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TOP FIVE FREELANCE WRITER'S WEB SITES
The good news is that there's never been a better time to be a freelance writer. The Internet and all of its millions of Web sites have provided a literal literary landslide of writing opportunities for experienced and novice writers alike.
The bad news is that everybody knows it. Freelance Web sites and e-newsletters are shouting it from the rooftops, and folks who have never written a grocery list, let alone a 1,000 word article on Tai Chi, are cashing in on this cyber call for submissions.
Just look at how you found your way to this book. Chances are, you're a freelance writer who either subscribes to an e-mail newsletter specializing in freelance markets, or ran across a Web site that provides weekly updates for writer's markets. You saw an ad, or stumbled across one, clicked on a hyperlink, and ran into--me!
The whole while, you were plugged in and logged on. Never picked up a copy of those old standbys, Writer's Digest or Publisher's Weekly. Never stepped into a Barnes and Nobles or Mom & Pop's Bookshop. Heck, you didn't even have to get a bookmark!
Naturally, this wired world needs plenty of Web words. Travel sites need travel logs, e-tail storefronts need descriptions of catalog items, and porn sites need "friction fiction." And here you are, poised on the threshold of your very own freelancing career.
So, is your heart racing yet? Your pulsepounding? Fine, now go type the keywords "freelance writing" into your favorite search engine. That's all right; I'll be here when you get back.
Hmm, what did you think? Chances are, you got about twelve thousand responses, right? That's because there's a lot of folks out there wanting to cash in on this freelance writing from a different angle, that of selling so-called "markets" to gullible freelancers like ourselves.
Yes, we're eager to get started. Yes, we're ready to have our name on every Web site from About.com to Yahoo! And plenty of cyber sharks know it. And this is how it works: They purchase a domain name on their maxed-out credit cards--something catchy like Freelancefinders.com or WritersWorking.org. They submit it to all eight gazillion search engines with some hijacked software they pirated off of a hacker site, and in weeks innocent freelancers like us are logging on to find months-old calls for submissions and writing jobs.
Just as soon as we pay $2.95 a month for the privilege, that is.
So, what's the answer? Simple: start weeding through all those hits you got on your search. Sure, it's a pain. Sure, it's a hassle. Sure, it's a Saturday, and the sun is shining, and all your little pals want you to go to the beach or the Jewel concert with them.
But if you want to be a freelance writer in today's world, the Web is the best place to start. Sure, sure. I know: What about Writer's Digest? Well, you already know about that one. If you want a book full of stuff you already know about, then write it yourself!
This book is for a new breed of freelance writer. A guerrilla, if you will. All the other little freelancers know about Writer's Digest and Publisher's Weekly. They're out there submitting their little hearts out and waiting up to four months to hear from such industry biggies as Good Housekeeping and GQ about their short story or feature article.
Meanwhile, the folks at Good Housekeeping and GQ are advertising on Freelancewriting.com or WritersWeekly.com for freelance fact checkers or other such scribes! It's not that paper mags containing markets are bad; it's just that they're--paper! On the Web, it's instant. On the Web, there are no printing costs or press deadline. There's a harried editor hunched over his laptop at midnight, sucking on Starbucks coffee and keying in the latest markets.
And it's all for you. You can either take advantage of it, or you can ignore it. I suggest taking advantage of it. Yes, it's intimidating. But it's worth it. Besides, here's a quick summary of what you'll find as you start clicking on those search engine hits:
First, you'll notice the biggies: Freelancewriting.com, Writersweekly.com, Inscriptionsmagazine.com, etc. Bookmark these. (Like I did: see the next section, "My Bookmarks.") Don't start exploring them, don't get all involved, just open them up, bookmark them, and move on. Trust me, you'll be back.
Then you'll find some smaller sites that aren't as well-maintained or organized. These will have markets from last month that will be new to you, but not to anybody who's been to the site more than once. Bookmark these, too, since you'll want to look into the markets. Now move on.
Finally, you'll run across the grifter sites like I mentioned above. There are a few good sites out there that do have subscription rates that may or may not be worth it. (The fact is, I wouldn't know. I'm cheap, and there are so many free sites out there with listings, I don't have time to check them all out, let alone new sites with new listings--that I'd have to pay for!)
Every freelancer has a different philosophy, as does every editor. I have yet to have a single editor from any of these sites contact me and ask me for a listing, and I've never had a shortage of freelancers knocking at my door.
What does that tell you? Nothing, I guess. I'm just one editor in a big wide Web of words. But if they're not contacting me, chances are they're not contacting a whole lot of other valuable editors out there who not only use the Web to find writers, but promote their books and freelance writers on the Web as well.
So, you've slogged through the first half of your hit results and you've probably noticed something else: a lot of these sites repeat themselves. You'll start seeing the same listings for the same magazines, publishers, books, e-zines, or anthologies. Once you start seeing repeats, do yourself a favor and go back to your bookmarks. Trust me, you'll find everything you need there.
Now, grab another cup of coffee, pour generous dribbles of Extra-Strength Visine into your eyes, and get ready for round two: Start with the bottom half of your bookmarks and work your way up. As you decide which sites to keep and which to trash, consider the following questions:
The updating of freelance market material is crucial to the working freelancer. If a web master gets a hot market tip on Monday and is too busy to post it until Friday, hundreds of applicants have already beat you to the punch. (After all, they saw it on a site that does update frequently!) Therefore, it behooves you to find a site that's updated regularly.
