Welcome to the first post in a three-part series about how to start freelance writing! If you stumbled upon this article by accident and are wondering, “What the heck is a freelance writer?” Let me point you toward this blog post before you come back here.
The internet is overrun with blogs and articles promising that you’ll make $2000, $3000, even $4000 as a freelance writer.
The hype can be discouraging when, after your first month, you realize you barely scraped together enough money to pay the bills. Let alone $4000! You might be so discouraged that you quit freelancing and go back to that 9-5.
I understand your frustration. And I’m here to share a little truth– if you’re a beginner freelance writer with little to no experience, making $4000 a month is not realistic.
At least, not right off the bat.
To be a freelance writer, you have to be patient. You have to be willing to do the grunt work before you start landing repeat clients. And in the world of freelancing, growing a list of clients who keep comin’ back for more is KEY to making the big bucks.
So instead of hyping you up, I’m here to walk you through the process.
The 9 Steps I outline below are the steps I took when I was new to freelance writing. And after three months, I was lucky enough to start freelance writing full time.
No, I didn’t make four thousand dollars a month (I still don’t!). But at 25 years old, I have plenty of time to build up my client list and start making some real money.
Trust me– if I can do it, so can you. So let’s get started!
1. Research and Practice Writing in Your Niche
You should already have some idea of the kind of content you want to write and sell as a freelancer. If not, I talk about the different kinds of writers in this post. Once you’ve figured out your writing specialty (or specialties), it’s time to immerse yourself in your craft.
The best way to transition from the I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing phase to the totally-hireable-shiny-new-freelancer phase is to study what the pros are doing.
This may mean…
- stalking popular blogs and studying the structure of their most popular, highest SEO-ranked posts
- hoarding stacks of your favorite magazine and breaking down the editorial articles within those glossy pages
- cracking out your old English notes on how to write a good research essay or argument
Once you’ve studied, it’s time to practice what you’ve learned.
While structure should be consistent, practice using different styles, voices, and tones in your writing. Unique and/or flexible writing styles will stand out to prospective clients. And if you’re going to land freelance writing jobs, you need to stand out from the competition.
2. Draft Samples for Potential Clients
If you want to book a job as a freelance writer, you need to show prospective clients you can write.
This is especially true for freelancers who have little to no experience. After all, how will prospective clients know if you’re any good at writing if they’ve never even seen your writing?
This is where writing samples come in. Writing samples are fully written, edited, and proofread examples of the kind of writing you want to sell to clients.
If you want to be a copywriter, this means creating the copy for a website as a sample. If you want to be a technical writer, this means drafting up a well-researched article in the technical field you want to write in.
During this step, I recommend creating your own website or blog, where you publish and share your samples. As you’ll see in the next step, even work published solely on your personal blog is better than unpublished samples.
3. Create a Freelance Writing Portfolio
The whole point of creating samples is to accumulate enough work for a writing portfolio.
Sound fancy? Portfolios don’t have to be. They just have to have the following components:
- the style of writing you want to sell (copy, blogs, novels, etc.)
- the kinds of topics you want to be hired to write on OR
- the niche you want to be hired to write in (or both)
Once you’ve written at least three sample works that you’re proud of, make sure you edit and proofread them. There’s nothing worse than sending your samples to a prospective client only to realize there’s a massive typo in the headline… Oops.
If any of your work is published online (this includes work published on your personal blog), use these articles more often than not. Clients value all samples, but they value published works even more highly.
Now it’s time to compile your samples into a single document (or onto a single page of your website). Introduce each piece with a short who, what, and when. AKA who you wrote the piece for (this can be your own blog), what you wrote the piece about, and when you wrote it.
A portfolio is probably the most important thing to learn if you want to get freelance writing clients.
That’s all I have for you today! Stay tuned next Wednesday for Part 2 and leave a comment to let me know what’s holding you back from starting your freelance writing career. Happy writing!
Series Post #10: What is Copywriting? With Examples
Series Post #1: How to Create a Niche
Good points you bring up. Niche writing is important and sometimes it finds you. Good piece.
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Thanks, Will! I definitely agree that writing niches can find you– or you can invent your own!
Pingback: Series Post #14: How to Write Engaging Content (with Examples) – Haley Clark | Freelance Writer
Thanks for sharing ideas on how to become a freelance writer. Freelance writing can be a hit or miss. It would help if an aspiring writer will continue to write on various topics. The more he writes, the more experiences he will have.
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I agree that writing on various topics at the beginning of your freelance writing career helps beginners discover their niche! I do recommend choosing a writing niche eventually, though. That way the writer’s online portfolio has a clear branding message 🙂