Last month, I reached out to my readers/followers via social media and my newsletter to invite them to “ASK ME ANYTHING” about freelance writing. You guys readily responded to my “AMA” and I ended up with over 50 questions!
That was far more than I was expecting, to be honest — which is why this became my gigantic START-of-the-year post rather than my enormous END-of-the-year post like I’d originally intended. (Apologies to anyone whose been anxiously waiting!).
In the end, it feels incredibly fitting and, dare-I-say, “right” to have this post go up in 2020. This year marks LittleZotz Writing’s 10th anniversary — and what better way to get my 10th year rolling than to answer a buttload of questions from the folks who’ve stuck with me and made this site everything it is?
Which reminds me! Before I do anything else… THANK YOU!! Yes, you. Thank you — and you and you and YOU — for sticking with me and continuing to read the LittleZotz Writing blog for an entire decade! And extra big sloppy thank you hugs to those of you who wrote in with questions for this extra special post. You rock!
Ready to have your questions answered…? Here we go!
Table of Contents
- 1 Basic Freelance Writing Questions
- 1.1 “How did you get started freelance writing?”
- 1.2 “What’s your favorite thing about freelance writing?”
- 1.3 “What’s your least favorite thing about freelance writing?”
- 1.4 “What equipment do you use?”
- 1.5 “What is your education?”/”Do you need a degree to be a freelance writer?”
- 1.6 “Best way to get good at writing?”
- 2 Basic Freelance Blogging Questions
- 3 Basic Freelance Editing Questions
- 4 Marketing Questions
- 4.1 “Do I need a website?”/”How do I get a website?”
- 4.2 “Which social medias are best for marketing myself?”
- 4.3 “Any specific DOs and DON’Ts for social media?”
- 4.4 “How do I get an avatar for leaving comments/authoring guest posts?”
- 4.5 “Once you’re an editor, you can pretty much edit anything with words, but the #freelance world usually ‘needs’ a niche, so how to market yourself as an #editor?”
- 4.6 “Is it worth trying to do different stuff with different names?”
- 4.7 “How do you get/use testimonials?”
- 5 Money Stuff
- 5.1 “How long did it take before you were able to make a sustainable income?”
- 5.2 “Are you rich?”
- 5.3 “Which writing gigs pay the most?”
- 5.4 “Is it ever okay to write for free?”
- 5.5 “Any invoicing tips to share?”
- 5.6 “Do all clients suck or just mine? I look at the rates on projects right now and I’m like WTF! Do people just not believe in actually PAYING writers for their skills now??”
- 6 Ghostwriting Questions
- 6.1 “You keep saying that you do ghostwriting/ghostblogging and I’m so curious but I feel really dumb. I don’t get it. Does this have to do with your horror stuff? But you said it’s NONFICTION! Are ghosts REAL?! Brr! Scary!!”
- 6.2 “How do you build your portfolio as a ghostwriter when most of your assignments are a secret?”
- 6.3 “For ghostwriting, is there some way to get credit for the writing, aside from payment?”
- 6.4 “What are common mistakes of ghostwriters just starting out? And how to avoid them!”
- 7 Productivity Questions
- 7.1 “How long does it take you to write a (2500 words) blog post? Do you have any procedures that you follow?”
- 7.2 “How do you deal with procrastination as a writer?”
- 7.3 “How do you stay organized to meet deadlines?”
- 7.4 “What’s your research process?”/”Where do I find information on articles besides Google?”
- 8 Finding Work Questions
- 8.1 “How do I find clients?”
- 8.2 “When applying to job boards do all three of my samples have to be about this specific niche?”
- 8.3 “How do I get over my fear of pitching?”/”What do I do if I’m rejected?”
- 8.4 “I would like to know about writing for different genres and writing columns in magazines 😊 #amwriting #typesofwriting”
- 8.5 “What are content mills?”/”What do you think of content mills?”
- 9 Avoiding Pitfalls Questions
- 9.1 “What are common freelance writing scams? How to avoid??”
- 9.2 “What were some of your biggest mistakes/regrets starting out?”
- 9.3 “Is there a surefire sign that someone is not cut out for freelancing?”
- 9.4 “What do you do if you make a mistake?”
- 9.5 “Do I need to know how to do other things to succeed at being a writer or is being good at writing enough?”/”What additional skills do clients expect?”
- 10 Random/Personal Questions
- 10.1 “How’s the marriage?”
- 10.2 “Do you still have a cat?”/”Can I see pics of your cats?”
- 10.3 “What do you do for fun in your downtime? Or are you always writing?”
- 10.4 “Who does your blog drawings?”
- 10.5 “Okay. I’ll bite. What does ‘LittleZotz’ mean?”
- 10.6 “Where do you work now?”
- 10.7 “What’s the best thing that happened with your career this year?”
- 10.8 “Why do you do it?”
- 10.9 “Do you still write fiction?”
- 10.10 “Do you have other sites?”
- 10.11 “What are your goals for 2020?”
Basic Freelance Writing Questions
“How did you get started freelance writing?”
I’ve been writing since I first learned to (awkwardly) grasp a pencil. My “show and tell” days during elementary school were often just read-alouds of my latest creative ramblings. However, my first “freelance” (AKA: paying) writing work didn’t happen until I was a teenager.
At 15, I got several guest posts published in magazines. I also did quite a lot of paid ghostwriting… I would, er, ghostwrite essays and whatnot for my peers in exchange for money (or food). At the time, my family was going through extreme financial hardships, and I simply saw my ghostwriting as a clever source of income — a way to help pay for my own expenses while simultaneously assisting students in need of my skills. Of course, as an adult, I learned that academic ghostwriting is one of the few forms of ghosting that’s illegal (oops!) and I haven’t written anything for students since!
After I graduated from high school, I kept writing as a side-job and a hobby. My primary income came from fast food and retail jobs.
Then, in 2010, I opened up LittleZotz Writing and made freelance writing my sole source of income. I was 25-years-old.
Since then, I’ve branched out into editing as well as writing; but I haven’t had a “normal” job since 2009 (my last job before becoming a full-time writer was working as a cashier at Del Taco). I’ll be 35-years-old this upcoming Tuesday, January 7th.
“What’s your favorite thing about freelance writing?”
The writing, if the topic is enjoyable, is usually a treat. I like having a chance to flex my creative muscles — and what writer doesn’t enjoy that special “glow” that comes from seeing a blank page magically transform into a page filled with words? Most writers get into writing because they love writing and I’m no exception.
I also enjoy the paychecks. That’s where the “freelance” aspect comes into play… Anyone can write, but freelance writers get paid for their writing. Plus, as a ghostwriter, the pay is usually all I get. My creative muscles are, more often than not, flexed on behalf of someone else — and my page of words is attributed to another person’s name.
Working from home (and setting my own hours!) is pretty rad too. For various reasons, working from home and having a flexible schedule suits my personality — and work style — far better than any sort of “traditional” job.
“What’s your least favorite thing about freelance writing?”
The writing, if the topic sucks, is a total drag. Since you’re writing for someone else (even if you manage to snag a byline!), you hardly ever have full creative control over the pieces you write. If the client (or magazine, or blog, or whatever) wants you to write about something incredibly boring then you’ll have to do it in order to get paid.