Daily updating is best, such as Freelancewriting.com. Bookmark this site, and you'll be able to check it throughout the day and night for up-to-the minute market listings.
Weekly is not bad either. Writers Weekly is a great example of timely market material in a weekly format, as is the newsletter sent out by Inscriptionsmagazine.com. What's special about both of these sites/newsletters is that their market material is always fresh and unique, provided by editors who not only make their money freelancing, but honestly care about freelancers as well.
Other sites are updated more sporadically, but are still worth your time. About.com has two great sites for freelancers, although their material is often repeats from the above mentioned sites, and it's hard to tell whether the info is new or old. Another good site is Poets & Writers, which, every two months, has listings for anthologies and contests that have personally provided me with a wealth of opportunities for writing. (You just have to remember to check it every two months! Trust me, it's not as easy as it sounds . . .)
Finding time for your freelance writing is hard enough, and no freelance Web site worth its salt makes your job any harder than it has to be. Freelance writing sites should be laid out in such a manner that the markets come first, the tips and message boards come later.
Cluttered graphics, dead links, video streaming and other such nonsense are not only unnecessary, they're a sign that the site is not only not run by another freelancer, but is run by someone with a hidden agenda. If you find shameless plugs for flowery poetry and pictures of kids all over the site, check into it at your own leisure: After you've checked out the real market sites!
The same way I felt compelled to write this book and share the knowledge I've been so fortunate to gather over my numerous years as an editor, many freelancers feel compelled to share their knowledge or expertise via the Web. They do so by starting a site and maintaining it throughout the day or week with tips, news briefs, and hopefully, market information.
Sometimes, when you find a site that's obviously run by another freelancer, it's worth checking out periodically, even if the market info isn't all that fresh. Many of these sites have practical tips and how-to information that many of the market sites lack.
Most freelance sites are full of advertisements. After all, without subscription rates, they have to make money somehow. However, legitimate freelance sites will contain writing or at least book-related products, such as screenwriting software, hand-held organizers, books on writing, etc.
So, you've decided which sites to bookmark, which sites to trash, and which sites to come back to when your husband's not looking. (Can you say Friskyfreelancers.com?) Now it's time to organize them.
Again, this is another time consuming yet essential task. As a modern working freelancer, your computer is your friend. Log on every day, and check out the sites you've bookmarked. Create a folder titled "To Do" or "Check Out", and then open it whenever you get the chance and explore.
Put the daily market sites at the top of your list. These, if you're smart, you'll check in the morning, at lunch, in the afternoon, and before bed. Yes, you'll find cheesy markets that no one in their right mind would ever write to. After all, these are glorified message boards that often don't get cleaned up until the following day.
On the other hand, legitimate magazines, publishers, anthologies, and e-zines do solicit, and solicit often, on sites such as Inscriptions.com. Next come the weekly updates. Finally, the sites that get updated less often.
Make it a habit to go to this folder first and explore a little before moving on. You never know when a new market will pop up, and you definitely won't know if you don't check at least the daily and weekly sites, well--daily and weekly.
After all, you've gone to the trouble of searching for these sites, bookmarking and organizing them, why not use them?
Now, here's a little of what you'll find on these sites:
- Losers with nothing better to do. A lot of folks out there spend their time on the Web making trouble for others. You'll spot these on a freelance writing market site by obvious misspellings and outrageous claims of unrealistic cash advances.
- Agents or Publishers looking to cash in on newbies who will pay them money for reading fees. If this is your first freelancing book, I'll say it now and I'll say it again: don't pay a publisher or agent diddly. They make money off of your writing, not your inexperience.
- Reputable agents or publishers looking to meet a quick deadline or fulfill a special project. Sometimes, large publishers with names you may or may not recognize will use freelance Web sites to communicate with Web savvy writers who are plugged in and logged on and willing to work fast and, occasionally, cheap.
- Magazines and 'zines who regularly use these sites and have had great success finding new talent quickly.
- Anthologies looking for unique voices or true stories for upcoming projects.
- Software companies or Web sites looking for writers for various projects.
Naturally, each of the above types of listings attracts different types of freelancers. Most of them have headings or titles, so if you see a heading that says, "Tai Chi writers needed," and you're a junk food eating slob, you may not want to respond. However, if McDonald's is putting together an anthology about their best customers, you may want to send in a story or two.
Also, some markets are more lucrative than others. A magazine or 'zine will probably pay you a lot sooner than a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, which often takes years to compile and publish.
And Web sites often pay faster than print magazines do. It all depends on your level of expertise and comfort. If you're just starting out and don't have many items in your portfolio, waiting three years for an anthology won't mean that much, as long as you try to pad your clips with other, quicker items. However, if you're a working writer with tons of credits, go for the quicker markets to pay your light bills and fill your gas tank.
- Is the site updated daily? Weekly? Monthly?
- Is the site well-organized and easy to access?
- Is the site maintained by a fellow freelancer?
- Is the site filled with ads for unrelated products?
- Bookmark, bookmark, bookmark! (Did I mention--bookmark?)
Posted January 6, 2010
No text was provided for this review.