokers.net.

On a side note, file for unemployment the day you're laid off.
posted by shoesietart at 4:41 PM on October 22, 2012

Elance may be the way to go. I've commissioned writing there over the past six months, and while there is a preference for super cheap writers (mainly from English-speaking developing nations), I persuaded a client to go with a more expensive writer ($25/hr), simply because the writer a) met deadlines b) followed directions c) put some effort into what she was writing d) had no spelling or grammar mistakes.

It is a harsh world for freelance writers at the moment, because writing is being outsourced to cheaper countries. Also, everybody thinks they can write, so copy is the first thing that gets slashed from the budget (or the last thing that gets added to the budget).

Luckily, changes to Google's algorithm have meant that having fresh content is more important than ever before. Quality content matters. Social signals matter.

So, you may want to start going down the "content marketing" route, or social media marketing. Anything to add value to your core competency.

Online marketing is great, in that there is no degree program for it. Anyone who does it learned on the job, typically by themselves.

So, if you can, try to identify some smaller agencies that special in SEO and online marketing. Maybe they need a writer!
posted by KokuRyu at 4:41 PM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

My mother-in-law has had a very, very good experience with guru.com. She took on small jobs at first, but now is doing major writing and editing gigs. It's not unusual for her to bill out $1000, and she just started a year ago. So I recommend them.
posted by anastasiav at 4:54 PM on October 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'd be very cautious about the content farms, or eLance, or any of these others, for the simple reason that their entire purpose is to bid you DOWN against other hungry writers. Yes, you can pick up a job or two. You might find a decent-paying assignment.
But if they're paying you low, you're wasting time better spent trying trying to find a real job.
MUST your short-term gig be a 'writing' job? If so, consider a contract position thru an agency. If not, what about a temp office job? Or waiting tables? These pay more than a lot of the bullpen 'freelance' jobs, and afford you time to look seriously for a regular job. The office temp field especially may give you a phone, access to email, etc.
Good luck, Huck. I've been there.
posted by LonnieK at 5:56 PM on October 22, 2012

My fiance has made some decent money with Guru.com
posted by radioamy at 6:38 PM on October 22, 2012

I'm a little paranoid about people finding out about this as I am ashamed and stressed and don't want to poison the waters of potential future opportunities.

You need to get over this. Your best possible source of good jobs, both freelance and full-time, is your network. You need to tell everyone you know that you are looking for work and make sure they know what your qualifications are, and you need to encourage them to tell people they know and to recommend you for opportunities that come up. Especially in a down economy, your personal and professional network is your best source of leads, and you need to work it as much as possible. There is no shame in getting laid off, and people understand that it happens for reasons that have nothing to do with your qualifications as a professional. You need to be diligent about promoting yourself, and that means telling everyone you meet about what you can bring to the table and about your availability to work. I know it's hard, emotionally, but it's your best shot at landing awesome jobs. Good luck!
posted by decathecting at 8:11 PM on October 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I make a living as a freelancer after quitting my day job. Every single job I've gotten so far has been through referral.

Start saving examples of your completed work now. Bring a USB dongle to the office and copy as much as you can. Sign up for a Google Voice account so you can have a professional phone number that's separate from your personal phone number. If you don't want to mix work with personal emails, set up a freelance-specific email account. Spend $50 to get a bunch of business cards printed and a personal portfolio website set up. Make sure your website includes your professional phone number and email address.

Get a big manilla envelope, write "freelance expenses" on it, put all receipts inside (print them out for online orders), keep it somewhere safe and easy to track down.

Go to the doctor, the dentist, get an eye exam, order new glasses -- make use of your employer health care while you can.

Once you know officially that your job is ending, update LinkedIn, Faceboook, GooglePlus and any other social media that you participate in immediately to say that you are leaving JOB to become an independent freelance writer and that you're looking for referrals.

Assuming that you have professional contacts and are reasonably good at what you do, you're likely to get some emails, calls, etc., asking what's up. Have a diplomatic answer prepared. Practice talking up your skills in non-apologetic terms. Grab coffee with people who ask you out to coffee. Boldly tell them: "I would love to work for you if an opportunity comes up, and I'd love it you mentioned my name if you know anyone looking for a writer."

Hand out lots of business cards. Give multiple cards to people who are likely to refer business to you, and ask them to pass your cards along.

Don't work for free EVER if you can help it. Don't work for less than $30/hour to start, aim for more, and try to make at least twice what you'd make if you were somebody's employee. The overhead is higher when you freelance, the taxes are higher, and there are times when you're working to build your client base that don't generate revenue. You need to charge more than if your boss were paying half your taxes, and a good chunk of your health care and retirement costs.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:43 AM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

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