Successful attempt at making money online: Freelance writing

Following my post from the other day about all my failed attempts to make money online, I want to share how I have managed to make money those past few years, and how you can too.

 

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Freelance writing

 

I first started writing for a travel website in 2007. A friend of a friend had started a social travel site, a mix between FB and tripadvisor, where travelers gave their opinions about sites and you could also have your little travel blog for your family and friends to follow your adventures, or random travelers to spot you on a map and meet up. I can’t disclose the website because all the posts were supposed to be genuine from travelers, and mine were my honest opinion about the places I had really visited, complete with my own pictures, but I was not supposed to be compensated for it. What did they win with that arrangement? A quickly populated database, with all the 60+ countries I had visited, bringing more traffic to their sites and more comments from other travelers. We were a dozen freelance writers hired for the job. Some of my posts were quick “This hotel was clean, had 25 rooms and charged $46 per night” and others were real travel diaries, with all the details about border crossings and bus timetables.

As I was still employed full time, this side gig paid for all my travel expenses during the holidays and even when I was at home, I could talk about nearby restaurants and museums that would be of interest to foreigners visiting the area. It was a great job, and thanks to the exposure they brought me, a similar site contacted me to do the same for them. I could talk about the same places I had visited, just not copy past obviously, but would make double the money on just one trip! A few months later, the original site expanded to another country where I also spoke the language, and they asked me to translate all my posts. Triple money! Then another friend started a similar website and hired me too. It was awesome.

 

Lessons learned:  it is often easier to network than to try to find a gig through Elance. In the personal finance niche where I now own two blogs, you will often see the same staff writers everywhere, because their work is already published, so site owners know the quality, and the writers know the niche and the kind of content that is expected from them. If you want to start as a freelance writer, you may want to get to know blog owners first, via commenting or direct message, show your interest for their niche, then start offering your services.

Because you want this gig to last, don’t get into a niche where you have little to say. After 5 years of travel writing, I was a bit burned out, and thought most of my posts, even though the country was different, were repeating the same thing, but I managed to write over 5,000 posts on the subject. You can write about life as a new mum, your pet, money, travel, cars, philosophy… but you have to be able to produce content.

 

How much money can you make freelance writing?

 

It greatly depends of a number of things. With one travel website, I was getting $5 for a 200 word post with a picture. I had been to the place, so it was like writing a journal, and the post would take me 5 minutes. I had a routine to write 10 posts then copy paste them into a user friendly platform with the picture, that would take me about an hour, so $50/hour. I used to write 200 mini posts per month, and usually took two or three intense days at the end of the month to turn them over in one go. Three days work for $1,000 was great, plus the time spent taking pictures during my trips (that I would take anyway) and jotting down names, prices, and topic ideas. The posts I was translating I got the same $5, but the post was already written so I could translate twice as much in the same time, raising the hourly rate to $100.

Then I got a contract to write more detailed posts, that required a little more facts, so even though I had visited the country I had to take notes or check back the exact entrance fee to a museum or visiting hours, and I would charge $30 to $40 for a 600 word post, more for a longer post.

Generally speaking, a rate of $25-$50 is what you can expect for a 600-800 word post that is well written and not too researched (like this one, it required no research, the story was in my head). If you start researching your topic more, provide data, sources, and can justify the investigation behind the post, you can ask for $75-$100 or more.

It then depends on the site who would buy your article. A small second tier blog will not pay the same as a top website. I was offered a writing gig for an established expat website and the rate was $150 for a full post, no specified length but they were usually over 1,000 words, and $50 if you wrote a smaller excerpt to be sent in the site’s newsletter.

My rate for a 2,000 word travel story in a paper magazine with quality pictures was $300.

Last thing to consider is how often would a site buy a post from you. Your rate should not be the same for a one off post than for a weekly feature. Especially if you have your own website and also benefit from the recurring exposure from that higher ranking site. You will want to get that gig even if it means lowering your usual rates a little.

 

See you next week for the third installment of this series and the next way I have made money online!

 

This post was featured on the Mintingnickles, Monster Piggy Bank, Journey to Saving, Frugal Rules, thank you!


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About Pauline

A 30 something French girl looking for ways to make more money. I blog about real estate, side hustles, improving your career, investing and making money online.

