“The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.” – Anonymous
While a challenge may appeal to some writers, when consistent writing-for-pay is the goal, it’s best to keep your endeavors streamlined. For this reason, I highly recommend some prudent filtering of your available projects before sitting down to work – assuming there’s a list to choose from, of course.
- Projects that require language/grammar in a language that is not your own or unfamiliar to you. A good example would be a client’s request for “UK grammar” in a job being looked over by an American. Yes, there are spell checks and grammar checks, but it’s an added hassle you don’t need when you’re aiming for volume.
- Projects that require html coding, pictures, or outside research that takes more than a minute per 100 words requested. You are a writer – don’t devalue your skills and inflate a demanding client’s expectations by being a coder, researcher and marketing consultant as well. This will only lead to difficulty saying “no” to harder projects down the line, and it incorrectly communicates to that client that they can obtain the services of an entire workforce from a single, often overworked, writer. In rare cases, you can go a bit above and beyond, but always consider how much effort you’re putting in overall as compared to the pay you’re receiving. As a fellow writer once told me, “Don’t take projects with descriptions longer than the word count they’re looking for. They’re usually a pain!”
- Projects from troublesome clients. These include clients with a history of rejecting work, which can be checked on certain sites, clients who email with increasing demands throughout the day, and clients that need “just one more tweak/extra words” after you’ve already given them several. Some of these potential problem customers won’t become apparent until after the job is underway – just finish up if you’re able to and block or blacklist them after. You don’t go out to dinner with someone you disliked on the first date, so use the same principles here and stand your ground. Protip: some clients may need to be “fired” to keep your sanity! The most valuable word you’ll learn to write is “no” when it comes to standing your ground. A polite refusal can be your most challenging work, but do your best not to burn bridges – even if they deserve it. A bad rep can get around in the writing world.
- Projects with an unrealistic time frame. Only you know how quickly you can write, so use it as a guideline for accepting new projects. If you can only throw together a 300 word piece in an hour, taking a 2000 word project at 2 in the afternoon is probably a bad idea. Pace yourself – the more you write at a level you can handle, the more likely your skills will improve naturally.
- Projects that don’t pay well. While this may seem like a given, many new writers are so eager to start that they’ll ignore the very reason they started on this path! In my personal opinion, if you are a competent English writer that doesn’t make mistakes in spelling or grammar and has a good flow to the tone, or feel, of your work, you should always expect (and demand!) at least a penny a word.
- Projects about subjects you know. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that writing about places, events and objects you enjoy comes a little easier than struggling through ones you don’t. Stack the deck in your favor, here – if you see a project that appeals to you, don’t hesitate to grab it. Remember, you aren’t the only writer out there, so you’ll need to act quickly on desirable opportunities.
- Projects with short, well-written explanations. This is usually a decent indicator that the client is fairly easy to deal with and understands what good writing is. As an aside, if you wonder why these seemingly talented writers aren’t penning their own stuff, it’s usually that they’re short on time or overloaded with their own work.
- Projects that come in series, as opposed to one-offs. If you see several articles about car insurance up on a requesting site at the same time, it’s a safe bet that a single client is behind them. If you turn out well-written work for several of those pieces, approaching the client with your thank you letter after, there’s a good chance you can foster an ongoing work relationship. They obviously have a lot of work to give, so why shouldn’t you be the one to get it?
- Projects with moderate time frames. While grabbing selections with the longest deadline may seem like a good idea, consider that a client has many different reasons he or she may put up a lengthy timetable. Yes, it may be that be giving the writer extra time to craft a great piece, but it also may be that they don’t log into your site of choice for days on end. Rent and bills don’t wait for money, and you shouldn’t – at least for longer than you have to.
- Projects from proven clients. You’re expected to show that you’re a solid writer to remain competitive, and a good client will make themselves attractive to the prospective writer as well. If available, numbers like rejection rates, time as a member on the site and overall projects posted can be good earmarks for how reliable a client is. Protip: search for a potential client’s username in site forums to see what fellow writers might be saying about working with them.