Different Types of Freelance Writing Jobs- A Balance

Types of freelance writing jobs; and finding the right balance for freelance writers.
••• Getty Images/Ikon Images/Gary Waters

There are several different types of freelance writing jobs available, and different ways for each freelance writing to build the correct balance in kinds of freelance jobs they have. Understanding these different kinds of work may help new freelancers to see how freelance work and freelance writing jobs tend to balance out.

I've included my own balance as a professional freelance writer as an example, as I do consider this a "good" balance, and hope the example has some value for those looking to be proactive about their juggling. It tends to work for me, in that I earn a full-time income by working a part-time schedule of about 20-30 hours per week.

Types of Freelance Writing Job Contracts

To understand my own balance example, you first need to understand the different kinds of freelance work available. Here are the basic arrangements that are out there in the freelance writing the world.

  • Ongoing regular contracts- This means contracts and work for clients that are regular (meaning they have regularly-timed work that is due on a regular day) and permanent (the arrangement does not have a definite ending, and the work doesn't seem in danger of stopping).
  • Ongoing sporadic contracts- Contracts and relationships that are permanent, but not regular at all, meaning that the work doesn't come very often, nor is it paid on a regular basis.
  • One-off projects- Projects that are one "to do" and then over with, often with the client not needing anything else (although, it's good for you if you can convince them that they do!).
  • Magazine pitches- This is querying or pitching magazines, and then the resulting assignments for magazine articles.
  • Passive income- Passive income comes from writing an item (such as an article or ebook) one time, and then continuing to collect "royalties" or payments for/from that piece. It is considered passive as you then don't do anything with that piece again.

My Personal Mix of Freelance Writing Jobs and Projects

Of the above types of projects/arrangements, I have a very well-planned balance that I've found works for me. I came to this balance after several years of trial and error, though! Following is the mixture of clients, how many of each type I have (as of this writing), and what kind of time and effort they take, along with a glimpse into their payment habits. Of course, for the protection of my clients and contracts, the data is (mostly) made anonymous.:

Ongoing, regular contracts: Ongoing, regular contracts: The writers for this site are required a set number of articles per month along with regular maintenance. Writers are paid on a regular basis, on approximately the same day every month, and the rate is generally similar from month-to-month. My second ongoing contract is an editor for a local quarterly publication. I've been with this magazine for close to a decade now. I am paid an hourly rate for editorial, blogging, writing and interviewing subjects. We print the magazine once per quarter, and I am paid immediately afterward for the number of hours logged while producing the preceding issue. The amount tends to be somewhat steady unless an issue requires more content from me.

Sporadic, but semi-permanent clients: I review books for a major book review publisher, but don't get very many books per month. I am paid about 60 days after I submit my review. The pay per review is a set, steady amount unless the book and my review are in Spanish, for which I earn a small bonus. I also write press and media items for a state-based nonprofit that is within my niche specialization area. The contract specifies that I may work for no more than 12 hours per month at an hourly rate, but sometimes I work as many as 24 hours per month. Lately, 12 seems to be the minimum amount I work. I invoice them every other week, and they pay for those hours within about five days. This amount varies widely.

My "one-off" projects: I get short "one-off" projects from the freelance writing job lists that I recommend to all my readers, such as Online Writing Jobs and MediaBistro. These generally last about two weeks, and I aim for projects that fall between $300 and $1000 budgets, although my minimum billing amount is $150, and I will accept those smaller projects if they interest me, or if the client is ready to pay quickly. Sometimes these jobs amount to something more, though, and this illustrates one of the reasons I tend to keep my eye on job lists, especially those within my niche. I recently applied for a project that I assumed was short term. It ended up being a $24,000, three-month-long project that led to other contracts. Knowing where to find work within your industry and niche can really pay off!

Pitching magazines: I am constantly sending out pitches, but I tend to publish a lot more often (about 5 times per year) with trade titles. Trade magazines seem to stay with their pool of freelancers a little longer. I speculate that this is because the nature of the magazine doesn't need them to always be searching for "fresh meat" types of ideas, which is something many glossies tend to need. Trade magazines tend to pay approximately 30-60 days after the story is accepted. The amount varies depending on what kind of article is written, but not very widely.

Passive income: My passive income is from website content that I wrote several years ago. I was actually paid a fee per article but have continued to collect an extra per-page-view payment over the last couple years. Finding a tidy little payment in my mailbox from Google advertising a couple times is also a nice little surprise. This comes from Google ads that appear on various websites that I own. This type of passive income pays once or twice a year, with similar amounts in each check. Writers who sell ebooks likely have a very different situation, though.

Understanding the different types of freelance work, what they offer, and how to balance them helps me to ensure that I have a constant flow of cash, and an ongoing stream of clients and work. I'm also hoping this helps you, as a new freelance writer, to see the different types of work and to plan out how to structure your client searches.