Answers to 100 Freelance Writing Questions - Including Yours - Make a Living Writing

Answers to 100 Freelance Writing Questions — Including Yours

Carol Tice | 317 Comments

Do you have a question about how to be more successful as a freelance writer?

If so, welcome to the club. I get emails and tweets and questions on my Facebook page all the time.

I try to answer some of them each month in a mailbag post, but I never can get to them all.

I do answer tons more of them inside the forums of Freelance Writers Den…I just checked and I’ve answered nearly 3,500 questions in there, in the 18 months the Den’s been open.

Since Freelance Writers Den is only open occasionally for new members, you may be wondering if it’s a community where you could learn how to grow your freelance writing income for 2013.

So…my idea this time is to give you a free taste of what it’s like to be a Den member, and answer questions live here on this post, like we do every day on the Den private forums. Just part of my “give-back” goodies I’m laying on my readers here at year-end — like my free writing productivity ebook offer a couple weeks back (it’s now on sale for just 99 cents, by the way).

To make a start, I’ve answered a few mailbag questions below. And then…

I’m going to take 100 more questions in the comments and give them custom, individualized answers.

The only rule: One question per writer, please.

(If you leave more than one, I’m just going to answer the first one.)

What kept you from earning more as a freelance writer this year? Let me know what mystifies you about the freelance-writing game, and I’ll try to answer.

I’m wide open to any topic on the craft of writing or blogging, journalism or copywriting, articles or web content…or anything on how to market yourself as a freelancer.

But first, let me roll up my sleeves and get to the bulging mailbag:

Topic: Pitching guest posts for a client. “I’ve been approached to blog for a start-up company. They already have a blog but absolutely no traffic. I suggested they need to guest blog for big blogs to generate traffic.

I’ve already blogged for [a big blog] which is a good target for them. Can I pitch them a post on behalf of a client or is that “not done”?

Also, how much extra would you suggest I charge compared to writing for their own blog?” –Henry

You can pitch a big blog on behalf of a paying client, Henneke, but I don’t recommend it. If you’ve been building your reputation for your own blog with that high-traffic blog, that’s worth way more to you than the $100 or so you might get from a client for doing that post.

Which brings us to the other problem (which I know about because I actually DID do this for a client at one point): It’s really hard to get a “yes.” Most blogs will turn this down. (Also know this because agencies pitch me guest posts for this-here blog on behalf of their clients all the time, and I ALWAYS say no.) I had to work very hard and pitch dozens of places to get a single acceptance on a topic for my client.

I ended up quitting this gig because I felt there was no way to get paid enough. I ended up billing for my time hourly for researching appropriate top blogs and pitching them, which was unaffordable for the client. But it kind of has to work that way, because there’s no guarantee of getting a win. If you only get paid per successful guest-post you place, it’ll never pencil out at a decent hourly rate, trust me.

Topic: Copyrights on pro bono work. “I have contributed some short articles to an acquaintance who has used it for her web site and blog. We’ve never operated under contract and I have not charged her, nor do I plan to.

This is a question about rights, not about the wisdom of pro bono writing 🙂 Does she, as the site owner – or do I – maintain any implied rights to the work that I have written, and given permission for her to use? Ultimately I’m interested in either selling it, or using it on my own blog. Thoughts?”–Chuck

My thought is that you’ve created a big, honkin’ gray area here, Chuck. Since there’s no contract, there’s no clarity on who owns what.

Luckily, she’s your friend, so we’re hoping if you do resell the content, she’s not going to sue you. But just to be on the safe side, if you are interested in selling or republishing the same material elsewhere, I’d ask your friend to do a contract after the fact to define that you have granted her only nonexclusive first publication rights to the content, and retain all other rights.

If this content is really key to your business, please consult a lawyer on how to secure your rights to make sure you’ve got this nailed.

Topic: Cold calling. “I’m a new freelance writer, trying to overcome all of the false starts and blows to my self-confidence that have kept me from being as successful as I need to be.  (In fact, emailing a “big name” freelance writer is one of my self imposed exercises to help me get braver and transition out of my “employee” mindset into a business owner perspective.)

Is finding work as simple as making a list of businesses and organizations and then calling down through that list?”–Arthur

It could be, Arthur — if you have some knowledge or life experience in a lucrative niche — such as technology, financial services, or healthcare — and know how to find and pre-qualify appropriate prospects and build a big list of companies most likely to hire you. Plus, you also know how to pitch successfully on the phone. (And, of course, you turn out to be at least a competent copywriter.)

If you’re shaky on any of those steps, we have a lot of resources in Freelance Writers Den that could help you, including a 4-hour Break into Business Writing bootcamp — which features a 1-hour training from Original Copywriters Coach Chris Marlow on writing persuasive copy.

The whole trick is, cold-calling is a serious numbers game. You’ll likely need to make hundreds of calls to find the clients you need.

Topic: Building your portfolio. “I sent this tip in to [a popular tips newsletter]. [The author] is a contributor for and he’s been on national television shows, such as Dr. Drew. The blog/newletter goes out to his subscribers. Does my blurb officially count as a clip?”–Terri

Assuming this tip you gave is pretty short, Terri, it could be a clip, but not a very good one. Hopefully, you’re busy building more substantial credits and won’t feel like you need to use this. It’s not very impressive to point prospects to a two-line tip you got published.

Topic: How much expertise is enough. “I used to be a medical student.  I’m thinking medical writing would be my topic area.  I’m thinking niche-wise, it would be human communication in medicine, because I’ve made a 15-year study of human communication.

Three potential obstacles impede this pursuit.  First, my medical education was only two years in medical school.  Second, I wish *not* to write for academic journals but to write instead for company blogs, newspapers, magazines, and consumer publications (for example, Reader’s Digest or AARP). I don’t know whether there is a demand for medicine-communication articles.  Third and finally, I wish to work almost entirely from home.

How would I get my start in medicine-communication writing?  Whom would I query and who (client-wise) might spring for this niche?  Ought I to begin by writing pro-bono for charitable clinics and foundations?”–Rahul

“I have a Masters in Health Education and have an interest in writing about nutritional topics. I also have a certificate in medical marketing writing. To date, I have only published medical-related articles in a student-run journal.

I work in the field of human services as a social worker. I am caught in the middle of writing about what I know (psychotropic medications) and what I desire to know (infectious diseases). I lean more toward a holistic approach to a child’s mental health treatment versus medications. Do you have any suggestions?”–Anne

Rahul, you have two years of medical school? You’ve got waaay more experience in healthcare than the vast majority of freelance healthcare writers working today. Your knowledge puts you in a great position to pitch medical stories to magazines. All you need to do is learn how to write a query letter so you can get an article assigned…and then learn how to write a magazine article.

Like Anne, you seem to have a very specific niche within healthcare you’d like to focus on. When you first start out, it’ll be smart to think more broadly within your niche. As you build your portfolio and stable of clients, it’ll be easier to narrow in on your favorite subtopic within healthcare and write more on that — and yes, starting with nonprofits and/or organizations that might know you from your med-school or social-work days would be a good place to start.

Topic: Feeling qualified and finding a niche. “I have been writing online and doing guest blogging, even though I don’t have a blog of my own. Much of my research has led to the fact that a lot of freelance writers had different careers before freelance writing, so they are experts in whichever field they were in and, in turn, write about those topics. 

However, I’ve just graduated college a couple of months ago, so I really can’t say that I’m an expert at anything.  I like to write about many different topics if I find there is a great story.  How could I go about honing in on the couple of things I should stick to writing about?

Also, is it okay to put samples of work on your website that were not published just to show the type of work you can do?”–Kelsey

I was a starving songwriter before getting into freelance writing myself, Kelsey. Also a college dropout. So I can guarantee you, you don’t have to have a past career as a nuclear scientist or anything to get started. You really don’t need to be an expert in anything — as an article writer, you will find and interview experts and quote them. You need to be a strong writer. That’s the main skill you bring to the table.

As far as figuring out what topics to write on, just follow the lead of what interests you. If you need to earn, the marketplace will show you which of your areas of interest pay best. Then, you’ll write more of that and develop niche expertise in those areas over time that will help you earn even more.

Your turn: What’s your freelance writing question? Leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

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317 comments on “Answers to 100 Freelance Writing Questions — Including Yours

    • Carol Tice on

      There are many, Aatif. I know many people love Amazon’s CreateSpace, but I think that puts more of the work on you. But check out BookBaby, BookBub, BookLocker — there are many services that help you.

  1. Arlean Pullem on

    Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips and hints for first-time blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

  2. David on

    How do you deal with clients who provide no feedback on the article between the time it is submitted until the piece is published?

    I have a very good reputation for submitting well-written pieces that are usually published with little or no editing.

    Occasionally, however, I subimt a piece, weeks and weeks go by without any feedback and then suddenly I see a published article butchered so badly that I’m ashamed to have my byline on it. Needless to say, these poorly done articles can hurt my reputation and prevent me from getting additional business.

    My policy has always been to tell clients that I am available at a moment’s notice to accept feedback and make changes very rapidly to suit their needs. Is there anything else I should be doing to prevent publication of articles so badly edited that I don’t want to be associated with them?

    • Carol Tice on

      David — really, the only thing for it is to find a better client. Some clients are dysfunctional and just toss things up at the last minute without getting back to the writer. If you don’t like dealing with those kinds of clients, you have to find ones with a better process.

  3. Leah on


    I am a freelance writer for a website that pays very little. I have rarely written for some magazines as well. I am trying to figure out where to go next with my writing. I would love to get into copy writing but I of course do not have any schooling under my belt. DO you have any advice on what my next steps should be? I feel I am at a stand still and want new experiences and a livable pay!


    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Leah —

      It’s pretty difficult for me to do this sort of career coaching via blog comment…but I’ll just say I don’t have any ‘schooling’ either. I’m a college dropout. Learned everything I know on the job.

      One program I have for figuring this all out and growing your income is Den 2X Income Accelerator: — not sure if you qualify for that program, but if so I’d love to work with you in that format. It’s my favorite program I do, because it’s super-effective!

      My <>Freelance Writers Den is another place where you can ask a lot of questions and get a lot of learning.

  4. Jennifer Loss on

    Hi Carol, I’ve been checking out your website for several months now. I’m already on your mailing list, and have just signed up for The Den waiting list. My husband and I are both in our mid-50s, and both sang professionally in opera and musical theater for many years. That type of work isn’t steady, however fun it was. And now that we’re a “certain age,” the phone doesn’t ring anymore. And we somehow need to find a way to produce income to take us into those “later years.” We are typical musicians in that we both do some teaching (voice, piano, guitar). I have always enjoyed writing, and like the idea of doing some nonfiction writing. I took the AWAI course, and in their “find a niche” info, the closest thing I can find to anything I could do is grant-writing. I know you come from a musical past of your own, but I don’t see that any of your writing has had anything to do with music. I feel like music is all I know. I’m also a mom, and we homeschool (mostly unschool). I read about so many new copywriters using their past experience to get a foot in the door, but it’s always for things like finance, technology, medicine, etc. etc., things that give me that deer-in-the-headlights look. I am fully a creative type with a creative resume, and have no idea what kind of writing I could do! If you have any suggestions I will feel such relief and feel so grateful! Thank you.

    • Carol Tice on

      Jennifer, grantwriting CAN be a good niche, though it’s quite competitive and usually folks have past experience in it. You could try it out by volunteering for local small nonprofits to see what you think. But I’m not sure why you think it’s the only thing you COULD do. I think when you’ve never done freelance paid writing, you don’t even know what the market opportunities are, or what you’d enjoy writing for pay.

      I think you don’t necessarily have to KNOW what you want to write about, for starters. Have you seen this post?

      I never did write about music! I got started connecting with my interest in community issues, writing for alternative papers. Then I needed a job, got a staff writer position covering a business niche, and discovered I loved it!

      The fact is, in your life, you’ve interacted with dozens of types of businesses, you’ve homeschooled…you have interests and experiences that might lead you into an area of writing.

      You might check out my Step by Step Guide ebook, up on the ebooks tab here — it goes through my system for getting started, building a portfolio quickly, and starting to earn. You’ll never really know what kind of writing you could do until you try to do some.

      Best of luck with it!

      • Jennifer Loss on

        Carol, thank you so much for your response. I read the post you linked to, and it’s the clearest article on finding your niche I’ve ever read. It was also interesting and helpful reading the comments. I will also check out the eBook you recommended. I appreciate your help, and look forward to becoming a Den member!

  5. Meryl Stella on

    Hi Carol,
    I am currently pursuing graduation from a college and I really want to start writing. I don’t care about money in the beginning but afterwards, of course, I want to earn lots:). Right now, I just want hope that I can build an awesome career in this field. My mind is in such a confusing state and I don’t know how to begin or where to exactly start any of this.
    I am passionate about writing and from the beginning I have always wanted to become a successful writer. I love to read novels, articles and also want to write them one day.
    Thank you for such an amazing post!

    • Carol Tice on

      You’re welcome…but did you have a question?

      If you’re looking for ‘how to begin’ tips, I have 2 good ebooks for that — one is called The Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success, and the other is “Start Here” — you can see them both here:

      Big tip: Don’t get sucked into writing for ‘exposure’ freebie platforms or publications that don’t pay, or at least don’t do that very long. Writers should get paid!

  6. Resa Inman on

    I am interested in writing articles showing genealogy issues (with research) and how to fix the ones you have and how to stop getting them. How do I make money doing this or can I make money doing this?

    I have about 30 years of experience in this arena and have written articles for other websites pro Bono.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Carol Tice on

      Resa, I’m not sure I know what you mean — you can ‘fix’ your genealogy, it is whatever it is, right?

      Have to say I’m not aware of any paying markets on genealogy myself, but do some research! I know it’s certainly a popular activity. Maybe there’s a website or magazine that takes articles?

  7. MaryAnn on

    Hi Carol

    I know how naive I am so apologies in advance for this question!

    I have a website, have had a few pieces published but have done no active marketing yet for my freelance writing services. I am thus really surprised to have received an unsolicited message from a company asking me to quote for a copywriting job. I am in the UK, the company is American.

    I have emailed them and have had a reply and they insist they would like work done on their website, with me quoting my price for it, but I just don’t know how to tell if this is legit! Is there any way to tell or should I just relax and be pleased to have been approached like this?!

    Thank you for any advice you can give a nervous newbie.

    • Carol Tice on

      Ask them for a 50% up-front deposit, MaryAnn – that usually seems to weed out the folks you don’t want to do business with.

      If that company is, by the way, we think it’s bogus — hundreds of Den members have received their request for a bid.

      And congrats on the inbound lead! Hopefully some of what you get will be real clients. 😉

      • MaryAnn on

        Thank you Carol – funnily enough, it was that website! Haven’t heard anything from them since I told them my rates…

        Looking on the positive side, at least my website is findable!!

        Thank you again, MaryAnn

        • Carol Tice on

          Well, if you’re a Den member, we think they may be making their way through our member roster. We assume they’re looking for someone to rewrite their site for $100 or something.

  8. Ehimen on

    Hi Carol…
    I’m a graduate of law and just finished law school. Before now, I have this burning desire and love for writing since childhood and in furtherance of the foregoing, I’ve written a few articles in some local school journals in my area. I feel stuck but like someone wrote on your wall, for you to be unstuck, you just have to move. I really love what you’re doing and I’d love to be a freelance writer not just for the pay but just to satisfy this desire and love I have for writing. I just have to start from somewhere and I believe I am in the right place and from some posts I’ve read so far, I’m getting motivated to do this… A little tip maybe.

    • Carol Tice on

      Ehimen, you might check out my Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success ebook — it’s on the ebooks tab at the top of this blog. It’s where I put not just my little tips but EVERYTHING in my step by step plan to quickly get a few writing samples and begin pitching paying gigs.

  9. Linda Branson on

    Hello Carol..

    I came across AWAI and felt it resonated with me. But the more i read all the Q’s and A’s i developed curious questions if i can do this. I am 66 and Deaf. Frustrated in the work world trying survive and longed for at home work. Nonetheless, hard to find truth in the line of scammers. I do not know anything about the freelance or copy writers stuff. I just know i am willing to learn what I can to be successful in what i do to earn a decent living. I’d love to hear from you and know what you feel i could do in my situation. I dont do phone calls.. Anything else you might suggest i am all eyes. Thank you so much for taking time to read my message. look forward to hearing from you.

    • Carol Tice on

      Linda, I have to say I’ve had a lot of negative feedback about AWAI’s pricey courses and their lack of direct translation to work you can do out in the marketplace.

      I think there ARE assignments that happen all via email and email interviews (though those aren’t my personal fave) — and you could also use an assistant to transcribe aural answers to questions, or use TTY phone.

      I’d probably start by doing a little pro bono work for deaf-culture organizations where they’ll understand the accommodations you need, and that would give you a few clips to begin expanding from there. The deaf groups may also have leads for you to companies that are accessibility-friendly and might welcome your help…perhaps hearing-aid companies that need copywriting, for instance?

      I know I interviewed one writer who’s deaf who had written for Guardian Liberty Voice: We typed to each other on Skype.

      I have no idea if you can grow this into a full-time living, but if you love writing and are motivated, I say explore it!

  10. Sidra Khan on

    Hello Carol. I have always been into stories especially short stories, celebrities, social media, and traveling. I want to write but I don’t know where to start. I am in college but I also want to get started in my field of journalism as soon as possible. I am not really book smart but when it comes to a class where I can let my creative juices flowing is a class where I excel the most. I really want to earn my degree but at the same time I don’t. I want to do something where I can write but won’t really need a degree to do that. I have heard that many journalists who work in big firms don’t have degrees. Please reply if you have any advice for me. Thank you
    Sidra Khan

    • Carol Tice on

      Sidra, my experience in 12 years as a staffer was that I was actually a real rarity as a staff reporter with no degree — one of my employers hired almost exclusively from Medill, Northwestern’s journalism school. I think reporters in ‘big firms’ mostly DO have degrees — so not sure where you’ve heard they don’t. But that’s not my experience. Pick a publication you’re interested in and go read the staff writers’ bios and I think you’ll see the vast majority, if not all, have degrees.

      But as a FREELANCER, degrees aren’t really a critical factor — you just write your way in the door with the quality of your ideas and your writing. Of course, freelancing involves a lot of hustling and finding clients that many writers aren’t interested in — they just want to write.

      Staff positions are harder and harder to come by these days. But the question is — do you have the journalism chops you need, or will finishing the degree help you build needed skills? I was lucky to be able to learn from editors at alternative papers to start and build my skills there.

      Sadly, short fiction stories aren’t any sort of reliable source of income, and celebrities and travel are both highly crowded niches where rates are mostly low, and it’s highly competitive to get into the places that pay real wages for these stories (Entertainment Weekly, National Geographic, etc.).

      I’d say stick with your degree — and try to get some freelance gigs now, while you’re in school. Give yourself a chance to see whether you like freelancing.

      While most j-school degrees don’t seem to give you any practical skills for landing clients (I know because I’ve been helping writers with multiple degrees learn how to run a freelance business for 8 years now!), you’ll learn the all-important ethics around reporting and how to tell a good reported story, and those will serve you well.

  11. Michael Moan on


    I am very new to the world of freelance writing. I had a career in state government finance that was fairly rewarding, but I was laid off in December and getting back in the game has been difficult. I’ve done creative writing off and on for years, but I made a decision in the past month to seriously consider writing as my career. Enough on me… Here’s my question:

    I read an article you wrote back in 2014 titled the 4 Worst Places for Freelancing – content mill etc.
    How can you be a serious contributor to a “successful” magazine with limited access to sources? If I had a killer idea for a story and I wanted to submit it to, The Huffington Post, or whatever, why would they take me seriously? How could they trust my information? In essence, what access does the typical freelancer need to sources to be a credible author of news stories? I signed up for two popular “bid sites” and was selected to edit a Japanese ESL textbook the day after I signed up. $50 a week won’t put me in Brentwood, but it’s a start. Why not do that instead of reaching for the stars right away?

    Thanks a bunch,

    • Carol Tice on

      I don’t think I’m ever telling people ‘reach for the stars right away,” Michael.

