Quickstart Freelancing Guide

I’ve gotten a few requests for an abbreviated version of the Freelance Writer Guide, so here you go! Feel free to share, if you’re so inclined. ūüôā

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-2-36-09-pm

Text:

Decide on an Identity

Will you use your full
legal name as an ID?

If not, will you
replace your first or
last name? Both?

Is your ID easy to
remember and spell?

Does your ID look and
sound professional?

Check ID Availability

Is anyone else using
your writing ID?*

Is a Gmail available
for your ID?*

Is a .com available
for your ID?*

* = If no, go back a step

Set Up Your Presence

Set up your social
media presence using
your new ID:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • WordPress

Note: You don’t need to actually do anything on these sites yet, just mark your territory!

Get Down to Business!

Sign up for Paypal.

Read the Freelance
Writer Guide.

Time yourself for
each of the following:

Pick 2 simple products
off Amazon.com and
write a 150-word
description for each.

Pick a random NON
religious/political
subject and write a
300 word article.

Figure out how long it
takes you to write
100 words by using
the timing data from
the two tasks above.
Keep this number
handy for pricing.

Start Applying

Start applying to
freelance sites with
your ID/Gmail:

  • Textbroker
  • OneSpace
  • MTurk
  • WriterAccess
  • Zerys
  • Constant Content
  • Upwork

Note:

If you don’t get a

response or get

rejected, don’t sweat

it! Keep going!

Practice Makes Perfect

Use your product
descriptions and
article as a makeshift
portfolio. Build on it
as time goes by, but
don’t use ghostwritten
projects without
permission.

Don’t take less than
.01/word or $1 per
100 words. Ever.

Don’t take less than
you normally would
because an unproven
client claims they will
make it up by sending
you more jobs.
Either they respect
your work with pay,
or they don’t and you
go elsewhere.

Stay tuned to the
FreelanceWriterGuide.com!

 

Freelance Superpowers: Scam Spotting

When you work with the same product day in and day out, noticing a fake is second nature. Sell designer purses? When the shade of a bag or the look of the hardware is “off,” you notice it immediately. Sell video games? You likely unconsciously know the weight and balance of a game console box without even opening it. It’s a familiarity with the materials we need to do our jobs, and when something doesn’t add up, it’s very likely not going to pass us unnoticed.

Writers have a superpower too, believe it or not. We can spot a written scam a mile away.

I recently received a request to interview for a position on Upwork. Have a look:

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-11-36-54-am

Three red flags immediately went up:

  • Nothing in my work history indicates that I’m looking to be an assistant. My profile is created to reflect my skills – namely, that I’m a writer.
  • “Loyal” is a strange quality to be looking for. When a client puts “loyal” out there on the forefront, it indicates that a previous assistant was somehow “disloyal.”
  • Note to the right there that “Monir” is interviewing a lot of people, but this is his/her only posting ever on the site, they have no confirmed payment methods, and they have no money in escrow. Strike 3, you’re out.

But hell, this is an educational blog, so let’s take a fake bite of that bait, for curiosity’s sake. Here’s the response:

I have been a local and international relative successful entrepreneur and sometimes invest in the real estate market which makes me travel often within and outside the states working on various independent projects. This is why i need someone who can help keep me up to date with some my activities, especially while i am away and amidst my busy schedule. My previous personal assistant is currently unavailable due to health reasons and i am keen on finding an efficient, motivated, organized individual who can communicate well and is able to multi-task. This position is home-based and flexible. Working for me is a test of following instructions and as my personal assistant, your activities among others will includes:
. Writing articles and speech
. Receiving Donations from sponsors
· Receiving Phone Calls from my clients when am busy.
· Making Regular Drop offs at FedEx Stores for letters meant for my clients.
· Handling and monitoring some of my financial activities.
· Basic wage is $300 weekly.
. Working 5 hours Daily, and 3 Days weekly. ( you can choose your working days because it is flexible )
I am sure you should have understood how busy my schedule could be on a daily basis. Currently, I am in Canada meeting with partners. I will be back in two weeks
to arrange a formal interview with you. I think you are the right person for this position. Please note that this position is not office-based for now because of my frequent travels and tight schedules. It is a part-time job, and some weeks you will be busier than others, though pay stays constant.
NB: you have to be checking your email regularly, and also i want you to add me to your email contact list as soon as you receive this email.
Like i said, I think you are the right person for this job, and think we should get a head start next week. I have some little works piled up that i will need help catching up on immediately. I would like to use next week to test your efficiency and diligence, and to work your schedule around mine. I am hard of hearing and usually stay in touch through email and text messages, but if you would like me to call, I will be glad to do that at my earliest convenience, I am glad you responded to my ad in such a timely manner and look forward to working with you and promise to be a good boss.
If Interested in being my personal assistant, get back to me through email and we can move forward with the first task.
Warm Regards.
¬†Now, for my lovely freelance fledglings that are familiar with my “spot the scam words” game, you’ve probably already seen enough red flags pop up here to send a bull into a fit.
  • Keen
  • Works
  • Bad (unusual) Grammar in general (relative successful, will includes, should have understood / could be, have to be checking, etc.)
Additionally, for such a short message, “Monir” sure is putting in a lot of qualifiers for how unavailable they are. Hard of hearing, they’re in Canada, oh such a busy schedule…this is a scammer laying the groundwork for being out of touch, and thus unable to soothe genuine fears you’ll have when doing their scammy work.

