Writing Career: How to Start Freelance Writing

Freelancers are gaining traction in the workforce. Freelance workers make up about 35% of the workforce in the United States. This number is expected to grow as more businesses discover the value of freelance workers.

Of those that do freelance work, writers make up the largest portion. Don’t lose heart though. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for new freelance writers.

There is high demand for writers that can provide quality content, especially for online forums. If you’ve considered freelance writing, there’s room for you out there.

Before you decide to jump in though, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Freelance writing is not a get rich quick scheme. It takes work, dedication, and sometimes tears.

If you’re looking for an easy gig, you’ll hate it. If you love to write, the work involved is worth it though.

So, what do freelance writers do anyway?

What is a Freelance Writer?

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If you’re still with me, I’m assuming you love writing. If not, enter at your own risk.

Freelance writers represent a diverse group. For many, about 48% of the freelance writers available, writing is a side gig that supplements other income sources. For others freelancing is a full-time gig.

Of those that do freelance work full-time, most offer writing as one of a select group of services. Then you have a small group that make freelance writing their career.

Full disclosure: I fall into the first group of freelance workers. I offer writing services along with virtual assistant and social media services.

Most freelance work involves writing blog posts, articles, and website content. Some writers focus on one of these areas, and others pitch for several opportunities. The important thing to remember is that these jobs are mostly about non-fiction, concise content.

While some writers find jobs creating prose and short stories, most will not. This means to succeed you have to learn how to get to the point with your writing while sharing valuable information.

How to Start Freelance Writing

If you think you have what it takes to work in the freelance writing market, great. The market needs good writers that will stick with it.

Before you start though, make sure you’re pursuing a freelance writing career for the right reasons. Starting out for the wrong reasons will just frustrate you and lead to little success.

Don’t pursue freelance writing if you’re looking for a quick fix to a desperate situation. Don’t expect it to be an easy option. And definitely don’t start if you don’t enjoy writing.

If you love writing and are willing to stick it out for the long haul, you have a good first start. The second step is to let go of your fear.

The idea of seeking writing jobs can seem scary at first. It doesn’t have to be though. If you do your research and plan before jumping in, you can create steady work for yourself.

Research the Market

Before you make the final decision about setting up on your own, make sure you do your research. To make a successful go at it for yourself, you need to know what the market is looking for. You also need to see how other successful writers are doing it.

You can use job boards and internet searches to look for the job availability. During the research phase, you’re not looking to apply for these jobs, just determining where you can fit in.

Pay attention to the common knowledge base and skills required for the jobs out there. Compare your capabilities with those requirements to determine where your skills and knowledge could compete.

Also, search for successful freelance writers. Look at their websites and social media accounts. Look at testimonials from their customers.

If they have resources available, check out the information they provide for new freelancers. Check out their online portfolios and their advertisement material.

The point is to analyze what’s working for them. Seek out what they’ve done to create a successful business.

You can even reach out to some of these freelance writers if you go about it the right way. Having a mentor in the market can really help you learn how to navigate. Just don’t expect them to do the hard work for you.

A goal journal can be a helpful tool in this research. Create realistic goals based on the research you do to help you plan your next moves.

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Hone Your Skills

There are some definite required skills to get started with freelance writing. It’s important to be honest with yourself about your skill level in these different areas and how you can increase those skills. The primary skills you’ll need include:

Remember, a freelance job means you are in charge of your schedule. It’s up to you to make sure you’re meeting deadlines and staying motivated through the day. You will not have someone to fall back on to keep you on task.

Take inventory of your strengths and weaknesses in these areas. Also, take inventory of the tools you have available to help with your organization and time management.

Do you have good systems in place to help you control your workload? Will you be able to get things done on your own?

If you know you struggle in an area, find tools that will make the process as fool-proof as possible. And remember, there is always room to learn.

Seek out resources that will help you strengthen your skills. There are tons of resources out there to help you grow your skills and learn new useful skills.

For instance, you’ll want to hone your marketing skills if you want to create a successful business. Think through these secondary skills that you’ll need as you go along. Look for resources to help you strengthen these areas.

Define Your Ideal Niche

While many freelance writers take on diverse writing jobs, they still have their preferred niche. Your niche is that area of knowledge you have expertise in.

To determine your preferred niche, ask yourself a couple questions:

  • What do I have previous experience in?
  • What topics can I talk about at any time?
  • What topics interest me most?
  • What am I passionate about?

Analyze your hobbies and talents. Pay attention to the conversations you have and the topics you gravitate towards. Keep a list of those topics that interest you most.

