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Feb 16 2009

Ghostwriter 2, originally uploaded by mrlemonjelly.

’20 SEO oriented articles on Google Ad sense wanted: The rights for the articles will rest with me’

This is an example of a writing job posted on freelancer hire websites. What it means is that the writer who wins the bid or is awarded the job will write the articles, but the articles will be officially credited to another person. In other words, the person is looking for a ghostwriter. Such jobs are a common sight on websites like Elance.com and Getafreelancer.com and there’s nothing wrong with them. They are all part of the job and as freelancers; we have got to accept them. Besides, if you are a good writer, you can command your price. It’s a different thing altogether that most clients on such websites are looking for ‘cheap’ but ‘effective’ writers and are only willing to pay about $3 for a page of original copy that requires extensive research and quality writing skills. It’s almost turning into an economic axiom (Being an Indian writer doesn’t help either).

My Story

I have always wanted a life that would be governed by me. I have always wanted to speak out my mind. So? I decided to become a freelance writer. And when I got the opportunity to write my first assignment as a ghostwriter, I grabbed it with both hands and worked incessantly for the first two years doing whatever work came my way for whatever they offered me (I have written 500 word articles for $2 :)), just to create some repute and get those 24 months onto my resume. A bulk of my work has been, as a ghostwriter and I never really felt the need to get my name next to the article. Most freelance writers start this way and keep doing it until realization dawns. Of course, there are the more fortunate ones who get a confirmation letter and a paycheck from the first publication house that they send their first article/short story to.

Coming back to my story, It might sound funny but I never really knew how important it was to be credited for your work (as long as the money kept coming) until one fine day; the company that I was working for had no more assignments to offer me. Apparently, they had landed a plum programming assignment with one of their UK based clients and hence, had put the writing assignments on hold for sometime. Good for them, bad for me. I took it as a much needed break and decided to enjoy this unplanned vacation. But very soon, this ‘sometime’ turned into more time and eventually into a lot of time. I stayed without a single writing assignment for two months at a stretch. My days were spent in surfing, surfing and more surfing (thankfully). Soon, hopefulness turned into frustration and then it metamorphasized into utter desperation. But I painfully realized that this was the flipside of not having a fixed employment. No paycheck on the 1st of every month.

Surfing helps

It is true that I was frustrated at not having an assignment for almost 60 days. But it is equally true that it was this idle time that taught me the basics of freelance writing and introduced me to the wonderful world of blogging. I started browsing through some quality blogs and websites that were written by freelance writers like me. The only difference was that their work belonged to them. It was here that I realized that something was not right. Despite having worked for almost 2 years as a freelancer, I had nothing to show. No articles on websites or publications, nothing in print…nothing at all. It was almost as if I was nonexistent for the whole world barring the few people that I had worked with.

From that moment on, I decided that I was going to work independently. Even if I did work as a ghostwriter, it would be work that came directly to me. I would not work for an outsourcing company again. No matter how dire the straits were. Making the decision was easy, implementing it was more demanding than I had imagined. It was almost as if I was starting from scratch. I entered the big bad world of ‘competitive bidding’ and started my website and at times I was as lost as an urban frog at a train station. I stuttered, faltered but hung on. I was duped a couple of times (client disappears after work is delivered). After those two months without work, I have spent almost 3 to 4 months, without a dollar in earnings. But today, almost a year later, I have my list of clients; I have a portfolio to show, my articles are published on several websites around the world. You see, those two months without work have given me a lot of work.

And based on my experience, here are 5 rules for budding freelance writers.

1. Find time for your own work: This article was not meant to discourage you from finding or taking up work as a ghostwriter. Even when you hang out your shingle, the bulk of the work that you receive will be as a ghostwriter. But you should always find some time for your own work. Dedicate an hour or two everyday for your work, website, blog or articles.
2. Start a blog/website: Starting a website is one of the best ways to make your presence felt in the online world. It’s like your own personal corner of the World Wide Web. A place where you can speak about yourself, your work, showcase your portfolio and where prospective clients can contact you. It’s fairly inexpensive. You can even start a blogger account for free.
3. Start Article Marketing: Merely having a website is not sufficient enough. You need to get traffic into the site and being a freelance writer; article marketing is the best and easiest way for you to do it. Try and write at least one article every two days and submit it to article directories (ezinearticles, goarticles). If your article is good, then it will help you drive some traffic into your website and your article might get published on other websites.
4. Reach out to other writers: Reach out to other writers. It helps you stay in the loop. There are several ways to do this. Post a comment on their articles/blogs, write a guest post, link to them once in a while and social networking also helps. It will help you build some credibility and other writers will also return the favor. The result? More traffic. Think of it as part of your blog karma.
5. Learn to Sell yourself: Budding writers have this tendency to accept all kinds of work without thinking twice about the quality or the kind of money that they will receive for it. But this tendency can quickly turn into a habit and a harmful one at that. Always gauge a project on a qualitative and quantitative basis and then give a custom quote. You can attach a sample article to prove your mettle. But never settle for atrocious prices like $0.5 per article of 500 words or so, even if you are writing your first independent article. If you write well, expect to get paid well.

Mithi Chinoy

Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 11:11 am · ·

Hi Sanjay,

Your article seen above matches my writing life story completely. Reason why I just have to connect with you. Like you, after 3 years of writing ghost pieces, I too realized that I didn;t have any of my own work to show. Now, I have a website of my own pieces, I write for article directories and write for clients under my own name. But as you mention, life’s tough. But I look forward to teh day when this will ease and I’ll do much better.

Hang in there!

Regards,
Mithi Chinoy

Shuchi Kalra

Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 2:01 pm · ·

I totally know what you are talking about…I guess all of us freelancers go through this rough patch when we realize that the ‘freelance writer’ package comes with a bunch of uncertainties, cheap clients and irregular paychecks. Great set of advice…i’m through with #4 already :) !

Sanjay Nair

Thu Feb 26, 2009 at 3:29 pm · ·

Hey Mithi and Shuchi,

Good to know that you liked the post. I guess we have all tread on the same path before reaching where we have!

Let’s keep the flag flying.

Cheers,
Sanjay Nair

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    • Sanjay is a creative writer, SEO expert & photographer. When he's not writing, he's usually away in the Jungles of India or busy making movies on social issues.