"Master Dayton" might be humorous, (I mean if Ph.Ds are called "Doctors," shouldn't MFAs be called "Masters?") but in all seriousness I have made a living freelance writing and after several years I have tons of information I want to share to help out my fellow writers, regardless of age, experience, goals, situation, or background. This blog isn't pretty-but it will help if real freelance writing information is what you want.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Freelance Writing: Getting Started & Reviews Coming Soon!

Beginning Freelance Writer Advice

I thought about making this post about how I became a freelance writer, but that can wait. I want this blog to be about you, the readers, and not about myself. So although this post will be brief about how to get started as a freelance writer, and I'll go into more detail on all this information later, the following should help you get going immediately if your goal is to write for money online.

These are some of the original websites I've found, and while they're not going to make you rich, they welcome new freelance writers and will give you the opportunity to get started writing for free. There are definitely good auction based writing websites like Guru & Elance, but since those require monthly fees, I'm going to wait until later to review those.

This post is all about getting started writing right away without having to put any money up. This can be great for college students making money, disabled individuals who need side income, or part time writers, and is a good way just to get moving and started. Even a little extra spending money here and there is nothing to complain about.

I'm also going to mention some popular online writing websites that I generally would encourage beginning writers to avoid. Some of these are highly thought of by many online freelance writers, but I'm not sure why. Avoiding websites that require a disproportionate amount of effort to pay off is just as important as finding the good websites.

First of all, if you haven't read the post on why every starting writer needs Paypal, click on that link and read the post. The rest of this is assuming you have already opened a Paypal account, and now you're ready to see it start filling up with some well earned money :)

Remember, these all are just very brief descriptions of these sites. I'll post more extensive reviews on these freelance writing websites in the future.


This is one of my personal favorite sites not because it makes me the most money, but because I have control over what I write and how much I charge for it. This doesn't mean that Constant-Content can't be a major money maker of a freelance writing website. It can be, and there are several authors who make a full time living off Constant-Content alone. And this isn't they live in a hut in Thailand for $80 a month full time living, some of the top authors here have shared that they've made over $30,000 in a year before.

Constant-Content is a place where you can sign up for free. Authors can choose to answer requests and write articles on those topics in hopes that the employer chooses their articles, or they can write on anything they want. Prices are set by the author, and you can set different prices for usage, unique, or full rights, and you can choose to not put the full or unique rights for sale.

The plus side to this is obvious: instead of getting a pittance of $3-8 for a 500 word article online, you can write an article and set the price at $25 for 500 words. If the article is well written and on a solid subject, there's a very good chance you can sell it for that. If the usage rights are on sale, some articles can be sold multiple times. I've had one "Top 10 Movies..." article sell four times for $30 a pop. Not bad for an article that took 75 minutes to research, write, and spell check.

The drawbacks? Constant-Content charges 35% commission. That is a lot, but you should be able to work that into pricing and still make far more per article than with most other online sites. The other is that there is no guarantee of sale, although I've been amazed of really micro niche articles of mine that have sold that I put up simply because I thought they were unsellable.

Pros of Constant Content: Choose your own topics, write at your own pace, set your prices, more per article, there is full time income potential, some passive income potential.

Cons of Constant Content: High commission, no guarantee of sale, must be very good with grammar and organization in writing (Ed's a tough ((but fair)) editor), only pays via PayPal, can't get your name out.

The more articles you right for CC, the more likely you will form a passive income, meaning that enough articles will keep getting bought for usage rights that even when you take a month off from this site, it can still earn you money. There is a referral system where you get 10% of the sales of anyone you refer, and it comes out of the website's 35% cut, which is why I approve of it (I'll never approve of, or use, affiliate links that penalize the person signing up).

Associated Content

This site was an early favorite of mine. I go between liking it and cooling on it, but I find this is a great site for new freelance writers to get started on. AC will pay anywhere from $3-10 an article up front, then also gives a "views" (PPV) bonus of $1.50 for every 1,000 page views. This works out to earning a penny for every 6 readers who visit your article. You also get a "distribution bonus" if an AC partner decides to use your article. AC has "calls to content" that you can answer, but that gives them exclusive rights. You can also sell them non-exclusive (usage) rights, or past articles published online can be put up as "display only," which means they won't pay you up front, but you can still get the PPV bonus and more exposure.

I like Associated Content for beginning writers because:

  1. Your writing is actually viewable online, which allows you to build a name and reputation.
  2. Even though it's not much, you can get paid up front.
  3. If you're good at getting traffic or marketing, you can make some pretty decent money on the PPV bonus.
  4. Some passive income because of the PPV system. (I love making money off articles I wrote 2 years ago)
  5. I've gotten much more lucrative freelance work because of articles employers saw here on AC.
  6. You can use it in conjunction with CC articles by writing an article for Constant Content, offering only usage rights, then selling the article to AC as non-exclusive.
  7. You can break into writing areas that you love, but aren't an expert at.

To explain #7 better, I make a couple thousand dollars a year sports writing for various websites, some under my own name and some under a pen name. These are fun assignments for me that I love, and most of them I received because I wrote sports articles for AC. I can't break into journalism because of no experience, I don't live in cities with pro teams, but my articles showed my writing ability and sports interest, while giving me clips on specific sports stories.

This allowed me to become a sports writer even without years of clips. This is the cool thing about getting your name out on Associated Content, and although the money isn't great, there are competitions and if you're looking for part time income, you can make some all right change each month here.

