Why You Need to Ditch Freelance Writing Sites

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Guest Post by Connor Rickett

Hi, I’m Connor Rickett. I’m a freelance writer by trade, though not training, and I rather like it. That’s really all you need to know about me up front, so I’d like to just get rolling and thank Wendy for letting me invade her little corner of the blogosphere. Wendy and I met on LinkedIn soon after we’d both made the jump to freelancing. We’ve kept in touch, and, well, you can tell Wendy’s done well for herself.

Myself, I’m a bit slower of a learner. Also, I stepped out to ghostwrite books for a while. But mostly the former. Fortunately, you can learn from my (in)experience, and today I’ll be explaining why you should just step back from freelancing sites, and walk away. They’ll probably keep bugging you for a while, like an abusive ex-lover, but you need to be strong. Maybe take up mixed martial arts.

What are freelancing sites?

I suppose a fair number of you might not really know much about freelance writing sites. That’s fair. Well, here’s the basic idea (and it’s a good one): Freelance writing sites act as a go-between. They’re where people looking for writers can find writers looking for work. It’s simple, it’s brilliant, it’s what the internet is all about . . .

So do they work?

Well, not really. Not for most people, anyway. Freelance writing sites are a magnet for the inexperienced, on both sides of the divide. They’re where desperate writers meet people with absolutely no idea what writers should get paid.

There are some good clients on there. And some good writers. And, it’s worth noting, the sites make more money if their users make more money, so they do have reasons to support freelancers. Mostly, though, it’s a bunch of people who don’t know what’s going on. On top of that, the sites take a piece of the action every time money changes hands. Most of them limit the number of bids users can make, per month, unless users throw in a little more money. And, of course, the best features are only available to the pro users, for a fee.

Despite (usually) the efforts of the sites’ owners, these environments end up being very, very, predatory, with the rare potential clients offering anything resembling fair wages besieged with bids from dozens of writers, and no doubt picking the highest-rated or dirt cheapest of the bidders. How do you become a high-rated writer? Why by taking and completing assignments—and the only ones you can get are without reviews are, obviously, terrible.

The real problem is the sites are full of people who know that, and they’ll take you for all you’re worth.

An Example

I went on one of my own accounts and didn’t even have to get passed the first page of job matches to find this example. Let me show you what I’m talking about here:

Ghostwriter - Amazon Prime and Lending

I'm looking for a ghostwriter to write an eBook on the topic of Amazon Prime, how to get the most of your membership, and the Kindle Owners Lending Library.  The eBook should consist of about  minimum 9,000 words and plenty of screen shots.  
I would like this book to be the absolute ultimate resource for people with questions about Amazon Prime and the Kindle Owner Lending Library.
I am looking for a writer I can work with LONG TERM. At this time, I have about 2 or 3 more eBooks similar to this one I need written, upon successful completing of this project I can start you on the next topic if you so desire.
PLAGIARISM WILL NOT BE TOLERATED! All material must be original content. I will check and double check to make sure nothing is plagiarized. If plagiarized content is found I will not pay for the job and will leave a negative review.
I will require the following:
1)Agreement stating that this is a work for hire creation, you will own no rights to and you name will appear nowhere on or within and that I own all rights to the work.
2) The content should be a minimum of 9,000 Words and plenty of screen shots 
3) A 300-400 word summary/sales copy explaining what the eBook is about and SELLING it to the reader.  This sales copy must include a bulleted list of "Whats inside"
4) Table of Contents
5) Completed project is to be delivered in Microsoft Word within 10 days of me selecting you
6) PERFECT U.S. English and grammar
7) Free revisions
8) I will review the table of contents and the first chapter after completion of each to provide feedback
Again, I am looking to develop a long term relationship with a writer as long as you deliver excellent quality at a reasonable price.
Please bid fairly, I have had eBooks of similar size written for between $80-$200.
Thanks for looking at this project and I look forward to developing a long lasting relationship with one of you.

    That’s a really common tactic among the people who are deliberately preying on writers who don’t know better: promising future work, in a non-binding way, in exchange for, basically, slave labor. Once you take in research, editing, (unlimited free!) revisions, the ToC, the summary . . . for the “fair” price of $80-200.