Though, on the topic of payments… The paychecks are also one of my least favorite things about freelance writing. When they happen, they’re amazing; however, freelancing (of any kind, not just writing!) is notoriously unpredictable when it comes to money. Chasing down clients/invoices in order to actually get paid for the work you do can be downright exhausting, not to mention extremely stressful!
Finally, my least favorite thing about freelance writing is having to figure out new hobbies. When your favorite hobby (writing) becomes your job… what do you do for fun? Every now and then, I’ll get a wild hair and bang out a piece of writing solely for enjoyment; however, most days, I’m too burnt out from writing all day for work to feel any sort of enthusiasm about writing after hours.
That last one is a minor complaint though. My favorite aspects of freelance writing far outweigh my reasons to grumble.
“What equipment do you use?”
- A PC (Windows 10).
- Microsoft Word (some clients/publications want .docx files; however, I mainly use Word for my personal files to create “hard” copies of my writing/work — it’s also great for creating PDF files, if needed).
- Google Docs (most clients/publications prefer Google Docs for articles these days).
- Gmail (for emails).
- Skype (for chatting with clients and/or my mentoring students).
- PayPal (for invoicing and payments).
- A smartphone (I can’t always be at my desk, but promptness can make or break a gig sometimes so I like to always have access to my email, at the very least).
- An external hard drive (keep your files backed up!).
- A comfortable/supportive desk chair (a lot of equipment can be obtained for relatively cheap and still get the job done; however, if there’s one thing that you should shell out the big bucks to invest in, it’s an amazing chair!).
Additional equipment/software I use varies from project-to-project, but the stuff I listed above is what I’ve used on a daily basis for the past decade. Some clients will insist I download something in order to work with them (Zoom, Time Doctor, Slack, whatever) but, once the project’s over, I usually just delete it.
“What is your education?”/”Do you need a degree to be a freelance writer?”
I graduated from high school and earned my high school diploma. That’s…uh… that’s what I’ve got. That’s the extent of my formal education.
So, to answer the second question: No, you don’t need a degree to be a freelance writer. You just need to be a decent writer!
You can, of course, earn a degree if you’d like. However, I’ve known writers who have TWO college degrees who still struggle to find work. It honestly doesn’t seem to make a difference, work-wise… Though it’s definitely an accomplishment to be proud of and, I suppose, could give you an additional source of confidence?
IMPORTANT: Never confuse a lack of formal education for a lack of learning. Whether you go to college to obtain your knowledge, hire a mentor in your field, or simply read an ungodly amount of books/blog posts — KEEP LEARNING!! Never, ever, stop learning.
“Best way to get good at writing?”
Start writing and keep writing. You’ll stink at first — we all do. I’ve won multiple awards for my writing at this point and I still cringe over things I’ve written in the past year… and let’s not even talk about the stuff I wrote in my teens and twenties! Woof!!
Don’t stop. Eventually, you’ll “git gud” (as the kids say). Becoming skilled at something always takes practice. Embrace the grind.
Basic Freelance Blogging Questions
“Do I need a blog to start as a freelance blogger?”
Technically? No. You don’t need a blog of your own in order to work as a freelance blogger… But you may find obtaining work much more challenging initially.
If you have a blog of your own, you’ll have an incredibly easy way to bulk up your portfolio. Even if you’ve never written for anyone else at the start of your freelance blogging career, you’ll have a nice selection of samples to show off. Having your own blog allows you to show potential clients your writing style, your formatting skills, your ability to keep a blog maintained/updated, and more!
If you don’t have your own blog, you can still succeed; however, you’ll have to push extra hard to get your foot in the door. And it’ll take longer to build up your clips/writing samples/portfolio to show off. Instead of having complete control over your blogging samples, you’ll be relying on outside clients/publications. Granted, your samples will be more prestigious… but it may take you a good long while to obtain them!
If you’re interested in starting a freelance blogging career, I highly recommend you have a blog of your own. Even if you decide to delete your blog later on — when you finally have a hefty portfolio filled with articles for clients/publications — having a blog of your own can make nabbing your first gigs a lot easier.
Plus, why would you want to make freelance blogging your career if you don’t love blogging? That just seems silly.
Of course, if you’re pursuing other styles of writing (like copywriting) as your primary source of income then you don’t need a blog.
“What is ‘blog format’ and how is it different from normal writing?”
Styleguides vary from publication to publication (or business to business); however, for the most part, “blog format” refers to writing with short sentences and utilizing headers to break your writing into sections.
Headers are basically the mini titles (larger font!) you often see throughout blog posts. In this blog post, I’ve used H1 headers for the main sections (“basic freelance writing questions,” “basic blogging questions,” etc.) and H2 headers for everyone’s questions.
Unlike traditional/”normal” writing, blog writers keep their sentences fairly short — and their paragraphs even shorter! We also use the “Enter” key rather than the “Tab” (indent) key to denote new paragraphs.
The primary reason for this is simple: Online writing is harder to read than print. In order to combat potential eyestrain in online readers, online writers break their text down into smaller chunks.
It’s also beneficial for SEO purposes (which I’ll get into somewhat below) but, considering SEO preferences are constantly evolving and human eyeballs pretty much stay the same, the “readability” aspect is far more important in the long-run.
“What are some common formatting mistakes you’ve seen from online writers?”
The biggest mistake I see, from a formatting perspective, are gigantic paragraphs. Whenever someone writes a WALL O’ TEXT, it’s headache-inducing. Even if their writing is brilliant, I have to debate whether I want to risk the eyestrain to continue reading.
For little stuff… Double-spacing after periods. I totally get it. I’m an old-timer at this point too! Those of us who learned how to type back in the 1900s all double-spaced after hard stops. However, these days, double-spacing after periods makes you look old, severely out-of-touch, and will annoy the heck out of your editor.
“How does blog writing differ from other types of writing?”
With few exceptions, blog writing is far less formal than any other form of writing. You write how you speak! It’s casual and conversational.
“What is SEO?”
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
This topic is enormous and if I took the time to answer this question in full, there’s a good chance my answer would already be outdated by the time you finished reading it. SEO is constantly evolving and, in order to stay on top of it, you’ll need to devour as much new/current information on the subject as humanly possible.
Basically, “SEO” is the general term used to describe the tricks/techniques folks use within their online content to get their websites to rank higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). From a writing perspective, it means knowing how to properly use keywords, keyword phrases, tags, alt tags, meta descriptions, inbound links, outbound links, and a buncha other junk within your content.
Take it seriously because your clients will likely take it very seriously. Learn as much as you can as often as you can.
Personally, while I stay up-to-date on SEO happenings for my clients — and I use my knowledge constantly while on the job! — I don’t bother with SEO on my own sites. (*HORRIFIED GASP!* WHAT?!).
While current SEO skills help me land jobs (and command higher rates from clients), I find it incredibly tedious and a source of unnecessary stress in my personal life. I also find it a somewhat futile effort. Since the SEO “rules” change several times per year, the SEO efforts I make now may no longer be in-vogue within a matter of weeks.
