How to Survive in the Crowded Freelance Writing Marketplace

There’s no question that there are a lot of freelancers out there. Some people even wonder if there are too many freelancers.

In particular, there seems to be an awful lot of freelance writers. If you’re a freelance writer, you may be watching with concern as the news has leaked out that some of the largest online publications pay their writers very little (and some don’t pay at all). You may even be wondering if it is even possible to earn a living as a freelance writing anymore.

In this post, I’ll explain why it’s not only possible to survive–but also possible to thrive–as a freelance writer. I’ll list some of the reasons why freelance writing is still a good option. I’ll also provide some steps you can take to strengthen your own freelance writing business.


Why You Can Still Succeed as a Freelance Writer

When I look at the sheer number of freelance writers online, it would be easy to panic and wonder “how on earth could I possibly compete in such a crowded market?” But…that would be the wrong attitude entirely.

The fact is that I can still compete in this freelance writing market and so (probably) can you. Here’s why:

  1. Not everyone is in it for the long haul. Many people get involved in freelance writing because they think it’s a quick and easy way to make a few dollars. When they discover that there’s actually a lot of work involved, they disappear.
  2. Not everyone is reliable. It’s hard to believe that someone would go into business, promise something to a client, and then not deliver. But apparently, it happens all the time. (At least this is what my own clients tell me.)
  3. Freelance writing clients tend to be repeat clients. Unlike some freelance fields where a client only uses the freelancer once, freelance writing clients tend to have ongoing writing needs. The same handful of clients can keep you quite busy.
  4. Experience still counts. If you’ve got experience, you will be able to work more efficiently and write more effectively. You will also be able to discern which clients are real prospects and which ones are leading you on.
  5. Talent still counts. Not everyone has the same degree of talent. Sadly, some of the people who are claiming to be freelance writers don’t actually have a real grasp of how to communicate in writing.

Naturally if the negative points above don’t describe you, then you already have an advantage as a freelance writer. However, you can go further. You can actually strengthen your freelance writing brand and set yourself apart from other freelance writers.

How to Strengthen Your Freelance Writing Brand

Setting yourself apart from other freelance writers is a key part of how you will thrive in a crowded freelance writing marketplace.

Here are some steps to take to further set yourself apart:

  1. Understand how your writing business is special. Know what you do best so that you can explain it to your clients. Your business has something unique to offer to your clients. Find out what it is.
  2. Specialize. Writers who have specialized are often able to charge more for their services. It also makes it easier for them to target prospective clients.
  3. Have a website or blog. The best way for clients to find you is through your own site. Having a website shows that you are really serious about being a freelance writer.
  4. Consider the more lucrative writing fields of copywriting or business writing. While it’s nice to have a byline, it’s even nicer to get paid. Businesses have the money to pay and the need for writers.
  5. Socialize. Nearly every social media site is free to use (at least at its most basic level). Why not set up a few social media accounts to connect with prospects and clients?

In a crowded freelance writing marketplace, branding becomes more important than ever. If you aren’t actively working on your freelance writing brand, chances are your business is hurting.

Your Turn

Do you think the freelance writing marketplace has become too crowded? What tips would you give a new freelancer to help them stand out in the crowded freelance writing market?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by Kiwi Flickr

Comments

  1. says

    Great points, Laura. I never worry about ‘competition’ from other writers; there’s plenty of work to go round. The ability to highlight your writing specialties is what makes sure you get hired.

  2. says

    I think there will continue to be more freelancers as employment trends change. Working for a corporation doesn’t always mean great benefits anymore and thanks to great resources like Freelance Folder it’s easier than it used to be to figure out how to build a good business. I try to think of other writers as my colleagues, not as competitors. We’re all in this together.

  3. says

    Hi Sharon! I agree. There are enough jobs to go around–particularly for experienced and talented writers.

    Dava, Good point. I think employment trends are changing and will continue to change. (Glad you like Freelance Folder…)

  4. says

    I’ve met so many writers through this blog and social networking sites like Twitter, and I’ve never felt that we’re in competition with one another. You’re right that it’s all about your branding. Plus, we don’t all have the same skills or the same ideal clients, and we’re in a great position to help one another grow in our respective areas.

  5. says

    Thanks for the great post Laura.

    I couldn’t agree more with your point: “Understand how your writing business is special.”

    One complaint many freelance writers seem to have is that there are so many writers who charge extremely low prices, making it difficult to compete. However, if you find your unique selling proposition (USP) and can highlight what makes your services special, you no longer have to compete on price. If someone wants a low-priced writer, let them go elsewhere. If they want a writer who specializes in X, they will pay the necessary price.