Associated Content also pays via PayPal (told you it was important :D)


I know some online writers like this freelance writing website, but I'm not completely sure why. For beginning freelance writers, I DON'T recommend this site. The money is an absolute pittance. Some writers say they make decent money here, but the weekly contests and market place offerings are so competitive that it likely is not worth your time. And if you are good enough to make decent money here, then you're good enough to make a LOT more money elsewhere.

I could suggest this site as a dumping ground for articles, but they don't even pay enough for it to be worth your time. It's not uncommon for good writers to have a hundred decent articles here and only make $3 a month. The payment set up isn't clear, and even some long time writers who have done well there are walking away.

I'm also a believer of "where there's smoke there's fire" theory. When they had a "Write-A-Thon" offering straight up payment for articles, I only loaded 100 because I already had a couple hundred laying around. I did receive payment (a paltry $150), but there are a lot of reports online of suspicious activity by Helium, as well as withholding payments and booting people off without cause.

These could all be suspect, but I am a where there's smoke there's fire kind of guy, so with a number of reports to that line, I would say be careful, and look for better paying markets. Since Helium doesn't pay, doesn't give backlinks, and doesn't build your reputation, don't fall for it.


Squidoo is where you blur the line between writing, web page building, and Internet marketing. This isn't pure writing, but it is free sign up, there is some money to be made here and the lessons you can learn about search engines, Internet traffic, and how online marketing works can be worth far more than what you can make on Squidoo.

Squidoo allows you to make one page websites on various interests by providing you with "modules" which allow you to write, sell things via eBay, Amazon, and literally hundreds of other stores to earn an affiliate commission, or you can add YouTube clips or do a lot of things. Making a web page is easy with this system, and can be a lot of fun.

The community on the forums is amazing, and you get paid for commissions on sales, in addition to getting paid on a tiered system based on what your "Lens rank" is. You can get paid monthly via PayPal or donate to charity. The "Stats" section here is incredible, allowing you to see how many visitors per day your pages get, how many per week, where they come from, and even the exact phrase typed in to find your web page on search engines. This, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to learn about "long term keywords," a critical aspect of Internet marketing and traffic.

Even though that's marketing, it's something beginning freelance writers should definitely learn. An average writer who is a brilliant marketer will easily make ten times the money of a brilliant writer who is a bad marketer.

A handful of people make about a thousand a month on Squidoo. I'm nowhere near that point, but if I do nothing, don't update, and ignore the site for two months because I get buried in work, I still make about $40 a month on passive income. Squidoo is a numbers game, and I recommend it for a change of pace and for great learning on how Internet traffic works.

Some people will love this set up, others won't. This really is a preference taste, although if you're looking for most money versus time spent, Constant-Content and Associated Content are better stops for the beginning freelance writer.

There are other places for beginning freelance writers to write at, but these mentioned are free: 3 I recommend and 1 that I don't. Hubpages and Xomba are other options that I'll cover later, in part because payment there comes from Adsense and affiliate sales and not pure writing. I'm particularly a fan of the potential Hubpages has, but this requires Internet marketing skills, as well.

Anyway, these are decent places to start, so even if I get bogged down in work for a week or two (very likely) or you want to start now but have $0.00 to start out, this can get you going on the right track. Getting to a full time income writing is a little harder, but it is possible, and if you are just starting out as a new writer, these sites can help you hone your skills and understand the freelancing side of things to really get going.


  1. Nice comparison between AC and Constant-content - there is a very big problem with AC for some of us: they will not pay non-US based writers for the up front fee, only the residue - that stinks in my opinion. As you say they pay by paypal so it makes no difference to them - I take the exchange rate risk! I am very impressed with C-C and have sold most of what I put up there - I have just been slack putting any more up!

    I look forward to your hubpages post because its what started my freelance writing!

  2. Hi again, Lissie,

    Thanks a lot for that comment on AC! I live in the States, so I wasn't aware that they don't direct pay outside of the country, so that is definitely worth knowing. I'll have to edit the post to make sure that comes through. I'm the same way with CC - it's done very well for me and I have enough usage rights articles that sell and re-sell that it's been very good to me, now I need to get off my butt and put some more articles up there, lol. Thanks again for sharing!

  3. If I had an MFA, could I then be Master Milkman?

    Yeah, that just doesn't sound right...

    Anyway, I found your blog through a comment you left over on Griz's. It was by luck, because I just thought I'd check out a few of urls people signed with and as it turns out, I'm very glad I did.

    I've been wanting/hoping to make money (and daresay, even a decent living) from my writing for quite a long, long time now. I thought of freelance work, but did not know where to begin, so I put that idea out of my head for awhile.

    But just the other day, I started thinking about it again. I didn't actively pursue it, though, just let it simmer. Then, I found your blog.

    With this post, I've now got at least some direction on where to begin. And with your whole blog, I've also got some inspiration to keep me going.

    Keep up the good work, and I hope to see more of your posts in the future.

  4. LOL, I like that. "Master Milkman." A little racy, but it could work. Thanks for stopping by. I'm also a huge fan of Griz and his blogs. I'm a real late starter on the Adsense, and don't have nearly the time/resources I need to get moving, but even now I'm seeing the constant movement and good jumps in income each month, so I'm especially excited on the potential once I get enough sites up.

    Anyhow, thanks for the comment, and I'm glad this is helpful. Associated Content and Constant Content are good free places for writers who really want to write and don't know how to (or don't care to) market. Check back up as I plan to update every week.

  5. Thanks for this! All of this information is really helpful. I am thinking about trying out CC. When you said one cannot build a reputation through CC, does that mean I can't later use the clips that are sold in my resume or in queries? Also, does using a pen name hurt me if I am trying to build toward freelancing for print publications later (using my real name)? Thanks!