Whoever holds that writing cannot be taken as a serious business probably just came out of a hole somewhere in the Sahara after decades, or is oblivious of the endless possibilities presented by the internet.
Whether you want to turn your writing skills into a full-time job or you already have a decent job and only need some side income from writing, you can easily achieve it—even here in Nigeria—with the help of the internet.
The demand for paid writing assignments is gradually going up in Nigeria. With more and more Nigerian businesses trying to establish and strengthen their online presence in order to generate more leads, and with many individuals trying to make money online through various avenues, only few things could be brighter than the future of freelance writing in the country.
As with any other venture, your first step towards setting up a successful freelance writing business is to learn all you need to know about the business—starting with the basics.
This post is an overview of the freelance writing business, with respect to the Nigerian market. Read on to learn more about and understand some basic, but vital details about freelance writing.
What follows will show you a clearer picture of the freelance writing business and help you plan your freelance writing business adequately.
What is freelance writing?
Freelance writing simply means handling writing assignments for others—be it individuals or businesses—on a contract basis.
So, a freelance writer is a writer who works on a self-employed basis and gets paid per contract, not per week or per month. Freelance writers are not committed to one employer.
As a freelance writer, you can choose to work for just one or few clients, provided they can give you enough work to keep you going. Or you can work for many clients, since that provides more security.
When I first started out a freelance writer, I had several clients, but they sent me writing assignments at intervals I couldn’t predict. A client might send a project this week and not show up again until after two months. Another might send weekly projects for one month and disappear for up to a year. But the truth is, if you have many clients, you’ll hardly run out of projects. While one client is away for some time, you’d be busy with another’s project.
Right now, however, I have just two main clients. And they both send me monthly writing projects that are enough to occupy me for the whole month. That’s not to mean I don’t have other clients. I do, but those ones send me assignments occasionally.
In addition, you need to be able to produce quality content on a wide range of topics, since your clients will give you writing assignments on various topics. While you have the option to specialize on some topics only, I’d recommend you do that only after you’ve established your business firmly.
Most clients will take ownership of the writing projects you handle for them. That is, they will present your writing as their own work. In that case, you’re a ‘ghost-writer’. However, a few clients will attribute ownership to you, such as blog owners who have no problems with parading you as the author of their blog articles.
What assignments do freelance writers handle?
As a freelance writer—especially if you’re a “generalist”—you’ll be handling various types of writing assignments:
- You’ll be writing blog posts for blog owners.
- You’ll be writing e-books for authors and information marketers.
- You’ll be writing proposals for individuals and businesses.
- You’ll be writing business plans for entrepreneurs looking to start a new business or expand an existing one.
- You’ll be writing whitepapers and reports for individuals and companies.
- You’ll be writing sales pages for individuals and businesses looking to sell products or services directly online.
- You’ll be writing news reports for online magazines and news sites or blogs.
And the list is endless. In short, you’ll be handling anything writing, for use either online or offline.
What are the benefits of working as a freelance writer?
While working as a freelance writer might not be for everyone, it presents a good number of benefits for those who decide to pursue it as a business. Here are some of those benefits:
- The world of freelance writing is wide and open. One of its benefits is the ease of getting started. You don’t need huge start-up capital or any formal qualification to start. No matter what area you choose to work in, you can quickly start offering your writing services—as soon as you get your first client. And unlike what obtains with other businesses, you don’t need to plan for months to years before getting started.
- Freelance writing offers you absolute control over what you do. You’re not formally committed to any employer, and there’s no limit to the number of clients you can work with. Therefore, there’s no limit to how much you can earn. You can decide what to do at what time, who to work with, how much to charge and when not to work.
- You can work as a freelance writer from the comfort of your home and from anywhere you find yourself. So, a change of location will not affect your business, provided you have your tools with you. I’m always shuttling between Abeokuta, Lagos and Shagamu, but this “nomadic” lifestyle doesn’t affect my business because I can work from anywhere.
- You can work with remote clients, since most of your communication with clients will be online. I’ve worked—and am still working—with clients in the United States, Slovenia, United Kingdom, India, Philippines, Nigeria and many other countries. So, you don’t have to meet your clients in person before working with them.
- You’ll become more knowledgeable on various subjects. Having written on hundreds of different topics, I now have a huge knowledge base (no bragging intended). That’s quite expectable, since your work will require researching different topics and producing valuable content on them—even if you knew nothing about those topics before.
