Contena Can Help You Build Your Freelance Writing Business

It is possible to earn a decent living as an independent writer. But only if you approach it more like a freelance writing business than a sideline gig.

It’s not enough to simply enjoy writing. You also need to know what type of writing is currently in demand and have expertise in topics other than writing.

Then, of course, you need connections to clients who will pay good money for above-average content from writers who don’t need much training to get started.

Without a business-like approach to finding a few good, steady clients, you can quickly find yourself doing nothing but low-paying jobs for difficult clients. Or, you could spend more time seeking work than working for pay.

 

illustration of freelance writer at keyboard
Copyright: greyjj / 123RF Stock Photo

One company that can help you get up to speed on the business of freelance writing  is Contena. This subscription-based platform offers online training and coaching plus a steady stream of inks to job openings for independent writers.

Contena Academy

The six modules in Contena’s online academy explain strategies for building a steady income, creating writing samples, building a portfolio, crafting article pitches, and landing  the best clients. Many freelance writers spend months learning these skills the hard way — through a lot of painful trial and error.

Contena Scout

The Scout service helps you find the best available writing jobs by category, pay, and other criteria. Listings include part-time, full-time, and temporary writing assignments in fields such as education, real estate, business, health, and marketing.  Recent job postings included health news writers, web copywriters, science content editors, social studies curriculum writers, and tech and gadget reviewers.

Contena Scout screen grab

Contena Submissions

If you prefer coming up with your own ideas for articles, you can pitch story ideas to publishers listed on Contena’s Submissions section. This section lists companies that pay for submitted articles.

Contena Alerts

Contena Alerts will notify you about jobs that arise in your area of expertise. If you apply quickly and provide writing samples that reflect your knowledge, you can increased your odds of winning that job.

Contena Coaching

One challenge of working independently is that you don’t have supervisors encouraging you to continuously update and improve your skills. If a freelance client is unhappy with the quality of your work, they simply hire someone else. If you subscribe to the Platinum level service, your Contena coach will review your pitches and writing samples and provide constructive feedback for refinement. Your coach can also work with you on effective marketing materials.

Like Online Dating: You’re Seeking Good Matches

Freelance writers build successful businesses by developing lasting relationships with a few wonderful clients who pay them well for a defined amount of work each month. So, subscribing to Contena can be like joining an online dating service.

Contena can help you identify good matches for your specific writing skills. But it’s up to you to build the long-term professional relationships that can help your writing business grow. If you connect with clients that will pay you thousands of dollars each year (and provide word-of-mouth referrals), you won’t need to subscribe to Contena for long.

And once you build a steady, predictable income from a few good clients, you will feel more comfortable devoting a few hours a week on personal writing projects that might never pay off. If you are just starting out as an independent writer, you will soon learn that time is your most precious resource.

If you squander too much time chasing low-paying jobs, the amount of income you can earn each year will be limited. So be smart. Consider getting some training and coaching before you start pursuing the best prospects for your business.

For more information about Contena, click here.

Freelancing Guide Helps Newcomers Navigate the Universe of Opportunities

The creative people at FreshBooks’ cloud accounting service for freelancers and small businesses have developed “The Freelancer’s Guide to the Galaxy.”   Because I have been freelancing for a long time and use FreshBooks’ services, I accepted their invitation to comment on the guide.

FreshBooks_GuideGalaxyHeadlineThe infographic (published below) points out that the freelance universe can be complex place to navigate on your own. The guide highlights 9 places new voyagers can expect to encounter. Here is a quick recap of the 9 zones and what I have learned traveling through them.

CLIENT STAR FIELD: Potential clients abound but they can be elusive if you take the wrong approach.

My experience: This is true. The right approach matters because competition also abounds. You will also discover that not all clients and opportunities are right for you. At some point, seeking new clients becomes like perpetual online dating or job hunting. Eventually you may prefer to settle down with a few clients who value your work and treat you like part of the team.

LAND OF PEAKS AND PITS: Some months you’ll have to trek through mountains of work from multiple clients. Other months you’ll have to slog through a desert of dry spells.

My experience: Mountains of work are fraught with peril (e.g., missed deadlines, neglected marketing projects, overlooked accounting tasks).  The deserts can be unnerving because you never know when the dry spell will end. But slowdowns in paying assignments are great opportunities to pursue personal projects that refresh your skills and enthusiasm. Dry spells can also give you time to streamline your workflows, update your skills, or connect with clients who can give you a predictable flow of steady work.

