Starting out as a freelance writer – what you need to know

by  Bradley Williams | 6 min read

Choosing to become a freelance writer marks an exciting turn in anyone’s career and there are certainly plenty of opportunities on offer. You get the chance to write about things you love, work with new and exciting clients and, best of all, you get to be location independent. It’s also worth noting that you don’t necessarily need to be the best writer around, but will instead need to continually focus on your skills and get better over time.

However, with ample opportunity and plenty on offer, this begs the question: “why isn’t everyone doing it?”

Well, the reason is that it’s not necessarily easy and there are plenty who have sought to become a full-time freelance writer but have failed along the way. So, to best prepare you for the road ahead and to give you the best chances of success, here are 8 things you need to know when starting as a freelance writer.

1. You won’t earn big money straight away

As with any profession, it will take time for you to build up a sizeable portfolio of high-quality work and to find clients who like you and how you write.

What this means is that you can’t, from the outset, expect to start earning lots of money like some of the more successful writers do. Instead, you need to put in the work and build up a reputation that then qualifies you to be able to earn the more lucrative writing jobs.

2. You are entering a community

As mentioned, starting out as a freelance writer is an exciting career path that many have chosen to take and, as such, you are not alone in your journey. Instead of viewing all these other writers as competition, you need to instead view them as a community from which you can interact and prosper.

There are plenty of groups on social media, as well as blogs that offer advice on freelance writing and how to get ahead. It is recommended you become active in those groups and contribute to them. You will be surprised at what you learn and potential clients you can pick up along the way.

3. Focusing on your niche is the best way to get ahead

Though you don’t necessarily have to write exclusively about one topic, it does help to have certain key industries in which you specialise in.

Saying you can write on anything and everything doesn’t really appeal to potential clients who would rather pay more to know they are hiring someone who is focused on and passionate about a few subject fields.

This means making your portfolio relevant and focused to certain niches and then targeting clients who fall within those categories. Keep up to date on those topics by reading regularly on them and engaging with like-minded individuals.

4. You will need to be active in your field

Say your passion is health and fitness and you want to write more on that subject because it genuinely interests you and you have a wealth of experience. To attract clients and make yourself stand out to the people that matter, you need to be active within the health and fitness industry.

This doesn’t mean going to the gym three or four times a day but instead means creating social media accounts where you share your views and content that is relevant to health and fitness trends. Engage with others who are interested and engage in meaningful discussion with them. You never know who you might strike up a relationship with, and you don’t know where that could then take your career.

5. You need to be organised

For some, being organised is something that comes naturally but, for others, it takes awareness and practice. Well, the truth is that, as with any sort of freelance work, you will be responsible for all of your day-to-day activity such as schedules and timekeeping, client outreach, billing, updating client blogs and updating your own blog. You need to be able to keep track of all your daily tasks and responsibilities to make sure you stay ahead of your workload and don’t let any clients down.

6. You need to develop a thick skin

Getting more clients, especially when first starting out, is a slow and painful process by which you will face continual rejection or simply be ignored. However, this happens to anyone starting out as a freelance writer and you need to be able to push through. Don’t get disheartened by continual rejection because, if you follow the correct steps and put in the work, writing jobs will come your way and you will earn the freedom you want.

7. You will need a portfolio

Before anyone is going to pay you for your services, you will need some sort of portfolio to show off your work. You can either build a PDF document full of your articles or provide links to guest posts or blog posts you’ve written. You could even create your own website that showcases your work in a professional and straightforward way.

What this means is that, if you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, you may need to start a blog or guest post for free in order to build up some examples of what you can do.

8. Job boards and marketplaces are crowded

Some freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Freelancer can become crowded; the same goes for daily job boards as well. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find work but, instead, means it may not be ideal if you’re looking to depend on these long term.

To give yourself the best chance of success, you need to make sure that any applications you write stand out from the crowd and that you are one of the first to apply. Or use a content creation site like Copify to have access to a range of jobs every day.

These points are in no way meant to discourage you from starting as a freelance writer but are instead there to put you in the best position to succeed. As with any job you pursue, it will require commitment and hard work to get where you want to go but, once you get there, you will thank yourself for making the change and any necessary sacrifices along the way.

Main image credit: DVIDSHUB
Bradley Williams

Bradley Williams

With a background in digital marketing and website development, Bradley is a copywriter with a special interest in SEO. A keen traveller, the freelance lifestyle suits him perfectly as he is always on the road! Conveniently, Bradley has also built and maintains his own travel blog and is interested in health and fitness.