Here are some people who get it!
I know that many freelance writers have had great success marketing articles through various websites, but I just don’t know anything about it. So, I asked Genesis Davies from At Home Mom Blog if she’d be willing to teach us and our readers through a guest post. After reading what she wrote, I’m a little embarrassed that I was so intimidated. I’ll be trying this out myself!
Constant Content is a site that basically works as an article broker for freelance writers. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and while my earnings there aren’t spectacular (around $2,000 total), I also spend very little time there, so consider it a good investment of my effort. It’s a good option for freelance writers that are going through a slower period.
How It Works
The way the site works is you, the writer, turn out an article on any topic that pleases you (unless responding to a request, more on that later) and submit it. You set the price and decide if you only want to sell usage rights or full rights. There is a strict approval process that ensures only top quality articles get into Constant Content’s article database, but once you’re in, potential buyers can view and purchase your article. Constant Content takes a percentage off the top (35%) and the rest goes into your account, which is paid out at the beginning of each month if you have $5 or more pending.
While you can write on literally any topic, people do put in special requests for articles. The majority of these are going to be “public requests” which any freelance writer can respond to. For example, you’ll be notified that someone is looking for ten articles on kitchen sinks. You write a couple of articles using their keywords and submit them. Once these articles are approved, you can send them to the buyer who will purchase only the articles he or she is interested in. To tell you the truth, I haven’t had a lot of luck with this method unless the buyer is looking for a large number (10+) of articles. With just one article, the fastest article writers will get the job . . . but the article that you wrote for the project still goes into the directory and is available for sale should someone want it at a later date, which they usually do if the topic is a popular one.
There are also private requests where someone will contact you through your Constant Content inbox and request specific articles. These are pretty much guaranteed pay and I’ve made a good chunk of cash off this type of request. If you do a good job, these buyers will usually come back to you time and time again. Building up a reputation is very valuable.
How Much Can You Earn?
Once you have an article approved, it’s on the site and in the public eye even if you never write another article for Constant Content. I usually go through bursts where I’ll upload 10-20 articles at a time and then not touch the site again for months at a time. Despite ignoring them completely, my articles continue to sell and I receive a monthly payment from the site, even if I haven’t logged on in weeks.
Since you set your own price, you can ask for just about anything. There are some freelance writers who underprice themselves and offer their work for $5, but most of the buyers who come to Constant Content are willing to pay good money for quality work. Most of my articles are priced between $25 (for usage rights) to $50 (full rights), but I’ve sold several for $100, as well. Remember that Constant Content does take 35% off your price, so if you sell an article for $50, you receive $32.50. Since these are articles that I wouldn’t have sold otherwise and that I can usually turn out in 10-15 min. it’s worth it for this price. Remember that you can write what you want, so there doesn’t have to be a lot of research involved.
I wrote a post on my blog in February about how to sell articles on Constant Content which you can read here: http://athomemomblog.com/how-to-sell-articles-on-constant-content/
Okay, we admit it. We freaked out a little bit in April. When we started the month, we had no jobs lined up, we weren’t getting any responses on our bids, and, as Lorna hinted, we were (and still are) battling a client who owes us over $3,000 and has since fallen off the radar. We were not in a happy place, financially or emotionally speaking.
We alternated between blaming the economy, the omnipresent freelancer famine, and the quirks of fate. But, as it turns out, it was really just two women falling into full-blown panic mode for no real good reason. We ended up having a pretty good month, and have plenty of work lined up for May.
I will say, however, that it was nice to have a business partner to accompany me into panic mode. Like misery, it’s much more pleasant when you bring a friend along.
Without further ado, here’s the breakdown for April:
Monthly Income: $4,142.65
Percentage of Income Paid Out to Our Writers: 7.2%
SEO Articles – $125.00
Web Content – $352.60
Blogs – $1,360.00
Ebooks/Reports – $1,600.00
Newsletters – $75.00
Editing – $70.00
Product Descriptions – $185.05
Press Releases – $175.00
Nonprofit – $200.00
We’re still pretty curious about the way other freelancers are faring in this economy. While I’m fully onboard Lorna’s It’s Not the Economy concept, I can’t help but think that there are some issues at play. And I’m not the only one; the first question almost everyone asks me when we meet is how my company’s doing in the face of so many layoffs and cutbacks nationwide. (So far, so good, people. So far, so good.)
Everyone’s Talking, but No One’s Saying Anything
There is absolutely TONS of talk on the blogs about how to set your freelance rates. You will probably notice, however, that while everyone talks about how to set your rates, no one tells you what they actually charge. There are a couple of reasons for that, in my opinion:
- If you tell others what you charge, they might undercut your rates and get all your great jobs.
