Have Pen - Will Travel: My Guide to Freelance Writing

Updated on January 23, 2020
Jodah profile image

John is a poet, creative, and freelance writer who also foundered a multi-author website with a group of his peers.


Have Gun - Will Travel.

Recently I was drawn to an article written by a fellow hubber and wonderful writer Chris Mills (cam8510). The article had the great title "Writer Without a Clause" which was obviously a play on the movie "Rebel Without a Cause" starring none other than James Dean.

That article was all the inspiration I needed to sit down and pen this. Like Chris's title this "Have Pen. Will Travel" is also a play on words. Growing up as a child in the 60s, like many other kids, I was a fan of westerns, or cowboys and Indians as we called them long before political correctness had ever been heard of.

One of my favourite TV westerns at that time was called "Have Gun - Will Travel" starring Richard Boone.

This series follows the adventures of a man calling himself "Paladin" (played by Richard Boone) taking his name from that of the knight warriors in Charlemagne's court. He is a gentleman gunfighter who travels around the West working as a mercenary gunfighter for people who hire him to solve their problems.

Although Paladin charges steep fees to clients who can afford to hire him, typically $1000 per job, he provides his services for free to poor people who need his help. Like many Westerns, the television show was set just after the Civil War.

The series was very popular and its original release covered 225 episodes and ran from September 14, 1957 – April 20, 1963. (Source: Wikipedia)

Have Pen - Will Travel

Well, freelance writing is very much like the gunfighter Paladin mentioned above. We may not physically travel around (though there could be a few that still do) however, we do surf the Internet searching for clients or have them seek out our services. Some may even cold-call or email businesses that they think appropriate to what they offer. Then we hire out our pen, words, and time for an agreed or set fee.

Another way I particularly can relate to Paladin is that although I have a set fee per a given number of words I write, I have on occasion reduced this or provided extra for clients in exceptional circumstances. ("he provides his services for free to poor people who need his help.")

On the website "Fiverr" that I mainly use to offer my freelance writing services, each seller is provided with what is called a "World Domination" map that shows you every country that you have sold gigs to, and the number. Going through mine I find I have already written items for clients in 20 different countries.

So, where once freelance writers would have mainly been restricted to selling their services to local businesses, newspapers, and magazines, with the Internet it is easy to write for clients anywhere across the globe.


My World Domination

143 sales
17 sales
16 sales
15 sales
8 sales
7 sales
6 sales
5 sales
2 sales
2 sales
2 sales
2 sales
2 sales
2 sales
Saudi Arabia
1 sale
1 sale
1 sale
1 sale
1 sale
New Zealand
1 sale

Be patient and persevere: No one gets rich overnight.

Before You Start Freelancing: 10 Point Checklist

  • Don't give up your day job: at least until you are established and making enough to live on and cover all your expenses (this could take years or never happen).
  • Make sure you have a good grasp of grammar and spelling: You don't have to be perfect but there is a lot of competition out there so you need to be good enough to compete. At the very least use a spell and grammar check app such as Grammarly.
  • Find a niche or niches: Decide what subjects you have expertise in, or interests you enough to research and pursue.
  • Start a website, blog, or authors page on Facebook etc. promoting yourself and your work. This can also act as an online portfolio. I have all of those but most frequently use my work on HubPages as examples of my writing.
  • Try to develop a writing routine: A set time and place that you devote to your paid writing gigs. If you want to make money from it you need to treat it as a business.
  • Choose your plan of attack: Choose an online writing portal that will advertise your services or allow you to seek out clients who are looking for freelance writers. Sites like BloggingPro, Freelance Writing, ProBlogger, Media Bistro, Craigslist etc have Jobs Boards where people buy and sell services. (My personal favourite apart from Fiverr is Freedom With Writing. They inform you of writing competitions, free and paid, as well as publications, editors, websites looking for content writers etc.)
  • Promote yourself on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, even Pinterest.
  • Keep financial records: This may not matter until you begin to make a substantial amount or a regular income, but it is a good idea to do it anyway right from the start.
  • Take all the advice you read with a grain of salt: What works for one writer may not work for another. You have to determine what approach works for you.
  • Lastly, be patient and persevere: No one gets rich overnight. Well, apart from a lucky few, of which I am not one.

My Brief Background

I have always loved to read, and books in general. This also spurred a desire to write and, now I think about it. I may have always had a subconscious desire to be a freelance writer. Unfortunately, I needed to take making a living seriously so got myself a "real" job.

For the first 17 years after leaving school I worked as a clerical officer in the Railway Department, then after taking voluntary early retirement, I landed a job working in a University Library. This was a perfect job for a book lover.

After 10 great years at that job, I had no choice but to leave, and relocate, due to the declining health of my parents. I was able to do part-time work as well as help care for them while my wife worked.

Jump forward a couple of years. My father had since passed away, and I was left as a full-time carer for my mother. Then my wife suffered a back injury at work leaving her mobility disabled and unable to work. A few months later my mother also died and I was now still caring for my wife.

I needed to find some way to supplement my small carer's allowance, so I began to re-imagine my earlier desire to attempt to make money as a writer. Soon after that, I was surfing the Internet and stumbled across a site called HubPages. Somewhere I could practice my writing and perhaps move many unread poems and short stories I had written over the years but very few had read.


How I Started Freelancing

I have recounted my early years at HubPages in a number of other articles so won't repeat that here, however, after being here for a number of years and probably having published around 150 poems, articles, and short stories, I struck up a friendship with a fellow writer, author, and hubber Bill Russo.

As I mainly write poetry and short stories I had entered a number of writing competitions that paid cash prizes, and submitted items to various publications, but with little success.

Bill and I started following each other and read and commented on one another's hubs. Bill said he had been doing a little freelance writing on a site called Fiverr and felt my style of writing would do well there. I said I would check it out, and although business was slow for the first year, it slowly but surely began to increase.

It takes time to establish yourself as a writer. Building your reputation doesn't happen in the first few weeks or months, and like most jobs, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. At Fiverr you start at Level 3 and then depending on prompt replying to inquiries, delivering gigs on time, and positive feedback from buyers, you can gradually move up to Level 2, and ultimately Level1 (that is still my goal).

I am currently Level 2 and have a five-star rating on all categories so I have no fear of dropping back, however, to attain Level 1 and be called a Top Level seller you need to have earned over $20,000 all time since you joined Fiverr. I have only been there 3 1/2 years so have a long way to go.

I don't have a regular customer (though I do get repeat ones) so there are good months where it is difficult to keep up with the number of orders, and others where you have none. I find the two months prior to Christmas and afterwards to be the busiest so far. So far the most I have made from Fiverr is $450 in one month.


What Works For Me

Most of my gigs are centered around writing poetry for any occasion, poetry or prose for a children's picture book, a rhyming advertising blurb, educational material. Almost all of this involves ghostwriting so you never get credited as the author, but that is the choice many freelancers have to make.

I have had orders as diverse as: writing eulogies and verse for urns containing the ashes of loved ones; advertising a travel destination; love poems for a boyfriend or girlfriend; write a poetic version of a popular Bible story; the text for a children's book based on illustrations provided; a series of poems about all different types of trucks; a series of poems about the adventures of a couple's pet dog.

An upcoming project is to be 150 wartime letters exchanged between two lovers. There will be a book written around and linking the letters.

I said earlier that a lot of my work comes in the weeks leading up until Christmas, and this has been the case again this year. Christmas poems and stories are popular, as are the desires for companies to promote their services for the early New Year following the holidays.

The latest gig I have added my offered services is: I will write a poem. article, or piece of short fiction as content for a blog or website. I had an order within an hour of putting that up.

When I first started at Fiverr I was only charging $5.00 US per 200 words, due to what I wrote being mostly poetry. I think that was undervaluing my work but I was trying to build a clientele. I have since increased that to $5.00 US for 100 words, and find myself, still, receiving tips that are more than the cost of the gig itself.

* Since reading the comments here I have actually increased my pricing to $5.00 US per 50 words (10c per word) which is still low but in fairness to my existing clients I can up it gradually and see if the work still comes my way.

