The Life of a Content Creator: Working as a Freelance Writer
by Heather Benton, content creator and freelance writer
Remember when the idea of working from home as a freelance writer with a flexible schedule seemed like a far-fetched but idyllic dream? The world for writers has already changed so much between the time I stepped out of my college dorm and into the full-time workforce (that was in 2004 if you’re wondering), and now.
When Change Is a Good Thing
Since that time, the book publishing ecosystem has evolved into a new beast, and the world of journalism—well, you probably know how that went. However, with those changes, a new stream of possibilities unfurled for us. For those who used to dream of a profession with no boss standing over your shoulder, you could now decide the hours of the day you wanted to work. Best of all, you could do this all from home.
Before I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I knew what type of career would suit my social-anxiety ridden personality and its distaste of too much authority and too much structure.
These changes didn’t only benefit writers and those with that sort of nature. If you run an online business, no doubt you understand the opportunity you have now that you didn’t only a few decades ago.
What is it like in the daily life of a freelance content writer, though? Is working as a freelance writer that great? The answer, from my experience, is that like most things you dreamed about growing up, it’s not as perfect as you imagined. Like any career, freelance writing has its unique downsides.
Yet, before I became a full-time freelance writer (and for some years when I only wrote part-time), I had a comical variety of jobs. So, I can tell you, compared to any of those professions, I would take freelance writing in a heartbeat every single time.
Daily Life of a Freelance Writer
As I thought about the topic of a day in the life as a content creator, there existed two sides of this coin. One, what clients who hire content writers don’t know about working as a freelancer. And two, what new writers are curious to learn.
If You’re Hiring a Freelance Writer
There are probably lists of dozens of things freelance writers wish clients knew, but if you want the best content for your money, and would like a successful, efficient ghostwriter or content creator relationship, here are a few tips for hiring a freelancer:
- Know what you want. Be clear about the kind of tone you’re looking for and then let the writer take the wheel. Most decent writers can switch between several writing styles, but we need to know the level of formality or casualness you want. On that note, be clear about that, but understand that you are hiring someone to write for you. Allowing just a bit of creativity will work best, and when you find a creative writer who will also work well with revisions, you’ve found a good one.
- Don’t get crazy with your keywords. SEO continues to evolve, and you don’t have to look up the top keywords for a given phrase and then expect them to be written precisely as such in your blog post or article. Search engines will now pick up on the words, even if they aren’t right next to each other in a sentence. I had one client who assigned 800-word blog posts with, I kid you not, a list of over 60 keyword phrases for each, many of which were awkward or grammatically incorrect. They expected every one of the keyword phrases in those posts with a lot of other info. Don’t do this. Your content is more likely to look like you hired an amateur for pennies than a quality content writer.
- Don’t hire from content mills for a freelance writer. Almost every time, you will end up with either an inexperienced writer, poor quality content, or a writer who lacks a thorough command of the English language. Quality freelance writers usually have their profiles on a portfolio site or have a website with writing samples.
Zeedia Media’s team of writers work with all sorts of businesses, industries and sizes of companies. Give us a call or drop us a line for all your content needs. 517-320-1568 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What It’s like to Work as a Freelance Content Writer
If you aren’t hiring a writer, but are curious about daily life as a freelancer, well, I can tell you about my experience and career.
One thing you will have to adjust to if you’ve never worked from home is that of isolation. Get used to a solitary work life if you are embarking on a freelance content writing career.
As an introvert, I generally like this, but there are times when I start to empathize just the smallest bit with Jack Torrance a la The Shining. By this, I do not mean the homicidal side, but rather, the cabin fever, sitting inside all day tap-tap-tapping out words.
I almost always work out of my home office, but sometimes you will have to get out and go to the library, shared workspace, or a coffee shop to remember that humans are still outside, and the apocalypse is not yet upon us. Freelance writing can get severely lonely, especially during our adult years, when friendships can be challenging to come by.
Discipline is something you will need to continue to hone as a freelancer. Next to being alone so much of the time, I think this is one of the most significant adjustments you have to make if you’re coming from a more traditional job.
It gets far too easy to take a nap in the middle of the day if you are bored by an assignment or run errands than pitch to potential clients when you don’t have that boss standing over your shoulder. Your income will now depend on how dependable you are to your work and getting yourself to do the job without being told.
For me, the tipping point here is simple. It is advice I’ve heard more times than I can tell you, but it is the difference between earning money and being nearly jobless. Make use of a timer, whether it’s on your phone or an old-school egg timer.
Sometimes, this is the only way I can get my scattered brain to just focus already. For the next 10 minutes, I write without stopping. For the next 30 minutes, I work on this assignment and will not accept distractions.
Usually, I get enough momentum going that the timer can get put aside, and I will continue to work for a couple of hours. That initial momentum is 100 percent crucial to the efficiency of many freelance writers, though.
Wrapped in with self-discipline for freelance writers comes the need to make a schedule, even if it’s looser than a 9-to-5 job. Sure, you have more flexibility, but I’ve found that winging it or procrastinating until the day before something is due makes for I-want-to-cry-and-stuff-my-face-with-Oreos levels of stress.
Write out a schedule. Yes, write it down. This thing is your job, so schedule yourself as if you’re an employee and stick with it.
There are three primary ways I get work freelancing. Others probably have a variation on this, but this is my rotation of madness.
If you are starting your content writing career, one thing you should get used to right away is the idea of cold-pitching to potential clients. You will have to do this a lot and you will need to thicken your skin to rejection. Cold pitching to companies I’m interested in, and warm pitching to acquaintances or connections are part of the job.
If you get a response that a client or company is not interested, learn to take zero part of that personally. Ideally, you should get a lot of these over time, because you should be pitching so much and so often. How do I go about pitching?
