You’ve read the articles, you’ve seen the proof, and you’ve listened to the hour-long podcasts on how to get started as a freelance writer.
But deep down you know you’re trapped in the frustrating cycle of taking steps to start your business as a real professional freelance writer. And make a living from it. I get it, you’re wondering….
I don’t know if I can ACTUALLY do this.
Where am I supposed to find clients to write for?
I don’t even have a degree, how can I win high paying clients with more experienced writers getting all the great opportunities?
You know what, the truth is that almost every freelance writer starts out thinking in the same way. But let me tell you this, it is possible. And you CAN do this.
The good news is that this is an excellent market to get into and there is no shortage of work. If you’re willing to put in the work and the effort to move forward because you have made up your mind that you’re in this for the long haul, then read on. I want to share with you 7 tips that will help you to start your freelance writing career, and get you positive results quickly.
1- PICK A NICHE
The first thing you want to do is pick a niche. This is one (among many) important things to do as a new writer. Picking a niche means that you’ll want to choose what industry you would like to write for as well as define who your target clients are. What will you specialize in? Ask yourself these questions:
- What type of work will I do (blogging, website content, white papers, video content script writing, articles)?
- What industry will I write for (healthcare, education, technology, retail, etc..)?
- Who are my target clients ( B2B, B2C, solopreneurs, bloggers, small businesses, and so on)?
When I first started out I had absolutely no clue where to begin. But I eventually decided to go into the digital marketing niche (which I love!). But it’s funny that I would have never thought of myself writing about digital marketing trends.
A great place to start is, to begin with something you love already. Or you can write for an industry in which you have a good amount of experience. And no, I’m not referring to a degree you obtained in college (although that can be extremely helpful). Think more broadly.
For instance, if you spent several years in the hospitality industry like I did, maybe consider using the skills and knowledge you acquired to write in that industry.
Were you a teacher? Think about how you can use that experience to educate others and offer meaningful help. Every person has some background they can leverage to break in. What’s yours?
Becoming a freelance writer is a step by step process. Read these steps if you are new freelance writer.
2- CREATE YOUR WEBSITE
Many new writers usually end up asking the question, “Do I have to have a website?”
I’ll give you the simple answer first. No.
You don’t have to. But let me tell you this, it will be very hard for professional clients to take you and your freelance services seriously. And you can’t blame them, can you? I mean, where are they supposed to find you online?
A website is like your landing page that tells clients more about who you are, the services you provide, and is supposed to actually serve you well as you establish yourself. Not create more stress.
Here’s a complete step by step process to help you create your own website.
So before you decide to skip putting one up, give a chance to share why it can be beneficial to your business growth and productivity.
- It serves as a great place where you can direct prospects to learn more about you and your services.
- It can help you appear more professional, credible and capable (prospects want to be able to know they can trust you). Saying you’re a professional writer is one thing, but declaring it to the world and actively marketing yourself online can tell prospects this is not just some part-time hobby.
- A website serves as a great all-in-one-place to house your portfolio, client testimonials, is the unique way (I have found) the allows you to really brand yourself.
- It saves you the time of going in detail to each inquiring prospect about your services, pricing figures, and other questions they may have about you.
- It’s more effective to send prospects there quickly.
- It’s more effective when prospects and clients can refer back to your website on their own time and not some random piece of paper they may have lost with all your information on it.
- If a client like your services and wants to refer you to a colleague, they can easily email that prospect a quick link to your website.
If you’re one of those people whose stomach turns when attempting to do anything technical, there are some options for you that I think will put a smile back on your face. Let me explain.
You can choose to hire someone to build your website for you. And it doesn’t have to cost you your rent money either. If you don’t have much to spend now, that’s fine.
Check out Fiverr. There are people who offer a multitude of services including website creation, and the prices are as low as $5. Make sure that you look into the ratings before you hire anyone and give them a detailed description of what you want to be done.
Do It Yourself
Lastly, you can try to do it yourself.
This is what I did. At first, I doubted my ability to create one that looked even halfway decent. Especially when I looked at other professional sites from other freelance writers.
This is a great skill to have because what I have found is that many clients actually enjoy working with writers who can do a little more than just writing. For instance: knowing how to publish a client’s content in the back-end of their website, having knowledge of good SEO tactics (not keyword stuffing), knowledge of different themes and at least the basic plugins is more valuable to clients than you might think.
