Succeeding in Freelance Writing: SEO Haunts My Dreams

The nice thing about working as a freelancer is that you are not lacking in venues to make a potential buck. From writing articles for established publications that can pay a few hundred (or more) a pop, to writing dozens of low-paying articles to accumulate an amount of money that makes the whole venture worthwhile, you have options. That might be the only nice thing sometimes. I know that from several unfortunate years of experience. In a sense, I’m actually really lucky. I don’t have to deal with a multitude of freelance clients (although I should make more of an effort to broaden my range). I don’t have to worry about whether or not each of those clients are going to pay me on time, or even if they are going to pay me at all.

I primarily work through one client, who I suppose is pretty much my boss at this point. This person gives me articles to write each day. Everything is handled through an author site my client created on their own, in order to manage their writers more efficiently. That means I don’t even have to really deal with the freelancer sites, which includes job boards like UPWork. That’s kinda nice, too. Although again, I could probably stand to work with other clients, which one would hope could generate a little more money than what I currently make.

Okay, at this point, it kinda sounds like I’m trying to talk you out of becoming a freelancer. I’m not. It’s a pretty good way to bring in some extra revenue. It’s certainly better than someone paying you to let them punch you in the stomach. I’m pretty sure it’s still better than medical testing. I guess it really depends on your comfort zones. I get to make some decent money. I get to work from home, which means I can watch movies, TV shows, or just listen to music. I generally don’t go out for lunch, which has all kinds of benefits.

destroying writing

All of those benefits mentioned above are significant, to be sure. I can take a nap, if I really want to. I don’t have to put up with deranged, unhappy office politics. If you can get something marginally successful going with freelance writing, then you’ll notice all of those benefits at one point or another.

You will also notice that some people are just never going to get it. Some people are going to assume that you spend most of your day enjoying the benefits I mentioned, but without ever having to actually work. You are going to have to learn how to ignore these morons. You can try to explain to them that no, freelance is not quite the same as a day off. I don’t bother anymore. I know how I spend my day. I know how much time and energy I put into writing blog articles and other tasks that are assigned to me through my boss, who hits the pavement hard every day to bring in new clients. I know that I manage a juggling act of freelance work that makes a little money, with the work I do for literary magazines like Drunk Monkeys or Cultured Vultures. I also know that I still try to find time for personal projects, like novels and poems.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t get to sleep a whole hell of a lot. Hence the naps.

Please don’t try to fix my sleep schedule. I know it’s broken at best, completely fucked up at worst. It’s the best I can do right now. And there still isn’t enough time for everything.

My experiences with freelance makes for a weird story. I know I didn’t really go about it in the same way that others have and still do. I’m not even sure how much my experience can actually help you. At the moment, the only justification for this article that I can come up with is the fact that freelancers make for a wildly diverse bunch. If you’re on the fence as to whether or not your background/experience is enough to start working in this field, it might help to keep that diversity element in mind. Your background, interests, and talents do not have to match mine. Everything I bring to the table amounts to a universe of differences amongst myself, and the other people I know who work as freelancers on a steady basis. This is something important to keep in mind. If you think it is worth trying, then you should try. If it helps to know what it’s like for some of the people who have been there for a while, then by all means, use that kind of information for encourage to take the next step. It also certainly doesn’t hurt to know what you’re getting into.

To put it another way: If I can make a decent go of it, then you probably can, too. There are just a few things that you should try to keep in mind. I’ve been a writer for approximately eighteen years. Around May 2012, I realized I could no longer sustain myself on whatever jobs just happened to come my way. These were usually editing jobs, but sometimes, I found work writing papers and similar things for other people. Money was good sometimes, but only sometimes. I relied on my parents and friends a little more than I liked.

Eventually, I decided it was time to dedicate more of my energy to the freelance stuff. I researched my options at that time. I went with Elance, which seemed like the best bet. Soon enough, Elance will no longer exist, and you’ll have UPWork as your major job board. I can’t say a lot about it, since I haven’t used it yet. However, I do have a number of friends who use UPWork, and they swear by it.

