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?

What I’ve Learned from Freelance Writing

Roller coaster

When I decided to leave my full time job, I thought I had made a very planned out, informed decision. I had saved enough money to keep me going for six months. I had researched what jobs I could do, the type of clients I could take, how much I should charge and more. I thought I knew everything I needed to know. Boy was I wrong. After almost six months of freelance writing full time, here is what I’ve learned:

  • I will never know everything.
  • This is one big roller coaster ride with huge highs and incredible lows.
  • Accounting and book keeping take up a lot of time and is a lot more complicated than I thought.
  • There will never be enough time in the day to do everything.
  • Other writers are so nice and always willing to help out.
  • Being by myself all day is hard.
  • Making big decisions by myself is hard.
  • Success directly depends on how hard I work.
  • Success is what I believe success is.
  • The small things should be celebrated.
  • I shouldn’t get my hopes up until a contract is signed.
  • There are many good people out there, and just as many bad.
  • A livable wage means learning to go without some things.
  • Some people will never understand what I do, no matter how many times I try to explain it.
  • Opportunities are out there, I just have to find them.
  • There are so many writers out there.
  • It’s easy to be disciplined when I get to wake up every day and do what I love.
  • Not every project is something that I love.
  • I now know what other writers meant when they said you have to have a thick skin.
  • I thought I had worked hard in the past, but I have never worked harder than I do now.

With everything I’ve learned and am continuing to learn, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love what I do. I love being my own boss, setting my own schedule and working hard to overcome challenges. I know that I have so much more to learn and that my journey may never be complete, but the journey is the best part.

The Freelancing Lifestyle

I am feeling very grateful that I made up my mind to leave my job and pursue freelance writing on a full time basis. I am still working part time to train my replacement, but a few more weeks and I will be done for good. So while the steady money is nice, I much prefer my time at home working on my projects, for my clients. Here are my five favorite things so far:

1) I actually have a weekend now! This weekend was the first weekend in a long time where I didn’t think about work – not once and I have to say it was a very nice weekend. Mostly I spent time with family and friends. My husband and I went to a music/arts festival and then stopped and had dinner with my grandpa. Then we went out with friends for a birthday, and we finished off the weekend with a baseball game.

2) The stress is disappearing. Since leaving my job, (well, mostly) I have felt the stress just melt away. It’s like, all of a sudden, I am moving at a clam pace and I am actually able to live in the moment. I can concentrate on what I am doing and not be thinking about 101 things while trying to do something else. When I feel myself start to rush through something, I  remind myself to slow down, there is no rush. I’ll get done what I get done. I really think life is supposed to be lived at a slower pace. I mean, what was the point of all that rushing around anyway? It’s not like it really got me  that far, I think I can get much further at my own pace on my own terms.

3) I can actually sleep. For most of my adult life, I thought I suffered from insomnia. I literally can’t remember the last time I got a full eight hours of sleep. That too must have been stress related because now I sleep almost eight hours a night – and its good sleep, not restless sleep. It’s just amazing how much better I feel with a full night’s sleep. I really have no idea how I functioned on four or five hours of sleep before.

4) I’m have the opportunity to learn about things that actually interest me. I know that sounds weird, but before I just worked, period, that’s pretty much it. Now I can actually read up on things that interest me, and sometimes if I’m lucky I can get paid to write about them. I feel like daily I am coming across more that interests me that I want to learn more about.

5) Finally, I actually like it to be quiet and to be by myself all day. I’m not non-social, quite the opposite, but I value time alone and I really enjoy the house to myself all day. I know that a lot of freelancers have a hard time with that, but I really don’t mind it.

I feel like the world is just open now and anything is possible. It’s a very liberating feeling, and I love to think of all the possibilities! The bottom line is I think I am designed for the freelancing lifestyle – I just hope I can make it work financially!

Time is Money

Today I worked my first official day as a freelance writer, and I have to admit, I felt a little lost. Not that it wasn’t blissful to sleep a little later and not have to get dressed up to go to work, but I still felt a little out of sorts. There are just so many things I want to do, I don’t really know where to start. Plus I feel very torn between writing $15 articles for Demand Studios and actually putting together a website or searching for jobs. Time is money and a website and job searching don’t have the immediate pay off. I do realize the pay off in the long run will be well worth it and I need to make time for those things, it’s just hard. What can I say? I’m an instant gratification type of girl.

My day started out good, I was ready for the day at 9am. But when I actually sat down to work, I remembered that I wanted to start the laundry, then I remembered that I had been meaning to water the plants and so went my list of housework. By the time I actually got back to my computer it was 10:30.

Needless to say, I didn’t get nearly as much done today as I had envisioned. So now I have a plan. Today when I finished writing for the day, I made a task list for the rest of the week. This is nothing new to me. I have always done this in my previously full time job, it makes sense to try it with my freelancing to. Freelance writing is now my full time job, I’m going to have to be more diligent about staying focused.

I think it is going to be an interesting transition for me. I am so use to a strict schedule and perfectly laid out tasks. It will really take some getting used to, being on my own with no one to talk to but the dogs. I’m sure I will find ways to make it work and stay on track, but my first day wasn’t as productive as I had hoped. Tomorrow I am off to work my one of two days at my old job for the week. But watch out Wednesday – time is money and I am ready to buckle down and get to work.

