How to Start Freelancing in 8 Easy Steps
Do you want to launch your freelance writing career?
Are you ready to get work done without answering to a boss?
There are a lot of friends who see me post about my business on Facebook, and they often send me messages asking things like, “If I wanted to become a freelance writer, where would I even start?”
Freelancing isn’t simple.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to become a freelance writer.
It’s not all about binge-watching Netflix and lounging around in your pajamas all day.
It takes patience, consistent hard work, and dedication in order to the ball rolling and build up a steady flow of clients. If you put in the effort and time, you really can make a living from this business.
I earn more than I ever did working for someone else, and I couldn’t be happier. Not only does freelancing give me the ability to set the schedule that works best for me, but I also don’t have to deal with people not being understanding of my speech impediment.
If you’re ready to enter the world of freelancing writing, be your own boss, and work your tush off to market your business, here’s a checklist of things you can do to get things going.
Below is my actionable checklist for those looking to become a freelance writer:
Step 1: Figure out which topics interest you the most
Some writers have a passion for sports, while others love to write about fashion, politics, or weddings. The first thing you need to do is identify your key areas of interest.
Don’t restrict yourself to just one area, though. Make a list of at least ten areas (or niches) that interest you the most.
Step 2: Think about which topics you know the most about
This list may very well overlap with the first list, or it may not.
Make a list of things you know the most about, even if you’re just pulling from personal experience and not professional experience.
For example, maybe you used to work in a clothing store, so you know a bit about customer service and retail.
Did you work in a veterinary hospital? You probably know a good deal about pet health and proper animal care.
Have you ever worked in a bank? Then you very likely know quite a bit about financial services.
If you’ve just graduated from college, regardless of what your major is, you probably know all about student loans, student housing, finding jobs, building your resume, and frugal living.
Writing about what you know is one of the best ways to convince your first client you’re the perfect writer for the job.
Step 3: Consider what type of writing you would most like to do
Freelancing writing encompasses all sorts of paid writing: Articles, blog posts, website copy, brochures, white papers, case studies, product descriptions…the list goes on.
It’s best to narrow down your favorite types of writing to just one or two specific types of freelancing writing to start out with.
From there, you can do a bit of research to figure out which type of writing would prove to be the most lucrative.
Poetry, personal essays, and reviews are tough to make a living at. Novels take a long time and aren’t the most reliable sorts of income. The same goes for short stories or flash fiction.
Articles, blog posts, marketing materials, case studies, white papers, government contracts, web pages, business plans, and resumes – these are the types of freelancing writing that pay the best.
Smaller publications and businesses tend to have a smaller marketing budget, which mean less pay. However, starting out with the smaller ones will give you a great jumping off point so you can build up your portfolio.
Step 4: Set up your website
If you’re completely new to freelance writing, what are you supposed to use to attract your clients?
Create a blog under a header tab, or link to a blog you maintain on another site. While this isn’t completely necessary (unless you’re interested in paid blogging jobs), it gives your clients an idea of how well you write, your voice, and how well you know your niche.
Your website should also have a strong Home page that immediately tells visitors what type of writing services you offer, a compelling About page, and easy-to-find contact information.
Demonstrate the value you have to offer your new clients. Do you always make your deadline? Are you reliable? Do you have impeccable grammar? Do you have impressive research abilities? Make this obvious!
End it with a call-to-action that tells your prospects exactly what you want them to do next: Get in touch with you.
Your About page tells…well…a bit about you. It should tell your clients what types of writing you like, what subjects you’re passionate about, and what drives you. Show your clients there is a person behind the keyboard.
Don’t tell your whole life story. Avoid telling them that you’re brand new and just started freelancing because you lost your job (I’ve totally seen this).
Let your clients get to know a bit about you, and get a feel for your personality. This helps you connect with clients on both a personal and professional level.
Keep your copy short, sweet, and to the point. Be concise, and show you understand the value of the saying a lot while writing a little.
Keep your personality, voice, and branding consistent. Figure out how you wish to convey yourself, and make sure it’s clear throughout all of your content and on every page of your website.
As you build up your collection of clips, create a portfolio page and keep adding to it.
Step 5: Set up your social media accounts
I’m talking about your business accounts, as opposed to the ones that have pictures of your cat and nights out with the girls.
You’re going to need a professional Facebook page, Twitter, Google+ account, Pinterest account, and LinkedIn Profile. These will all help you connect with prospective clients, increase website traffic, and network with others in your freelance writing niche. You will be able to share your content, build your industry authority, and post links to articles relevant to your niche.
Having a strong online presence is important for freelancing, since it shows clients what you are capable of. Many of my clients contact me because they have found the work I write and promote across my various social media accounts.
Since I have started promoting my blog posts more, I have seen definite spikes in website traffic. My client roster has been super full for this month, and I already have an almost-full schedule for next month as well.
As you’re working to build up your roster of clients, you need to start building up your online presence.
Step 6: Learn to market your services
It’s important to learn how to market your freelance writing services without turning to content mills. You can use job boards and freelance bidding sites, but be selective about it. Keep in mind the fact many Craigslist ads are scams, or will drastically underpay what you are worth. Be mindful.
Step 7: Determine your rates
Figuring out what your freelance writer rates can be a bit tricky at first.
If you have absolutely zero experience, one of the best things to do is to do some small projects pro bono. This will help you build you portfolio and collect testimonials.
Once you have several clips within your chosen niche, start taking on paid gigs. When you first start out, you can try asking your prospective clients what their budget is, or what their regular article rate is (if you’re pitching to a trade publication). Try to get them to tell you their rate, so you can figure out a ballpark.
You should also figure out how much you need to earn per month to make your financial goals. See more about that here: Freelance Writer Rates: Are You Charging Correctly?
Come up with a rate. Bid more the next time around. Keep doing this until you’re earning a decent wage for your financial needs and goals – you want to shoot for at least $50 an hour starting out.
Step 8: ALWAYS have a contract in place
This is one of the most important parts of any freelance business. You absolutely must have a contract in place for every single client you work with. Without a contract or written agreement, you run the risk of your client flaking out on payment or claiming you said you would work for free.
ALWAYS have a contract in place.
** BONUS TIP **
Having an effective logo design is a great way to set you and your brand apart from your competition. If your budget is a bit tight, you can create logos in Canva or PicMonkey.
Alternatively, GraphicSprings offers a neat Women Entrepreneur Initiative that provides free logo design to female entrepreneurs and freelancers. (Sorry, guys!)
There really isn’t one simple, cookie-cutter formula for becoming a freelance writer. Everyone has a different path they have taken, and everyone launches their career differently. It really is a process full of trial and error.
The best way to get started? Put yourself out there and try.