Private Clients vs. Content Sites

I’ve wanted to weigh in on this topic for some time, but haven’t gotten around to it. I’m also a little hesitant because I know there are huge debates raging out in the Internet land about this very topic and I really don’t want to get involved in the battle.

Let me first say very clearly that I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AGAINST content sites. In fact, when I first started freelance writing most of my income came from a well known content site. Having been on both sides of the debate allow me to share my opinion.

Content Sites

I’ve worked for several including Demand Studios (DS) and have to say that there are many benefits to content site work plus, if I ever need to I will do more work for them. It’s nice to simply have them around to fall back on. Here are my pros and cons with content sites:

Pros

  • Plenty of work – for most sites, there is always work. At DS they have thousands of titles available every day.
  • Fast Pay – content sites offer weekly or bi-weekly pay. DS even pays their writers twice a week. This meant that my PayPal account always had money in it.
  • Quick Work – articles for content sites typically range in length from 400-600 words. This generally means the articles are fast and easy to write.
  • Little Commitment – for most content sites there is no commitment required. I haven’t written for DS in a few months, but I could sign onto my account today and churn out several articles without being penalized for not writing in a while. Additionally, once an article is written for a content site you can forget about it and move on. No thinking about work when you’re not working.

Cons

  • Low Pay – To me the pay rate at content sites always seemed low. This isn’t to say that you can’t make a living off of them – I did for several months when I had nothing else, but I worked long hours and made less than half of what I make now.
  • Picked Over Titles – If you like to write about popular topics like weddings or pets your choices in titles are limited to non-existent. Sometimes I found the only titles left didn’t even make sense.
  • Inconsistent Editing – All the content sites that I worked for employed many editors. The problem was, what one editor found acceptable, another didn’t. I was constantly getting contradicting feedback from editors. At times it got very frustrating.
  • No Personal Connection – DS has a forum and that’s great, but for a content site that only pays me $15 per article I don’t want to have to go hang out in the forum for a personal connection. There is no “good job” or exchanging ideas to improve projects that you get with private clients.

Private Clients

For the past few months I have made my living solely from private clients and I have seen a huge improvement in everything associated with my career from my income, to my time, to even my mood. I love my private clients and feel very fortunate to have found all of them. There are a lot of benefits to private client work and very few cons. Here are mine:

Pros

  • Personal Connection – With private clients, I have immediate access to the client, the company and the editor. If I have a question I can fire off an email directly to the client, not visit a forum. Plus there is a lot of feedback and even some “good jobs” sprinkled in. And editing is done the same way, by the same person and guidelines every time!
  • Higher Pay – The pay with private clients is most definitely higher. As I transitioned from content site work to all private client work I saw my monthly income rise while I worked the same or even fewer hours.
  • Better Quality Work – I do my best work for my private clients for several reasons. First they pay me more so they expect (and rightfully so) to have perfect work turned it. Also due to the personal connection I feel more accountable for my work. Finally the work I do for my private clients is work that I intend to use as clips (with their permission of course). Clips from private clients hold a lot more weight and get me much more work than clips from content sites.
  • In Depth Projects – Rather than writing a short 400-600 word article my private client work tends to be more in-depth and more researched work – the type of work I can get involved in and really care about versus an article I write and then promptly forget about. Even when I write 400 word articles for clients they still require more thought, creativity and research that really gets my brain working.

Cons

  • Juggling Clients – When it rains, it pours. In other words, when one client needs me for a big project, it seems like they all do. Not that I’m complaining, its good to get needed! But sometimes my schedule gets tight and some days I juggle several projects and deadlines because of the commitments I have made to my private clients.
  • Accounting – I actually have to create the invoice, keep track of my hours/projects and bill my clients. Then I have to wait for payment. I’ve been lucky so far and all of my clients have paid me consistently and on time, but the whole process tends to be a bit slower than with content sites.

Overall, the benefits of working for private clients far surpass working for content sites. I would gladly take on more private clients than more content site work and I feel so lucky that I have had a full schedule for the past few months that has kept me away from the content sites. Fingers crossed – hopefully it will stay that way.

What about you – who do you prefer to work for?

