Is Freelance Writing Worth Your Time?

I originally started this blog with the concept of “passive income” front and center.  Therefore, I can’t blame you if you think it’s somewhat ironic that I’m looking into freelance writing as a way to supplement my other online income sources.

After all, freelance writing is anything but passive – you are paid as direct compensation for writing that you produce.  If you’re not actively doing any writing, you’re not making any money (okay, so this is basically like any other “normal” job).

So, as I entertain the idea of becoming a freelance writer in some capacity, I need to determine if it’s worth my time.  Let’s figure it out together.

Trading Hours for Dollars vs. The “Passive Income” Model

This is the name of the game for most work you’ll do in your life – hours for dollars.  You put in the hours, and there’s a direct correlation to the amount of money you earn.  In the case of article writing, let’s say it takes you an hour to write 1,000 words, and a 1,000-word article (from you) is valued at $20.  You’re basically going to earn $20 an hour.

If you contrast that with a similar task in the “passive income” model, the math becomes a lot more complicated, with many more variables involved.  Let’s say you own a blog that earns income through pay-per-click advertising.  On day one, you write a 1,000 word article – because you have no readers (yet), you won’t earn any immediate income from this article.

Somewhere down the line, you’ll start receiving traffic to the article, and people may click on your ads (which is revenue for you).  Let’s assume your ads have a click-through-rate of 1% – for every 100 visitors, one person will click the ad.  And let’s assume your earnings-per-click is $1.00.  To earn that same $20 that you earned in the “freelance writer scenario” above, you’ll need 2,000 visitors for that one article.

For a random article on a blog with moderate traffic, 2,000 visitors can be a lot, but then again, if you write an article that goes viral, you can receive tens of thousands of visitors. And on top of that, people can visit the article forever, so your earning potential from that single article is theoretically unlimited.

It sure seems like I’m making a strong argument for the passive income model.  But let’s look at the ugly side of it (a side that many of all are all too familiar with) - you spend an entire month writing 20 articles for your blog.  Each article is 1,000 words, so you’ve spent 20 hours on this project over the course of the month.  Thanks to the magic of search engine traffic, three of the 20 articles start ranking well for some long-tail keywords and each receives 20 visitors per day.  The other 17 seem to fall into a black hole, only read by your regular readers (about 50 visitors per day, none of whom click on your ads).

You’re 20 hours in the hole, and if my math serves me correctly, one month of traffic to those three popular articles generates $18 for you (60 visits/day x 30 days x $1/100 visitors = $18).  After the first month, your rankings die off, you lose motivation, and you stop writing for your blog.  And you’ve earned all of $20, give or take a few bucks.  Had you been a freelance writer instead, your 20 articles would’ve generated around $400.

Obviously, it’s not so simple.  You write for your own blog with the hopes that it becomes successful enough to outperform the freelance writing equivalent.  The upside is much higher, and you always have the potential to earn money during periods of time when you don’t have time to put in any work.  In addition, you don’t have to worry about meeting specific client demands.

But the fact remains, you will have to consistently put in work up front (and spend time promoting and maintaining the site, at least in the short term).  Arguably, income earned from your own site really isn’t “passive” at all during its early stages, until you get to a point where it runs without much input from you (either you’re done adding to it, or you outsource all the work).

Why I’m Interested in Freelance Writing

Although freelance writing can be a grind like any other job, there’s a lot about it that interests me.

First of all, you can essentially control your destiny.  Assuming you are a good writer, you can set your own rate (within reason), choose which clients you want to work with, and decide when you want to work.  If you want to make more money one day and you have the motivation, you can find more writing assignments.

In time, you can potentially make a lot of money.  Some of the best freelance writers are pulling in $100+ per article for the types of articles that take 1-2 hours to write.

Finally, I think freelance writing can actually help my other blogging/authority site projects.  I’m not sure how others feel about this, but for me, the ability to write is almost like a muscle that needs to be worked and strengthened.  When you find yourself in a good writing “rhythm,” it becomes easy to produce larger quantities of content in shorter periods of time. You become more efficient, and writing doesn’t feel like as much of a grind.

I’m hoping that if I can get into the habit of writing more frequently, it’ll actually improve my blogging output.

Guess What? You Can Do Both

As I’ve alluded to above, you can find room for both “passive income” site/blog projects and freelance writing.  In fact, having these side projects allow you to be more picky with your freelance writing, and only work with clients who you enjoy working with (and are willing to pay whatever rate you command).  You have the flexibility to turn away the garbage work, and in turn, have time to work on your blog/niche site/whatever.

