Freelance writing is a booming industry, and it could be a great way to enjoy remote work and set your own schedule. Yet becoming a freelance writer can be difficult and confusing, especially in the beginning.
Today, let’s explore how to become a freelance writer step-by-step, plus break down some extra tips to ensure success in this field.
1. Decide what kind of writer you’ll be
No freelance writer can do it all, so you need to decide what kind of writer you’ll be before starting on this career path.
Here are some examples of freelance writing niches and focuses:
- Technical writers: have technical expertise or in-depth knowledge about a specific subject, like manufacturing, finance, programming, etc. This type of writing is the most profitable side hustle. However, it’s also the hardest for new freelance writers to break into as small businesses.
- Content writers: create blog posts for a variety of websites, often retail or affiliate websites. Content marketing includes high-qualitycontent writing. Such content might include guest posts for bloggers and business owners. It might also include other freelance content, like creating social posts or email copy. Helpful skills to know are how to use WordPress, Slack, Google Suite, Asana and similar.
- Copywriters: create content for brands by mimicking brand voice, tone and language rules. This freelance writing work means providing writing services to a brand’s own blog. Such purposes typically revolve around SEO/search engine optimization purposes.
Of these types of freelance writers, you can further specialize. For instance, you can be a retail content writer exclusively, a finance technical writer and so on. In many cases, you should choose your freelance writer niche based on your previous experience, interests or specializations.
Consider your working schedule, too. Full-time writers will have more access to freelance writing jobs. However, you can still build a writing portfolio with stellar writing samples to attract potential clients, even as a part-time writer.
There are lots of online writing clients to attract. In any case, you’ll build up a byline reputation after you get your first client and start flexing your creative writing skills.
Related: How Much Should You Charge as a Freelance Writer?
2. Learn your niche’s writing conventions and strategies
Next, you’ll need to learn and master your niche’s writing conventions and strategies.
As an example, if you become a copywriter for retail brands, you need to understand typical writing conventions like:
- Reading through your clients’ tone packages or portfolios (sometimes called brand guides). These will give you the information you need to mimic your client’s voice appropriately.
- Writing in streamlined, short sentences without a lot of fluff. These days, most online readers skim written content rather than reading it word by word, so you need to know how to create compelling, attractive headers and content blocks.
- Using bullet points frequently (just like this.) to convey key informational points quickly and succinctly.
Many of these skills can be learned and practiced as you hone your writing skills and as you determine your ultimate freelance writing niche or focus. Outside of learning by pursuing writing opportunities and building an online presence, many good writers have positive experiences with writing courses designed to build professional writing skills for different types of content.
3. Build a portfolio and join freelance job sites
No one will want to hire you as a freelance writer without seeing some samples of your work. This can sound counterintuitive, as at the beginning of your career, you won’t have any work to showcase. However, you should create a portfolio of sample or trial blog posts, copy and more. Even if you come up with this content from scratch, it can serve as a good example of the work future clients can expect.
Once you have your portfolio, put it up on your personal website and your social media pages (particularly your LinkedIn profile). Then add to freelance job websites like Upwork. Make profiles on all the freelance job boards you can.
In the earliest days of your freelance writing career, you’ll be pursuing as many jobs as possible. The more places you have to advertise your skills, the better.
Related: Leaving a Steady Job to Start a Freelance Career? Here Are 5 Things You Must Know
4. Start looking for work
Now it’s time to put your nose to the grindstone and begin looking for work. As a freelance writer, the initial months of your career will be filled with proposals and requests for work. Don’t expect to get a lot of clients initially. In fact, you’ll probably spend most of your time seeking out clients instead of writing.
This isn’t a bad thing. During this time, you’ll learn how to write effective, persuasive proposals to your clients and how best to represent yourself as the ideal freelancer for their needs. In time, you’ll get a few jobs, then use those jobs to open further doors and new professional opportunities.
5. Request good reviews
Each time you get a job from a client, do it to perfection. Then, at the end of your contract, request an excellent review or testimonial. Many freelance job board websites allow you to post reviews or automatically calculate a review or star score based on your performance.
The better your review score is, the easier you’ll find it to acquire new, high-paying clients. In this way, your freelance writing career will start off very slow, then quickly pick up speed.
Related: The 9 Skills it Takes to Succeed as a Freelance Writer
6. Market your writing aggressively
As you earn initial success, you should market your writing aggressively. There are a few different ways in which you can do this:
- You can create a personal website for your freelance writing business, showcasing your best samples and reviews or testimonials.
- You can make online ads promoting your skills as a knowledgeable copywriter, particularly in a specific industry or niche.
- You can and should market yourself on social media by regularly posting that you are looking for work or new clients.
Don’t feel bad about announcing your skills in this way: You have to hustle to make it in this industry, a truism that holds for all freelance professionals, in fact.
Other tips for freelance writing success
You now know the basics about how to become a freelance writer. But even with the step-by-step process above, you might not see initial success unless you keep some key tips and strategies in mind.
Pick a niche to excel at
First, and perhaps most importantly, you should pick a niche or specialization at the earliest opportunity. Generalized freelance writers don’t make nearly as much money as specialized writers. That’s because specialized writers can provide more raw value to their clients.
Imagine a situation in which a programming company needs a writer to create some in-depth blog posts for B2B clients. They can hire a generalized content writer or a specialized technical writer who knows the ins and outs of programming languages and computer science. The latter choice is always the better option for that client.
To that end, find a niche in which to excel based on your previous schooling, your interests and more.
Price your writing properly
Many freelance writers struggle with getting a living wage, partially because they price their writing too low. True, in the earliest stage of your career, you’ll probably earn about one cent or two cents per word. However, as you earn your first initial reviews, you should counterintuitively increase your price to five cents per word or more.
Why? If you price your writing too low, clients will think that you aren’t worth their time. By pricing your writing sufficiently high, you show that you are confident in your ability to deliver results to those clients.
Always be looking for new clients
The life of a freelance writer involves constantly looking for new clients and work opportunities. Even if you have a handful of solid clients who send you work consistently, don’t rest on your laurels.
Always be cultivating new contacts and finding new professional clients who you can approach for work. You never know when your current jobs or projects might dry up, leaving you in desperate need of new income streams.
Always improve your writing skills
Similarly, always work to improve your writing skills by learning new words, practicing your grammar and so on. As a writing craftsman, it’s up to you to make sure that your skills are as sharp and desirable as possible. Don’t let your writing skills fall by the wayside just because you have achieved some initial success as a freelance writer.
Related: Examples of Writing Business Ideas
Start your journey as a freelance writer
As you can see, you can become a successful freelance writer in a variety of ways and niches. But keep the above tips in mind, and you’ll be sure to land high-paying clients and master your new business in short order.
Check out Entrepreneur’s other guides and resources for more information on this topic.
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