ISOLATION ZONE: Sometimes the life of a work-at-home freelancer gets a bit lonely. Stay connected to professional peers at networking events or informal get-togethers.

My experience: I am more productive and creative working in isolation than in an open-space office environment. But staying connected to the outside world is essential. Traveling to trade shows and educational conferences can expand your universe of contacts, opportunities, and ideas for new projects.

TIME WASTER’S BLACK HOLE: Online (and offline) distractions can be a powerful force.

My experience: You can’t afford to fall into the black hole of wasted time. As a freelancer, your time is your most valuable asset. Ultimately, your earning potential depends on how many hours you spend on income-generating projects.

GRAY AREA: The boundaries between work and home become especially blurry when working from home.

My experience: This was particularly true when my children were little. But children grow up and move out faster than you imagine.  So, I have never regretted the times I let my own work slow down to spend more time with them. Still, I have always appreciated my separate home office space. I close the door and leave work behind at the end of a busy day.

PLANET YOU: You are responsible for your own success.

My experience: Like other freelancers, I was shocked by how little time is spent doing work I truly love. Instead of “being your own boss,” you must adapt to the diverse work styles and expectations of multiple bosses. Plus, in addition to marketing yourself, there will be times when you must be your own IT person, accountant, and training expert.

Continuous training is especially important because it can help you differentiate yourself from competitors and become indispensable to your clients. Freelancers with leading-edge skills or unique expertise can command higher rates.

ACCOUNTING ALLEY: The land of taxes, deductions, and accounts payable can seem like entering a whole new universe.

My experience: In addition to exploring the brave new world of accounting, you may encounter clients who require specific types of business insurance and licenses. If you approach freelancing as a business instead of a sideline, you will be better prepared to handle the realities of taxes, local home-business regulations, and insurance.

CORPORATE TEMPTRESSES: Guaranteed health coverage and 401k contributions could lure you back into the life of a salaried employee.

My experience: Weaving between the worlds of freelancing and full-time work can be a good thing. I worked at home when my children were toddlers, and happily accepted a part-time job when the kids went off to school. When the part-time job morphed into full-time work, I forged valuable connections that guaranteed steady work when I opted to return to freelancing. In today’s world of “contingent workforces,” a full-time job isn’t necessarily more secure than freelancing.

RETIREMENT NEVERLAND: Don’t neglect the need to plan for your financial future.

My experience: Yes, it’s critical to plan for secure financial future. But if you reach the point  in your business where you can do more of the work you love, you may not want to retire. At some point during your freelance career, consider diversifying your work so that not all of your income comes from paying clients. Creative professionals today are discovering dozens of new ways to create and sell their own products.

FreshBooks_GuideToTheGalaxy600pix-

Final Words of Advice

With the rise of the gig economy and contingency work teams, dozens of new services have been developed to make life easier for independent workers.

I started using FreshBooks several years ago, when I learned about it during a virtual conference on International Freelancer’s Day. The founder of FreshBooks was a freelance designer who learned the hard way that general-office tools for creating documents and spreadsheets aren’t sufficient for the needs of independent business owners.

At first, I used FreshBooks primarily for time tracking, invoicing, and preparing 1099 forms for independent contractors I managed for a major project. Today, I also use FreshBooks to track and categorize tax-deductible expenses. I can access FreshBooks on my iPhone, iPad and PC.

FreshBooks-ProductFamily

Today, companies that hire freelancers may ask you to provide specialized services that you don’t yet offer. FreshBooks’ partnership with Elance makes it easy to connect with a vast pool of other freelancers who could help deliver additional services a client might want.

The FreshBooks partnership with PayPal makes it easy for to give clients several options for how they want to pay (including credit cards).

Many other apps and services exist make it easier for freelancers today to find new clients, submit proposals, and provide a wider range of services.  I will share some of the services that have worked well for me in future posts.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

FreshBooks

 

Freelancer’s Guide to Business and Taxes Helps Gig Economy Workers

To help new freelancers understand some of the paperwork associated with freelance business operations, FormSwift has published “The Freelancer’s Essential Guide to Business and Taxes.” Written by Justin Gomer and Jackson Hille, the guide urges new solopreneurs to take a business-like approach to their freelance business.