      I teach writers how to build a portfolio that helps them move up quickly. Unfortunately, work off bid sites rarely accomplishes that. Often, it’s ghostwriting or you don’t know who the end client is. It’s impossible to get referrals or testimonials. And even if you could, the reputation of these places is so poor that it’s hard to move up and command better rates, if you mention you’ve been writing for them.

      In essence, you’re treading water. I’ve worked with too many writers who wrote on mill and bid-site platforms for YEARS, only to find they still weren’t at the starting gate for building meaningful writing income.

      I don’t believe limited access to sources is a problem — you’ve got a phone and email, right?

      What makes the difference submitting ideas to publications is 1) understanding of journalism and reporting/writing norms and ethics, and 2) knowing how to write queries that present salable ideas. Those are both things you can learn — check out for some helpful tools there.

  12. Ohita Afeisume on

    Dear Carol,
    I am interested in writing stories and poetry. I have written a number of them which I want hope to publish.

    I have spent the greater part of today reading the questions and your answers. I am new to these things. I sure want to grow a freelance career. However, there are certain areas which are not clear to me.

    For instance , please could you advise me on what I should go for:a website or a blog. What’s the difference between these two? What is the purpose of each? Do I need both?

    • Carol Tice on

      Ohita, whether you need a blog depends on whether you want freelance blogging gigs, and whether you have a passion topic you’re itching to blog about. If not, don’t blog, as I describe here:

      You can see my writer website at, if you want to see an example of a writer site that doesn’t have a blog and isn’t blog-based, to see the difference.

      BUT…biggest thing I want to say is generally there isn’t much of a freelance writing career in writing fiction stories and poetry. That’s a completely different direction, where you need to build an author platform — I can recommend Joanna Penn and Larry Brooks’ StoryFix as well as Writer Unboxed for tips on that.

      As far as where to GO for a website, you can check out my Products I Love page for a few suggestions.

  13. Adam Gillmore on

    Hi Carol,

    I’m interested to know your thoughts on the below website, My partner and I are heading off an a 12+ Month trip in the Americas.

    We’ve found this site and It looks great although I’m a believer of, if it looks too good to be true it probably is.

    I signed up and they then approve your account to get started after that they give you an instruction to set up your own domain which I’m fine with although then it tells you it must be through goDaddy and goDaddy online and then you have to put in your goDaddy order number etc to get started.

    Have you seen anything like this in the past of have any experience with this website?

    I really appreciate your time and really enjoy your blog!

    Kind Regards,

    • Carol Tice on

      That’s a new one on me, Adam — and you haven’t listed what site you’re talking about. Putting a URL will throw your comment into spam, but can you just tell me the name of the site?

      In general…there is no ‘site you can sign up with’ that will solve your freelance problems for the next year. Most mass writer sites pay very little. You’ll need to market and find your own clients to earn well. There are exceptions — people I’ve met who earn well on UpWork, for instance — but they’re few and far between. For most writers, prospecting proactively is the key to building a freelance business.

  14. John Van Loke on

    Hi Carol,
    I am extremely grateful to have found your website. I am trying to kick off a freelance writing career. I am a self published author working on my second book. I blog in support of the book. I’ve also written some articles for an online magazine and all the content for a friends business website. So I have some experience and, I have been told, a natural gift for writing.
    I’ve found Upwork and i’ve been bidding on jobs but right away something about the site didn’t feel right to me and I started to think there had to be another way to gain experience and get paid well. So there’s my question – Where do I go to get that first legitimate freelancing job?
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with everyone. It could truly make someone dream come true.

  15. Ana Casado on

    Hi Carol! I am pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology, a social science that sort of straddles the sciences and the humanities. I am really interested in blogging/writing articles/essays, etc. and have written creatively (mostly humorous pieces that are just for myself and some friends) but I know that I could probably write science-y pieces as well. I just wrote a blog post for the office I work in at my university and found it immensely rewarding and surprisingly easy to do. As far as my personal writing, I have narrowed down some of my topics of interest, but I’m curious if you have advice about how to get started. I know I can start trying to submit things to websites or blogs, but I am so removed from the writer’s culture that I’m not sure exactly where to begin. Thanks!

    • Carol Tice on

      Ana, first thing to know is that the paid essay market is very tough and generally low-paying.

      It sounds like you’ve gotten started blogging where you could get a testimonial and a clip — start by looking at people in your network, businesses you know, and asking if you could help. Once you have a few samples, you can pitch for paid work. My Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success e-book goes into how in huge detail! Too much to fit in a blog comment.

      • Ana Casado on

        Thanks for your quick reply! I’m not expecting to make much money (of course getting paid is good!), but I would just like to hone my writing skills in areas that are not strictly academic papers, and this seems like a good way to do that. I’m considering it more of a hobby. Thanks again!

        • Carol Tice on

          Writing academic papers is definitely a niche you want to get away from, since it’s unethical. I know, the mills that produce them tell you a story about how these are ‘examples’ for students…but we all know what really happens. Students use them, and get expelled.

          You’re smart to move away from that to types of writing you can proudly show in your portfolio. That’ll help you get better gigs!

  16. Syeda Farheen on

    Hello Carol,
    I just came across your blog for the first time, and I am si glad you are taking the initiative to answer questions so many of us have about being a freelance writer. I’m quite young as I am just a sophomore in college, but I want to write as a part time job in the freelance world. I am applying for various on-campus publications too, but just to get a glimpse of what’s really out there I thought of looking out the window a little bit. Is there any advice you could give to me on how I could get recognition in the writing world and where I could begin? Can a college sophomore make money by freelance writing and if yes, how?
    Thank you in advance!

  17. Marcus on

    Hi Carol,

    When pitching my most recent story, I took a swing at the Economist. The editor wrote back, thanking me for the idea but saying he couldn’t take outside contributions since he already had two staff writers working in that area. Then he wrote, “I look forward to reading about your [story idea] when it is published.” (he was the first editor to respond; the publication comment came out of the blue. I hadn’t told him another magazine was interested or anything like that)

    My question is, should I interpret this as a nice rejection, as similar to “feel free to send more pitches”? Or is it most likely just an offhand, though very nice, comment to end the email?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Carol Tice on

      Doesn’t sound like it’s a market for you, Marcus, unless you have an entirely different sort of topic to pitch him. He’s saying they have staff on your subject. If you do, certainly try him again.

      Be encouraged that he seemed to think it was a salable idea elsewhere. 😉

  18. Cherese Renee' Cobb on

    A just turned in a post to an editor about ways to save on wedding cakes. She has accused me of plagiarism; she said that the articles were nearly identical, and she called me unprofessional and unethical. However, I ran my article through a plagiarism checker, and it says that there is 0% plagiarism (I can send you the link via email).

    I did use the article the editor says it similar to as a source, and I did include quotes from this article (This is a blog that doesn’t list sources but includes links).

    The editor paid me, but now she wants her money back, without even giving me a chance to explain or fix it. Plus, she also says she NEVER wants to work with me again. This hurts me the most because last week she was singing my praises.

    I can’t pay the money back because I spent it. I offered to write a different post to repay her. Right now, however, I feel like a complete and total idiot and failure. I made a very rookie mistake (writing too close to the source material).

    I’m afraid of being blackballed. I’m mean she loved my work and now she basically called me a thief. She was my first and really only client. I’ll admit I’ve gotten too comfortable and this is a wake up call to expand my client base.

    I’m not ready to throw in the towel.

    Any advise,

    Cherese R. Cobb

    Here’s my email to her:

    Dear X:
    I promise that I did not purposely plagiarise this article, and I did conduct my own interview with X via Facebook, which is copy and pasted below. I did use the article as a source because I really loved the way it was outlined, and yes, I used quotes from this source like I’ve learned to do in college. I did not in any way mean to be unethical or unprofessional.

    Here’s the interview:

    I realize that this is a stretch, but please consider allowing me to fix the article. I promise I will NEVER make this rookie and stupid mistake again. I will also include a source list in the future. I cannot return the money you sent because I spent it. If you are unwilling to work with me, I completely understand, but please allow me to pay the company back with the Mother’s Day link article since there is no way I can plagiarise those.

    For what it’s worth, I have loved working with you, and I have learned a lot from you.

    Best Regards,

    Cherese R. Cobb

    • Carol Tice on

      Cherese…you plagiarized. You can’t copy quotes from something you read online or in another article, and insert them into your piece without attribution. Not sure what ‘plagiarism checker’ you’re using, but clearly it failed to point that out to you.

      Your comment that what you did was “like I learned to do in college” points up a problem I’ve seen a lot. Many writers don’t understand that writing for pay is not like writing a college paper, where you are free to cite and lift passages from books or others’ interviews. This is why I put my 4 Week Journalism School together — so writers can learn about the ethics of reporting and avoid getting fired in just this way.

      Very sorry to hear this was your only client, and that you’ve blown up your relationship with them out of ignorance of professional ethics. It’s not likely something you can repair with this client. I would imagine they had a policy about this that you signed and agreed to when you started with them…so there’s really no excuse.

      The good news is there are a lot of clients in the sea, and I’m sure you won’t do it again. You’ll have to start over…but it happens. You aren’t the first writer who’s blown up a relationship and has to move forward without a recommendation from one early client.

      You might want to take a little time to learn about the rules of journalism, so that you avoid getting yourself into trouble in future.

      • Cherese Renee' Cobb on

        Thank you for your response. You’re the first person to explain it in terms that I completely understand. You’re also the first person to not treat me like complete garbage–one lawyer I spoke to said he didn’t give a frog’s queef about my feelings and that I’m a s*** writer who no one would ever want to work with again.

        This really was a mistake made out of my ignorance of journalistic ethics–not that I’m excusing it. After all, I went to school for child development and drawing/ceramics. We do not have a contract and there isn’t a policy about this. Nevertheless, I agree with you. I doubt that I repair the relationship. I’ll NEVER make this mistake again, but at least, I’ll live to write another day. I’d love to take a crash course in journalism, but I can’t afford it right now (I just lost my only writing job, and I have over $20,000 in student debt). I’m sure I could get enough scholarships to go back to school though. For now, I’ll have to self-learn via the internet.

        • Cherese Renee' Cobb on

          One last question: Can I use clips from this client in my portfolio?

          Thanks for being so patient with me.

          Cherese R. Cobb

          • Carol Tice on

            I don’t know — depends on your agreement with that client. But certainly, I’ve used clips from past relationships that ended. It’s always better if there’s a testimonial to go with, but there isn’t always.

            And…what a charming lawyer you found there! Guess he didn’t want your business.

            But he does have a point — this is business. No one IS going to care about your ‘feelings’ about things. Just whether you did the job or not.

          • Cherese Renee' Cobb on

            Thank you for your response. I can use the clips; although, I am not allowed to resell or repost them. I have nice things that the editor has said to me in the past, but I’d never use them without her permission, which I’m 100% sure she’d never grant.

            You’re right. The tactless lawyer had a point. I need to remember that this is business and try to remove my personal emotions from transactions. Of course, sometimes that’s easier said than done.


            Cherese R. Cobb

          • Cherese Renee' Cobb on

            Thank you for all of your advice! I have good news. My client and I were able to work things out. I’m going to rewrite the article giving proper attribution for any quotes I use and include a source list (There’s no more relying on plagiarism checkers for this gal). If it hadn’t been for you telling me where I went wrong I would never have been able to repair the damage I caused. My editor promised to give me a testimonial after I reprove myself. Of course, I still going to look for more clients and learn the rules of journalism!

            Cherese R. Cobb

  19. Tarang Sinha on


    I am from India and have published some articles in National magazines. Plus, one of my story has appeared in a best-selling anthology. I just want to know that “Is my experience good enough to write for International magazines? Do they respond to (And give feedbacks) to new writers with fewer clips? Will I face any kind of difficulties being an Indian writer or it will work if my ideas and writing are good?”

    Thanks for your time.

  20. Cherese Cobb on

    I just had an article published, and I noticed a typo. This is one of my favorite pieces. Should I say anything to my editor or just let it slide? If I should point it out, how do I do it tactfully? (I don’t want to hurt her feelings or have her think I’m the grammar police!)


    Cherese R. Cobb
    P.S. The article is linked.

    • Carol Tice on

      Cherese, there’s nothing to be done, if it’s in print. If there’s an online version, you could ask them to correct it online.

      Just be straightforward and professional — “Thanks for the opportunity with the article! I did notice one small typo, and was wondering if you’d be willing to correct it online.”

      Corrections are only run in print papers for factual errors, so there’s nothing to be done there.

  21. PHILIP SULE on

    please I really need your help seriously why because i am a new beginner on this online internet business. so i don’t know where to start from and i have passion to do the business.I all the requirement.

  22. Cherese Cobb on

    I was sent an email on Linkedin about Blurgroup. I have browsed the site. It is set up similar to a content mills like Elance and Odesk, but the price ranges are higher–1,000 and up. I was wondering if you have heard of this site, and if you think it would be a good move professionally.

    • Carol Tice on

      I have been recruited by them many times, Cherese, and have declined to join up.

      At base, it’s just another Elance (which is not a content mill, BTW) — it’s a bid site, where it’s a race to the bottom on price.

      Yes, Blur does seem to promise some better clients and wages (who knows if they really deliver), but in the end, it’s a bid site, where you compete against hundreds or thousands of others to try to get the same set of gigs. This is not a winning scenario for most freelancers.

      Remember that there is no good site like this, due to the business model — give this a read: Same goes for bid sites and most revshare scenarios.

      The key is to stop going from website to website, wondering where the ‘right’ one is, and do your own proactive marketing. These sites all suck more or less equally, because they all have the same business model — giving their customers dirt-cheap services, without caring whether that impoverishes freelancers.

      I’ll tell you this: They’ve been around for 4 years, and I have never once heard a writer success story, from someone who’s thrilled to be getting gigs through Blur. I probably have over 20,000 writers in my network (counting blog subs, the Den and its waitlist, and social media), so that tells me all I need to know.

      PS — was that email from Blur, or from someone else? If someone else, they’re probably affiliate selling Blur and looking to get paid for signing you up. Which is probably the best way to earn from a platform like this…find other suckers.

      • Cherese Cobb on

        Thank you for answering my question! I understand what you’re saying about the bid model always failing (and now I understand the difference between a content mill and the bid model). I looking to keep climbing the ladder–not circle the drain fighting over low paying gigs, so this advice is priceless! The email was from someone affiliated with blurgroup who claims that he screens everyone for the site, which I find hard to believe.

        • Carol Tice on

          Yes, all these sites are ‘exclusive’ and an ‘awesome opportunity’…bla bla. Meanwhile, if you want to know what it’s all about, read what they tell the businesses about how easy it will be to find affordable help on their platform.

  23. Ashley on

    Hi Carol,
    After spending nearly two years writing for content mills, I’ve decided to take the plunge into a real freelancing career. I have many questions, but I’ll only ask one. Is there anything I need to unlearn after writing for content mills?

  24. G.M. on

    Hi Carol,

    I stumbled across the Freelance Writers Den and have signed up for the wait list… looks like it could be very helpful!

    I am trying to figure out what I should charge a client. They publish a subscription newsletter to hedge funds and retail investors. It focuses on the stock market and on specific stocks. Is this the kind of publication that should be paying top rates to a freelance writer? I assume so.

    I have been editing for them for $50/hr for several months, 10-40 hrs/wk. Recently they started asking me to write articles. The first was published last week. It was for their non-paying subscribers… for marketing purposes, in other words, since the whole goal is to convert non-paying subscribers to paying. So in a sense I’m writing marketing copy, but it comes in 500-1500 word chunks.

    Problem is, I didn’t anticipate this very well. I quoted $50/hr for editing. When they asked many months ago whether I could occasionally pen an article as well I said “Yes” without specifying a different rate for writing.

    That’s the part that makes me nervous. I don’t want to come off as baiting-and-switching. I don’t want them to refrain from having me write (not sure how budget conscious they are). And I don’t want to write for less than I’m worth (and I know they like my work a lot)! How do I communicate a higher rate? And what is an appropriate rate in 2014?

    I’d appreciate any insight you can throw my way. Let me know when the den opens again!


    • Carol Tice on

      This is a financial services client that has money, no question, G.M. Tell them that first writing piece was a tryout, if they liked it you’d like to negotiate an appropriate rate for article writing, which has fees that differ from editing, and are rarely charged by the hour — I’d think $1-$2 a word would be the right range for a client like this. Try to switch them to flat project fees for writing, you don’t want to have to get into saying how many hours it takes you to write something.

      Sounds like a great client — hope it works out! It’s always a little tricky if you don’t negotiate on the first writing piece, but you can always get a raise if they’re pleased.

      If it’s a marketing newsletter you might also negotiate a bit lower flat rate but ask for a conversion tracking page and a royalty as well. Might be a solution if they don’t want to pay top dollar up front.

      • G.M. on

        Carol, thank you for the feedback. I quoted $125/hr and $1.50/page.

        In reply they asked me what I would suggest as a retainer. In the same context, they also say cost is a primary concern, which makes me wonder whether they understand that I would bill for anything beyond the hours covered by the retainer.

        So I’m researching that. If you have any links to info on how to structure a retainer (or suggestions), I’d be grateful for them. Thanks!


        • Carol Tice on

          We did a whole training about this in my Freelance Writers Den bootcamp on PR writing. A retainer defines a set amount of work they agree to have you do and pay you for each month, perhaps X articles you write and X hours of editing, in this case. If they don’t have the work for you, you still get paid.

          Additional projects beyond the scope of the retainer are charged at rates you agree upon. Hope that helps!

  25. Stephanie Behne on

    My question has to do with where to pitch a story idea. I periodically get ideas but don’t know where to go with them. I have a feeling from prior experience it’s all about developing contacts, but I’ve been out of it for several years. I have done some freelance writing, entry-level journalism in a local magazine (Chicago) as an intern and then odds and ends in small publications and local newspapers (school board meetings, etc.) I had a monthly column in our town’s paper featuring interviews with commuters, which was fun. I did that for about a year. It’s not really about money (as I made little to nothing doing it before). Is my instinct correct? Should I try and resurrect some old contacts and try to get advice? The publications where I’ve done work wouldn’t be appropriate for my idea; this was certainly my 1st thought. I feel weird writing people I didn’t know that well 6 years ago, and now looking for advice. I have a strong background in education, and my story idea has to do with education. It is a timely topic connected to recent news events. I just feel like I have to knock on the right door with this idea. Thoughts?

    • Carol Tice on

      There is way more than one question here, Stephanie!

      I’ll just say that I don’t agree that “it’s all about contacts.” I think a great idea in a well-written query can get you in the door without any introductions. Why don’t you just research the publications it would be right for, and send a query? Sounds like time is short.

      Mostly, it sounds like you’re hyper-focused on this one idea…if you want to get back into freelancing, know that it’s about having many ideas and pitching them many places, not finding a home for this one.

      Should you resurrect old contacts? Absolutely! But not necessarily expecting that they’ll mentor you.

      They may refer you, though — I reconnected with one editor I hadn’t written for in a decade, and he referred me a $.50 a word global custom publishing client. Definitely reactivate whatever contacts you have.

  26. Jula Pereira on

    Hi Carol,

    I’ve been enjoying your site and all the information so far has been very useful to me. I’m looking forward to reading your e-book that I purchased the other day. So thank you!

    Last night I went to a networking event and promoted myself as a freelance writer for the first time. It was a great event and I got several leads for various projects.

    One of the people I met was interested in having me do blogging for his company. He asked me how much I charge and when I gave him a number, he sounded very enthusiastic and said he would be able to afford me.

    In retrospect, I was wondering if I should have told him a higher rate. Because I am just starting out, I feel as though I should accept any work that comes my way with a lower rate and gather referrals and testimonials first.

    Do you think this is a good way to start out or do you suggest that I research what other writers in my area charge and match those rates?


    • Carol Tice on

      Jula, around here we like to see at least $50 a post, and $100 is usually a more appropriate minimum. On my Freelance Writers Den job board, I won’t list any blogging gigs below $50 a post.

      But it’s dangerous to get into a conversation and casually throw out a bid without knowing a lot about what they mean by blog posts. How long are they? Do they require interviews?

