Skip to main content
Freelance Writing Isn’t Free
Meow Journal (2019)
  • David Weitzel, University of California, San Francisco
You’ve read the ads, same as I have. They go something like:

“We are looking for a freelance content writer who can start immediately. Our monthly requirements are more than 500 articles and we need 20 articles per day. We are ready to pay $1 per article of 400 words.”

I wish I were exaggerating but, the truth is, I found the above ad online just yesterday. Even if you could knock out one article every 20 minutes, that’s a full day’s work for a whopping 20 bucks—less than $3.00 an hour. If you live in the U.S., that $500 monthly income for freelancing won’t pay the rent for more than a cobwebbed cubby hole in your parent’s basement with your regular meals coming from the drive up window at a fast food restaurant.  No, wait. You’d need to have a car and pay for gas to get there. Better plan on doing a lot of walking.

So, what is a freelance writer to do?

We can get mad and send nasty responses telling the ad posters that “freelance writing isn’t free” and they are disrespecting our profession. We can huff and puff about it to anyone who will listen. But, in the end, all of that is wasted time that you could better spend searching for –and finding—real opportunities.

Here are three ways to find businesses and individuals who acknowledge the worth of a freelance writer:

1.       Get off the Internet and into your community.
Introduce yourself to the businesses within a 15-mile radius of where you live, both large and small. Do it in person or by mail, but do it. Email promotions have become the new “junk mail” of marketing, and are as easy to dismiss as a quick tap on the delete key.  Your personal introduction or direct mail letter/brochure will be a refreshing change, making you memorable for the right reason.

2.       Connect with influencers.
Identify “influencers” to your potential client. Seek out design firms that use freelance talent to complement their services, print shops that get asked by their clients to recommend someone who can help with writing a research proposal projects, and publishing companies that use editors and proofreaders to work on author manuscripts.  Once you get your foot in the door of “influencers” and prove your talent, your billable hours rise quickly.

3.       If you must search online…
I know. You can’t help yourself. Searching for writing projects using online resources is convenient and sometimes you get lucky. I do it, too, and occasionally I make a great connection. I’ve just chosen to restrict my search to two sources: Craigslist and Elance. Craigslist because ads are placed in specific city listings. Although anyone can search for and apply to posts in other cities, local candidates typically have the inside edge if they have the qualifications. Elance because it has sealed bids and sorting options that include a budget range so you can skip over those irritating $1.00 per article offers. I use the free membership and it suits me just fine.

Final thoughts: Don’t let low quality clients dictate your worth. Freelance writing can be a lucrative career if you know the value of your talent and can effectively communicate it to high quality clients.
Publication Date
Summer July 22, 2019
Citation Information
David Weitzel. "Freelance Writing Isn’t Free" Meow Journal (2019)
Available at: