There is no doubt that freelance writing is an attractive career prospect, especially in today’s digital age. Whether you are looking to supplement your existing job with some part-time copywriting on the side or to take the leap and work on a freelance basis full-time, the internet has made it far easier to find clients, to position and publicise yourself and to deliver work from any place – at any time! In fact, The Balance has found that one-third of America’s workforce now works as a freelancer – so you’re in good company!
However, the ubiquity of online freelance writing channels, content mills, freelancer ‘auction’ sites and other routes to placing clients and freelancers together also means that competition is higher. So you need a strategy to set you up for success! Here are our 10 top tips on how to get started in freelance writing.
1. Do your research
There are plenty of places to look for work, but the quality, reliability and pay on offer can vary widely. The Guardian has some great advice, and you can try looking at websites such as Freelancer, Elance or oDesk, as well as content sites such as Copify. There are lots of copywriting websites available, so assess and rank them carefully according to your own preferences and needs. Spend time too looking for freelance newsletters and portal sites where you can find clients directly. Elna Cain suggests looking at job boards, using your own website and working your own network for success.
2. Develop your own brand
As a copywriter, it is essential to know how to pitch yourself. This means clarifying your ‘offer’ as a copywriter. For example, is your background and experience better suited to corporate writing or geared towards consumer products? Can you write ad copy or are your more journalistic? Is your interest in ghostwriting or creating blogs for other people, or are you looking to immerse yourself in academic or technical topics, or to write longer e-books? Know your strengths and be prepared to pitch yourself into a niche as necessary.
3. Clarify your rates
The amount that you can charge as a freelance writer will vary greatly. Creative Boom suggests that £20-£50 an hour is a good ballpark, but it’s important to do your research and to know what others in the field are charging for similar work. Yes, agencies will charge a lot more for professional copywriters, but as a freelancer you simply can’t over-charge and expect to win the same volume of work – unless you are extremely well known and have an excellent reputation within your niche or subject matter area.
4. Build your portfolio
A great portfolio is an essential for a freelancer. Vicky Warren has some advice on using free platforms such as WordPress and Contently.Net. Highlight your best pieces of work and show a range that demonstrates your skillsets and knowledge areas.
5. Perfect your social media presence
As soon as you write anything, start promoting it through social channels such as Twitter and Facebook. It doesn’t hurt to share snippets from your day too, such as photos or commentary on interesting examples of copywriting or industry trends.
Social is important for promoting yourself professionally. Get onto LinkedIn and curate a strong online presence. Ask contacts to give you recommendations and reviews, create a powerful bio, link to your portfolio and then be active online – contributing to relevant discussions and building your network list. Once you’ve started to build that online network then…
6. Network offline
Research shared by Hubspot finds that 85% of job opportunities are filled via face to face networking and that 72% of hirers still value a handshake and a face to face meeting when it comes to offering work. This means that you need to get serious about attending industry events, talks, social occasions, conferences and other opportunities to meet people in the industry that could eventually be of use to you.
Meet everyone and remember that connections can be made in surprising ways. Always have your business card featuring a link to your online resume, portfolio and social media accounts and put on your best front – with a warm smile, handshake and readiness to converse interestedly and engagingly with the other people that you meet. This will make you memorable for all the right reasons and help to get you those early pieces of work.
7. Consider freebies carefully
When you are new to freelancing it can be worth considering doing some work for free just to build up your portfolio, especially if it is filled with academic or student content. But do this carefully because it is easy to end up exploited and doing too much work without compensation. Offer to write a blog post or piece of content for a friend with a business if you can then share it and have a recommendation from them to help your cause!
8. Create your writing habit
Ryan Robinson suggests creating a daily writing habit to ensure you a continually developing your skills and style. Aligned to this, take regular courses and embrace all opportunities to improve your writing, to flex your style according to topic and client, and to perfect your grammar and punctuation. Consider learning how to write in US English to broaden your work opportunities and research the industries that align to your subject matter areas so that you are always up to date and able to talk intelligently about the issues you will be writing about. An informed freelancer is always an asset!
9. Be professional
Busy clients have little time to find new freelancers and will readily welcome those who are on the ball, professional and able to manage their work tightly and to time and budget. ALWAYS deliver and aim to over-deliver. Delight your clients and you will find that they are inclined to use you on a repeat basis and to recommend you to others.
10. Last but not least… be patient
Very few things that are worthwhile in life come easy, so don’t expect a freelancing career to fall into your lap. You will need to work for it and spend time experiencing frustration and low-points until you begin to secure work. Many would-be freelancers never actually pass this stage and secure meaningful, valuable and repeat work at adequate volumes and half of the battle involves implementing your strategy and then committing to seeing the results of your hard work. Have faith in yourself, join forums and in-person groups of other freelancers for tips, peer-support and advice and remember that you WILL succeed if you are systematic, committed and ambitious in your goals. Look forward to that first freelance job – and may luck be with you!
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