I have reluctantly refused a number of lucrative gigs that I felt I just didn't have the expertise to do satisfactorily or just didn't have the time required. I also have a couple of clients who first ordered from me on Fiverr but who now contact me directly if they need work done.


Something to Aim For

A lot of prospective freelancers don't consider Fiverr as an alternative because they have wrongly heard that you have to provide a service or article for only $5.00. In fact, $5.00 is just the base unit, and one gig can be over $1000 depending on what it involves.

The hardest part for me is pricing my work. You don't want to undervalue your time, effort and quality, but you also need to make sales. So, this is something you need to monitor and adjust over time.

In fact, while I was researching for this article I checked out a few profiles and gigs of Level 1 sellers on Fiverr. That blew me away I must say. One top freelance writer offers the following: " 1. Basic:$727.00 for 1000 word article for a blog or website. 2. Premium: $1091.00 for 1200-1500 words including research.

Maybe that pricing isn't so far-fetched because in a recent HubPages forum I saw someone advertise for a writer of technical articles to write for him. A HubPages regular replied quoting him $500 for 300 words. My jaw dropped, thinking that was crazy.

I think I need to drastically increase my prices, or change my niche.


A Final Word

One thing I failed to mention up until now but I probably should have included in the checklist is:

Keep your integrity: Don't accept any writing work that goes against your principles or even, just doesn't feel right. I have had numerous requests to analyse poetry, write a poem for/ or complete a college exam question about poetry. I feel if a student wants to study literature, creative writing etc, and eventually become a writer than they should be willing to do the hard yards themselves and not look for shortcuts. For that reason, I always politely refuse these gigs.

Oh, there is one great resource that has been recommended by two outstanding writers in Shauna Bowling and Bill Holland: The Writer's Market is an invaluable source of information, how to market, promote, and price your work etc. I made sure to obtain a copy and suggest you check it out.

Lastly, if you are already a freelance writer, or considering becoming one, I wish you all the best. It is an interesting and fun occupation for anyone who loves writing.

Keep your integrity.
Keep your integrity. | Source

This guy has a grudge against Fiverr but gives good advice.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 John Hansen


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      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        9 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Thank you Shaloo. I have just been elevated to the next level due to completing a lot of gigs over the last two months. Thanks for reading.

      • swalia profile image

        Shaloo Walia 

        9 months ago from India

        Interesting to read about your writing journey. Hope you get to level 1 soon...good luck!

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        15 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Lawrence, by all means check out Fiverr if you have time. It isn’t for everyone but it is forever evolving and you can certainly charge more than $5.00 now. However, because of the feedback from comments on this article I increased my “per word” charges and haven’t had any orders since. It could be due to the time of the year but we will see,

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        15 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Thank you for reading this Felix. Much appreciated.

      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        15 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


        Thank you for the information here. I have heard of Fivrr. I know of some who have used it, but also heard the stories of 'only being able to charge the $5' and not really had the time to check things out.

        Not really sure if I'm in a position to much about it at the moment, but this hub will help me give it some thought.

        Blessings of the season to you.


      • BillGates Junior profile image

        Felix Otieno 

        16 months ago from Mombasa,Kenya

        What an awesome article!! Good insight really.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Thank you for reading Rajan. My pleasure to share.

      • rajan jolly profile image

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        16 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

        Very informative and useful article for writers. I wish you get to Level 1 as soon as possible. Thank you for sharing this comprehensive information.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Carolyn, thank you for the wonderful comment. You are right, Fiverr isn't for everyone and I almost quit after a year but it suddenly started to pick up and the site has undergone a lot of improvements. I will certainly check out Upwork, thanks. Oh, and I used Pixabay images almost exclusively now. They have a good range and easy to use. Glad you like the title of this piece too.

      • Carolyn M Fields profile image

        Carolyn Fields 

        16 months ago from South Dakota, USA


        First, let me say thank you for taking the time to write this article for your fellow writers. It is very "real" to me - as opposed to some of those "fluff" pieces you read about freelance writing, that are primarily designed to sell some seminar, service, or book about writing.