Additionally, the overly formal speech is a side-effect of a careful translation. We have a lot of contractions and similar functions in our language, and it’s hard to mimic the casual tone without the translation sounding stiff or forced. Notice also that there isn’t a single contraction in this entire posting and response – what American do you know that doesn’t use any contractions at all?

In this case, this scammer is setting up a popular check-cashing scam: he or she will send you money orders or checks that look genuine, but are actually very high-resolution forgeries or copies. The idea is that you’d deposit that faux check in your personal bank account, the bank would front the money because you’re likely a good customer with a halfway decent track record, and your “boss” would instruct you to wire/Western Union them the just-deposited money, after you take out your “cut,” of course. Later, your bank would discover the fraud, and your account would go negative to recoup the losses…which you’ve just sent on a one-way trip overseas. How do I know this?

As I’ve mentioned in my Debunking a Craigslist Scam post, the easiest way is simply to cut and paste a line of the questionable text and Google it in quotation marks. In this case, I found nearly the entirety of this message on Scamwarners, word for word, with a wholly different name attached – apparently “Monir Lisir” is also “Chris Crosby”. Ding ding ding – we have a scam!

So voila – now you know: you have a secret scam-spotting superpower as writers, so be on the lookout to protect friends and family!

Zerys: Freelancing’s Sinking Ship

Sunk_Boat

Longtime readers (hey guys!) will know there is zero love lost between myself and the Zerys / Interact writing platform. I’ve criticized their slapdash, poorly-designed UI, I’ve removed them from my list of trusted freelance sites, and only a few months ago, I was banned and blocked without warning or notice for speaking up on my own blog –¬†while I was owed money that was never paid to me, no less.

I do not weep for missing out on a few pages of crap orders that pay 7/10ths of a cent per word, but I do consider myself a fairly vocal proponent of the¬†Freelance Isn’t Free¬†movement. Zerys recent “improvements” for my fellow writers have required that writers start providing¬†free 250 word articles for potential clients to read and consider before maybe hiring them.

The only balm offered to writers was that clients¬†did have the¬†ability to pay for that sample, should they so choose, and that “nice hints” (direct quote from the website operator, by the way) were left to encourage them along that path. Additionally, it was also framed as being better than the “old way” in which clients could – and still could, by the way – outright refuse an article written because they simply didn’t want it anymore, or selected another writer’s take on it. I don’t really understand how pointing out how terrible your system not only was, but still is, benefits writers.

Recently, a fella I used to date sent me an incredulous email with a post from Zerys forums. I don’t know if they think willful arrogance and transparent spin is de rigeur¬†due to certain political campaigns lately, but let me be the first to say in a non-censored forum: it ain’t, guys. This is appalling, and it should be a source for shame, not pride. If you read between the poorly-presented mathematical lines here, it’s a statement that 60% of clients are NOT paying for their samples. That means¬†the literal majority of Zerys clients are not paying for the mandatory 250 word samples and Zerys is actually bragging about that.

Read for yourself below. When I talk about freelancers getting taken advantage of, when I speak about the reasons I started the FreelanceWriterGuide in the first place, this is what I’m talking about. Zerys is making a mockery of everything freelancing represents, and I’m not going to let them lead newbies into thinking this is the norm. #FreelancingIsntFree guys. Ever.

