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How to Know if Being a Freelancer is Right For You

Copywriting is tricky because you have to pack a punch and you are limited in the number of words you can use. Be patient and take the time you need to write something with some flair.

I was on the phone with my Dad and he asked how my work was going. I told him that sometimes it feels like I’m pulling a fast one by getting paid to write. He laughed but I was like no, seriously, I just sit at my desk all day and do this:

GIF found on gifcat

Basically, I’m still processing the fact that I’m being paid to write. Some of you might be thinking—what did you think freelance writing was? Like, what about it don’t you get? I knew about freelance writing… but vaguely and at a distance. Until recently I thought you had to be a highly skilled or gifted writer to earn any money with online writing whatsoever—let alone a real, livable income. I will be the first to say that I’m not a great writer. I’m a competent writer—I graduated with my Master’s degree in philosophy, I can string together a sentence, write a persuasive essay and a pretty decent email. That said, if anyone wants to go through my virtual bookshelf, I can point you to plenty of writers that are clearly and demonstrably better at writing than I am.

Say hello to the writing Queeeen, Marilynne Robinson. Photo courtesy of Alec Soth — Magnum Photos.

Once I got started with freelance writing however, I quickly realized—you don’t have to be a great writer to make money writing online. It’s true and worth repeating, so I’ll say it again. You don’t have to be a great writer to make money writing online.

You should be decent, and an 8-year-old should be able to understand your writing. If you can you string together a sentence in a simple and straightforward way, if your writing is digestible so that an 8-year old could understand it, then you can probably make pretty decent money writing online. If you don’t believe me, then please go ahead and waste your time googling what I already told you, I’ll wait.

The rule of thumb when it comes to copywriting is to aim for a reading comprehension level of grade 6 or 7, according to the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. I thought about it and arrived at three reasons why it’s important to aim for a reading comprehension level of 6 or 7, particularly when it comes to copywriting and blogging.

Reason #1. Nobody cares about your cool vocabulary.

GIF courtesy of GuylaTerry.

The use of arcane and esoteric phraseology (see what I did there ;) impresses no one and communicates nothing to your target audience. Think about the clearest way to communicate your message and find the words that are best suited to the job. Don’t use complex words just because you can—be deliberate and selective with your words, and choose them wisely.

2. People shouldn’t have to work to understand what you’re saying.

When it comes to the virtual real estate of e-commerce copy, you are fighting to capture the eyeballs and attention span of possible consumers as best you can. Online shoppers have short attention spans, and are comparable to that of a hummingbird—or maybe a squirrel.

Meme courtesy of memecreator.

Unless you’re doing research or legitimately reading something—think about how closely you pay attention to whatever’s written on a website or e-commerce shop the next time you’re perusing. Copywriting is tricky because you have to pack a punch and you are limited in the number of words you can use. Be patient and take the time you need to write something with some flair.

3. Not everyone has a university or college education.

If you’re using overly sophisticated language, your copywriting could be inaccessible and result in less comprehension i.e., conversions. Writing to an audience with a reading level of six or seven on the Flesch-Kincaid test ensures your copy will be understood by the majority. It turns out it’s also not that difficult to do, or maybe I should say, it is much easier than the academic writing I was required to do to earn my Masters degree.

Don’t get me wrong—writing, in general, is a time-consuming activity that on average takes a number of hours (typically it takes me say 3–6 hours) to complete to a relatively high standard. That said—I love writing, it makes me happy and I feel like I’m stretching my brain each time I do it. I’d do it for free if I could. By the way—this is what I meant when I said I feel like I’m pulling a fast one. I am happy to write, and to get paid for it is a recent discovery that I am so grateful to have found.

I am not used to the feeling of being compensated for doing something I genuinely enjoy—however, I can tell you—I am easing into it quite nicely. If you’ve read this far, then I appreciate you, but if you’re grappling with the question of whether freelance writing is a fit for you, then ask yourself the following—

1. Are you a decent and competent writer?
2. Would you write for free if it were financially feasible?

If you answered yes to both questions, then that’s a pretty good indication that freelance writing could be a good fit for you. If the idea of freelance writing excites you, if you’ve started and feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done, or that you wish you had more time, then these are all great signs you’re on the right path and you should keep going. At least, this is how I decided to keep at it, which I will continue to do. Hope this helps, and if you have any other questions on the topic, drop a comment and I’ll be sure to respond!

Thanks for reading!

1st Edition Writers

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