This is essential if you are trying to land work rewriting the content on the different pages of your client’s website. Professional clients aren’t interested in holding your hand in order for you to get the job done. They are looking for someone that has a ‘Get it done’ attitude.
Make sure to include basic pages (Home, Services, Hire Me, Portfolio).
The stronger your skill set, the better you will look to prospects. This will also help when it comes to pitching (as we’ll cover later on).
3- CREATE GREAT SAMPLES
Having samples will make you appear more credible and help you gain your prospect’s trust. And the main things that any prospect wants to see is how you write. They’re looking to find out if based on what they see, you’d be a good fit to write for them. When it comes to creating samples, there are several options.
You can also try Udemy For Learning New Skills and get the master at freelance writing. There are a number of free and paid courses to help you.
Are you using Grammarly? It’s an online free tool to handle the basic grammar and notifies you for any spelling mistakes too. It’s one of the finest grammar checkers. Check out the tool here and sign up using the free version.
If you love using it, enjoy the best premium version. Undoubtedly, premium version covers all essentials including grammar, word usage, sentence structure etc.
Helpful: Top 21 Freelance Job Sites For Beginners Who Want To Work From Home
Used Old Samples
Using past samples is a great option to get started quickly. If you have any old pieces of writing from college, your school newspaper, work you may have done at your previous place of work, or any other piece you feel is your best work, use it! Put it into your portfolio.
But keep in mind, if it doesn’t demonstrate your best writing ability, it may not be worth it to showcase it for prospects to hire you.
If it’s not the best, that’s okay. Go along with the next option…
Create Your Own
In my opinion, creating your own samples is an even better option than using older samples.
Why? …Because you have the opportunity to tailor it to clearly reflect the type of writing you’re getting into.
But on the other hand, creating your own from scratch means you have more power to present clips that will shine, simply because they’re relevant.
So how do you create your own?
After you have identified your niche, that’ll help a lot. But let me use an example.
If your specialty is B2B (Business to Business) writing for industrial manufacturing companies, you could create a sample on something your target client would be likely to publish on their blog.
You could pick a specific product and help your readers by explaining more about it (How does it work? Who is best suited to use it? Does using it save you time and money in any way…).
Do some research into the type of content that is already being published in your niche to get a good feel of what you can write about. Make sure, you produce quality content to be used as a sample. Here’s a guide on creating perfect content to get maximum shares.
Then write up a blog on it and publish it as a sample. If you don’t have a blog, you can use LinkedIn Pulse and/or Medium (which are platforms that will publish your articles instantly for free).
Then you have a fresh clean sample that will be more attractive to potential clients and also, will help in building your freelance writing career.
4- LEVERAGE SOCIAL MEDIA
Whether or not you already have social media accounts already set up, what I am about to tell you is critical.
The reason I suggest creating a social media account is that research is showing that more and more people are spending their time on these platforms (Facebook in particular).
Thing is, you’ll succeed if you go about this the right way. Here is what you need to do.
- Set up the social platform you want to use to promote yourself and your services online ( Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest…).
- Next, customize your profile to make your services clear based on who you are (freelance writer) and for what niche you specialize. This will make it super easy for prospects to identify who you are.
- Make sure to add a picture of yourself so it’s easier to connect with you and you come across as personable.
- Make sure to put For Hire or Currently taking on new clients. Otherwise, prospects will not know.
- Also, make sure to put a link to your website on all of your social media profiles. When you make it extremely easy for clients to contact you, you have a better chance of that happening.
The more specific you are, the better.
Being specific makes it easier for clients to know at a glance that writing is not just a hobby, but you’re a professional.
So be very specific. If you remember one thing, keep this in mind, Every point of contact a prospect has with you needs to confirm more in their minds that you are a professional.
Your message needs to be clear across ALL of your social media platforms and on your website.
Required Reading: 40 Plus Free Online Courses To Grow Your Online Blog And Business
5- START PITCHING
Once you have your website platform up complete with your portfolio samples and you’ve set up your social media accounts, you can go ahead and start approaching your target clients to offer your services.
There are several approaches you can take:
- Apply at job boards. There are some that pay pretty decent for a new writer. Grab the ultimate guide to create a profile on job board sites like Upwork.
- Cold calling
- Paid guest posting (this helps with getting you more exposure and with income)
This link has a list of places to get you started finding work.
You’ll have the best advantage of landing a writing gig if you personalize your pitches. It’s tempting to think that if you send you 50 applications each day that you’ll likely land a gig soon, right?