- Make a list of potential companies I’d like to work with and contact them.
- Meet people at networking events.
- Maintain a profile on sites like Upwork and Contently and submitting proposals on them.
- Continue to hone pitch letters and coming up with attention-grabbing headline ideas.
Usually, pitching will result in silence from companies that are not interested. Even if you get a reply saying no, jot it down in a file to keep track of your pitches, and move on. For me, I think sending around ten pitches every day you work is reasonable to get started. If you’re ambitious, go for more.
When You’re Considering Working for a Content Company
If you are considering being a freelance writer, I offer a somewhat unpopular opinion here. The value of writing part-time for a content company. Now, I want to preface this by saying I think writers should do a couple of things when it comes to writing for companies that hunt down the clients for you:
- Don’t settle for too low of a wage. As more writers demand a fair price per word, the less these companies will be able to get away with paying pennies for your hard work.
- Avoid Content Mills.There is a significant difference between writing as an independent contractor for a decent company or even another writer and that of writing for a content mill. If the pay is insanely low, run the other way! I wish every writer would refuse that kind of work, because it makes it more challenging for all of us to get reasonable pay for the hours we spend researching, writing, and proofreading our work.
That said, I do think there is considerable value in finding work with a content or copywriting company as a backup to your income while you build your own freelance writing business. The pay won’t be as good as the work you get with your clients, but it can benefit you in a few ways.
First, you will have a somewhat consistent income coming in, even if the money isn’t fantastic.
Second, you will be honing your writing skills, improving your ability to research topics you otherwise wouldn’t write about and building your portfolio while being paid. If you are ghostwriting, you might not be able to post your samples in a public place. But you will have them on-hand for pitching.
Third, getting assignments from a job like this can keep your momentum going during seasons when it would be too easy to be lazy. Freelancing takes a lot of self-discipline, and these types of jobs can be sort of like a personal trainer. They force you to do the work when your inner boss would say, “it’s fine to take the rest of the day off.”
Networking for Writers
I sort of hate the term networking, as it’s become such a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. It can work. This is a profession where you work at home or a coffee shop. You always don’t get the opportunity for in-person interaction, so networking can be a game-changer for you as a freelancer.
I’m an introvert, true. But on several occasions, I’ve had more luck speaking with a person face-to-face than I did in months (or years regarding literary agents) of pitching remotely. Occasionally, I have to suck it up, pretend like I’m not shy, and go to a networking event, workshop, or conference.
Pay Attention to How You Feel
Okay, what? Is this a life coaching session or meditation advice? No. However, a surprising thing I noticed in the first year when I left outside work to write full-time from home was how much it mattered that I pay attention to my wellbeing.
I got my first job when I was 16 and, as I said, have that laughable resume of previous experiences. Some were more professional positions in my mid-twenties. Even so, some of those jobs were easy for me to go to when my brain wasn’t functioning at peak performance. I could usually power through when I felt sleep-deprived.
Initially, I thought working from home would be similar because, hey, you can technically work in your pajamas. I find it to be the opposite. Researching and writing several articles or blog posts every week makes churning out content easier over time, sure. Yet you have to remember that some of your work is still going to feel like writing a research paper.
Writers Need Brainpower
Writing quality content—and it should be quality if you expect to get paid for it—takes brainpower. Especially when it’s an article on a technical subject you’ve never heard of, and you barely know how to use a printer, for example.
If I’m too tired, I can’t concentrate.
If I over-caffeinated myself, I can’t concentrate.
If I sit for too long and need to get my blood pumping, or if I go too many hours without eating, I can’t concentrate.
I might be able to look up facts and string them together in a coherent sentence. Hower, it’s not going to be the kind of work I want to use as a writing sample.
For a non-physical job, writing from home is surprisingly physical. If I have to be on my feet all day or lift some boxes, it will be harder when I’m tired or out of shape.
The brain, though, good grief. The play of chemicals in that part of the body feels much more complicated to me. It is something I have to pay close attention to.
My Daily Life as a Content Creator
The thing with freelance writing is that every week will be a little different. Each day in my week varies a bit.
If I have fewer assignments due, I will pitch or work on more creative side projects. If I have a lot of work that needs to get done in the next few days, pitching can get shoved to the side.
Personally, I work with a blend of independent assignments I get on my own, and a small amount of work with a content company that pays a reasonable amount (not a mill).
For me, the freelancing does not stop at 5:00 (or more like 3:45 when I have to pick my son up from school). It also often means working weekends, although occasional weekdays are mostly open to get other things done.
On top of the regular grind of freelance writing, businesses—including freelance writers—now have to keep up on social media. Or at least attempt to. This area is one in which I need to work on being more consistent. However, I also have to carve out an hour or so for that in a week, too.
Whether you are the freelancer or you’re hiring a freelancer, there comes a point when you can’t do everything yourself. Feeling overwhelmed is one of the reasons hiring a writer for your business or blog is a smart idea.
As a writer, you will inevitably need to delegate some of your work. Even if it’s hiring someone to clean your house or working with an expert if you want to start a podcast alongside your freelance business. The thing is, you just have to do the thing. So, get out your timer and get tap-tap-tapping at that keyboard.
Do you need a content creator?
If you are looking for experienced content creators to write for your business, Zeedia Media has a team of writers waiting to help. We are experts at researching, interviewing, and of course, WRITING! You will get branding, unique content plus social media campaigns to promote it.
About the Author
Heather Benton is full time ghostwriter and content writer who also pens novels on the side. She blogged for The Hunger Games film sites, freelanced for The Oakland Press and Real Detroit Weekly along with several private clients. Heather also loves to post book reviews. She lives in Michigan, where she tries to keep that winter cabin fever at bay.
Connect with Heather:
Contently profile: https://wordsbybenton.contently.com/
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