One great way to make a little extra money on the side (or completely replace your income – your choice), is to become a freelance writer. It’s outrageous, but as someone who majored in English it never once occurred to me that I could sell my writing online. I thought, “Sure, maybe if I wrote a book or something,” but the truth is that companies, and even individuals, will absolutely pay you for your writing. The trouble is figuring out how to break into the freelance writing biz. Luckily, it’s not difficult! Here are a few tips to get you started.
Just Get Started
Really, it’s that simple. A lot of people get caught up worrying about the “right way” to do things. “I need more experience.” “My website isn’t perfect.” “I don’t have a writing portfolio.” Let’s be real; no beginning freelance writer does. The important thing is just to get going. If you don’t, you run the risk of getting stuck in the “I’m not ready.” mentality forever. So, make the commitment to start and start now.
Find a Niche (or Niches!)
As a new freelance writer, what exactly do you write about? Fair question. The answer? It depends on you and what you know. Personally, my background is in English, but I also run a blog on entrepreneurship, running, and DIY projects. Everyone is knowledgeable about something.
You just have to spend a little time figuring out what your niche is. Financial management, entertainment, fitness, marketing, and career planning are all great examples. But your niche may also surprise you. Know a lot about living in a camper? That works too! Just write about what you know best, no matter what it is.
Start a Blog and BLOG
I already said that you just need to get started freelance writing, regardless of whether your website is perfect. This is true, but you do need, at the very least, a blog. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy; in fact, simple is probably better. The important thing is to have somewhere you can publish your own writing and direct potential clients. Blogging helps build a nice selection of writing samples – which you’ll need when pitching gigs.
Posting on your blog more frequently also brings in more readers and improves your visibility on search engines like Google. Best practice? I recommend shooting for at least one blog post a week, but if one a month is the best you can manage right now, that’s okay too! I’m also a big fan of WordPress. I think their site is well streamlined and easy to figure out for beginners.
Work with a Mentor
Finding a mentor, no matter what your profession, is really important. To be fair, you don’t have to have a mentor to get into freelance writing, but it’ll help. People who have been in the biz for a while can be incredible resources. Why spend hours sifting through articles about how much you should charge clients when you could just shoot a quick email to someone who’s “been there and done that?” Not only will it save you time and frustration, it’ll give you a partner in crime to collaborate with.
So where do you find a mentor? There are loads of freelance writing coaches out there. You could do a search and find plenty, I’m sure. Many may charge a fee for their services, though, and that can be problematic for some. I recommend joining a few freelance writing / publishing Facebook groups or forums instead. Get involved in the communities, posting, participating, and asking questions. There’s a good chance you’ll find someone you connect with that way.
Learn SEO Basics
SEO? What? Yeah, that was me too!
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Basically, it’s what you can do to ensure people find your writing on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Honestly, the computer science behind it can complex and getting deep in it isn’t really necessary. You should have a basic knowledge of SEO, though, and how to use it for clients. It’ll make you much, much more marketable and improve your own blog as well.
Generate a Killer Pitch
A pitch is to a freelance writer as a cover letter is to an average Joe. That is, it’s basically what you write to potential clients when you apply for their job postings. Good pitches tell the reviewer a little about you, offer evidence of your experience with the topic, and show your excitement about the gig. You’ll want to walk the line between personalizing your pitch for each employer and “copy and pasting” from ones you send previously. Ultimately, I ended up creating a “basic pitch” that I can edit to suit new topics as needed. I just save a copy and then I can use it the next time an opportunity in that niche arises.
Look for Jobs Everyday
The good news? People and companies are looking for freelance writers all the time. There are tons of jobs out there. The not so good news? They go fast. Sometimes, like freaky fast. The best way to land a writing gig is to make applying for them part of your daily routine. Many companies post in the mornings, so take half an hour to sort through potential gigs and apply right away. Most of the jobs I get are from more recent postings, so don’t waste too much time with the ones that are days or weeks old.
Here’s a really good blog I follow; they send out a pretty comprehensive list of recently posted jobs almost every morning.
Ready to Begin Freelance Writing?
Like I said, the best thing you can do is just get moving. Things don’t have to be perfect and the timing doesn’t have to be right. I know it’s easier said than done, but just jump in. The best way to learn is to make mistakes, so don’t be afraid to give it a shot right now. Go for it!
Need some advice? I’m happy to help! Please feel free to send me your questions and I’ll do my best to provide you with the resources you’ll need to be successful. You can also sign up for the Bowyer Writes Words For Writers newsletter to get more tips and updates!