The truth about freelance writers

During the past two years, I have completely changed my career. I moved from a respected position within the digital business intelligence to a career as a freelance writer. Two years ago I hit a low point: I grew too irritated from my permanent job at the time. The marketing agency was a small one that desperately tried to hang to a dream of grandeur, which didn’t reflect any reality at all. Besides, the team was impossible to work with, which certainly helped to decide that it probably wasn’t for me. I resigned, with a happy feeling as the newly appointed director was what we call in the profession a complete dick. But anyway this is a story for another day. Resigning was a bit of a jump without any safety, but it gave me time to think about what I truly wanted to do. I did a few contracts as a digital marketing advisor – including one for Google – and I used all my spare time to satisfy my love of writing. That’s when it became obvious to me that I really wanted to write. Here is a brief review of what I have learnt about freelancing as a writer.


1/ How I did it

Moving towards a writer career happened gradually. I used the time to read again. There were too many books that I had left in an untouched pile at the bottom of my bookshelf! This helped me to identify styles and wordings that worked, and styles that didn’t. Some books I still haven’t been able to finish, such as the Lies of Locke Lamora for example. Some, I’ve read again and again, like the Bartimaeus’s trilogy, as I have a special soft spot for the mischievous djinni.

At the same time, I applied for any time of freelancing contracts that I felt able to do. Instinctively I kept away from marketing. This limited contracts to content translation for websites, communication texts, proofreading, and even ghostwriting.

Additionally, I indulged in personal writing, leaving my keyboard freely take it towards new horizons. I even found a few writing contests, and discovered with great pleasure that I could win too!

So I felt confident enough to apply to writing positions. Some jobs rejected me as soon as they saw my name or my foreign studies, not believing for a second that someone who isn’t British-born could actually write in proper English. But other jobs didn’t care about my CV. They would judge applications anonymously with a writing assessment. That’s how I secured two writing contracts in less than a week.


2/ What I noticed

The writing industry is a domain as interesting as it is varied. As a freelance writer, you will generally find yourself stuck with blog article and web content creation. There isn’t many book writing contracts out there! And even less that pay decently.

So my day-to-day work at the moment is to write articles and pages, over 60 a week, for blogs and websites that claim that they write all their content in-house. I will not name any client, but this definitely has made me a lot more aware of the cynicism of blog and website owners. Before that, I genuinely believe that bloggers wrote all their articles. Most of them don’t. That’s a shock!

I rapidly discovered that writing articles, while it requires a certain control of the language and a certain sense of inspiration, can become a quick business for digital-savvy authors. Some of my colleagues can write up to four or five articles in an hour. I have a maximum of two articles per hour. I’m not really a slow writer, but I like to take an interest in my client to find an angle that is slightly atypical. That’s the only pride I take in producing so many blog articles: I genuinely work to make every single one of them as unique as possible – and this is a difficult task because if there’s one thing that blog are not, it’s unique; they all have the same old tips and how-to tutorials. I have also realised that most blog articles can’t probably be trusted because they are designed to include specific links, instead of providing the reader with any form of helpful content. But maybe I’m too traditional when it comes to content. I hate wasting my time, and therefore I try to write things that I would like to read.


3/ My advice

  • Keep reading so you keep learning.
  • Be willing to improve your skills at all time.
  • Be humble. Nobody is a genius.
  • Don’t rely on tools like Grammarly. Just learn the basics of grammar like everyone used to do. Pretending that tools like Grammarly or Hemingway app are making you a better writer is ridiculous. There’s no way an algorithm can tell you if your text is good.
  • Take part in writing contests. You might win!
  • Don’t give up.