      It’s common for new writers to underbid, so don’t feel bad about it. Just do a short-term contract — 60-90 days — with an eye to negotiating a raise at the end of it, if it’s more work than you expected…and you’ve learned more about what rates are appropriate.

  27. Jennifer on

    Hi, Carol and fellow writers.

    First, thank you all for your time and thoughtful insight. I hope to contribute meaningful tips as I advance along this journey.

    Right now, I’m still in the early stages of building my portfolio with the content mill assignments (not complaining, I know it’s part of the building process). However, I’m having technical issues with converting my published works on webpages into PDF files. The conversion itself works fine, but I run into problems when viewing the PDF’s in my portfolio. If I make the conversion in Chrome, the PDF doesn’t fully open properly in a Safari or Firefox browser. I can’t assume that all of my potential clients/hiring managers use Chrome only.

    My question is: How can I ensure that the PDF attachments I create will open in ALL web browsers (for both PC & Mac operating systems)? Is there a particular add-on/plugin I need to solve this? Or do I have to purchase expensive software like Adobe to ensure these conversions will work properly across all web platforms?

    Sorry if I just made your head explode. Any tip is greatly appreciated. Thank you for creating such a supportive online community for writers.

    • Carol Tice on

      I’m not the technical expert around here, Jennifer, but you have a bigger problem — mill clips don’t make a very impressive portfolio.

      Many magazine editors won’t consider your query if they know that’s where you’ve been writing. In general, mill clips *don’t* build a portfolio, they can actually hurt you with many prospects.

      I believe there are screen-capture options you might use to capture your posts. Around my sites, we use Google Doc Embedder to serve up PDFs – don’t know how your portfolio is being served, or from where. It’s a question to research based on the platform you’re using, such as WordPress.

      You might also consider using a solution such as Writer’s Residence to help you get the portfolio up. They have really simple-to-use templates.

      Or you can also use links to clips — since you’re not going to want to keep the mill ones very long, that might be just fine for now.

  28. Carol on

    Hi Carol,

    Just in case you’re still answering questions…

    I have a huge desire to transition into freelancing, but a very specific subject–wine journalism. I’ve poured all my free time over the past few years into learning about and experiencing wine, and feel confident that I could do it.

    However, I understand it’s a competitive field because it is a fun subject to write about. Easier areas to break into might be covering city council meetings, medical writing–those things not a lot of people want to do.

    My question is, should I go for wine writing full force? Or be open to other subjects as I start out? I just don’t want to get sidetracked from my goal.

    • Carol Tice on

      Carol, definitely pursue your interest in wine writing, but I’d doubt that’s going to be a full-time living off the bat. You’ll need some other topics as well.

      Also, think about wine writing more broadly. Could you write PR for a local wine region, for instance? For restaurants that carry a lot of great wines? There are many more earning opportunities than writing wine reviews. And as you’ve suspected, that’s a tough niche to earn in — I think most of the people with columns on that topic are professional sommeliers or chefs.

      • Carol on

        Gosh, thank you so much for answering my question! It helps. I am so impressed with your commitment to helping writers! I love your blog.

  29. Benson Maina on

    First thank you for opening a ‘help center’ for writers God will never forget this in a hurry. My problem is i am new at freelance writing and getting any work at all is tough so i hope you can advise me on the baby steps. Thanks for your time.

  30. Shelby on

    Hi Carol,

    I’m taking a chance that you are still answering questions on this post. I have sat and read each question and reply over the past 2 days in every spare moment I could find, just absorbing as much information as I possibly could.

    I think mine is an unusual situation – mostly due to the fact that I haven’t seen anyone else post a similar story. I don’t exactly work for a content mill, but after reading a lot of your posts, I have come to the realization that I am receiving content mill rates.

    It’s hard to describe what I do. On the one hand, I might be considered an “entertainment journalist” (many of my colleagues use that term), but I may also be considered a blogger (as some of the sites I write for are known as entertainment blogs). Basically I do most of my writing about TV – reviews of shows, interviews with actors, red carpet events, set visits and the like.

    When I tell most people what I do, they consider it very glamorous. But the rates I get are anything but and now that I’ve seen your site, I realize I am being paid at basically mill rates. It’s something I didn’t want to accept for a long time and hoped that I was simply “working my way up” and that it would change. But I’ve been doing this for a couple years now and I’m not really seeing any improvements within the industry. I read on one of your posts (forgive me for not remembering which one, I’ve read so many in the past 2 days!) that we writers shouldn’t work for companies with no products except for our own articles and that is precisely what I do.

    So I’m looking at all the options you discuss on your page, but my question has to do with my previous experience. Is it possible to use the hundreds of reviews, interviews, slideshows and op-ed articles about TV shows as a portfolio for a new phase of my career? Will a corporation want to hire me as a blogger about a completely different subject based on those articles? Or should I try and find some of my work that was done either before my entertainment career took off – such as old web pages I wrote for law firms many years ago or the occasional non-entertainment article I’ve done recently?

    I feel like I have many years of experience, which should be a good thing, but wonder if the area of my experience would be a hindrance.

    Even if this article is closed and you are no longer answering questions, I’d still like to say how much I enjoy this site and I am looking forward to the next opening of the Writer’s Den so I can hop in.

    • Carol Tice on

      Glad to hear you’re realizing it’s time to move on from this client, Shelby.

      My portfolio rule is you use whatever you have. As you get better clients, you’ll replace your mill-type clips. There are legit, paying entertainment magazines and websites — find your best pieces you’ve written. If you’ve done actor interviews, that’s great! Most mill writing doesn’t have any interviews, so that should help set you apart, and possibly open the door for you to write in other sectors.

      You’ll need to get up a writer website to show your work and send clients to. Use your older work as well — there’s no such thing as a too-old clip. That will give you some variety to show your prospects.

      That basic rule is true — look for companies that sell a real product or service in the real world, and aren’t just offering you pennies off ad-clicks or a pittance per post.

      The only markets you should write for where articles are the primary product are legit publications — and look for rates around $.30-$1 a word and up, not pennies or promises of earning if you get pageviews.

      Good luck!

  31. Lisa Maxime on

    Hi Carol,

    Thank you so much for taking time to answer my question. I want to start a freelance writing career part-time for now and I don’t have a clue where I should start. I have been reading and researching non-stop for about a month now. I don’t have any writing samples and generating ideas is harder than I thought. Do you have any recommendations on how I can get my wheels turning and start writing? Your response is greatly appreciated!!

  32. Sophie on

    Hi Carol,

    I have a pricing/charging question. I’ve had a look at the “What to Charge” section of my Writer’s Market and I’m not sure that it’s of much help in my particular case (if I am mistaken, please just point me in the right direction!).

    I was recently looking at a well-known travel website and publication and noticed that their online “guide” on the particular country/area I live in is exceptionally out of date.

    I am thinking about approaching them and pitching a proposal to update it (write-ups on things like restaurants, hotels, things to do, etc.). It’s an exotic, small, popular area and I have the advantage of being from and living here which gives me immediate access to all necessary information without them having to collect it, piecemeal, from several contributors.

    I’m not sure what to propose in terms of pricing for a project of this nature. If accepted, I see it as a medium-term project (6 months) due to the nature of information that would need to be collected.

    Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

    • Carol Tice on

      Sophie, when you’re making your initial pitch, you don’t have to worry about pricing! First, just try to get them interested in having you write it. Write them a sharp letter of introduction in the style of their site, that explains how you noticed this outdated page, and have insider knowledge and writing experience that make you a perfect fit for the redo.

      Sometimes, if they bite, they will simply offer you a rate, and you’ll have to decide if it’s fair. Big travel sites often have a set rate they pay for copy — and often, it’s low. So be prepared for that. It’s hard to earn well in this niche because everybody thinks they can write travel.

      Rewriting a single page of a website is never going to pay a ton. If it’s short (300 words or so), maybe $100 is fair? If longer, $250-$300 might be good. But be ready for them to try to get it for less.

      The bigger problem here is that it’s a one-off job that may not lead to any other work for them…so it may not be worth your time. If you think many other pages might also be updated by you, even though you don’t live there, then maybe this is a foot in the door, and there’s enough work where it will make sense even at a lower rate.

      Best of luck with it —

  33. Graham Frizzell on

    Hi Carol

    First things first, I am one of the 75 (or so) per cent of blind / vision impaired who is long term unemployed, and I am damned well sick of it (pardon my language).

    Writing freelance has been at the forefront of my hopes and dreams for a couple of years now, perhaps even longer, however I have absolutely no idea as to how and where to begin. I am presently unqualified but for studying professional writing and editing at pre-diploma level, however I have a strong command of the English language and the abilities to develop and maintain a career in freelance writing. Moreover, a typing speed of 71 words per minute with 100% accuracy is going to waste.

    So my question is, how do I get started and how do I hit the ground running with minimal experience? I write my own blog and have contributed gig and album reviews to a multitude of online publications (most of which are unpaid besides event tickets and albums), however I am as lost as an Arab in Alaska in trying to find that first step (which is always the hardest) in getting a fruitful career off the ground.

    I should probably tell you that I live in Australia, which I hope will not prove to be a hindrance to success.

    Any advice and help would be greatly appreciated!

    Kind regards


    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Graham — I’ve got an ebook that covers those first steps, the Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success, which you can check out here:

      Basically, you’ve got to put up a pro-looking writer website, get those pieces you’ve already written up as a portfolio, and then start actively marketing to find paying clients. Step by Step goes into exactly how to get it done.

      I’ve also got a bootcamp on how to do your writer website in my Freelance Writers Den community, if you care to check that out.

  34. Miranda Culp on

    Thank you Carol, valuable information. I’m in a bit of a bind with my contract (you’re welcome for that pun) because it doesn’t just cover tech. I asked specifically if I could freelance for an organic farm and they said only if it’s pro bono. I think you may be right, that I will have to save the money and quit.
    BTW, I wasn’t implying the Writer’s Den might help me get out of a legality, I was just wondering about strategies that enabled building a freelance platform while still complying. I will definitely consider joining. Thanks Again, Miranda

    • Carol Tice on

      I’d consult a lawyer and look carefully at the contract, because they shouldn’t be able to keep you from doing nonconflicting side businesses. Certainly not if they’re paying a pittance!

      They may have a contract that doesn’t hold water legally. Ultimately, it sounds like somewhere you need to leave. The combination of low pay AND a heavily restrictive noncompete is a lose-lose situation.

  35. Miranda Culp on

    Hi Carol, I would really like to move into freelancing but I am currently under a non-comp agreement with my job (I write marketing copy for a firm that mostly deals in tech). I am woefully underpaid for the kinds of docs i am pumping out daily, but I cannot slowly ramp up freelance work without violating the agreement. I write a lot of free content for artists and organic farmers and other people who don’t have any money, thinking that will wash over into more paid gigs, but so far, no dice. I put myself in the writer’s den list because I thought it may present a work around. Has this come up? I currently spend 8.5 hrs a day with my ass in the chair and I know I could cut that time in half and double what I am making, given what white paper and solution briefs go for out there.
    I thank you for your time and your sound advice.

    • Carol Tice on

      Miranda, read your noncompete carefully…and then start freelancing for industries and niches where you’re free to do so. It may preclude you from working for other clients in your city, your country, one industry, or may just name a few specific competitors you can’t write for.

      If your noncompete is currently onerous, you might consider trying to renegotiate it to be more limited — ideally, naming just a few archenemies you can’t write for and leaving the rest of the field open. But look through it for loopholes — could you target tech marketing firms in the UK or Canada, for instance, if you’re in the US?

      Sometimes, you can write for other niches within tech, or you could write for other industries entirely, such as healthcare or education. Depends on your noncompete’s exact language.

      Joining Freelance Writers Den doesn’t create a “workaround” to get you out of your non-compete, sorry to say! We’re just a support and learning community for writers, and we can’t get you out of legal agreements you’ve signed.

      But it sounds like you’ve put together a portfolio of work pro bono, and should be ready to go after paying clients. Those pro bono samples don’t usually magically “wash over” into paying gigs — that happens when you ask those clients for testimonials and referrals, and then use those to target bigger prospects in those niches and get paying clients through proactive marketing. That’s what the Den is good for — learning how to do that.

      Also look at your contract to see if you can use any of your work for this employer as writing samples in your portfolio, or if you are banned.

      Best of luck with this! Ultimately, you may need to just take the plunge and leave so that you can start earning what you’re worth. Try to save up cash to tide you over. Also, beware of your noncompete — it may say you can’t write for competitors for a time period AFTER you leave.

      You really want to get that removed if it’s there. My understanding is those clauses don’t really stand up in court — they can’t make you do anything after you’re not being paid by them. But you might want to consult a contract lawyer to see what your wiggle room is in this one.

  36. John Pierce on


    I’ve got kind of a long story that sort of explains why I’m here and what I want from this, so be prepared to read a little bit. Or, you know, at least skim it pretty nicely.

    Anyway, on with my story. In my current position in life, I’m a 24-year-old who currently works at a pretty dead-end factory job at a tire factory, painting and lubing tires before they are cured into the form we commonly know. It’s a real cog-in-the-machine kind of job, not satisfying, just work. I’m a person who always had an interest and passion for writing, and I seemed good at it, so much so that when I initially took college courses, I started in a creative writing major. This major, for me, seemed a little redundant… Maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset for it in the long run, but it always felt wrong to me to have certain classes where I was asked write up a paper on my own opinions on something, be it a short story or poem, only to be given a C on said paper, never for any grammatical errors or anything of the sort, but simply because the professor wasn’t a fan of what I wrote.

    Becoming frustrated by these things, and with the notion that I wanted to learn how to write better and none of these courses seemed to be helping, I left the major. I chose to switch majors to Management Information Sciences, assuming a degree in some sort of IT or computer job was a bit easier to go by. My interests in it went from being slightly dazzled by all the new and interesting things to a tad frustrated that no matter how I studied them I didn’t seem to grasp them as quickly as the major demanded, all the way down to bored when I realized how mechanical it all seemed to be.

    I couldn’t always grasp these concepts. But I could always grasp writing.

    Accepting what I was struggling to deny, that I was more right brained than left and I needed to focus there if I wanted to be happy, not even financially stable, just happy in my own skin, I dropped out of college and started to look into what ways I could be paid as a writer, discovering freelancing as an option.

    As I understood it prior to researching, freelancing wasn’t steady work, that it was a pay-per-gig sort of thing and I was going to have to maintain a steady job if I wanted to be a writer too. As many of your articles revealed, that’s not so much the case. I was elated, to say the least. This wasn’t something I had thought possible, now I’m excited to take the first steps. I didn’t know how, but I knew it seemed so perfect I wanted to try.

    If I had any doubts, they were quickly quelled when a buddy from high school who currently works for a news paper called me, without any prompts that I was planning to do this, to freelance for their sports page. A little gig, just write up a summary of some high school football games, but a gig none the less, and one I wasn’t looking for, just popped up.

    I want to start freelance writing, and before I even had a chance to figure out the first step, as I stood covered in black paint and dirt from my tire factory job, a call comes in for freelance writing. Did I just get a sign?

    As it currently stands, I’ve got a bunch of adorably pointless little articles in my old High School paper from when I took journalism, one credited chapter in a local coal mining short book that I and a group of other high school students collaborated on awhile back, and two paid freelance articles in the sports page of a news paper in the Johnstown Pennsylvania area. Not much to go by, but it’s a start.

    Now that I’ve successfully bored you with my story, my question to you is should I wait to get some good, solid paying jobs before I dive completely into the freelance writing field or should I make a conscious effort to quit my job as soon as I have the funds to do so without starving to death so that I can focus completely on writing? What I’m basically asking is how long and what kind of jobs should I have set up before I can consider myself “Ready” to do this as my lone source of income? Can I do both until I’m comfortable or is the likelihood of having the time for both not realistic? Obviously a couple jobs here or there aren’t enough, but what signal did you get that you had truly “Gotten where you wanted to be” in this field?

    Thanks for being both a help and an inspiration,


    • Carol Tice on

      John, like many of us who ended up in freelancing, I didn’t get to mull those questions — I got fired.

      But for contemplating when is the right moment to go full-time freelance, I recommend Linda Formichelli’s book Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race, and into a Career You’ll Love — you can see it on my “Recommended books” tab at the top of this page.

      The short answer is that it depends a lot on your expenses, obligations, and appetite for risk, when you might make the jump into full-time freelancing vs writing on the side.

  37. Kyle Crouch on

    If I want to start a blog with a niche related to something like health or finance and I have no formal training in those fields, would I need to consult with and cite experts in these fields in each blog post in order to not get into trouble by posting advice on these subjects without the proper credentials?

    • Carol Tice on

      Kyle, it really depends on what sorts of blog posts you plan to write. You obviously can’t give medical advice yourself, right?

      The question is, what’s your motivation in starting the blog? Why is the topic you want to write about? What unique point of view do you bring to that? That’s what makes successful blogs.

      For instance, my point of view on this blog is that content mills suck, and writers who’re serious about earning as freelancers should stay away from them, and seek out clients that pay professional rates. And then I provide info about how you do that.

      That’s different from many other websites, where they give you a lot of praise and support for moving up from $1 a post to $3.

      A lot of blog posts are written about our personal experiences — like My Wife Quit her Job is a finance blog, about his personal journey to financial independence, or Smart Passive Income tracked Pat Flynn’s online experiments. So then you ARE the expert, in your own life and experience.

  38. April on

    I am back to following your blog after a two year hiatus. I wasn’t really ready to do the work that it takes to get a writing business going then, so I wrote a little on a blog, but it hasn’t done much for income and I really want and need to actually make money.

    So, I am going back to the beginning and I am starting at your blog. It really is one of the best out there and I consider you an expert to learn from.

    I worked for 10 years in the Tech Industry and I did write a couple of years ago for Backbone Media, writing technical articles / blog posts for IT sites. This is the kind of work I should and want to do.

    Where would be the best places to start looking for work?


    • Carol Tice on

      Well…with tech companies, I’d think! Tech is a great-paying niche. Get your existing clips organized on a writer website and then start targeting tech clients.

      I have a whole 4-week bootcamp in my Freelance Writers Den community called Get Great Clients, that goes into a lot of great research sources for prospecting to find great niche clients in areas such as tech, and how to qualify prospects so you know they have the budget to pay well, so you might want to check that community out.

      • April on

        Well… I know that Tech Companies are one place to write for. However, with over 250,000 companies just in the US, I was hoping for a smaller pool to start with:-) I was kind of hoping you had an article (or one of your blogging network had an article) something like: “Top 100 Paying Tech Industry Blogs” or “The Best Tech Industry Freelance Gig Blog”. So, I will just google those titles and see what I would get.

  39. Vy on

    Dear Carol,

    I would like to ask you about the word count. Is tittle a part of an article or it should not be included in the final word count?
    I have been working as a freelance writer in Lithuania for a while and here we include titles in the final word count (unless it’s given), but now I am working with client oversees and I started doubting that.
    I trust your knowledge, so I would be extremely grateful for your answer.
    Thank you.

    Looking forward to your response.
    V. K

    • Carol Tice on

      Have to say I don’t think I usually count it, Vy, but the headline isn’t usually more than 12-15 words, so it doesn’t make a real big difference either way. Sometimes I think I count it when I’m a little under my assigned wordcount and want to call it done. 😉

      Hope that helps!

      • Vy on

        I thought so too. I always use Microsoft Office Word word count, but the job ”pay per word” got me confused a little :))

        Thank you very much for your response!!

  40. Jacob on

    Hi Carol,

    I have read several of your blog posts and they have some very helpful information in them. Thank you for offering so much excellent advice. I wanted to see if you had any for me personally.

    To be as brief as possible, I just turned 25 and I graduated college three years ago with a BA in English. I majored in English because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always did very well at and really enjoyed reading and writing. For the last two years I’ve been working a job in office product sales, but soon my pay structure will be changing to total commission and I am not confident I can support myself in this industry. I’ve also realized that I’m just not happy where I’m at or with having to deal with the drudgery of a 9-5, and it’s starting to negatively impact my performance and overall mental health.

