Originally published on December 3, 2013 @ 7:56 am

Despite recent studies that show more and more people are (and will continue to be) freelancing by 2020, a lot of mystery and skepticism still surrounds the entire concept, with one question in particular: should you pay money to work as a freelance writer?

And the answer to this, of course, depends on what you’re paying for.

Should You Pay Money to Work as a Freelance Writer? blog title overlay

Should you Pay Money to Work as a Freelance Writer?

Paying for Client Leads

A lot of the advice out there seems to repeat that if you have to pay any money, the opportunity isn’t legit.

For example, Carol Tice over at Make a Living Writing (phenomenal site, by the way, definitely go check it out) has a special paid group: the Freelance Writers’ Den. And members of this group get certain privileges:

  • Paid writing opportunities on Carol’s website,
  • Courses and training on writing and in business,
  • Curated list of pre-vetted job leads.

In this case, yes you’re paying for a list of potential clients who are looking to hire a writer. And in many cases, these listings were found on free resources such as Craig’s List or Indeed.

However, they are also prevetted, which means that Carol (or a member of her team) went through these jobs to help ensure their legitimacy.

Would you pay an assistant to help you qualify leads and make sure you were only pitching your services to legit companies?

As far as I am concerned, there’s not much difference.

Paying for Job Sites

Then there is the more common question of whether or not sites like UPWork and Freelancer, both of whom make money for every transaction completed, should be charging freelancers membership fees.

I’m not going to sugar coat this: I don’t like these sites. UPWork, Fiverr, Freelancer…I don’t think they’re helpful and I don’t believe their in it to help connect freelancers to clients at all. I think they’re in it for the money, and they’ve turned being new and naive into a commodity to ensure the lowest bid always wins.

But, are some of their fees justified? Is it worth it to have a highlighted profile that stands out from other members of the site? Is it worth it to be able to bid on more projects than other freelancers? Or to highlight proficiency skills through tests?

Paying for Training

Then there is the big one: paying a writing coach, a business coach, or a marketing coach money for training in the form of a course or webinar.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from freelance writers, especially freelance writers who have a at least a few months of experience, is that they don’t think they should have to pay money for a course that teaches information they can find via a good Google search.

And I do understand this complaint: why pay money for something you know you can find for free? Especially when, as a new freelance writer, every investment feels like a huge investment.

And, I’m not going to lie, there are some pretty bad courses out there. But there are also a lot of good courses out there. And, yes, it’s true that the information you find in a lot of the courses — good or bad — can be found and learned if you spend enough time on Google to look for them.

However, at that point, instead of investing money on an organized course that delivers information quickly, you’re investing time to do the research yourself.

Is that a bad thing? Of course not! There is nothing wrong with choosing to invest your time into learning rather than your money. And you may even learn more than you would have if you’d chosen to buy a course.

But, having the ability to do your own research and learn by yourself does not mean that courses are a scam. Some people learn better when the information is presented to them together in an organized flow.

What you Should Not Pay for as a Freelance Writer

However, there are some things that freelance writers should never, ever pay for:

  • Applying for a job with a client
  • Publishing your writing (either as a book or as a guest post on a blog)
  • Tools that don’t streamline your strategy

Just as with any other business, being a freelance writer is going to mean making certain strategic investments in yourself, your learning, and in your business. And your investments might not match what other freelance writers choose to invest in.

But then again, that’s one of the beauties of working as a freelance writer: you get to choose which investments make the most sense for you.

Did you enjoy this article? Here are some other posts about freelance writing you may like:

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