Flashback to 2016 when I came home crying after a long, hard day in the office. My workload was too heavy, a colleague was being unsupportive, and I was working in a job I disliked just to pay the bills. A job that had severely affected my mental health, as well as my physical health. A job that didn’t suit me or my skillset, and made me feel worthless on any given day. I had to get out. I had to do something that I knew I was going to love. I had to take a risk.
I had to take the plunge into freelance writing.
Are you trying to kick-start your career as a freelance writer, but don’t really know how to get started? Are you wanting to escape the soul-destroying 9-5 office culture and do something you love in your own time and space? Do you have entrepreneurial flair with a natural passion for the written word? If you answered yes to all three of these questions, then you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s how to get started as a freelance writer.
1. Find your niche.
Sure, you can be an all-round freelance writer, producing content about all different kinds of things to all different types of publications. But, generally speaking, you’re not going to earn the big bucks this way.
How am I going to earn the big bucks, I hear you ask?
The trick is to specialise in a particular field, or niche. This involves choosing to focus on one or two subject areas that you’re particularly knowledgable about, or you have extensive working experience in. For example, my main niche is fashion, so I primarily write posts and articles for blogs and online magazines that specialise in fashion.
Find a couple of subject areas that you excel at, or even class yourself as an expert in, and market yourself in those niches. It is then, and only then, that you will start attracting high paying clients.
2. Launch a professional website.
Every serious freelance writer needs their own professional website. A website where they outline their services, and include writing samples, to help them attract prospective clients.
Every time you’re in talks with potential leads, you need a place where you can direct them that’s going to give them all the info that they need in order to hire you. Think about it: if you’re a HR Advisor working in an office, you’re not going to consider hiring a full-timer before you see their CV.If you're a freelance writer, your website acts as your CV, therefore it's got to hit the mark.Click To Tweet
I recommend becoming self-hosted with SiteGround, where you own and control all your content.
If you’re only just starting out, still working a part-time job for solid income, or simply don’t have the funds required to launch a professional website at this stage – then perhaps you can begin with a blog. A blog specialising in your niche(s) will not only show that you’re a dedicated writer, but it serves as a portfolio if you’re lacking in client samples. (If you’re not sure how to start a blog, here are my top 7 tips.)
3. Market yourself in your niche.
Great – you’ve picked your niche(s), you’ve launched your website (or blog), and now it’s time to start marketing yourself.
In the early days of freelance writing, it’s quite challenging to market yourself as no one knows who the heck you are! Thankfully we’ve got social media these days which makes things so much easier!
Follow influential people in your niche on Twitter, spread the word of your new business on Facebook and make sure your LinkedIn profile is optimised for when prospective clients come a-searchin’. It’s all about reaching out to as many people as possible by utilising as many social networks as possible.
If you’re an avid Twitter user, try using the hashtags #amwriting and #freelancewriting to connect with all those other freelance writers out there. Comment on people’s tweets, promote your latest blog posts or new client work, and get your name on the social sphere. Trust me, it’s worth it.
4. Build a kick-ass portfolio.
We’ve already touched upon what you need to do if you don’t have any client samples to show future clients. (Friendly reminder: you work on your blog and link client leads to that instead.)
Another option is to guest post on other people’s blogs or write articles for online magazines to use for free. Sure, it’s time consuming and you’re not going to get any money from it – but it serves as a sample. And that sample might win you a client who you ultimately get paid to work with, which means that (technically) you will receive money from it eventually! Makes sense, right?
It also couldn’t hurt to write some articles in your chosen niche in your spare time and then simply send them to clients as samples, as and when they ask for them.
The more you write, the more you’ll have to show for it – and the more likely you will gain paid work from having these samples. #nopainnogains
5. Perfect your pitch.
What the heck is a pitch, I hear you ask? Something to do with singing in key? Nu-uh. No siree.
A pitch is what you send out to prospective clients to ask them to work with you. It’s essentially a cover letter, but for freelance writers, and usually sent in email form.
Your pitch needs to basically outline why that particular client should work with you. What is it that makes you a good fit? Why should that client choose you over someone else? What is it about your skills and past experience that makes you suitable for that specific job? It must be relatively short, it must be snappy and it must pack a punch.It's so important to write a pitch as you, in your writing style, to show that you're not a robot. You're a human being with personality and a unique voice.Click To Tweet
Also make sure that you pick a few of your best writing samples to include in your pitch, because clients want you to show them how awesome you are at what you do.
(If you’re really struggling and need some help perfecting your pitch, Elise Dopson offers an amazing course called “Email Templates for Freelancers”. In this course, Elise caters for every possible problem that you could come across as a freelance writer whereby you need to communicate with your client efficiently and effectively. There is also a blurb above each template explaining the situation where you’d need to use the template which is extremely handy. You can enrol here.)
6. Find those freelancin’ gigs!
Once you’ve picked your niche(s), launched a website and/or blog, are continuing to market yourself in your niche(s), have built a portfolio and are in the process of perfecting your pitch – its time to go find those gigs, bruva!
If you’re new to being a freelance writer, you probably don’t know where on earth to start. But, luckily for you, I wrote a whole blog post on it (here).
To summarise, you can use freelance marketplaces like Guru and Upwork until you get going. Apply to stuff through freelance job boards like ProBlogger, BloggingPro and Freelance Writing Gigs. Send cold emails out to relevant businesses and publication in your niche(s). Use social media to spread your freelance writer love. And network offline too. Duh.
You can do this through word of mouth by telling friends, family, and anyone else you can get your hands on, all about your new business. Maybe don’t stuff it down their throats, but you know – talk about it as much as you can without people wanting to hurt you.
Whether you’re at the very start of your freelance writing career or have already completed some of these steps – make sure you keep hustlin’, freelance writer. Having your own freelance writing business is hard work, despite what some people might think, and it takes a lot of drive, perseverance and determination to be able to keep it going.
But, if you’re serious about it, then there’s no reason at all why it wouldn’t work. And, trust me, when it starts to get going it’s, undoubtedly, the best job in the world.
(Please note that this post contains affiliate links which help to keep my blog running.)