Finding gigs freelancing as a writer can be either challenging or a cakewalk depending on the kind of writing that you’re interested in, and what you expect to make out of it. You can be as creative as you want and evolve into a full business based on your ability to create compelling copy, or you can quickly get into the writing trade to support yourself with a decent income here and now. The freelance content industry is a huge one, with openings for just about every kind of talent or commitment level.

When I started out freelancing as a writer, I went in both directions. Since I needed to get my head in the writing space, I felt I couldn’t keep my day job anymore — I needed to write full time. I wrote quick, entry-level content to support myself, and at the same time set apart hours each day to do the work that I really wanted to eventually be known for.

Becoming an entry-level freelance writer

There’s a lot to be said for never lowering the standards to which you write, no matter what you get paid — 2¢ a word or multiple dollars. It’s important to be clear about what it is that you mean by quality, though. No matter how low-paying the work, grammar and good sentence construction aren’t supposed to be negotiable; neither should you be willing to cut corners with good facts or a basic level of focus that demonstrates respect for the reader’s time.

What you can give up at this stage, is the research. An angle that no one has covered before, an original point of view to express, and original humor to add in, are qualities that actually take hours of your time when you write top-notch content. At the entry-level, clients who buy your content tend to not expect such high levels of quality.

You start out with entry-level freelancing, you can afford to give up the research, commitment and character and simply put down the information required. It tends to take very little time, and plenty of content websites lap up such writing.

All you need to do is to search on the Internet with a keyword phrase such as buy content. Plenty of the sites that show up at the top, including Constant-Content, GhostBloggers, and TextBroker, offer decent pay (around 5 ¢ a word), and plenty of work. You simply apply, get accepted after a couple of simple tests, and get granted paid freelance writing jobs. In some cases, you get to contribute your own writing, as well, and to set your own prices.

Dealing with bid-based websites

Freelancing websites such as Freelancer, UpWork (formerly oDesk), and eLance work on the bidding format. Clients who need content written come on board these websites, post their freelance writing jobs, and call for bids. Writers from all over the world put in their quotes, and wait to be picked. In the beginning; it can be frustrating having to run after jobs, put in quotes, and not be chosen — especially when there are plenty of lowballers.

It’s possible to make a name yourself and build a client list, though, if you stick with it. It can take a great deal of time and frustration standing, though, when you constantly have freelancers offering their time for next to nothing. Signing up for the voluntary credentialing tests that these sites offer is one way to stand out from the crowd. Most freelancers who see bigger things for themselves tend to skip the bid-based freelancing websites.

Looking for mid-level freelance work

When I started out with entry-level freelance work, it seemed complicated — how was I ever going to write about the hundreds of different topics that clients wanted articles on, when I knew nothing about them? It became clear soon enough, though, that there was little research needed — there was plenty of content online that I could get my information from. All clients wanted was usable information quickly thrown together. There’s a far better way to work, though — the answer is a content mill.

Services such as About, AOL Patch and Demand Media are often called content mills — they publish original, researched content on a wide variety of subjects, and pay around $100 for a piece of content. Unlike entry-level writing, such work tends to be written by people who hold specific qualifications — medical articles are written by doctors, technology articles are written by engineers and so on. With a degree in accounting, I could write finance articles. These articles are easy enough to write, because they only require a moderate level of expertise. These websites, though, can be difficult to get into. Their screening process tends to be a tough one.

A much higher level of freelance work

If you have deep interest, involvement, experience and qualifications in a particular subject area — home-improvement, personal finance, relationships or anything else — it’s possible to apply to any number of websites that deal in them.

If you have a talent with home improvement projects, and know how to write well, for instance, you could pitch original, highly researched and interestingly written content to HouseLogic or Popular Woodworking. If you are a psychology degree holder and have experience studying and solving relationship problems, you could turn into a Carrie Bradshaw, and write for Girl’s Life. From Dog Fancy and The Bark Magazine to Teacher Magazine, Women’s Running, Working Mother and Birthing Magazine, there is so much out there for the expert freelancer. We need to do is to look only need to do is to look around on the Internet for online magazines that accept freelance contributions.

If what you have to offer is op-ed material, everything from Salon to the New York Times, The New Statesman and Boston Globe accept material, even if it can be very difficult to get published. You get paid around $300 an article, depending on the publication. While it can be difficult to get published, having one of these magazines to put on your resume can get you very far.

You can even sell fiction, poetry and children’s books and movie scripts — Writer’s Market publishes a highly respected resource book for creative writers.

Building your own freelancing business

Freelance writers have been since long before the Internet came in as a viable job-seeking medium. The Internet, though, makes things much easier. It’s possible today for just about anyone, no matter how far away from the main centers of industry they may live, to establish themselves as expert freelancer writers. As long as you are an expert in a particular field of writing, say, technical writing, sales writing or the writing of advertising or marketing copy marketing copy, you can dig in, and stay for the long haul.

All you need to do is to build a website that helps you promote yourself as a copywriter in your area of expertise, and establish a name for yourself in the ways that you would establish yourself in any business. Freelancing as a writer can be a well-paid career. You only need to put your heart into marketing your product well.