Freelance writing can be a fantastic and fun career, with plenty of freedom in the way you manage your life and your time. It does, however, have a bit of a reputation for being hard to break into. One of the reasons for that is that there’s so much advice out there on the internet – much of it conflicting – that it can be difficult to know who to trust and how on earth to get started.
The other difficulty is that there isn’t just one way to get your freelance writing business going. We can’t give you a neat and tidy checklist that works for everyone, where if you follow all the steps in order and tick everything off you’ll have the freelancing career of your dreams in 90 days. Sadly, that checklist doesn’t exist. It can’t, because there are so many different paths into the writing business – as many different ways as people who want to do it.
You could look at that as a negative thing. You could get stuck on the fact that it’s not neat and tidy, and all sewn up in a bow. Or you could re-read that paragraph above and take away the huge positive that if you really want to write for a living, there is a way in that will work for you.
1. What do you want to write?
One of the best things about a freelance writing career is the huge variety of things you can write and people you can write for. If you’re bored with what you’re doing or want to learn something new, then there are so many more options out there to choose from. When you’re looking at how to break into freelance writing, the first thing you need to do is decide what type of writing appeals to you, and what type of companies you want to work for.
So, what do you want to write? Blog posts like this one for different companies? Magazine articles? Travel blogs? Business writing, like web copy and white papers? Long form sales copy letters? Technical writing, such as maintenance manuals? The list really is endless.
What topics are you knowledgeable about or good at researching, and what do you enjoy writing? You could choose a niche and only write finance articles, engineering blogs, or books on pets, or you could choose to be more of a generalist.
Then consider what sort of companies you’d like to write for. The big corporates are often the ones with the huge budgets, but does your style of writing fit with what they want, can you adapt to their tone, and will you be happy forcing your writing style into ‘management speak’ if you’re more of a chatty, ‘write as you speak’ blogger type?
Startups can be great fun to work for and highly appreciative of your writing skills, but do they have the budget to pay your going rate?
Ideally, what you want is a good balance of interesting work that you enjoy and will want to keep doing from companies that have the budget to pay.
At first, you may need to take work that you don’t enjoy quite as much in order to get started, bring in testimonials, and more importantly, money! But eventually, you should be able to shape your freelance writing business into something that suits you down to the ground, where most of your jobs are the type of writing you prefer to do on topics that you enjoy.
You can read more about the different types of copywriting in our blog post.
2. Start where you are
You could spend 3 years taking a technical writing degree before applying for tech writing jobs, or you could start off writing on subjects you already know you can do now to bring in money while you learn on the job, get those all-important testimonials, and build up your portfolio and experience, while taking a degree part-time.
It really is up to you but starting now with what you have will get you earning money and building your business a lot quicker.
If you don’t have any experience or really don’t know what you want to write, try signing up to a site such as Copify, where you can find a variety of job types on different topics for a whole host of companies. You’ll gain experience, find out what jobs you enjoy doing, and start to build your testimonials and your confidence.
Why not check out Copify’s guide on how to become a copywriter?
3. Talk to other writers and follow their work
One of the best ways to learn is to follow what successful freelance writers are doing. They’ve already done what you want to do, and if you keep reading and learning from them, you can shorten the time it takes to build your own successful business by avoiding their mistakes.
Check out our blog on the top copywriting experts to follow.
Don’t be scared to chat to other freelancers and build relationships. Join some writers’ groups on Facebook, read the posts and learn from them, and comment when you can to help out other writers. It’s a great way to learn, you’ll feel a sense of community and know that you aren’t on your own, and as your reputation grows, you may even get referred work when other writers have too much on.
Here are three groups that you might find useful:
This is a paid option, but you could also join Carol Tice’s Freelance Writer’s Den. It’s around £20.00 per month, but the forums are highly active and incredibly helpful, and you can get advice from Carol herself on your website and your pitches. She also includes a whole range of courses inside the Den that are perfect, whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been writing for years.
The Den isn’t open all year round, but sign up for Carol’s newsletter from her other site, Make a Living Writing, and you’ll be notified when it’s open. You’ll also learn a great deal from her site for free, so do take the time to browse and learn.
4. Build your portfolio
This is where it can get tricky, because if you don’t have previous writing experience, how do you get a portfolio to show potential clients?
Well, there are some solutions to that, too:
- You could start a blog and use your posts as examples of your work at first
- You could guest post on other people’s blogs and include those in your portfolio. Check out Kissmetric’s guide to guest posting or Quick Sprout’s video below on the subject of how to find guest posting opportunities.
- You could approach a local charity or two and write some posts for free to get clips
- Approach some local businesses and offer to do some work for a lower rate to build your portfolio. And if you’re wondering how to put a portfolio together in the first place, our article has you covered.
- After all that, it’s a case of learning to pitch and market to your ideal clients, then continuously learning to hone your craft.
Building a freelance writing business is a marathon, not a sprint, so buckle up and settle in for the long haul, creating a career and lifestyle that you’ll love.
Main image credit: Mabel Amber
Image credits: Kaboompics .com, Pixabay, rawpixel.com