Finding quality clients can be tough in any industry, and for writers it’s no exception. Between the explosion of content mills, freelancer marketplaces, and job boards, it can be hard to know what the industry standard is anymore, much less find clients who aren’t always trying to make a bargain out of you.

At Nomad Playground we collect reviews of marketplaces, content mills, and job boards, but we wanted to go deeper. To help sort through the noise, we sat down with content writers, journalists, entrepreneurs, and bloggers to ask them about where they find remote work. These are their answers.

Vianessa

 

Profession: Freelance Writer/ Freelance Marketing Content Creator
Originally from: I’m a born nomad (born in Boston, but lived in Massachusetts USA, Dominican Republic, New Hampfprshire, Pennsylvania and Florida USA all before the age of 13)
Currently in: Miami, FL
Obsessed with: Perfecting my sourdough bread recipe.

Tell us about yourself. How did you get involved in remote work?

When I graduated from university I knew I wanted to focus on writing. I wanted to be a copywriter. I worked for a hispanic PR company for some years, working on bilingual accounts.

I left there to work for a larger advertising agency with big clients like McDonalds. The transition kind of sucked. The creative side was great during at my previous job, even though the pay wasn’t as good. Doing account management for clients like McDonalds killed that.

From the beginning I wanted to do freelancing – I’m not a 9 to 5 kind of person – so I took the leap. A contact at another agency gave me my first job, and I did a lot of networking after that. I got a lot of early jobs from Craigslist, though I haven’t used that in awhile. You have to wade through a lot of crap. It’s a hustle, but for about 2 or 3 years that’s where 75% of my income came from.

What valid options are out there in your field?

I would definitely say LinkedIn has been a great source of clients. I was hesitant to use it at first. It felt like sending my pitches into the abyss. But now that I have more experience it’s a no brainer.

Ed2010.com is an editorial site that is great if you want to work for an online publication. It’s very beauty/ fashion/ lifestyle focused. Bustle, In Shape Magazine tend to post their jobs here.

Facebook groups are probably currently my number 1 source for networking for jobs. There’s a couple of writing groups that are secret that I can’t mention, but there are public ones as well that I’ve had a good amount of success in. Social Media and Marketing Jobs for instance, has lots of different jobs posted to it. Not all the jobs are remote, but many of them are.  

MediaBistro.com – I’ve only applied to a handful of jobs on the site in the past, however, I have some writer and social media manager friends who have had a lot of luck and speak highly of its job listings.

What is a 5 star job portal – if there is one – and why?

My favorite portal is AngelList. I love them so much. I’ve gotten great contracts with startups here. People tend to be very responsive. A lot of other sites just feel like sending your application out into the void. There are also a lot of overlapping interests between me and the startups I apply to.

What is a 1 star job portal, and why?

I really hate Upwork. It’s the worst. I think there’s a certain benefit to it, assuming you even get approved, for killing time and building a portfolio if you have nothing else going on. It seems odd that you have to be approved to have a profile when the jobs on there pay crap. The rates are incredibly low.

I’ve been doing this 14 years, I have expectations. I know where to look for better gigs. I have a profile, but I don’t waste time looking for work there.

What professional tool(s) could you not live without?

I do quite a bit of video editing, so I couldn’t live without Adobe Premier, and Google Docs is my lifeline.

If you could say one thing to newbies, or to your younger self, what would it be?

Don’t sell yourself short. I think the hardest thing with freelancing has to do with  finances and money. We think “I’ll do this because I need the experience, or the money.” But after a certain amount you have to speak up. Definitely speak up when it comes to your pay.

Anything else to add? How’s the remote lifestyle working for you, overall?

I can’t overstate the importance of networking. I’m very introverted and don’t like networking events, but because of social media it’s gotten a lot easier to do. Join groups, jump into the conversation.

I have a permanent freelancing gig with a marketing company, which came entirely through networking on social media. If you are able to network in person do it. I’ve gone to conferences and come away with jobs. Say what you can provide, what you can do for them.

The remote lifestyle is great! I’ve been location independent basically since I left the agency. I’ve been doing the full on location independent, nomad, traveling scene. I can’t even imagine working in an office full time anymore.

How do we reach you?