    Thanks again for the reminder.

  6. says

    i think their are clients for everyone…after all this is a big world and with the advent of internet everything has globalized and in click of button

  7. John says

    Thank you Laura. I was losing hope. It was not from a lack of confidence, but from the continual negative news (too many writers, low to no pay, etc.). I appreciate artlcles that describe ways to stand out and stand up for ourselves. Who we are is the unique selling proposition each of us brings to the table.
    I have 20 years of experience in publication editing and writing as well as proposal writing experience but I don’t want to go back to a corporate stable to do this work. I have only recently started to seek contract and freelance work and articles like this remind me to shut down the negativity and get busy.

  8. says

    Great post and very practical advice. Especially the bit about looking to business and copywriting. That’s how I’ve managed to make ends meet for the last two years, while doing article writing in my down time. It works well for me. There’s soooo much work out there. As writers, we often take for granted that businesses find it REALLY hard to find people who can write well, and on time. The challenge for writers is, well, compromising a bit, and marketing! Make a business card for yourself that says your name with “Freelance Writer” underneath. It’s a powerful thing. Like having a website, it’s a sign to you and the world that you take yourself seriously. That’s all it takes really. There will always be a need for people who can write.

  9. says

    Excellent ideas. I especially agree with finding your uniqueness
    And developing your brand as a writer. One area where I often get
    Stuck is finding paying online pubs. It amazes me, too, just how many
    Bogus magazines are out there.

    I started to pursue my writing dream 4 years ago.
    In that time, I also gave birth to 2 children! You can learn about my
    Journey as a writing parent at thewritingparent.blogspot.com
    My goal for this year is consistency in earnings from both Ghostwriting
    Articles and advertorials as well as fiction. Never stop setting goals or
    Envisioning your life as a writer.

  10. says

    Great post Laura. Although I’m not a freelance writer, I could relate definitely relate to it. The web design field isn’t far from what you wrote. There are a lot of competition out there and nowadays, I find that the best advertising for us freelancers is word-of-mouth.

    @dava You took the word right out of my mouth. Working for a corporation doesn’t mean anything to us anymore. Things have extremely changed.

    @Amy You wrote: “One complaint many freelance writers seem to have is that there are so many writers who charge extremely low prices, making it difficult to compete.”

    You’re not all alone. Here in my country (Thailand), I have to compete with undergrad students and newly graduates who claim themselves as “professional web design freelancers”. They charge so shockingly low I could give them a slap on the face. Sure they could go that low, they don’t need to think about “cost”. They live with their parents, free computers, free electricity, free food. Bah humbug. :)

  11. says

    I love the #2 under ‘how to strengthen’. Because of the economy and the growing number of freelancers, it’s so important to find a specialty that is in high demand and stick with that one specialty. It’s the freelancers who try to do EVERYTHING that end up getting lost in the shuffle.

    Great article! I think we could also use an article geared towards certain niches or specialties that are in high demand right now. Or maybe a few ways in order to find those specialties ourselves.

    Cheers!

  12. says

    When I read this line “Not everyone is in it for the long haul” – it reminded me of an article I’ve read about people treating freelance writing as a work that will help them make ends meet while they search for employment opportunities. I have to say that when you don’t have the passion to do your work, most often, you don’t succeed. This is great news for those who love writing that they can only think of doing so every time they wake up each morning. Cheers!

  13. says

    I’ve worked with a number of freelance writers and have come across some that are not responsive or reliable. But for the most part the experience has been good and the good ones I’ve given a lot of repeat business.

  14. Jared says

    Great article! I’m looking for a dollar value on the freelance writing or web copywriting market size. Does anyone have any estimates? For example, how many articles or web pages are purchased/published in a given time period, etc, then estimate word count and price per article, and so on. Thanks!

  15. says

    When you are a freelance writer, it can be easy to get side tracked. By setting a schedule of when you will write and how much you will write, you are going to become more productive. Set aside blocks of time every day where you sit down to do nothing but write. When you do this, you should see a huge increase in your article productivity.

  16. says

    This is really great advice – as someone who built up a freelance portfolio from basically nothing, I can really relate to the need to stay moralized and very aware of what you can offer that others can’t. Built good relationships with editors and you’ll discover that eventually, the work will find you instead of you finding the work! And I couldn’t agree more on the branding point either – I’ve written loads about branding for journalists in the past and it’s so critical to come across as a professional when trying to secure your first clients!

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  1. [...] market. They don’t stand for anything and they haven’t distinguished themselves from the thousands of other freelancers who are out there and competing for the same work. Then, they wonder why they have no clients. But, if you don’t [...]

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