A Few Guidelines for Novice Freelance Writers

When you’re new to freelance writing, there are always going to be uncertainties at the back of your mind. How do I find clients? Do I need a contract? Should I try to specialise in a particular niche? What niche? And so on and so forth…

The truth is that there’s no ‘rule book’ for freelance writers. You can make money with freelance writing in a bunch of ways. There are, however, just a few guidelines that you should follow for optimal results.

So let’s talk about them.

Guidelines for Novice Freelance Writers


1) There’s no need to join the rat race. Don’t.

A lot of freelance writing nowadays is seeing who can produce the most words for the lowest price. There are thousands upon thousands of people out there who want content created for the most ridiculous prices.

Hmm. $100 for a 6000 word article with no grammar or spelling errors.

Take this example — an offer for a 6000 word article which Reddit user /u/Lysis10 received (right).

There are loads of assignments out there, like this one, which are just unrealistic. I can write a good 600 words in an hour. That 6000 word article would price my time at $10 an hour, and you can bet he wouldn’t be satisfied with the first draft.

You never want to be pumping out loads of content for a tiny pay check. There are people out there already doing it (who can justify it with both poor quality and a low cost of living). Instead, you want to focus on the baller clients who will pay 5-50x as much.

2) Be stern with the scope and price of every job.

My next guideline for novice freelancers would be to stay stern with the scope and price of every job. What I mean by that is clearly laying out the terms of every job (what will I create, and how much will it cost?), agreeing them with the client, and sticking to them.

You shouldn’t let your clients get away with paying for less or asking for more.

(Likewise, you shouldn’t be billing more or producing less.)

As a freelancer, you are providing a set product/service (whatever you want to call it — I guess it depends on the job) in exchange for a set compensation.

Your clients don’t negotiate the price of a Netflix subscription, nor do they negotiate the size of their pretzel. Don’t think they should treat your writing services any different.

On the contrary, don’t expect this from clients, but a certain amount of goodwill will always be appreciated. You can still overdeliver without letting your clients take advantage of you.

3) Take payment first and/or sign a contract.

My god is this one a kicker. Please, for the love of all that is good in this world, take payment first and/or sign a contract!

This is one of those things that’s not a problem until it is a problem.

I’m sure you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re out of pocket and clients don’t want to pay up, and you’ve no agreement or contract to fall back on.

Instead, always take payment from your clients first before carrying out a service (and accompany that with some kind of written agreement, even if it’s just a casual email), or write a contract which explicitly states what you are providing and what you are receiving, and under what terms.

If the idea of writing a contract seems a little daunting, let me know and I’ll do a write-up on it some time with some templates.

Anyway, that’s it. These are some pretty straightforward guidelines, but they exist for a reason. Let me know if they help, and in the mean time be sure to subscribe to my blog.

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