My website: Thehustlejuice.com. It’s a resource for freelancers, remote workers, and digital nomads. I present information on where to find work, how to set rates, how to travel and work at the same time.

Hustle and Juice Instagram and Twitter: @hustle_juice
Personal Twitter: @vianessa
Personal Instagram: @vianessac

Grace – Content Writer

Profession: Content Writer
From: Ireland
Currently in: Thailand
Obsessed With: My little black doggy! She’s a rescue pup. Her favorite thing is riding around with us on the motorbike.

Tell us about yourself. How did you get involved in online work?

When I graduated from university 5 years ago the economy was terrible. There were no opportunities that interested me in Ireland, so I went back to China – I studied there during uni – and taught English. I was on this incredible tropical island and learned how to kitesurf. I got my first professional blogging gig with a kite surfing company, and started to spread out from there. This is how I started to work online. Eventually I had a big enough client base to work online full time. Now, I have blog featuring a combination of location independence and extreme sports called Extreme Nomads.

What valid options are out there in your field for finding online work?

In my own experience, the only platform I’ve used is Upwork. It’s been about 20% – 30% of my income over the past year, but that experience has been far from positive.

My longest running client I found in a Facebook group, Vietnam Creative Circle. The Facebook forums have a lot of opportunities. There are a lot of people posting legitimate jobs in different groups. It can take some hunting and patience, but they’re there.

What is a 5 star job portal – if there is one – and why?

Well it’s certainly not one I’ve found yet. A 5 star platform is going to be one that places the value of the work you’re doing equal to the amount they are paying you. It’s not just about fair pay. Sometimes I’m treated like an employee instead of a freelancer. Money is always on a higher pedestal. 

Bekudo is a new platform, they just launched. I found it in the Female Digital Nomads Facebook group where we were all complaining about Upwork. I’d left a comment saying people may have dodged a bullet by not getting in, and someone suggested this new platform. They ask all these interesting questions based on different scenarios, and ask what you really want as a freelancer. I’m very interested in seeing where it goes.

Medium actually has a way to monetize your articles, and it seems to be based on real metrics. You can post articles you’ve written on other sites as long as you own it. I just signed up, but it seems legit.

What is a 1 star job portal, and why?

Upwork is a one star job portal. A lot of their practices will favor the client, no matter what.

To give one example, I’ve been active on Upwork for about 7 months, and I’ve been waiting for this client success score. It finally comes, and it’s 75%… I’ve NEVER had a bad experience with a client on this platform. I started to read into the Upwork forums. Turns out that if you have an open, inactive contract then it negatively impacts your score. Two clients had kept contracts open in case they had more work for me. I closed those contracts, and my score jumped to 96%. I was lucky. There are many people who struggle trying to increase a low score for a long time if they get a bad beginning score

What professional tool(s) could you not live without?

I’m a big fan of Trello. It’s great for organizing your work flow- either on your own individual projects or as part of a remote team.

If you could say one thing to newbies, or to your younger self, what would it be?

It’s funny, I just wrote an article about this – The Ethical Shit Fest Of Being A Nomad Writer. One of my points is that you want to write commercially, then you might have to write things that you don’t believe. Example: One client is from the Hanoi Zoo, which has awful conditions for all its animals, and if I write this article, it has to be at minimum neutral in tone, and ideally glowingly positive. I can’t say the honest thing, which is that living conditions are awful and the animals there live in misery.

I took clients on Upwork just for the sake of building up reviews on my profile. I took clients on subjects I really didn’t like – pro-gun columns, right wing political sites (which I’m uncomfortable with)… There was only one article I turned down: “3 guns everyone should own if we go to war with North Korea.” I needed the work. I wrote things that I didn’t like, honestly was overqualified for.  I like to write it how it is, but that’s hard when you’re writing commercially.

Anything else to add? How’s the remote lifestyle working for you, overall?

I looove the remote lifestyle. I love it so much that I’ve built an entire brand around it. Remote work allows you to design a life where the things that are important to you are in balance.

