Advice for Aspiring Freelance Writers and other Nonsense

I enjoyed this article about writing for peanuts because it hits the nail right on the head about what it is to live in the world of Internet freelance writing. The example mentioned is somewhat off though because the writer the article talked about earned a ‘measly’ $40.00 which by our standards would be pretty good.

The point of the article though is that there are thousands of writers out there making anything from pocket change to respectful amounts of dough writing for blogs, news websites, zines and others, mostly on the ‘net. I myself pay P200.00 / article and am willing to pay as much as P1,200 to P2,000 / month for more regular gigs, depending on quantity, quality and images. The great thing about it is most of our writers are even surprised they get paid at all, like the article says, they’re happy writing purely for passion (which is great because that’s what makes writers to begin with).

Sadly, I’ve never been able to take advantage of that myself. Coming from the old school, I earned only from print publications when I was still working freelance gigs (listed down in my About page). I earned as much as P3.5 to P5k per article then, so I squeezed it for all it was worth and wrote up to 4 to even 7 articles in one month during my really prolific periods. Even the broadsheet I wrote for, known for paying the lowest rate in the industry, at least paid P900 / article (approx $20.00).

The downside was these were 750 to 1,500 word articles, and the P5k / article rates were full length 3-5k word jobs. But it didn’t matter to me because I really enjoyed writing about tech stuff, particularly about the ‘net, hardware and apps (not gadgets, which to me are more status symbols than real technology). Most of the time I’d end up writing longer than necessary. Fortunately my fave editor loved it, often finding space by squeezing it into sidebars and such.

There were even times I’d use a nom de guerre, just so that I can submit articles and it wouldn’t look like the whole thing was written by just me. This technique was quashed eventually, when the accounting people at the publications would write checks out to that name, which of course delayed my receipt of mah money. An annoying prospect that quickly shelved the idea.

At any rate, now that I’ve crossed over into publishing so to speak, I think there are three things I’d like to say to aspiring freelance internet writers (wow thats a mouthful):

a.) Develop your interests. It’s one thing to write, it’s another to know what to write about. If you don’t have an interest worth writing about, then you gotta rethink it, because maybe it’s not worth your time. It can be sports, kikay stuff, basket weaving, religion, politics, tech stuff, shoe shopping, ant farming, whatever. Just be involved in it, because having stuff to write about is just as important as knowing how to write.

b.) Go on the offensive. With literally thousands as your competition, you gotta take the initiative and put yourself out there by asking for writing gigs up front. For example, let’s say you love cars. There’s gonna be a carshow at the World Trade Center this month, so write to a car magazine or website and tell them you’ll cover it for them. I give you a 60% chance of getting that gig, and even more if you show proof you can write decently. They even pay more if you provide images as well. That’s dollars baby. Go For It.

c.) Try the old school. I wouldn’t know how print gigs are doing these days, so I don’t know the chances of writing for magazines. But writing old school 750 – 1,500 word articles or even 5,000 word articles can really train you how to deliver your point clearly and effectively. I tend to break down articles into three phases, from intro, explanations in the middle then I start speaking in conclusive statements at the end. I didn’t consciously develop this, it just turns out that way because it’s easiest to do and easiest to read. Take this blog post itself. I ended up using bullet points because it’s the way I trained myself to think, separating one thought from another so that I can expound on each, starting with the easiest to grasp at the start and the more in depth one at the end. You can’t learn to do this stuff doing 150 word blog posts. You gotta write longer articles especially if you’re dealing with more complicated topics.

Needless to say, I need writers as well for all my sites. I’ll use what I wrote above to explain how its done and save myself the pain of having to explain it.

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