But your chances are actually lower if they aren’t personal, and you send out the exact same pitch to each publication…trust me they will be able to tell. And they won’t be able to connect with you because you’ll be in the same pool as all the other writers who drew up a generic pitch in 2 minutes and rushed to send it out.
Rather, you want to take the time to look at the company, review the details of the position, and sell yourself well.
Here are some key things to remember:
- Address the person receiving your pitch by name (NOT dear editor or blog owner). It shows carelessness and a deep disconnect.
- Explain where you came across their ad.
- Explain why you would be a good fit. What makes you stand out from other writers?
- Include why you’re the most valuable writer to take on the position and how you will benefit the company.
Related ==> 5 most simple tips to get new freelance clients
6- MARKET YOUR SERVICES
Once you’ve built your website and started marketing yourself on social media, there are some additional things you need to keep doing to keep your business afloat.
Even if you’ve managed to land a few gigs, avoid making the mistake of becoming so excited that you neglect to continue your marketing efforts. This is a HUGE no-no. Trust me. Marketing yourself is something you will always have to do as long as you’re in business.
Can you imagine the CEO of a large Corporation like Target of Best Buy telling their marketing team, “Just quit marketing, we have enough customers to last us awhile? Our marketing efforts can die down for a while”? Okay, I know it sounds funny, but only because you and I both know that will never happen, right?
No matter what your profession is, you have to be willing to put in lots of work to market your business.
I’ve heard of freelance writers who lost most of their clients all around the same time. Clients that were supposed to be long term, and she didn’t see it coming. It’s not to say that this happens often but you have to understand that the workload is often unpredictable.
For writers, it’s no different. One of the best habits to develop early on is to stay productive when you have no clients. And in the same way, try to be just as productive when you have several projects booked.
Related ==> 27 Best Freelance Services To Offer From Home
7- SETTING GOALS THAT LEAD TO SUCCESS
What motivates you? During what times of the day are you most productive? Find out, and make it a goal to establish a working schedule that fits well for you. When you set clear goals for your business it truly helps you to stay more productive.
What I do is I have a daily “quota” that I want to hit every single day. It includes:
- Number of pitches to send out for guest posts
- My goals for my own blog (ideas, publishing schedule, and sharing)
- How and when to follow up with prospects
- How much time I will spend on job boards ( job boards take up about 5% of my marketing time).
- When I will go on social media
- Reminders to share my new posts on social media across all platforms
- And many other tiny details that would drive me crazy if I kept them in my head.
Like any company, you need to have set goals and a clear marketing plan. I’m sure by now you’re still in shock at how incredibly challenging it is to get your blog content noticed.
Trello is a great tool for helping stay organized (and it’s what I use). If you’re a visual learner, this will probably be your go-to tool.
When you write down your goals, all you have to do then each day is focus on doing (not thinking about what needs to be done).
TO SUM UP
So we’ve discussed the ways that you can get started on your journey as a professional freelance writer. You should have a good sense of direction so that you can move. Once you take action, you will begin to see results and find it easier to keep going because you’ll see all the progress you’ve made. So don’t give up!
Even new freelance writers can have success quickly. Just be persistent, goal oriented, and market your services a lot.
As you keep learning and growing in your niche expertise and landing more work, you’ll get further and further ahead in your career.
And please share your thoughts, comments, and questions down below. I’d love to hear how what progress you’re making.
This is such a great resource. I’ve had my blog for a year or so now and want to start branching out into freelance writing. Thanks for providing all this great information!
Ariel Ayangwo says
I’m glad you found this to be helpful. 🙂 Freelance writing is a great career choice, but the common hurdle is just not knowing where to start.
Unfortunately it took me three years before I decided to finally jump in. But when I did, I knew I’d made the right choice.
All the best to you as you start your career 🙂
Lisa @ The Meaning of Me says
Very timely and helpful. Great resource. Thanks!
Ariel Ayangwo says
Awesome! I’m glad you found this article helpful. Knowing the basics can help anyone get started quickly as a writer.
My favorite point is #7, Having a clear plan you follow each day will take you a long way. You’ll see results pay off quickly if you have a plan and stick to it. 🙂
Great tips, I know a number of people who could use these!
Arfa Nazeer says
Thank you, Tee. I’m glad Ariel has written this post which is bringing value to aspiring freelance writers.
Great tips. Thank you.
