This article is part of our free Freelancing to Financial Freedom series which teaches moms to make a part time income on the side through FREELANCING.
Single-parent families often struggle with finances, and many single mothers rely on part-time or seasonal work to supplement their monthly take-home earnings. If you’re a single mother looking for extra income, you could be earning up to $1000 per month as a freelance article writer. If you don’t think that you have time to write articles, or that you don’t have the skills to be a professional writer, don’t worry! Making money as a freelance writer is easier than you think, as long as you follow these 5 steps.
1. Plan Your Time Budget
If you don’t start by looking at your schedule and estimating the time you have to spend writing, you run the risk of committing to more projects than you have time for. Keep in mind that simply looking for jobs and communicating with potential employers and current clients will also add to the total time you spend each week on your freelance projects. If you’re like most single mothers, you might be wondering where you’ll find all of this free time! Here are three suggestions for organizing your weekly schedule to maximize your earning potential:
- Shuffle your current tasks around. Sometimes all you need to do is group things together to free up more time. For example, if you spend 45 minutes each evening cooking a meal for your family, try making larger portions of dishes like stews, casseroles, and soups on the weekend. Store them in the refrigerator or freezer, and reheat them later in the week. That’s a lot faster than cooking each meal from scratch. It’s as easy as heating up a frozen packaged meal from the supermarket, and it’s a lot cheaper, too.
- Make the most of early mornings and late evenings. If you have “quiet time” before your children get up in the morning, or after they go to bed, that’s a great time to write. It’s tempting to sit down in front of the television to relax for a few hours instead, especially after a busy day, but think about the money you could be earning instead. With this extra income, you could even take the family on a vacation so that you can all relax and have fun!
- Be ready to take notes and write down ideas. While you probably won’t be able to concentrate on article writing while you’re working at your day job, you may be able to use that time to think about what you’ll be writing that evening. If your job involves repetitious work, like cleaning or some factory jobs, you can put your mind to work on your next article while your hands are doing their daily routine. Don’t get so distracted that you fall behind on your job, but keep a small pad of paper or an inexpensive tape recorder with you to make a note of any ideas that come to you during the day.
Once you’ve figured out how many hours per week you have to devote to your freelance article writing project – stop right there, and figure again. If this is the first time you’ve done this kind of work, you’re going to need more time than you think. Estimate on the lower end of the scale at first. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to cut the number of hours you think you have in half. That’s likely to be a better estimate of the number of hours you actually have per week.
Remember, you don’t want to add stress to your life instead of income! If you commit to more hours than you really have time for, you won’t get the success and income you want, but you will get a lot of headaches and heartburn. Make sure you check out our article about how to free up time for article freelancing work as a single mother.
2. Check Your English Skills
Are you worried that your writing skills aren’t good enough? It’s true that there’s a lot of competition out there, but what’s also true is that many of those other writers have only average English skills. If you can write a clear, grammatical sentence with no spelling errors, that’s usually all the clients are concerned about. Try these three tips for easy ways to improve your writing skills:
- Take advantage of free or low-cost classes. If you live near a community college or adult education center, check to see if they offer classes on basic English and writing skills. You can often find evening or night classes that will be easier to fit into your schedule. Some community colleges even offer online classes that you can take at home. You might even be able to find classes or programs that meet at the same time that your children would enjoy taking! For a list of community colleges in all 50 US states, click here. (http://www.utexas.edu/world/comcol/state/)
- Make sure your computer helps you out. If you haven’t been using your computer’s built-in word processing program regularly, you might not know about all of the things these programs can do to help you as a writer. For example, you can turn on your spell-check function to help catch typos so that you provide error-free documents to your clients. Don’t come to depend on the spell-check program, though! If your own spelling isn’t as good as it could be, look for an English basics class, or try a spelling improvement program. You can find online spelling tips and free spelling courses on sites like this one. (http://www.vocabulary.co.il/7-ways-to-improve-your-spelling-skills/)
- Practice, practice, practice! Like anything else, writing is a skill that improves with practice. Many people stop writing entirely, once they’ve left school – or at least they only write short e-mail messages, grocery or to-do lists, or notes for their children. If you’re going to make money writing articles, you need to be able to produce at least 500 words on a single topic. Pick a topic that interests you, and simply sit down and start writing. If you’re not used to it, you might find it difficult at first, but once you learn to “go with the flow” you’ll be able to easily write several paragraphs at one sitting.