If I depended on a massive amount of traffic in order to sell affiliate products or get advertising clicks, I’d make the effort. However, since I earn relatively the same amount of money whether I have traffic or not, I’d rather focus on writing how/what/when I want.
Sometimes Google likes my rambles, sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t really make a difference to me. So long as my audience (you!) finds my content educational and entertaining, I’m happy.
Basic Freelance Editing Questions
“How did you get started as a freelance editor?”
I’ve done little editing “side jobs” since I was a teenager. Someone always seems to have something they need proofread and/or edited at any given moment — and many of those people are willing to pay you to do so!
My first “big” editing job was for Sophie Lizard, the owner of Be a Freelance Blogger. I was the Managing Editor of BAFB for over five years.
Sophie hired me after seeing me comment on a few blog posts on her site. She liked my positive attitude and oddly-charming quirkiness.
After that, I basically just applied to other editing jobs like, “Yo! Sophie thinks I’m super awesome so maybe you will too?!” Then, after I got several more editing jobs under my belt, I applied to places like, “BLAM!! There’s my massive portfolio! I know what’s up! Let’s do this biz!” Only, you know, more politely/professionally than that…
You get the idea.
“Which is better: writing or editing?”
I like them both, and I think both are equally important. Without writing, there would be no need for editing; without editing, there would be no great writing.
Both professions have an equal number of pros and cons.
“Which pays more? (Writing or Editing?)”
Ah. Haha. This may have been what the last person meant when they asked which career was “better.”
This might seem like a cop-out, but: It depends.
In my experience, editing pays more than writing. Which is why I tend to favor editing jobs at this stage of my freelancing career.
That’s not a written-in-stone “truth” though — it’s merely true for me. In my case, editing gigs pay “more” because I read/edit much faster than I can think/write.
Allow me to elaborate:
- If I’m paid a flat rate of $300 for an editing project and I finish it in two hours, that means I earned $150/hour. Cha-ching!! *happy dance*
- If I’m paid a flat rate of $300 for a writing project and I take 16 hours to finish it, that means I earned $18.75/hour. Nothing to be ashamed of, by any means; but definitely not worthy of the mental cash register chime and happy dance!
On the other hand, if you’re speedier at writing than editing, then the above scenario would be reversed!
And, of course, there are always exceptions and/or additional variables to consider. Ghostwriting generally pays (at least!) double what bylined writing pays upfront, but bylined writing “pays” more in the long run because you can use those articles as clips to get you future jobs. Or, if you’re paid an hourly rate rather than a flat rate, then your super-speedy editing skills will thrill your client… but leave your wallet uncomfortably slim.
Like I said: It depends!
“Do you have any special tools that help you edit better?”
I double-check titles and headers with Title Case Converter on a daily basis. Bookmark that site. I usually don’t need it, but I love knowing FOR SURE the titles/headers I’ve “Okay’d” are 100% correct.
Also, when I was still on Lexapro, I used to get migraines on a regular basis. They were often triggered by staring at my computer screen for too many hours. In order to continue to do my job (AKA: stare at my computer screen for hours and edit writers’ work!), I invested in a pair of sunglasses to wear while editing. They helped a lot!
Other than that, I don’t really use any tools/equipment other than my brain and my mouth… Reading what’s written aloud helps me determine if the sentences sound “natural.”
When possible, I also like to set a piece aside and come back to it a few hours later with “fresh” eyes. If you’re working on a rushed deadline (almost always!), that’s usually not gonna happen — but it’s especially nice when it does!
“What’s the difference between proofreading and editing?”
All editors proofread, but not all proofreaders edit.
Proofreading is like Editing LITE, if that makes sense. Proofreaders look over a piece of writing and correct surface errors such as typos, spelling errors, misplaced punctuation, and basic grammar mistakes. Their job is to tidy things up and make the writing passable. Kinda like sweeping a really dirty floor — it’ll look “good enough” to pass for “clean,” but there’ll still be dirt in the floorboard cracks and it won’t truly shine.
Editors do what proofreaders do and then take it a step further by enhancing the written work. Editors not only fix the surface errors, they go through and tweak formatting issues, improve sentence structure/flow, rewrite suboptimal words/phrases, and otherwise polish the writing for maximum readability!
Going back to my “dirty floors” analogy: If proofreaders sweep dirty floors, then editors sweep, mop, and wax them!
“Do I need a website?”/”How do I get a website?”
You don’t need a website, but it makes things easier. You can use it to showcase your portfolio/clips, share your testimonials, describe your services, and more.
For complete control over how your site looks what you’re allowed to post, I recommend investing in a self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) website. WordPress is incredibly easy to use (even for those of us who aren’t tech-minded, like me!), and you’ll be able to build your site however you want.
I use GoDaddy for my WordPress hosting and domain names. You can find cheaper hosting elsewhere; however, I love GoDaddy’s customer service team. Since I have a tendency to accidentally break things on my websites fairly often, it’s soooo worth it to pay a few extra bucks a month and know that I can hit up their 24/7 help chat and get my “oopsies!” fixed immediately.
IsItWP has a great coupon for GoDaddy WordPress hosting: $12 for one year of hosting — and you get a domain name (URL) thrown in for FREE! I don’t get any kickback for sharing that coupon. It’s just a great deal. I’ve used it at least three times for various projects/websites I’ve set up.
If you’re low on funds, or don’t have time to maintain a “real” website, WordPress.com is FREE to use and is pretty good. If you invest in a domain name for your site, most folks won’t know the difference from the front end. Unfortunately, the backend is much more limited (no plugins!) and their ToS can be a real pain (you won’t be able to sell anything directly on your website — no PayPal buttons allowed!).
If you’re looking for something even more low-key, Contently might work for you. It’s a free-to-join platform that writers can use to build their online portfolios. If you only want a site to gather all your clips in one place, then Contently’s great.
It’s totally up to you! Determine what you need, how much time you’re willing to invest, what your budget is, and choose what works best for you.
You can always change/upgrade your website later, if needed. Whatever decision you make now, you can always revise/improve your choice later on. LittleZotz Writing was originally a janky-lookin’ “free version” Webs.com website, but look at it now!
The best social media platforms for marketing yourself are the ones you actually intend to use.
I can’t stand Facebook (for personal use or business). I had an account for years because I thought I “had” to have one and it was just a miserable experience. I abandoned my Facebook account (personal and business page) last August and I haven’t regretted it for a second.
Of all the “popular” social media platforms, I’d recommend you at least get a LinkedIn account. Even if you don’t get into the “social” aspects of it, it’s handy to have around because you can use it as an online resume, an easy way to gather testimonials, and they have a decent job board/job search system.
I doubt I have anything to say you haven’t already heard a million times before…
Use common sense. Don’t post nudes, don’t share your home address, be nice, etc.
Be genuine, but don’t be overly negative or whiney. We all go through hard times, and it’s okay to be “real” about your rough spots, but posting a constant stream of self-pitying moaning is extremely unattractive. And, believe it or not, I mean that primarily from a business perspective!
