There are several reasons as to why people get into freelance writing. Sometimes it’s to explore alternative work or to earn extra money. Others yearn to start their life as a digital nomad. Whatever your reason, freelance writing can be a fun and lucrative job. But starting out can be confusing and intimidating.
Is it okay if you’re completely new to writing? How can you find places or people who will pay you for your words? Read on to find out how to get into freelance writing and kickstart your writing career today.
1. Find your niche(s)
What is a freelancing niche? And why is it important to find one when you’re starting out?
A niche is basically a specialised area of writing, which can involve writing in certain fields, such as medicine or beauty, certain types of content (blogging, emails or case studies, for example), or by audience (like business to business writing or business to customer pieces, alternatively known as B2B and B2C).
Depending on the industry or companies you write for, niching may not be so important. However, nobody can profess to know everything in every field, and it is much easier to become highly proficient in simply one or two areas rather than in twenty or thirty. Employers are also much more likely to hire someone they see as an expert and who can offer interesting insights through their knowledge, rather than someone who writes shallow information, even if they are also effective writers.
Not sure how to find a niche? Think about your hobbies, your likes and dislikes. Could you write for crafts supplies companies perhaps, if you are an avid knitter or seamstress? Or perhaps you worked formerly in a shipping company, in which case you could look up trade publications on shipping and write articles for them. There are several ways to dream up niches that you would love to write in or that are easy or profitable for you.
2. Write killer portfolio samples
Writing samples are essentially your resume. Most companies who know anything about writing know that diplomas and degrees are not a surefire guarantee of whether you can write to suit their needs. Of course, that is not to say that a degree in communications and media is worth nothing, but it’s not really something you absolutely need to get started in freelance writing. In fact, it can help if you have experience in an unrelated field as you can write for companies in that area.
It is usually enough for beginner writers to have three to five strong samples for each niche they want to write in, although of course good portfolios usually hold anywhere from ten to twenty pieces. Published works go a long way towards convincing employers of your credibility, but many will also take a chance on newbie writers if they like what they see in your writing samples.
3. Think about your audience
Who are you writing for? This is an important question that can often determine the tone and direction of your writing. Writing an article for pre-teens about puberty is going to have a very different vibe from a blog post about refinancing loans for working adults.
If you’re writing a more generic article (such as gardening in the spring), and not quite sure who your audience could be, it can be helpful to simply imagine a target audience profile, and use that as your starting point.
4. Write to convince
To write is to express. And usually, you want your audience to come around to your point of view, even more so if you are writing in a corporate setting, as that usually entails writing to promote a service or product.
When you’re writing for someone else, think about what the end goal is and how you can write to achieve that. Don’t forget to finish off with a call to action, whether that is simply buying into the product or for the reader to set out on a journey of self-improvement.
5. Find places to write for
Probably the most important thing to do, once you’ve got your samples in place and an idea of what fields you’re going to write in, is to look for sites or publications you want to write for. Almost every field you can think of requires content of some sort.
Are your works lengthy, informational articles? Perhaps think about corporations which require white papers or educational blogs, like finance companies or medical supplies businesses. Or maybe you enjoy snappy, conversational writing that draws in people and gets them all excited about a product or concept? Consider writing sales emails or landing pages, both of which can also be very lucrative.
Content writing companies are a great resource for beginner freelance writers, as there is a wide variety of assignments that you can choose from, and which cover many niches. You can flex your writing muscles and try your hand at exploring exciting new areas.
6. Set up points of contact
You will need a place to put up your portfolio – usually a website or blog. This site should list all your contact info so that employers can easily reach you if they like your work. Aside from that, you can also look into maintaining a social media presence and spreading the word about your services. Think about sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, and be sure to update them with frequent and relevant information about yourself and your work.
Another vital point is your email – if you’re still using a childish email address from your teenage years, it’s time to change it. Professional email addresses usually comprise solely of the writer’s name.
7. Hone your skills
It’s always a good idea to continue refining and practising your skills even after you’ve started to land jobs. There’s no such thing as achieving perfection; instead, you should always strive to make your content as accessible, creative and up to date as possible. Which means changing with the times.
Read up on the various forms of content that are in high demand, and practise writing those, if your goal is to earn a living from writing. It can also be instructive to follow certain writers and to check out how they craft their work.
But ultimately, sometimes the answer to how to get into freelance writing can be, well, to just jump in headfirst and start! Learning on the job can be more instructive than endless backstage rehearsal.
Companies like Copify can be great for writers who are just starting out but are skilled and efficient at what they do. It offers writing assignments across several fields, so you can write not only in your niches but also have the opportunity to try out other topics. Check out the application process here.