So, you want to become a freelance writer? You have chanced upon an article about folks who make over $10,000 every month just by writing. Intrigued, you imagine yourself seated by some exotic beach with a laptop and a margarita, making good money selling words, unbeholden to no one, and totally free to roam the earth.
Sounds glamorous, right?
But before you draft a hasty resignation letter to your boss and ride off into the sunset, laptop in hand, you first need to learn how to become a freelance writer. While it’s not exactly rocket science, it’s not a walk in the park either. You must learn the rudiments and be prepared to put in the work.
Freelancing or independent work has gradually become more popular. It’s estimated that about 43% of the US population will try their hand or turn freelance full-time in the next five years. Out of the 57 million freelancers currently in the US, 17% are estimated to be writers.
Why Are Many People Choosing to Become a Freelance Writer?
It’s easy to see why freelance writing is becoming popular- freedom and flexibility. You get to choose where and when you work, your clients, and projects. You also have time for your family and time to do things that really matter to you. Besides, the majority of freelance writers reported feeling more productive and satisfied with their work.
If you’ve considered freelance writing, there’s no better time than now to make your dream a reality. The internet has lowered the barrier making it possible to get paying clients from any part of the world. And the best part? You do not need any qualifications or certificates to become a freelance writer.
Here, We Break Down The 10 Steps to Become a Freelance Writer:
Identify your niche
The first step in starting out to be a freelance writer is to identify the niche and type of writing you would like to do. This should be something you are interested in or will be willing to learn. Choosing a field you’re enthusiastic about will enable you to write well without spending precious hours on research. And your vigor will light up your work.Your niche should be in line with your existing skills, and also something clients are willing to pay for.
The types of writing you can do as a freelance writer include:
- B2B writing
- Academic writing
There are two ways you can choose what to write – you can choose to specialize in a type of writing and work in several niches, or you can select a specific niche and do different kinds of writing within that niche.
You don’t have to stick to a particular niche or type of writing throughout your freelancing career. You can decide to switch to another niche at any point or even combine niches.
Brush up your skills
Since you have decided to pursue a career in writing, you might as well become good at it. There are a variety of resources to help new writers sharpen their skills. Some of these can be found free on the internet in the form of articles, blog posts, and videos. You can always take a paid course, but it’s not absolutely necessary to get started.
The writing field is highly competitive, and you need to be on top of your game to stand out. Studying will give you direction, more in-depth insight, and the necessary edge to compete and remain relevant. You will learn new techniques, how to get clients, pricing, and so many other tricks of the trade. You can also get accredited and add it to your portfolio or cv.
Like any other skill, writing gets better the more you practice it. To become a freelance writer, you simply have to start writing right away.
Start a blog or write on free platforms like medium or quora. Make sure to update your blog regularly, especially if blog writing is one of the services you intend to offer.
Aside from improving your skills, your writings will also serve as a portfolio to show off your work to prospective clients.
To be a good writer, you must learn to read voraciously. Read everything you can – blog articles, emails, non-fiction books, fiction, and news articles. Consuming content helps you to develop excellent grammar, writing skills, and a well-develop and variegated vocabulary.
Reading widely also helps you to cross-reference ideas and come up with unique ideas for your own content.
Set up a portfolio website
A website is essential in your freelancing journey – your virtual shop front. Clients will only take you seriously if you have a web presence. Your website should be a space where you blog, and host your online resume and portfolio for prospective clients to see.
The best part? You don’t have to be a software engineer to create your own website. You can set-up one easily on Wix or WordPress following instructions on YouTube.
Your webpage should be properly laid out and should contain an about page, contact page, testimonial page, portfolio page, and a blog.
Clearly promote your services in the about page and also feature your contact details prominently. Also, ensure you have social media profiles linked on your website and put sharing buttons on all your content.
Before you start getting clients, write content in your niche, and post it to your blog to sample your skills. And also update the blog with any new paid content you publish. Although you may have to get the consent of the client first.
Learn SEO to help you get found online. It is also an added bonus to your writing skills, which you can sell to clients profitably.
Create a swipe file
A swipe file is a treasure trove of excellent writing examples. It comes in handy when you need an idea for your content or inspiration. These collections could be headlines, blog posts, emails, landing pages, or sales pages.
When you come across any content that makes an impression in you, ensure to clip and save them to a dedicated folder for reference later.
When writing, frequently refer to your swipe file. While it won’t work to simply lift words from a successful blog post or sales copy, you can copy the structure of the content and use it to develop yours. This will help you create great content in far less time.
Like most things in life, the best way to learn is by doing. You may have attended all the available writing courses and obtained certifications. But you won’t really call yourself a freelance writer till you put your work out there to a paying client. That is how you build confidence and know-how good your writing is.
While running your own blog and writing consistently will improve your skills, having a solid writing experience will quickly teach you what works and what doesn’t.
Here’s how you can quickly start getting some experience in freelance writing:
- Sign up to jobs boards like Contena, ProBlogger, BloggingPro, etc
- Look for writing work on employment sites and social media
- Pitch to established websites, magazines, and blogs.
- Sign-up with a content marketing agency
- Meet local businesses, community groups, and associations and ask if they’ll need a blog post, editorial, or want their web content rewritten.
Learn how to pitch
Pitching is the act of persuading someone to buy or do something. Pitching writing topics and ideas to prospective clients are crucial to thriving as a freelance writer.
Your pitches should be professional, engaging, and concise. Editors and business owners usually don’t have much time to go through a long rambling email from a total stranger.
Always check the website you are pitching to see their style, culture, and their guide for accepting pitches. Carefully look at their content so that you align your writing ideas with theirs.
An effective pitch should contain:
- An attention-grabbing headline
- The core question your article revolves around
- How it will benefit them and their readers
- Prospective sources
- Related samples from your portfolio
Be a good communicator
You must be an excellent communicator to succeed in this freelancing writing business. Regardless of the platform of your choice – twitter, skype, Whatsapp, email, video conferencing, always ensure you can be easily reached by clients and prospects.
Clients will love to know that you can make their work easier for them.
Regularly update them on the progress of their projects and get feedback to guide your work. Let them know ahead of time when you encounter a challenge and won’t be able to meet up with a deadline.
Handle your business
A freelancing career is just like any other business. You are basically self-employed and building a business relationship is a must. And while your freelance writing fantasies center around hanging out in your favorite coffee shop or a park typing away, there are certain practical aspects of running a business that you must undertake:
- Register with the relevant authorities for a proper assessment, filing, and payment of taxes
- Take out suitable insurance
- Create a budget to manage your finances
- Use a good project management app to manage your tasks and keep up with your schedule
Several million Americans are making a living from freelancing. Proof that freelance writing is something you can absolutely do – that is if you’re so inclined. In fact, with the current pandemic, freelancing is only going to become more mainstream.
To get started, you must learn the basics, choose a niche, create an online presence, and look for paying clients.
Of course, it won’t be all smooth sailing at the start, but with time, you’ll get the hang of it and enjoy the freedom, flexibility, and satisfaction that comes from doing what you love.