Being a freelance writer seems like a dream job. You can travel the world and work from anywhere. You can write about the things you like and make money. Sounds great, right?
In reality, building a successful freelance writing career is all about really hard work, a lot of hustling, and time management. Oh, and learning a lot more than just how to write.
Here’s the deal. Every single day I write thousands of words. Most of my income does not come from writing but this is how I started. I went from being paid $1.5 per 500 words when I was 17 to a whole lot more if I write an article for someone now.
Being a freelance writer is a rollercoaster. For most people, it will be very hard. For some really talented ones, it will not be. And talent can be offset by hard work.
I cannot tell you exactly what to do in the sense that I cannot know what will work well for you. However, I can give you some tips that will always work and will always make your freelance writing career better.
Always Look For Jobs
You are your own boss.
This automatically means it is up to you to find new clients.
In freelance writing, there are times when there is huge downtime between projects. This is especially true when you begin your path on this career. Eventually, people will look for you. When you start, you have to look for clients.
You can search on all suitable online job boards. You can reach out to some potential clients. You can network with other people that do the same thing as you. There are always ways to look for freelance writing jobs.
Do NOT Quit Your Job
I am sick and tired of people telling others to quit their day job when they are unhappy or chase their dreams without a second thought. LIFE does not work like that!
If you are new in the industry, you are just starting out, one of the worst things you could do is quit your day job.
The correct way to do it is to start working as a freelance writer as your side hustle or as a part-time job. This is because there is a very high possibility you will not earn a lot when you start. Even if you do, there is always the possibility there won’t be projects in the future and you did not have enough time to save money.
Only after you have a steady flow of good jobs you can make this your full-time endeavor.
I saw this way too often. It even happened to me a few times.
As a freelance writer, it is a certainty there will be times when you do not have clients. And that time can last more than you expect. Even if you keep chasing jobs, you might not get them. What do you do then?
In theory, it is good to save 5% to 10% of what you are paid. In practice, this is not always possible. But, try to save as much as you can, especially in the beginning.
With every single larger project I had for a while, I just set aside $100 or $50. Then, one day, I found 2 rescue puppies. I took care of them and decided to keep them. Then some health problems appeared. Then I had to move and rent a new apartment. And not many jobs were coming in.
All of this cost a lot of money.
Fortunately, I had savings. And the extra costs did not affect me. I ran out of savings and only now started to be able to save again. But, if I did not have those savings, I would have been in a pretty lousy situation. Like no home for a while, no internet maybe, and I wouldn’t have been able to work, which would have made everything worse.
Save as much as you can! You never know when you need it!
Start Pitching Your Stories
One of the things that happen when you write a lot is you start to have ideas. Why waste them?
Look for journals, blogs, and newspapers that might publish what comes to mind. Find relevant stories for those publications and pitch them. After you get published once, it is easier to get published a second time. And so on.
One extra thing you should know about pitching is there are several publications that pay you to write for them. These 21 pay over $500 for a single article. And there are publications that will pay you handsomely in literally all niches.
Only Turn In Your Best Copy
Look. When you write on your personal blog, like I am doing now, you can get away with some errors. Or some creative writing mistakes. But when you want to get paid you cannot afford this.
When you turn in your work, it needs to be clean. This means you have to edit it and proofread it. Work on the sentences you write, look for incorrect punctuation, grammar, typos, and anything that might not be ok.
As an extra tip, proofread your work at least one day after you finish it. Preferably, do some other writing before you proofread. This will help you spot more errors and see great new ways to improve your content.
Start A Blog
What are you passionate about? No matter what it is, you can blog about it.
The great thing about having a blog is that you have your very own creative outlet. It helps you improve your writing and develop your unique writing style. At the same time, it helps you practice SEO and gain a following.
There is no downside to having a blog as a writer. And it will have a great impact on your freelance writer career. Potential clients might find you and people might simply hire you because they like your style.
Learn The Basics Of SEO
Nowadays, SEO skills are mandatory for a writer. There is a pretty good chance all articles you write will be published on a site somewhere. And every single article published online needs to be built based on SEO since clients want results.
Freelance writers that do not understand the basics of SEO will not get as many jobs as those who do. It is as simple as that.
Don’t Take Just One Type Of Assignment
Successful freelance writers will tell you to focus on one type of assignment and get really good at it. This is something that works but only in time. When you are new in the industry, this is not the right approach. In fact, you might not even fully be aware of what type of work you would enjoy the most.
It is always good to widen your scope. This will open the doors to more potential work. At the same time, if you do more types of jobs, you might even get more work from the same client.
I had several clients who initially only wanted content writing work done for their blogs/sites. After conversations, I received more work from them, like writing email newsletters, social media posts, and even white papers. It would have been impossible for me to do a good job if I did not do such tasks in the past.
Find Your Niche
To continue on the topic mentioned before, in time you have to find your niche. There will be several assignments in the beginning that will force you to start from zero since you do not know anything about the topic.
As you keep working, you figure out there are some jobs you enjoy more. Usually, there is a type of writing that you are particularly good at. For instance, you might find yourself enjoying writing about gaming topics or about traveling. What you enjoy is most likely what you should specialize in.
The big benefit of specialization is that you gain experience and you become more valuable as a writer for your clients. In fact, clients might start to look for you because of the reputation you create in an industry. At the very least, you will turn in better work for the niche(s) you are specialized in, which means you can get paid more.
Get Better At Time Management
The time it takes to write an article varies a lot from one writer to another and from one project to the next. Also, your clients might have different requirements, like the time available. You can find clients that let you write a 2,000 words article in a month while others want it done in a couple of days.
Because of the huge discrepancies that can appear, it is very important to budget your time in an effective way. You also need to be aware of how much time you need to finish a project.
As a rule of thumb, when you negotiate deadlines with your clients, try to give yourself more time. This helps deal with unexpected problems, like health issues or anything else. I always add one week to the deadline whenever possible, even more for bigger projects.
Nobody will be sad if you deliver earlier than the deadline. But, they will not like it when you deliver later.
Have Marketing Materials Prepared
When a potential client asks about availability and previous work, you need to be ready. At the very least, you need writing samples. If you have these ready, the conversation will be much more effective and faster. Also, client testimonials tend to help, even if the work can speak for itself.
This is where, once again, a blog can be a very valuable tool for a writer. If you have a blog with your articles published, the client can easily check your style and the quality you deliver.
Work On Your Thick Skin
The last thing I want to talk about is something that is rarely mentioned.
When you work as a freelance writer, you deal with many types of people. They will give you feedback. Sometimes, you will be required to make several edits. This can get on your nerves.
Negative feedback should never be taken as a personal attack. You are the writer. You need to match the voice and tone of the brand of your client. Also, you have to deliver the content that the client needs and wants. This means you need to have a thick skin.
Feedback is something that should help you. In time, you get used to it and to different types of clients. You can actually learn to anticipate the type of feedback that would be offered. And in time, you will notice that your work is accepted at a higher rate, without editing needed. This is just a part of the job and getting better.