When I stopped working at The Saturday Evening Post to focus on divorcing my Ex, I thought my place in line for a Successful Writer badge was lost forever. I had a modestly successful blog and a handful of samples for my portfolio, but I also had bills to pay. I took a 9-to-5 job as an administrative assistant and didn’t think about calling myself a writer again for several months.
Not surprisingly the writing bug returned to me, and I started scouring the web for a way back in to the biz. In addition to building relationships with real, honest-to-god clients of my own, I decided to see what other opportunities were out there for aspiring writers. What I found were a slew of opportunities out there for good writers, and even more for people who mostly suck at it.
My curiosity got the better of me, and I poked around a few sites in an attempt to see what I might be missing. As a result, you get a few reviews of freelance writing sites to help you decide if and how to break into the world of freelance writing.
I didn’t just read the FAQ pages for these sites, I signed on to work for them. Here’s what I found:
Textbroker.com: Here you sign up for an account, write a short sample for review and then wait a couple of days for an editor to rank your writing ability. How much you earn per word is based on your initial ranking, a number between 1 and 5. I was given an initial rank of 4, the highest rank you can get to start out. The pay for a level 4 writer at this site is 1.4 cents per word. So, if you write a hundred words, you get $1.40. Veteran writers are scoffing right now, and they should be. That’s really crappy pay.
Pros: Lots of assignments available, quick client approval, fair turnaround for editorial ranking on each submission.
Cons: The pay is almost insulting, and I still don’t know where to find their official style guidelines. They were quick to dock me an entire level on one submission for breaking house rules, however.
eCopywriters.com: eCopywriters is a lot like Textbroker, except the ranking system goes from 1 to 7. When I submitted my sample, the editors at the site ranked me as a 2. Pretty low on the totem pole, but still I was earning 2 cents per word—more than the highest initial pay rate at Textbroker. My biggest gripe about eCopywriters is that it takes forever to get paid. The wait for their clients to approve your work is long and maddening.
Pros: Pay is better than Textbroker, but be prepared to wait for 3-4 weeks before seeing that first deposit in your PayPal account.
Cons: Not as many jobs are available for the taking.
Suite101: After signing up with Suite101, I agreed to write 10 posts in 90 days. They have since done away with quotas. Suite101 is one of those residual income sites that pays you based on ad revenue generated by your articles. The key to getting the most for your writing is to optimize your articles for search engines. The Suite101 editors post anonymous stats for their top ten earners each month, and the person in the number one position repeatedly earns over $2,000 every month. Of course, that person also has 700+ articles in the system. I have ten articles and have been writing since June. So far I’ve earned enough money to buy an 8 oz bottle of shampoo at the drugstore but not enough money for them to actually make a payout to me.
Pros: Forums and community are excellent, style guidelines are explicit and easily accessible, you can write whatever you want.
Cons: You spend a whole lot of time writing for pennies hoping—for there is no guarantee—that you will eventually build an arsenal of money-generating content.
oDesk: oDesk introduces you to your competition. Buyers post assignments and you bid against your peers to be awarded the job. Landing the first job might be difficult if you don’t already have writing samples to back you up. You can accept hourly positions and fixed price positions at oDesk. I only did fixed price jobs and only applied to jobs that offered what I considered to be an acceptable wage. Overall my experience with oDesk was good. If work ever dries up, I may go back to them for more jobs.
Pros: There are thousands of jobs to choose from on the site, and you can work for clients all over the world.
Cons: You have to do a lot of filtering. There are scads of jobs for writers here that pay something like $1.50 for a 500-word article.
Bottom line? If you’re a freelance writing hopeful looking to build a portfolio working online, you have plenty of options. Some are definitely better than others.