        I have tried Fiverr, and wasn't impressed. Perhaps I need to give it another look.

        Have you tried Upwork? Tons of writing jobs there. And as you pointed out, I use my HubPages "portfolio" a lot as examples of my work.

        Another tip I got from you - although you didn't mention it in the text - is using Pixabay for free images. I have been using another site (PublicDomainPictures.net) but often find it limiting. Of course, I use my own original pictures whenever I can.

        I am fortunate in that I don't have to "live" off my writing income. It's just for little "extras" at this point. But I'd love to build up to the point that I can afford more travel and so forth, which will mean thousands, vs. hundreds in income.

        Again, thank you. Excellent advice all around.



        P.S. Love the title of this piece. Titles are so important (unfortunately). You could do an entire hub on how to come up with a great, eye-catching title!

      • profile image


        16 months ago

        You are welcome and thanks!

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Hi PoetikalyAnointed. Thank you for checking this out and for your positive comment. I am so glad you found this information invaluable and my story inspiring. Good luck with whatever you decide to do in regard to freelancing.

      • profile image


        16 months ago

        Superb Hub, John!

        This on hit home for me. I've been doing my own research on this and I found yours invaluable! Your backstory is inspiring to us writers who are trying to go freelance. I wish you continued luck with all of your projects!

        Being a Writer is challenging due to the competition out there but finding the right niche does help. It also doesn't hurt to keep learning new ones and perfecting the ones you have.

        You have given me tons of food to chew on...Thanks!

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Thank you MsDora, I am glad you found this an interesting read. I still have a few more countries to conquer lol.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Wow! Shauna thank you for sharing that Writers Market pricing. I certainly do need to increase my charges per word or hour, and not by a small amount. I may have to try to market my service elsewhere as well, not just on Fiverr. Thanks again.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        16 months ago from The Caribbean

        Congratulations of your far-reaching writer's domain! You've done very well. Thanks for sharing your journey and offering wise counsel. I admire your practice of and advice on integrity.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        16 months ago from Central Florida

        John, when I was freelancing, I'd refer to The Writers Market to set my rates. If you don't have a copy, it would behoove you to get one. It's a valuable resource.

        You're pretty much tied to a low rate when you work for sites like Fiverr, but since you have clients who now contact you directly, you should "practice" setting your rates that more correlate to the time you put in and the quality you put out.

        I had a local interior designer I wrote copy for. Mostly print, but some other work (profile, awards, etc.) as well. I charged him $75/hr for research and writing, and again if I had to rewrite and $30/hr for phone conferences. I made good money with him. Unfortunately, his needs weren't frequent enough to pay my bills.

        Anyway, here's a link to a Writers Market pricing pdf. Mind you, the rates in this edition are on based on 2005-2006 rates paid to writers, so imagine what they'd be now! Even so, the rates are more than you charge now. Don't short change yourself my friend!


      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Thanks for your insightful comment, Flourish. I have been considering increasing my price. Yes, poetry usually takes longer to write than prose. I don't know any others who write poetry there to compare to, but I feel if people are willing to tip me they are probably willing to pay more up front.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        16 months ago from USA

        I'm impressed that you're finding money in poetry! Wonderful for you! I like that you have insight regarding whether you might be undervaluing your work. It's a common mistake in consulting, freelancing, and other independent contracting of one's labor. I think your price is too low. Think of how long does it take you to come up with 100 words of poetry? More than prose! Ultimately, of course, it's what the market will bear.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Thank you Liz, I am glad you found this article interesting and I appreciate the generous comment.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        16 months ago from UK

        I have read your article with great interest. You give great advice, combined with high quality personal insight based on your experiences.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Hi, Bill. Good to see you. Glad to hear from another Richard Boone and Have Gun-Will Travel fan.

      • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

        William Leverne Smith 

        16 months ago from Hollister, MO

        Excellent article, John. Thanks so much for sharing!! Loved Richard Boone in that series, by the way. Great information here... ;-)

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Thank you, Dana. Glad you found this an interesting read. Blessings.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Thank you so much, Linda. That comment means a lot. You are always very encouraging. Take care.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Rinita, your words humble me. I do what I do and I can't change. Thank you, as always, my friend.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Thank you for those kind words, Sean. I really believe in that quote of yours. As long as the effort is an enjoyable endeavour the result doesn't really matter.

