Freelancing Writing Backward (Learn to Write Well First!)

With the internet making writing content online for pay so easy, there are many people who are stumbling into freelance writing as a career choice who never would have considered it before. Yes, these people are contractors to these web content sites, and yes, they are legitimate freelance writers, but they are not by any means a traditional freelance writer.

What’s the difference?

Back in the day, a freelance writer would usually go out and scope out pieces, write things up, visit the offices of an editor in a major market, publication, publisher or newspaper and pitch the article to them in person, sell the article, and move on. Or else, they’d pitch the article idea, write it up, and then move on.

Editors used these freelancers to pad their publication when they needed filler content but could not afford to hire additional staff writers, or when their staff writers were all busy with other assignments. Generally speaking 10-20 years ago, freelancer writers mostly stayed in their general geographical area, and if they had to travel, they would commission the publication to pay for their expenses. Publications liked to use freelance writes for this purpose, so their staff writers stayed close to home and everyone knew what everyone else’s job was.

Several years ago, the internet began changing the way a lot of businesses do business, and that includes publications and magazines. Many small magazines have gone from a print format to an exclusively electronic/digital format, while almost all the major magazine markets now have both print and digital publication formats. Submissions began being accepted via email, fax, etc, and as such, freelance writers were able to branch out and write for national and international publications that were previously geographical unavailable to them.

Today, there are more opportunities via the digital electronic world than there are in the ‘real’ world. Then, just a few short years ago, the world of web ‘content’ comes alive, and we see sites popping up hiring people to write for them.

The face of freelance writing changed forever…

And it’s still continuing to change…

The biggest difference is these new freelance writers are working the freelance writing mold backward: submitting to cheap paying content sites and working up to higher paying assignments. I hear it all too frequently, “I’ll write for bigger paying jobs as soon as I’m making more money, doing better, getting more page views on content sites.”

The problem with this is, what these content sites expect and what works well on the web is in diametrical opposition to what is expected from and works in print!

If you’re waiting to succeed in writing web content, and then you do succeed, and then you take that writing knowledge and skill that you think you have learned, and you try to apply that to print/magazine publication writing, you’re going to find that you are behind the learning curve. Chances are, if you submit the same types of articles, writing, content – written the same way – as what you submit for web content to a print publication, you’re likely to get rejected, period.

However, if you learn to write quality writing for print markets first, perfect and improve your writing, grammar, style, flow and tone, and then get that down pat, tweaking your writing for search engine optimization for the web becomes much easier than trying to learn to write web content and then switch to print.

I can tap out an online web content article in no time flat now, and it will be above average quality or higher than ‘MOST’ of what is out there on the internet today as far as ‘reading quality’, still be optimi0zed (because I know the ‘tricks’ to do that now), never have to change my style back and forth from print to web, and I’m doing really good on page views on the sites that pay that way.

Why? Because I learned to write well first, THEN I learned to write for the web.

My point: if you’re trying to learn to write for the web and become successful at web writing as a means to break into high-paying freelance print markets – don’t. That’s taking freelance writing backward.

What works on places like AssociatedContent and Helium will not be what works on Suite101, and surely will not be what works for Reader’s Digest or Woman’s Day Magazine, etc.

What works for Reader’s Digest or Woman’s Day WILL work on Suite101 or AssociatedContent, with just a slight tweak to add a few keyword phrases.

I’m serious here folks – it works one direction, but not the other.

So if you’re working the content sites hoping to ‘get good enough’ to try print, you’re working at freelance writing backward. You should be working to get good enough for print, and then once you are, you’ll blow those content sites away.

Learn to write well first…

If you are looking to break into paying markets that aren’t ‘content sites’, visit the free Accentuate Writers forum and and the paying leads thread there.

Keep writing!

Love and stuff,