You can find me on Twitter, Google+, or Make Money Your Way's Facebook Page

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Comments

  1. For newbies like me this is awesome info. I’m not really expecting to make anything on my blog, especially with the level of effort I put into it, but I’m fascinated to hear about the potential and going rates.
    Mr. Bonner recently posted…Beach house vacationMy Profile

    • Those are the rates to write for other blogs, if you find a successful blog you can ask for a bit more but those are the rates I got with little experience on medium sized blogs.

  2. This is so true! -> “Lessons learned: it is often easier to network than to try to find a gig through Elance.” All paid writing I have done (granted it’s not much) was through networking.

    I think I have a hunch what website your friend of a friend started. If it is the one I’m thinking of, they must be doing pretty well for themselves.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…The Weekly Quick Hits RoundupMy Profile

  3. Great tips here. This is definitely something I’ve considered to get a little side money coming in. Always good to get a little more info on what’s expected and what pricing looks like.
    Matt Becker recently posted…A Money Lesson For Me and My NieceMy Profile

  4. Thanks, Pauline, for sharing so much info here. I’ve been wanting to get into some freelancing stuff.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…What You Can Expect if You Choose to Go on a Get out of Debt JourneyMy Profile

  5. Great post! When I switch to 100% freelancing, I plan on writing online more. Can’t wait!
    Michelle recently posted…Simple Ways YOU Can Get Rich SlowlyMy Profile

  6. Cool, very interesting to find out what other freelancers charge.
    Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses recently posted…The Craziest Week Ever & Why I Don’t Want to Buy Cheap or Used Furniture AnymoreMy Profile

  7. I agree that just looking for freelance writing opportunities is sometimes finding a needle in a haystack. You just have to keep writing on your own site and eventually people will pick up on it. That kind of thing is slowly happening to me. Baby steps! :)
    Budget and the Beach recently posted…4 Ways To Become an Expert DIY’erMy Profile

  8. Very interesting post on freelance rates. I really want to increase my writing gigs. I enjoy writing, so it’s not work for me.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted…The Home Search BeginsMy Profile

    • Travel writing was the most awesome gig for me, as I loved to travel and write but I got burned out. If I have one piece of advice it is to take no more than you can chew, writing for others take time, discussing topics, getting the post ready, feedback after, tracking payments, etc.

  9. Thanks for the overview. I haven’t ventured into freelancing before, so I didn’t know what prices were normal. My wife or I may try getting into it in the future. It sounds like a pretty decent way to make money if you don’t mind writing (and are good at it).
    Jake @ Common Cents Wealth recently posted…Weekly Recap – July 12th, 2013My Profile

    • You don’t have to be really good, I was writing in Spanish and it is not my mother tongue, nor is English. For most sites, having posts is like increasing your database, when you write short factual posts you don’t need to be a great writer.

  10. Since I’m just now looking into freelance writing, this post has perfect timing. I appreciate your honesty when dealing with failure as well!
    Keren @ Stepping It Down recently posted…Free Friday: Kids Eat for Free!My Profile

    • Thanks Keren, I think it is only fair to show that not everything works for everyone, you can make it seem easy but you would only fool people into thinking something that is not.

  11. Another very informative post Pauline. I have seen your writing all over but I like how you plan things out. Bang those posts out in three days and make 1g in as little time as possible. Some people refuse to stick to a schedule I find things work a lot better for me that way. Networking, being helpful and asking questions are the best ways to succeed. I also really enjoyed hearing two sides of the coin what worked and didn’t work for you. Keep up the great work.
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted…Real Estate Investing How Do I StartMy Profile

    • Thank you Thomas! It takes time and dedication but you can make a nice extra income if you are dedicated. Once you start, things snowball, the problem is many people give up before it does.

  12. This is a very timely post for me, since I just started offering writing services through my blog. Thank you Pauline!
    Nick @ ayoungpro.com recently posted…Does Passion Matter? How to Find Your Dream JobMy Profile

  13. I was SO surprised when I found a gig that paid $80 per post on eLance. That wasn’t the norm….but if you really dig, there are decent paying jobs out there writing.
    AverageJoe recently posted…The Stacker: My Huge Income EditionMy Profile

    • Bigger blogs certainly have the budget for that, and if there is some research involved, even more. If you offer $80 you can pick the very best of 200 applicants whereas if you offer $10 you’ll have trouble getting quality content.