    I want to take this opportunity to transition into freelance writing full-time. For over 2 years I’ve been writing on a content mill and doing pretty well at it. A lot of my work is assigned directly by clients, and most months I can make 50-75% of what I make from my day job, and that’s with just the time I have in the evenings and weekends to write. I know you warn against content mills and I don’t see them as a long-term strategy. My plan is to continue on this mill and start on some of the other ones for the next several months to cover my bills while I transition to finding private clients and submitting articles to publications. I’m also going to move in with roommates and make a few other changes to cut down on my living expenses.

    I understand that this is not going to be a walk in the park and that it’s going to take long-term concentration and devotion on my part. I’m prepared to put in long hours, work weekends, and really attack this, because I feel very strongly about writing and I also love the idea of working for myself and setting my own schedule. I plan on applying the sales skills I have developed in this job to find private clients; I make phone and in-person cold calls every day and it doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I think I could be much more successful selling my writing because it’s something I am passionate about. I’m also going to create a web site and put together a portfolio to help me market to private clients and online/print publications.

    Sorry for being long-winded, but I guess my question is, are there any bits of advice or words of wisdom you can provide for me based on the situation I’m in now? I’ll admit that the prospect of making such a big life transition is a little scary, but I really want to take a shot at doing something I love and being able to control my own fate.

    If anyone else besides Carol wants to chime in and respond to me, please do so. Thanks again!


    • Carol Tice on

      Guess my big tip would be: Don’t spend more time signing up for more content mills! The problem is what you write for them usually can’t even help your portfolio much. You’re spinning your wheels as far as developing a pro career. And the income you’re seeing from mills now will likely shrink over time, because their business model is failing thanks to Google, which is shutting down their traffic by spiking them off its search results.

      Instead, try to find a few real clients — small businesses, nonprofits where you volunteer, something like that. Do a few pro bono projects where you can get referrals and testimonials. That’ll allow you to leave your day job ready to earn a much better income.

      • Jacob on

        Thanks for the quick response Carol. I agree that content mills won’t last forever and I would like to earn more money than what I make on them, but for now it’s a way to pay the bills. I am definitely going to work towards finding better clients and I know it will be tough to balance that task with the hours I’m putting in on mills to make ends meet, but I know I can do it if I manage my time wisely and put in the extra effort.

  41. Samantha on

    Hi Carol – thanks for fielding questions.

    I have a pretty basic question: are bloggers for hire generally expected to physically upload/post the content they provide – especially when they’re helping out small businesses?

    I’m thinking there might be legal implications involved in having access to someone’s CMS. On the other hand, I like to have control over what the final product looks like, including where images would be placed. I’ve had other people upload my content before and somehow insert numerous errors like extra spaces, characters etc. which make me look sloppy.

    If you do upload, how are you usually given access to the blog? If you don’t, what file format do people prefer to receive content in and why?

    I’m finding small business clients are more at sea about this matter than I am.Thanks for any insights regarding best practices – and for your time!

    • Carol Tice on

      Samantha, there is no ‘usual’ here.

      I’ve done everything from turning over Word documents for editors to edit and add photos and post in their dashboard and publish, to my current gig as a paid Forbes blogger, where I have complete access to my own WordPress dashboard within their platform, build everything including photos and links, and can even hit the ‘publish’ button myself. I’ve been completely set free to cover my beat and post my stories. They trust me 100%.

      Increasingly, I think clients are hoping to give you dashboard access and get you to do everything. The whole reason they’re not blogging in-house is no one has time for all the details involved!

      It’s really a question of how much they want you to take on for them, what-all they want to delegate to you, and I’d say their understanding of how to protect their system. I’m quite sure I could do little damage to Forbes from my one user access point.

  42. C.Robertson on

    As I get my start in freelance writing, I have a (possibly silly) question…

    I’m currently a PR freelancer, pitching stories for clients to “the other side.” But let’s say I begin to write as a freelance writer for (a stretch, I know). Is it unethical to do PR and freelance writing for one client? For instance, if John Doe is paying me to pitch stories about his new product, is it acceptable to also accept payment from him *and* the publication to write articles about his product as a freelancer for said

    I appreciate your feedback! Thank you again for all of your extraordinary help as I continue down this path to independent living. I’m very grateful!

    • Carol Tice on

      So glad you ask, Caileigh, because what you’re proposing is totally unethical and could lead to your being banned from writing for that publication as a journalist forever.

      You can’t get double-paid, sorry to say. Or serve two masters. You are either a paid part of a company’s PR team, or you’re an unbiased reporter who happens to think that company has an interesting story…but you can’t be both.

      And don’t imagine the publication won’t find out you’re playing both sides. They will.

  43. Polly on

    Hi Carol,

    I have learned so much from your blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences and advice with us!

    I have been working as a freelance writer this year and have also had a chance to do some proofreading on the side. Someone I know from church has just begun a photography business and started a website to promote her studio. English is her second language and the text on her website does not exhibit the quality that her photography shows in her online gallery. (The text is really bad.)

    What would you do in this situation? She hasn’t asked for any advice and is doing very well in her business. I would consider her a “familiar friend”, not a best friend, so I don’t feel like I could come out and just offer my services without sounding like I was telling her what to do. I thought about asking her if we could exchange services, but her costs are steep and I don’t think she has enough text to proofread to cover a photo session.

    I’m trying to figure out how I can see this as a marketing opportunity and a way to help out an amazing photographer without insulting anybody.

    Your thoughts?

    • Carol Tice on

      If you need the clip, just approach her from that angle — I’m building my portfolio and would like to have more websites in my credits. I know that English isn’t your first language, and I love your photography. Would you possibly let me rewrite your site as a sample I could use? If you didn’t like the result you wouldn’t have to do it, but I’d appreciate a chance to show you what I can do, in exchange for a testimonial if you’re pleased.”

      As an alternate, you might propose a small fee if you’re beyond the free-samples stage — maybe $200 or so.

  44. tobyo on

    Hi Carol. I’m another on the waiting list for the Writer’s Den and hoping you’ll answer this for me. I’ve been reading and reading and researching things for the last several months on how to get paid for my writing. I’ve been putting together a list of ideas and finally decided on an idea to pitch. The site I want to pitch my idea to has a form and within it is a spot for your blog or link to online writing samples. I have not yet put up my writer’s site but I do have a blog with many samples of my writing. Would this suffice for now? Or would you suggest I get my writer’s site up and link to that? I’d rather link to my blog since I’ve had it for over two years and have many samples of my writing there. However, I also just sent in my first guest post that I want to use as a clip for my writer’s site. I’m anxious to get started but I’m wondering if I should get my writer’s site up before I pitch my idea instead of using my blog. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!!

  45. Kevin C. on

    You were still answering questions in November for this post, so why not add one on just after the post has been out for a year? I appreciate the opportunity to ask, especially since I’ve gotta cross my fingers on getting into The Den.

    My question is related to the fact that both my wife and I write, and are looking toward freelancing for the first time. We’re planning on working together on projects, and I wanted to know if you knew much about freelancing with a partner. Are there legal issues to worry about, like where one of us would have to be ’employing’ the other in the government’s eyes? Would it turn off potential clients if it felt like they were having to pay two people for the work they would normally only hire one person for, even if we bid them a price that would be fair for a single writer? I don’t think we could simply not help each other, but should we hide the fact that we work together in favor of marketing ourselves as individuals?

    • Carol Tice on

      You know, I don’t have a writing partner…but I do know couples who have writing businesses together. You don’t one employ the other, you’re co-owners of the business.

      I think the trick there is to have enough work for two people, and for both of you to bring a client base to it that knows and likes you.

      • Kevin C. on

        Thanks for the promptness, and of course, thanks for the reply. As something of a follow-up, would you be able to point me toward any of the couples you know with a writing business?

        • Carol Tice on

          Not sure any of them would be analogous — the ones I know write independently of each other and each have their own clients, or one writes fiction and the other journalism. But really, there’s not a problem with it if you have enough business to support 2 people. Best of luck with that!

  46. R. E. Marshall on


    I read that freelancers pay roughly 15% of their income to taxes. I was just wondering how do you or I (I’m thinking about being a freelance writer) cope with such a big loss? I say this because if you make $100,000 a year, wouldn’t that mean that you pay around $15,000 in taxes to start?

    Thanks for any advice you can give me.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi RE — no idea where you read that, but my tax bite is much higher than 15%! I WISH I paid that. Maybe you mean 15% more than you paid as an employee, which might be close, because as a self-employed person (in the US anyway) you pay both halves of the employment tax instead of just half of it, as you did as an employee.

      In fact the tax rate is variable by income, the number of deductions you have to that income, and by where you live. You might pay state income or state business tax as well as federal.

      I can tell you the estimated taxes I’m paying this year are far more than the figure you cite.

      You don’t “cope with such a big loss” because you were paying taxes before, too. You just had them deducted from your paycheck so you didn’t notice them as much.

      I’ve never viewed it as a loss. Our taxes buy a lot of services and security of living in a free nation with the rule of law. I don’t consider it a bad deal.

      I think what you’re really asking is how you plan for paying your taxes as a freelancer — and the answer is you make quarterly estimated tax payments, so that you don’t owe it all at once. Makes it much more bearable.

  47. Donna F on

    As a freelancer that wants to get up and running with all your amazing tips and links, what is the best way to get out my own way in regards to coming up with what to name my website?

    Any tricks to not just naming it Donna Foland? Besides I think that name is gone w/ a lady in Georgia that does real estate or something. I’m literally blocked with this step and have been for a while when thinking on the steps to getting started (haha funny for a writer eh to not be able to write a simple name to a website….). Thanks!!!

    • Carol Tice on

      We talk a lot about this in my Build a Writer Website That Works bootcamp in the Den.

      There are plenty of ways to go. Microsites like, if you know your niche and aren’t planning to go anywhere. Or or FreelanceWriterDonna. Plenty of options if your name URL is taken.

      Big tip: Buy several likely URLs and point them all to your site! You can always move or re-point your site later as your business evolves.

  48. Kanhaiyalal J. Mohata on

    I am Indian who has spent his childhood in a village.
    I now live in Mumbai. I retired last year.

    I have many fond memories of my village life. My father was a big landlord in the village. It is an era , which will never come back. I have written some very personal experiences of those times, just for my family. I want to know if these can be shared & if I can be paid for these.
    Kindly suggest suitable websites etc.

    • Carol Tice on

      Wish I knew websites that paid for personal memoir, but that’s usually something you write and promote yourself, in blog or book form.

      Most paid writing online is nonfiction — informational blogging and websites that help people learn how to do something. Wish I had better news on that!

  49. May Clark on

    Hi Carol,
    I was hoping you could help me with this. I need to respond soon to this invitation.
    I recently applied for a job with an SEO marketing firm for writing guest blog posts. When I found out the rates and requirements, I was unsure of what to do. I really, really need the extra work right now. I’m a single mom and floundering. I need something now, instead of next month. However, the rates are $10 per 400+ blog post, and $20 per 600+ blog post. The company retains all rights to my content, and the content appears to be more like articles than blogs, such as how-to articles are health-related articles.

    What do you think about this? Is this a good way to learn different writing styles and how to write more quickly, or would I be making a mistake to sign on with this person? I’m afraid that if I don’t take advantage of the opportunity, that nothing better will come along in time for me to pay the bills.

    I appreciate your input.
    Thank you.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi May —

      SEO articles don’t pay well. They never will. Those rates are pretty typical for this type of stuff. It’s because these articles are for robots to read, not people, so they don’t have to be very good or even accurate.

      I have a post coming up Monday about this, how this type of writing doesn’t really help you move up to better-paying work.

      As to whether you want to take this gig, that really depends on your situation, goals, and finances.

      At best, think of it as a stopgap way to pay a few urgent bills. But it’s not building your writing career in any useful way.

      My experience is that these sort of articles can’t even be used in your portfolio, and often the sites they appear on have such a bad reputation they’re actually a black mark against you if you want to write for any legitimate sites or publications in future.

      I’ve mentored many writers who’ve written for mills like this for 5 years or more and they have NO portfolio. Nothing they can use as an example they write well! That’s the big problem — it’s not helping you move forward.

      • May Clark on

        Hi Carol,
        I appreciate your input. I had thought I might could use it in my writing portfolio, but I see your point. The main thing that worried me about this assignment is that the client retains all rights to my work, and I will be writing about a vastly different number of things. For instance, if I write a how-to on cleaning house, will I not be able to sell a how-to article later on the same subject?
        With the client I have now, I basically write SEO advertising copy, instead of different articles, so it has never been an issue.

        • Alexis on

          I have had a similar question regarding re-purposing content written for poorly paying websites. I’m sure there is some kind of etiquette no-no, but that makes it all the harder to write on a good topic for peanuts (or less than peanuts, in some cases!)

          P.S. Carol, I’ll be back to let you know how the interview goes and any insights I receive from the experience.

          • Carol Tice on

            It’s not an “etiquette no-no,” it’s likely plagiarism and/or copyright infringement. And it can get you in a lot of trouble.

            But consult your contract on whether you can re-use the material. But in general, pieces on low-paid mill sites aren’t something you’d want to try to recirculate anyway. Better to just move on and pitch better markets and write fresh articles for them, that build your reputation and your portfolio.

          • Alexis on

            Ah, I see, I didn’t mean using an exact copy of an article previously written- more like, writing another article on the same idea. “You’re always free to resell another article on the same topic — they won’t own the ideas or topics or headlines.” Thanks for the insights.

        • Carol Tice on

          May, most work for businesses is work for hire where they’ll retain the rights. That shouldn’t be your worry here — the worry is you’re working for a pittance AND creating useless SEO junk articles that won’t do anything for your portfolio.

          Reselling articles is something of diminishing value anyway due to Google. Duplicate content is penalized so there’s less of that opportunity all the time. But the upside is that means more sites need more unique content written!

          You’re always free to resell another article on the same topic — they won’t own the ideas or topics or headlines.

  50. Alexis on

    Hey Carol!

    Here’s my question: I’ve got an interview with a guy “looking for motivated writers to write and place stories on a wide range of topics surrounding [subject] which aim to direct readers to [business] web site and [business]” I’m not sure what exactly the are looking for, but I know that I’m going to suggest they get a blog on their website and offer to write their blogs for them.

    I am relatively new at freelance writing but I have a lot of training in their topic. How much should I charge for managing their blog? And, what if they ask me to try to write articles promoting their business on other websites (re: place stores) Is that worth it?

    Thanks for this great thread!

    • Carol Tice on

      Alexis, there are a lot of moving parts to this. I’d probably have to know more to know what to tell you.

      My first question is what is the reputation of this company? I’d research and find out whether they have revenue, have been in business long, what other writers say about them, etc. The company size and revenue would give you an inkling of what you might be able to charge. Tiny startups might want this for $50 an article. A successful corporation might pay $1000. Rates are all over the place.

      My experience is that trying to talk a business into starting a blog is a losing game. If they don’t blog, they don’t get it, and even if they decided to do it, it would be too long of a ramp to where you’d be writing it by the time they name it, design it, install it, etc. And in any case, that doesn’t seem to be the strategy they are pursuing here. They want placed articles.

      And they’re looking for “motivated” writers because it’s going to take a lot of drive to accomplish what they want.

      When businesses say they are looking for writers to write and PLACE stories…this is half writing, half PR job. They’re usually looking for someone with relationships at publications or big websites, or a big rolodex of editor contacts from their own writing, where you would be willing to exploit that on behalf of the company to get articles you write about them published on Gizmodo or Technorati or Copyblogger or in Entrepreneur magazine or wherever.

      Often, the companies don’t understand journalism ethics and are actually hoping you’ll do something unethical, like pretend you’ve discovered this “great” business story…about them. Without disclosing that they are paying you. This kind of shady conflict of interest situation can end your editorial career once editors get wind of it. And companies are increasingly interested in finding ignorant writers who’ll do it. I know because I get asked to do it on a regular basis.

      Using your contacts as a writer to try to help a client muddies your intentions and your own brand and the relationships you’ve built. I would ask careful questions to make sure you know exactly what they expect you to do.

      I once had a job like this, where I had to pitch other blogs and try to place guest posts (it was all aboveboard though, where I was clearly working for the client). It was agony, and I ended up quitting because the hourly rate could never make sense. It’s a LOT of work.

      If you do something like this, you have to get paid by the hour or the contact you reach out to and pitch, NOT by results. Because results will be rare. I found I could often make 50 pitches to get one yes, if I was lucky.

      The question of how much to charge for “managing” their blog is another complex topic. Not sure we need to spend a lot of time on it since they don’t really seem to be looking for blogging.

      Some questions: What do you mean by managing? Are you self-editing, finding photos, selecting advertisers and managing their ads, scheduling posts, developing topics, responding to comments, promoting in social media? Do the posts require interviews? Are they long posts or short? Will you be managing a writing staff? Needing to guest post on other blogs with links back to their site? If it’s the latter, I can tell you that is harder and harder to pull off — I know because people propose that to me daily for this blog and I always say no.

      Many blogging gigs are just the writing. My old rule of thumb on that was $500 for 4 posts a month was my minimum. Others may be a comprehensive package of blog topic development, writing, and social-media marketing. The big-package types of assignments often go to agencies.

      I hope this helps…as I say, many unanswered questions. I’d love if it you’d circle back and let us know what you learned about the company and what they wanted, and how the interview panned out.

      • Alexis on

        Hey Carol,

        Finally circling back to this post and hoping that for any future scanners my experience can offer some help.

        After a meeting in which the interviewer went over some really basic concepts like where popular articles are located and why their company wants to be mentioned in popular articles in popular magazines (duh), we discussed rates. I said that I was interested in an hourly rate and he said for me to go ahead and send them some material along with a rate that I felt comfortable with.

        Then, he mentioned another woman he had interviewed who had requested $40/hr “I told her if she could find someone to pay her that, then she should take it.” is what he said. I shot low and said $22/hr and sent relevant materials and was more than qualified for this type of writing as it was directly in my field of study.

        Anyway, he sent me an email about a week later saying, “Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you, we’ve been having some funding issues. But, we want to try you out…I forget the rate we discussed so, how about $12/hr”

        Needless to say, I declined. This is a reputable company with a celebrity clientele (like Jim Carrey and Oprah) yet they highly underpay their staff and looks like they feel the same way about contractors as well.

        Thanks for the help and guidance, Carol. Without this resource, I’m sure I would have doubted my ability and worth and took the bait.

  51. Georgia on

    Dear Carol,

    I want to do interviews. For example, interview experts on pet care, who and how do I query. I also have no experience with interviewing, but I do have 2 blogs. and

    Where do I begin? Do I need the expert first? How much do I charge?

    Thanks for your time and am looking forward to your reply.


    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Georgia —

      There’s no magical way to get interview experience, except to start interviewing people. Practice on a friend if you’re nervous about it. I have done a post with interview tips here: 7 Stress-Busting Interview Secrets.

      Interviews are a conversation — you know how to have one, I’ll assume. Listen to Terry Gross on Fresh Air — she’s considered the master. Be an endless student of the art of the interview — I am. We can always do it better.

      I’m not sure I understand your question “Do I need the expert first?” Before what — the real people types in the story, before getting an assignment?

      As a new writer, it’s often helpful to do a quick mini-interview so you can quote an expert in your query letter.

      As far as where to begin…with a subject you know well, so you know what questions to ask. Since you have blogs you can practice by interviewing people for your blog.

      On the “How much do I charge?” question, again confused — you don’t charge sources for interviews.

      If you mean how much do articles with interviews in them pay, that varies widely. And usually with publications, it’s not a question of you deciding how much to charge — the publication will tell you what their pay rate is.

      Let me know if I can answer anything else on this!

  52. Stuart Oakley on

    Hi Carol. I have my first client proposal to prepare for a really good project that involves the creation of three new websites including content development, brochure writing, video development, logo development, strategic marketing and communications plan development and execution including media relations.

    Do you have tips on developing good proposals and how to provide realistic hours for billing at say $30 an hour? I’m excited about this opportunity.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Stuart, you don’t want to bill at say $30 an hour, or you won’t make a living at this. You’ll want to read this: The Deadly Math Mistake That Will Make Your Freelance Business Fail.