What do you need to start a freelance writing business?
As stated earlier, getting into the freelance writing business is easy. And this is partly because you need just a few tools to get started. These include:
- A personal computer (desktop or laptop): You need this for typing your writing assignments as well as formatting and saving them. While you can use a smartphone or tablet for research and for forwarding finished assignments to your clients, these devices cannot replace your PC when it comes to typing.
- A reliable internet connection: You need to connect to the internet when you want to research for information for a writing assignment. You also need it for communicating updates and other issues to your clients regarding their projects, and for sending completed projects to them.
- Good writing and grammar skills: This is the most important requirement for becoming a freelance writer. Now, you don’t have to be a Soyinka or an Obahiagbon. All you need is the ability to creatively express yourself in a way that any reader can understand—without murdering the rules of grammar. So, if you’re yet to know the difference between “am” and “I’m”, you might need to work on that before parading yourself as a writer.
- Determination: If you’re not determined to succeed as a freelance writer, nobody can help you. The road to becoming a freelance writer won’t be all that smooth. At times, you will need money and no client will show up. At times, you will have to rewrite articles because the client is not satisfied with them. At times, you will pitch potential clients and get no reply. At times, you will have to work your tail off just to beat deadlines. In fact, the list of frustrating instances is endless. But with determination, you’ll get better with time at overcoming these challenges, you’ll become a better writer, and you’ll make more money.
Why is there a large market for freelance writers?
Firstly, Nigerian businesses are becoming more aware of the effectiveness of the internet as a tool for attracting potential customers. And one of the strategies they adopt to attract customers online is content marketing, which involves publishing helpful information online with the aim of educating potential customers and indirectly marketing their products or services to them. This strategy requires constant production of content in the form of blog posts and articles, social media updates and so on.
Secondly, more and more Nigerians are joining the bandwagon of online business. Almost everyone now wants to make money online. But not everyone can write good quality content that can attract an audience. Such people have no other option but to hire freelance writers.
Thirdly, individuals and businesses also need written content for varying purposes, but they are unable to create it themselves. This explains why many freelance writers are hired to write business plans, proposals, formal letters, e-books and so on.
Finally, due to the need to cut costs, most businesses that used to have in-house writers are now hiring freelance writers, instead—because freelance writers are paid per project, not per week or month.
How much can you earn as a freelance writer?
Your monthly or annual income as a freelance writer will depend on a number of factors. Here are some of the most important ones.
- Work quality: If your writing is really top-notch, then you have the potential to make more money than someone whose writing isn’t as good as yours. Even if your rates are high, clients who appreciate quality work will be willing to pay for it. And if your writing is good enough, you can increase your rates without your clients complaining.
- Price: Your net monthly income also depends on how much you charge per project. It goes without saying that if you charge N1,000 per 500 words, you’ll earn more than someone charging N750 for the same word length—provided you both handle the same volume of work.
- Number of clients: The more clients you have, the more writing assignments you’ll have to handle from time to time, and the more money you will make.
- Full-time or part-time: Another factor that dictates how much you can make as a freelance writer is whether you’re working full-time or part-time. As a full-time freelance writer, you’ll have more time to hunt for clients, so you’ll attract more clients, get more work and make more money. Also, as a full-time writer, your chances of losing clients are slim because you have no day job that can interfere with your writing business. Due to the demands of their day jobs, part-time writers tend to miss deadlines and lose clients as a result.
- Work volume: Your income as a writer is directly proportional to the volume of work you handle. The more work you do, the more money you will make.
- Your target market: How much you will earn per project depends on the type of clients you’re working with. Businesses typically pay more than individuals do. My two main clients are businesses—and they’re not small businesses. Also, foreigners pay more than Nigerians do. I once had a client who paid me $50 (around N8,000) for each article I wrote for him. If you quote that price to Nigerian clients, they’ll hit the roof!
- Effort: How much effort you put into marketing your business—and into your work as a whole—is another determinant of how much you’ll make as a freelance writer. With a lot of effort, you’ll be able to attract more clients, and you’ll be able to complete more projects within a short period. In fact, with a lot of effort, a freelance writer working part-time can earn more than a full-timer.
This post is an excerpted chapter from my e-book, How to Make Money as a Freelance Writer in Nigeria. The e-book details EVERYTHING you need to know to start earning a decent income consistently with your writing skills.
If your dream is to become a successful freelance writer, click here for more details on the e-book, and how you can get yours.