Learn to Prosper in the Gig Economy

While many photographers, designers, and writers are accustomed to deriving some or all of their income from freelancing, many other professionals aren’t. But millions of new college graduates, part-time employees, under-employed professionals, and displaced workers are actively pursuing freelance gigs.

In fact, a whole new “Gig Economy” has taken shape in the aftermath  of the Great Recession of 2008-2009. As Gerald Friedman pointed out on his Dollars and Sense blog, “Growing numbers of Americans no longer hold a regular ‘job’ with long-term connection to a particular business. Instead, they work “gigs,” where they are employed on a particular task or for a defined time…Borrowed from the music industry the word ‘gig’ is now applied to all sorts of flexible employment.”

Freelancers and independent contractors today include adjunct and part-time professors, Uber and Lyft drivers, translators, virtual assistants, doctors, lawyers, and accountants.

Formswift Freelance Business Guide

“The Freelancer’s Essential Guide Business and Taxes” discusses the types of forms new freelancers need to file estimated taxes or report payments to independent contractors you might hire to help you complete an assignment.

The guide reassures Gig Economy newcomers that they aren’t alone. Resources such as the Freelancers Union  can show  you how to  forge a successful career as an independent worker.

Is Freelancing the New Normal?

According to the study “Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce,” 53 million Americans are now engaged in some form of supplemental, temporary, or project- or contract-based work. Technology has made it much easier for individuals to find freelance work and contribute work from wherever they choose to live.

The study lists five types of freelancers:

Independent contractor: Provides freelance, temporary, or supplemental work on a project-to-project basis.

Moonlighter: Uses freelance work to supplement income from a full-time job.

Diversified worker: Combines part-time jobs with freelance gigs.

Temporary worker: Works for a months-long project for single client.

Freelance business owner: Employs one to five people but regards himself or herself as both a freelancer and a business owner.

About FormSwift

FormSwift is an online platform that makes it easy to locate, edit, and electronically sign more than 500 commonly used business and legal forms.

In addition to tax forms for estimated taxes, you can find templates for small business documents, real-estate transactions, affidavits, and personal contracts (such as prenups and cohabitation agreements).

In the small-business category, you can download and edit templates for:

  • non-disclosure agreements
  • invoices
  • consulting agreements
  • employee handbooks
  • independent contractor service agreements
  • cease-and-desist letters for copyright infringement

FormSwift members can choose from 500+ document templates or upload their own documents and use FormSwift’s tools to edit them.

LINKS

The Freelancer’s Essential Guide to Business and Taxes

FormSwift

Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New American Workforce

The Rise of the Gig Economy

Freelancers Union

 

Study Estimates About 53 Million Americans Are Freelancing

 

CoverofFreelancingReport (2)More than one in three workers — 53 million Americans — are now freelancing, according to the most comprehensive survey of the U.S. independent workforce in nearly a decade.

The study, “Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce,” was conducted by the independent research firm Edelman Berland and commissioned by Freelancers Union in partnership with Elance-oDesk.

“Freelancing is the new normal — and this survey shows that America’s new workforce is big, crucial, and here to stay,” said Sara Horowitz, Founder and Executive Director of Freelancers Union.

“The 53 million Americans who are freelancing already contribute more than $700 billion to our national economy and help U.S. businesses compete and find the skills that they need. This is just the start: The connected era we live in is liberating our workforce. The barriers to being a freelance professional — finding work, collaborating with clients and getting paid on time — are going away,” said Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance-oDesk.

Key Findings

The economic impact of the 53 million Americans who are freelancing is significant. Collectively, they contribute more than $715 billion in freelance earnings to the national economy. And that impact is expected to grow in the coming years. Findings show that:

Freelancers are seeing more demand for their work. Twice as many freelancers have seen an increase in demand in the past year as have seen a decrease (32% increase, versus 15% decrease).

Technology is helping freelancers find work. Nearly seven in ten (69%) freelancers said technology had made it easier to find freelance work, and 42% said they have done freelance work via the Internet.

As demand increases, so does their reputation. Almost two out of three (65%) freelancers said freelancing as a career path is more respected today than it was three years ago.