      As a new writer, it’s always very hard to estimate hours. Think per-project billing, since you may be slow as a new writer and the client shouldn’t be penalized. The most important thing is to get some work, not worry about your hourly rate at this early stage.

      The Writer’s Market has a ‘what to charge’ section at the front of the book, you can ask around your writer’s network, ask the client what their budget is, or read Laurie Lewis’s book What to Charge. Hopefully that gets you started!

      Things like logo development and creating a marketing plan should pay at a very high rate — conceptual work isn’t like hourly writing work, as the company may leverage so much business off that and can use that logo a long time. Off the top of my head this smells like the kind of thing an agency would charge $20,000 or more for, just FYI, depending on how much media relations and execution you’re talking about…so as a solo probably at least $10,000 of work. Creating videos is another area I’m given to understand should pay very well.

      On the proposal side, Bidsketch makes proposals look cool I gather, and think they may have some resources that could help you with that.

      Really hard to give you precise guidance without knowing a lot more about the project — when it’s due, type and age of company, whether company is profitable, venture funded, etc.

  53. Sofia on

    I am apprehensive about using my real name and picture for building my platform.

    How should I approach my pen name and it’s platform? Should it be my only platform, or just a portion?

    Thanks in advance. Your advice and suggestions are always appreciated.

    • Carol Tice on

      Sofia — what’s your worry? Why the apprehension about being who you are and showing us what you look like?

      Here’s the problem: The Internet is all about being authentic and real. If you’re not, people think you’re a scam. (Even if you are totally who you are, some people will still think you’re a scam.)

      Consider just writing as yourself. If you write any nonfiction, you can’t write under a pseudonym — it’s only possible for fiction, by the way.

      If you must use a pseudonym perhaps for personal safety reasons, or because you want to write porn or something, you’ll have to think about how to be real with people from behind that fake name.

      I don’t really understand your question about it being only part of your platform…if you have another part with your real name and picture, what’s the point of having the fake one?

      I’d recommend checking out Storyfix and Writer Unboxed, as sites that deal more with fiction — they probably have more writers grappling with this and how to build their audience online in a trustworthy way.

      • Sofia on

        HI Carol,

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. I am quite impressed and it makes me feel great that you actually respond to your comments! You have given me a lot to think about, I’m not sure if I am truly apprehensive or just plain insecure.
        I will check out the suggested sites. Thank you so much.

        And in regards to your “scam” link. I have actually read it before you sent me the link, I have been following your sites for awhile. I just want your other readers to know that I credit you with receiving my very first paid writing assignment! I have followed your suggestions and tips, and I am proof, as are you, that there is great money to be made for writers willing to commit time and effort.

        Thanks again and take care! Can’t wait for membership to open up at !!!!

        Sofia 🙂

  54. Todd Davenport on

    I just had a question. I have an idea for an ebook, but I want to make sure I do not plagiarize it. My question is do I just add a page to the back of the book to list me resources? Thanks for any help.

    • Carol Tice on

      Todd, listing where you ripped things off from doesn’t get you off the hook.

      You can only use about one paragraph from somewhere else without seeking and obtaining permission from the original author. Otherwise, it’s plagiarism.

      Consider writing an original ebook instead of one cobbled together from other people’s writing. Or use works where copyright has expired — I know people who’re making a nice living recycling public-domain information. I wouldn’t be caught dead doing that, but I know you can without legal repercussions.

  55. Nichole on

    Hi Carol,
    Can you please put the topic of what to put/how to do your business cards if you are a newer freelancer in your mailbag? Thanks.


    • Carol Tice on

      Nichole, I can answer it right now, this is the FAQs post right here!

      Just put something simple like “Nichole X, freelance writer.” Put your email and phone and a link to your writer website.

      If you don’t have one of those, you need to get one as soon as possible. Use your LinkedIn profile in the meanwhile — you can add links to clips on there. Or join NAIWE for $99 for the free website — see my Products I Love page for that and other options for getting up a quick site.

      Get cards free from VistaPrint — they’re great! Then, as your career takes off and things change — you get a new site URL or email, you become more active in social media, you decide to specialize in healthcare writing, or whatever — you can just get new cards. I’m on my 3rd or 4th set since starting my current freelance stint in 2005…and I STILL don’t have my Twitter handle on mine so now I need yet another set!

      The key is — just get some cards. Don’t overthink it. Have SOMETHING to hand out. Improve from there.

  56. Robin Halcomb on

    Hi, Carol,

    Just started to pitch a magazine editor when it hit me — I have questions!!!

    As a freelancer, what kind of source releases do I need for a given article? Are there other legal issues I should be aware of when writing for magazines?

    Thanks for your great help and advice. Keep up the good work!

    • Carol Tice on

      Robin, the most important thing to know is — don’t make stuff up.

      You don’t ordinarily need your interview subjects to sign a release…the fact that they’re talking to you indicates they’re interested in appearing in the story. If you do case studies for businesses you usually will need subject releases.

      You may also need releases or permissions for photos if you’re asked to provide them.

      The best way to know the answer to these questions is to ask your editor what their policy is…once you have an assignment.

      For a query letter, just write a strong query. It’s sort of an art form…recommend studying up on how to do it. My pal Linda Formichelli has a package of queries that got gigs over on The Renegade Writer if you need samples.

      There are many legal issues involved with doing reported articles, and publications get sued when things go wrong, and your job is to make sure that never happens on your stories.

      I once took an full-day ethics training as a staff reporter! My 4-Week Journalism School course does a week on ethics if you’re interested in a whole bunch more on this topic.

      One more quick tip: Avoid or disclose conflict of interest — writing about a company owned by a relative or that you have a connection to, using friends or former writing clients as sources…that sort of thing.

  57. gregor reti on

    Carol, you do a great educational service to the world! My book “SEX & EgoDeath” comes out this week. I have an agent/publisher, who does biggies such as Tolle, Jack Canfield, Neil Donald Walsh… but says that I have to figure out things by myself. So I take the “Bull by the horns” and start the game 🙂 Question: Do you review “spiritual” books or where else should/can I start within this specialized field? (…my first blog posting :-))

    • Carol Tice on

      I don’t do book reviews, Gregor, sorry.

      As it happens I’ve got a print business book coming out in a couple of months, and I’m in the process of learning a lot about book marketing myself…watch for some posts here coming up on what I’m doing.

      But a quick question — who do you know in the spiritual space? Which big blogs do you read? Who are you connected to on Twitter?

      The one thing I do know is that writing a book and then beginning to make connections is a disaster….you need to be building those relationships right along. Who will blurb your book, is the first question? I saw a hilarious thread on a LinkedIn writer group recently from a new writer who wanted to know how she could get top authors in her space to blurb her book — could her publisher please get them for her?

      Answer: No. If you don’t already personally know them, it’s too late.

      Like I say, much more to come on this topic, so be sure to subscribe here.

      • gregor reti on

        Thank you very much for the courteous reply. Even if it may sound strange, I know that the book will carry itself, due to its controversial and provoking content. I just needed to start somewhere to find some opinion leading sites, which we’ll find inevitably. I am also working on some celebrity endorsement. It will happen and I have a team of fans who support me, but they are also new to this kind of marketing. The campaign will start off with a flood of independent reviews on Amazon. No situation that can’t be “cracked” 🙂 hugs, g.

  58. Ansie on

    Hi Carol,

    I have written a few magazine articles but have not considered myself a freelance writer – yet. I am now taking the plunge and although I have a lot of story ideas, plans for marketing myself, etc the questions I can’t seem to find answers to is about the ‘office management’ of a freelance writer.

    I was wondering if you can do a post or give some advice about that. How do you manage your files on your computer? Do you have a folder for every piece you do? Do you save every draft? Who does your editing/proof reading? Do you keep copies of the published work? Which system do you use for keeping track of your contracts and invoicing? Do you use any good apps for tracking all your different projects?

    Sorry, its a bit of a mouthful – hope you can help.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Ansie —

      It’s not so important how I manage my computer files, but that you develop a system for doing it that works for you.

      I don’t usually save EVERY draft, but have the one I’ve turned in. And I usually keep at least a link to the published work if not a hard copy, for my portfolio — you want to build one, yes?

      I use Freshbooks for invoicing — you can read all about why and how much I love it on that Products I Love tab up top.

      The word apps makes me physically ill — I delete all press release emails I get that have it in the subject line right away — and I don’t have a smartphone. I’m pretty old school/low tech.

      When I have a lot of freelance projects to juggle, I just keep track of the dealines in a Word Doc. I also throw a bunch of notes to myself about when to do what in my email program’s calendar option.

      As I said, not important how I do it…just that you decide how you want to do it and keep yourself organized in a way you like. I know others swear by Evernote.

  59. Tim Allen on

    I recently decided to pursue freelance writing, so I wanted to contact you for some advice on how to get started because I’m starting at square zero. I’ve done research and read many articles about the industry, so I know this isn’t going to be easy. I haven’t finished my degree yet, but I have completed about 86 units. My main experience with writing is academic research papers in my classes. So, my question is, how do I or how should I approach creating some writing samples? I created a blog on WordPress but haven’t posted anything yet. I’m also a bit apprehensive about my skills because I’m sure there are many talented writers out there with more formal training than I. For years, my family, friends, and co-workers have told me my writing is very good, but I was wondering how I could get some feedback from people already in the industry?

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Tim —

      To begin, start studying the types of publications or business websites you imagine yourself writing for. See how their writing style and tone are different from what you create in a school paper.

      Start publishing on your blog and practicing writing in a more conversational way. You’ll be less apprehensive the more you write, and that will give you some quick samples. From there, you might ask a local small publication, organization, or small business if you could do a project for them for free in exchange for referrals and a testimonial if they like your work.

      You can get feedback from a mentor in several ways. Some people pay for mentoring from a pro, or join a writer’s organization where they can get feedback from peers. (We have an ‘article review’ forum on Freelance Writers Den where you can post work for critique from the membership.)

      Or you can pitch a small paper or alternative paper and see if you could write for them. If you can get in the door, ask the editor all the questions you can.

      I used to take my article draft and a copy of the paper and sit down with my editor and ask them about every change they’d made, why it was there, and why it was better than what I wrote. Learned a TON that way, and it was free.

      Hope this helps!

  60. D.D. James on

    Thanks Carol for this opportunity.

    I have a journalism degree from the University of Florida.
    I have seven years experience as a writer for two major newspapers and two years as a copy editor/proofreader/page designer.
    I left journalism five years ago for graduate school, and I’m now a licensed mental health therapist. I’m motivated to find another stream of income as I build a private practice.
    Writing a daily personal blog does not interest me.
    For years I’ve wanted to write freelance but the low pay of the content mills turned me off.
    Your site is the first I’ve seen that recommends targeting companies.
    I don’t have a web site but I can compile a writing portfolio.
    What is the best approach to get started pitching my services?

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi DD —

      Well, as you may have guessed, you’re going to need a writer website where prospects can come read your work.

      You need to decide on an area of focus — sounds like mental health issues might be a good one for you!

      Writing a daily personal blog doesn’t help much…writing a niche topic blog focused on serving an audience might. And you don’t have to post on it daily, either, to provide a sample for prospective blogging clients.

      Start building a list of prospective companies in your industry — maybe ones that provide products or services to your industry? Or look at professional association magazines for therapists such as yourself?

      The best approach to pitch those depends on you, and on the type of prospects you decide on. I always say the best sort of marketing is the kind you’re willing to do.

      Hopefully you’ve subscribed here — if so the Marketing 101 series should give you a lot of tips on possible marketing approaches that might fit your situation.

  61. Dan on

    Do you think there is a language learning / linguistics niche for freelance writers?
    I see lots of tech, health, business writers so I wonder if that niche is a viable and profitable one.


    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Dan — here’s the thing: I’ve never written for that niche, and don’t know any writers in that niche.

      So the short answer is “I don’t know.”

      And the real question isn’t whether that’s a viable, profitable niche, but whether it could be that FOR YOU. You could always be that one exception. Which might depend on your ability to market yourself, and your willingness to target the publications and businesses within that niche that might have good money to spend for writing.

      Also depends on how broadly you define that niche. I’m sure all the language-course companies write marketing copy…there must be some opportunity. The question is whether you have the drive and talent and qualifications to get those gigs.

    • Carol Tice on

      Lorraine, I don’t see how anyone would edit on Skype — it’s an audio/visual medium. What would you be editing? And no, I haven’t heard of anyone doing it…and I know a lotta writers, at this point.

      Or do you mean marketing themselves as an editor, and using Skype as your marketing tool? I think that would be hard, since you have to get permission from people or they don’t take your Skype call.

      Take a look through the Marketing 101 series and you’ll learn well more than a dozen ways to market your writing or editing services that are proven to work. No need to experiment with weird stuff — there are some reliable ways to do marketing, and I recommend sticking with those.

  62. Karen on

    Hi, Carol! Thanks for this post and everything. Here goes: As a result of a generalized query to a trade pub, I’ve been asked to cover a 3-day conference in Seattle and write something up about it. I didn’t query re the conference; but they thought of me b/c they’re all busy. The trade pub pays on the low end of the scale. Since I don’t live in Seattle, I’ll have to drive back and forth (hour or so); but pub will get me a press pass. I haven’t actually written anything for this pub yet. While I’m looking forward to covering, how do I get my time compensated in the mix? Thanks! Karen

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Karen — great question!

      I recently paid to go to NMX in Las Vegas on my own dime (wanted to learn more for my own blog!), but managed to make back much of my costs in freelance pieces.

      The trick is — sell what you learn at the show to more than one market. Yes, you have one assignment and someone got you in free with a press pass (a better deal than I had at NMX). That doesn’t mean you can only write for them.

      Start calling other markets that might want coverage out of that show and see who else you can line up. Then, report on different keynotes or panels or networking events for the different markets. I’d run that by the trade that sent you, just to be sure they don’t want to expand their own coverage from you beyond one piece. Probably don’t write for directly competing publications, but there are so many ways to use convention info — a local paper, a regional magazine, an industry trade, a national consumer pub all have different audiences.

      I ended up writing 5 different posts out of NMX, 3 for Freelance Switch, 1 for Forbes, and 1 for my own blog…and who knows I may still unpack more stuff from there!

      • Karen on

        Thanks, Carol. They want me to represent them. I’m not sure what that means; but it’s sure to be a win-win. My concern is if they only want to pay me, for instance, $200 for the piece . If I’m going to have to be there 2-3 days that’s a large commitment (and they’re not paying for one of their staff to fly there, stay there, etc.), so how do I get this battened down tactfully? Should I propose a series of articles now?

        • Carol Tice on

          Like I said…leverage it for more assignments, either from the folks who sent you, or other publications. And yes, definitely propose articles now. Look at the presenter schedule and give them a list of topics you could write on — and let them know you’ll be selling elsewhere topics they turn down.

          OR…let them know you can cover one day for a single, $200 article. Which day would they most like you to be there? 😉

          • Karen on

            Carol: Thanks again; the 1-day coverage a realistic compromise. But, Eeeek! Contract is a work-for-hire/all rights; press pass doesn’t cover food. Food for conf. is $180!! Pub feels that getting the press pass (parking will cost me extra) is pretty much my payment. Pub pays .30/word and basically wants 1 article on conference (hard to pitch others now as no speaker info yet ).Now, my specific ? is this: do all trade journals do work-for-hire contracts? I’ve never been asked to sign one; maybe if they were paying $5/word and paying for parking, food. Thoughts?

          • Carol Tice on

            Karen, with trades you’d rarely get an article you could resell anyway. With conference coverage it’s timely…by the time you tried to resell it the news is over.

            I don’t buy that food amount. Most conferences will have a food stand you can buy off on the cheap – you don’t have to buy banquet tickets to every meal.And remember, you’re scaling it back to 1 day of attendance, yes?

            Obviously, this doesn’t pencil out for the 1 article. You’ve got to concentrate on lining up other assignments from other markets BEFORE you attned, as I described above. If you need the experience covering conferences, this may be a low-cost education for you. If you can’t get any other work off it, maybe you want to pass.

            But I’ve never gone to a conference and found it a bad time investment. Think of all the sources you’ll meet. I even know 1 writer who used the trade show to pitch her writing services to all the booth vendors, and got a lot of work that way. So many angles you can work once you’re there.

  63. Tiiu Garrett on

    Hi Carol, thanks for this opportunity. I’ve had some small success with writing, mostly copywriting contests and an alternative health campaign.

    I would like to concentrate my efforts in writing newsletters for small businesses and practices – the local vet, my dentist, etc. as I enjoy that type of writing.

    The actual content might include one part about the business owner, one part good information to the reader about the subject matter, and another about some special that might be going on that month.

    What would you suggest as a fee to charge for both a one-page and a two-page electronic newsletter? Would you charge separately if the client wants me to ‘load’ the piece into the email program (such as Aweber) and maintain their list? And finally, do you think this might be a feasible way to eventually make a living doing this?

    Thanks for your input and I hope you open up the Den soon so I can check out the social media bootcamp I heard you mention in another reply.

  64. Kay Hall on

    Hi, Carol-

    Does a name impact the sucess of geting clients? On social sites I’m known as Kay and I state I’m an freelance writer, but it’s not offifcal yet; no clients or website or blog. I hope to have a blog soon though. My name is spelt differently than what I go by. It’s spelt Rabbine but I go by Robin and I feel that may confuse future clients. My fear is it’s not easy to remember so they’ll forget, foget how to spell it, unable to pronounce it, ect ect. If I am ever successful, which I hope to be sooner than later, I want to use the name Kay on another project once I earn enough income; indepedent singer.

    • Carol Tice on

      I don’t know that Rabbine is that hard to remember or spell…but many writers do write under a pen name. Just decide which way you’re going and then stick with it, I say.

  65. Melina Moraga on

    Hi, Carol-

    This is an issue I’m currently grappling with:

    I am building my writer website on WordPress. I plan to also have a blog, whose primary function will be to establish my credibility and expertise in my chosen niche(s).

    I’ve been researching freelance writing vets’ websites for months, and I haven’t found a single one whose blog is on their writer website. Is there a reason for keeping them separate? Would it be bad to have a “one-stop-shop”, in which potential clients can see my clips, blog(s), etc?

    To clarify, my plan was to have a static home page, a portfolio page, and at least one (probably more like three) blog page(s). Just wondering why I haven’t seen it done before, and what the reasoning against it might be…

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Melina –

      I’ve reviewed 100s of writer websites at this point, and quite a few of them DO have the blog right on it. If you have that setup, just put the blog under a tab and make sure your Home page is a sales page that talks about how you solve clients’ problems.

      Stick to one blog…hard enough keeping one of ’em going, take it from me.

      This-here blog you’re reading now began on my own writer site, As it grew and seemed to take on a life of its, own, I came to the conclusion I wanted to move it so it could sell products and services without creating a confusing message for prospects thinking of hiring me to freelance.

  66. Karen J on

    Wow, Carol, this is going to need several Hours to dig through! Sorry I missed getting in at the beginning.

    Here’s my nagging question:

    In reading-around the web (blogs, articles, sales pages, etc.) I notice that, in spite of the difficulty of conveying emphasis and/or ‘tone of voice’ on the page, very few people seem to make use of the few typography tools that ARE available: bold, italics, underline and CAPS, or even commas, quotes and *s, and never ever in combination!

    Some adventurous bloggers use less than run-of-the-mill fonts for sub-heads, but not in their body copy.

    Did I miss a Prime Directive-level “Thou Shalt Not” somewhere?

    Thanks for the clue-in!

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Karen —

      Good bloggers don’t use a lot of underline, italics, etc, because they’re a writer’s crutch. They’re a crude — some would say lazy — way of showing emphasis or conveying tone.

      In good writing, you create the emphasis in the way you word a sentence, and the descriptors you add. You see a lot of underlining and bolding in the classics of literature? No. Good writers don’t need it.

      Ever read a blog with a lot of CAPS for EMPHASIS? Didn’t you get SICK of it? Caps are considering shouting online…so we do try to avoid that.

      As far as commas, I use them plenty.

      We don’t use crazy (or hopefully, also not tiny) fonts in body copy because it makes posts hard to read.