Another good way to improve your own writing is to read books, articles, and even blogs by other writers. As you read, you’ll see how ideas are developed in a paragraph, how sentences are arranged to explain details, and how words are used to provide the most impact.
You don’t have to be a master writer to make it as a freelancer — you just have to be able to write decently and in fluent English. There’s a lot of writers from third world countries right now (India, etc), but the fact that you speak and write English as a first language gives you a huge competitive advantage here for landing jobs. Ideally, you should still practice and improve your writing skills, but your writing will likely be better than quite a few of the other freelancers because you are a native-English speaker.
3. Find Your Topic
Reading also helps you grow as a writer because when you read, you’re learning more about whatever that book is about. It doesn’t have to be nonfiction, but since you’re probably going to be writing fact-based articles on a range of topics, you should be familiar with how nonfiction writing is structured. But even before you pick up a book, remember that you already know a lot! Here are three ways to find the right topic for you:
- Think about what you already know. This could be things you learned in school, or information about what you do at work every day. What do you enjoy reading about? That’s knowledge you’ve gained, and can use to write on that topic. Do you have a hobby, or a favorite sport or activity? You probably know more than you think about even things you don’t have to think about any more. For example, if you enjoy sewing, you don’t start every sewing project going through the steps to set up your sewing machine – but you could write an article that teaches someone else how to do it.
- Think about what you’d like to know. Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn? When you have a job writing articles on a topic you don’t know anything about yet, it’s more difficult, but it’s also a great way to improve your own skills and knowledge. You might have always wanted to travel to Alaska, but don’t know anything about how to get there, where to stay, or the history of the state. By doing the research for an article on “Alaskan vacations,” for example, you’ll get all the facts you need for your own trip. Remember, you’re going to be earning extra money, and vacations are a real possibility! In the meantime, you can enjoy a virtual vacation while you’re researching and writing the article.
- Think about what everyone’s talking about – and what no one is. Popular culture is always a great topic for articles, so try to keep up on the latest movies, trends, and fads. If you spend time surfing the internet every day and reading tweets and blog posts, you probably already have a good idea of the hottest topics, and you’ll be able to write about them. On the other hand, if you like to know obscure facts, or the stories behind things that no one else does, you can write articles that reveal the hidden sides of more well-known subjects.
4. Start Your Job Search
Once you have brushed up on your English skills, have a good idea of how much time per week you can devote to your freelance work, and have a mental list of topics you’d like to write about, you can start looking for work.
Use these three job-hunting tips to save time and get straight to the jobs you want:
- Have your resume and introduction ready. Clients are like any other employers. They’ll want to know a little bit about you, including the work you’ve done in the past. When you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you won’t have a history of writing jobs, but you can use your resume to prove that you’re reliable and trustworthy. You’ll also want to have a few introductory paragraphs about yourself to use as a “cover letter” when you’re introducing yourself to clients. Write a few paragraphs to use as your standard introduction, and then edit those paragraphs to personalize them for each job application.
- Know where to look. Clients generally advertise jobs for freelancers over the internet, so if you’re used to going through a print newspaper to look for work, that won’t help you much. There are websites that are for freelancers in general (software developers, article writers, graphic design specialists, and more) and other websites that are specifically for writers and the clients who want to hire them. When you’re just starting out, you may spend more time looking for work than actually working, but once you have established a good reputation, you’ll find that jobs are easier to get.
- Narrow the field. Remember that list of topics you came up with? One way to save time in a job search is to use those topics as keywords in your search through the jobs on a site. Rather than scrolling through a hundred article writing jobs on a subject you don’t know anything about (and don’t want to), use a keyword to locate jobs on the topics you know. You’ll do a better job on those articles, and it will take you less time.
Here are some websites that many freelance article writers use, especially when they’re just starting out:
Do read our detailed article listing the places you should start looking for freelancing jobs. Ther article is The Best 20 Websites to Find a Freelancing Writing Job.
