Freelance creatives don’t have many people watching their backs. But for 17 years, Brian Scott has been looking out for his contract compatriots. His website, FreelanceWriting.com, offers tutorials, job listings, contests, and an archive of more than 1,000 articles about the industry. It might be the longest running digital asset dedicated to freelancers.
In 1992, Scott started out as a freelance graphic designer, even though he really wanted to write. “In college, my dream job was to be a successful freelance editorial writer,” Scott said. “Whether I lacked writing or marketing skills, or both, at the time, I struggled to support myself as a writer, so I stuck with graphic design.”
Eventually, his design clients needed help with copy. Scott used this opportunity to leverage a career as a copywriter, and in 1996, he officially made the switch to writing full-time. A year later, he started a bulletin board system, when the Internet was more like the Wild West, which he transformed into FreelanceWriting.com. It came before Elance and Freelancer.com and just about every site related to freelancing, and the goal was to help readers navigate the business world of writing.
“I believe one can’t succeed at freelancing without being business-savvy. A freelancer must know how to handle clients, what to charge, how to land work, in addition to bookkeeping, filing taxes, managing overhead—especially if you have employees or pay for healthcare—billing clients, etc.” Scott said. “I like to share pieces of my knowledge with other freelancers who are experiencing similar challenges I had experienced years ago. Perhaps they will have less hardships than I had.”
Now, FreelanceWriting.com is much more than a job board. It contains a 50-chapter video tutorial series on topics including legal issues, money management, office space, writing for print, and how to avoid grammar mistakes. Every Tuesday, Scott puts up the Morning Coffee Newsletter, which is a compilation of writing jobs available online, and each week.
Also, harkening back to Scott’s design days, there are infographics about publication rights, video clips about self-employment and publishing, and sample query letters. He publishes some content on his own and pays writers $25 (which is low, but understandable for an independent blog) to pen their own resourceful articles between 800 and 1,400 words.
In the time that Scott’s site has been around, the writing industry has significantly changed as newspapers suffered in favor of digital publishing. Despite the disruption, he thinks the savviest freelancers can still succeed: “I always believe if you are skilled at what you do, know what clients want and how to fulfill their needs, and learn how to market yourself, you can land clients who are willing to pay your rates.”
Scott ultimately focuses on providing business tips because a lot of freelancers may be able to write well but are never really taught the business and administrative skills crucial to their careers. “Many freelancers dream of freelancing full-time, but it is not easy, no matter your specialty or the type of writing you do,” he said. “Many writers are excellent at their craft, but they fail at the most important necessity: marketing themselves. This is a big frustration. Writers just want to write. They don’t want to meddle in marketing or beg for work from strangers.”
Still, Scott realizes that developing a successful freelance career takes time. After all, it took years before he could support himself just by writing. “I think many freelancers are afraid of failing, especially if they want to succeed…at freelancing full-time,” he added. “If you want to succeed, then learn what successful freelancers do.”