By Samantha Foster
As I sit in my seat in the far back of Professor Lawson’s Journalism class on a cool October morning I think to myself, “What the hell am I write right about?” After several days of frantic brainstorming and an interview with said professor, I had finally gotten the “Eureka!” moment that I was so desperately searching for. I should first off start by saying that I like to think of myself as a non-materialistic person, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about money for extended periods of time. Us college students are often plagued with thoughts and notions of how we can pay for our books, room and board, materials, and various other things for the semester, as well as the academic years to follow. Being the English Professional Writing major that I am, what better way to earn money than with the words that I write? This idea carved the path for me to the intricate world of freelance writing. A brief online search will tell you that freelance writing is more or less writing for different publications or organizations on a short time scale and getting paid for it. That being said, I embarked on a journey to earn 100 dollars by becoming a freelance writer.
Freelance writing didn’t seem so hard. You find someone, write what they want, and get money…or so I thought. You see, most freelancers begin their careers using what is known as content mills; companies that hire freelancers in bulk to provide website content. Swayed by my eagerness to earn money, I had thought that signing up for these content mills would be an easy task only to be quickly discouraged that it wasn’t quite so. The content mills that I signed up to be a part of all required documentation to legally prove that I could work in the United States followed by a waiting period before official approval. Needless to say, I was frustrated that I couldn’t start my journey right away, as the waiting period to be cleared took about 2-3 weeks. However, once I got the ok from the content mills, I was happy to start my journey once more.
Blogmutt.com was the first content mill I signed up for and the one I seem to return to the most. There were many interesting topics to write for ranging from food to software engineering. However, because I am a new freelancer in their databases, I was restricted to only writing blogs that required 250 words until I could increase my experience level. If there was anything I took away from this mill, it’s that once you find something you really want to write about, make sure you jump on it the moment you can. Nothing sucks more than putting your all into research for a writing job only to find out it has already been done by a fellow freelance writer (I learned that the hard way). I would eventually join other content mills like Article Document.com and Texbroker.com which also criticked my writing abilities before putting me out on the field, but all had different pay rates.
Finding something to write about given the pre-installed restrictions these content mills give you proved to be quite the challenge. However, once you find that perfect topic you were looking for, it’s like hitting the jackpot. Depending on what you chose to write about, research takes anywhere from a few hours to several days. For this one writing job, I had to help a company create a blog on their website about the top ten most romantic places in Honolulu, Hawaii, making sure to promote their aquarium in the process. This took me around three hours (two for research and one for writing) to complete. Some jobs required more thought on my part, like the one where I had to promote a company’s digital software. That one took nearly a week. There were companies that were either too strict or too vague about what they were looking for. Blogmutt.com did an interesting thing where you could actually see the blogs that were rejected by a company for whatever reason. I actually benefitted from this because there were times where I didn’t know how certain companies wanted their blogs written, let alone look like, so seeing the rejected blogs made me stay clear of mistakes, though I’m sure it wasn’t so thrilling for those rejected freelance writers. At least Blogmutt.com had the decency to not have their names out on display.
So, let’s get the bad news out of the way first. I didn’t make it to my goal of 100 bucks and in total, I made a whopping 40 bucks from freelance writing. If there’s one thing I learned from this journey, it’s that the jobs you take on as a freelance writer do not always pay well and for beginners, the pay is especially low. Freelancing is also not for the faint of heart. I realized that in order to become a truly successful freelance writer, you must be willing to truly commit to the craft. You must be willing to spend endless hours working on topics you aren’t exactly an expert on and working with clients who make writing difficult with their vagueness. These were things I couldn’t do given the fact that I am first and foremost a full-time college student with my own assignments to complete for professors. Even though this journey didn’t end how I wanted to, I wouldn’t say it was in vain. Even if it was only for a moment, I was able to experience what it’s like to have freelance writing as a profession and I hope when the time is right, to try again the road to 100 sometime in the near future.