No one wants to hire someone — pay someone — who looks/acts like they’re desperate for cash. That might sound incredibly cruel, but it’s a fact of life. Why do you think Scarlett O’Hara went to the effort to create that posh-looking dress outta curtains and act like she was minted when she went to apply for a loan? She knew what was up, that’s why!
I’m candid with most aspects of my life and personality, but I keep my financial setbacks out of the public eye as much as humanly possible. When I do talk about my money troubles, it’s generally after I’ve climbed out of the pit of financial despair.
That technique works better from a marketing standpoint (potential clients are more likely to hire me if they don’t know I’m secretly desperate!) and I’m able to lift up my peers more effectively (by sharing how I overcame my crisis, rather than dragging those around me down into my depression whilst it’s happening).
That’s called a Gravatar!
A Gravatar — Globally Recognized Avatar — is a free-to-use tool that connects the photo of your choice to your email address. Then, any time you use that email address to leave a comment or create a post, the photo (avatar) you chose appears next to your name. Easy-peasy!
“Once you’re an editor, you can pretty much edit anything with words, but the #freelance world usually ‘needs’ a niche, so how to market yourself as an #editor?”
Your niche is going to be a matter of personal preference, whether you’re writing or editing. Technically, you can apply to any job you want — but choosing a “niche” helps you define the jobs you actually want. Does that make sense? Haha.
As for marketing yourself as an editor… You basically just have to say that you’re an editor! Apply for editing jobs, list “editing” as one of your services on your website, talk about editing stuff on social media, etc.
Marketing yourself as an editor is easier upfront, but more difficult behind-the-scenes. It’s pretty much the opposite of freelance writing. I’ll try to explain as best I can…
As a writer, you’ll need to prove you’re a writer right off the bat. You can’t just say “I’m a writer!” and expect it to fly. You’ll need proof from the get-go. That’s what makes it more challenging on the front end. However, behind the scenes, you’ll have an easier time because, as a writer, you will have that proof readily on hand!
If a client wants you to prove your worth as a writer, you can send them your portfolio/samples/clips and that’ll be that. No further testing needed. (If they do try to test you and ask for an unpaid sample piece written specifically for them, it’s usually a scam!).
As an editor, it’s easier on the front end because you can say “I’m an editor!” and most folks will simply nod in agreement. By the time anyone sees the pieces you’ve edited, they’ve already been…edited. Everything you put forth will automatically look amazing! No one has any way of knowing what the articles looked like before you got to them. If you say, “This article was a complete mess, but look how great it is now thanks to ME!” they’re forced to take you at your word.
Behind-the-scenes, editors are put to the test each and every time they apply for a job. Unlike writers, editors don’t have a portfolio of samples they can whip out. Testimonials are an enormous help for getting your foot in the door, but you’ll likely still be tested prior to being hired.
Fortunately, for whatever reason, editors are scammed far less often than writers. Even though I’ve been tested for every editing job I’ve applied for, the tests have always been genuine (and led to me being hired) and, more often than not, I was paid for the “sample” editing work I performed.
“Is it worth trying to do different stuff with different names?”
Unless you have a really good reason to do so: Usually not.
If you use different names for different projects, you end up segmenting your audience and, ultimately, competing with yourself.
Let’s say I had four different names for four different projects:
- Lauren Tharp for Publication 1
- Lauren Rachel Tharp for Publication 2
- LaurLaur the Magnificent for Publication 3
- Top Cat Lauren T. for Publication 4
Mess #1: Readers from Publication 1 would know me as “Lauren Tharp” and only search for articles written by “Lauren Tharp.” Which means they’d miss out on any articles I’d written as “Lauren Rachel Tharp,” “LaurLaur the Magnificent,” or “Top Cat Lauren T.”
I’d lose a nice chunk of traffic/readers. Plus, what if I gave up the name “Lauren Tharp” in favor of one of the other names? The audience who was following “Lauren Tharp” might think I’d stopped writing entirely and abandon me, not knowing they could find me under an alternate name.
Mess #2: Keeping your samples/portfolio organized and cohesive for clients can be a real chore when you write under several different names.
Of course, there are exceptions…
If you want to write something that really doesn’t fit with your current niche and could potentially damage your career, you might consider using a pseudonym. For example, if you primarily write children’s literature but you’re burning to write a really raunchy erotic novella.
Or, in my case: If you legally change your name. My name was originally Lauren Tharp. After I got married last April, I became Lauren Spear. And, yes, some folks were confused by the name change — but it was a sacrifice I was more than willing to make in order to take on my husband’s last name.
Fortunately, in my case, I primarily market myself under a “brand” name (LittleZotz!) and that remained the same, even after marriage. So, ladies, if you’re planning to get married someday — and you’re old-fashioned like I am! — consider building your freelance career under a nickname/brand name so that you won’t lose your readers once your name changes!
“How do you get/use testimonials?”
If you write/edit something for someone and they were pleased with the results, ask them if they’d be willing to write you a short testimonial saying so. It’s really that simple!
I usually approach the client with something like this: “I’m so happy you loved my work! If you have time, it would mean a lot to me if you could write a testimonial regarding my services. It doesn’t need to be long — I know you’re extremely busy! Thank you so much.”
It’s a four-part formula:
- Remind them that they loved your work. Thus, you deserve praise.
- Acknowledge that your client is an extremely busy/important person. Puffs them up/feeds their ego. This step isn’t always necessary (many clients are really down-to-earth — but, in my experience, the type of folks who hire ghostwriters enjoy a little extra ego inflation).
- Assure them that they don’t have to take too much time out of their lives to write up a testimonial for you. It’s true! Two or three sentences stating how awesome you are can make an enormous difference for you, and it won’t take them long to write. And many clients (the best ones!) will end up writing more than that. However, this disclaimer helps reduce the client’s anxiety — after all, if they hired you to write/edit something for them, there’s a very good chance they don’t have strong writing skills of their own (or they simply dislike writing in general), so knowing they won’t have to write much to please you is often a huge relief.
- Let them know that it would mean a lot to you and say THANK YOU. True again: it would mean a lot to you! Plus, even the most egotistical clients usually enjoy that warm glow we all get when we’re given the opportunity to help someone in need. And always say “thank you” because it’s good manners! After all, they’re doing you a favor — be polite and courteous.
I’d also recommend getting your testimonials through LinkedIn, whenever possible. LinkedIn testimonials are my favorite because they do double duty — they show up on my LinkedIn profile and I can copy/paste them onto my website.
You can also gather testimonials via email and use them solely on your website (if your client doesn’t have/use LinkedIn), but it’s always nice to have that “validated” social proof by doing it through a well-known platform.
“How long did it take before you were able to make a sustainable income?”
I was incredibly lucky. Also, since I had zero other sources of income, I was highly motivated to “make it” with my freelance writing career.
There have been a few setbacks though. Some years, there simply wasn’t enough well-paying work available (I’ll get into that more below, since someone else asked a question that relates to it) and there were a couple of times where I was forced to take a break and then “reboot” my career nearly from scratch upon my return.
For example, in 2014, I was at the top of my game. I had clients galore, and I was pulling in megabucks! But then my brain broke (AKA: my Depression was also at the top of its game…) and I attempted suicide. After a month in a mental institution and another month of recovery, I’d lost all of my clients except one (shoutout to earth angel Sophie Lizard!).