***

Hi everyone
As you all know, we made some significant changes to how Zerys clients go about searching for and identifying new writers to add to their writing team. Now that the new system has been in place several months, we wanted to share some interesting data:
Out of the thousands of documents that have been posted to the New Clients Job Board since the new changes were implemented, here’s a breakdown of the review actions taken by Zerys clients:

– About 40% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List AND pay the writer for the sample

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List but not pay the writer for the sample

¬† ¬† ¬† (So, this means that about 70% of the time the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List)

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to not add writer to team (and not pay for sample)
(Remember, these are only figures for NEW CLIENTS JOBS). The approval rate and payment rate for Direct Assign jobs are around 95%).
We know there was a big concern that this new system would result in writers never being paid for their time spent doing these initial samples for new clients. While clearly this is happening some of the time, its not the most common result. Since clients are “trying out” new writers, one would expect that some of the time, the client will not like the sample piece, or will decide that a certain writer is just not the right fit. We believe 30% is a reasonable percentage to expect this to happen.
Keep in mind that since these initial jobs are only 250 words, they generally will take less time to write than the much longer jobs that were being posted before (and still had the same chance of not getting paid). Subsequently, the earning potential is fairly low as well. So, while its nice getting paid a few dollars to write a few paragraphs, it is much more important that you get added to the writers Favorite Writer so you have the potential to get a steady supply of work and earn much more for months or years to come from that buyer.
So, while we’re happy to see that 40% of the time writers are being paid for the sample, we’re even happier to see that 70% of the time, writers are getting added to the client’s favorites list. (You may not see orders right away from new clients that add you to their list. We often see clients pick one primary writer, but many months later, they now need a new or additional writer, so they start using their “backup” favorite writers. So hang in there!)
Anyways, just wanted to share the data. Obviously, the percentages above reflect an average across all clients and writers. We know of many writers who have MUCH higher precentages when it comes to getting added and paid for samples – and vice versa. In the end, just keep taking as many new client jobs as you can. Keep submitting your best quality work… and have faith that in the long run, you will start seeing your amount of work increase and overall income increase over time.
Thanks for all your support and hard work during these important changes
Hi everyone
As you all know, we made some significant changes to how Zerys clients go about searching for and identifying new writers to add to their writing team. Now that the new system has been in place several months, we wanted to share some interesting data:
Out of the thousands of documents that have been posted to the New Clients Job Board since the new changes were implemented, here’s a breakdown of the review actions taken by Zerys clients:

– About 40% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List AND pay the writer for the sample

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List but not pay the writer for the sample

¬† ¬† ¬† (So, this means that about 70% of the time the client chose to add the writer to their Favorite Writer’s List)

– About 30% of the time, the client chose to not add writer to team (and not pay for sample)
(Remember, these are only figures for NEW CLIENTS JOBS). The approval rate and payment rate for Direct Assign jobs are around 95%).
We know there was a big concern that this new system would result in writers never being paid for their time spent doing these initial samples for new clients. While clearly this is happening some of the time, its not the most common result. Since clients are “trying out” new writers, one would expect that some of the time, the client will not like the sample piece, or will decide that a certain writer is just not the right fit. We believe 30% is a reasonable percentage to expect this to happen.
Keep in mind that since these initial jobs are only 250 words, they generally will take less time to write than the much longer jobs that were being posted before (and still had the same chance of not getting paid). Subsequently, the earning potential is fairly low as well. So, while its nice getting paid a few dollars to write a few paragraphs, it is much more important that you get added to the writers Favorite Writer so you have the potential to get a steady supply of work and earn much more for months or years to come from that buyer.
So, while we’re happy to see that 40% of the time writers are being paid for the sample, we’re even happier to see that 70% of the time, writers are getting added to the client’s favorites list. (You may not see orders right away from new clients that add you to their list. We often see clients pick one primary writer, but many months later, they now need a new or additional writer, so they start using their “backup” favorite writers. So hang in there!)
Anyways, just wanted to share the data. Obviously, the percentages above reflect an average across all clients and writers. We know of many writers who have MUCH higher precentages when it comes to getting added and paid for samples – and vice versa. In the end, just keep taking as many new client jobs as you can. Keep submitting your best quality work… and have faith that in the long run, you will start seeing your amount of work increase and overall income increase over time.
Thanks for all your support and hard work during these important changes

***

#Nope.

 

The Newbie’s Guide To WriterAccess: Part 2

Planning on applying to WriterAccess? Please let me know if I steered you that direction, and please mention that Delany M. sent you! I don‚Äôt get any $ for doing this blog, and a few referral bonuses would go a long way in the WordChick household ‚Äď THANK YOU! ‚̧

(Did you miss Part 1? No worries – Catch up on the WriterAccess Basics!)