Do Writers Need a Niche?

Here is one thing I keep questioning. I keep going over it in my mind and it just keeps drifting into my thoughts. Do writers need a niche to be successful?

The thing is, I don’t have a niche. I don’t even know where I would start. I like to write on many different topics – actually, a lot of times I choose to write about things that I know nothing about, just to gain more knowledge and broaden my horizons.

Of course, there are topics that I choose to write about more often than others, but that’s mostly because I have the most experience in those areas and therefore the articles are easy for me to research and write. The closest thing I can think of as being my niche would be event planning or marketing writing. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t write on other topics. When I look for clients or jobs, I look at each option separately, I think about what they are asking for and if I think I would be able to meet their needs. If I think I am a good fit for a client or a job, I apply.

I’ve read lots of articles and blog posts lately on choosing a niche. They all recommend that you select what you like to write about, research the topic and then select a way to make yourself unique in that niche. First of all, I like to write about almost anything, so that leaves me pretty open. Every topic I think might be a good fit seems to be overly crowded and it seems very difficult to make one self stand out. Not that I’m not up for the challenge, but is it worth it? Or would I be better off getting experience in lots of areas, while working on developing a brand for myself as a good, reliable and easy to work with writer?

Sure, there are writers out there that have created a great niche for themselves, but a lot of times it seems like they didn’t necessarily go out looking for a niche, it just kind of evolved. So maybe, I’m just over thinking this. Maybe if I’m meant to have a niche, it will evolve over time and when I realize what it is, then I can work on developing it. Until then, I think I’ll keep my options open, I don’t think it hurts my chances of making it as a writer to have experience in many topics.

What is your niche? How did you find it and develop it?

A Freelance Writer – Huh?

Today I read a post that really hit home. Jodee over at Freelance Writing Jobs, an excellent source of information for any freelance writer, wrote a great post about others people’s responses when they find out that you are a freelance writer. The thing that most people don’t get is that you are your own boss. You don’t work for anyone else.

This really struck a chord with me. I have just now begun telling people that I am a freelance writer and for the most part their reaction is:
A) Who do you work for?
B) The smile and the look that says, “aww, you have a hobby – at least you have a real full time job too”.
C) And finally, my personal favorite – A what?

Up to this point, I have had a hard time explaining what I do. Usually, I go into a long detailed explanation about how I primarily write web content with the hopes that I will eventually be doing more, I work from home, I look for clients daily, etc. The thing is, usually people just don’t get it. It has taken a long time for even some of my friends and family to get it. And still there are those close to me that think of my writing as just a hobby.

Well, as Jodee pointed out, I have a job, I work for me. I actively pursue clients, I am my own boss and I determine how much I make. In a very real way, I am starting my own business. Yes, I still have a full time job, but I am planning to leave it in a mere two months, to earn a living as a freelance writer.

It gives me great comfort to know that other people encounter this too. It is also helpful to hear how other people explain their freelance work. It’s not traditional, but that’s one of the things that I love about it. Jodee’s post has given me the confidence, and a reminder to be proud when telling people what I do and that I work for myself. Freelance writing is a valid career, and a career that I have worked and will continue to work harder at than any other job I have ever had.

Check out Jodee’s post: Who do you work for? It’s a good one!

Money vs. Happiness

Is it better to make good money or make less money to get up every day and do a job you love? Yes, money buys things. It pays the mortgage, it puts food on the table and clothes on your back. But I suspect that many things that I currently own or think that I need, I don’t really need, and they don’t contribute to my overall happiness.

I strongly dislike my job. Not that I don’t like who I work with, or the company, but I can’t stand what I do. But you know what? I couldn’t stand my last job or the one before that or the one before that for the same exact reason. I have never before woken up in the morning and gone to work at something I truly loved. Today it dawned on me why I keep doing this to myself, why I keep taking jobs I know from the very beginning I won’t like. It’s very simple; I have this notion in my head that how much money I make directly reflects how successful I am. But is that true? Or should my success be measured on how happy I am, and how passionate I am about what I do for a living.

For the last several years, I have been able to purchase everything I have ever wanted, go on trips whenever I wanted and have pretty much done everything I felt like. However, while my shoe collection grew exponentially, I turned into someone I didn’t know, perhaps because I was trying to force happiness, and replace it with a fake sense of fulfillment.

It amazes me, now that I have gotten back into writing, how I can hardly sleep at night and I wake up every day filled with story ideas, excited to get behind a computer for hours on end. On the weekends when I use to spend my time shopping or hanging out with friends, I now stay home and work and I am perfectly happy doing that. I stay up later, skip my lunch break, and pass up shoe sales because I have this burning urge to write. I can’t get my ideas down fast enough, I can’t apply for enough freelance jobs, and I can’t learn more about writing fast enough. And you know what? It doesn’t feel like work at all.

For the first time in my life I have a clear vision of what I want to do with my life and some semblance of an idea of how to do it. I resent my full time job even more now because I know that it is not for me. I have been in the wrong place for a long time and every minute I spend there is taking away from my writing time.

The bottom line is, when I am writing I am happy and that is worth more than a pay check.