    This guy isn’t ignorant, though, he’s a predator. He’s deliberately creating a fraudulent expectation by dangling the potential of more work in front of people trying to make their break, and lying about what they should expect to be paid. Well, you’re not even making five an hour working for him. I honestly hope this guy stubs his toe every eighty to two hundred feet for the rest of his life.

    The Upshot: Yeah, maybe you’ll fail if you insist on only taking jobs which pay fairly, but if you keep working for people who don’t pay you enough to get by, you’ll definitely fail.

    What should I do instead?

    Don’t get sucked into working for less than your worth! Take a look at Wendy’s rates, or my rates, or the Writer’s Market rates, and pick something you feel is appropriate. Maybe start near the “low” end of the Writer’s Market rates, if you’re nervous, and move up.

    [NOTE FROM CONNOR: The corollary of this is that you must be worth what you charge. Always be getting better at what you do.]

    If you want to make it as a freelancer, you need to expunge from your mind the idea of passive success. You aren’t in the 9-5 world anymore, where showing up and doing enough to not get fired is a plausible scenario (not advisable, but plausible).

    This is a Competition

    This is a competition, and second place wins you absolutely nothing. There’s a trick to winning races. First, be good. Second, start ahead. The thing about races is that they’re much easier to win if you start a little ahead. Give me a minute head start and I’ll beat Usain Bolt at the 100m every time. The better you are, the less of a lead you need to create. The better you are at creating leads, the less skill and training you need to win.

    Get out there! Find people who need bloggers or writers, and initiate contact. You’ll hear a lot of, “No,” and even more nothing. But you’ll get a response now and then, and if they don’t need you right then, maybe they’re on their way up, maybe they’re expanding, maybe someone’s going to miss a deadline, or promise more they can deliver, and there you are!

    If your contact info is right there, there’s a good shot the business (or blog, or whatever) is not going to take the time to set up an account on a freelancing site and weed through bids. Something that costs a little more right now is often far better, from their perspective, than something a little bit cheaper in a week or two.


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    Connor Rickett is a professional freelance writer. He used to be a scientist, now he writes about writing and small business matters (and challenges) at Cities of the Mind, his company blog. Feel free to stop by and say hi!

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    Wendy McCance

    Wendy McCance

    Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

    To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]
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    7 thoughts on “Why You Need to Ditch Freelance Writing Sites

    1. Pingback: Best Advice For Freelance Writers - Searching For The Happiness

    2. I agree with you about exposure, Connor. Clients who promise great exposure but choose not to offer payment want you to agree that your services are worthless. That’s a bad road to go down mentally if you want to build a successful freelance writing business.

      I still use Elance and Guru from time to time after about 7 years in business (and about $200,000 in lifetime earnings between the 2 sites). Knowing how to laser-in on the well-paying clients ($100-200 per hour) without digging through thousands of joke jobs is vital. Otherwise, it’s just too discouraging. These days, I land most of my work through referrals and in-person networking. But it was good to be able to start out with sites that served up clients who were ready to buy.

    3. I have almost exclusively written for freelance sites and I did it for one reason…confidence. I think they are a great place to start, but every freelance writer should aspire to more.

      BTW, I have been paid as much as $.50 per word from a freelance writing site contact. And I have consistently raised my rates so that now I accept nothing less than $.12 per word for a blog post and regularly get $.15 per word or more. On these sites, if you carefully evaluate job postings and understand how to discern between a low pay troll and a real job, you will do just fine.

    4. Although I liked the post overall, I have to disagree with some of it in a sense. The way I see it is, wherever you can get exposure and get known as a writer is good however it comes (I do mean in a positive way, of course…). I am not saying be a slave or anything like that, but I am saying follow your dream no matter what. So, I especially agree with the last part about getting out there and doing what you need to do though. Beautiful ending and I get the overall message: Write for what you are worth, no matter what.

      • Joshua/Ana/and/or/Clayton?,

        Exposure is great, but don’t overestimate it. Let me put it another way; I have written a couple things that have gotten tens of thousands of hits, had you ever heard of me before today? On top of that, the people who can give you meaningful exposure can also generally afford to pay you for your services. Everything is a judgment call of course.

        Now, as to the dream, my advice here is just for people making money by writing . . . the dream is another animal, and something to be pursued for passion, not profit. In that you couldn’t be more right.



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