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Words of Hard Learned Wisdom for Freelance Writers in Brisbane
From time to time we get emails from freelance writers in Brisbane (either working or wanting to be working) requesting help to get started or get growing. As a former freelance writer myself, I thought I’d jot down a few tips on how to make a freelance writing business work.
Image via Brisbane Times
The bad old days of freelance writing
I went to Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and did an Arts degree majoring in Media Studies and English Lit. The media studies side of things was mostly Creative Writing units and I received enough credits in this to have a second major in Creative Writing. Over four years, what I learned from taking all those classes was:
They cannot, therefore they teach (was very disappointed with the lecturers)
If you cannot, no matter how much teaching you have, you still cannot
Literature will teach you way more about writing than a writing degree.
Oh, and I liked the unit that taught the nuts and bolts stuff like how to organise chapters and use spreadsheets and whatnot, that was useful.
The focus was on becoming a Pulitzer Prize winning author and for money making, it was all about Mills and Boon and their formulaic writing. Back in the day, the Interwebz hadn’t become a veritable feeding frenzy of well paid freelance writing work, and besides, copy writing was a dirty word at QUT. I believe it’s all changed now, and I can only hope that the lecture team have changed too…..
So, first, don’t do a degree in writing. If you can’t write already, you’re not going to learn and if you can already you’re not going to learn anything useful. If you’re going to do a degree with the intention of making money from freelance writing, choose advertising, marketing or Comms. But even then, I believe that a short course at Ad School (held in South Brisbane last I checked) is probably a better investment.
So, making money as a freelance writer is now about knowing the web
I did radio copywriting for a long time. It was totally awesome and the most fun you can have ever in a job. All kinds of awesome. BUT, jobs in radio copywriting in Brisbane come up about as often as jobs in radio journalism in Brisbane and they usually go to someone who knows someone. Press is about the same. Ad agencies are definitely the same. The surprise is, the money in broadcast and print copywriting is RUBBISH. In my second year of freelance writing I made more than I did as Senior Creative Writer at a Brisbane commercial radio station.
Learning about web copywriting isn’t necessarily about qualifications either. If you take a day course (and there are plenty around) you’ll find out what Google wants then and there but if you teach yourself through hours of reading stuff online, you’ll know the industry, and that’s what will really help you to make some cash. There is no easy answer, sit down and start reading. You’ll need to learn some SEO elements and how to best use them without ruining the experience for readers.
Know your product – copywriting isn’t article writing.
Besides a healthy understanding of marketing principles, you’ll need to know how people digest information online and also what online content products serve the individual needs of a client. To be a freelance copywriter, you need to have a whole different skill set to a freelance writer doing journalism style articles. For example:
Client works in the cosmecutical industry. They develop luxury skin care products for women with sensitive skin. This industry sells on faux science and making women feel bad about themselves. You must understand if the client is right for that approach, decide what will make them more desirable and then decide the best way to “sell it”. Maybe they’ve done clinical trials – you should determine how much information buyers want and then use the right means (from White Paper down to flyer) to communicate that. Then, you need to know how people like to digest those media – from dot points to paragraphs to diagrams and beyond.
A freelance writer doing factual articles doesn’t need all that information, it’s more about researching a topic and writing it well. That’s where most freelance writers get started. These are not interchangeable and one pays way more than the other.
Freelance Money – where it at…..
First let me tell you were the money isn’t at….Elance, Freelancer.com and all the other freelance hiring sites. The experience may be there but the money is in bricks and mortar or at least, Facebook page clients. If you need some work to beef up your portfolio, go to Elance but don’t expect more than $15 an article….
Freelance article writers get from about $5 for 500 words (eek) to about $50 for 500 words if they have no reputation to bring to the table. If you’re a star blogger or you’re an expert in your field or you are writing for big brands, you’ll be able to name a much better price….but if you’re a freelance writer, creating articles for online marketing purposes, you’ll be told a very disappointing price.
Freelance copywriters get from about $50 per 400 words to about $400 per 400 words depending on the market they are serving. Those hard sell copywriters that do Viagra websites – $2000+ per page….although you will feel dirty as you roll in your money. So, freelance writing money is definitely in the copy (commercial) end of things. It’s that whole, broad skill set that brings in the big bucks.
So, to summarise, let me tell you in advertising clichés where it’s at (these are the comic sans of the writing industry – and they make us want to kill kill kill):
There has never been a better time to become a freelance writer.
Being a one-stop-shop writer will earn you more money!
It’s our birthday but you get the presents, first to see will buy and these prices can’t last….I feel so dirty.
Being a freelance writer in Brisbane is not only possible these days but it’s getting easier all the time. We hire freelancers from time and some have stayed with us and are now making good, steady money writing for Talk About Creative. Come on in, there’s plenty of freelance work to go around!