It's been a little over a year since I got my first writing job at oDesk. You won't see that on my oDesk profile because the client (let's call him/her "J")ended up paying me outside the oDesk platform. That project, which entailed writing 3 articles, gave me my first income in the dollar currency - a whopping $7. =)
The funny thing was that I ended up writing with the same person under a common client a few weeks later. The pay per article under our common employer? $5. I won't be surprised if J actually outsourced his writing projects to me. And I don't regret having accepted the job either. You've got to start somewhere. I still cherish the moment when I got accepted for that $7-for-3-articles job.
Hundreds of written articles after (I've lost count but I'm sure I breached the 1,000 mark way back), I've learned a lot about this profession. In fact, I've been doing some outsourcing myself. Yup, you outsource the outsourced job. A friend of mine calls it leveraging. Just make sure your client approves though.
Anyway, I'm supposed to talk about the risks of freelance writing, so let's head on to that topic now.
A freelance writing assignment is never a permanent source of income
Last week, my biggest client dropped my weekly assignment allocation from 20 hours to 5 hours. In case you're wondering, you can get writing jobs at oDesk.com that pay by the hour. That basically meant my income from that client dropped to 25%. What does that tell you? Freelance writing, and any freelance job for that matter, is not a 'secure' one.
Still, that doesn't discourage me from pursuing this career. It's not as if that's the first time it's happened. That one's even better because at least I still get to keep a few hours. There were some clients before that really dropped me in a snap because they had changes in strategies, found a cheaper writer, or simply experienced some budgetary constraints.
You just have to move on and find new clients. In fairness to the old clients, some of them do return when they find a fit for you again. So make sure they're satisfied with your job!
Another tip: strive to serve a good number of clients. If one of them slows down, you can always turn to the others. If they like your work (and if it's within their budget), they'll be glad to up your production.
You may not get paid for a freelance writing job
Another risk is not getting paid. I've encountered this bug so many times in the past but experience has taught me how to avoid it. If you're an oDesk provider, you can reduce this particular risk by sticking to hourly jobs. If a fixed rate job is too attractive to pass up on, make sure you break it down to smaller segments. The idea is to bring down the possible loss you may incur.
For example, if the payment is supposed to be delivered at the end of the month, request for a weekly arrangement. I usually request for payment for a batch of 5 articles, regardless of the length of time I take to deliver it. Of course, if you've been with a client long enough for you to trust him, you can increase the number of articles per batch. My oldest clients, Ron and Rhonadale (they're not related) pay me after 10 or 20 articles (recently, even more!).
So despite the possibility of not getting paid and losing jobs instantaneously, why am I still an oDesk provider? ... on fulltime, take note. - Well, after one year, it's clear to me that the pay is definitely worth the risk.