- Other freelancers might make fun of you for not charging enough. (There are a couple of freelancers in the blogosphere who make it their personal mission to go around berating freelancers who don’t charge enough.)
- People might think you’re too big for your britches if they learn that you’re charging three times more than they are.
- Our culture has certain taboos regarding talking about money in more than hypothetical terms.
Tamara and I have attempted to break through some of these obstacles by posting our own freelance income report each month. Of course, we didn’t do that early on when we were happy to make a couple hundred dollars a month, but that’s mostly because we hadn’t thought of it yet. We really want to try to take some of the mystique out of freelancing, so that’s why we made the decision to post those reports. When you read them, however, keep in mind that we’ve been doing this for about a year and a half, and between the two of us, we probably work a little more than 40 hours a week.
One Approach to Setting Freelance Rates
So, how do you set your freelance rates? There are tons of opinions out there on the subject. Some say that you should determine how much money you need to make and then divide that by the number of hours you intend to work to get a reasonable hourly rate. If that makes sense to you, then go for it! Other suggestions include charging a per-word or per-project fee. We use this approach quite a bit in our business. We base the rate not only on the size of the project, but also on the type of project. For that reason, we have different prices for “web content,” “ebooks,” “SEO articles,” and other types of writing.
I may get yelled at by other freelancers for disclosing this, but here’s how we got to this point:
ETA: For those who want to do a little comparison, scroll down to the bottom of this post where I’ve listed links to all of the previous freelance income reports we’ve posted thus far. (Lorna)
I’d like to start February’s income report by saying that, as with most businesses and individuals these days, the Berry-Brewer Freelance Agency has been negatively affected by the economy. In addition to general annoyance, we’ve lost three fairly regular clients who simply had to cut back on their own expenses. We also had a very late international payment almost cut in half because what the exchange rate was in October (when we did the work) and February (when we got paid) were two very different things. These things do not make us altogether happy.
That being said, I’d like to also state that the Berry-Brewer Freelance Agency has been positively affected by the economy. We’re not quite sure if more businesses are turning to independent contractors to provide low-cost copy (as opposed to doing it in-house), or if we’re experiencing something of a fluke, but this has been the most incredible month we’ve had as a business so far. It was so incredible, in fact, that Lorna squealed like a little girl and hugged me when I told her what number we’d hit. And I’m not a hugger.
Here’s the breakdown:
Monthly Income: $7,300
Percentage of Income Paid Out to Our Writers: 14.8%
SEO Articles – $2,605
Web Content – $2,219
Blogs – $261
Ebooks/Reports – $1,840
Newsletters – $150
Print – $0
Press Releases – $225
We’d really like to follow this month up with another one breaking $7,000. After all, nothing beats kicking the economy in the butt like showing regular growth regardless of stimulus packages and housing market collapses!
http://www.sparkplugging.com/freelance-parent/freelance-income-report-playing-catch-upand-losing/ – November and December, 2008
So, there seems to be a bit of a debate on the “Freelancing Insecurities” post regarding how much is appropriate to charge for writing services. It started with a new comment on an old post where someone said that she makes $100 for a 500-word SEO articles. Some people have congratulated her. Some people have been a bit skeptical. Some people seem to have called â€œB.S.â€
One interesting thing that has come out of the situation, though, is this discussion about writing for print media versus writing for the web. This issue actually goes back a long way for us. I seem to recall that it was the end of 2007 when we did a review of Men with Pensâ€™ Write for the Web: A Beginners Guide to Writing on the Internet. It was probably around that same time that our friend Allana Tapia first started (lovingly) harassingâ€¦I mean encouragingâ€¦us to get into print media.
Weâ€™ve heard Allenaâ€™s arguments, most of which revolve around money, and I,, especially have been nearly seduced. (Tamara’s more interested in becoming a fabulous romance novelist.) In addition to potentially higher pay, being published in a magazine is one of those things that I always thought would make me feel more like a â€œrealâ€ writer. Until I really became a freelance writer, my ideas of what it entailed were a lot different. I expected to be querying editors and getting form-letter rejection notices from Readerâ€™s Digest and Vogue.
What I found, however, was web writing. I mean, it was just sort of there. Bidding on several jobs on Guru seems a whole lot easier than trying to write just as many pitch-perfect query letters. Just the thought of truly using my Writerâ€™s Market for its intended purpose is enough to give me heart palpatations. Here are the reasons I have mostly avoided print media up until now:
- It seems much more time consuming to get a gig.