Once you have a selection of topics, break it down. Determine how the different topics relate to each other. Then pick two or three topics that you can focus on.

These top picks are your ideal niche. While you don’t have to stick with these only, these are the topics you want to focus on when seeking jobs.

Create a Portfolio

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When seeking writing jobs, you’ll need samples of your work to show your skills. If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t have a lot of samples to choose from though.

This is where those niche topics come in handy. Using your top picks, you can create several sample articles to use when pitching later. These sample articles are the beginning of your portfolio.

I also recommend creating a website to store your sample articles and share your expertise. A website gives you an easy way to share those samples when pitching. A website also acts as a marketing tool.

You can direct people to your available services, or to specific samples when pitching ideas. You can also share your website link on social media platforms.

You can also build up your portfolio with guest posts on relevant blogs. While these aren’t paid gigs, they do build up your audience and prove your expertise. Guest posting also opens up great networking opportunities.

Having your own blog is also a great tool. Your articles can act as part of your portfolio, and sharing content regularly shows your presence online.

Networking

The best way to find available jobs is to build up your professional network. Social media can be your best friend for networking opportunities.

Take the time to connect with others in the freelance market. Don’t just follow them and ask for references though. Take the time to build relationships with people.

  • Interact with them.
  • Comment on their posts.
  • Answer questions.
  • Take the time to get to know these people.

You can also share your work on social media sites. While you don’t want to force your words on other people, if you make it easy for them to see your abilities they’re more likely to share your work with others.

Remember, it’s not just about sharing your work with others. Networking is about making connections. Show these connections that you’re someone worth knowing.

You can also network with businesses you’d like to work with. The same rules apply here though. Make sure your building relationships, not just asking for jobs or references.

Perfect Your Pitch

To be successful at freelance writing, you will have to seek the jobs. People aren’t going to just seek you out.

Yes, your online presence is useful, but this alone won’t bring the jobs. You will have to perfect your pitching abilities.

This is not a baseball reference. Your pitch is how you present your skills to potential clients. This is your chance to prove you’re the right person to write for them.

When writing a pitch, make sure you present yourself as a professional.

  • Be confident about your abilities.
  • Provide links to your best work (links are better than attached articles).
  • Tell them exactly what you can provide for them.
  • Present yourself as a professional rather than a newbie.

Create confidence in your potential clients with your pitch. It may take some time to perfect this system but continue to hone your pitching skills as you go along.

Who are you sharing these pitches with though? There are many options for finding jobs.

Finding Jobs

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Finding jobs is where the real work comes in. This process will take time, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t immediately get steady work.

Write for Content Providers

One of the easiest options is to write for a content provider. This is a good option if you’re just starting out, but keep in mind the pay for these jobs will be lower than other options.

Most content providers pay around $15 per article. Some are better than others though. If you’re going this route, I recommend checking out The Hoth. They pay better than most and provide plenty of resources to help you strengthen your writing skills.

Online Job Boards

Another good option is to seek out job boards online. There are several options to choose from here, but one of my favorites is Problogger.

These job boards are updated regularly and provide notices for diverse writing niches. Pay will vary with these options, so keep this in mind as you respond to opportunities. Also, make sure you pay close attention to the requirements when applying for the gigs.

While these job boards work to provide reputable options, some shady offers do make it through the cracks. Make sure you research any opportunity before moving forward.

You can also look for opportunities on Twitter using relevant hashtags, or in Facebook or LinkedIn groups.

Search Submission Opportunities

Many magazines and online newspapers offer submission opportunities if you seek them out. If you’re interested in submitting to a particular source, do a search of their website for submission requirements. Once again, make sure you pay attention to the requirements.

Make sure you only pitch relevant ideas for these submissions, and make sure you pitch to the right person or department. The best way not to get a job is to pitch something that makes no sense to the person receiving it.

Other Things to Consider

Remember, fear is your enemy in the freelance world. You have to market yourself and you have to reach out to people to make a success at freelance writing.

Cold pitches are a part of the freelance writing world. You need to pitch often, and you need to track these pitches. You also need to make sure people know your there.

If you’re not willing to make the necessary connections, you won’t get the work you want. You also have to develop a thick skin.

You will get rejections, that’s part of the business. The trick is, you can’t give up. Learn from those rejections, work to improve your skills, and keep pitching ideas.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Most people don’t succeed because they give up too soon. If you’ll just stick it out, where others don’t, you can create a steady income. You do have to work for it though.

Other Opportunities

Would you like more info about freelance writing or other work from home opportunities? Make sure to sign up for the newsletter so you can stay up-to-date with the latest tips and resources to help you get started with the opportunity that works for you.

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