In my case seasonal sports were really important. It means that I don’t have to wait for the weekend to go surfing or kiting. I can go to the places that have it, and do it when I want. I work when I want, I kite when I want, and I have time to do other things that make my life happier and healthier. Going to the market in the morning when it’s fresh, eating healthy, walking my dog… I feel like I can prioritize just being, and not doing all the time. The stillness to step away from it, knowing I don’t always have to be plugging away at my keyboard… to be doing something that is important and valuable.

My life is in balance, and I think in this age a lot of people don’t have that. That’s why I’m building extremenomads, it’s all about building a lifestyle that has that balance.

How do we reach you?

ExtremeNomads.life!

Charlie

Profession: Writer
Originally from: Boston, USA
Currently in: Montreal, Canada
Obsessed with: Haikus and watercolors

Tell us about yourself. How did you get involved in online work?

I had been teaching English overseas, which was always a day job to support my writing. In those days I assumed that there wasn’t a way to make a living writing, so this was my way to support it.

Then I came across individuals doing it and realized that not only can you make a living, but now is probably to best time ever to build a writing career. There are jobs now that didn’t even exist when I was in college. When you’re in school no one tells you that if you can write a passing paper with any kind of style or charisma, you are Falkner by business world standards.

I went from thinking of this as a skill that wasn’t marketable to realizing that writing  is the backbone to how business is done on the internet at every level. Life hasn’t been the same since.

What valid options are out there in your field?

There is a huge variety. In the early days I took whatever I could get. In the very beginning I used Elance (now Upwork) to write Ebay product descriptions for low pay. I was a research assistant for an article about how cults form in the US, and how they find a home in different music scenes. I got about $50 for 20 hours of work. After that a mutual friend passed me a startup gig, helping people rewrite OK Cupid profiles.I was part dating coach, part ghostwriter. That was fascinating.

There are traditional writing jobs that are easier to find online now. The internet has increased access and awareness of this category, it’s more of a meritocracy than ever. It’s easier to connect with the gatekeepers. Somebody put me in touch with the editor of the Boston Globe. I pitched them another article I had written. I did another article for Roam. I DM’d pitching the article I wanted to publish with them, and they ran it.

How can writers connect with the gatekeepers?

You can pitch these people directly. Look for the names of the editors. Find people on Instagram. Don’t harass, but don’t be afraid to reach out either. Talk to them. Who does their marketing? Ask if they work with freelancers.

Here’s the method: Find a specific person with decision making power in the organization you want to be published by/ work for, and contact them directly. If you can get an introduction, even better. This is expected. Their job is to read these emails. Writers shoot themselves in the foot by thinking “I don’t want to bother this person.” Don’t turn down a job you haven’t even been offered yet.

After that I went entirely B2B content, which has been almost 100% referrals. This is long form writing for businesses that are communicating with other businesses – white papers, blog articles, contracts, and other documents.

This is an area where the sky’s the limit. You can do this kind of work for a startup or a big corporation. B2B content for an aircraft manufacturer, for instance, has a pay scale that is unreal. Those people aren’t thinking in terms of how much you pay for writers, they’re thinking about  investing in a white paper that could generate immense returns on investments. They aren’t worried about your hourly rate, or they aren’t trying to get a bargain out of you (one of the fundamental issues with platforms like Upwork and Fiverr).

How did you get your foot in the door? You said this was almost 100% referrals.

I reached out to someone who already makes her living doing B2B content at a very high level. She was at a point in which she has too many clients, so she refers them to other freelancers like me. A lot of my referrals come from freelancers who are further along in this journey than I am. Then I go and do the same for freelancers who are coming up as well when I get a project I don’t have time for or is beneath my rates. I have about half a dozen people I refer those to.

Just to be clear, when I talk about making a living, I mean you can live in a major city and afford all the yuppie shit your friends do. Eat out. Crossfit. Brunch. It doesn’t happen overnight, but whatever your thing is, you can cover it.

What about other options?

There are freelancing sites, yes, but these aren’t the first places I look now. There were some diamonds in the rough on bigger freelance marketplaces (it’s been 2 years since I’ve been on them). For getting started and building a portfolio they can be great. I think in general, in the job search, things like Instagram and email are good.

Get good at your art. That’s the priority. The B2C guys I know read ads the way novelists read novels.

