Become a successful freelance writer and you can enjoy freedom, flexibility, and a level of financial security.
Whether you want to earn money from home or are starting on your way to the top of the profession, the road to becoming a freelance writer gives you the chance to learn and perfect your craft. In this article, we’ll give you practical steps that can help you to grow as a professional wordsmith and guide you in how to find work.
Read on for tips on finding your feet in the competitive world of content creation.
How to get started
This can often be the most daunting part of setting out as a freelance writer. But there’s no secret to getting started – other than to start writing!
It helps if you already have writing samples available. If you have any previous writing work – be it blog posts, articles for a student newspaper or interest groups, or copy you’ve written for a website – put it in your portfolio and add the details to your CV. Writing examples will help you to find work.
If you don’t have any previous writing to demonstrate, fear not. In today’s digital era, there are so many opportunities to build your portfolio. You could start a WordPress blog on a subject or niche that you are knowledgeable about or have an interest in. Then there are guest post opportunities – many media and business platforms encourage guest writers. If you think you could provide interesting content for a site, find the contact details and pitch them an idea for an article.
Courses to improve your writing
Once you have some writing samples, there’s nothing to stop you from diving in and accepting work. We’ll come on to where to find work in the next section, but another consideration is writing courses.
Courses to improve your writing can be done as you take your first steps as a freelance writer. You could ‘learn on the job’; looking for voluntary and paid work, while you hone your skills by doing a course.
Eleven provides courses that allow writers to master their prose, teaching you to produce authoritative content on your topic of interest. Udemy is another hub for affordable writing courses, offering tuition on many different types of copywriting – from SEO content to blogging and creative writing. Then there is Coursera, which links you to hundreds of writing courses offered by academic institutions online.
Have a Google, and you’ll find many more writing courses catering for a wide range of budgets. Pick a course that you can time-manage as you look for writing jobs.
Register on freelance job boards
Armed with your writing samples and an engaging CV, you are ready to register with freelance job boards online. From Upwork to Fiverr and People Per Hour – freelance job boards are plentiful, and so are the writing opportunities which are posted on them.
Different writers prefer different job boards, so there is no right or wrong board to join. See what works for you. But a word of warning – it makes sense to register for no more than two or three to begin with. You don’t want to spread your efforts too thinly. Building a solid portfolio, finding work and then receiving positive feedback is how you will grow your presence on these boards. For this reason, it makes sense to develop your profile on a small number of platforms to begin with.
Remember – freelance job boards are competitive places. Writers from all around the world will be offering low rates to try and win business. While you are starting out, it makes sense to keep your rates as budget friendly as possible, in order to get work under your belt. You can always increase your rates when you are receiving more work.
Some platforms require you to bid on projects, while others allow clients to offer you work directly (this makes having an impressive portfolio all the more important).
Rather than simply bidding for as many jobs as you can, be selective. Try to pick out projects that are as closely matched to your experience as possible, and you’ll have more chance of being chosen for the work. That leads us on to niches…
Identify your niches and expand your knowledge
As we’ve touched upon above; the more you can demonstrate your experience or expertise in a particular area, the more likely you are to find work. As you find more jobs and write more content, you will naturally begin to identify your niches.
Niches include types of audiences (such as business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B)), sectors (from beauty to semiconductor or healthcare), and topics (like sport, current affairs or celebrities).
If you already have an interest in a niche or have experience writing for that niche, that’s certainly a good basis upon which to target clients related to it. If you don’t have one in mind, don’t worry. As you pick up more experience writing on certain subjects, your niche will present itself.
Aside from freelance job boards, there are many content and marketing agencies that specialise in particular niches. Once you are confident your portfolio and CV are strong enough, you can reach out to these companies and send them your details. If a suitable opportunity arises, you could be a match.
Promote yourself and your service
If it’s been a few weeks or months and you are drawing a blank on work, or making slow progress, there are still plenty of ways to promote yourself and increase your visibility.
Use social media to advertise what you do, and how you can help clients achieve their business objectives through targeted content. LinkedIn is one of the best professional networking sites, allowing you to connect with potential clients and even apply for freelance writing jobs. There is also Twitter, which can be a good place to post your published work, if permitted by your client.
Use social networks such as Facebook and Instagram to let your friendship groups know that you are taking on writing work. It’s a small world, and often nothing is more valuable than a word-of-mouth recommendation.
Gain a grounding in SEO
“What does search engine optimisation (SEO) – that is, the practice of tailoring content to rank highly in Google search results – have to do with freelance writing?” you might ask.
When it comes to Google, content is king. You’ll find that the primary reason for many businesses requiring content is to support their SEO strategy. As a writer, you don’t necessarily need to be an SEO whizz. What will help, is to know the basics.
Understanding what keywords are, what they do, and how to implement them in your content, is perhaps the fundamental SEO aspect for a writer. And it certainly won’t hurt to gain a solid understanding of page elements relevant to SEO – such as meta titles and meta descriptions.
Gaining momentum as a freelance writer can be tricky initially, but you’ll find there is a ‘snowball effect’.
Take the right steps early on, and you can increase your chances of winning your first assignments. As your client base grows, ensure that you deliver your work on time, and on brief. Before you know it, you can become a sought-after commodity and forge a career as a successful freelance writer.