It took me nearly a year to start earning a comfortable income again. I pulled in (just barely) enough to survive on, but things were incredibly tight.
Freelancing is often like that though. You’ll rarely have truly steady/sustainable income in this line of work. The “Feast or Famine” Cycle is something you’ll always have to wrestle with. I just pray that you’re better at setting money aside for the “famine” times than I am!
“Are you rich?”
If you’re referring to my soul, I’d consider myself a billionaire! I’m rich with the love of a gracious God, my adoring husband, my wonderful family, my goofy critters, and the absolute BEST friends anyone could hope to have.
In a material sense? Eh. Financially, I do okay.
I’m never sure how to answer this question. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable. But, since this is an “AMA,” I have to answer.
If I lived pretty much anywhere else, I’d be rolling in dough. But, since I live in the 3rd most expensive city in United States — the10th most expensive city in the WORLD! — I do “okay.” My income, combined with my husband’s, allows us to take care of the basics (food, shelter, assorted bills) and have a little leftover for fun (dates, new video games, whatever).
Some months are more of a struggle than others but, for the most part, I earn enough for everything I need/want and that’s just fine by me.
“Which writing gigs pay the most?”
Whatever niche is trendy at the moment will generally pay the most. Some years your writing niche will be all the rage and you’ll be pulling in the big bucks and the next…? Not so much. It varies!
The writing gigs that consistently pay the most are copywriting jobs. Copywriters are always getting paid top dollar for their skills.
“Is it ever okay to write for free?”
Sure! If YOU want to write for free, that’s your choice. I’m not going to stop you. Have at it!
I’m writing for free at this very moment! No one’s paying me to write this enormous blog post. I’m doing it for kicks! And I write for free on my horror website as well. Sometimes writers just gotta write, y’know?
However, I’d advise against writing for “clients” for free. It’s usually not worth it. Why waste your valuable time writing for free when you could spend that time searching for someone who’s willing to pay you for your services?
And be extremely wary if a potential “client” asks you to write them a free “sample” article. That’s almost always a scam. (I’ll explain why in the “Avoiding Pitfalls” section of this post).
The only time I write for other people for free is when I submit guest posts. BUT, there are four key factors to look out for to make sure free guest posting is worth your while:
- The publication gives you a byline. If your name (and preferably an author bio!) isn’t going to be on your work, it’s not worth your time — you’re just filling out the blog owner’s content calendar. Great for them, obviously, but you’d be getting totally boned.
- The publication links back to your site/social handles. These are the BEST! If the publication not only credits you but freely links back to your website (or social media accounts), they should be at the top of your “I gotta guest post there!” list. Having a link back to your site in your guest post bio is a fantastic marketing tactic.
- They’re somewhat established and/or are currently working their butts off to become established. If the blog owner isn’t going to share the post you’ve submitted at least once on their social channels, think twice. Also: you’ll have more eyes on your work if the publication actually has readers.
- Their content aligns with your ideal niche. In other words, the publication features the type of content you someday intend to write for money. If you’re a fitness guru and want fitness-related writing clients, why submit a guest post for a blog about antique toilets? You’d end up with a bunch of toilet enthusiasts clicking over to your website trying to hire you and you’d be like, “Whaaaa…? I don’t care about toilets! I wanna write about yoga poses!” It’d be awkward. So, when you write for free, make sure it’s for the audience you’d eventually like to pay you.
The only exception, I’ve found, to that last “rule” are publications that write about writing. Writing-related blogs are lovely to guest post on, regardless of your chosen niche. The main reason? Clients/scouts in need of writers often browse writing-focused websites because they know that’s where writers hang out! Then, if you have your name/author bio on your work, they’ll be able to see what your “real” niche is and determine if you’re right for their project.
Speaking of which, I’m always looking for guest post writers for the LittleZotz Writing blog.
Don’t forget to invoice. Don’t forget to follow-up on your invoice if your client’s being a slowpoke about paying you.
Those are the biggies. However, Pete Boyle wrote a fantastic guest post for me about “How to Invoice Your Freelance Writing Clients Like a Pro.” If you still have invoicing questions, I highly recommend you check out his article!
And, as a bonus, I wrote a nice list of 10 common invoicing mistakes that you can check out too.
“Do all clients suck or just mine? I look at the rates on projects right now and I’m like WTF! Do people just not believe in actually PAYING writers for their skills now??”
I feel for the person who asked this, I truly do. I’ve had several rage-filled internal monologues about this throughout my career. I keep an eye on the freelance writing job boards, even when I’m employed, “just in case”… and sometimes the results are terrifying!
This past year was a very “dry” year for many of us. Several of my freelance writing/editing buddies ended up jumping ship and doggie-paddled toward new career paths. A couple of those people had prestigious, extremely high-earning writing careers just a couple of years ago!
There were a few months in 2019 when I was in a tear-filled panic. One project ended and… where was the next one?! The job boards were empty! And the few jobs that did turn up were either outright scams or offered peanuts for pay. It was awful, but I stuck it out. I’d seen this happen before.
Some months (or years) your writing niche just isn’t going to be in demand. There are always going to be rough patches, but don’t lose hope. If I’ve learned anything in the past decade, it’s that the pendulum always swings back if you wait long enough. It’s just extremely scary and stress-inducing when it’s on the far end.
Don’t lose hope, and don’t think that ALL clients are awful at any given time. If your corner of the market is terrible, there’s a good chance another writer’s is thriving. It’s just one of those things. Frustrating? Yes. Stressful? Abso-friggin-lutely! The end of ALL well-paying writing work as we know it?! Nope.
Save your money during the good times, if you can (I’m awful at this, but it’s great advice if you’re able to follow it!); and wait it out. If you’re in a truly desperate situation during the “dry” times, do what you have to do to survive. Ask for help (you will be able to repay people soon!), sell things you no longer need on eBay, get a temporary “normal” job (there’s no shame in retail!), or whatever you’ve gotta do.
One of the best things about being a freelance writer (or editor) is that you will always be a freelance writer. Even if you’re not always earning money from it, it’s still your career. You can’t be fired from it. It’ll always be there for you to return to.
“You keep saying that you do ghostwriting/ghostblogging and I’m so curious but I feel really dumb. I don’t get it. Does this have to do with your horror stuff? But you said it’s NONFICTION! Are ghosts REAL?! Brr! Scary!!”
This question was submitted by an eighth-grade girl, but you’d be surprised how many adults are equally baffled by ghostwriting!
You know how, when you turn in a paper you’ve written for English class, your name is at the top of your paper? If you were working as a ghostwriter, you’d write that same paper, but someone else’s name would be at the top instead of yours. You would become a “ghost” because you’d be invisible to the people reading it — the person whose name is at the top would be the one getting the credit for your writing, not you!
I’m paid to write books, magazine articles, and blog posts for people but their name is on the writing instead of mine. And no one can ever know it was me who wrote those books/magazines/blogs.
My favorite example of someone using a ghostwriter is Caroline Keene, the writer of the Nancy Drew book series. Caroline Keene isn’t a real person — she’s a group of ghostwriters working under a fake name.
