10 Places Austin editors and writers can find freelance work

I am a hungry writer.  And not just because I couldn’t watch the Olympics basketball game without hallucinating Kobe Bryant as a slice of pizza. I am eager for writing experience. The challenge is to balance my desire to get as much work as possible with making calculated decisions about the projects I pursue. It’s easy to write for free for the sake of building a portfolio, but there are ways to do that while being compensated for your work.  If you’re taking the first step toward a paid writing career, or are just looking for some extra cash between jobs, here are 10 options to help you get started.


Short-Term Contract Work

Pearson is an education company with an Austin office. They offer temporary projects in areas such as writing test questions, associate copy editing and content development. Between September and June, Pearson’s north Austin campus buzzes with hundreds of scorers — a short-term gig that requires individuals with a B.A. to grade exams taken by primary, middle and high school students all over the country.

Most assignments are about one or two weeks in duration. Some people can hop from one assignment to the next, extending their stay for several months. While this isn’t the best way to build a portfolio, it will be relevant work to add to your resume. Temporary workers generally do not receive professional letters of recommendation, but it never hurts to ask. Building relationships with your supervisors will help you at least get a personal letter.

A scoring job at Pearson pays a few dollars more than minimum wage. Frequent bonuses can up your earnings somewhat significantly.


Work From Home

Leapforce, based in California, offers internet research projects to temporary contract workers. Agents have the flexibility of working from home and are paid hourly. However, working remotely means sacrificing the personal relationships that often lead to other jobs or letters of recommendation.  The work isn’t a portfolio builder — agents mostly evaluate the accuracy of websites — but it is a good way to earn extra money while learning about web evaluation.

While the at-home web analyst gig pays almost twice minimum wage in Texas, the mandatory training period, which can take about a week depending on how quickly you can pick up somewhat complicated protocol, is unpaid. Leapforce also limits the amount of hours you’re permitted to work — a strategy that not only prohibits you from collecting health insurance, but also collecting unemployment if they suddenly terminate your contract.

Curated Job Boards

FlexJobs and Elance provide leads to telecommuting freelance projects for writers and editors. Like with any real job, you still have to apply and compete with other qualified candidates. In the case of Elance, you’re required to bid for the job, much in the same way a carpenter would bid for a remodeling project.

They offer a variety of leads such as editing a romance book, writing content for travel websites, ghost writing novels, blog writing, copy editing and translating. While this type of work is a great way to build your portfolio and gain relevant experience, there is a lot of competition. These sites also have a reputation for being difficult in areas of communicating expectations and compensation.

One person who worked with Elance left this feedback on the website, “I finally managed to get some work but the pay is nothing near what I would require if I were to actually depend on freelance for my bread and butter.”

FlexJobs is not a job auction site. Instead, they claim to vet and handpick authentic job leads from a variety of sources. FlexJobs charges a membership fee because, as they explain on their pricing page, “Through extensive testing, we came to realize that a low-cost subscription service would allow us the best way to truly serve job-seekers and provide the best job service possible.” In other words, because they can.

 You can use these sites to diversify your portfolio, but be careful not to spend too long working for less than you’re worth. It’s also easy to spend hours sifting through job leads that you have little chance of actually getting.

Pitch, Pitch, Pitch

Local magazines, such as Austin Monthly, hire freelance writers for features and occasionally for other sections. This is a great way to network and get your name out into the local writing community. Freelancing for magazines is competitive. Instead of waiting for an assignment, send your story ideas to the editors. Sarah Thurmond, editor at Austin Monthly says, “Freelancers will pitch ideas to us. Or, if we have an idea, we’ll reach out to those that have written for us before.” Showing initiative at first will help you get jobs in the future.

Other print publications around Austin include Austin Woman, Austin Man, Texas Monthly, the Texas Observer and university alumni magazines and publications such as UT’s the Alcade and Directions, a magazine by St. Edward’s University school of business and management.

It’s important to be open to opportunities while you’re building your career. Leah Kaminsky, fellow PWA member and founder of Just Start Applications, says, “I’ve been surprised to find the market is sometimes better at telling me what I’m good at than I am.”  Taking on temporary jobs will give you experience, direction (and cash!) without tying you down.

Do you have a go-to writing or editing gig for making extra cash? Tell us how you find short-term writing and editing jobs.

Cory MacPherson earned her bachelors of fine arts from UNC-Wilmington in 2009. This blog post is her first step towards becoming the writer she set out to be when she moved to Austin. Her biggest disappointment in life is the time she accidentally left her bag of gummy bears in the car and they became a gummy blob.