How To Get Started As A Freelance Writer

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I started blogging in November 2013 and started doing the odd bit of freelance writing about a year later. Five years on, freelance content writing is my main source of income, and while the blogs do bring in a comfortable amount of money most of the time, freelance writing is my bread and butter.

I’ve been quite lucky to land myself a couple of long-term clients. I know that every week, as long as I haven’t slacked off in any way, I will be paid by them. This means that I don’t have to, at the moment, go out actively searching for gigs, but it’s by doing that in the past that have landed me this regular work. I know freelance content writing is a natural progression for many bloggers, so I thought I would share my tips and tricks on how I made that progression in the hope that it can help you. Ready?

Make sure your writing is up to scratch

There are lots of bloggers out there who are successful despite the quality of their writing not being great. That’s because with blogging, while good writing is important, it is not the be-all and end-all. You might be funny or engaging, you might have excellent social media presence or take some cracking photos. The rest of your ‘brand’ can hold you up if your writing isn’t quite up to par, but when it comes to freelance writing – you have to be able to write. Your spelling and grammar have to be shit hot and you have to be creative enough to make even the most boring of subjects seem interesting. Hallie Gay Walden is a college admissions essays coach and planner, and she understands the importance of making your writing stand out to make the very best first impression. If you aren’t sure if your writing is good enough, practice, practice, practice. Take a course if necessary!

Think about the sort of writing you want to do

Freelance writing covers such a vast range of work, including:

  • eCommerce listing and descriptions for Amazon, Etsy, eBay and other eCommerce platforms
  • Blog posts
  • Email newsletters
  • News site articles
  • Reports and case studies
  • Creative writing job

This is barely the tip of the iceberg, and I’ve done all of those, apart from creative writing. I’ve also written for local magazines and produced printed content for small businesses. Not everyone will want to do all of those – creative writing isn’t really my jam so I would probably pass up on those jobs, but sometimes, you have to do what pays the bills!

How to find freelance writing jobs

This is probably the hardest bit. Just like any other job, for every position going, there are countless other applicants. You do have to stand out a bit and have a bit of a thick skin to be a freelance writer because even the best writer will face rejection after rejection. One of my clients came about because the owner of a local agency saw my blog posts on Twitter (it’s all about those local hashtags!) and asked me to write content for a local business. Another one came about through working with the agency as a blogger. However, before I landed these ones, I had to trawl through job boards, and these got me started and making connections. Some of the job boards I have used include:

No matter what job board you’re visiting, there will be some jobs that are right for you and lots of jobs that you’ll think ‘what the actual f**k?’. When you enter the sea of job postings, it’s important to keep in mind one thing: do not apply for everything.

Choose a few areas that you have experience or at the very least you are interested in, and apply for those ones instead. You should also have a minimum rate you’ll be willing to accept. Setting these boundaries will help you to stay focused when there are so many options.

What to avoid when seeking freelance writing work

Job boards are superb places to search for work, as are networking sites such as LinkedIn. You can come across opportunities that can change your writing career forever, and the possibilities are incredible. That said, like anything, there are a few things you should avoid when you’re looking for writing work:

Paying to work with someone. This is super scammy (in the freelance world, that is) and it never ends well for the writer. You’re better off spending your time looking for legitimate opportunities.

Writing for free. There’s an exception for the times when you’re trying to get some visibility in your target market. High-profile guest posts can be really helpful for building your business, but be very selective about what you’ll write for free. “Exposure” won’t pay the bills after all!

Producing writing samples

This is a catch-22 situation that most newbie freelance writers find themselves in at the beginning. The jobs that you want to apply for requires you to have experience and writing samples, but you can’t get a job to get that writing experience or the samples because you don’t have said writing experience and samples. How the hell do you get around that?

Well, one of the best ways is to start your own blog. You can showcase examples of your best writing, almost like a portfolio. Of course, you can often find yourself publishing work for very little return, but at least you will have that content to show when you go for jobs. My blog was the catalyst for most of my freelance work, and it is still something I use as my main portfolio when I apply for work.

Some helpful tools

Finally, I thought I would share some of the tools that I use to support my freelance writing.

  • Grammarly – this is a professional grammar and spellchecker, so great for making sure that your writing is perfect
  • Google Drive – this is popular choice for word processing and sharing files with clients.
  • Wave – you will need some sort of accounting software to help you keep up to date with your finances. Wave is free and does the job perfectly
  • Asana – This is a workflow management tool to help you keep on top of all of your clients and projects. I’ve written a little about how I use this in my post about organising your blog life – I use it in the same way for my freelance work.

What are your tips for getting started as a freelance writer?

How To Get Started As A Freelance Writer

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