The potential for earnings is helping to drive the growth of freelancing.  80% of non-freelancers surveyed said they would be willing to do additional work outside of their primary job if it was available and enabled them to make more money.

There is room for growth. Three times as many freelancers expect their hours to increase in the next year as expect their hours to decrease (38% expect to increase hours, versus 12% expect to decrease).

Millennials (workers under 35) are more likely to freelance. 38% of Millennials are freelancing, compared to 32% of those over 35. Millennials are also most optimistic about the future of the freelance job market, with 82% saying that the best days are ahead (compared to 74% of those over 35).

Five Freelancer Segments

The study identified five segments of freelancers, covering the diverse range of people who are freelancing today:

Independent Contractors (40% of the independent workforce / 21.1 million professionals). These “traditional” freelancers don’t have an employer and instead do freelance, temporary or supplemental work on a project-to-project basis.

Moonlighters (27% / 14.3 million). This professionals have a primary, traditional job but also moonlight doing freelance work. For example, a corporate-employed web developer may also do projects for non-profits in the evening.

Diversified Workers (18% / 9.3 million). This group includes people with multiple sources of income from a mix of traditional employers and freelance work. For example, someone who works at a dentist’s office 20 hours a week may generate the rest of his income driving for Uber and doing freelance writing.

Temporary Workers (10% / 5.5 million). These freelancers work for a single employer or client on a temporary job or contract project. For example, a business strategy consultant may be contracted to work for a startup client on project that lasts several months. .

Freelance Business Owners (5% / 2.8 million). These freelancers are small-business owners, with between one and five employees. The freelance business owner consider himself both a freelancer and a business owner. For example, a social marketing guru still identifies as a freelancer even after hiring a team of other social marketers to build a small agency. .

Mikki Morrissette of Minneapolis spent more than a decade in corporate publishing in New York City before switching over to become a freelance writer and communications specialist 15 years ago.

“I am so much happier in this new stage of my career,” Morrissette said. “As a single mom with two kids, and an itch for travel, I love the flexibility. I get to choose the projects I work on and mostly work with other eclectic entrepreneurs like me. I love being free to pursue my interests where they take me.”

About the “Freelancing in America” Study

For the study, more than 5,050 U.S. working adults over the age of 18 were surveyed online between July 19, 2014 – July 31, 2014. Of those, 1,720 were freelancers and 3,332 were non-freelancers. Results are weighted to ensure demographic representation in line with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. The study has an overall margin of error of ±1.38% at the 95% level of confidence.

About Freelancers Union

The Freelancers Union serves the needs of the growing sector of independent workers. More than one in three working Americans is an independent worker. They are lawyers, nannies, graphic designers, writers, artists, photographers, illustrators, marketing specialists, and more.

About Elance-oDesk

Elance-oDesk is one of the world’s largest online workplaces. More than 2.5 million businesses and 8 million freelancers tap into www.Elance.com and www.oDesk.com to work together via the Internet.

LINKS

Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce

About Freelancers Union

 

New Avenues in Journalism Conference Helps Freelancers Adapt

logo-newavenues2014WRITERS. The “New Avenues in Journalism” conference October 10-11 at San Francisco State University will help freelance journalists understand how to maintain profitable careers in the changing field of journalism. The event is sponsored by the American Society of Journalists and Authors Educational Foundation (ASJA), San Francisco State University (SFSU), and the Online News Association (ONA).

One of the keynote speakers in Kara Swisher, a pre-eminent tech journalist and former co-host of AllThingsD. She will discuss the shifting world of independent journalism and explain why she recently forged a path outside the traditional news organization and embarked on her own entrepreneurial venture as co-CEO of the tech blog Re/code.

“The traditional business model for freelance writers has collapsed,” said conference co-chair Laird Harrison, an ASJA board member and ONA local leader. “Hardly anyone is making a living writing for magazines anymore. But new opportunities are opening up for writers who think like entrepreneurs.”

New Avenues in Journalism will bring together media innovators like Swisher to coach freelancers about how to achieve their professional goals in new and diverse markets. Much of the meeting will address the burgeoning field of custom content — journalistic articles commissioned to support products and services. Other speakers will discuss how writers can: secure funding from investors, foundations and philanthropists; successfully act as their own publishers; and sell merchandise and consulting as auxiliary income.

