Becoming a Freelance Writer for the First Time

Updated on April 6, 2018
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Robyn has been working as a freelance writer for seven years now. Additionally, she has postgraduate qualifications in the medical field.

Becoming a Freelance Writer: Where do You Even Begin?

First and foremost, I would advise dedicating a day or so to creating:

  • Your first website, with its own domain name
  • A CV or resume
  • Sample writing pieces

Having all of these assets on hand before you begin applying for positions and pitching for work allows you to demonstrate your skills to prospective employers. When you have no previous work experience, they need to see some evidence of your ability to write.

When you have your own website, you can contribute to your blog regularly. If they need to see evidence of your writing work, you can point them in the direction of your site. Eventually, with enough work and a consistent approach to SEO, you'll draw in organic traffic that'll allow clients to come to you.

As for a resume, this just makes sense anyway. Alongside listing your 'real world' experience in certain areas, you can highlight any useful degrees you may have. For example, when I began writing I had a degree in Medical Sciences that gave me an advantage when pitching for jobs in the healthcare field.

Finally, almost all clients will want to see writing samples. Having a selection on hand means you can automatically provide evidence of your writing abilities.

Now, Dive into the Magical World of Being a Freelance Writer

Don't be Afraid of Carrying Out Pro Bono Work

While I would never advise writing for free all of the time, there are some famous online publications that will help boost your reputation. For example, you can start writing for sites such as HubPages to demonstrate your expertise in a particular area.

From there, start looking for trade publications, and sites such as the Huffington Post to see if you're a good fit. Don't write for free all the time, but do see if you can demonstrate your reputation online as much as possible.

Figure Out What Your Niche Is

While I produce articles on an array of topics, I chose my niche from the beginning to strengthen my expertise in that area. Additionally, finding a niche allowed me to establish my authority there, giving me a topic where I could command higher rates.

How you do this is up to you. You might have a passion, a qualification, or an inkling of an interest that drives your decision.

Some ways to decide can include:

  • Looking at where you work now and seeing if it gives you a strong background knowledge of a topic
  • Seeing which qualifications provide you with a good standing in an area
  • Figuring out what you feel passionate about and deciding you want to write about it

However you choose, always remember that you might not write about that topic exclusively for a while. Or, you may find that you don't enjoy it as much as you assumed and that you would rather write about something else. The point is, you should have a niche or two that you are willing to develop your expertise in.

What Makes a Good Niche?

Your niche is the slot your writing fits into neatly. Ideally, it's an area you love. One you will write about passionately and with ongoing dedication.

Have you ever sat back and felt as though a certain topic is your calling in life? If so, let it be your niche.

It doesn't matter how small the niche is, it's there for you as a creative outlet. Even if you're struggling to find work in that area, you can choose to self-publish instead.

Start Turning to Freelancing Sites

While I wouldn't recommend making freelancing sites the cornerstone of your career, I do believe that using them at the start is okay. Unfortunately, a lot of clients on sites such as Odesk, Guru, and PeoplePerHour will try to get as many words out of you as they can, for the lowest price.

So, I will repeat this: know your worth. Sign up for such sites, create a winning profile, and begin pitching for projects. My formula used to work like this:

  1. I would look at the number of 'free' pitches I could make each month on each site.
  2. From there, I would divide that number into the number of days I worked each month.
  3. If I could make a certain number of pitches per day, then great! I would do exactly that and see if I could secure a job. If not, I would limit them to a certain number per week.
  4. I would continue repeating this process to build my reputation on the sites and develop higher-paying clients.

When you use freelancing sites in a bid to become a freelance writer, look to see if any of them let you take proficiency tests. If they do, take them and prove your worth.

Are You Prepared to Sell Gigs?

Website
Gig Pricing
Earning potential
Fiverr
From $5 upwards
Significant, if you put in continuous effort.
PeoplePerHour
You determine the price.
Fairly stable, if you advertise via your own site or blog.
GigBucks
From $5 upwards
It can fluctuate, owing to the site not being as popular as the others.
The secret to selling gigs is to start out with low prices. As your gigs gather in popularity and the demand exceeds your ability to complete work, you can raise your prices to secure higher-paying clients. Sell via a variety of sites to boost your e

How to Promote Your Gigs and Freelancing Services

Make Sure You Pitch Consistently

If you want to work as a freelance writer, it's a good idea to accept that projects can fall under without warning. Additionally, if you want to increase your income, you need to seek out higher paying clients yourself. They won't just offer you a pay rise.

My advice is to pitch consistently. Look at popular job boards, which I will detail below, and reach out to projects you believe you can fulfill.

Popular Freelance Writer Job Boards for Finding Work

I've already mentioned some of the popular freelancing sites where you can find work. However, their poorly paid task to high-paying opportunity ratio is high, which means you should start reaching out to other sources.

Some of the more popular freelance writer job boards include:

  • The ProBlogger Network
  • Media Bistro
  • Flex Jobs
  • The Morning Coffee Newsletter

Pitching regularly to sources you find through these job boards is essential if you want to break away from race-to-the-bottom fees.

Creating a Freelance Writer Lifestyle That Helps You Keep up the Pace

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a freelance writer is assuming that life won't be hectic. You can stop it from feeling hectic, but like any other field of work, doing so requires work.

So, to make sure you don't fall into a bit of overly busy despair, here are some of my favorite tips for making sure you generate a peaceful lifestyle that helps you keep up the pace:

  1. Create your own working space; Your working space doesn't have to be an Instagram-worthy office. It might be a comfy space on your couch, a corner of your kitchen, or, like Carrie Bradshaw, a space on your bed. Wherever it is, make sure it's where you feel comfortable working.
  2. Create lists and stick to them; Each evening when your working day ends, produce a list of what you need to achieve and stick to it. Ticking tasks off doesn't just mean you satisfy your clients; it helps you boost dopamine production too.
  3. Find an app that boosts productivity; One app that my partner and I use is called Forest. You set a timer and during that time a tree will grow. If you use your phone, the tree dies and your forest fails to thrive.
  4. Set timers for each task and jump between them; Not so long ago, I read a book by a woman called Carrie Green who has grown her small business idea into a blossoming empire. One of her best suggestions is to set a timer for each task. It creates a sense of urgency, encouraging you to do more, faster. And, even if you don't manage to finish, refreshing your brain by moving onto something new helps maintain engagement.
  5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate; One of the first things I do when I wake up in the morning is to drink the glass of water that's by my bed. Why? Because my brain's cells are in need of replenishment, so it gives me the chance to give my productivity a head start.
  6. Get enough sleep; Most humans can function on between seven and nine hours' sleep. Historically, people have managed far more on far less. For example, Margaret Thatcher was famous for getting only four hours' sleep a night. However, you need to aim for what works for you. Keep a sleep diary and figure out which time limits make you most productive.
  7. Take breaks and get outside; Getting away from your working environment prevents social isolation. It also allows you to fill your body with Vitamin D, which contributes towards enhancing your focus.
  8. Learn when to break up with a client; If a client is becoming particularly demanding or you don't feel as though the way you operate is conducive to one another's needs, break up with them gently. Remember, you need to maximize your profits, and if you guys aren't getting along well you'll both suffer financially.
  9. Take a rest when you need to; Hey, freelancers get ill too! It's for this reason that I recommend saving money for those brief periods when you can't function in your job. Pushing yourself to work through an illness results in sub-standard work, and you may end up sicker for longer, resulting in a reduction in productivity.

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