        Blessings to you always.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        You are a busy man manatita, but you seem to enjoy what you do and that's important. I will check out Guru.com, thanks.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Hi Kim,

        I hope you are enjoying the work you are engaged in at the moment. By all means, check out Fiverr when you have time. It is a way of getting a little extra pocket money at least. Blessings.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Hi, Eric. I'm not going to get rich in a hurry but a lot of the writing gigs are easy and fun and the variety of requests means you are learning new stuff all the time. Yes, you should activate Adsense here.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Haha Bill, yes if I was a wrestler I could use the name "The Dominator." You have been at it a bit longer than I and I still have a lot to catch up on. I hope I can get to the stage you are at and able to turn down work frequently. Thanks for reading.

      • Dana Tate profile image

        Dana Tate 

        16 months ago from LOS ANGELES

        Interesting information. Thank you for sharing.

      • Carb Diva profile image

        Linda Lum 

        16 months ago from Washington State, USA

        John, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I admire your work ethic and am happy that you have found a niche that works for you. God has given you a unique gift and you are using that talent for good.

      • Senoritaa profile image

        Rinita Sen 

        16 months ago

        This was an interesting and helpful article, John. I also admire the way you shared your personal struggles leading up to you becoming a freelance writer, not many people can do that.

        You are a terrific writer, and I am sure no Fiverr or any other content site can put the right price on your work.

      • Sean Dragon profile image

        Ioannis Arvanitis 

        16 months ago from Greece, Almyros

        My dear brother John, as I wrote to Chris too, I love the talent of both of you! You have that "gift" to write simple and right to the Heart! I feel so blessed I've met you both here, and now I can enjoy your work. I believe ( and I pray ) that you have a high road ahead to walk and that sooner or later your talent will make the difference. And then I will be proud to say that I am your friend.

        "Success lies not in the result but in the effort." - Sean Dragon

        I wish you happiness (and) through your work!


      • manatita44 profile image


        16 months ago from london

        Good on ya. There is a site called Guru.com you can peruse. Always wanting to go that way but too many things happening on the Path I follow. Im now in Germany. I also work 4 days a week a 66.

        Good on you Bro. Enjoy.

      • ocfireflies profile image


        16 months ago from North Carolina

        Dear John,

        Thanks for sharing your experience and for providing guidance. I, too can relate to the desire to revisit earlier desires. My current project has me doing a great deal of research regarding patent applications. Wishing you the best. Looking forward to checking out Fiverr.

        Blessings Always,


      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        16 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        John that is quite interesting and reminds me to do that thing to earn money on HP. Fiverr sounds fun. I did some of that work where you get some short amount of time to write a piece and the money stunk. But what a blast trying to write 5 articles a day as fast as you could, including research.

        No I am not giving up my day jobs of writing '-)

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        16 months ago from Olympia, WA

        Look at you, dominating the world with your sales. Who said poets can't make money writing? You are kicking butt and taking names. :) Great tips for wannabe....I've been doing this for seven years now and I turn down work, so it can be done.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Hi Sally, good to see you. I am sure you could sell your felted items or the patterns/instructions for them there too.

      • sallybea profile image

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        16 months ago from Norfolk

        Very interesting article John. I must pop over and take a look at Fiverr. Thanks for sharing.

      • Jodah profile imageAUTHOR

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        Thank you for reading this Ann. Good luck with reaching Level 1 on Fiverr. If anyone can do it I'm sure it will be you. Yes, I love working from home.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Great article, John, and most interesting, particularly about Fiverr which I'd never heard of. I might give that a go as earning money for something I love doing sounds a good idea! HubPages certainly doesn't bring in much but it does pay for a few Christmas presents.

        Good luck to you too with all your freelance work. Isn't it great to be able to work from home?!

        Hope you reach that Level 1 asap, John!



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