Identify interests of yours that you are knowledgeable about, then find people in those niches who need content. One of my early clients was a manufacturer of outdoor gear – I contactacted them, and basically wrote them a travel article based on my experience with their equipment. I know people who make their entire careers off of doing this.

If what you’re writing is going to get a lot of exposure – startups getting attention, etc, that’s when it’s ok to work for lower rates. These people would pay you great rates if they could. You can grow with them. If they had the budget to run a Super Bowl ad, they would pay you accordingly. A free article for a good cause is not the worst thing in the beginning. 

The people who want to pay terrible rates don’t understand the value of what you’re doing and they never will. If they had a 7-figure content budget, they would pay you the same miserable rate. They would pay you nothing if they could. Where you are just fucked is when you are working for $100, $75, $30 dollars for 1000 words. Do the math on how much time that takes, and you are way below minimum wage. Look for red flags in job descriptions. “Years of experience” doesn’t matter so much in writing. It can be seductive when you’re just starting out, but this stuff sucks. Stay away from clients who want to pay you as little as possible.

What is a 5 star job portal – if there is one – and why?

I don’t know that there is one. Someone needs to build one that is curated on both ends, where they really are matching the right kind of client with the right kind of creator. I’m god awful for certain projects, and THE guy for others. I would love for there to be a simple interface where you could find that perfect match and get maximum value on the sides.

What is a 1 star job portal, and why?

Craigslist is not even 1 star. In places like New York and LA there are writing jobs listed here, but fuck that. Craigslist, enough said.

The Upworks  of the world are like those bargain bins they used to have at record stores stores. Sometimes you find something crazy good, but mostly there’s a reason these clients are on Upwork.

A site always get 1 star from me when they’re just trying to connect lowest bidders. It’s a race to the bottom.

What professional tool(s) could you not live without?

Scrivener – writing software. It’s very feature heavy and built for organizing longer projects. If you’re writing something long, like a book, you really need it. It’s reasonably priced as well.

Freedom – an app that blocks the internet from your devices. You set a timer and you can’t get online.

My Macbook Air that’s like 5 years old and covered in stickers.

Leucheterm – German notebook with numbered pages and a table of contents. My journal, essentially, but I use it to keep track of appointments as well.

Coffee – the performance enhancing drug for writers.

If you could say one thing to newbies, or to your younger self, what would it be?

Don’t take a day off, ever. You can’t control how smart you are, but you can control how hard you work. Work harder than everybody else. Work harder than the person you were yesterday.

If you’re doing what your passionate about, you don’t get to not show up. You don’t get vacations from doing what you love, that’s the trade off. If I was on vacation I’d write fiction. People will reward passion and commitment. No one talked about my writing until it was obvious that I was giving it everything. Give yourself permission to commit.

Anything else to add? How’s the remote lifestyle working for you, overall?

I think of freelancing as being real job security. I can either tie my fate to the fate of a company, or hone my craft and be in charge of what I do. I don’t have to worry about getting laid off. To me this is a better option than cynically going to law school (assuming I could even get in,) for instance, just because I heard it’s a good way to make a buck.

The biggest mistake new freelancers make is that they pitch articles like college applications. They are hoping to get picked, they are saying please.

Try thinking about it this way: the editor doesn’t have a job if they don’t have good articles to publish. Assuming your work is good, that you have something to say, that it’s something people want to read, there is an editor praying that your article comes across their desk.

Looking for a publication or editor for a good article is like going on dates. You want it to be a good match. If you go on a date looking for a spouse you’re approaching it wrong. Don’t hound people who say no, or are taken. Look for someone who is right for you. You are helping an editor do their job by pitching them a good article. They get to satisfy their boss, and they get to spend more time with their family instead of stressing out over finding the next thing.

Regarding rates: When you’re paying an artist, or any kind of creative, you are paying for all of their life experience up to that point. It’s creepy if someone wants you to account for every minute or word – that’s a red flag. The people at the top of the game don’t ask about these things.

How do we reach you?

My website: www.dalyprose.com
Twitter: @dalyprose
Instagram: @daly_prose

Conclusion

Want to see more reviews of online writing opportunities? Are you a writer or editor, and have a review of your own to add?  Click here, or visit Writing/ Editing under Find Work,

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