by Sierra Ret, Age 17, Canada
Probably the most frustrating obstacle facing modern young authors is the struggle to make their writing profitable. There are more avenues than ever to get your work published and read–fanfiction sites, blogging, and short story contests are just a few examples–but these formats rarely end up providing any sort of reliable income. There are always a few exceptions, such as Anna Todd’s One Direction fanfiction that became so popular online she ended up with a six figure publishing and movie deal. But most aspiring authors aren’t nearly as fortunate.
So after some helpful prodding from my mother last summer, I decided to research legitimate ways to make money writing online. It was then that I discovered the world of freelancing.
What is Freelancing?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a freelancer is “a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.” Originally it was used to describe medieval mercenaries who would hire themselves and their lances out to the highest bidder. I happen to quite like the mental image of me and my pen for hire, like an armoured knight of old.
Freelancing isn’t strictly limited to writing. You can be a freelance web designer, graphic artist, or anything at all really. But in this article I am going to be focusing on freelance writing, and specifically freelancing online.
There are several large websites that act as meeting places for freelancers and potential clients. The one I am most familiar with is Upwork, where three million jobs are posted annually. These sites make money by taking a percentage of their freelancers’ wages. In Upwork’s case this fee is 10%.
How Does It Work?
After deciding to give Upwork a try, I followed the site’s instructions and set up an account. This involved selecting my main job skill (writing) and picking my specialties. I then had to write an overview of my skills, similar to a resumé cover letter. Finally, I took several screenshots of my work previously published online and uploaded them to my profile to create a portfolio. I also had to select a method to be paid by, which in my case was Paypal.
Now that I was a registered freelancer, I could browse the job market. A simple search of the “Creative Writing” category turned up over two thousand jobs, with titles varying from “Skilled Recipe Writer Wanted” to “Romance Writers Needed for Weekly Assignments.”
After I found several jobs that interested me, the next step was to figure out how to apply for them. Each Upwork job post has a green “Submit a Proposal” button in the upper right corner. If you click on it, you will be asked to bid the amount of money you think appropriate for the job, provide a time estimate on how long it will take, and write a cover letter on why you think you’d be a good fit for the work.
It may take several tries to get hired for the first time with no reviews to back up your profile. But there are many clients out there who are willing to take on newbie freelancers who impress them with their pitches. Don’t get bogged down by rejections. If you learn from them, you’re that much closer to freelancing success.
Sierra Ret is a freelance writer and homeschool student who’s eager to explore everything from sales copywriting to poetry. She resides near Peterborough, Canada, along with her tightly-knit circle of fellow homeschoolers and family. Winner of the 2015 Polly Prize for Creative Writing. View Sierra’s Upwork Page.