Where do freelance writers find work?
That’s the golden question in the webinar I’m co-hosting later today with writer Liz Alton and the folks at Skyword, a content marketing agency with headquarters in Boston.
Over the years I’ve tackled numerous writing and photography assignments from individual private clients and from larger agencies, or platforms. Now, I’m sharing the inside scoop.
As a full-time writer, I’ve experienced the benefits and drawbacks of each type of freelance writing approach, and thought it’d be fun to share my perspective for new writers, people who hire freelance writers and curious publishers.
What is a Private Client?
When someone imagines getting into freelance writing, I think their mind immediately wraps around the idea of working one-on-one with a specific publication.
If the local newspaper in your town directly hires you on contract (not as an employee) to create a story for the Sunday edition, that is a private client. As a writer, you tackle the planning and production with someone from the newspaper, from start to finish.
I’ve worked with multiple newspapers and magazines over the years with this exact set-up. Since my background is in journalism, it was very common for me to take on weekend side projects while holding down a full-time news job. We all need extra spending cash, right?
Here’s what I love about working directly with individual publications or small businesses:
- You get to know the staff and publication on a personal level
- You often get to work with people in your community
- You can see the results of your work first-hand
- You grow your local network of contacts and colleagues
But, working directly with private clients can also present some challenges.
- They may not have a system in place to seamlessly collaborate with freelancers
- You will likely spend hours on phone calls and emails ironing out processes and assignment details
- You may need to help them come up with a contract
- Payments can be tough to track down or require manual invoicing
What is an Agency?
On the other end of the freelance writing spectrum are agencies. Sometimes these are also called platforms, if they offer an online landing where you actually create and submit your writing.
The bulk of my work, by choice, is with agencies and platforms. I have purposely moved my business in this direction because of poor experiences with small start-up businesses and unorganized publications that just don’t have a smooth process for working with freelance professionals. The partnerships simply took too much time from start to finish, which cuts into my profitability.
With that said, let me tell you what I love about taking on writing assignments via an agency or platform.
- There is a system in place for hiring and managing freelance writers
- Payment terms and cycles are reliable and transparent
- You have a team behind you including program managers, editors and strategists
- You build up relationships over time, which can help you land your next agency client project
- Agencies are an umbrella over several clients, so work is readily available to good writers
- You login on one website and take care of business, from writing and editing, to payments
- You don’t need to create invoices
- You have a sense of belonging and camaraderie with the staff over time
- There are helpful resources, guides and webinars to improve your writing
- You receive notifications each time an article publishes, so you don’t have to manually track it down
So, it’s pretty apparent that I love agency and platform work. But, it’s not all roses. I’ve worked with several companies over the years and they are not all equal in how they treat their writers, present writing opportunities or handle payments.
A few red flags to know about include:
- Delayed payments
- Feeling like a nameless link in the chain of content creation
- Not receiving timely replies to emails or platform messaging systems
- Being expected to complete assignments or edits on tight deadlines
- Clients cancel their agency contracts without notice, leaving you without work
- Your work is published, but you don’t know where
Of course, some of these drawbacks could happen with any working relationship, private or agency work included.
As you browse the writing job boards or reply to that next Twitter #writingopp, take note. Is is a private individual looking for some writing work, a platform or an agency? If you’re not sure, ask the contact person listed in the ad. Then find out if they have a system established to work with freelancers, including an editing and payment system. This minor investigative work will save you a lot of headaches, I promise!
Thanks for visiting my site today! Never miss another post from Web Writing Advice. Get email updates once a week by subscribing. As a bonus, I’ll send you my free e-book, “18 Ways to Increase Online Writing Productivity and Earnings”. Click HERE. Happy writing to you! ~Angela
Note: This post was updated on April 18, 2017.