Have you wondered what it takes to become a freelance writer?
10 years ago when I joined the media industry, I didn’t know about freelancing or contract work. I wanted to be a script writer so I worked odd jobs till I could find people to pitch my script to. Eventually, I got into content writing and copy writing before I understood what being a freelancer meant. It was a slow, bumpy transition and I made several mistakes.
Often, people ask me how being a freelance writer works. I don’t have a simple answer for that. But I want to create a guide, a rough blueprint so other writers and freelancers don’t commit the same mistakes I did. It is a great way to earn cash from home and sustain a living, if you know how. There are many people who offer courses and workshops on being successful freelancers. Those courses contain some helpful advice but if you are a beginner and don’t have the money to invest in those courses, my free guide will provide you with some great starting points.
Before we begin, a word of caution. Freelance writing is a good livelihood but it takes time and effort. For those who dream of sitting pretty and working 2-3 hours a day, earning thousands of dollars, that happens very rarely and possibly never at the beginning. It is like every other job in the world which requires patience, determination, and dedication.
The first question most people have before considering a career as a freelance writer, is do I have to be great at writing? And honestly, the answer is it depends. For content writers, more often than not, quantity reigns over quality. Content writers produce content in bulk for blogs, websites, and publications. You do have to have better communication skills than most people but you don’t need to be Shakespeare.
If you want to become a ghostwriter or copy writer, then you definitely need to have great writing and linguistic skills. You don’t necessarily need formal training or a course to become a writer. It does help if you have studied communication or read about writing and basics. Just to get you started.
Freelance writing is also about speed and capability to finish writing efficiently. Most projects have strict deadlines and it depends on your ability to write effectively and in the relevant style. I suggest that you practice writing EVERY DAY. Sorry friends, there is no alternative to that. Writing every single damn day is the only way you get better, faster, and greater at writing.
You can also visit other blogs to learn more about writing and getting inspiration.
You could google ‘how to become a freelance writer‘ and get sent to paid links and courses or you could buckle down and do some research. When I considered freelancing, I made the mistake of signing up for freelance websites and content mills. Freelance websites are a good way of getting your work known and meeting new clients. But you get seriously underpaid. Most freelance sites also charge a commission so you end up losing more than you make. At my first job, I was getting paid $1 for 500 words (not $1 per word, $1 for the WHOLE 500 words). Because I was new and naive, I took many jobs like that. I thought I had to pay my dues.
Don’t make that grave error. Research as much as you can. Learn about the craft and read about other freelance writers. I joined Facebook groups and communities to understand negotiation, pay rates, and how freelancers work. I emailed other writers to help me negotiate and discuss about clients. I read about entrepreneurship and how to develop my brand. It is a constant learning process, one I am still experiencing.
I researched how to pitch proposals and how to approach clients. I found clients through networking, through Linkedin, Facebook, and Upwork. I figured how to have my blog so clients could view my writing and contact me.
The process seems short when I write about it but it was tedious and I had to consistently work on skills such as negotiation, collaboration, communication, project management, and execution.
Like every other freelancer or artist out there, even writers need a portfolio. This is because clients will want to see writing samples before they hire you. When I was new, I stupidly offered to write samples for FREE.
PLEASE PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF EVERY GOD THAT IS, DON’T MAKE THAT MISTAKE.
Clients take advantage of your inexperience and passion. Today, I know better. If a client wishes me to write a sample, he/she has to pay me. Even writing a sample of 500 words involves research, editing, creating, and writing on my part. They will try to lure you by saying, ‘This small sample can be free because we have a huge, bulk project for you later if it goes well.’ Nope, no way. The small sample also will take hours of my professional time which I should be compensated for. Trust me, the right and good clients will pay you for the sample.
Creating a portfolio, like a blog or a folder is always handy to indicate your working style. You can write blogs, articles, or posts on topics that you wish to work on. When you pitch a specific client, send those writing samples to show that you are capable of writing the genre they seek. This proves your worth and that you have done the research. Clients like writers who take initiative and have a ready folio of samples and ideas. You can publish on your blog or on sites like Medium.
*It is also important that you mention if your writing samples are published or unpublished. If you share ideas for novel or series, share it in an email and mention clearly that you own the rights and are going to create it so the client is aware that you have a record of communication and ownership.
Freelance writing is very challenging. You need to put in consistent efforts to get remarkable results. Being a freelancer means you have to always hustle, always look for opportunities, and always talk about your work. You got to promote, network, pitch, and engage.
This kind of commitment puts many people off. There are days when you wish it was like any other job and you could just show up. If you feel that’s you then you are better off working as a writer with somebody else instead of freelancing.
Understand the commitment and dedication it requires before you leave your full-time job or say no to other opportunities. I have worked a full-time job and managed freelance writing and my freelancing projects suffered because my attention was diverted. Right now, I am doing a full-time course and it is still a struggle to manage my freelance work. However, I do it because I love my work and I am committed to showing up every single day.
As a freelance writer, you gotta promote yourself. Shameless self-promotion, plugging of work, engaging on social media, networking, and publishing every where is just non-negotiable. Social media is an amazing tool to connect to readers and promote your work. The more people know what you do, the more you can access clients and opportunities.
You can even offer to guest post or write blog posts for somebody else, that way providing links to your own blog or website. Use every tool in your arsenal to gain maximum viewership and readers. I was really bad at promotion and talking about my work. I actively shied away from sharing my work on social media. One day, I shared a post I wrote on Facebook and within the week, I had 3 new clients! That opened my eyes to a new channel and the fact that you have to push your work because nobody else will.
There’s a lot more that goes into freelance writing but I feel these ideas are enough for you to get started and consider it seriously. Do leave a comment if you like the post and want me to write more blogs like this!