Welcome to Part 2, fellow WA-er! Now that we’ve covered pay and you know what to expect from that, it’s time to tackle best practices for the site itself. Here are my 4 commandments for getting the most out of your WA career:

1.) Don’t ever let an order expire. Yes, ever.¬†If you’ve come from other writing sites where you could let an order expire and snap it back up, or if you had to let a LOT of orders expire before you got into any real trouble, rest assured – you’re not in Kansas anymore.At WA, timing is a big deal and even letting one order run out of time unheeded can become a substantial obstacle on your path to higher star levels.¬†That being said, know that picking up an order from the board and actively returning it within an hour will not subject you to penalty – WA gives us this 60 minute grace period to do a little research-digging and make sure we’re capable/willing to do that particular project. Remember that WA offices run on the EST time zone, double-check when your article is *actually* due, and set an alarm in your phone if you need to. If you have a legitimate question on the order, you can ask the client a question, which puts the order on “pause” – after they answer the question and release the hold, you’ll have either the time that was left on the clock to finish it, or, if that time left was under 12 hours, you’ll have an additional 12 hours to finish it.

2.) Don’t leave your profile blank or underdeveloped.¬†I know it can be tedious, making these profiles and lists of specialties and achievements for writing site after writing site, but it definitely makes a difference at WA – clients and WA staff alike will use these profiles to determine who works on certain projects. The site asks you to write in the 3rd person for your profile blurbs – for example, I wouldn’t say, “I love to write about cats.” but I would say something along the lines of, “Delany specializes in covering felines in her work, and has been a featured writer in Important Cat Magazine for the last 3 years.” While my own WriterAccess profile is constantly in need of tinkering and updating, feel free to take a look in order to determine good word counts for each section and overall tone. As with any writing site, do not include your full name and do not put any contact info, such as emails or phone numbers, anywhere in your profile.¬†

3.) Don’t despair if the boards look empty.¬†A few years back, there was a big shift from “Open Orders” – orders placed in such a way that anyone of the appropriate star level or above could claim them – to “Casting Calls.” Casting calls (CCs) are when a client posts information and even jobs that they need completed, but individual writers need to put in a note to be considered for those jobs. This is just a note or a few lines, this is not where you would write the piece! Don’t write any articles until you actually pick up a job. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can talk about a rough outline or talking points, but remember – your acceptance isn’t guaranteed and you may be wasting hard work.¬†A typical Casting Call application for me is something like:

“Hello! My name is Delany, and I have worked in (client’s industry) as a writer for several prior clients. I understand (industry concept) very well, and I would like to help educate your readers on (actual concept they’re holding the CC for). Thanks for considering my application!”

The client and/or their WA account rep will sift through these notes and typically choose one or several of the applicants for their job(s). Depending on how many writers are selected, the job(s) may be sent as a “Solo Order,” which means that only one chosen writer¬†can see, take and work on that job, or the client may add multiple¬†winning writers to a “Love List” (LLs) – a designation that acts as a filter when they release – “drop” – ¬†their job(s) to be picked up. If you are on a client’s Love List, you will be able to see and take their jobs, while those that weren’t added to the Love List won’t see anything at all.

The Love List process is a little unusual in the freelance writing sphere, so bear with me while I explain. You can be added arbitrarily (say, if a client likes your profile) to a Love List, or may “win” a position on one by applying to a Casting Call (you can always check the status of your CC applications under the “Manage Orders” tab on the left of your logged-in WA screen.) When the client “drops” their jobs to their Love List writers, you will receive an automatic email notifying you that those jobs are about to post. Exactly ten minutes after that email arrives, the jobs will actually post. Use the in-between time to get situated at a computer or phone, log into WriterAccess, and be ready to refresh the screen (the F5 key on a computer works best) continually about a half a minute before the 10-minute mark is up. If there are a lot of writers on a Love List, the jobs may go unbelievably quickly (like, within-seconds quickly), but keep at it and don’t stop responding to the emails. Believe me when I tell you that many WA “old timers” have gone through the button-smashing routine, and many of us still do! It’s an important step in getting access to clients, and building a rapport that can lead to a string of solos later on.

4.) Carry yourself as a representative of WA.¬†The fact of the matter is that if the clients feel disrespected or as if their needs don’t matter, they can easily head to a competitor or find a dirt-cheap ESL writer on a bid site. They’ve come to WA because they want great writing (we kind of have a really great reputation going on)¬†and the customer service that comes with it. So when you’ve finished a piece, add a comment that expresses a little gratitude – “Thanks for the opportunity to write this piece!”, and let them know you’re available if they need anything in the future. Be polite and take a friendly business tone in your on-site messages with clients – “I’d be happy to.” rather than “Ok.”