Apple computer

One of the nice things about freelancing is that you are technically in control of most of the experience. That is to say that you set the number of hours you work. You are in charge of how much you ultimately do from one day to the next. The downside to so much freedom is that freelance doesn’t really pay off, unless you are willing to deal in bulk. In other words, if you want to make a decent living at it, then you are going to want to get ready to do a lot of work on a day-to-day basis. I am rarely without work, but the whole thing doesn’t really start to pay off for me, unless I’m willing to do several thousand words a day.

I won’t tell you how many words I average a day. I’m also not going to tell you how much money I make. While the idea of closely guarding your salary is a little silly (some would argue that it’s classist, as well), I just don’t want you to think I’m some sort of standard for the field. I honestly don’t know if I am or not. The kind of freelance writing I do involves creating massive amounts of original content. I can write about roofing companies, bathroom contractors, mental health, escort services in the United Kingdom, physical health, dieting, and much more. Most of the articles I write deal with SEO in one form or another. The simplest definition for SEO is that you’re talking about the practice of creating material that emphasizes certain keywords and phrases. These are the keywords and phrases that are most commonly associated with your niche. For example, if you want some articles for a blog that promotes a business dedicated to punching refrigerators, then your SEO will involve keywords and phrases people are likely to search for. If your company resides in Brooklyn NY, you may want to write articles that use keywords like “Fridge punchers Brooklyn.”

It can get a little more complicated than the example highlighted above, but that’s the bulk of what I do as a freelancer. A single article can be anywhere from 400 to 2000 words. Sometimes, it’s less than four hundred. In very rare cases, I’ve written single articles longer than 2000 words. I’ve written articles on all of the subjects I mentioned in the paragraph above, in addition to dozens more. Not everything I do involves SEO, but a great deal of it does.

This is how I personally define freelance. I would love to be the kind of freelancer that makes a few hundred dollars for a single article. I’d love to get involved in writing eBooks for hire, which is a branch of freelance that does exist. This is where experience is pretty important. The more types of assignments you are capable of turning in, the easier it will be to find work. I can write about a lot of different subjects. I can handle just about any type of assignment that comes my way. I also have better-than-average research skills. If you can put all of those things together in your own way, you have a pretty good foundation under you. Most of the advice I could ever give you on working as a freelancer is pretty much going to involve one or all of those things. I would also tell you to be the kind of person who intensely values communication. Some clients want updates every single step of the way. Others are content to leave you alone, until you’re finished. Either way, you need to be the kind of person who can communicate consistently and clearly. If they have questions, you need to have answers. Furthermore, you need to be able to get back to them quickly.

It also helps to remember that some of your clients are going to be really, really bad at telling you what they want. English may not be their first language. It’s also possible that they are simply not the kind of people who can express themselves in written words. Since they are hiring other people to do their writing for them, that certainly makes sense.


When I started out with Elance in 2012, I had to develop a leaner resume. I had to prepare some samples, which was easy, considering all the non-fiction I write. I had to build an impression of a writer who was willing to work on whatever you might have in mind. I learned how to bid on jobs, which sometimes involved writing irritatingly earnest pitches. After a few days, I started getting accepted for content writing jobs. I juggled several clients for a little while, but that kind of thing gets really tiresome very quickly. I found that my best relationship and best work came through one client in particular, and I began to get all of my work through them. That pretty much brings my story into the present.

These days, the biggest ongoing struggle I manage in my career is striking the balance between freelancing and personal projects. After writing a day’s worth of articles for freelance, it’s hard to find the energy to work on a novel. I guess it could be worse. When I need to travel, I can take the time off from work. It doesn’t pay quite as much as I wish it did, but I know that it allows me to continue to say I write for a living. You would be amazed at how often that thought encourages me.

It helps me to have something to serve as my main reason for putting up with all of the downsides of freelancing. Coming up with your own main reason can be helpful, even if it’s just that you want to make some extra money.

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