Attendees can choose the full day on Friday ($195 for 10 am – 4:30 pm plus networking event) and an optional half day on Saturday ($95 for 9 am to noon). Admission includes a boxed lunch and a wine reception Friday.

About ASJA

Founded in 1948, the American Society of Journalists and Authors is a professional organization of independent nonfiction writers. It membership includes nearly 1300 freelance writers of magazine articles, trade books, and many other forms of nonfiction writing.

LINKS

New Avenues in Journalism Conference

American Society of Journalists and Authors

 

E-Book Offers 50 Tips to Help You Freelance with Confidence

FreelancewithConfidnce-E-Book-350WRITERS. Laurie Lewis, author of the book “What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants,” has published a new Kindle e-book, “Freelance With Confidence: 50 Proven Tips for a Successful Freelance Career.”

While providing useful guidance for any freelancer, the e-book will be especially valuable for newcomers to the field and for those struggling to build a successful business.

The 50 tips in Freelance With Confidence fall into five categories:

  • 10 crucial things to remember about freelancing
  • 10 start-up instructions for new freelancers
  • 10 reminders about working alone and as part of a team
  • 10 pointers for keeping up in a technology-driven world, and
  • 10 insights about freelancing as a lifestyle.

The author has supported herself as freelance medical writer and editor in New York City for almost 30 years.

The second edition of her book “What to Charge” was selected as a finalist in the USA Best Books 2011 competition. It tied for first place in a business category and came in second in the writing division of the 2012 Reader Views Literary Awards competition.

LINKS

Freelance With Confidence: 50 Proven Tips for a Successful Freelance Career

What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants

Freelance Fee Setting: Quick Guide for When a Client Demands a Price NOW

B2B Marketers Plan to Spend More on Content Marketing

WRITERS. DESIGNERS. The continuing growth of B2B content-marketing may provide new opportunities for writers, designers, and other content producers.

According to a study recently published by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 93 percent of B2B marketers in North America are using content marketing. Seventy-three percent of these respondents are producing more content than they were a year ago and 58 percent plan to increase their budget for content marketing over the next 12 months.

CONTENT MARKETING INSTITUTE PIE GRAPH

Entitled “B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends–North America,” the report publishes findings from the fourth annual Content Marketing Survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. More than 1,200 B2B marketers in North America from diverse industries and a wide range of company sizes responded to the survey in July and August 2013.

Here are a few key findings:

Compared to last year, marketers are using more content tactics (13 compared to 12) and more social-media platforms to distribute content (6 compared to 5).

The types of tactics used has remained relatively constant. The ten most popular tactics are:

  • social media (87 percent)
  • articles on their own website (81 percent)
  • e-newsletters (80 percent)
  • blogs (76 percent)
  • in-person events (76 percent)
  • case studies (73 percent)
  • videos (73 percent)
  • articles on other websites (68 percent)
  • white papers (64 percent)
  • online presentations (63 percent)

ContentMarketingCoverThe number of B2B marketers using infographics jumped from 38 percent last year to 51 percent in this year.

Large B2B companies outsource content creation more frequently than small companies: 72 percent of large companies (1000+ employees) use a mix of in-house and outsourced professionals for content creation. Only 33 percent of small companies (10 to 99 employees) outsource some of their content-creation work.

Writing and design are the two functions most likely to be outsourced: 64 percent outsource writing; 54 percent outsource design; and 22 percent outsource editing.

Other functions that B2B marketers outsource include content distribution/syndication (30 percent), measurement/analytics (22 percent), content planning and strategy (8 percent), and the creation of buyer personas (5 percent).

The Organizations Behind the Research

CONTENT MARKETING INSTITUTE BOOK COVERContent Marketing Institute is a content marketing education and training organization. CMI teaches enterprise brands how to attract and retain customers through compelling, multi-channel storytelling.

One way to learn what B2B clients are expecting to achieve with content marketing is to read the newest book by CMI founder Joe Pulizzi. The book’s title alone explains a lot: “Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break Through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less.” 

MarketingProfs is a marketing education and training company that offers actionable know-how to more than 600,000 MarketingProfs members.

The research study was sponsored by Brightcove, a global provider of cloud services for video. Brightcove cloud content services can be used to operate video services across PCs, smartphones, tablets, and connected TVs.

LINKS

B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends — North America

About the Content Marketing Institute

About Marketing Profs

Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less