Being a freelance writer is not an easy job. You have to be your own personal manager, your own bookkeeper, your own publicist, the one who promotes your work, and, of course, a writer. However, this is the easy part when your clients are 12 flying hours away and you have to make everyone feel satisfied – including yourself. I am a writer currently living in Greece and, since most of the websites and publications I’ve been working for are based in the U.S., I had to adapt my everyday life to the new data that I am describing below.
Sure, there are a bunch of things that you should take into consideration, like creating a website, designing an online portfolio, or using your social media accounts as a professional, but these are basic techniques that every freelance writer has to follow. In this article, we will talk about freelance writers working for clients all around the world, pitching ideas to publications from Australia to Ireland.
Here how it goes:
Many editors do not search for native English speakers only, but this doesn’t mean that your mistakes are acceptable or unimportant. Why? Because you are a writer who wants to represent a magazine, a website, or a newspaper that is serving people who were born speaking a language that you have been taught to use.
There was this time I made a silly mistake that my editor did not notice. My story got published, I was happy but, when I clicked on the post to read it, there were 26 comments below it noting that silly mistake. Sure, nothing happened and the post got corrected, but since the website’s policy did not allow editors to delete any comments, my story is still out there, under my name, with comments calling me an “unskilled writer.” Ouch!
Bottom line: Educate yourself. Keep reading English literature, American authors, magazines, and websites. Show your writing skills to the editor right from the start, and please, never leave any grammar mistakes in your pitch. Don’t be afraid to use slang, and get to know what words are cool online at the moment. For example, no one really knew what a selfie was before 2010, and pop culture writers were the ones who established it to become Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2013.
What’s the time?
You have to forget everything your parents told you about time. You don’t have to wake up early in the morning and go to bed before midnight. That’s not necessary because your working hours will never be the same as those of normal people. Get familiar with the fact that e-mails will keep coming all day and all night long, and be sure to set your working hours in such a way to make both you and your clients happy.
A good method is setting your own deadlines for every single task of your day, and writing down what time you have to finish writing a story, editing another one, pitching, etc. For example, I am on deadline right now (and I can tell you that I am a little late), but remember: If you fall behind, don’t leave a task for “tomorrow” and put it in your schedule for later that day. Consider it as a little punishment to your lazy writing self.
The time difference is not always that bad and, to tell you the truth, you can really benefit from it. There are many websites out there looking for night writers, and this is a job that you really want to apply for if you are lucky enough to live in a place where the sun rises earlier. You see, there was this popular website located in California, which desperately needed someone to cover the night shift as a freelance news writer. Greece is 10 hours ahead of California and my morning was their night. So, when applying for the job, I noted that time difference thing, believing that the editors would prefer someone full of energy after a good night’s sleep working for them to someone who would rather be sleeping while writing. Guess what? I got the job without even being interviewed.
Having no physical interaction with editors you want to approach, or even existing clients, might prove to be hard for your business. There are some things that you could definitely try, but I always suggest freelancers saving some money for a trip to visit their “bosses.” Think of it as an investment: If you live in India and you write as a regular contributor for a website in New York that pays $1000 monthly, save $150 of the $1000 every month for a year, and you’ll get your trip covered. Combine work with fun and get the chance to meet the people you have exchanged hundreds of e-mails with. Believe me, they will appreciate it.
If you are not a travel-lover, the Internet is always there for you and you should use it to stay in touch with your editors. Don’t contact them only to pitch your stories, but also congratulate them if they have a redesigned website, or let them know your opinion if you’ve noticed some good changes in the publication’s content. Of course, don’t forget to send them personalized wishes on their birthdays or on holidays, and let them know, in general, that you exist for them during non-working hours, too.
I am not going to lie: This is the hard part.
There are going to be some times when your editors will be nowhere to be found after your story’s publication and you will be left unpaid for your work. Since you are not a cab away, you should take the big step and make that international phone call in which you will introduce yourself, and ask politely about your payment status. Don’t think of it as a rude move since it is your money and, most of the times, editors will have just forgotten about you. They are probably not thieves. They just have a lot on their minds.
If you do find yourself unable to collect the funds, click HERE for advice.
Another issue that might come up is the common payment-method problem. I always let my editors know, right from the start, about the way I would prefer to get paid and, usually, for international freelancers, PayPal seems like the only solution. However, not all companies use it, so you have to come up with a solution. You, not the editor. You.
For example, as I told you, I live in Greece, a place where banks act slower than a Lars von Trier movie. When an editor of mine wanted to pay me with a check because the company did not have a PayPal account, I knew that it would take more than a month to get my money from a Greek bank. So, I did my research. I created a Payoneer account and I provided him with the best alternative solution to wire me the money, wasting not a little of his time. I guess this is why I still work with him.
As you can see, freelancing internationally is not difficult. Expanding your business past your own borders can open you up to more clients than you could possibly serve. You just need to find each other.
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Aris Apostolopoulos is a full-time freelance writer and journalist currently living in Greece. He has written (and still writes) about everything since he believes that good sources make a good writer, and he works with magazines and websites all around the globe. Plus, he never sleeps.
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As an international writer / translator from Greece, I find sleep very important for a balanced freelancer’s life. However, much unlike Aris 🙂 , I’m a single working mom, so life probably has different requirements from me.
Anyways, my kudos to Aris for being able to “write about everything” (I definitely can’t / won’t do that *anymore*) and, most of all, for making such a case for Good Sources!