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Common questions about becoming a freelance writer

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If you’ve thought about a career in freelance writing, you probably have a lot of questions, In this blog, we’re taking a look at some of these to help you get started.

Is it hard being a freelance writer?

Like most careers, there are pros and cons to freelancing. Let’s discuss one of the biggest reasons people choose to freelance: flexibility. As a freelancer, you set your own schedule. If you do your best work in the early morning, you have the freedom to write at that time. You can run errands, take naps, play with the cats, have a nice lunch with friends, and still get your work done, if you also remember that once you have a schedule you must stick to it. That is key: if you do your best work at 2.00 am, set up your night so you’re ready to work at that time.

If you look at that list of positives, you’ll also see the pitfalls. You set your own hours yes, but this only works if you’re a self-starter and get up when you say you will, sit down, and work. Freelancing is not an invitation to goof off, but the temptation to watch television, play video games, read, or work on your novel is always there. If you’re going to work as a freelancer, you must discipline yourself, and that is not easy.

Pricing your work is also tricky, but something you must do, unless you have a long-term contract with someone, or are a gig worker for another organization. The problem here is knowing what to charge. You could ask other freelancers for their insights, and while many will view you as a competitor, you may find a mentor. Ultimately, you will need to decide what you’re comfortable charging based on your talent and experience. Consider this carefully, as most people are shy about asking for what they’re worth and can end up doing a lot of work and getting paid very little for it.

To have work, you must have clients, which means you are going to have to contact potential customers and sell yourself and your work. This is a whole other can of worms we’ll discuss later. As for that vacation on the beach, don’t plan on that until you have a steady income stream, which can take some time.

Is it hard to make money as a freelance writer?

To make money as a freelancer, you must have steady work that pays well, and to land this type of job, you need persistence and a system in place that will allow you to contact editors who have the kind of assignments you want. This is one of the difficult parts of working as a freelance—you need to keep your “pipeline” of projects filled so that you always have work, so you’ll need to develop the skill and ability to pitch your ideas day after day, often to editors you have never met. If “cold calling” is not your thing, you may want to look for a position as a gig worker, where you freelance for one company on an ongoing basis.

Can I be a freelance writer with no experience?

Yes, absolutely. At one point, even the most successful freelancer had no sales and was trying to get started. If your writing experience is limited, you can still make a success of freelancing. Start by creating your resume, highlighting your education and any relevant work experience. If you really are just starting out, consider taking appropriate online classes, many of which you can find for free on YouTube and other platforms such as Coursera. For an annual fee, you can join Masterclass, a platform where experts such as Dan Brown (“The DaVinci Code”) teach courses in writing and many other subjects.

You can also ask for testimonials from previous employers. They may not speak to your writing skills, but they can testify to your reliability, attitude, and enthusiasm. Once you do land that first writing job, ask that employer for a testimonial, and do the same with every assignment you complete. You will soon build up a portfolio that will show your skills to other prospective employers.

Who will pay me to write?

One way to start getting paid for your writing is to sign up with one of the platforms that offers assignments to freelancers. These are sometimes called “content mills,” and include Fiverr, Upwork, iWriter, and many others. To use one of these websites, you’ll need to register, complete a profile, explain your experience, and perhaps submit a writing sample. Each site operates differently; for instance, some take a “cut” of your salary while others charge their clients, and you’ll need to look carefully at each one before you sign up.

You may find that you are in competition with a great many other freelancers, and the more lucrative assignments often go to writers who have been on the platform for some time. However, if you find you are not a good fit for one site, there are others you can try. You may be able to find your first assignment very quickly this way.

How competitive is freelance writing?

Unfortunately, the answer is that the field is extremely competitive. The internet has opened a range of possibilities for work, as new blogs, websites, and online companies come into existence daily, but it has also made it much easier for everyone to compete for the jobs that exist. However, there are factors that come into play that will work in your favor, even with many competitors in the field.

First, some freelancers who are just starting will undervalue themselves, setting their prices low to attract that first, all-important client. However, once you have set a low price, it becomes difficult to raise your rates later. If you make this basic mistake, it’s unlikely you will be able to earn a living wage, and you may give up.

Some writers make the same error, but in the opposite direction. If they have an unrealistic view of their ability, they might start out by making their prices too high, and will not be able to find work. They are likely to get discouraged and quit as well.

Finally, some freelancers will try their hand at this lifestyle, only to find it does not work for them. They may be more comfortable in the traditional, structured setting provided by a nine-to-five position. When people drop out of the field, that automatically opens more opportunities for you.

Is freelance writing a good career?

The short answer is a qualified yes. For the right person, freelancing is enjoyable, challenging, and fun, giving them the opportunity to constantly learn about new subjects, develop new skills, and enjoy scheduling work as it suits them. The drawbacks are obvious as well, including the fact there are no health benefits, you must do your own taxes, and you are constantly looking for the next job. It is not for everyone, but if you are curious, try it and see for yourself.

How do I start freelance writing?

As noted above, you can start by taking classes to sharpen your skills, create a solid resume, and collect testimonials.

One of the difficulties with freelancing is that there is no single way into the field, and what works for one person may prove impossible for another. However, one point is essential: you need to decide on your area of specialization, your niche. If you are intent on making a living as a freelancer, you will want your subject to be something you enjoy and want to share with others. You will be spending many hours researching and writing about this subject, so make sure you enjoy it.

However, it is not necessary to narrow down your field when you’re starting out—in fact, you want to write as much as you can. As you gain more experience, you will recognize where your talents and interests lie, and can concentrate there. If you remain within your niche, you can also use the research you do for one project to complete the next.

One way to start, after you’ve decided on your niche, is to ask to be included on another writer’s blog. To do this, you should first read the blog in detail, then contact the writer courteously, and ask them if you may post on their blog. You must ensure that you are familiar with their readers’ tastes, so you can add something of value to the publication.

Once you have created this relationship, you may find you’re asked to contribute regularly, and should the blog become monetized, you can earn income from it. However, professional courtesy is vital when you approach the other author.

Do I need a degree to be a freelance writer?

No, it’s not necessary to have a college degree to freelance. You do, however, need to know how to write at a professional level. You also need to know how to handle your personal finances, and keep an eye on the latest developments in your area of specialization, so your work is as current as possible.

If you’re curious about using your talents as a freelancer, but would like to have some structure to your assignments, consider joining our team at Words of Worth. We offer assignments so you don’t have to hunt for work, we back you up with a sterling editing team, and we pay monthly without fail. Freelancing is not for everyone, but it could very well be for you, so contact us now and see if we are a good fit for your freelancing dreams.