Can You Help These Freelance Writers Figure Out What to Do?

Carol Tice

Baffled young freelance writerJudging from the emails and Facebook questions I get, some freelance writers think I am the oracle of all knowledge.

Fact is, I do not know everything about freelance writing. I get questions I don’t really know how to answer now and then.

They might be about writing niches or types I’ve never done, such as applying to gigs on online portals.

Like this one from my Facebook:

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 9.24.53 AM

Or this one, about a sticky ethical situation I haven’t experienced:

I provide ghostwriting for self-help professionals, like monthly newsletters or short weekly blog posts. They either don’t have the time or aren’t good at writing short marketing-style pieces, and it’s reliable and entertaining work for me, so it’s a fine arrangement.

But one of my clients has been contacted by an editor at a print magazine. He likes her blog, and wants her to start writing articles for him. One problem – my client doesn’t want to come clean to him that her blog is ghostwritten!

In fact, when she told me, the topic wasn’t even up for discussion. She just tacked the directions for this new venture on to her usual content requests for the month.

This is a real dilemma for me! I’d appreciate any insight you have.

Thank you, Alexandra

This would-be writer is juggling a lot of balls already, but would like to know how to get into freelancing:

I stumbled across your website and found it very interesting.  I’m currently working the normal M-F 8-5 with a 4 hour daily commute into the city.  I’m also working on my MBA and will graduate in May with a 4.0.

In going through work and school for many years now, I have not been able to find my niche.  I’m a finance manager now, and my prior positions have included marketing, accounting, recruiting, anything business related—I’ve done it.  I’ve never found any type of happiness or healthy challenges any time in my career.

My passion has always been in writing.  I would love nothing more than to use my passion and do it for a living.  My problem is I have no idea where/how to get started.

I recently found freelance positions on flexjobs.com and other places.  I will admit that it is a bit overwhelming.  I’ve written many papers and have always been nominated to proof, edit, and write throughout my education.

Any help and/or direction is greatly appreciated.

Best Regards, Natalie

I haven’t tried to freelance while getting an advanced degree and working full-time. A little flummoxed on that one.

I’ve also never worked as a lawyer while trying to launch a freelance business, like this writer — but I’m thinking maybe some of you have:

I have a question about starting a writer’s website. For beginning writers who are currently working at a day job in another field, how do you recommend creating a writer’s website without putting your current job in jeopardy? I am an attorney at a law firm, but I want to transition to working as a freelance writer.

I am starting to work part time at the firm to allow more time to write and eventually, I hope to be able to leave that job entirely. Until I get to that point, however, I need to pay my bills. I am afraid that if I create a writer’s website with my name and my firm finds out about it, I could lose my job. Of course, it is hard to get started as a writer without a website.

Could you provide some insight into how to avoid this Catch-22? Thanks, Charise

So I turn to you. If you have any thoughts, ideas, insights — this is your day to share them and help other writers to break in to the freelancing biz and earn more.

 Got some advice for these writers? Leave it in the comments — thanks!

34 Comments

  1. Mirta

    @Charise: You could make a legal consulting blog. Since it may be in breach with your current job, you might want to provide some general information first, or provide examples with respect to any potential NDA issues.
    Legal forums, google search results, etc., might be a good source of ideas for legal issues people need information for. You could also provide a source of hot topics (news, etc.) related to legal matters, and you could also include your expert opinion on these. That might be an elegant way to avoid any issues with your company, and a good way to shine on the net and also attract new clients for legal, writing, or a combination of both (legal writing, or writing articles on legal topics).

  2. Bruce Hoag

    Alexandra,

    If it was me, I’d explain that there’s such a huge need for content, that many blog hosts use ghostwriters. In other words, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, it demonstrates that the host is successful enough at what he/she does that she can afford to pay someone to do it.

    Not only that, but all of us needs to focus on core business. That’s what customers pay us and them for. None of us can do everything really well. I read somewhere recently that few people can do more than one or two things really well. And so that means that unless you sell the content on your site, then that’s not your core business. And so being the smart entrepreneur that your client is, he/she has outsourced it to someone whose core business is writing.

    That’s good business sense.

    And so you may find that if you put it like that to him/her, that you’ll get a hearing.

    If your client really won’t discuss it, then it seems to me that he/she shouldn’t be permitted to tack anything on.

    By that I mean that you are being given a new assignment, and new assignments means discussing rates, topics – the whole shebang.

    Bruce

  3. Caroline Oceana Ryan

    Alexandra –

    I’m a ghostwriter too, and I feel strongly that you should not ghostwrite your client’s column for her.

    Columns don’t only present someone as a writer. They present them as an authority in their subject matter. That makes a ghostwritten column a complete lie, one which the ghostwriter is an accomplice to — unless your client provides the raw material for the columns, and you’re just re-working her original comments and research.

    It doesn’t matter how badly you need the money — the income can come from other projects. If you sell-out on that level, you set a very low ethical precedent for the rest of your work as a writer, and that’s a deflating, uninspired way to work.

    Explain to your client that if she would like to present you as co-writer in the byline, then you’re happy to take on the project for her. Otherwise, you will have to politely refuse.

    Even that is a generous offer. I would say, do that or say No entirely.

    Best wishes, and keep at it!

  4. Carol Tice

    I knew I could count on all of you to come up with super-useful stuff! Thanks to everybody who helped out here — especially great tips on juggling school and law and freelance writing.

    You rock, MALW readers!

    • Oludami'

      🙂

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