How to Become a Freelance Writer
What it Takes to be a Freelance Writer
One of the greatest feelings in the world for a writer is when you get paid for your craft. Getting paid brings you one step further from being a hobbyist and on track to becoming a professional. If being a professional writer is one of your goals then there is nothing more obtainable than becoming a professional freelance writer.
Freelance writing isn’t for everyone. A writer must have patience and not be so willing to call it quits when there is no response to your queries and pitches. And he must have thick skin when those queries and pitches get no response or get denied. But if you are passionate and persistent, organized, and self-disciplined with great time management skills, then you have the makings of a great freelance writer.
A freelance writer is someone who actively seeks out writing opportunities to provide a regular income. It’s not the same as being a novelist or a screenplay writer even though those types of writers share many of the same qualities. A freelance writer takes on several projects from multiple clients, works on strict deadlines, and must be able to communicate ideas with a masterful grasp of his language.
Everyone has an Interest
Define Your Interests
Make a list of all the things that interest you. It could be politics, business, marketing, religion, sports, celebrities, or even something recreational, like roller skating. Try to come up with a dozen different interests. These will be the areas you should focus on while just starting out. These interests will allow you to focus on the topics you are passionate about.
Why You Should Have Your Own Freelance Writing Website
Why do you want to be a freelance writer?
Dip your toes in the water… don’t jump into the deep end
Before you start sending off queries and pitches to potential clients and editors, it would be in your best interest to have your own writer’s website and preferably one with a blog. A blog will show any potential clients that you are persistent with your posts. It shows clients that you write consistently and on topics with strong or interesting ideas.
You should also be using your social networks to connect with other writers and editors or professionals in the industries that you have a passion for writing in. If you are writing on interesting topics and using techniques to make your posts go viral then you will get a lot of shares and a lot of opt-ins to your mailing list. Yes, you must have a mailing list and keep it growing. A good proportion of a freelancer’s income will be generated from his mailing list because the people that sign up for your list are the people that will keep you on the radar for potential gigs.
This is where the patience comes in handy as one of the top characteristics of a great freelance writer. It takes time to build a list but even with as few as 500 subscribers, you can start generating a livable wage. And also, it takes time to build a decent portfolio, or body of work, to showcase to potential clients.
Practice what you Pitch
Research the publications you want to submit content to and keep your pitches brief and relevant. Make sure you double and triple check your language and communication skills because grammatical errors and misuse of language will cost you dearly in this industry, especially in your initial pitch.
Network with as many industry professionals as you can. Even if these connections are not the ones that do the hiring, they can sometimes be helpful on collaborations or even as a pair of second eyes while you perfect your pitch
Work From the Comfort of Your Home
Freelance Writing Pay
White Paper Markets pay will vary depending on several factors including length, the subject, and the amount of time it takes to write. Typically, companies are paying between $1000 and $3000 but some higher end projects can run as high as $14,000.
Grant Writing Markets pay both at an hourly rate or with a flat fee and vary depending on the lead time to gather facts and prepare and the total time it takes for the finished product. Hourly rates vary by experience of the writer but range between $50 and $200. Flat rate fees also vary between $1500 and $12000 but also depend on the type of grant source: foundation, corporation, federal, or state.
Copywriting Markets pay much higher but they also require more in depth research into the industry you are going to write for. I’ve seen pay for this type of freelance writing in the range of $1000 up to $25,000 for a single piece. It is best to start out by pitching to local businesses but only after you have a few samples under your belt.
Magazine Publication Article Markets vary greatly in their pay and expectations. You can earn anywhere from $10 for a 300 word article to over a $1000 for a 2000 word feature. It all depends on the publication and whether it is local, national, or international, and also on the number of their readers. This is why it is important to research the publications you want to submit to.
Best Freelance Writing Markets to Get Started In
Writing White Papers - Typically, a white paper is a report that gives information or a proposal on a topic, product, or service. They are used to show how to solve a specific problem and also to show that a client’s product or service is better than his competitors. It can normally take between 24 to 48 hours to prepare and write a white paper with an ideal length of 6 to 8 pages but no longer than 12 pages.
Grant Writing – This refers to writing a grant proposal or submission to request funding from an institution such as a government agency or a foundation. Proposals will have to be focused on the mission and the interests of the funding organization. The average turn around time on a grant proposal is 4 to 6 weeks but many Federal grants can take up to 3 months to research and prepare.
Copywriting – This refers to any type of content that is drafted for the purpose of advertising or marketing. The draft is meant to persuade a consumer to purchase a product or to influence the reader’s current beliefs. Drafts vary in length depending on what it takes to persuade the reader. This is the highest paying market for all freelance writing so it also requires the highest amount of knowledge. The majority of copywriting gigs will be for online content so having a good knowledge of webpage design and search engine optimization would be beneficial.
Magazine Publication Article Writing – This refers to any article writing that you intend to submit to a print magazine. This is the kind of writing that most writers dream about but never pursue. This is where you aim to get a byline as well as get paid. You need to research the publication that you intend to submit content to and then send a query letter to the editor. Each publication will have its own rules and requirements for length and style of writing.
Breaking into freelance writing isn’t that difficult if you come at it prepared. Having a small body of work and a professional looking website are great tools to showcase to potential clients. Also, your body of work in your portfolio doesn’t have to be something that was drafted for a paying client. You use it as your calling card. Learn how to build an email list. Be consistent with your engagements with your social networks. And practice how to query and pitch ideas. The more you practice the more confident you will become. Soon you too can call yourself a professional freelance writer.