As a general rule, whoever’s currently the President of the United States will use ghostwriters to write his speeches as well! He’s the one speaking the words, but someone else wrote them.
Basically, any time you write something and your name isn’t on it (or, more likely, your name is replaced with someone else’s): that’s ghostwriting!
As for ghosts being real: It’s entirely possible! But most residual spirit energy tends to be harmless, so don’t let them worry you. Demons on the other hand… Yikes!
If you’re interested, one of my all-time favorite movies is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir — it’s about a woman who ghostwrites a novel for an actual ghost! It’s got a wonderful mix of romance, drama, and comedy. Plus, the music/score was done by Bernard Herrmann and the film was shot entirely in California (my home state! Woop woop!).
“How do you build your portfolio as a ghostwriter when most of your assignments are a secret?”
If you’re writing under a company name, rather than a single client’s name, there’s a good chance you’ll still get usable samples for your portfolio. I’ll get into that more in my answer to the following question!
Getting testimonials from your clients is also going to help you immensely. Even if you can’t share what you’ve written for your client, most clients are still willing to testify that you wrote something for them (and that you rocked it!).
I’d also highly recommend having a blog of your own to beef up your portfolio. And/or doing some bylined guest posts for other people’s blogs. Even if your primary source of income is ghostwriting, you’ll have a far easier time landing gigs — and proving you’ve got mad writing skillz! — if you have at least a few articles with your name attached to them.
“For ghostwriting, is there some way to get credit for the writing, aside from payment?”
Short answer: It depends on your contract.
Some clients will allow you to say that you’ve written for/as them. This is more common when you’ve written under a company name. For example, I wrote every blog post for Miami Envelopes (back when they still had a blog), but they were written under the Miami Envelopes company/brand name. However, I was allowed to use those blog posts as samples because my contract said I could!
Other clients may allow you to say that you’ve worked for/with them, but not let you say exactly what you did for them. This is more common when you’re writing for/as a single person who’s claiming the work as their “own.” They may give you a testimonial in lieu of samples.
In other cases, such as books, you may receive duel credit — even if you’re the one doing all, or most, of the work — such as: “Written by Jon Bon Jovi and Lauren Spear.” Or, you may receive an “as told to” credit like: “Written by Jon Bon Jovi as told to Lauren Spear.” (Note: I haven’t actually worked with Bon Jovi. I was just fumbling for an example and one of his songs came up on my playlist! Haha).
In most cases, you’ll receive no credit and no usable samples. Only the pay. Which is why you’re allowed to charge a lot more than bylined work!
To be a successful ghostwriter you have to be able to set your own ego aside and let your client shine in the spotlight.
“What are common mistakes of ghostwriters just starting out? And how to avoid them!”
Here are the three biggies:
1. Writing as yourself rather than as your client.
How to avoid: Get to know your client better! Ask more questions. Personally, I like to print out a fact sheet on my client and keep it next to me while I’m writing. For instance, if the client is a music buff, I’ll try to slip in a music reference into “their” article.
2. Blowing your secrecy contract.
How to avoid: If you can’t set your ego aside and let your client shine in the spotlight for your work, then ghostwriting probably isn’t for you. In which case, the easiest way to avoid this mistake is to not become a ghostwriter in the first place. However, if you’re determined to make it work, then you’ll just have to get better at not talking about your work!
Also: Avoid reading the comments left on blog posts you’ve written! It is so hard not to scream “IT WAS ME!! I WROTE THIS!” when reading comments like “This is a great article. You are a genius, [Client’s Name Here].” The more you can avoid seeing your client being praised for your work, the easier it’ll be to not blow your cover.
3. Resenting your client.
How to avoid: Charge more. Haha. It’s really, really hard to despise someone who’s paying you well.
“How long does it take you to write a (2500 words) blog post? Do you have any procedures that you follow?”
To be honest, the actual writing doesn’t take me very long (I type around 75WPM), but I think rather slowly at times. I also have “perfectionist” tendencies and I often get overly caught up in the “research” part of the process (if I’m tackling a topic I’m not thoroughly familiar with).
If I’m covering a subject I already know like the back of my hand, I can bang out 2,500 words in under an hour. If I’m writing about something I’m not 100% confident about, 2,500 words can take me around five hours to get down on (digital) paper.
My basic “procedure” for writing an article/blog post is:
- Research the topic.
- Write up an outline. (The post’s “Headers”/subjects I’ll be covering).
- Fill in the blanks. (Write the “body” paragraphs).
- Proofread/edit what I wrote.
- Cross my fingers and pray to Jesus that the client/publication loves what I wrote.
- Eagerly await my paycheck.
“How do you deal with procrastination as a writer?”
I embrace it!
Usually, if I start feeling the urge to “procrastinate,” it’s my mind/body telling me that I need a break. By the time I start getting fussy and distracted, I’ve already been working several hours soooooo… I just go with it.
You should take breaks. Just remember to get back to your assignment before it’s due! If you’ve been “on break” for longer than you’ve actually worked, then you’ve got a procrastination problem.
Also, if your procrastination issue is accompanied with a sense of overwhelming dread/depression when you think of returning to work… It’s time to find a new job/client. I’ve been there. It sucks. And it’s often extremely scary to considering giving up work (even work that makes you miserable!), but you’ll be better off.
Find a job that you’re genuinely into and your urge to “procrastinate” will just be your body/mind screaming at you like, “HEY! You’ve been so absorbed in your awesome writing gig that you haven’t moved in six hours! Can we go for a walk or something?! LOOK! It’s a beautiful day outside!!”
“How do you stay organized to meet deadlines?”
I’ve actually been looking for an excuse to talk about Clever Fox planners for a while now, so this is perfect! Haha.
When I have a lot on my plate, I keep everything organized with my dayplanners from Clever Fox:
I’ve used a TON of dayplanners over the years, but Clever Fox’s are by FAR my favorite. They’re high-quality and stylish (rad!), but — most importantly! — they’re also non-dated.
Most dayplanners are dated and are completely useless after the year is over. If your schedule is cram-packed every day of every month, then dated planners are fab! However, if you’re like I am: some days/weeks/months won’t have much of anything going on. In which case, you’ll end up with a LOT of wasted/unused paper if you buy a dated planner.
I wrote to Clever Fox a few months ago to tell them how much I adore their planners. Their customer service team is unbelievably sweet and the owner of the company wrote back to me as well. They’re great folks and they’ve got a fantastic product.
I told them how their non-dated planners have kept me organized and greatly reduced my overall paper wasting. I said that some of my readers (fellow freelance writers!) might be interested in their planners as well, and they hooked me up with a discount code: LITTLEZOTZ10OFF
Use that code to get 10% off any purchase from Clever Fox planners. I don’t get any financial kickback. It’s not an affiliate code. I just genuinely adore their planners and I want them to stay in business so I can keep using them.
ANYWAY… Short answer: When I have a lot of deadlines to keep track of, I write things down.
“What’s your research process?”/”Where do I find information on articles besides Google?”