  • If clients try to take advantage of you (e.g. you’ve seen your work on the web before it’s been accepted by the client, or they’re asking for a rewrite that has little or nothing to do with the original order instructions), submit a Help Desk ticket. That’s what they’re there for! You *are* obligated to complete at least one revision on each order you work on, provided the client’s revision requests fall under the spirit of the original instructions.
  • In very rare cases, clients may get rude, snippy or outright insulting, but take the high road or say nothing at all. “Talking back” to clients or copping an attitude in client-facing communication is a fast way to ensure you never move up a star level, and you may possibly even lose your account altogether. If you can’t shrug off criticism, writing may not be a good career choice. Always follow “Wheaton’s Law” – Don’t be a dick.
  • Remember that promotions are about more than writing. WriterAccess has a “rising/falling star” system internally that uses several considerations for whether a writing should move up or down a star level. For star levels 2 through 5, the promotion/demotion system is triggered for review when you’ve accumulated a certain (unknown) number of beneficial things, like “exceeds” ratings, or negative things, like missing a deadline or getting a DNM (“Did Not Meet Expectations” rating). One of the factors that we’ve found out they consider is your interactions – e.g. “comment conversations” – with clients, as well as WA editors and staffers. The more polite and prompt you are about answering and addressing clients, the better your outlook as a WA-er.¬†Also, don’t be combative/insulting/etc. to fellow writers or WriterAccess itself on the forums – I don’t know if that affects your star rating, but being a jerk there is a fast way to alienate yourself from a really fantastic and helpful group of people.

 

 

 

 

The Newbie’s Guide to WriterAccess: Part 1

Hello, FWG readers! This post is a little outside of my normal approach to freelance sites, and that’s because I have a little confession to make: I’ve kinda been keeping WriterAccess to myself. It’s an amazing platform, and frankly I didn’t want to flood it with new applicants and risk crowding myself out of my own job, even it was for the greater good. However, since so many new writers are coming on board there and hitting the WA forums for answers, I figured it was high time to write a guide on my favorite freelance writing site.

Planning on applying to WriterAccess? Please let me know if I steered you that direction, and please mention that Delany M. sent you! I don’t get any $ for doing this blog, and a few referral bonuses would go a long way in the WordChick household – THANK YOU! ‚̧¬†

Here are the basics:

  • WriterAccess accepts American writers¬†only. (Sorry, overseas friends!) You will need an SSN to apply there, and you will also need to fill out a W-9 form. Get the jump on that W-9 requirement by filling one out, scanning it, and having it ready as a file to email.
  • WriterAccess rates its writers from 2 to 6 stars, similar to the rating tiers at sites like HireWriters, Voldemort.com¬†“The Site That Shall Not Be Named” and Textbroker. When you first apply, the highest you can be rated entering in is a 5, though most applicants will land at a 4 or below, so don’t be discouraged! That coveted 6 star is earned over time through professional, high-quality work, which we’ll discuss a little more at length later. Think of 2 stars as “Cats are pets you will like to have around.” and 6 stars as more of “If you’re considering adopting a pet, felines are a smart option for even the busiest household.”
  • WriterAccess pays twice a month, and only pays through Paypal, so you must have an account. Check out the graphic below to get a better idea of how it works:

WriterAccess_Pay_Chart

For work submitted between 12:01 am EST on the 1st of the month through 11:59 pm on the 15th¬†and accepted by the client without a revision request that falls after that cutoff time, you’ll get paid out sometime between the 22nd-26th. (“Period A” / Green in the graphic above)

For work submitted between 12:01 am on the 16th through 11:59 on the 30/31st and accepted by the client without a revision request that falls after that cutoff time, you’ll get paid out sometime between the 7th-11th. (“Period B / Blue in the graphic above)

Why the range?¬†WriterAccess is at the mercy of Paypal’s slow-as-syrup transfer times when shifting over the money to pay us. The 11th/26th end dates for the range come pretty often because, unsurprisingly, Paypal likes to hold onto money so it can earn interest.Bear in mind that, as of this writing, we will never be paid on weekends – so if those end dates fall on a weekend, you can pretty reliably plan to get paid on the Friday prior.There are no specific times of day we get paid, and they can vary from early in the morning to late at night with no indication beforehand, so be prepared for that. You can read more about it in the WriterAccess Writer FAQs.

WriterAccess absorbs the Paypal fees, so what you see in your on-site dashboard is exactly what you’ll be paid. They also take their 30% site cut of earnings out before the rates even display to writers, so you’ll never need to do math to figure out what’s coming to you – what you see is what you’ll get!

Ready to learn more about this awesome platform? Part 2 is now up!