So you want to be a freelance writer, eh?

Or you ARE a freelance writer, but you’re writing for content mills making crap money.

Been there. Blah.

For the record, lots of beginning freelance writers start out on content mills, so that’s not a dig. It IS, however, a *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* to get you off of content sites and on the path to clients who will pay you what you’re worth.

Having said that, let’s look at the stages of the growing freelance writer and what it takes to move on to the next – and BEST – stage. 

1) The “I Suck, Why Bother” Stage

stages of freelance writing$0 Dollars a Month Stage

This is the very beginning of a freelance writer’s career. While it’s not uncommon to feel like you suck at various points throughout your career, this stage can be the one that keeps you stuck from jump. 

This is the stage where you whine because you don’t have any writing samples. And if you do have samples, you feel like they suck.

Next Step: Get over it. If you want to make money writing, you’re going to have to deal with the feeling that you suck – UNTIL YOU REALIZE YOU DON’T. 

Submit your work anyway. Let those looking for a writer decide if you suck or not. Like I said, you’ll probably always feel that way at one point or another. I have a sinking feeling, however, that you’re a great writer. 🙂

2) The Content Mill Stage

freelance writing job description(Estimated) $100 – $300 Dollars a Month Stage

Lots of writers who don’t have a freelance writer website or are looking for freelance writing jobs for beginners will start at content mills. I get it. Been there.

Content mills can offer immediate work. I started on content mills and even reviewed a few that I thought paid fair for beginners. 

The trick is, YOU CANNOT CREATE A DECENT INCOME OR CAREER HERE. If you clicked on my review link above thinking you’ve found a pot of gold, you’re delusional. (Sorry. I say that with love and truth.)

You may get paid $25 – $45 bucks for a 1000 word article. That’s horrible. Hell, I’ve seen WORSE pay. There’s a site out there that pays their writers $3 for 500 words. You are worth soooo much more.

Content mills are a great place to BUILD A PORTFOLIO as a beginner. But that’s it. Once you have a dozen or so decent samples, run away.

Next Step: Make the very bold, very brave decision to stop writing for content mills. The clients can be rude and the pay is often insulting.

If you haven’t already, go back and search Google for some of the articles you wrote when you were part of the content mill sites. Save the links. You’re going to need them when you graduate to the next step: Answering Job Boards.

3) The Job Boards Stage

5 stages of a freelance writer(Estimated) $1000 – $3000 Dollars a Month Stage

When it’s time to graduate from those yucky content mills, consider finding freelance writing jobs on job boards like ProBlogger, BloggingPro, even Craigslist. 

Yeah, I said Craigslist. I use a tool called SearchTempest.
I enter the keyword “Writer” and “Any Miles.”
Then I choose the “Open All” option after I hit SEARCH.
This opens every single page.

Businesses that spend money to post on job boards are investing because they want decent writers. You know those content mill posts you were writing for $25 bucks? You can charge clients $125 for the same kind of work via job boards. 

Cool, huh?

Next Step: This is where your saved links come in handy. Spend a half hour every morning (or whenever) answering ads that you think you qualify for. If you start to think, “They won’t choose me…”

IGNORE that voice.

You’d be amazed at the different writing jobs I’ve gotten without samples that relate to the niche. This is cool because I can expand the various niches I write for without being stuck in just one. (Check out my post, Do You Really Need a Niche as a Freelance Writer?)

Track the ads you answer in a spreadsheet. Follow up with them after four days and again after eight days.

4) The Cold Email Stage

freelance writing jobs for beginners(Estimated) $2000 – $5000 a Month Stage

As of this very second, I rarely do this. But I know a ton of freelance writers who swear by it, thus the reason I share it. 

This is the stage where you reach out to “dream clients” with a cold email, complimenting them on their site and offering your services. Jorden Roper of Writing Revolt is big on cold emailing and offers these steps to do it.

Next Step: Read Jorden’s post and give it a whirl.

For the record, I’ve decided to incorporate this myself. Right now I exist by answering ads on job boards, accepting referrals, and ghostwriting books for entrepreneurs. So in a later post, I’ll update you on how cold emailing worked for me.

5) The Referrals Stage

Remove term: freelance writing jobs for beginners freelance writing jobs for beginners(Estimated) $5000+ a Month Stage

Ah. The best stage EVER. This is the stage where you don’t have to search job boards or send cold emails. This is the stage where your work is SO AWESOME, that past clients recommend you to new clients.

This is the greatest stage of all.
You are proven.
You have a track record.
You pretty much get to sit back and watch the work come. I chat quite often with a fellow ghostwriter who has to turn work away. 

Can you imagine?

She passes it along to other ghostwriters like me and takes a referral fee. So she still makes money without typing a word. Honestly, how sweet is that?

Next Step: Ask your current clients if they would be willing to refer you to friends, family, or colleagues who might need your services. Ask them for testimonials, too. Publish the testimonials on your website. People love to see that other peeps love YOU.

You can obviously mix and match these results and most writers do. I know I do.

So now let’s get raw. WHAT STAGE ARE YOU IN?
What stage would you LIKE to be in?
If you’re stuck, what do you think is holding you back?

Joleene Moody is a former television reporter and anchor turned content writer and ghostwriter based in Central New York.
(No, not New York City. Not even close. ?
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