Well, honestly, I usually just look things up on Google. Just do your best to find information from reputable sources and you should be fine. The internet’s come a long way since it first became a “thing.” When I was in high school, we weren’t allowed to use any online sources for our research because it was “unreliable.” That’s not the case anymore.
If you need to interview a source yourself, you can use Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to connect with experts in pretty much any field imaginable.
Finding Work Questions
“How do I find clients?”
I can’t give you a specific answer to this question because I don’t know who your ideal clients are, what your niche is, what type of writing you intend to do…
I specialize in freelance blogging (primarily ghostblogging) and editing work. I find my clients by contacting them directly, leaving a guest post trail for potential clients to follow, or by applying for gigs posted on my favorite job boards.
My favorite job boards are (in no particular order):
The majority of my clients stumble upon my website and contact me though…
“When applying to job boards do all three of my samples have to be about this specific niche?”
This question feels oddly specific, but…uh… I’ll try my best to answer?
I’m going to assume you went to a job board, saw a job post you found promising, and the company in question requested three writing samples from applicants. I’m going to further assume that the company is legitimate and wants samples of work you’ve written previously rather than requesting you write three “samples” specifically for them (scam alert!).
Okay… Based on the assumptions above… Your writing samples don’t have to be from the company’s niche so long as they’re well-written and follow a similar “style”/format to what they’re looking for. You can simply explain that you haven’t had the opportunity to write in their niche (yet!) but that you have expertise in the area and that the samples you’re providing are just examples of your writing voice, your grasp of formatting techniques, and other such skills.
That said, you’ll have a much better chance of getting to the top of the “potential hires” pile if you submit relevant samples. But, if you don’t have clips specific to that niche and you still really want the job: Try anyway! Confidence goes a LONG way! If you’re an exceptional writer and you’re gung-ho about the opportunity being offered, give it a shot. The absolute worst they can do is say, “No, thanks.” That’s it. That’s the worst that can happen. So why not throw your hat into the ring?
“How do I get over my fear of pitching?”/”What do I do if I’m rejected?”
I actually get this question SO often that I have the answer to it on my FAQ page. Hahaha. Forgive me for being lazy (I’ve written 9,000+ words at this point and I’m getting tired!), but I’m just gonna copy/paste that answer here:
Writing comes with its own set of fears; however, freelance writing takes all those fears, amplifies them to the max, and then adds a new set of fears of its very own. Not only do you have to face the usual fears that no one will like – or even read! – what you write, you now have to worry about that same writing feeding yourself and your family that month.
Forget those fears. They’re only holding you back!
That’s right: Forget your fears about rejection. Forget your fears about clients. And forget your fears about career instability. The only real thing you need to fear as a freelance writer is burnout – from trying to do too many amazing things at once!
As an Editor, I’ve had to reject literally hundreds of writers. Rejection is definitely a possibility when you pitch your work. But it’s not something you have to let get you down. Either you pitch and get rejected or you pitch and get accepted. But if you don’t pitch at all, you’re automatically rejected. So why fear trying?
By not pitching, you’re already living your worst fears. A rejection from a publication doesn’t mean banishment forever. It just means “not now” or “not this piece.”
Keep trying. And keep learning.
“I would like to know about writing for different genres and writing columns in magazines 😊 #amwriting #typesofwriting”
It’s difficult to waltz into a publication (online or off) and nab your own column, but not impossible! Sometimes magazines will post job ads for a “columnist” position on job boards. You can also create a Google alert for “columnist job” and see what pops up!
That method can take a while though… The few times I’ve worked as a columnist, I was offered the position after I’d written several guest posts for the publication. My suggestion would be to submit guest articles to the blogs/magazines you’d most like to write a column for and see how it goes! Build a healthy relationship with the editors and you might get lucky.
At the very least, you’ll get a fantastic collection of writing clips for your portfolio!
If you’re interested, I have a free eBook called The Writernomicon that’s a list of 50+ online publications that pay $50 or more for guest posts. Might as well get paid while you’re rubbing elbows with the editors, eh?
“What are content mills?”/”What do you think of content mills?”
Basically, a content mill is a place where clients can post writing assignments and hundreds — sometimes thousands — of writers can fight over who gets to complete it. Most of the time the content is written for search engines instead of actual readers (there’s a higher focus on algorithms than genuine value).
I have mixed feelings about content mills. In my opinion, the “bad” far outweighs the “good” in the mill environment, but there is some good…
When I first decided to make freelance writing my sole source of income in 2010, I started out in a content mill.
Content mills help build confidence. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting paid to write something. When I first decided to write professionally, asking clients for money was one of the things I struggled with most. At a content mill, I didn’t have to ask — the rates were already set. That left me free to just…write. For money!
Also, they’re relatively safe. Really. Working at a content mill is like working with a safety net. Good content mills go out of their way to protect their writers. You can take on clients right and left and, as long as you do the work, you will get paid. The mill makes sure of it. You don’t have to chase after your clients to get your paycheck, you have a team of people to do it for you.
Which brings me to my final point: Even though you’re working with a safety net, you still get the experience of working with real clients. That’s great practice! You’re given assignments, and you’re forced to finish them — which is the core essence of what a professional writer does. Not to mention all the actual writing you have to do to complete said assignments!
But, of course, content mills aren’t all good times. There are plenty of cons to consider. Like the fact that they’re highly competitive.
Remember how I said there are hundreds — sometimes thousands — of writers all vying for the same assignments? The good jobs go FAST! In some content mills, there are bidding wars. Essentially writers try to “out cheap” each other to “impress” the clients. At the mill I worked for, assignments were given on a first-come-first-served basis. This had me setting alarms for 3 and 4am just to login and try to snatch up the higher-paying gigs before someone else did.
And “higher paying” is pretty relative. Because lemme tell ya: The pay rate stinks at content mills. And I mean, the pay really, REALLY stinks. The highest-paying article I ever wrote for a mill was $35.
And some of you might be thinking that that’s a decent rate, but I beg to differ. Sophie Lizard once told me the following during a Skype call back in 2013 (I found it so inspiring, I wrote it down!): “If you can’t earn enough from writing one post to go out and buy yourself a good-sized meal, at the very least, then something somewhere has gone seriously wrong.”
And that brings me to the final, most significant, “con” of content mills: They mess with your mindset.
There’s definitely a tipping point when content mills stop building confidence and start tearing down your self-worth. And that’s exactly when you need to leave.
After working for client after client who values quantity over quality — and pays pennies per word! — you start to think “Is this all there is?” You’ll start to believe that $5 an article really is the going rate for writing (it’s not!) and that things will never get any better for you (they will!). But only if you get out now.
My martial arts teacher used to tell me: “Fight like you walk. How often do you walk backwards? Move forward!”
It’s the same for your writing career.
Always move forward.
Of course, there’s no shame in starting out in a mill. Every writer has to start somewhere. Remember that.
Just don’t stay there forever.
Avoiding Pitfalls Questions
“What are common freelance writing scams? How to avoid??”
Catherine Nyorani–Wafula wrote a fantastic guest post for me about this, and I highly recommend you check it out! It’s called “Don’t Fall for These! 6 Common Freelance Writing Scams to Avoid.”
Seriously. It’s a great post. She answered the question just as good or better than I would have!