Ariel Ayangwo says
You’re welcome Doreen. Glad it was helpful. 🙂
Ariel, thank you so much for this great article! I am journalist and I would love to start my freelancing career, so this article really give me a great starting point! ????
What a jampacked post! Very helpful. Thanks so much for these tips 🙂
Rae | Mindful Rambles
Ariel Ayangwo says
I’m so glad to hear that! As long as you take one step at a time it does get easier and you WILL make progress. Just have a plan and stick to it.
The thing that helps me to keep moving forward is to learn from those who are getting good results. I also take time to learn the best practices and sharpen my skills so I can stand out and do great work for my clients.
Trust me, if you focus on DOING you’ll get further in your career instead of waiting until the time “feels right” to get started. Keep investing in yourself to be the best and you will be. Arfa also has some great tools and resources here on her site (so dig in!).
Ariel Ayangwo says
I’m a big fan of jam packed articles myself. I love getting a wealth of free information that helps me to move forward to reach my goals in life.
Once you start building your business (even if just slowly at first), you’ll can start to see amazing results that encourage you to keep going. It’s just more scary in the beginning. 🙂
I have much to do…
This is a fantastic resource! At my 9-5, I manage 2 blogs in a relatively obscure field. I write a handful of pieces each month for each site, but I rely heavily on pieces from steady freelance writers. Each of them is a full-time freelance writer who put the work into researching the best blogs in our industry, finding a contact (me!) for each site, and pitching their writing & ideas to me. The biggest things I can recommend to freelancers looking to get in touch with digital content editors like me would be to 1. Have the balls to reach out – you’re probably not asking them to do you a favor, you’re doing them a favor by providing them with great content to work into their rotation! 2. Have good samples in an easy-to-read format in your first email to them – links to past articles works just fine, but make sure they’re in a similar industry as the blog you want to write for. Your past articles are the only legit indicator of your future writing potential, I don’t pay attention to anything else! 3. Be willing to write solely for exposure and experience when you start out – you can start charging once you have a few publications under your belt, which is something that you can accomplish very quickly! 4. Be extremely organized and prompt – don’t rely on editors to manage you, you have to be able to manage yourself. If you’re seen as unreliable, they won’t ask you to write for them again.
Arfa Nazeer says
Thanks, Robin for sharing some tips here for freelance writers who are struggling to get clients. This seems editors pay high attention to good samples. I absolutely agree with the willingness to write for experience and exposure rather than expecting high rates from the very beginning of their freelance career. However, writers use multiple free tools to get themselves organized and productive. Robin, I appreciate your time for writing this helpful comment and I’m sure this is going to help other readers too.
Arfa Nazeer says
You just have to take the first step. All the best 🙂
Ariel Ayangwo says
Thanks for sharing this with us! This insight is extremely helpful since we all wonder at some point what goes through the mind of the editors and other decision makers we pitch to.
I would also agree that working for free or for less at first can be worth it, mainly if you can get your piece in front of your *target* audience. Guest posting on blogs in your niche is a great way to do this if the blog gets a lot of traffic.
Getting more exposure and putting out work in your niche, really helps you to establish yourself as the industry expert. Especially when your work is high quality and brings lots of reader engagement.
Awesome resource! I’ve been toying with the idea of freelance writing. It’s not my expertise, but can be a fun way to make some extra money, especially on the side of blogging! Thanks so much for sharing these tips.
Ariel Ayangwo says
Glad you found these tips helpful! Since you’re already blogging, my guess is that you’d enjoy freelance writing too. Even if you don’t do it full-time, it’s cool because you learn a lot, you get to work with awesome people, and yes…make money while you do it!
Ann I prolazydad.com says
Thanks for this post Ariel. Starting tomorrow, I’ll have to strictly follow a daily quota for my online busines. Thanks. 🙂
Really great tips. I pinned this for later, but I enjoyed seeing the tips that you gave. I’d really like to get some writing off the ground, and this seems like a good way to make that happen.
Ariel Ayangwo says
You’re welcome Ann. I’m so glad you found it helpful. 🙂
Awesome blog post. Lots of great tips. I think many people underestimate the importance of social media and have a professional looking website. I created mine with wix and it was the easiest thing ever, no coding or skills needed.
Michelle C says
Great article! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m still in the early stages of building my blog so I’m trying to learn everything I can. This is really helpful.
Arfa Nazeer says
Thanks, Michelle! I’m glad the post came at the right time.
Arfa Nazeer says
I agree, Dawn! Many people just don’t take the very first step of creating a website and showing themselves.