Unexpected Expenses

Last week I reported that I had the best month yet in February. Doesn’t it just figure that as soon as I say it, unexpected expenses pop up out of nowhere? Good thing I had such a good month. So far this month, I’ve had to pay taxes – okay, I knew this was coming and I did indeed save enough. But I found out that for next year I have to pay quarterly taxes which means that the first payment is due in April. Also with my taxes, I found out that I should be saving more of what I make. Last year I saved 30% of everything I made, but my accountant recommended that this year I strive to save 40% of what I make. To me that sounds crazy. I mean that’s almost half of my income, but I would rather save too much than not enough so I think I’ll be taking his advice.

On top of taxes, the clutch went out in my car. There’s nothing I hate more than shelling out big bucks for car repairs when I hardly drive anyway – but I do need a car because I do occasionally meet clients, run errands and in general drive places.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that this happens to, but it just feels like as soon as I’m getting ahead the unexpected happens to take me right back to square one. It’s like hitting a brick wall. However, on a positive, with the unexpected expenses, I feel like a fire has been lit under me and I’m more motivated than ever to keep the good month I had last month going.

Okay, I’m done with my mini rant. Thanks for listening:)

Best Month Yet!

As I’ve worked diligently the last few days to invoice and collect final payments for my work in February I’ve noticed something – February was a great writing month for me. For the first time since starting this journey, I went an entire month without having to be dependent on writing for a content site. This was one of my goals for the New Year and I am thrilled that I have already met it! What this means is that last month for the first time, I had enough private clients to make ends meet. This is so exciting for me I smile just thinking about it.

This doesn’t mean I have stopped looking for new clients – in fact, I actually had some free time in February where I could have fit one or two new clients or projects into my schedule. This is great because while I still look for clients, I can be more selective about who I take on and the pay rate that I’m willing to accept.

The fact that I was busy solely with private clients last month also means that I made more in the month of February than I have made in any previous month. I’m still not quite at my goal of doubling my income or of making what I was making in my full time job, but I made a significant improvement in it last month and this month is promising to be even better by far.

All in all, not only did I make more last month, I also worked less. Now, you’re probably wondering what I did with my free time if I worked less and wasn’t busy churning out articles for a content site? Well, I worked of course – I don’t call myself a work-alcoholic jokingly. It is still one of my goals to get published in glossies, so with my extra time last month I sent out pitches to magazines and I’m hoping to send out more this month. While I have already gotten a few rejection letters back, I’m not upset; I figure I’ll get a lot more of those before I get an assignment. I also started reading my stockpile of writing books especially those dealing with pitching to magazines. I’m hoping to improve my pitches this month.

For the month of February I couldn’t be happier with my progress and fingers crossed, perhaps March will be the month where I can finally start building up my savings account again!

What happens when you depend too heavily on a content site?

LaptopI started my freelance writing career years ago with clients here and there, but if I’m really honest my writing career actually began earning me a livable wage when I began writing for several content sites. In fact, the work I was getting from several content sites allowed me to save enough money to leave my full time job in July and pursue freelance writing full time. As you can imagine, I have a lot of love for content sites. But this post isn’t about how happy I am with content sites, it’s more about how they can make you lazy.

Writing for several content sites gave me a base in which to grow my talents and my income. That being said, soon after I left my full time job one of the content sites I had been writing for dried up and eventually went away. Then I was left with just two – one that provided more than enough work and one that was hit or miss. I still write for both, but the one that was providing more than enough work has started to fade. Now all of a sudden, I have a slight problem. You see, part of my work load is in the form of private clients and part is from said content site. So what happens when this site doesn’t provide as much work as it once did? Well, I have been forced to re-evaluate and look at what I’m really working towards here. Do I want to work for content sites forever? No! That was never my intention, but the content sites have made me lazy.

I have always struggled with putting myself out there and finding more private clients. I would think to myself, why should I when I can make quick money writing for a content site? But the problem is that my work isn’t really being recognized – frankly, it’s not my best writing and it’s not like I am reaching for better by being stuck in the content site rut. Nor does writing for a content site give me much networking opportunities. What started out as my safety net has turned into the thing that is holding me back.

It has become very apparent to me in the last few weeks that while I have a steady flow of private clients, I haven’t been putting myself out there, I haven’t been networking like I should, I haven’t been searching for new opportunities and I haven’t been reaching for better. All because I can sit at home and churn out article after article for quick pay, but at the cost of zero networking opportunities, not many usable clips and no improvement to my writing skills. Plus, when those articles become less available, then I am left struggling to meet my income goals.

