Writer. Thinker. Strategist. Creative Tight Rope Walker.

Freelance Confidential: Where to Start and How to Avoid Common Pitfalls

The freelance writing career path is one fraught with potential scams and dork traps. I am extremely fortunate to have a seasoned professional, Nina Gass, to help light the way and guide me through. Unfortunately, not all would-be freelancers are so blessed. Recently, I sat down for a cup of coffee with Nina, and we chatted about the pitfalls new writers tend to encounter and how to avoid them.

Holly Layman: One of the hardest things for me was figuring out where to start. There are so many sites out there claiming to have work available. It can be overwhelming trying to sift through them all. Are there any specific resources you can suggest to the new freelance writer?

Nina Gass: There are several legitimate websites that offer real jobs. These are good places for a new freelancer to start. WriterAccess.com, Seed.com, DemandStudios.com and Guru.com are all reputable, established companies with solid track records.

HL: I’ve done some jobs through some of those sites and have had good experiences. I signed up for a free membership with Guru.com, but it’s a bid site. I’ve noticed there’s a paid membership available. I thought the general rule in freelancing was never pay to get jobs?

NG: That’s an excellent rule of thumb. Websites wanting you to pay to get work are indeed generally scams. However, the benefits of the paid membership of this particular site are the networking opportunities. I’ve found several paying clients that way with whom I’ve worked with for many years now. Those contacts have led to yet more contacts and to more paying work. However, if you do go the route of a bid for work site, always read the fine print and be sure to familiarize yourself thoroughly with how the site and bidding system operate before jumping in. The reputable websites have safety features that when used properly can help protect you from the occasional unsavory client. Guru.com tends to have one of the highest volumes of work, and it’s up to you to keep putting up bids and proposals to get attention.

HL: Often I’ll see writing jobs available, but the pay is minimal. If a new writer doesn’t have any writing samples, is it worthwhile to take the low paying jobs in order to get experience and clips?

NG: Absolutely not. As writers, we’re providing a valuable service and, as such, our time is valuable. There’s plenty of work out there to be had and accepting jobs that don’t make the time you put into them worthwhile is simply bad business. You’re not going to make money that way and, in the end, you’re only being taken advantage of. If you need a writing sample, write one. Don’t sell yourself short for the sake of a clip. Certainly, have a few samples ready but try to avoid the ones that want a full article or press release in their industry. Most likely, they will take it and run with it and you’ll never hear from them again. They got free work and you are still waiting in front of your computer screen for paying work.

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