  14. Thanks for sharing this information Pauline. I really have no idea what people get paid to write posts. I did write one recently though that got me well over $100 and that was just getting my feet wet. They came to me so that was even better so I’m hopping to see where it can take me. When can you start to negotiate more money for writing?
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted…PF Weekly Grab A Brew #28: Protect yourself when buying and selling onlineMy Profile

    • That is a great rate, although it depends on how much you had to write and how much research was involved. You can always justify your rates, your posts are generally quite long, so you sure can command a higher rate than a 600 word post. A potential client just has to go through your archives to see your writing quality and quantity. It is great they came looking for you! I hope you land more deals with them in the future, a weekly feature would be sweet extra income.

  15. Pauline, as the other readers have suggested, this is insanely valuable info and we are lucky to get it for free. Thank you!

    I hope what Budget at the Beach says is true for the Hoombah too. I am unsure we even have a niche, so perhaps someone would need to stumble upon our site and like our writing or see one of our wacky comments. What I do know is that we sure do like us our words and writing has been such a pleasure.
    cj recently posted…Just Can’t Keep It to ThemselvesMy Profile

    • If you are looking for staff writing opportunities elsewhere, you can start by putting a “hire me” tab on your homepage offering your services. Your niche would be lifestyle – motivational, and you can write a great variety of content. Start with the blogs who “know” you, when the blogger has mentioned a couple of time that blogging is taking a lot of time and he/she is a bit overwhelmed, it is time to write and offer your services before they actively start looking for someone.

  16. Freelance writing can be really, really rewarding, but it can be a lot of work to start up in it. I wanted to freelance before I started blogging but wasn’t reaching enough people (I didn’t have any friends who had websites).
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted…Friday Links – School Update EditionMy Profile

    • Having your own outlet does help, if you are a regular commenter you already have a foot in, ideally you pick blogs that are just starting to be successful and offer your services before they made a public announcement they are looking for staff. 1 in 10 may hire you, you just have to try and try.

  17. It sounds like you’ve had some great success with freelance writing! That’s incredible. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Alexandra recently posted…Your Journey to Financial Freedom, Step Two: Elimination and SubstitutionMy Profile

    • Yes it is a fun side hustle, I have been lucky to know people when they just got started to I got on board early, and got exposure when they succeeded.

  18. I have always been curious as to how the freelance writing industry works. I’m not sure I would write for others, but I have considered getting someone to write for me.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted…Monthly Bill Payments vs Yearly Bill PaymentsMy Profile

    • When I was travel writing, I didn’t have the time to update a blog nor the will to put in

      the hours until it takes off, so writing for others was great. My posts had little research

      so I could write enough to make $2K a month. After 4 years though I was quite burned out and

      if you make $2K it means the blog makes… well a lot more as we were at least a dozen

      writers!

  19. Thanks for all the great info, Pauline. Freelance writing is something that I want to really do on a more consistent basis. I love learning from those who have made it work for themselves. I agree that ideally you should get to know the blogger first if possible. I am astounded by how many requests we get from people who have obviously never even looked at Shannon’s site. Today, I received one talking about how beautiful the website is (thanks, since I created it) and it was a good fit to her niche – travel. Uh, no, it’s not. If you would have actually gone to the site, you would see it’s not about travel. Now Shannon loves to travel so it’s possible pitching a story on traveling on a budget would fit but travel alone is not a good fit.
    Tanya @ The Heavy Purse recently posted…At What Age Should Your Teen Get a Job?My Profile

    • I know, they have no shame copy pasting the same request to every blog! Spending an extra

      minute on a prospective site could increase their acceptance rate so much…

  20. I’ve considered doing some freelance writing for a little side income, but haven’t found the time yet. But thanks for providing an inside look at the industry.
    Anton Ivanov recently posted…Portfolio Planning Basics – Picking an Asset AllocationMy Profile

  21. With havin so much content do you ever run into
    any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement?

    My blog has a lot of unique content I’ve either
    written myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is
    popping it up all over the web without my authorization. Do you
    know any techniques to help reduce content from being ripped off?
    I’d certainly appreciate it.
    im training course recently posted…im training courseMy Profile

  22. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites
    I stumbleupo everyday. It’s always exciting to read through content
    from other writers and practice a little something from other sites.
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