My biggest challenge is going to be making time to do all of this.  As is it, I barely make the time to write for the sites I currently own (with the exception of this blog).  Part of that is because I haven’t had the motivation.  I’m hoping that the direct rewards of freelance writing will fuel the motivation and make me more productive overall.

You can probably expect to read more from me in the near future about freelance writing, as I explore different sites that pay writers, and different strategies for improving your income through writing.  It’s definitely a “new chapter” in my online business, which I’m very excited about.

How has your experience been with freelance writing?  Please share in the comments below!

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22 Responses to “Is Freelance Writing Worth Your Time?”

  1. I’ve been doing freelance writing for about a year now.

    Like you say it’s got its ups and down. It’s been a hard slog but I am finally making OK money from it.

    I think you should give it a go. If you don’t *need* the money you can set a minimum rate and then not accept any offers lower than that.

    I needed the money so I spent a lot of time doing low paid gigs. This was pretty soul destroying and the time involved stopped me spending time looking for better jobs.

    While I make OK money from it now, it has become a ‘job’. On the 3/4 days a week I do writing I have a set list of sites to write for. It’s all pretty scheduled like a real job. However I’m grateful to my clients for hiring me, don’t get me wrong!

    If I were you I’d knock up a quick site for a writing portfolio and put links to your blogs on it for the portfolio page. Link to this blog, your slow carb site and any other good ones you have.

    Then contact sites you want to write for. Don’t look for jobs on sites like ODesk, Problogger etc, the pay is too low and the competition is too high. You’ve already got a good portfolio so go an find the clients.

    Pick your niches then find popular blogs or sites offering a service in that niche.

    I write in the WordPress niche so I contact services related to WordPress and ask if I can write for their blog. If they don’t have a blog ask them if they’ve thought about starting one.

    Services are already making money so should be able to afford you.

    When emailing, I just say something like “Hey, I love your service and I see you have a blog, I’m a freelance blogger, and would like to write for it. Can I send you a link to some of my published work?”

    That way you aren’t spamming them with a link to your portfolio. And it opens a dialogue. Don’t mention rates until they ask.

    Also, put a ‘hire me’ menu button on all your sites which links to your portfolio site, or at least a dedicated page with information about the service you provide. List the benefits to the customer, not the features/service you provide.

    Hope this helps, if you’ve got any Qs please email me or reply.

    I also really recommend Tom Ewer’s ebook.

    Good luck!
    Joe recently posted… Monthly Income Report: July 2013

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Wow, what a great comment, thanks Joe. Lots of fantastic advice there.

    It’s nice to hear from someone who started freelance writing relatively recently, and it sounds like you’ve found your way toward success.

    My plans are somewhat in line with what you mentioned – I’m going to put together a bio/resume-type site that describes the services I offer, with links to actual work I’ve done. And as you said, I’m probably better off highlighting the benefits (instead of only focusing on the services).

    This is going to be a work-in-progress for me, but I’m excited to get started. Thanks again for all the tips.

    [Reply]

  2. My personal answer to your question (your title) is yes and no.
    I have to say YES if you’re freelancer is real, trustworthy and could pay you the exact amount that your skills deserved.
    I have to say NO because there are cases that freelancers are a fraud and a waste of time. Many were fooled to be straightforward. I’ve encountered a bunch of them in one site and I will not bring up the name. It is like a win-win condition I guess.

    I found this post shared on Kingged.com, the IM social networking site, and I “kingged” it and left this comment.
    Metz recently posted… 5 Things They Forget When They Become Successful Bloggers

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Metz. I can’t tell if you’re speaking about your experience working as a freelancer, or your experience hiring freelancers.

    Either way, I agree that there are certain things you have to watch out for, as the whole freelance writing game has a lot of range (terrible writers who are dirt cheap, and excellent writers who charge $500+ for an article).

    And on the hiring side, you sometimes don’t know what you’re going to get if you haven’t worked with the freelancer before.

    [Reply]

  3. I’ve been freelance writing for about 8 years and I recommend it if you need to supplement your income. You can do very well with it if you work it. If you hate to promote yourself, well, you’ll get stuck with the content mills, and that’s no fun.

    A good website and a good social media presence can go a long way. I’ve worked with some great clients, including Pat Flynn, simply because I’ve got a good social media presence. I’m out there watching for the opportunity to promote myself (and not necessarily in an advertising type of way) and drum up clients.

