If you want to make money online, writing for the Web can be a rewarding career option. There is little startup cost involved, you often get paid very quickly, and you can see your work published far more quickly than print freelance writers do in many cases. Making Web writing an even more attractive option is the fact that there is a huge amount of demand from prospective clients.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is. You can absolutely make money online as a freelancer – and more than the $5 article writing gigs you may see advertised on forums, bidding sites, and classified sites. Writing for the Web can bring in a significant full-time income if you go about it the right way. The problem is that many new Web writers don’t. They make the same common mistakes over and over. Don’t be one of them.
Here are three common mistakes freelance Web writers make when trying to earn an online income:
Charging too Little
It’s a very common misconception that the only (or even the best) way to start a freelance writing career on the Web is to charge very low rates to build portfolio pieces or references, and then increase rates to a more livable wage later (with a livable wage obviously varying greatly depending on several factors, such as a writer’s cost of living – however, I’ve seen even writers with an extremely low cost of living under-pricing their writing services, and then struggling to make ends meet when you would assume they could do that easily).
Why are very low prices a bad thing?
1. The referrals you get from that work are very often worthless to the end market you want to target (if you ultimately want to write for large online publications, like the online version of a magazine, they aren’t often going to care what a random webmaster no one’s ever heard of says about a few articles they paid you a penny per word to write).
2. Most writers can’t successfully jump from very low wages to a much higher rate – at least not within a reasonable time frame, which can lead to burnout.
3. You target a completely different market at a very low rate than you ultimately want to target, which means most of your initial marketing efforts will be for naught.
Never try to market services based on price. That can work with products, which can be mass-produced and sold off in bulk to retailers. It doesn’t work with services, because your time (your biggest asset as a Web writer) is a finite resource – once you’ve used it, it’s gone for good. You need to charge what that time is worth, and if your background can’t justify charging what your time is worth to you, you need to spend time building your credentials (which doesn’t mean cheap work credits) before marketing yourself as a Web writer in an effort to make decent money online.
Not Knowing the Competition
This common Web writing mistake is in line with charging too little. In fact, it’s often the reason new freelance writers charge too little on the Web.
They make the assumption that all of the Web writers advertising services are their competition. That’s not true. For example, I commonly see new writers undercharging for their work. When they’re asked why, they very often say “because there are a lot of writers in [fill in a country here] who will write for less than a penny per word, and I have to compete with them.”
No, they don’t have to compete with lower-wage writers. In fact, those writers aren’t likely your competition at all. Again, let’s say you figured out you need to charge $.20 per word. The clients looking for penny-per-word content or copy are not your target market. You shouldn’t waste a minute of your time trying to convince those buyers to pay your rates. You also shouldn’t succumb to their demands for extremely low rates and quality work though.
Instead, you have to know the value your work offers the end buyer (hint: your work does more than sit there and look pretty – it brings in traffic, repeat visitors, natural backlinks, registrations, subscriptions, sales, etc.). You can’t be afraid to charge based on that value, and you need to stop trying to compete with writers who aren’t even your true competition. Instead, you need to be focused on finding clients who are in your target market, which includes being willing to pay your rate range, no matter what that may be.
Assuming it’s Easy to Make Money Online Writing
It’s easy to fall in love with the idea of writing for the Web – earning a decent income working your own hours from home. What’s not to love about that?
Despite its benefits though, working from home as a writer on the Web involves a lot of real work. You have to deal with client management, finances, record-keeping, multiple deadlines, etc. If anything, you may find that you initially work more than you would at a traditional job – it’s almost too easy to become a workaholic when you’re trying to get started.
You’ll work hard to make money online in just about any manner, but that’s especially true in freelancing where you have to strictly control your working and billable time. Keep these common mistakes in mind so you don’t join the ranks of writers who have made them, and strike a balance between your Web-based work, the income you want to earn, and everything else in life. You can make it work with a bit of effort and planning, and you don’t have to “start low” to do it.
About the Author:
Jennifer Mattern is a freelance business writer / Web content writer, blogger, and author of the Web Writer’s Guide to Launching a Successful Freelance Web Writing Career e-book. The e-book is designed to help new freelance Web writers launch their online career, set their writing rates, build a portfolio, build a network, and learn how to effectively market their services to bring in new clients. Find out more at the Web Writer’s Guide blog at WebWritersGuide.com