Making a career as a freelance writer is a cherished dream for many people. What could be better than enjoying peace and tranquillity at home, typing up your words of wisdom with a mug of coffee and a biscuit or two?
Unfortunately, the reality of freelance writing can be completely different from this pleasing picture! As well as needing the right skill set to deliver the content your clients crave, freelance writers also need to be able to find work, make corrections, deal with payment issues and keep up with the paperwork required to run a business.
Our straight-forward guide tells you everything you need to know to get your freelance writing career off to a flying start!
1. Get your employment status organised
Before your fingers get busy on the keyboard, it is important you have the correct legal structures in place for freelance working. Usually, freelancers choose to go down one of two routes:
- setting up a company
Self-employed workers contract directly with clients. The simplest form of freelancing, self-employed workers are responsible for paying their own tax and NI contributions and filing annual tax returns. If you earn more than £1000 a year (or wish to pay voluntary NI contributions), you need to register with HMRC as self-employed.
When running their own company, freelancers are usually both directors and employees. Ideal for freelancers who intend to generate a larger income, or who may wish to employ staff at a later date, setting up a company is more complex than self-employment registration but may yield greater financial rewards in the longer term.
2. Choose your market
There are a few common ways of working when it comes to freelance writing:
This includes submitting articles, blogs or similar to agencies who might be interested in buying them). Non-commissioned work may ultimately enable you to command a higher fee, but payment is dependent on your article being accepted, and the market is competitive!
This may be requested by clients directly, or through a third party (usually an agency). Commissioned work is the most usual form of work for freelancers. Common routes through which to obtain commissioned work include:
Content creation sites: this is where writers sign up with a third party, like Copify. Subject to being able to write at the required standard, work is made available to copywriters, who are then paid for their endeavours. Deadlines are often short and pay can be poor, but there tends to be a reasonable quantity and variety of work on offer.
Freelancer sites: usually writers will need to set up an online profile and provide examples of their work. They then have to bid on the available projects. Often the higher paid projects are reserved for writers who have already generated a significant amount of feedback through previous work. Although freelancer sites do have plenty of work on offer, writers are competing in an international market, meaning payment can be extremely poor. There are also numerous writers in competition for the work, so finding enough to make a decent income can be a challenge.
Advertising: some copywriters create their own website, then market their skills through social media, backlinked blog posts and similar. This route can ultimately lead to more profitable work but requires a considerable amount of unpaid effort before results are visible.
3. Check you have the right skill set!
There is far more to freelance writing than simply being able to string words together! Not only should your spelling, grammar and punctuation be impeccable, it’s also important that you have the right skills to satisfy the following criteria:
Able to follow a brief for work
Freelance writers need to be able to adapt their tone, vocabulary, structure and content to suit the required audience. A variety of styles are normally required.
Able to meet deadlines!
Freelance work is a world of deadlines! If you fail to get the copy to your client by the time specified in the copywriting contract, you may well end up losing the client altogether. The abilities to organise your workload, prioritise and write to a high standard under pressure are all important to achieve success as a freelancer.
Rewrite if necessary
Freelancers frequently have to edit what they have created in order to meet client demands. Are you prepared to put in the slog if it comes to it?
Although some freelancers have the luxury of being able to spend hours on a piece of work, in most cases, the faster you can get good-quality copy created, the greater your income will be. If you can’t touch type, learn! Being able to write somewhere between 1000 and 1500 words an hour (or more!) of high-grade copy can go a long way to making your freelancing more profitable.
The odd typo or awkward phrase is commonplace but can send out all the wrong signals to your client. Taking a few minutes to read through what you have written and make corrections before submitting can greatly enhance the results you achieve.
4. Develop your niche!
If you have a specialist skill or interest, capitalise on it. If you have industry expertise or knowledge of a particular area, you can often attract more highly paid work in these specialist areas. If you don’t have an area of expertise, it may be time to find one!
5. Be realistic
Building up a successful freelance business takes time and effort. When launching your freelance career, bear in mind that it may be several months, or even a year, before you start to generate a significant income. For this reason, many people combine freelancing with their regular job for a while, to test the market and discover whether they are able to generate sufficient income from writing alone, or whether they will need to supplement it from other sources.
Freelance writing can be a rewarding, varied and exciting career that yields a lucrative income! By taking account of the points raised above, you stand every chance of being able to embark on a successful employment route that could absolutely transform the way you work.
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