- The gigs seem way more competitive.
- A magazine article would take way more work than a lot of the web writing we do.
- Magazine editors expect you to come up with your own ideas.
- Narrowing down the markets is overwhelming.
- You canâ€™t get the gig without already having good published clips.
I have to say that those are all fairly compelling reasons, although, this whole discussion about money has made me feel like I need to look at them more critically. Are they reasons, or are they excuses? I suspect thereâ€™s a little of both.
So, Iâ€™m looking to you folks. What kinds of experiences have you had with print media? Has it been worthwhile, or was it more work than it was worth? Do you have any words of wisdom to share with the rest of us?
Iâ€™m going to try to revisit this topic a little more often, as we tend to mostly focus on the web writing stuff. I did actually get a few print pieces published in the last few months, so I suppose I have a little experience to share on the subject. Still, I know there are Freelance Parent readers who know way more about the subject than we do. Letâ€™s hear from you folks!
One of my favorite books about writing is Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers. (My favorite is Stephen King’s On Writing, not that you asked.) Anyway, one of the reasons I like the book so well is because the author, who is an editor, totally “gets” how insecure writers really are. Sure, there are the occasional writers who are annoyingly confident in their abilities, but most of us are fairly sensitive, maybe even a bit obsessive when it comes to our prose.
Anyway, for those of us who are a little insecure, it doesn’t take much to throw us for a loop. Back when we first started this blog, we took a little flak for admitting that we’ve been known to cry over a dissatisfied client. The funny thing is that between then and now, there have been very few dissatisfied clients, yet we still remember it like it was last week. We’re definitely growing a thicker skin, but (I’ll speak for myself here, and Tamara can add her own two cents’ worth if she wants) I’m actually a little needy when it comes to my words. I think it’s because writing is the main thing I’ve always been recognized for doing exceptionally well; and when it’s called into question, it’s like saying that there’s something wrong with me.
Yikes. That got a little deep for a moment. Moving right along…
I found that my insecurities were dredged up a bit this weekend, and I thought, “Hey, why not tell the whole world (ok, the 600-and-something people who read this blog), what a big dork you are?” Actually, I figured that a lot of you would probably see yourselves in my situation and it might be comforting to you to know that you’re not alone.
So, how’s that for a really, really long introduction?
The point is this: Things have been going great for Tamara and me lately. We’ve been getting new clients left and right. We’ve moved into our very own office in a lovely historic building. We have been receiving excellent feedback from our clients on their projects. We were, in fact, on top of the world.
And then, someone left a silly little comment on an old post here, and my self-doubt went all out of control. The post was geared toward newbie freelancers and was intended to give them an idea of what constituted reasonable expectations for wages. We actually hedged our bets a bit when we said that SEO articles might pay anywhere from $5 to $50. I can tell you that we don’t make $5 an article, but we also don’t make $50. What we do make, however, we think is pretty fair for the amount of work that goes into the piece.
This person left a comment saying that she makes $100 for 500-word SEO articles. Honestly, I felt like she was a little haughty about it, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that if she’s getting $100 for SEO articles, then GOOD FOR HER! Also, I would love to know where she finds those clients, because we’re definitely not at that level.
And there, of course, is where my insecurities kicked in. I went from thinking, “Wow, we are really doing a great job,” to “Maybe we’re kidding ourselves.” It sucked. Thank goodness for Tamara, who immediately recognized why I was feeling this way and helped pull me out of it. Sure, I would love to earn $100 for an SEO article, but that seems a little far-fetched to me at the moment. (Not to say this other person isn’t doing it, just that I obviously haven’t hit that level.) In my experience, I don’t generally make $0.50 per word on my web writing.
The question is, can I still feel successful, even if I’m not earning what this person thinks is fair? The answer is “yes.” It took me a little time this weekend to answer that question for myself, but the truth is this that I work hard, and I make a reasonable amount of money. As long as I continue to work hard, I will continue to make a reasonable amount of money. In the meantime, I will be happy for those who are doing “better” than I am, I will try to help those who are not doing “better” than I am, and I will continue to work hard and grow my business in a way that makes sense for me.
So, if you’re not at the level you want to be yet, that’s OK. I’m pretty happy where I am, but I’m still striving to go further. Tamara and I have built our business this way since the beginning, and it’s working for us. I just have to keep those damn insecurities from popping their nasty little heads out and making me question myself.
As promised, I’m back on track in 2009 with a much more detailed and up-to-date financial report. And the numbers are a little different than what I was expecting (which probably makes it a good thing to do this).
