How to Become a Freelance Writer: A Step-By-Step Tutorial
Let’s Begin With My Apology
I am guilty of putting the cart before the horse, and as we all know that is a practice that is destined for failure. In the past I have written articles about freelancing, and different aspects of freelancing, but I have never really taken you all through the procedure from start to finish. I will correct my mistake now.
So you want to be a freelance writer, eh? The idea of making some extra income appeals to you. You have some game with regards to the actual writing aspect. All you need now is someone to show you the way, someone who can take you from Step One to Step Twenty, a roadmap to success if you will.
Well here I am and this is it.
Unlike some step-by-step tutorials like How To Install A Water Heater, you do not have to do every step listed in this article. Freelancing is an individual pursuit, and I know many freelancers who do not do everything listed in this article but still make money. As with most of my instructional articles, take what you need and leave the rest for someone else. All I can do is tell you what worked for me; whether you follow my path is completely up to you.
This, then, is the procedure I followed when I began three years ago. This, then, is the method I used to build my platform and become an established freelance writer.
Say After Me: I Am a Writer
We will assume before we go any further that you have some writing skills. You understand and follow the basic rules of grammar and you are capable of writing a fairly interesting sentence. If so, it is time to establish yourself as a writer.
Look in the mirror and repeat the words in the subheading: I am a writer!
There, step one is done! How do you feel?
Now we have to convince the reading public of that fact.
Building a platform is a bit like building a house. We start with a foundation, then we frame, then we enclose until we have a finished product we can live in. As a freelancer, you will be judged by your platform, so our first step is building your body of work as a professional writer.
I began by writing articles on the writer’s site HubPages. The important first step was actually having some articles written that I could use as proof of my writing abilities. No matter what kind of writing job you apply for, they will ask for examples of your writing, and they are not talking about your personal journal from high school.
Continue to Build Your Platform
Next you will want to start a blog. There are many sites like WordPress that allow you, for free, to start a blog online. Setting one up is so easy that even I can do it, and a blog further establishes you as a professional writer rather than someone who just writes for a hobby.
After that you will want to set up a website. If your name is Sylvia Robinson, then you will want a website with your name and some reference to your profession….say Sylvia Robinson Professional Writing Services or something similar. This gives you an online face. Yes, most websites will cost you money monthly, but it is money well-spent.
Next you will want to get some business cards printed up with your writing company name. Business cards are cheap and quite possibly one of the best investments you will ever make. Spend the money now and make the money later.
Never Stop Learning
I never did and you shouldn’t either. When I was first starting out I devoured every article about freelancing that I could find. I acknowledged the fact that I knew nothing about the business and I set out to learn….and I’m still learning. Daily I read articles that arm me with more information and believe me, in this business of ever-changing online writing, knowledge is power.
Subscribe to several of the free online writer’s sites like Writer’s Digest and the articles will be sent to you daily. Pick the brains of other freelance writers. I have found freelancers to be quite willing to share what they know with newcomers, so don’t be afraid to ask.
It’s Time to Find Those Customers
You have laid the foundation and established yourself as a professional….remember, perception is everything early on…and now it is time to peddle your wares and actually make some money. Where do you find the jobs?
Well, they are everywhere. First, let me say this from the heart….do not grow desperate and sign on with a content mill. Your time is worth more than five bucks for 500 words. There is much better money out there but you need to go find it.
My first paying gig was for a site called Listosaur. I wrote a 1,200 word article about the Five Most Bizarre Events in Pacific Northwest History and I made $30. I was in heaven. Most of my early paying gigs were found online. There are numerous sites like Textbroker or even Craigslist where jobs are advertised. Pick and choose ones that appeal to you and apply for them. That’s how I got my start and that’s how most freelancers get started.
Once you have a few “clips” under your belt you can follow my lead and go out and find your own work in the town in which you live. Check with local newspapers and alternative newspapers. Check with local magazines and regional magazines. Check with local businesses and offer to write their blogs for them. Local businesses like dealing with local writers. You are a face they can meet in person, and you live in the community where they do business. There is money to be made if you are willing to take your business cards and go meet people.
Keep Building Your Network
Networking never ends for a freelancer, but I’m not talking about networking with friends on Facebook. No, I’m talking about making contacts in the business. I’m talking about meeting other writers, agents, publishers, editors, anyone who is in the industry and who might be able to help you in the future.
Of course you should be on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, but be there with a purpose.
Continue to expand. Move from local to regional to state and then try your hand applying for national publications.
How Long Does This All Take?
It never ends!
How’s that for a sobering statement? The process never ends. Freelance writers are continually making pitches and sending out queries. Freelance writers are forever juggling ten articles in the air at one time and keeping track of inquiries, responses and trends.
I have been doing this for three years now and I actually pay my bills on time, but that was three years of working eight to ten hours each day and building my business one brick at a time. There are no shortcuts in freelance writing, so if you are looking to make it rich quickly then dream on.
The good news is that it does get easier. Once you get that first byline…that first clip…then you have something to build on as you look for more work…but you need to do the dirty work first before you start to see some success.
I hope that helps you and I wish you good luck. As always, if I can be of any help then feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be more than happy to help.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”