    I’m not the highest paid writer, but not the lowest either. I prefer to do blog post and I prefer to do the type of work that isn’t going to take all day long. That’s what works for me. But $50 an hour isn’t outside of my range.

    Do a Google search for “guest blogs that pay” and other similar terms. There are lots of sites that pay more than $50 for a guest post, you get credit, and links in your bio, too.
    Danielle McGaw recently posted… The Blog Experiment

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for commenting here, Danielle – I can only hope to achieve your level of experience someday.

    It definitely seems like marketing yourself/your services is where the real money comes from. Even the best writers can’t just expect the work to magically appear in their inbox without spending at least some time promoting themselves.

    [Reply]

  4. I’ve considered doing this myself, but never actually dove in. I like writing but I think I’d rather do other freelance jobs personally.

    It seems like there’s some great opportunities in it though. You could up sell people on SEO services or WordPress installations.

    I look forward to seeing how it goes for you.
    Timothy Sartin recently posted… The 80% Law of New Blogs

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    I think you really do need to enjoy writing; Otherwise, I could see it as a mind-numbing grind.

    You’re right though – if you have other skills (like web design or SEO), there’s a lot of freelance opportunity out there.

    [Reply]

  5. I used to do freelancing. Honestly, I much rather focus on things that have a little more leverage-such as a blog. My experience with freelancing is that you really have to know how to price your time well and be able to stay on top of marketing like you should. It’s a little more active than I want it to be and I want to be able to have some of my time back so I can focus on the activities that I enjoy doing-like learning Chinese or writing novels.
    Mike recently posted… 3 Ways to Thrive Right Now

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Definitely makes sense, Mike. Writing on your own blog definitely has a lot of passive income potential, which is why I still plan on blogging while attempting to pick up freelance writing clients. The good thing is, if I don’t end up liking freelance writing, I don’t have to keep doing it. :)

    [Reply]

  6. I still prefer passive income. Even if I trade my active time for passive, I’ll do it.

    Let’s say my hourly rate is $100/hr. I’ll do some projects that will earn me $1/day. In long run, I’ll still benefit from that.

    It’ll never go wrong with passive income.
    Jawbone Up recently posted… How Does Jawbone Up Track Sleep

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    I agree that passive income projects, when the are successful, are much preferable to “active” projects. But as we all know, they aren’t always successful. If it were true that working on passive income projects is ultimately better than earning $100/hour for active work, we would all quit our day jobs, where most of us are probably earning substantially less than $100/hour. Of course, there are people who are successful with this and DO quit their day jobs.

    I’d still like to try my hand at freelance writing – if I don’t feel it’s worthwhile, I can always stop. :)

    [Reply]

  7. Thing is I tried freelance writing and I found it wasn’t for me, it takes too long to make money and I’m too impatient! But I have heard of people succeeding.
    Imran Ali recently posted… Top 50 Motivational and Inspirational Quotes That will Make you Change the Way you Think

    [Reply]

  8. you have given a new direction for my starting work now i will be going forward with new concept in getting and earning money

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    That’s great Sarah, best of luck.

    [Reply]

  9. I can’t really give a straight forward answer to that question because I have not tried freelance writing. All have been doing so far is building passive income through my blogs. However, I will like to say both methods are good but one must understand him or herself to know what you are good at doing. For me, i think i’m good in passive income but will try freelance wring as well.
    Based on your analysis, I want to say if you do your keyword research very well and write good and original content you will rank very well in search engines and you will be may be able to make the most out of your published article, Thanks
    oladayo ojekunle recently posted… Quail Eggs: How to make lots of Money from Quail Farming.

    [Reply]

  10. Not into freelance writing but if I am to choose, I will go with passive income. Although you said both can be done together, your argument for it won me over. :-)

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment August!

    [Reply]

  11. I am doing freelance about for above 1 year now. But earning from freelance is just too slow!

    [Reply]

  12. I wouldn’t exactly call blogging a way to generate passive income, because you have to constantly work on it (writing, building links, promoting and so on)
    Girts recently posted… List of social trading networks and platforms

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    While that’s definitely true, blog posts have the potential to earn you income indefinitely (and passively) after they’re written. Outside of investing (and even that requires some upfront work and research), nearly ALL sources of passive income require a lot of upfront work along with some ongoing maintenance work.

    [Reply]

  13. Good article. I am doing freelance about for above 2 year now. But earning from freelance is just too slow!
    Engin Gürşen recently posted… Blog çekilişleri için 9 hediye önerisi

    [Reply]

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