Hi Julie, I have a few questions for you about becoming a freelance writer and contributing articles to websites.

I suffer from pretty severe social anxiety, and it makes it really hard for me to get a “normal” job.  Right now, my husband works and brings in the bulk of our income. We also depend on some financial assistance from our family. I’d really like to contribute more, but outside of a small online community of fellow nerds, I have a really hard time connecting with people.

Freelance writing seems like it would be easier than most of the entry-level jobs I’m qualified for, especially since I wouldn’t have to deal with customers or coworkers, but I’m not sure how to get started. How does one break into the field? More importantly, how well does it pay? Is it possible to make a decent living as a freelance writer? Thanks for your help!

M.N.

Hi M.N., thanks for your question.

First of all, I want to make sure that you know what you’re getting into. Freelance writing may not be as intense as a customer service position, but it’s by no means an introvert’s paradise. At the very least, you’ll have to market yourself, approach potential clients, and pitch to editors. If your anxiety really is bad enough to prevent you from working a normal job, you need to think long and hard about whether working for yourself and promoting your own business is something you’ll be able to do without too much stress. Granted, much of this communication can take place over email, which sounds like it may be easier for you than dealing with clients face-to-face.

It’s not necessarily an “easy” job either – finding ideas for your articles that people will actually find interesting and fresh can be really challenging, and you have to be able to accept negative feedback, edits, and sometimes complete rewrites of your hard work. You’ll have to be able to meet tight deadlines, so if you’re a perfectionist you’ll likely have to turn in work you aren’t completely satisfied with once in awhile. And remember that you’ll have to handle your own accounting and other administrative tasks, too! Just be honest with yourself about whether this is an amount of work you can take on before you become too invested in the idea.

Now, to answer your other questions. Becoming a freelance writer takes a little time and effort, but it can pay really well. Plenty of experienced freelancers make a decent living — according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for writers and authors is around $56k a year, and I know people who make over 6 figures. (Obviously, you’ll need to be a little more established and experienced to bring in those types of rates.) To be honest, how much you’ll make really depends on who you’re writing for. Most places pay by the word or by the article — the publications I’ve written for have paid anywhere between $20-100 per article, but when you’re just getting started out it’s likely to be on the lower end.

If you’re interested in pursuing this line of work, the key to breaking in is to look at websites that publish writing based on subjects you’re already interested in. There are paying markets for just about every topic, even movies and video games — so chances are you can find something that’s fun and easy for you to write about if you have a fresh take on the subject matter.

If you find a site that publishes the kind of content you want to write, send them samples of posts or essays you’ve written on similar topics. If you’re just starting out, you can even write an article you think would be a good fit for their site and submit it for consideration. You may have to get your first few clips from sites that don’t pay their writers, but you can use those samples to prove to paying publications that you’re up for the job. I recommend writing 3-4 articles for free if you need the experience, but not much more than that.

You can also use writing you’ve done as a hobby or for fun as samples. I actually got my start freelancing by running my own small political blog back in 2005 — those samples helped me get paying work writing about similar topics later on!

The one downside to freelance writing is that it does take a little time to get established. If you’re strapped for cash right now, it’s not an immediate solution, and you might be better off getting a part-time job. But if you can get a few pieces published on sites that accept submissions, in time you might be able to land a regular gig somewhere that hires freelance staff writers, and that’s generally where better (and steadier) pay comes in.

One last thing: writing articles for websites is far from the only way to make money as a writer! Check out my article 20 Ways to Make Money as a Writer for some more ideas.

Hope this helps,

–Julie

Are you an aspiring writer who needs some advice to help jumpstart your career? You can submit your questions for our column by filling out this simple form. Then, follow us on FacebookGoogle+, or Twitter to see our columns each week as soon as they go up!