Navigating the Freelance Freeway

Sifting through the vast number of freelance writing websites for job opportunities can feel like walking through the desert without a water bottle. There is an abundance of sand but without direction there is a very good chance of getting lost in a dizzying sandstorm. The internet is chock full of gigs for freelancers in a variety of genres but knowing which sites to choose from can save you time, money and potential heartbreak.

Some sites require nominal to high membership fees to access job listings. The temptation to subscribe to high priced sites under the assumption that high paying assignments may follow is understandable but not entirely practical for those without paid credits. In fact it can result in financial losses if you are unable to land jobs outside of the unfortunately predominant no to low pay range. Knowing from experience, accepting jobs that do not pay is a great way to bolster a portfolio but eventually you have to be cognizant of those looking to milk your talents for their gain at your expense.

Freelance writers, more than any creative artist, must be keenly aware of and responsible for their work. This goes beyond procuring proper copyright. Legitimate outlets for exposure aren't as visible in the writing field. There are no open mic nights for a columnist working on a piece comparing small cap and large cap investing. However, writers shouldn't be discouraged for there are reputable and profitable resources both online and in traditional media.

The Writer's Market should be the first guide you pick up. The 2017 edition offers thousands of markets looking for freelance material. Agents and book publishers are also included in the print guide but the impact of the Writer's Market is best felt through its website. Writers can obtain a free one year membership upon purchase of the print edition. Standard memberships are $29.99 annually and $3.99 monthly. Market listings are updated on the site daily and payments range from low to very high. Many of my published assignments originated from their postings.

The Writer's Market is not the only option for freelancers. Since the term freelance encompasses all areas of writing, there are skill specific websites with excellent reputations to choose from. Screenwriters can upload scripts and list short screenplays on can get pricey but when you consider screenplay contests and festival entry fees can cost upwards of $100, a $50 charge to post a screenplay for bona fide agents and production companies to read seems fair. Poets can refer to the Poet's Market while playwrights can find listings on in addition to the Writer's Market.

Freelancers are not limited to creative pursuits. The new economy, heavily influenced by the growth of the internet, relies on independent contractors to create web content and complete a wide assortment of copy and technical writing assignments. Jobs in the new media are more lucrative and searchable on mainstream career minded dot.coms like Hotjobs, CareerBuilders, Dice and Monster. They require working knowledge of HTML and can lead to stable full time employment, which can be a turnoff to those dedicated to freelancing.

Job searching can be exhaustive so finding ways to be efficient with your time is key. Any freelancer should consider starting their own website. You may scoff at the start up costs but making your clips and C.V. available to potential clients makes you appear serious about your craft and allows you to devote most of your time to doing what you love. I highly doubt that includes pointing and clicking through gigs online.

If you need added incentive, you can list the site as well as all career expenses as tax deductions. Tax benefits aside, remember that freelancers must file a 1099 if they earn over $600 from a given employer without having taxes assessed at the time of pay. Freelancing does not mean free from taxation. If it did, office cubicles would be a thing of the past.

Clearly, reliable job listings exist for freelance writers. Still, it can not be stressed enough to research all listed sources especially if fees are involved. If you are considering submitting material to agents requiring reading fees, run don't walk. If the benefits of membership to a site seem too good to be true, well, you finish the sentence. Personally, I have fallen prey to "producers" and "publishers" who made enticing promises that ultimately put a hole in my wallet. With luck, patience and perseverance the opposite effect should be true.


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