Overall, Lorna and I feel like we have never been more busy than we have been these past two weeks. Part of it may have to do with opening a new office space, but a lot of it also has to do with several new clients we’ve acquired. I expected the acquisition of these new clients to make a profound difference in our numbers, but they haven’t. Not yet, anyway.
Here’s the breakdown:
Monthly Income: $3650.73
SEO Articles – $1964
Web Content – $248.90
Blogs – $91.28
Ebooks/Newsletters/Reports – $920
Print – $309.05
Product Description – $42.50
Press Release – $75
Last year, Tamara wrote a post here called “No Spec, No Problem” about clients who ask you to work “on spec.” For those of you new to the game, that means that the potential client will basically give you an assignment, and if he or she thinks it’s up to par, you will be rewarded. If they don’t like the work, however, someone else will be chosen for the job.
At first, this might not seem like a bad idea. After all, maybe you don’t have a lot on your plate right now. What could it hurt right? The truth is that it can hurt. It can hurt you, your bottom line, and your peers.
There are a lot of freelancers out there who get extremely passionate about why spec work is the ultimate evil, but I’m not going to go that far. While I totally get their point of view and agree that spec work is not something that should be done very often (if at all), I draw the line at believing that all the potential employers asking for spec work are simply the spawn of Satan.
Because I once asked a friend to do work on spec. I thought it was an awesome idea. He could take some pictures for me, and if the project went well, he could share in the rewards. I shudder now when I think about how he probably agonized over a nice way to tell me “no.”
I did what a lot of others do. I assumed that he would be excited to be involved in the project. I also figured that he would be happy to share in any proceeds. Thank goodness he was a friend, or I would have looked like a real jerk.
Now that I’ve admitted to being naive, I will tell you that there are also people out there who really do want to take advantage of you by requesting spec work. There are a few ways they do it:
- They tell you that your work will be seen by others, and that’s such a great deal for you. In most cases, that is really not a good deal at all.
- They say that they’ll pay you if they like what they see. So, if they don’t like it, you just wasted how much of your time? Seriously, that’s like paying them to tell you “no.”
- They promise more work in the future. Again, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it; and if you don’t, you’ve just paid for the privilege of being passed over.
- They’ll ask for “students” or “beginners” and tell them this is a chance to build their portfolio. Honestly, I sort of “get” this one, but I still have to say that it’s pretty low to assume that a student or beginner doesn’t have any value.
- They play on the fact that they don’t have much money because they’re a small company, or a start-up, or whatever. Oh, Lord. I think that will have to be another post. All I can say is, “if you can’t afford to start a business, you can’t afford to start a business. Duh.” Besides, how should their lack of money in any way affect your lack of money?
There are even nastier folks out there, too. Some of them will take a big project and break it up. If they have ten or tweleve freelancers doing parts of it “on spec,” then they can actually get the entire project done for free. Others take your work and then have someone really, really cheap change it just enough so that they’re not technically using your work and don’t have to pay you.
Now that election season has officially drawn to a close here in the U.S, it’s time for us to also bring an end to our ongoing debate with Men with Pens. We have a few more things to say on the subject, and since we called them out, it seems only appropriate to offer them the opportunity to get in the last word if they so desire. So, this will be our last post in this series on “how much does it cost to start a freelance business.”
First of all, I have to point out that—as is so often the case with debates—I think we all ended up practically “arguing” the same point, just in different words. I agree with the way James phrased it:
“We’ve determined (all four of us) that it’s possible (but not preferable) to start a freelancing business on less than $500.”
Yep. We agree on that. You can totally do it with less than $500, but you’d better have a backup plan.
So, here’s where I get a little rant-y. I hope you’ll bear with me, as I think I actually have two mini-rants brewing at the moment.
Tamara and I absolutely know that we are privileged. The mere fact that we live in North America means that we are privileged. Also, the reason that I mentioned our working spouses was to be clear to everyone that we knew we were in a fortunate situation. Of course, that’s not to say that we are (as Tamara so eloquently put it) “a couple of rich bitches who decided to take up freelancing because we got bored of sitting around and having our nails done.”
We started freelancing because we needed money and wanted to earn it on our own terms. When we decided to start our business, Tamara’s husband had taken on a second job, and I was trying to figure out which maternity outfit was going to work best for my upcoming job interviews. She even took a part-time job at the beginning to help her family meet expenses. So, while we are absolutely a couple of fortunate people, we want to be clear that this wasn’t just a lark or a hobby.
This leads nicely into my second rant…