A personal note about searching and applying for jobs on freelancer.com: The hardest part about the whole freelance thing is to find a freelancing job. This is where you will have to compete with lots of other freelancers for the work. But at the end of the day, it’s a number’s game too. The more jobs you apply for, the higher the chance you have of landing a job. Personally, I recommend freelancer.com as a great place to get started. It’s very easy to sign up and start bidding on job offers. It helps quite a bit if you have some portfolio of work to show your prospective employer, but some employers will ask you to do an article sample of sorts to ‘prove’ your writing. If you are willing to do this (just make sure you are not writing full articles as one of the big scams is to employers will use freelancers to write ‘free’ article trials then keep the article while not hiring or paying the freelancer).
5. Build A Good Reputation
Starting with the very first job, you need to think about your reputation. Sites like Freelancer.com involve “ratings” for both the writers and the clients. If you haven’t made your client happy, you won’t get a good rating – and that means you’ll have a harder time finding more freelance article writing work in the future. Keep these five reputation-building tips in mind:
- Don’t promise to deliver more than you have time to commit to.
- Be willing to start with smaller jobs. Develop client relationships that lead to larger jobs.
- Always communicate in a professional manner. Use correct grammar and spelling.
- Always communicate on time. This means checking your e-mail every day.
- If questions or problems related to a job come up, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
When you’ve finished a job, and the client is happy, ask if you can use them as reference. The more you can add to your growing list of satisfied clients, the more article writing jobs you’ll get. Like any new job or new career, you will start out slow and gradually build your way up. Don’t expect to start off earning lots of money when you first start. You will have to do writing gigs, get experience, build up clients for repeat work and referrals, and gradually you’ll find you have more and more work and you are earning more and more money.
And that means you’ll soon be earning $1000 or more as a freelance article writer!
6. How to Make $1000 a Month
Assuming you’ve followed steps 1-5, have set up an account somewhere like freelancer.com, bid on jobs and get hired to write, let’s look at what’s involved time-wise to earn about $1000 or more per month.
First off, different writing jobs will pay different wages. Writing freelance content articles for websites is NOT the same as a writing gig for a magazine or newspaper. Magazines can pay you hundreds to even thousands of dollars per article. Freelancer article work, however, is much less glamorous and far less paid. Typically, you will be writing about website topics you either have no interest in or don’t know anything about. So you’ll have to spend your time researching about that topic before you can write about it.
The Freelancer Pay-scale
- At the low end of the freelancer scale, you have people from third world countries willing to work for cheap. The quality of their writing is not high, but they are willing to work cheap. These people will write 500 word articles for anything between 2-3 dollars.
- Freelancers starting off may charge $5 per 500 words.
- More experienced freelancers with lots of work options to choose from, may charge $10 per 500 words. Some expert freelancers will charge more than this — it’s really depends on who your employer is, your skills and experience, etc.
Figuring out how much you should charge comes down to determining how much per hour you are willing to work. If it takes you an hour to write 1000 words and you can write 4 or 5 articles a day and you are charging $10 per 1000 words, then you are looking at $10 per hour with a maximum of $40 per day in total work. $10 per hour may be around minimum wage and not great pay, but it’s extra work you can do on the side and from home, so this is a trade-off.
Keep in mind, you can only charge what people are willing to pay. So if you feel you can’t work for less than $15 bucks an hour worth of writing but your competition is willing to work for $5 or $7 per hour of writing, then you may find it difficult to get hired for writing jobs. I suggest you lower your wages when you first start just so you can build up your portfolio and your experience for a few months (or a year). Once you get experience and clients, you can slowly start demanding more money. Charging too much too soon will likely mean you just won’t get a lot of work.
Making $1000 per month
Let’s assume you start off charging $5 per 500 words. Say you work 4 hours per day. That’s $40 per day. Assuming you work 5 days a week here, that’s $200 per week you are earning. If you do that 4 weeks in the month, that’s $800 dollars in total here. Still not at the $1000. You can of course work an extra day, making that 6 days a week. This will put you at $960 per month.
So you will either need to charge more money, work more hours per day, or work 6-7 days a week. If you charge $10 per 500 words, then you could work 2 hours a day, 6 days a week and earn nearly $1000 per month.
The point of this mental exercise is you need to figure out how much time you can reasonably work per day and per week, how much you can reasonably charge for your work (the better and more experienced you are, the more you can charge), then figure out what rate you need to charge.