      Quotes you don’t see a lot because many bloggers are lazy and don’t get out and talk to live humans they could quote. I quote emails my readers send me all the time…search on the tag ‘mailbag’ ( to see a whole bunch of them.

      I don’t know what *s are! Probably why I don’t use them.

  67. Nicole Graham on

    Hi Carol!

    Thanks for the invite to this page. I am completely new to freelancing and I am looking to make a real living at it. I have been reading up quite a bit and realize it is going to take marketing and time. Luckily, I have time. I have a full time job currently and am looking to transition out of it. I’m willing to transition out of it slowly (and know that is probably how it will go).

    I am currently a student as well and am nearly done with a BA in creative writing. I have interned for an online news blog and have written for USA Today- their education division called USA Today Educate (here is the article… in case you are interested

    Ok enough with the background. My question is this: Do I just pick one of my interests, research local magazines/venues, and jump in? Is my internship and USA Today article enough to start out with or should I still do some free projects to boost my portfolio?

    I am on the waiting list for the Den already and am really concerned with the query letter and writing a good one. Any other resources you can suggest for query letters?

    • Carol Tice on

      Sure Nicole — be sure to check out my teaching partner Linda Formichell’s Renegade Writer blog and grab her packet of successful query letters…great place to start learning about queries.

      To your other question — why not try pitching and see if you can get paying gigs at this point?

      If that doesn’t work, then maybe line up a few more free samples to boost your portfolio. But you may be surprised how many markets — especially smaller or regional pubs — might take you on at this point. Pay won’t be great, but at least you could get paid a bit while you build your portfolio instead of having to work totally for free.

  68. Chris Pence on

    I’d love to be a writer, as I’ve been writing all my life. I like to write research and non-fiction essays, as well as novels, stories, poems, and whatever else comes to mind to write. I need mostly how to learn to turn this writing hobby into a meaningful career. I would be glad to work as a reporter for a newspaper, or something to that effect, but I want to write on my own also, possibly becoming a historian or fiction writer. How do I go about doing this?

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Chris —

      Essays, novels, stories and poems are all challenging to earn a regular living from. There are some good-paying essay markets, but they’re very competitive. Research reports can be lucrative….in business writing, white papers are fairly similar to that.

      It’s difficult to get a reporter job without a journalism degree these days, and those jobs are disappearing fast as far as full-time gigs. It’s easier to break in as a freelancer and get occasional assignments…but daily paper pay also isn’t fantastic these days.

      The key to achieving your writing dream is to find a type of nonfiction writing you enjoy that pays well, which would support you and give you the time to write your short stories, poems and novels. Get a copy of The Writer’s Market (read about my experience with this great resource on my Useful Books page) and start looking at what publications pay well that you might have topic knowledge on.

      Also investigate copywriting…writing for business is the most reliable way to earn. And opportunity there is exploding and varied — more businesses are hiring paid bloggers, for instance.

      You’ll need to learn about all the earning opportunities out there, and probably get some training in those specific areas. You can check out my writer’s community for another resource for trainings. Best of luck with it!

  69. Shaks on

    Hi Carol,

    You let me know in email to post my question here for everyone so, here I am ! Hi! And Happy New Year, first off! 🙂

    I recently read your post about how much a blogger can charge. I’m just starting off in the blogging world and I was just wondering what was the reasoning behind your $100 per post rate? Is it just that it’s not worthwhile to do it for less? Or is it that you have so much experience? Or does it go along with the number of words per post? I would love to hear back as I am trying to decide on a base rate, at least, that I will not go below (unless under certain circumstances). I’ve got copy-writing and content writing experience but not so much on the blogging unless we count my personal blogs.

    I hope that’s a good question and I didn’t waste my opportunity here. haha. I really enjoy this blog. You have so much useful information and I love reading other people’s questions and experiences as well because it really provides so much added value. I’m just sitting here taking notes! Great site!


    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Shakeitta — nice to see you here!

      $100 a post is a bottom rate for me, usually. Most of my small business contracts were at about $125 per post, and I’ve gotten $300 a post as well.

      I tell new writers not to take less than $50 under any circumstances.

      And this all assumes short posts — definitely under 500 words — that you are writing with a little research online or off the top of your head. If interviews are involved they should pay more — rates should be more like article rates. I try to pitch clients on the idea that posts should be 300 words, as well.

      And yes, it just won’t pencil out on an hourly-rate basis otherwise. It’ll take 60-90 minutes at least to research and write a post, so below $50 you aren’t remotely making a wage that will sustain your business.

      I got $100 a post on one of the first blogging gigs I ever took, so I don’t think that reflects blogging experience, just writing ability.

      Hope that helps! Glad you’re finding this post useful.

      • Shaks on

        Thank you for the reply, Carol!

        No less than $50 sounds good to me. I was previously thinking I wouldn’t go below $45, so that’s even better.

        You said, “it won’t pencil out on an hourly rate otherwise.” Can you explain what you mean by that a little more? I just want to make sure I’m ascertaining the way it works out correctly.

        Ok, so you got $100 per post for one of your first blog gigs, what I’d like to understand is how you personally arrived at that number, say instead of $50, which is the number you encourage for new writers? What factors did you take into consideration, outside of those mentioned in the post I referenced(post length, interviews, marketing, research)?

        • Carol Tice on

          Well…a lot of places want to pay $20…and I find when you establish a benchmark of $50, you immediately have to start looking for better quality clients. It gets you out of the mill arena, which is what you want.

          $100 happens to be what I was offered by the first big blogging client I got. I found that was a viable number, that compared with article writing I did that was more complex and took longer, but paid better, I could earn a similar hourly rate for blogging at that pay.

          As a freelancer, you need to make a high hourly rate, as not all hours will be billable and you must pay many of your own expenses that an employer paid when you had a job. I aim to make $100 an hour, and teach writers to aim for that as well.

          Starting out, at least $50 an hour is a target to shoot for. Does that make sense? Any freelance gig you take, you should calculate what hourly rate you will be able to earn. If your hourly rate is too low, you will go broke and have to go get a job…as many writers of $10 and $20 blog posts have discovered.

          • matt on

            I was wondering if you knew of any other sites similar to AMT that I could earn some steady money while continuing to research, develop a website and learn how to earn more. I wrote solid article for the dollar stretcher but they said they could not use it. I thought it was excellent personally. Are sites like that very hit or miss when sending in articles? Like you have to write 10 articles to get 1 approved sometimes? If that is the case, it seems that sites like AMT might be more worth it. I am very new to this (3 weeks) so I am just giving my immediate observations. Thanks for the time, hope you are well.

          • Carol Tice on

            Matt, there are tons of content mills around…and I’ll have a post coming up in a few weeks where writers for each talk about their rates and conditions, so stay tuned for that!

            I’ve heard many stories about random rejections from all the content mills. I don’t know the rules for resubmitting. Sometimes it’s more productive, I think, to simply move on to another platform.

            I’ve never written for a content mill and advise writers to stay away from them and find their own clients…but if that’s where you want to be, I’ll have a useful post for you soon.

          • Carol Tice on

            Well, so far it doesn’t sound like that’s working out so well! The fact that a site as lowball as Amazon Mechanical Turk would reject you makes me wonder if taking an English writing class might be a good investment…maybe your language skills aren’t quite there yet.

  70. Will on

    Hi Carol,

    I’ve been curious about your switch from songwriting to the freelance writing that you do today.

    That’s my background, as well. I still write songs, but for years I’ve written commercial music for advertising – jingles and such – to pay the bills. I’ve also written ad copy, some music and artist reviews and related stuff, but I’ve always had the music aspect as part of what I do to express myself.

    Partly, I wonder if taking time and energy to write and market things other than music channels the creative flow in that new direction and leaves one less energy when it comes to other creative endeavors.

    I guess I’m wondering if you’ve wandered down this avenue of thought and, if so, what you might have found.

    Thanks. 🙂

    • Carol Tice on

      You know, I did them sequentially, Will, songwriting and then writing prose, so I didn’t confront this particular set of choices.

      But my general experience writing both copy and articles for magazines is that I’ve found having more than one form of creativity going on a stimulating thing that enriches all parts of what I do. I’ve heard from many others — novelists who write copy and so on — that they feel the same.

      Obviously we all only have so many hours in the day…but I know plenty of people who do screenplays and ad copy, and so on.

  71. Perdita on


    Your blog is extremely useful and inspiring! I’m hopeful the Den will open again soon because I’m excited to join a virtual support group of writers.

    My question concerns building a simple, yet effective website. Can you recommend two or three free or budget-friendly ways to create a writer’s website and suggest the components that make a good website? I know that freelance writers really need a web presence, but I’m thinking too hard about how to get it started. Can you share the steps to creating a website? I’m getting lost in too many details (mostly researching hosting opportunites, and the reviews vary so much it’s hard to determine which is best) and not doing enough writing. Ideally, how quickly should I be able to build the site and how much time should I spend on maintenance (doing all this myself, not hiring someone just yet)? Is it okay to continue to try and build a client-base while developing the site?

    Thanks so much!

    • Carol Tice on

      Perdita — I do have a couple of solutions I recommend, which you can see on my Products I Love page. I’m not a fan of freebie, Weebly, type places because of their limitations for making it look pro. The fact is, if you’re planning to build a business as a writer, you need to invest a bit in a pro-looking basic site.

      There are pretty affordable solutions — check out that page for what I like.

      I believe that if you’re boggled by learning WordPress and choosing options, you need a quick solution for NOW…and my choices serve that need. You can always make a more pro site later.

  72. Jessica on

    Hi Carol,

    I’m a freelance writer/editor/web content manager and I’ve been asked to handle social media and session recaps during a major industry tradeshow. I’ve never charged for this yet (only been a full-time freelancer since May) and of course, I don’t want to shortchange myself. What do you think would be appropriate? I’m leaning toward a daily fee, but would it make more sense to break up the fees (ie, an hourly fee for the tweeting, and a per-piece fee for recaps/write-ups)?

    Here’s the general assignment:

    “For the basics, we’re looking for someone to handle doing social media/tweets consisting of:

    –Synopsis of the day. – Highlights each day – to be sent to sponsoring company’s clients/prospects post show.

    –Tweets of major announcements or session highlights (no minimums)

    Also, handling some prepared content from client (and probably from us), so we’d need you to be available for a couple of planning/prep calls prior to the show itself.”

    Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Carol Tice on

      I’d definitely want to come up with a daily, package rate for doing it all. You don’t want to get into nickel and diming for each element of the project, or encourage them to drop parts of it and make the project smaller, which is what that breakout might do. Be sure to include billing hourly for the estimated meeting time (in your package, not telling the client).

      The bad news is pay for things like tweets is often notoriously low, so don’t be surprised if you want to pass on the whole thing, or if they balk if you give them a bid based on a professional hourly wage.

      But keep in mind that they’re asking you to spend all day at a trade show, from the sound of it — so you should be billing an 8 hour day, each day they want you to do that — and hopefully covering all your expenses as well, meals, fees, etc. If they aren’t covered, estimate and add those to your bid as well.

      • Jessica on

        Thanks, Carol! So the somewhat complicating factor in this instance (that I probably should have mentioned originally) is that I’m attending this tradeshow on behalf of two sister magazines. Before I was even approached for the assignment I mentioned above, I was already registered to attend. As such, I’m comfortable leaving out expenses for certain things such as meals (which will be handled separately). I agree that establishing a daily rate will be the best way to go. Do you have any numbers in mind? I’ve essentially agreed to take the assignment – we just haven’t agreed on the fees yet (which may not be smart, but I have a good history with this magazine and expect to work with them again in the future).

        • Carol Tice on

          Yeah….that isn’t real great.

          I don’t do social media for folks as a separate item, because I find they never want to pay much.

          If you’ve already got assignments you’re getting out of the show and the mags are covering your expenses, just figure your hours and quote your hourly rate. I can’t give you a number because I don’t know what rate you need to earn to feel comfortable and pay your bills. Hopefully you’ve figured out what that rate is.

          Or maybe you view this as an add on and for $100 extra a day you’re willing to take a couple hours to do this extra stuff…it’s your call.

  73. Heather B. on

    I’m looking into taking the plunge into full-time freelance writing. Currently, I’m researching potential markets. You seem like a good person to ask for directions.

    I’m interested in writing about tech, particle physics, brain science, local science events, and basically anything non-medical but scientific that I have to stay up-to-date on.

    I’m looking into traditional and online publishers, making money blogging, technical writing, and e-books. Are there other potential writing markets I’m overlooking?

    Heather B.

    • Cheryl on

      There are many technology based websites that are looking for moderators, or posters to share your experience or background in a specific field. I am uncertain if you have just an interest or is your background technology based. Is your interest in personal technology and devices or technology that benefits corporate business, I think you have to figure out what your focus is first, then determine how to get to it.

      • Heather B. on

        I’m a former science teacher. I specifically chose to teach in rural districts in order to teach a variety of subjects. This means that I have a broad foundation in the sciences. I’m extremely adaptable because I immerse myself in new knowledge.

        I would want to focus on cutting-edge technology. Primarily, I’d be interested in helping people understand new technology. This information might help them decide whether or not to invest in it.

        As a science writer, I would not be willing to write “marketing materials” unless I believed in the product myself. I would have to get information from a variety of sources and verify the information in some way.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Heather —

      I think there are plenty more opportunities out there to earn money, and your interest/knowledge in the sciences gives you a great specialty and competitive edge.

      Science museums and organizations spring to mind — they’ve got newsletters and annual reports, appeal letters and other marketing to write. Maybe even a blog, if they’re hip.

      Also, writing for science and scientific research colleges and university departments. One of my biggest early mentors ended up writing for USC’s scientific researchers, and found it fun & fascinating. And a writer friend for a time was doing PR writing for one of the supercolliders — science-dork heaven!

      On that side, of course, there’s also textbook and text supplement writing, too — John Soares at Productive Writers is the expert there.

      You could scan tech startup funding news for science-related companies creating products that need marketing, too.

      And don’t forget government organizations that touch on science, from NASA on. And nonprofits such as Paul Allen’s brain research institute here in Seattle.

      Anywhere an organization needs science explained in plain English to the public, there’s a need for you.

      • Heather B. on

        That certainly opens up the field for me! I’ve been thinking about textbooks & publishing, especially since I developed curricular materials like a fiend as a teacher. Labs, worksheets, lectures, and matrices for projects: I love developing them all! I also enjoyed picking textbooks. You could really tell which ones had been worked over to fit the common measurements and which had been written by people who love to communicate well about science.

        I’ve been reading a lot of others’ writing. Occasionally, I’ll get a little bit jealous of a writer for being able to write so eloquently about a particular subject. I’ve decided it’s a good idea to bookmark those articles. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’m most often envious of public information officers for universities. This area is definitely something to look into, though I’m not sure how often universities will need freelancers.

        • Carol Tice on

          Oh, you’d be surprised, Heather — most colleges I know do use freelance writers. Especially these days with all the budget cutbacks in staff, probably more than ever they are turning to freelancers. Probably not in the PIO slot, but there are reports and position papers and press releases galore that someone needs to write up, who loves science and can talk to their professors intelligently.

          I think it’s funny that on the one hand you said you wouldn’t want to write for companies in tech, but at the same time you’d do PR for university researchers. There isn’t a whole lot of difference there in my mind. 🙂 There are some amazing companies creating great new products — I think of ones focused on lifesaving technology for the third world especially — that you might be able to get behind. And they all need marketing materials.

  74. Joe Cassandra on

    Thanks for referring me to this post Carol! I plan on dipping into freelancing in the next year (part of 2013 goals!, I’ll keep you updated on that and be reading your freelancing goods)

    Right now, I’m focusing on one thing at a time and building an audience first, I love community.

    You’ve mentioned before that guest posting on sites & other mediums aren’t as effective as they used to be.

    So should I be saving my best stuff just for my site and focus on just marketing in other ways? Maybe freelancing could be the marketing I need.

    In a nutshell, should I concentrate so much effort on trying to land a guest post, or focus marketing in other areas? Thanks Carol!

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Joe —

      It’s true that guest posting isn’t quite the hot ticket it was when Leo Babauta started Zen Habits, but it’s still one of the fastest routes to getting new readers to your blog.

      The only thing better is getting a top blogger to mention, interview you, or otherwise link to you in a favorable way inside a post — but that’s harder to pull off.

      What I said was it takes some experimentation guest posting to see WHERE to post that gets you the best traffic and converts the best into subscribers to your own blog. Definitely keep at it until you find what works! Also the blog-storm approach where you have 5 guest posts appearing various places all in the same week still is a great approach.

      Not saying don’t market your blog other ways, but if you’re building a blog-based business, guest posting is probably going to be a big part of that marketing strategy.

      As far as saving your best stuff for your site..if your site has no readers, that’s probably not the best way to go. Make your guest posts really high quality — that way you get asked back, and impress that larger audience and get them over to your blog. When you have a new blog, you don’t need to post on your own blog so much — Derek Halpern, one of my mentors, recommends you do 80% of your writing as guest posts on a new blog, and only 20% posts on your own blog, a formula that I think works well.

  75. Millie on

    After we set up our blog with WordPress, what website would we use to power it?? Can you recommend any that are good, reliable, and not too expensive?! I’m still not clear on this part. Thanks very much.

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Millie —

      Actually I can, Millie — I use KnownHost, which you can read about on my Products I Love page. I know other folks who’re happy with HostGator and BlueHost.

      I’m not sure about regular hosting rates because I’m on a virtual private server, which is more expensive, but my sense is that KnownHost seems affordable relative to a previous popular host I used.

      • anne grant on

        Carol, you mentioned finding on your Products I Love page to me as well, but I wanted to let you know I didn’t see it on there. I figured you would want to supply a link if you are an affiliate.
        The comments and your responses are like reading an ebook….thanks!

          • Cheryl on

            BlueHost is a good hosting site as well because they will let you know when the latest release of WordPress is out via email. They have the ability to use an active script to update your site. I recommend you back it up as well, just because certain plug-ins may break when you upgrade. The recommendation is to disable plug-ins prior to the upgrade then make them active again once you confirm your site is working normally. For all those using WordPress I also recommend the plug-in: akismet for blocking spam posts. It works very well.

  76. Anne Galivan on

    I was going to post about this in the Den (and maybe still will) but, basically, reading your blog has convinced me NOT to pursue magazine writing. Years ago when I wrote for magazines I just sent in an article and it was accepted and I got paid. Like every single time. I didn’t make a lot of money, but then I didn’t do it for very long either…my brother was killed by a drunk driver and family things took priority.

    Nowadays it seems the competition is fierce, and all the interviewing and such you talk about…just too much of a time investment right now.

    I have been running my own website/blog for well over two years now, so I am much more interested in freelance writing for blogs. However, when you mention finding “abandoned” blogs as great places to start, you don’t say how to find those blogs. I don’t see how Googling “abandoned blogs” is going to be very effective or targeted. Can you give more specifics?

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Anne —

      I’m sorry to hear your whole story above there, from your family troubles to the part where magazines you wrote for didn’t pay much. (But yes, the ones that don’t are a lot easier to get into.)

      I think the competition has always been high for the good-paying magazines. But I guess I don’t feel intimidated by that, especially now that I spend a lot of time critiquing query letters, as I can see most writers really don’t have the hang of it.

      If you don’t enjoy “interviewing and such,” definitely magazine writing may not be for you. Personally, I love exploring a topic, talking to experts and other interesting people, and getting paid to learn about something I’m interested in.

      On the blog side, you’re right, googling “abandoned blogs” isn’t going to do anything to locate prospects!

      It’s more about identifying industries you want to write for, finding the companies in that niche that are big enough to have a marketing budget, and looking at their online marketing to discover holes you might fill, whether it’s a never-updated blog or the lack of an About page or team bios or case studies or whatever. I like using the Book of Lists from your nearest American City Business Journal for that (your library may have a copy); I know other writers who seem to be using Manta effectively for prospecting, too.

      • Anne Galivan on

        Thanks for the response. That definitely gives me more of an idea of what to look for.

        I’m also reading “The Well-Fed Writer” as I had seen it recommended various places (maybe even on your site). So far it seems the best step-by-step instruction manual, if you will, for breaking into the “writing biz” apart from writing for magazines or publishing books (though I have definite plans to write at least a book or two eventually).

