Even though I had virtually no prior experience with professional writing, I’ve been working steadily as a freelance writer and editor for over a year now. Having earned over $10K last year, at an average of about $18 per hour and up to $100 per hour, I consider it a successful endeavor. It feels like it’s time to explain how I started freelance writing (and how you can, and whether or not I regret doing this as a stay at home mom with eight children at home).
Granted, I’m doing this part time, as in about two to fifteen hours per week (averaging about 7). My husband is our main breadwinner, and we have insurance through his work. I’m not confident that what I do would work for someone who’s trying to provide for an entire family. If I was doing this full time I’d be making at least $38,000, which is above the per capita income in the United States. Keep in mind that this is after just one year and with no prior experience.
It’s probably important to mention that while I didn’t have any experience with professional writing, I did minor in English (writing emphasis) in college.
Here’s how I got started, what I’ve accomplished, and how I feel about it . . .
It All Began Because I Wanted to Earn Money
This was my sole motivation. It was September of 2015 and I wanted money for a nonprofit cause that I supported. Our family isn’t poor, but I stay at home and didn’t have a job, and we have a strict budget. I needed $75, but it wasn’t in the budget. I was up late at night nursing my baby more than usual because he was sick, and I figured that I could try to make some money instead of reading or surfing the web (which I was doing to avoid boredom), so I looked for jobs and found myself at Upwork.com.
I searched for freelance jobs online and found a bunch at Upwork. Before I signed up, I did a little research. I always like to look at the pros and cons in order to make a good decision. I remember reading this article at Collegetimes about how Upwork “sucks” for freelancers. But that was by Collegetimes. Of course Collegetimes wouldn’t want people to try out Upwork. They’re all about advertising colleges! Many people would pass on college if they knew that they could make a ton of money via a site like Upwork that basically works like an internship (where you learn the craft as you work).
I ended up reading enough positive things about Upwork that I decided to give it a try.
I signed up and got my first job. Note: If you want to know my strategies for winning your first freelance writing job at Upwork, click here. I proposed a really low rate and was hired in less than an hour. It was for a French speaker who was finishing an internship with an American company in France. He needed someone to quickly proofread a summary he had written about his experience there. I finished the job in a few hours and earned $7.78. Yes, a very low rate, but it was better than nothing. Plus, I helped someone, earned a five star review, and was on my way to obtaining the $75 I wanted.
Low Rates, at First
I worked for pretty low rates for about three months, except for a few jobs in which I earned $25 per hour. By that third month I was making about ten dollars per hour on average. Not too much, I know, but I was only taking jobs that interested me. Also, I was still just working a few hours per week and so I wasn’t investing a ton of time into it. However, I kept racking up great reviews, which made my service much more appealing to prospective employers. I also ghostwrote a book that was a #1 Amazon Best Seller in its niche, and I was learning a lot about how to write and edit. Finally, the timing worked well for taxes, because I didn’t earn enough by the end of the year to have to claim (you can learn more about taxes and freelance writing here).
Narrowing My Niche
Soon, I discovered that I really liked editing and did well at it. I was able to start being picky about which jobs I took. Two of my jobs were easy, ongoing jobs which gave me about two hours of work per week. The others were one-time gigs. By February, my sixth month, I was receiving requests for interviews in my inbox. These were mostly for jobs that appealed to my interests and talents. This was wonderful, because I was being notified immediately when jobs were available (meaning I could spend less time spent searching through the job listings) and I already knew the clients were interested in hiring me (less time writing job proposals).
At Six Months In, I Won a Great Long Term Job and Achieved Top Rated Status at Upwork
In late February/early March, I landed a flexible and well paying job with a company that I love (they had contacted me for an interview). I worked, and still work, between two and fifteen hours per week for them. It makes me very happy because through it I’m helping people. I help to provide support and information to women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. I check facts and edit content to make sure that it’s appealing, informative and easy to understand.
I also earned Top Rated status in March, which resulted in an increase in the amount of job interview requests in my inbox. I’ve been receiving about two or three per week since then, and they’re often for good long-term jobs. If I didn’t like my primary job so much, I’d consider them. Indeed, I’ve taken a few of the smaller jobs, and one paid $100 per hour (it was one of those last minute, desperately-need-help type of jobs, for which you should keep your eyes open if you decide to try Upwork).
Six Months Plus
After hitting Top Rated status, I decided to write a book about how to use Upwork to be a successful nonfiction freelance writer. I took my time and self published it a few months ago in November of 2016. It felt great to be able to write, edit, and publish my own book. Since I’d done this for others, I was confident that I could also do it for myself. In the book, I explain all of the details about how I write proposals that win jobs, how I communicate with clients, how to avoid mistakes I made, what types of writing jobs you’ll find there, how to create an attractive profile, how to write, what I’ve learned from Upwork’s Top Rated seminars, and more.
While writing the book I also learned how to format books for KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). My, was that an education! I couldn't use documents in formats used by MS Word or Google Docs. And Kindle didn’t magically create those popular and really essential hyperlinked Table of Contents pages, either. It costs at least $60 to hire a freelancer to format a completed manuscript for KDP, or you can purchase software, or you can do it yourself with free software. I did the latter. I wrote out the steps to publish text-only books on KDP so that I wouldn’t forget how, and I shared them on my site, but only a few days ago, Google Docs came out with an update that allows you to save files in Epub format!!! This is HUGE news, and I wrote about it here.
I’m happy with my decision to use Upwork to begin my part time career in freelance writing and editing. However, I’m not quite as happy with my actual decision to work. No, it hasn’t been a huge commitment, but it has been a commitment. In the winter here in northern Minnesota, I think it’s a decent pastime for a stay-at-home mom like me. But last summer, a beautiful summer, I spent quite a few hours sitting on our deck working on my computer when I could have been spending more time with my children or gardening. So, I’ll need to make some changes before next summer.
Do you have any thoughts or advice, in particular for my readers who are SAHMS and WAHMS? Let’s hear it!