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Freelancing… Can Self-Publishing Help?

Freelancing… Can Self-Publishing Help?

It has never been easier to earn money freelancing as a writer. Thanks to Upwork, Guru and other platforms, it’s possible to tap into the marketplace and access a steady stream of writing jobs. But you will face the same problems here that you will encounter in the real world: from obnoxious employers who pay peanuts but expect perfection, to endless competition. It puts many writers off, and it nearly put me off as well. But it quickly became apparent that quality and reputation are rare on these sites and if you have enough of the former, then the latter is relatively easy to create.

I was lucky when I started using these platforms. I had achieved acclaim as a self-published author and was able to use that to my advantage. In doing so, I noticed that clients were perhaps more willing to hire an author who had sold a few thousand books than an academic with countless qualifications. Some people are more impressed by someone who has published a book, sold a few copies and earned positive reviews than they are by someone with a degree – and if you have both, even better.


What are my Top Freelancing Tips?

When creating your profile, the trick is to talk about your self-publishing experience without going over the top. Don’t use the “bestseller” tag unless you actually achieved such a status in a noteworthy category. Clients are wise to exaggerations and will be dismissive if you’re calling yourself a bestseller even though it’s clear you only sold a few copies. Make a point of saying that you are a published author and back this up by saying you have been writing for “x” amount of years. You should also mention that you have joined these sites as a way of making money on the side — “plugging the gaps in my schedule”, as I like to say. Eventually, you will build a reputation that stands on its own and you won’t need to focus so much on your work as an author. At that point, you can increase your fee and look to take the next step. And if there is one thing I have learned over the last few years, it’s that you should always be looking ahead; you can use success in one area to get success in another.

I used my success as a self-published author to kick-start my freelancing career, and I ended up earning more as a freelancer than I did as a self-published author. After eighteen months, I used my contacts as a freelancer to acquire an agent and to sell my books to a traditional publisher. By then, I had climbed to the top of Elance (now Upwork) and with my agent we were able to secure a deal for The Online Writers’ Companion, which aims to help others achieve the same.

Don’t use the “bestseller” tag unless you actually achieved such a status in a noteworthy category. Clients are wise to exaggerations and will be dismissive if you’re calling yourself a bestseller even though it’s clear you only sold a few copies.

At the same time, I was using techniques and knowledge I had picked up through content writing jobs to create blogs and websites, to write courses on self-publishing (available at the UK Writers’ College) and to become a profitable investor. In the space of just a few years, I went from a broke writer with nothing but a laptop and the beginnings of a drinking problem… to an author, a freelancer, a Webmaster and a tutor. All of this began with self-publishing.

So, embrace the paranoia you might feel at losing everything; use it to keep going, to keep looking for some security and stability. And if you have yet to sign up to a freelancing site then that should be your next step (but definitely not your last).

PJ Aitken is a market-leading online freelance writer and bestselling author of The Online Writer’s Companion: A Complete Guide to Earning Your Living as a Freelancer (Skyhorse Publishing), which is released in October 2016, priced £14.99 in paperback. For more information visit

Freelancing book

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From the editor…

With a new year come new opportunities to find out about or enhance work on your self-publishing project. One of the best ways of doing this is by attending events where you can met and discuss your own work with like-minded individuals. The spring sees both the 'Self-Publishing Conference' and the London Book Fair, both great events at which to broaden your knowledge of self-publishing.


Details of the 2018 Self-Publishing Conference are given on this website, which is again pleased to be one of the event's sponsors. We always receive great feedback from the event, which is why we are happy to support it once again.

In the next few months we will be altering the way that this magazine reaches readers, so watch this space!

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