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If you want to become a freelance writer, there has never been a better time — just check out some of these freelance statistics.
More businesses than ever before are hiring freelance writers — it's a side effect of the fact that blogging and content marketing have become crucial to success for businesses of all sizes.
And, let's face it, freelance writers make it look easy, don't they?
Just sit down, write and get paid.
Becoming a freelance writer isn't as easy as it may seem. It takes more than deciding you want to get paid to write and then asking people to pay you to write.
To become a successful freelance writer requires a lot of work, strategy, and planning.
Steps to Become a Freelance Writer
Step One: Decide on your Services and Rates
Before you can start taking on clients, you have to know what kind of services you're even offering to those clients.
Start by deciding where are your strengths lie. Are you a stronger writer than you are an editor? Do you have a strong imagination for world building or are you more technical and data savvy? Do you think it would be better at a particular subject, perhaps you strong at writing blog posts For parenting websites or technical posts for marketing websites.
Whatever the case may be, take stock of your strengths And your natural abilities. Chances are, those are gonna be the first areas for you to try to freelance.
Another thing to keep in mind is the overall scope of most of your projects. If you for example, if you plan to write Blog posts for parenting sites, are there other services you could provide that are related to the scope of blogging? Graphic design, search engine optimization, marketing, social media scheduling, email newsletter writing, and editing all come to mind off the top of my head. Are there any others?
At some point in time, a potential client is going to approach you and ask you how much you charge for your services. And when that happens, you are going to try with all your might to think of a rate that is high enough to make it worth your time, low enough to keep the client from running away, and hopefully falls in line with industry standards. It's a lot easier to offer up a quote, or even just start the process, if you already have an idea of what types of services you even offer, what types of bundles you offer, and the rates that you have predetermined for each of the services.
Step Two: Build a Website
Chances are you've already heard of job sites and bidding sites where you can go and grab your first clients. You might have even been told before that you can make a good living using just those sites.
And it's tempting to try. After all, those sites have a built-in audience that is always looking for work to be done. People need books written, blog articles written, ad copy…the list goes on and on.
But, the most successful freelance writers have their own website set up outside of those job sites. It's not that they hate or refuse to use those sites, some of them still do use those job sites a lot, but they have learned that setting up your own website helps you stand out in a way that you just can't do on those job sites.
Having a website not only allows you to leverage search engine services like Google, but it also allows you to build your credibility and authority as a writer within your chosen niche, gives you a place to show off your talents and portfolio, and sets you apart from the competition because you are the only person there.
Step Three: Put Together Your Portfolio
If you've already taken on some clients and have some samples that you can include in your portfolio, great. If not, take some time here and there to gather or write up some samples and get them into a portfolio.
Your portfolio will help showcase your range and effectiveness as a writer to potential clients. It will serve as a place where they can evaluate your writing skills, determine if your voice is a good fit for their brand, and the results your writing brought to previous clients. So, besides writing samples, you'll also want to include any testimonials or case studies that can show how your writing will get results.
Step Four: Start Pitching
Freelance writing is booming as an industry, but that doesn't mean it's all that easy to break into. As a beginner, you're trying to build your reputation against people who have been writing for years.
A lot of people take this to mean that you have to lower your rates when you're new — but that's not true. It just means you have a lot of building to do before you're recognized as a freelance writer.
Established freelance writers don't just have a luxury of being able to charge higher rates. It's not as if there is a time limit that goes by before you can raise your rates. Established freelance writers have different advantages:
- They've already built up their authority within their chosen niche.
- They've already built relationships with companies and returning clients.
- They've already built a writing platform that helps new clients find them.
So, when you first decide to become a freelance writer, you'll need to work on building some of these relationships with potential clients. And that means getting out there and networking, pitching, and bidding. You can bid on new jobs at reputable sites such as Freelance Writing Jobs and ProBlogger.
Step Five: Invest in your Business
As a freelance writer, some investments are going to make sense:
- Better computer,
- Better file storage,
- Accounting software,
- Dictation software…
Any tool or app that can help you streamline and improve your workflow and productivity is going to be a good investment.
But there are other investments you will want to take a look at that might not be as straightforward, such as:
- marketing training,
- business training,
- writing workshops,
- training within your niche
Review your freelance writing business periodically and search for any areas that would benefit from focused improvement. Then put together a plan for making strategic investments that will help you improve that area.
It might feel like you need to go out and learn all the things right now — but don't. You don't have to. Trying to do that will only lead to burn out and overwhelm. So, start with the areas that will most directly affect your revenue: things like productivity, time management, and establishing your rates.
Step Six: Track Everything
One of the things that makes freelance writing so hard is that it seems so fickle. The best way to stay on top of how you're doing is to track everything.
Project trackers will help you stay on top of your clients' needs and workflows. Budget trackers will help you stay on top of your business expenses. Word count trackers will help you evaluate your productivity and overall time management.
Bonus Step Seven: Find the Right Niche
Is choosing a niche absolutely required for your to succeed as a freelance writer?
I know—you were expecting me to say yes since I have it set up as a bonus step. But the truth is, you can absolutely succeed without a niche.
However, choosing a niche can also sometimes make it easier to build up a reputation with a particular industry. Additionally, some publications only hire specialized writers rather than general writers.
Choosing a niche entails finding a smaller, more narrow focus in the market you're looking at. For example, maybe you want to be a freelance medical writer, or a freelance social media writer. To choose a writing niche would mean to focus your energies on projects within that narrower focus and bypassing any others.
And that can be a scary thought—especially when you don't have a lot of experience yet.
When you first start off as a freelance writer, you probably don't have very many opinions regarding the types of topics that you want to write about or the types of clients you want to take on or even the types of projects you want to do for those clients. You probably don't really have much of an opinion on whether or not you want to write blog posts for your clients or books, or whether or not you want to specialize in health and wellness or technology. And that's okay.
Choosing a niche should be something that you take your time doing so you can see what's out there and see what you gravitate toward. As you start to get more experience and you start seeing the types of clients and projects that you want to work with more often. That's when you'll find out whether or not choosing a niche is right for you and which niche you would like to choose.
One thing to keep in mind if you decide not to choose a niche, sometimes you can end up taking on projects that take you much longer to complete due to the added amount of research you need to do before writing — resulting in much lower income than if you just chose projects within your niche. So, if you do decide to stay general and not niche, be sure to build in the need for research into your rate card.
Does that mean you can only have one specialty? No, of course not. Take a look around my blog here; I write about several things:
- Creative writing
- Social media for writers
- Freelance writing / writing as a career
- Tools for writers
As you grow as a freelance writer, you'll naturally learn new things and be able to branch out into those niches. Until then, keep your focus on 1-3 topics that you know well — well enough that you can rattle off 700-1000 words in a few minutes.
Becoming a Freelance Writer takes Discipline, Persistence, and Constant Improvement
You might not be able to write from luxurious hotel rooms on exotic beaches right away, but freelance writing is definitely one of the few careers that can get you there, someday, if you work for it. The real key is not just in knowing how to write or in how to find clients, but in also making the time to build your freelance writing business as a business.
Establish your business goals and put together a roadmap for how you will get there.
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