While content sites will probably never go away and I could probably find another one tomorrow that would supplement my income, I don’t want to rely on them anymore. I want any income that comes from content sites to be extra income – not depended on income. My solution? Tomorrow I start hitting the job boards again, I start networking more than I have been, I start querying magazines again and I put myself out there like I used to before I got comfortable and lazy working on content sites. My new goal is to fully support myself on private clients. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Job Hunting

In my first month of freelance writing full time, I met my earning goals easily. I knew I would due to the fact that I had a few private clients that paid well. So I was feeling pretty good about things, however this month is starting out to be a different story.

Last month it was so easy because my private clients were people who knew me from my previous job, knew my work ethic and knew that they would be happy with my work. There was some buzz when I left and some people in my network had projects that they hired me to do. Currently, I have finished all of those projects, and there is nothing on the horizon. Of course, they all said they would let me know when they have a project, but so far this month, I am sitting here asking myself: Now what?

I pretty much knew this would happen sooner rather than later and I am trying not to panic. I have tried to be proactive about it and have been routinely searching job boards and applying for jobs, many jobs. But the thing is, it is so much harder to find clients that aren’t familiar with you or your work and it’s also hard to know the best places to look for new clients. Today I decided to create a list of all the places I have  looked for jobs – kind of like a checklist that I have to make myself go through every day. I’m hoping that with persistence, this will turn into a few clients to help me through this month and to line up next month. Here is my job hunting list:

Job lists that are put out by other people. And I am very grateful!

Job Boards:

  • Craig’s List
  • CareerBuilder.com
  • Monster.com
  • Indeed Jobs
  • Hot Jobs
  • The Write Jobs
  • Online Writing Jobs.com
  • Freelance Job Openings.com
  • oDesk – Haven’t completely figured this one out yet

Out of the Box Promotional Stuff to Gain Clients:

  • Twitter
  • My address book – that’s right, everyone I know be ready, if you haven’t gotten an email from me yet, you will.
  • The phone book – I have started going through the phone book and sending people my information including my services.

I know that this list is just the beginning and there are endless places to look. I will keep you posted and try to update this list as I find success and other great resources.

Where do you look for work? Have you had any luck?

A Plan is Forming

I’m terrified. Sitting in a meeting today I was suddenly flooded with doubt about whether I could really leave my job. How will I survive? How will I pay my mortgage? It’s very scary to be so use to a paycheck and then have it suddenly disappear. What if I don’t get writing jobs?

Tonight, I decided I had to make a plan. It’s one thing to say you’re going to do it, and it helps to want to do it very badly, but every good idea needs a plan. Here is mine: The way I see it, I need to save up enough money to make it through at least six months. After six months if I’m not making ends meet, I will have to find a part time job to help supplement my income. I’m happy to report I am well on my way. Without giving any numbers away, I think I have at least three months banked.

My husband and I went over the plan tonight at dinner. He is more confident than me. He tends to think in more simple terms, and insists that we will be okay. Plus, I have already started writing for a content producing site and been there for almost a month. All that money is going directly to my savings for the big transition. I have also been implementing other save money tactics. I’m not shopping or spending extra money on anything. We have changed our budget and taken out everything that isn’t a necessity. All said we are able to save a lot of money a month. I’m feeling more hopeful about the whole money thing now.

I’m also looking for ways to increase my monthly income while I still have a job. The plan is to look into eHow and other similar sites. If I can build up a portfolio there and make money on a monthly basis with little effort, it’s worth a shot. I know it will take a while, but my goal is to have a strong start before I leave my job.

With all that planning, I still haven’t narrowed down a date to leave my job. Obviously, it would be nice to put in my notice tomorrow, but that isn’t realistic. I have a project I am working on for May and another coming up in August that I have already started working on. It would probably be acceptable to leave in the beginning of June, and better to wait until the beginning of September. It’s not that I owe my company anything, but I don’t want to leave them in a lurch. I want to give them plenty of notice and be sure they can still be successful without me. As I have said before, I don’t dislike them; in fact I truly want to see them do well, with or without me.

And of course, with all of this I am searching daily for additional freelance jobs. Anything that I can take to make extra money, get my name out there and fine tune my writing will help me immensely with this transition.

It’s a start, a work in progress, stay tuned to see how it all works out!