“What were some of your biggest mistakes/regrets starting out?”
I don’t have any regrets, in my career or in life. Even the worst things happen for a reason, and often end up paving the way to the best things. For example, I was working as an editor for an incredibly chaotic publication a few years ago and the job itself was a nightmare… but that’s where I met my husband! And my Maid of Honor! So, zero regrets. Haha.
As for mistakes…hmmm… Well, I fell for several common freelance writing scams when I was starting out. I’ve since learned to recognize them, but they definitely got me more than once when I was green!
I also didn’t fully understand SEO at first. I thought that it was something you learned and then you were done. Sooooo NOT the case! SEO is evolving and changing constantly and the techniques that worked back in the day do not work now. I was mentored by an SEO expert in 2010 and I was able to successfully implement his training for a good while (I felt like a real whiz kid!); but, by 2012, my skills were severely outdated and I made quite a fool out of myself (and made one client extremely sore with me!).
But, I was able to learn from that cringe-inducing experience and now I know to keep updating my knowledge/skills!
“Is there a surefire sign that someone is not cut out for freelancing?”
Freelancing is an extremely high-stress, unpredictable lifestyle and you’re going to go through it alone most of the time. If that sounds like an absolute nightmare, then it’s probably not for you.
You have to be excellent at managing yourself and your time. You’re your own boss, and you can’t afford to be lax about your duties. You’ll wear several other hats as a freelancer as well — you’re in charge of every aspect of your career!
You’re also going to be alone the bulk of your workdays. It’s just you and your keyboard. No boss, no co-workers… just you. If you’re someone who has no social life outside of your job, then I’d advise against going freelance. You’ll get incredibly lonely!
If you know how to effectively boss yourself around and you have a healthy social life outside of your current workplace: Go for it!
“What do you do if you make a mistake?”
I mean… what do you usually do when you make a mistake, right? If you flub something up, in work or in life, say you’re sorry and — if possible — try to fix the error.
“Do I need to know how to do other things to succeed at being a writer or is being good at writing enough?”/”What additional skills do clients expect?”
Having excellent writing skills should always be your number one priority as a freelance writer. That means having basic proofreading skills as well (don’t turn in anything that’ll drive your editor crazy — clean up your typos before submitting!).
You can coast on those skills alone and get pretty far. However, I’d highly recommend you learn your way around WordPress. It’s what’s used to build most modern websites/blogs and businesses/publications always favor writers who already know their way around the WP backend (because they can upload and format their own articles!).
You should also learn whatever you can about current SEO practices. If your writing is phenomenal and can potentially drive traffic to your client’s business and increase their online search rankings… Then you, my friend, just became an extremely valuable asset!
Less important, but still useful: learn some very basic HTML. It’s rare, but some businesses/publications prefer to use HTML (or the “Text Editor” on WordPress) for their websites/blogs.
Just do what you do best (write!), meet your deadlines, and you should be fine. If you’re ever in doubt, ask the client beforehand about their expectations.
“How’s the marriage?”
It’s fantastic! Here’s a photo from January 1st of Frank (my husband), my parents, and me playing Clue:
It turned out I was the one who’d murdered Mr. Boddy. Frank didn’t hold it against me. He’s the best.
“Do you still have a cat?”/”Can I see pics of your cats?”
Indeed! My husband and I have two cats! Here they are:
We also have two hamsters. Here’s a photo of one of them:
And, we also have a pet Betta fish:
Sadly, Dorian Gray passed away late last year…
Oh, and if your question was referring to the black cat who appeared in several old LittleZotz Writing posts: That’s Robert! He’s turned 10 last year, and he’s just fine! He was (and still is!) my former roommate’s cat.
“What do you do for fun in your downtime? Or are you always writing?”
I mostly play video games. I play games on my PC, my Xbox One X, my Nintendo Switch, and my smartphone. I love board games, card games, and dice games as well!
I also watch a lot of movies. Always have, always will.
And sometimes I go places (like the zoo or a restaurant or a museum) or I attempt something creative (like drawing or painting).
I dunno. Sometimes just sitting around doing nothing can be pretty fun if you’re in a good mood or with the right people.
“Who does your blog drawings?”
Heather Landry AKA Sandpaperdaisy does all of my current blog illustrations. She’s amazing. Hire her.
“Okay. I’ll bite. What does ‘LittleZotz’ mean?”
It’s my nickname. 🙂 For additional details, check my FAQ page!
“Where do you work now?”
I’m the Associate Editor for not one but THREE publications owned by Zenith Group. I work full-time these days! That’s why you don’t hear from me much anymore. Hahaha.
“What’s the best thing that happened with your career this year?”
Any year where my freelance writing/editing career helps my loved ones and myself live a comfortable, happy, life is a great year. Last year was a great year.
“Why do you do it?”
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what this person was asking, but it was the perfect set-up for a Francesca Fiore/Kids in the Hall reference and that amused me greatly.
Assuming they were asking about “why” I do freelance writing/editing… Basically, I do it because it’s one of the few things I’m genuinely good at. And of the few things I’m genuinely good at, it’s the only thing anyone would actually pay me to do. And, in the end, that’s the real reason why — money!
It’s a job, y’know? Food, shelter, cat litter… none of that’s free! Gotta make a living somehow.
People write for many reasons (enjoyment, fame, creative expression, whatever), but they generally get into freelance writing because they want/need to be paid for it.
“Do you still write fiction?”
In my mind? Constantly!
On actual (digital) paper? Rarely. I still jot down a random story idea (or sometimes a full chapter!) but it never goes anywhere. Maybe someday! I’m not overly stressed about it. If it happens, it happens. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, you can download and read my first novel for free. It’s pretty good!…or so I was told. Hahahaha.
“Do you have other sites?”
Confession: This question was submitted by one of my friends. Haha. They knew I wanted an opportunity to promote my new passion project.
In other words: YES! I have another site. Check it out:
“What are your goals for 2020?”
I want to just keep living my best life. Enjoy my time with my husband, my folks, our pets, our friends…
I’d also like to continue my fitness journey. I lost over 50lbs in 2019 and I feel so much better for it! I’m no longer morbidly obese, but I’m still overweight. I’d like to get down to a healthy weight.
Work-wise, I’d like to just keep doing what I’ve been doing. My current jobs are great!
For LittleZotz Writing… I’d like to publish more guest posts this year than last year. And write a few more posts of my own, if possible!
And *ahem* some more awards would be pretty sweet. If you’re so inclined, The Write Life is currently gathering nominations for their Best Writing Websites of 2020 awards. All you have to do is leave a comment saying littlezotz.com is one of your favorite websites for writers! *nudge nudge* *wink wink*
It’s also been a dream of mine to have LittleZotz Writing included in The Writer’s Digest‘s list of the best websites for writers. They’re not taking any more nominations for 2020, but maybe we can get LZW on their list for 2021??
Mostly, my goal is the same as it is every year: Be happy.
I hope that’s your goal as well. And, more importantly, that you achieve it.
Happy New Year! And thanks for reading!
Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of bylined posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers. Thousands if you count all the articles she’s ghostwritten (but she’s not allowed to talk about most of those).