Best Small Business to Start: Freelance Web Writer

With sites popping up everywhere, Web freelancing could be the wave of the future.

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Freelance Web Writer

With many media companies laying off employees, it might not seem like the best time to go into writing as a career. But there's one source of writing projects that is actually growing: Hundreds of websites pop up every week, and many of them are created by people who don't know how to write well. What's more, these start-up sites often don't have the budget to hire full-time writers. So, they turn to online communities like elance.com to find writers who work freelance.

Melissa Rudy, 32, of Cincinnati has found the online freelance community to be a more fun and profitable work environment than her previous job as a full-time writer for one website. She went freelance in the spring of 2007, getting started at elance. Now, elance is just one venue she uses to find clients. To her surprise, she is making more money as a freelancer than at her previous job.

What does it pay?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2007 the mean annual wage for technical writers was $62,780.

What kind of background do you need?
The most important experience required is a demonstrated passion for writing, with the sample articles, or clips, to back it up. If you design and write your own website, you can show to clients that you understand the medium. "I went three months without [a website]," Rudy admits. But then she realized her mistake. "You lose credibility. You don't look as professional."

It also helps to love setting your own schedule. You need to be able to motivate yourself to work. Many people will love that work environment—Rudy says her favorite thing about the job is the "complete freedom." But others may find too much freedom not conducive to getting things done.

Another useful skill is experience with writing in a way that will draw search engines like Google to your work—so-called search engine optimization. If you're going to target websites, knowledge of SEO can be one of the best things to advertise about yourself.

How do you get started?
Once you have clips and a website to show you are serious, there are many online venues where you can advertise, such as craigslist or elance. Rudy recommends checking out freelancedaily.net—a site that combines job postings for freelancers from a variety of sources.

What about the competition? If it's so easy to start this kind of business, won't a million people do the same thing? Rudy has found there's plenty of work to go around: "The ratio of jobs to performers is in my favorite." The best strategy for dealing with competitors might be to do your best work. That will make you stand out. "There are a lot of writers out there who are not up to par," Rudy says.

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