If you want to start a career in freelance writing, it’s not enough to ask. Information, much like gasoline, is an important resource, but if you don’t use it, it will simply sit and age until it isn’t useful anymore.

Gasoline forming a dollar sign.

I’ve had more than a dozen people approach me this week, all of whom I’d already given this website to in the past, and ask me about freelance writing. Naturally, I’m always happy to assist those just starting out – that’s why I made the Freelance Writer’s Guide, after all – but sometimes it can be a little tough repeating yourself 3 or 4 times with months in between because it can feel a bit futile. It got me thinking about the freelance spirit, and why motivation is so important when it comes to writing for money online.

Quick-Trigger Responses

While work is plentiful across several sites, it isn’t necessarily always plentiful on a single site. Dedicated workers know that the lists, boards, or other project postings need to be consulted a minimum of a few times a day for the best success rate, and sitting on one’s hands simply isn’t an option.

“Oh, I’ll just check the site tomorrow…” sends your potential money heading straight for another freelancer, so stop hitting your own brakes and get to it.

Physics and Freelance Writing

An object in motion tends to stay in motion, right? The same goes for an object at rest. The more you write, check, correspond with clients and build your profiles, the more likely you are to keep at it. If you sit for a half hour and make a halfhearted attempt to fill out a profile that you’ll “Get back to…” before you start playing Candy Crush – you’re probably never going to get back to it.

Give writing for money online its due and devote a few hours, at least, to your fledgling effort. It will spur itself and you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you’re in the groove.

Freelance Writing = Research

Writing freelance, especially articles, involves a lot of digging, hunting and reading to turn out a product that isn’t composed of equal parts “fluff” and BS. If you aren’t willing to dig into the site and at least read the Freelance Writer’s Guide in full before asking a slew of questions, you’re indicating that your time is more valuable than someone else’s (either mine or another writer’s) and that you lack the discipline necessary to research – which is a solid 50% of most writing work. This isn’t, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, a very good starting point for a freelance career.

Read first, ask questions after; there’s a very good chance that the things you’re curious about are already answered in the Freelance Writer’s Guide.

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The Cut: Writing Site Commissions

For beginner and long-haul freelance writers alike, content mills tend to be fairly popular places to gather up steady work. Once confronted with an open order listing and barred from off-site communication with clients, it’s easy to take article prices at face value and forget that what we’re paid is not what the client’s paying.

Why Should We Care?

Okay, so the client pays a higher price to the content mill – how does that affect freelance writers? The client-writer relationship is just like any other relationship – communication is key. Knowing your client’s mindset will help you put things in perspective and realize that “picky” sometimes just means “expects what they paid for.” For example, if you pay for a $20 burger in a restaurant, you expect a damn good burger for your money, right? If a client pays for a $20 article and the content mill passes on $12 to the writer, who then has to pay $1 to retrieve their own money, that writer isn’t typically inclined to produce a $20 level article. The client may place additional demands on the freelance writer – finding a source, rewording a paragraph, etc – with their original price tag in mind, and the writer in turn may bristle at the “cheap” client that seemingly wants everything at a discount price. Things get a lot less tense when both sides realize how much money is being diverted to the mill site.

Textbroker Pay Scale

Textbroker’s Client Pay Scale

The real use of this research, however, is when solo job assignment and pricing come into play. The client may toss out an initial offer that he or she feels is generous, not realizing that the site takes a substantial cut to act as middleman. When negotiating for a higher rate, a freelancer stands on much better ground if they can say, with authority, that their content mill site “takes a 30% cut of all payments, including tips” rather than a vague “the site takes a cut of my pay.” Numbers and facts imply that you are a stand-up worker, and you know you stuff – normal clients are more likely to pay you what you’re worth and shady clients are less likely to try and bilk you.

Some Things to Remember

When you work for a content site, you are consenting to their setup – deadlines, client communication rules, and pay. While most sites hover around the 20-25% mark as far as commissions taken out, some are substantially higher and may employ practices such as charging your commission before the job has even started, such as Freelancer.com, or charging you a percentage penalty of the job’s potential pay for missing a deadline, such as HireWriters.com.  While some of these practices are a little stern and/or exploitative, it’s important to note that you are compelled to live with them if you choose to work for that site. Likewise, you are free to walk away from a site that you feel takes too much money or is too restrictive – just don’t do it in the middle of a job. A client does not “owe” you an additional x% to recoup what the site takes, so never bring that attitude to the negotiation table – freelancer writers aren’t exactly scarce, and an entitled attitude is the fastest way to usher your client towards another writer.