Freelance writing is a thriving industry and it could be a great way to enjoy remote work and set your own schedule. Still, becoming a freelance writer can be difficult and confusing, especially in the beginning.
Today, let’s take a step-by-step look at how to become a freelance writer, plus some additional tips to ensure success in this field.
1. Decide what kind of writer you want to be
No freelance writer can do it all, so you need to decide what kind of writer you want to be before embarking on this career path.
Here are some examples of freelance writing niches and focuses:
- Technical writers: having technical expertise or in-depth knowledge on a specific subject such as manufacturing, finance, programming, etc. This type of writing is the most profitable sideline. However, it’s also the hardest for new freelance writers to break into as small businesses.
- Content writers: Create blog posts for various websites, often retail or affiliate websites. Content marketing involves writing quality content. Such content may include guest posts for bloggers and business owners. It can also include other freelance content such as creating social posts or copying emails. Useful skills to know are using WordPress, Slack, Google Suite, Asana, and the like.
- Copywriters: Create content for brands by mimicking the brand’s voice, tone, and language rules. This freelance writing job means providing writing services to a brand’s own blog. Such purposes usually revolve around SEO/search engine optimization.
You can further specialize from these types of freelance writers. For example, you could exclusively be a retail content writer, a financial technical writer, and so on. In many cases, you should choose your freelance writing niche based on your past experience, interests, or specializations.
Also consider your work schedule. Full-time writers will have more access to freelance writing jobs. However, you can still build a writing portfolio with great writing samples to attract potential clients even as a part-time writer.
There are many online writing clients to attract. In any case, you will build a brand awareness after you get your first client and start improving your creative writing skills.
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2. Get to know your niche’s writing conventions and strategies
Next, you need to learn and master the writing conventions and strategies of your niche.
For example, if you become a copywriter for retail brands, you’ll need to understand typical writing conventions, such as:
- Reading through your clients’ tone packs or portfolios (also known as brand guides). These give you the information you need to properly mimic your client’s voice.
- Write in streamlined, short sentences without much fuss. Today, most online readers skim through written content rather than reading it word for word, so you need to know how to create engaging, attractive headlines and content blocks.
- Regularly use bullet points (such as this one) to convey important information points quickly and concisely.
Many of these skills can be learned and practiced as you hone your writing skills and determine your ultimate niche or focus for freelance writing. In addition to learning by pursuing writing opportunities and building an online presence, many great writers have had positive experiences with writing courses designed to build professional writing skills for various types of content.
3. Build a portfolio and get involved freelance job sites
No one will want to hire you as a freelance writer without seeing some samples of your work. This may sound counterintuitive since you have no work to show at the start of your career. However, you should create a portfolio with sample or sample blog posts, text, 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, post it on your personal website and your social media pages (particularly your LinkedIn profile). Then add to freelance job boards like Upwork. Create profiles on all the freelance job sites you can.
In the early days of your freelance writing career, you will be pursuing as many jobs as possible. The more places you have to advertise your skills, the better.
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4. Look for work
Now it’s time to put your nose to the grindstone and start looking for work. As a freelance writer, the first few months of your career will be filled with proposals and job requests. Don’t expect to get many customers at first. In fact, you’ll probably spend most of your time looking for clients rather than writing.
This is not a bad thing. During this time, you will learn how to write effective, compelling proposals to your clients and how to best present yourself as the ideal freelancer for their needs. Over time, you get a few jobs and use those jobs to open more doors and new professional opportunities.
5. Request good reviews
Every time you get a job from a client, you need to execute it to perfection. Request an excellent review or testimonial at the end of your contract. Many freelance job boards allow you to post reviews or automatically calculate a rating or star rating based on your performance.
The better your review score is, the easier it is for you to acquire new, high-paying customers. This way, your career as a freelance writer starts very slowly and then picks up quickly.
Related: The 9 Skills It Takes to Succeed as a Freelance writer
6. Aggressively market your writing
As you achieve initial success, aggressively market your writing. There are a few different ways you can do this:
- You can create a personal website for your freelance writing business, featuring your best samples and reviews or testimonials.
- You can create ads online to promote your skills as an expert copywriter, especially in a specific industry or niche.
- You can and should promote yourself on social media by regularly posting that you are looking for work or new clients.
Don’t feel bad announcing your skills in this way: you need to rush to make it in this industry, a truth that actually applies to all freelancers.
Other tips for successful freelance writing
You now know the basics on how to become a freelance writer. But even with the step-by-step process above, you may not see initial success unless you keep some important tips and strategies in mind.
Choose a niche to excel in
First, and perhaps most importantly, you need to choose a niche or specialization as soon as possible. Generalized freelance writers don’t make nearly as much money as specialist writers. That’s because specialty writers can provide more raw value to their clients.
Imagine a situation where a programming company needs a writer to create some in-depth blog posts for B2B clients. They can hire a general 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 customer.
To that end, find a niche that you can excel in based on your previous education, your interests, and more.
Praise your writing well
Many freelance writers struggle with getting a living wage, in part because they underprice their writing. Admittedly, at the earliest stage of your career, you’re probably making about a penny or two cents per word. However, if you earn your first initial reviews, counterintuitively increase your price to five cents per word or more.
Why? If you price your writing too low, customers will think you’re not worth their time. Praising your writing highly enough shows that you have confidence in your ability to deliver results to those clients.
Always looking for new customers
The life of a freelance writer means that you are constantly on the lookout for new clients and job opportunities. Even if you have a handful of solid clients who consistently send you work, don’t rest on your laurels.
Always make new contacts and find new professional clients to approach for work. You never know when your current jobs or projects will dry up, leaving you in dire need of new revenue streams.
Always improve your writing skills
Similarly, always work on improving 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 your skills are as sharp and desirable as possible. Don’t let your writing skills down just because you’ve achieved initial success as a freelance writer.
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Start your journey as a freelance writer
As you can see, you can become a successful freelance writer in different ways and in different niches. But keep the tips above in mind, and you’re sure to land high-paying clients and master your new business in no time.
Checking out Other guides and resources for entrepreneurs for more information on this topic.