It takes certain qualities to be a freelance writer, but if you’ve determined that you have what it takes, the next step is getting started. Here are a few practical and critical things to do as you break into a competitive, oversaturated field:
- Don’t be too proud to ask for help
- Constantly build your portfolio
- Finding clients is a priority
- Determine a niche and perfect it
- Don’t expect overnight success
Ask for Help
Think about your writing preferences and expertise. Determine your style and niche and then reach out to individuals or clubs for guidance, tips, and even hookups to potential clients and gigs. A simple Google search will point you to such resources. Don’t forget to tap into your social media connections as well. Networking is an invaluable tool in business that you certainly should leverage in freelance writing.
How is Your Portfolio Looking?
So the big question is: How do you start a portfolio if you’ve never written professionally before? When you’re competing against established writers for work, your blank portfolio isn’t going to look to enticing to prospective clients. First, take a look at a few of these sites designed especially to host writers’ portfolios: portfolio sites.
Content pieces that are suitable for inclusion in your portfolio: press releases, web copy, marketing flyers, posters, blog posts, white papers, academia, even creative work. Imagine yourself as a website owner. What would you look for in a freelance writer? You want someone who can demonstrate an understanding of your field, writing skill, comprehension of grammar, and further than that, a proven ability to convert. Include any positive praise or feedback you have received. If you’re just starting out, that may be from professors, but it will still look good to prospective clients.
Next, work your way through this list to start accumulating your best work to put up on your portfolio:
- Seek out opportunities to write for friends or colleagues
- Compile your best academic or personal creative work
- Write mock copy (content you’ve imagined for your client or a made up company)
- Write guest blogs or opinion pieces to submit to online magazines (it doesn’t have to be published to include in your portfolio. It just has to be your original work.)
- Google search pro bono writing jobs and volunteer your writing services
Time to Find Some Clients
Determining what you’re worth is important, and don’t sell yourself short. Heavily research freelance writing rates (definitely talk to your new mentor friends about this too), and establish your rate to start charging.
Get used to asking, “Do you know anyone in need of a good writer?” Also, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out exactly what you want to do and write. Now that you have a portfolio, you can reach out to a client you would love to write for and provide them a link to your portfolio. Even if they don’t respond, it was a worth a shot, and the more direct queries you send out, the more chances you’ll have at getting a positive response.
Don’t forget the usual haunts either. They’re worthwhile venues to check out: Craigslist, Idealist, freelancewritinggigs.com, LinkedIn, and eLance.
What’s Your Niche?
Eventually, as you take on more and more gigs, you’re going to start learning about yourself as a writer. You’ll become more and more familiar with the types of gigs you like most and which you do best at. Your portfolio is going to start showing a strong inclination toward a particular vein and you can start directing your search for new gigs in that direction as well. Before you know it, you’ll be a specialist in a particular kind of copy.
Raise your rates, advertise yourself as an expert, and start honing in on the advantages of having a specialty niche.
Overnight Success is a Fluke
Freelance writing isn’t going to be your full-time job right out of the chute. You may not even want it to be, but if you do, set realistic expectations for the income you will be making as you start out. Make plans to supplement and then with hard work, allow yourself to grow. Soon enough, your results will be commensurate with your efforts and you’ll find yourself juggling gigs.
In fact, here are a few tips to stay organized, since at this point in your journey, you’ll be an established freelance writer.
What has been your greatest hang-up in your freelance writing journey? Share in the comments!
Hamill, Kate. “So you want to be a freelance writer.”https://www.freelancersunion.org/blog/2014/09/10/how-to-start-freelance-writer/. (January 23, 2015.)