Unlike most freelance writers, I didn’t start my business alongside a full-time job. I didn’t have the security of being able to test the water from a safe distance.
The first time I started up as a freelance writer, I was living in Portugal and not entirely sure how I would make it work without getting a bar job. The second time, I left a full-time editorial role with no freelance work in the pipeline. And the third time, I was fired from my full-time marketing job. Every time, I was able to build a roster of freelance clients within a month.
Whatever prompts you to head down the freelance writer route, there are some universal steps that everyone needs to take. First off, you need to decide that you are good enough. You don’t have to be the best, you just need to be willing to keep learning and developing.
You have to remember that there will always be writers that are better than you and getting paid less. But there will also be writers that are worse than you and getting paid more. It stinks, but you learn to worry less about what other people are doing and focus on your own thing.
Becoming a freelance writer
You can break into the freelance writing gig with zero investment. Anyone who says you should take a freelance writer course is probably trying to sell you a freelance writing course. If you want to take a course, learn SEO or social media management. These are the things that will add value, not a course about how to invoice. You’ll pick up everything else as you go along.
Choosing a niche
You’ll make more money as a freelance writer if you pick a niche. It will allow you to focus on securing a select range of regular paying clients, rather than constantly chasing clients for one-off articles.
Becoming a freelance writer isn’t always about doing what you love. Everyone loves food and travel, but this doesn’t mean that everyone should become a food or travel writer. Look for writing industries that are less crowded and you’ll have a better chance of cornering a part of the market.
Finding your first client
The hardest part of becoming a freelance writer is finding your first client. In the beginning, it can be tempting to take on work for free or bargain basement prices just to get a foot on the ladder. Don’t.
If you just want to build a writing portfolio, just write. There is no shortage of places that will publish your work for free. Write whatever you want, put a link to your freelance website, and share it on social media. Just please don’t write for clients for free, it devalues the whole industry.
Once you have a portfolio, use one of the many many freelance writing platforms out there to find your first client. I got started with People Per Hour but now I use Copify for the bulk of my freelance writing projects. You can read my thoughts on Copify here.
Once you have a portfolio and a few clients, you can then start to ask your clients for testimonials. Using LinkedIn is a great way to ask for recommendations without being awkward. Put them on your website, share them on social media, and leverage them to get referrals to build your roster of clients.
Never stop learning
The worst thing you can do as a freelance writer is to get set in your ways. Never stop learning and developing new skills. Your clients will love if you can help with their SEO strategy, share your articles on social media or even put your skills to use in email copywriting.
What advice did you find most helpful when becoming a freelance writer? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Twitter – @LRHowarth