        I joined the Den because I am trying to limit myself to newsletters and resources I believe will add real value. Due to the holidays and personal and health issues, I haven’t had time to get in there yet to introduce myself and interact, but I look forward to it. You are obviously really intent on helping others achieve their freelance writing goals, and I appreciate that.

        While I have the opportunity, I want to wish you all the best in the new year!

        • Karen J on

          Dear Anne ~

          I’m sorry to hear of your life-issues, too. Blessings to you and your family…
          It sounds like you may not have had a chance to read Peter Bowerman’s “Freelance Commercial Writer” messages in a while. He’s currently in serious need of newsletter submissions *from writers, FOR writers*.

          It’s a great forum for paying it forward and adding to one’s portfolio at the same time!

          • Anne Bodee-Galivan on


            Thank you for the kind thoughts! I know Peter has a website – he mentions it in his book and it sounds like another fabulous resource. I will have a look at that to see what is going on with his newsletters. Thanks for the heads-up!

  77. Patty on

    Thanks so much for your response.

    This project was one of those one-time-only complications (usual dept. director laid off, his boss asked for my help getting pub out on time, he’s someone I’ve known for years, they always pay promptly). No argument on the need for a contract, it just wasn’t done this time.

    Also, he had no idea of word counts. My instructions were: “article A should be about two pages, article B about three pages…” (He was glancing through and old issue at the time.) Anyway, you get the idea.

    While I did the work, they found a new director, but it was at the tail end. I was afraid to ask, afraid that the new guy would think poorly of me. I have experience, just not charging per word. Heck, I wish I’d asked your advice sooner!

    • Carol Tice on

      Well, I hope this helps you to iron it out. Hopefully you can use the editor musical chairs to raise it again and get it nailed down, as in, “I think this fell through the cracks.”

  78. Patty on

    Hi Carole:

    I got a gig writing articles at $1/word. I’ve never done this before–I’ve been copywriting and charge by the product.

    When you charge $1/word, do you charge for what you submitted or what the final ends up being?

    I was never given a specific word count, just specs for what had to be covered in the article. On the second pass, one article went up in word count and another went down.

    I’m stumped!

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Patty —

      First off, you should have an assigned word count, so you know what you’re shooting for! Isn’t it in your contract?

      What, no contract? Let’s start at the beginning and get us one! Then you’ll know WHEN they need to pay you this nice fee. Without payment terms in writing they could pay 5 years from now or never and be within their rights. Hopefully they’ll pay you shortly, but just sayin’. You’re exposed there without payment terms.

      Now, back to the wordcount. Ordinarily, it’ll be one of two ways — either based on the original assigned wordcount (see why you need that?) or based on final count of what they run. I’ve had clients that did it both ways, one where I waited and dinged him a few days later and asked what final count was so I could bill. You’ll find out which is the policy where you’re writing by — yes — asking your editor.

  79. JR Batson on

    I am an IT consultant with over 2 decades in tech support. I have read and in other places that writers that know the technical side of things (and can explain it in plain English) are in high demand. I’m just not sure how exactly to get started. How would I go about finding clients? I’m thinking maybe tech writing, user manuals, white papers, that kind of stuff.

    I really like your site and all that it offers, but I’m just struggling a bit with putting all the pieces together.

    • Carol Tice on

      JR, why not start by letting all the companies you’ve been doing IT consulting for know that you also do technical writing? If they hear of anyone who’s looking for a writer, you’d appreciate their referral.

      Change your business card so it says IT consultant and tech writer. And your email tagline.

      Connect with every marketing manager you’ve previously worked with (LinkedIn works great for this) and let them know you’re looking for more on the writing side — would they refer you?

      We call this the “Low hanging fruit” marketing level — telling everyone who already knows you have knowledge in this area that you’re looking. You may be surprised at how well this works…sometimes it’s all you need to do to line up some clients and get your writing business going.

    • Karen J on

      Hey, JR ~
      As a *consumer* of user manuals, I’d like to egg you on –
      I am ecstatic when I come across documentation or user’s lit that I don’t have to decipher, before I can even start to set up the equipment!

      Good luck to you!

  80. Christy on

    Any ideas on the best resource for free pictures/images to use on blogs without infringing on copyrights? In my blog, I am currently using Microsoft Office free clipart, but there isn’t much variety available. I also use pictures I take myself, but this doesn’t always work when I need a specific picture for one of my posts.

    Thanks for your help and all the amazing resources you offer here!

    • Carol Tice on

      Christy, there are tons of places you can get nice free photos. MorgueFile you don’t even have to attribute them. Many people use Flickr’s Creative Commons, where you DO need to give them a credit link, but it’s free.

      My new fave is PhotoDune, where many images are a big $1 — my Freelance Switch editor turned me onto them. But my philosophy is to pay a bit and get better-quality art…I think it makes your blog stand out. I get a lot of compliments on my layouts.

      • Gina on

        Hi Carol,

        I’m brand new to freelancing and interested in writing for blogs and non profit organizations to get my start. What is the best way to market my services?

        Thanks for your time

        • Carol Tice on

          Hi Gina —

          I really have to apologize! I’ve just discovered this question…it was threaded onto another comment and I missed it.

          The simplest way to begin is to start with what you know…the nonprofits where you already donate or volunteer, the local small businesses you patronize. Check their websites. Could they use a blog? Do they have one but it hasn’t been updated in a year?

          Offer to do a few small projects gratis to create your portfolio. Then you’re ready to pitch anyone, anywhere.

  81. Isaac on

    I’ve always been interested in the copywriting side of things, but I guess my question would be, what would you say is the best way to build “buzz” around an upcoming novel on one’s blog, without coming off as a blatant self-promoter? Michael Hyatt likes to espouse the 10-1 rule on twitter, that is for every 9 “tweets” you’re allowed to make 1 promotional tweet, so as not to turn off your followers. Would the same rule apply to blogging?

    • Carol Tice on

      Don’t know if there’s a rule, every blog is different. Full disclosure: I’m not blogging about fiction.

      But…I try to do nearly zero posts that are purely promotional (the exception being if it’s something I’m giving away free).

      I might mention an offer at the bottom of a highly useful post, but usually that’s it. I might email my list separately about an offer where it’s purely promotional, but rarely.

      Instead, blog about your process, your character development, your highs and lows, post cut scenes, ask questions, give them previews, a free chapter, and generally try to tap into fans of the genre you write in. Write about others in the genre you love, review other books. Just keep the conversation going about your type of fiction, I’d say.

      • Isaac on

        Wow.. thanks that’s great Carol.. I guess I’ve been doing things right so far then! I suppose all I really need is a link somewhere, that says “My Books” and that’s really about all the promotion that is needed. Thanks for the blog post ideas by the way, I’m going to cut those out and put it in my blog ideas folder!

  82. Kyle Penland on

    I’ve had to be a little bit of a jack-of-all-trades at my job for the last few years. In addition to writing, I’ve also got almost a decade’s worth of print design experience with InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. What’s the best way to leverage the synergy of these skills? Do any job roles, clients, niches, etc. stand out as something I should think about?

    • Carol Tice on

      Kyle, loads of companies would love to hire someone who can do a whole brochure or website for them, both design and writing. I wouldn’t limit your thinking to one industry!

      Be sure to set up your website so you flash both sides of your expertise, as in with a tagline like, “Freelance writer and designer.”

  83. Vali on

    Nice article!I also had a question: what about the best platforms for freelancers? What are your experiences? Which platform would you suggest for a beginner writer?

    • Carol Tice on

      If you mean for a blog, I like WordPress. If you mean social media, LinkedIn and Twitter to me are the two useful ones…much more on that next month in my big 4-week social media bootcamp for Denizens!

  84. Erica on

    Hi Carol,

    This is a truly kind and generous offer. Here’s my question: Besides deadline, portfolio rights, number of revisions and agree-upon price tag, what is the most important thing a freelance copywriter needs to include in her contracts?

    I’ve been lucky so far, but I’m just waiting for that hard lesson.

    Many thanks,

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Erica — apologies, I just realized your question got skipped!

      I’d say the most overlooked provision that really matters is payment TERMS.

      WHEN do they have to pay you? Is it 50% up front and 20% more on first draft and 30% on final?

      Without defined payment terms, the client could pay you five years from now or never, really, and you don’t even have anything firm to sue them over.

      The biggest oversight is defining when that final payment is due. If you don’t define that right, they never have to pay it if they don’t officially accept your changes.

      It’s not uncommon for a client to get a final draft and then sort of disappear. They may just be busy…or they may be ducking you to avoid triggering a final payment.

      Which is why I like “final payment due on finalization OR 30 days after receipt of final draft, whichever is sooner.”

      I’ve seen too many writers end up in limbo with a final payment because a client isn’t returning their phone calls and won’t sign off on the final.

  85. Erin M. on

    Hi Carol,

    Because of some proofreading experience I had in the past, I was looking into doing freelance editing but recently my sights have turned toward writing. I’m just starting out, with having a little experience in writing articles about travel for the web although I’m also looking into various print mags. I want to dabble in it part time initially to see where it leads, get some business cards and try to throw together a website. However, as a newbie how do you market yourself when you’re open to doing a number of things? I may have a few ideas on what I don’t want to do but not so much what I’d like my focus to be.

    I’m a bit of an opportunist which makes me prone to not planning too much, but I know when you’re involved in a business you’ll have to rely on more than your intuition.

    P.S. – Hopefully I’ll be able to take advantage of the Writer’s Den. Although I can’t really afford it, perhaps the advice I receive will help me be able to 🙂

    • Carol Tice on

      Just go with a “freelance writer, editor and proofreader” tag, start marketing yourself, and see what develops. Start looking at local publications and businesses that you know and pitch yourself. Do some gigs. See what you enjoy. Do more of that.

      Don’t worry about what your niche is…just start putting it out there around any interest or knowledge are you have, and the marketplace will show you where you belong, and you’ll discover what you enjoy that pays well.

  86. anne grant on

    The majority of the questions relate to needing more money and wanting better paying gigs.
    If you can’t afford the monthly fee for the Den, then you need it more than those who can.

    I have just gotten started, but have already have a complete blueprint for a successful freelance writing business after working through just one of several courses. Other members have taken time to discuss concerns and ideas that have moved me closer to my goals than I have been in weeks.

    I just wanted to mention it since I had many of the same questions listed here — and all were answered in just a few days.

    • Carol Tice on

      Thanks for letting me know how well the Den is working out for you, Anne! And it’s true, this thread is just like the Den forums are every day. 😉

      I’d love to know which Den courses you’ve taken a look at that are helping you out…

      • Anne Grant on

        The beginning is a good place to start!
        So I’m in the”Step By Step” Workshop now. It’s the first resource I have used so far, but I honestly believe if I didn’t hear another thing, it would be enough information to keep me busy (and making money) for months, once I implement the steps.
        Of course, that is where the real work comes in, but I am looking forward to posting results in the Den because I know I will get help and/or encouragement.

        I have watched/ listened to the classes 2 times. I am usually a big note taker, but the 3 main reasons I like having the a complete transcripts with links (PDF and MS Word files) are:
        – I am not distracted taking notes while I listen.
        – I can listen while doing other things (exercise or mindless computer tasks).
        – The biggest one is that I can edit down the Word docs to make my task list and put dates beside the actions I need to do first.

        If I can slip a question in here, it is about a website. I have a word press site with my own domain name, but I want to add the tabs (About Me, Hire Me, etc), make it look professional and functional.
        The NAIWE link you mentioned could be a way to get a site, but it looks like it has a naiwe in the domain name. The other mention is Outstanding Setup and it would have a monthly or yearly fee. That is fine if that is what I need to do, but I was wondering about other resources to simplify this process and only pay a one time fee to set it up with a nice template and I will maintain it. I was looking at Genesis Framework for $79. Any further ideas on that?
        I imagine I could find answers in the Den, but I don’t want to search & go off reading all kinds of other topics. As useful as they are, it is like having going through a candy store on the way to doing an important task…and you know how that goes. The candy always wins!

        • Carol Tice on

          Ooh, great use of the transcripts, Anne! I do think Step by Step is a great place to start for new freelancers. I added that bootcamp after getting feedback from departing members that they thought the Den would have a step by step guide to how they could get started…so, voila!

          If you have a free WordPress site, Anne,which is what it sounds like you’re saying, you can transition it to paid-hosted WordPress and I believe that would allow you to add more pages. Or maybe you can add them where you are — this is not my expertise. Maybe others using free WordPress will weigh in — see if you have a “Pages” tab in your dash. You just need a host — I use KnownHost, as you can read on my Products I Love. Very happy with them.

          But you shouldn’t have to get a NAIWE site, and if you like the design probably don’t need help from someone like OutstandingSetup. I personally thought Genesis looked pretty intimidating as a non-techie person…I’m looking at Thesis right now possibly for this blog. Genesis is design software, though — doesn’t solve the need for a paid host.

  87. Rob Schneider on

    Okay, here’s my 2 cents worth and it’s based on a WSJ article I just reviewed called The Power of Negative Thinking. I rejoiced when I saw that title, because I think negative thinking is way under rated. I put off writing as a career for most of my life because of “neutral thinking.” Other, less appealing job prospects appeared, so I just freelanced when the spirit moved me. I only got started when it was my only means of survival. My lowest paying assignments paid a penny a word – $5/500 words and I worked 80 hours a week just to survive for awhile.

    Thanks to blogs like this and places like the Writers Den, every single person who has commented above has the opportunity to start out doing better than I, but many seem to be frozen by neutral thinking that keeps them frozen between hope and despair. The WSJ article recommended a path called “effectuation”: basically what it amounts to is being realistic and taking personal responsibility.

    A writer above asked: “How do I land multiple articles involving my subject?” Your reply was excellent, but I first landed “multiple articles involving my subject” purely by accident. I submitted one article on a subject I knew something about and was asked to write 4 more for the same publication. More recently, I started with a client on Elance (shock! horror!) and have since returned to them off the Elance system at 4 times my original rate. 500 articles later, I know a hell of a lot more about my subject than I knew when I started out and not only has my rate quadrupled, it takes far less time for research than it used to. I mention this because it illustrates that there are many paths to a goal and while we can all use mentoring, ultimately we have to start walking down our own path if we want to reach any goal at all.

    Just so nobody thinks this is a plug to read my blog, here’s a link to the WSJ article mentioned above:

  88. Stephanie on

    Hi Carol!
    I’m in your JSchool course. I feel like I’m behind, or not even par with the class because I know NOTHING about freelancing. Moreover, I have no ideas about what to write, and who I should query.

    From your teaching, it seems, salable ideas begin with the study of the market. Really asking myself why I am stumped on coming up with ideas, I think that it is because I don’t understand the basics of how to find “my” market. Would you suggest making a list of my personal interests/expertise/knowledge THEN seeking publications that match?

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Stephanie — Sorry you’re finding J-School boggling!

      Did you listen to our first week’s module on story ideas? They can come from many places, including things that are going on in your life. I think if you read the thread in the Den where everyone posted their J-School homework, you can get a real education on how to shape a story idea.

      Think about publications you already read and are familiar with as an easy starting point, particularly local/regional pubs that might be fairly easy to get into. Then, study them. What topics have they covered? How could you present a new angle on one of their popular topics?

      Certainly, work from what you know as a starting point. Some of my first assignments, for instance, grew out of the fact that I was a new homeowner…I pitched a bunch of real-estate related stories and ended up writing regularly for the L.A. Times’ real estate section.

      It’s a lot easier to get first assignments, when you don’t have a lot of clips, when you can make a case that you have some life experience that gives you insight into your topic.

      • Stephanie on

        Oh yes, I listened to all the webinars and read all modules. I went in the den and read all, all, of the homework from week one, then studied your responses, as well as Linda’s.

        Thank you for your advice. I will look for local pubs as you suggest. I think I have found three pubs from writers market that look like my niche. I will see if they have an online option to their older issues. Subconsciously, I think the fact that I have to spend so much money to educate myself, after just finishing law school and the bar, it may be money is what’s making me stumble. Hm.

        Anyway, thank you! You are a solid source and an accessible teacher. Glad to have started my journey win your blog and advice. 😉

        • Carol Tice on

          We do find some people get stuck in the ‘education’ phase as a way of delaying putting it out there and moving forward. Remember to keep on going, even while you’re learning!

  89. Emily McIntyre on

    Greetings! This is a kind offer, Carol, and I’m reading your post with eagerness. I do have a question. I’ve been seriously writing/marketing for magazines for 2 years now, with some success. I’m starting to contact more people for interviews prior to pitching articles, and so far no one has turned me down. Now I’m wondering how to best utilize these contacts when pitching. For example, a high-profile chef happily agreed to interview with me. I’ve pitched three or four magazines related to her skills and have had no responses. This year I’ve only landed 1 in 5 queries, far too few. I guess I’m asking, “What is the next step once I’ve obtained consent for an interview? How do I land multiple articles involving my subject?”

    Probably basic stuff and I apologize if so!

    Thank you!

    • Carol Tice on

      Two thoughts — are you quoting that chef in your queries? Using actual quotes makes a stronger case that you’ve really talked to the person, and shows how you know to get lively quotes and how to access sources.

      Then it’s just a question of matching subject to market. More market research and/or sending many more queries will help you hit the place that wants this.

      Everybody gets a lot of rejections. Remember that it’s a numbers game.

      You get multiple articles off one subject by hitting noncompeting markets. You sell one to Nation’s Restaurant News, and one to a consumer magazine for one region, and another for an event planning magazine, and so on.

      Finally, it’s possible your queries could be stronger in how they’re composed — that’s where those Den query reviews come in handy. 😉

  90. Ricki on

    You may have covered this previously on your blog, but I’m interested in learning more about retaining clients. I’ve done some freelancing for magazines and love it, but more often than not it’s a one-off proposition. My articles are always well-received and I’m scrupulous about meeting specifications and deadlines, so it’s not that they don’t like my work. Can you offer some tips on staying in touch with editors so that one is top of mind when it’s time to assign new work? Thanks!

    • Carol Tice on

      Sure — the trick is to pitch them the next idea as you turn in the current one — or several more ideas.

      I always view an article as the start of a relationship, and I show that by having more ideas ready immediately. Story idea development is critical to turn these into ongoing relationships.

      Sounds like you’re laying back and imagining that once they know you editors will begin to magically assign you ideas they have. But lots of editors don’t have many…they’re looking to you to provide that.

  91. Katherine Swarts on

    I need a 2013 schedule-planning aid that meets these parameters, in order of priority:

    (1) at least one full page for each day, divided into half- or quarter-hours (I have a real problem with accurately estimating time per task, and need this to better track my time);

    (2) hard copy (because I dislike keeping electronic planners turned on or repeatedly turning them on and off);

    (3) section for long-term goals, preferably divided by category (I’m one of those people who tend to write down grandiose New Year’s resolutions, then put them in a drawer and forget about them–so I need to keep long-term goals close at hand and conspicuous);

    (4) exercises for keeping the right attitude going (don’t even get me started on what a pessimism addict I am).

    Any specific ideas–or what stores do you know of that stock the largest variety of planners? The initial search turned up mostly options that focused on either hour-by-hour or long-term while ignoring the other, and the only “attitude boosters” I’ve seen so far are scattered inspirational quotes–not quite as hands-on-and-get-them-dirty as what I need.

    • Carol Tice on

      You got me — I don’t use these sort of planners! I’m very low tech about it and scribble on paper or have a Word Doc with to-lists or ideas. Use WordPress editorial calendar for my blog schedule. That’s it. I use my Entourage mail calendar to keep track of deadlines.

    • Kyle Penland on

      Your requirements sound pretty specific. I think your best bet, honestly, is just to get a blank notebook and label it yourself. Or even better – just make out a template day with a word processor, print a week’s worth, and staple together.

    • Carol on

      The most detailed planners I’ve seen are teacher planners. They divide up the day into several sections for each hour. Most lack inspirational quotes, the ones that have them are related to teaching. They are really handy when you have a lot to get done, and a lot to write each day.

