How to start a freelance writing career

by Kate Hannon | 6 min read

Freelance writing can be a rewarding and lucrative career, but breaking into the business can seem overwhelming at first. However keen you are, promoting yourself, plying your trade and landing your first client can seem like an uphill battle. With our handy tips and tricks, however, you can get your freelance writing career underway and be writing for top-end clients before you know it.

Learn from the best

Before you start writing; read, read and read some more! If you don’t come from a journalistic background, writing for clients may seem like a good way to make some easy money. Of course, this isn’t the case and you’ll need to do a fair amount of research before you begin writing for either B2C or B2B clients.

Try reading various forms of copy to learn what works best in each format. These could be:

• Blogs
• Company newsletters
• Newspaper articles
• Technical reports
• Web pages
• Social media posts

Different types of content require different approaches so you’ll need to be familiar with how to write according to the type of format you’re working on. The limited character allowance for social media posts may mean the client requires short, punchy and catchy content, for example, whilst a lengthy blog post could need more detail, research and nuance. Once you’re familiar with the different writing styles required for these formats, you’ll be well on your way to launching your freelance writing career.

Identify your target market

A freelance writing career can be anything you make it, and it’s up to you who you want to work for. If you have certain expertise or have worked in a specific industry, you may want to focus on these niche areas. An experienced software developer may be able to write in detail about technological advancements, whilst a trained healthcare assistant may feel comfortable writing about medical issues.

Of course, you needn’t commit to just one specific area when you’re launching a freelance writing career. With a good grasp of language and grammar, you may be able to cover a wide variety of topics and work for clients from various different industries. Working across numerous sectors may increase the amount of work you’re able to pick up but you may feel more confident specialising in your chosen area. Decide what’s right for you so you have a good idea of how to develop your freelance writing career.

Writing for clients

When you’re building a freelance writing career, it’s important to remember that you’ll be writing on behalf of someone else. In most cases, clients will want you to write copy from their company’s perspective or to provide unbiased copy so you won’t be able to include your own opinions or give professional advice. Instead, you’ll need to understand their industry, their business and their needs.

Being able to write from alternative perspectives is crucial to building a successful freelance writing career, and it’s something that comes easily after a little practice.

Learn the lingo

Before you get your first brief, make sure you understand what’s being asked of you. When clients commission a freelancer to write for them, they may give very detailed instructions or they may provide a vague brief. However, most clients will have certain expectations so it’s important to clarify what the client works.

If you’re not familiar with relevant terms, such as ‘keywords’, ‘SEO’, ‘long-form content’ and ‘active voice’, it’s time to brush up on industry lingo. These days, most clients are looking for copy which can be used online, and this means providing content which satisfies certain criteria.

Whilst clients will want to entertain, inform and/or motivate readers, your content will often be used to boost their SEO rankings as well. There is a certain art to writing compelling content and satisfying complex SEO algorithms, so it’s good to have an understanding of what’s required before you take on clients. Although you won’t need in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of the internet in order to launch your freelance writing career, a basic understanding of how written content can work online is always useful.

Set yourself some guidelines

Launching any type of business can be all-consuming and getting started with a freelance writing career is no different. Of course, hard work and enthusiasm pay off when you’re starting a new venture but you don’t want to do too much too soon. Spend time planning your timetable, so you know how much time you can commit to your new freelance writing career and work according to those parameters.

It can be tempting to accept any work which is offered to you but clients won’t be happy if you miss your deadline, rush projects or submit work which is sub-par. Instead, decide how much time you can dedicate to your freelance writing career and only accept work which can be completed within that timeframe.

Build a network

When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, building a network of like-minded workers is very important. As well as providing advice, other freelancers can help you to feel less isolated and overwhelmed. If you’re working from home, for example, you may miss the camaraderie and support which comes from working in a team. By joining a network of freelancers, you’ll be able to learn from successful writers and access the support which might otherwise be lacking.

What’s more – connecting with other freelance writers could help you to get more commissions. Whilst you may be in competition with other writers, freelancers are typically generous and will happily recommend your services to potential clients when they’re unable to take the job on themselves.

With many people keen to set their own work schedule, freelancing is becoming more popular than ever. The opportunity to choose your own hours, create your own schedule and build your own client base is an increasingly attractive option for all types of workers and freelance writing enables you to work in any specialism you choose. With endless possibilities and unlimited commissions, why not start your freelance writing career today?

Main image credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Kate Hannon

Kate Hannon

A law graduate who is also qualified in digital marketing, Kate has over eleven years’ experience in copywriting, helping to launch the digital strategies of the many clients she has worked with. She provides specialist marketing services to businesses in the legal and financial sectors on a freelance basis and joined Copify in 2013.