      Staples,, and teaching supply stores are good sources for these wonderful planners.

  92. Rachel on

    Hi Carol!

    I’m sure this is a common question,but here it goes: I have tons of experience in a particular niche (parenting + special needs kids), as well as a blog with a decent amount of traffic (about 7,500 a month).

    I’m finding it hard to monetize my blog, but would like to switch to freelance writing instead. I really wanted to stick to freelance blogging, since I don’t have any experience in journalistic writing (though I hope to sign up to your course soon).

    I’ve checked out the sources you mention in a previous blog post, but haven’t had much luck finding anything.

    Where can I find blogging jobs that are not from content mills? Would it be better for me to just guest blog (I’ve done a bit of this, and am confident I could do more) without pay, hoping someone will contact me?

    Or should I take the risk and try writing articles for magazines instead, whereupon I could use Writer’s Digest?


    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Rachel —

      You’re finding it hard to monetize your blog because your audience is still very small, Rachel. I have about 6x that in monthly views and I’ve still got a baby blog/business here.

      Also, more important than eyeballs is email list. What’s the size of your list? You can only sell things to people you can contact.

      Have you asked your audience what they need to make their lives better, and tried selling that, either through existing products or ones you develop yourself? That’s pretty much the secret in a nutshell.

      Now, on to the freelancing side of it. Not sure what sources I mentioned previously, so can’t help there.

      Did you read Tom Ewer’s recent guest post on how he got up to $4K a month in paid blogging?

      Do you have a ‘hire me’ tab on your blog?

      Besides passive methods like the ‘hire me’ tab and just writing a terrific blog with amazing headlines, great engagement, scannable posts with incredibly useful content — all the basics — you can proactively research and target prospects.

      The sweet spot: Abandoned business or magazine blogs. That means they get blogging, but don’t have time to do it themselves.

      There’s not really a risk to writing magazine articles. You won’t die from it. So if you’re interested in it, give it a try, I say!

      • Rachel on

        Thanks for getting back to me so quickly, Carol.

        Yes, you’re right, that’s still a small amount of traffic. Actually I do know how to monetize my blog, but as you said, it’s still pretty small. Plus, it’s not the best niche for monetization, since unfortunately people wait until they have major problems in order to get help.

        I also read Tom Ewer’s post, and today I listened to the replay of your interview, but he basically says that all of clients came to him, except for the initial Problogger job ads that he answered.

        I’ll start searching Google for abandoned blogs.

        As for magazine articles, I’m just worried about knowing how to do it properly. But I guess I’ll just Google it until I get enough to sign up for your course :).

        Thanks again!

        • Carol Tice on

          Well, rather than Googling magazine writing…read your target magazines and start analyzing how stories are put together. You can get a pretty good education that way.

          Concentrate on some relevant niches that you know as you look for dead blogs…you’ll be surprised what you turn up. I’ve had Den members find just great clients doing that.

  93. Cheryl Rhodes on

    Do you have a previous post or can offer tips on getting faster at writing query letters? My problem is I spend too long on queries. I’ve followed The Renengade Writer for years and have used a lot of their samples for successful queries. I can write a first draft of a query fairly quickly. Then I let it sit. I look at it later in the day or the next day and make little changes. After several days, maybe up to a week, I’ll have spent between 30 and 60 minutes on the query. The length of time seems to be relative to how high paying the publication is. I finally reach a point where I decide its done and send it. Often I’ll have several queries on the go that I’ve been playing with over the same few days and when I’ve sent the first one, I’ll get the others going right away. I can’t figure out why I’m slow like this and looking for tips to get it done faster. Thanks!

    • Carol Tice on

      Mmmm…overwriting & can’t press ‘send’ disorder. We talk about this in the ebook I just released with Linda Formichelli, 13 Ways to Get the Writing Done Faster.

      Refuse to let these sit around for a week, Cheryl.

      You may be a victim of my Newtonian law of writing, which is that the writing task expands to fill all the available time. You probably have too much time available to tinker with these.

      Set a higher goal of the number of queries you plan to crank out each week, and you’ll have to send more quickly.

      But also: Is this process getting you results? Or are you spending all this time and not getting the gig? If it’s working for you, it might be worth it. But if not, you definitely want to learn to be more efficient!

      You may be hesitant because you sense your queries aren’t going to hit it on the head. If so, you can follow this category thread on queries to see a bunch of useful posts, including my Query Don’ts.

      Thing to know: We do query reviews in the Den, and rarely get one submitted that we don’t think has some real flaws and could be improved. We’re seeing members get great results after doing the review process…so maybe something to consider for you. The slowness may be about a lack of confidence that your queries have all the vital elements that will get you a ‘yes.’

      • Cheryl Rhodes on

        Thank you Carol. I’ve read the article and yes I have that ebook, was one of the fortunate who took advantage of the recent special. You’re right. I looked over my query tracker and I see my positive responses are about a third of the queries I send out. I know I need to send more queries and get this done faster which the main reason I’m in your den to get my writing done better and faster. It doesn’t help that I picked up the procrastination gene that runs on my father’s side of the family, though my father is not afflicted. Lifelong fight. I’ve sent 2 queries out this morning, so I just need to keep the momentum going!

  94. Leslie Banks on

    Hello, Carol

    I am a copywriter in a B2B niche, but I am just starting out. I currently have no clients in my niche, but I need to make $1500 in the next two weeks. My current article/blog post writing jobs won’t pay enough. What is your advice? I am making a list of companies to contact via email or cold-calling, but is there anything else I can do to expedite finding qualified clients?

    Thank you.

    • Carol Tice on

      I get this sort of question a lot. My favorite was the time a writer asked me how she could make some money “on the hurry-up.”

      Here’s the thing: Building a freelance business is not an overnight thing. It does take time — usually at LEAST a few months — to ramp up your marketing and find new clients.

      My first instinct was to tell you to get a night job stocking grocery shelves or working as a bar back to bring in the quick extra cash you need. Honestly, if you need the money guaranteed, I’m not confident writing can save you, unless you can get existing clients to throw you more work.

      But if neither of those work…

      Start with the low-hanging fruit of marketing. We go over this in more detail in the Den’s Break into Business Writing bootcamp, but: Does everyone in your personal network know you’re looking for new clients? If not, start spreading the word. I just heard from one writer who found a client after her mom posted on her Facebook about her writer-daughter.

      Are you connected to everyone on LinkedIn who knows and likes your writing? Do they all know you need referrals right now?

      Those are the first two steps I have everyone take…and sometimes you’ll be surprised what leads can come out of that. Marketing will never get easier than asking people who already know and like your writing to refer you. I also know writers who’ve gotten more work from those marketing managers and editors, just by asking for the referral!

      Best of luck with this one…and thanks for providing the reminder that writers need an emergency cash fund to avoid these gun-to-the-head type scenarios.

  95. Bethanny Parker on

    Hi Carol,

    I have a client who is happy with my work and asked if there was some way I could find time to write more articles. I told him I’d try to find someone to help out with the research in order to free up more time for writing. He suggested I try oDesk. I have found a couple of good people, and most of them are cheap (really cheap).

    My question is about whether I should keep charging the client the same price I have been charging for these articles. On the one hand, I should be able to write them much more quickly since the research was taking a lot of time, and it is not going to cost me a whole lot to get that done.

    On the other hand, the rate I was charging was already extremely discounted to begin with. I wasn’t charging him my normal writing rate for the research time because he had given me a cap of how much he could afford per article, and that’s what I was charging. Also, I put a lot of hours up front into find researchers. I reviewed applications from approximately 60 applicants and test assignments from about 40 of them to find the right people.

    What would you do?


    • Carol Tice on

      My advice: Stop writing at “extremely discounted” rates for clients who suggest you subcontract on oDesk.

      This client loves you and wanted you to write more…because he’s discovered he can exploit you. He gave you a lowball cap and you were willing to stay under it. Why shouldn’t he try to squeeze all he can out of this relationship? And now he’s talked you into giving up some of your already tiny pay to oDesk subs, too, to help him overwork and underpay you even more. What a charmer!

      Definitely ask for a raise to more like your normal rates, but be ready to walk as he’ll probably say no.

      Finding a better-paying client is probably the best way out of the whole mess.

          • Bethanny Parker on

            I expected you to say that I shouldn’t lower the price because he obviously feels they are worth what he’s been paying for them, and I’m providing the same value whether I outsource part of the work or not.

            But you made me think about the fact that he’s wanting articles that take about 15-20 hours (including research) for what I normally charge for 8 hours of my time. I really should have said “no way,” but I have no emergency fund at all, so it’s really hard to turn down work.


  96. Christopher Hutton ( on

    Hey Carol,

    My question is this: if boards are not a good place to look for gigs, and Cold-calling/emailing is your best shot, what is the best way to determine “the odds” about who might actually need work from you, and if there is no need, to go about sharing new potential ideas for them and their company.


    • Carol Tice on

      Christopher, your best odds in cold-calling prospects will be to focus on companies that do something where you have some personal knowledge or life experience, ie you used to work in a bank, so you’re targeting small financial services firms in your region, maybe mortgage brokers or personal-wealth managers or regional banks or online personal-finance sites.

      But I didn’t say cold calling is your best shot, you did. Personally, I’ve never done it.

      It might be good for you, if you’re a good talker and willing to make hundreds of calls to get the clients you need. I know other writers who win with marketing emails…everyone has their own approach.

      Doing individual research into companies’ current marketing so you can spotlight where they could use help is usually a strategy seen more with custom marketing emails, where you send fewer emails to more closely researched prospects that fit your background. It’d be hard to research 500 companies! Cold calling is just a numbers game, where you call as many companies as you can to say, “Do you need a freelance writer?” and that’s about it. If they nibble, you send them your portfolio, look at their marketing, and take it from there.

      We have a ton more info in the Den on how to qualify prospects and write copy, including a 4-hour Break into Business Writing bootcamp.

  97. Cori on

    Hi Carol,

    I’ve been freelance writing for over a year now. Once in a while I’ll end up with a good client, but I mostly work by the hour for less than I’m worth (IMHO:). It started out okay, but the more I write, the faster I get, and the less I earn.

    I have no degrees, and I’m not exactly proud of most of my clips. I want to move on to some real content driven writing, but I don’t really have any credentials to speak of.

    How can I show potential clients (and myself) that I’m capable of working for them? I feel like I should start a blog and write the kind of content that I’ll be pitching to companies, but I’m afraid to make that investment (mostly of my time) without some kind of assurance.

    That’s where you come in! Do you think this would be a wise investment of my time? Or do you have another suggestion for building my portfolio and proving myself?

    Thanks soooo much!

    • Carol Tice on

      Cori, as you’ve discovered, billing by the hour is a losing strategy. You want to bid by the project. That way, as you become more efficient your hourly rate will go UP instead of your pay per project going down, like you’re seeing now. You’ll be rewarded for being efficient, instead of penalized.

      I have no degrees or credentials either — stop thinking that’s the issue. It isn’t.

      I’m going to take a flier that the problem is that you’re looking for clients in all the wrong places — on Craigslist or maybe somewhere like Demand Studios or maybe Elance? These places are the home of mediocre, low-paying clients and the work you do doesn’t give you good clips. When you say you’re not proud of your clips, that sounds to me like they’re mill clips.

      To end all this, you need to put together the best portfolio you can out of the work you’ve done, get it on a nice writer website, and then start proactively looking for clients you prospect for and target…clients that sell a real product or service in the real world, have revenue and profits, and a marketing budget. That’s what you’re looking for.

      Starting a blog is an idea if you want paid blogging work. But I’m sensing lack of enthusiasm from you about it, and blogging is a lot of work and you have to keep doing it regularly or your blog looks abandoned and sad and ISN’T a good sample.

      Otherwise, you could write great copy for your own writer site and use THAT as a great sample to get gigs writing web content, with a lot less effort. Have I mentioned that we review writer websites and help you make them better in the Den? I review 3 sites nearly every week in there. Most sites can be improved, I find.

  98. Nida Sea on

    Hi Carol,

    I’ve been working freelance for four and a half years now and most of my work is from content mills. I know you’ve preached to not work for them, and the thing is, I really don’t want to anymore. An incident has finally brought that habit to a standstill and I’m ready to move on. I’m working on the transition to getting my own clients and working on my website, but I’m fairly new to marketing. Can you tell me the best possible way to market my website to gain more passive clients?

    Thanks you!

    • Carol Tice on

      4 1/2 years writing for content mills! My condolences. And glad you’ve realize you don’t want to keep doing that forever. What a grind.

      I don’t know the best way to market YOUR website, since I’ve never seen it and don’t know how well-written it is or what’s on there in terms of portfolio…but I’ve had a lot of success with a strong LinkedIn profile as an accompaniment to my writer site. I’ve had multiple Fortune 500 clients hire me from finding me first on LinkedIn (stuff that profile with key words!), and then clicking over to my site and checking me out, and then deciding to hire me. Being active in social media and having strong profiles on busy sites can help draw prospects your way.

      Tons more on this coming up in January in our next Freelance Writers Den bootcamp on social media marketing…watch for some more info on that coming next week!

  99. Chris Fuller on

    I recently landed a new client who has been very pleased with the work I’ve done thus far. In my last conversation with them, they mentioned possibly setting me up on a retainer after the first of the year.

    I’ve never worked on a retainer before, and would love to learn more about the pros & cons of such an arrangement, as well as things to keep in mind when negotiating one.



    • Carol Tice on

      Well, retainers rock if you can get them, Chris.

      They mean you get paid even if the client doesn’t have any work for you that month! What’s not to like? And if you do extra, you would still bill it.

      Generally, clients ask for a retainer when they want to lock in X amount of your time, so they can be sure to get their stuff done on their deadlines, and be one of your top priorities.

      Be sure to do a contract that defines the timeframe and exactly what the client gets for that retainer amount, so that you can bill that additional stuff on top of the contract. Congrats on having a happy client!

  100. Erin Sanchez on

    Hi Carol,

    Looks like I get to be the first to comment! I guess sometimes it’s the night owl who gets the worm.

    I’m a long-time lurker on a number of writer’s blogs, including yours, but have never once left a comment. Thanks for this post; for whatever reason, it prompted me to leave my first digital mark on a writing blog.

    I’ve read virtually every book on the market about freelance writing, so I’m aware that everyone’s situation is different. That being said, how long do you think it would take, in general, to start making a livable wage through writing alone? Assuming…

    -I already have a website and blog set up
    -I have admin stuff under control (licenses, documents to track work, etc.)
    -I’m talking about copywriting/editorial writing, the “bread and butter” stuff
    -And here’s where I pat myself on the back: I consistently receive terrific feedback on my writing (no, not just from my mother!)
    -BUT, I am just now beginning to make contact with potential clients and starting to build my portfolio

    I’ll be graduating this June with my master’s degree and would like to avoid the traditional job hunt (like the plague, actually) and go full-steam ahead with my writing.

    Whew! Sorry for the incredibly long comment…that’s four+ years of pent up lurking.

    Thank you so much!!

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Erin —

      I’m so excited to respond to your first blog comment ever!

      Wish I had a straight answer for you like “Oh, it’ll be 6 months” or something. But the thing is, every writer is different.

      It’ll mostly boil down to this question: How much marketing are you willing to do?

      If you make 500 cold calls, or send 100 targeted direct mail marketing packages or well-targeted and well-written marketing emails, you ought to be able to find enough clients to get rolling.

      My experience is that few writers are willing to do that.

      The other question is what niches you are drawn to and feel qualified to write on. If you have even a passing acquaintance with a high-paying niche such as technology or healthcare, that would help as well.

      Finally, who will be your mentors? If you have help navigating the world of launching your freelance career, this ought to be able to go a lot faster. You’ll avoid underbidding (VERY common with new writers), sending substandard letters of introduction that don’t get a response (we do reviews of them in the Den!), and falling for scams. This, in a nutshell, is why I created the Den — it’s an accelerator for your freelance writing career.

      You could spend years and years figuring it all out on your own, the way I did, or you could ask questions on Den forums and maybe take our Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success bootcamp in the Den, which outlines EXACTLY how to get a starter portfolio together and start getting good-paying gigs.

      The question for you is how bad you want this. What are you willing to do, and to give up, to make it happen? How far out of your comfort zone will you go? I find writers who go for it and are serious about it see things develop very quickly…take a look at some of the feedback from other Den members who’ve dove in and used the resources. We’ve seen people quit high-paying jobs because they’ve got enough freelance writing clients to do it.

      • Erin Sanchez on

        Good morning, Carol. Thank you so much for the awesome reply!

        I knew you wouldn’t be able to pin down an exact time-frame, but your points helped me see where I might be located on the “potential success” scale. I’m very willing to do a ton of marketing and have been creating a plan to conduct marketing efforts over Xmas break (starting this week). To answer one of your last questions: I’ve spent the past few years wanting this pretty badly, but now I want it more than ever and am beyond determined to make it work. I’ve played a lot with the idea of joining the Den. Maybe that’s my next step.

        I love that, as an established freelance writer, you dedicate so much to this blog to help others find success! Just awesome.

        All the best,

        • Melissa Breau on

          Hey Erin,

          I hope Carole doesn’t mind me adding my 2 cents… in addition to the things Carol mentioned, which I TOTALLY agree with, I’d say it also depends on if you have some savings to live off of while you build up those initial clients. If you’ve read the books, you’re ready—it’s just a matter of DOING all the things you’ve read about.

          • Erin Sanchez on

            Hi Melissa,

            Thanks for the additional advice and for the encouragement! Unfortunately, I don’t have a stockpile of cash for the long haul, but I have enough funding to get me through the last six months of grad school. In addition, I do work very part-time as a writing consultant and I teach at writing studio course at the University of Washington, so I’ll have a bit of side income to help keep me afloat after graduation.

            I’m going to start commenting on blogs more often. . .it feels great to be a part of the conversation!

            Thanks again,

          • Andrew on

            “5+ years of pent up lurking”…. LOL. Like me, you want to know how you’re doing before you really get started! Why not set some target dates to achieve critical milestones? It’s helped me to stay on track, gauge progress, and set realistic expectations. Good luck to you. – Andrew

          • Carol Tice on

            I hate it when I hear writers are researching and researching and years later…still researching. Sometimes I see them take a third or fourth class from me, and I wonder, “Why aren’t they out writing by now?”

            People are always asking me the best place to start as a freelance writer, and the answer is: Somewhere. Take action! Even a small one. Don’t worry about what you don’t know.

            Then, one more action, and one more. That’s all I ever did.

      • Elizabeth Nielsen on

        I haven’t built my site yet, FYI. I have been a content writer mill person for a while now. It hasn’t gotten me anywhere. I had no idea I was worth more. I have no connections to even begin marketing myself. That is why I was so disappointed that 100 seats were available in Writer’s Den, but I didn’t hear about them until I received a message saying the seats were gone and the room was closing. I went to the link in that site. There was a message which said the room was open for me, but I needed a password. I don’t have a password, since I am just on a waiting list. I am confused… Can you help me understand the process?

        Thank you.

        With regards,

        • Carol Tice on

          Sorry Elizabeth! I just did a short Den opening only for the waiting list. If you’re on the waitlist, you should have received an initial post 24 hours earlier, when we opened. You’re seeing a password protect because we’re closed now.

          When I sent the “we’re closing” email this morning, there were still several hours left. 70% of the available seats sold out in the first 3 hours of this open…I wasn’t expecting such a huge response! So we were scrambling a little bit, and did end up letting in almost 150 new members on this round, just because I’d promised a closing notice and felt I had to to deliver it…and not in the middle of the night. Otherwise, we would have only been open for about 8 hours, which I knew would really annoy people.

          Hopefully you got the email I sent a while back about why we have to limit Den membership. It’s important to me that every member have a great experience and get all their questions answered, so we can only grow so fast, as I must continue to hire additional expertise in as we add members. (Off to do that right now!)

          Aside from the Den…you don’t need “connections” to market yourself. Learn how to write a strong query or letter of introduction, how to use LinkedIn, make cold calls…there are many ways to find clients that don’t rely on having an inside line on anything.

          Stay on the waitlist and I’m hoping to have another opening opportunity before too long. Sorry you missed this one!


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