Bill Hitchner has guided freelance writers along the murky paths of nonfiction and fiction, both online and off, for the better part of two decades. From tech megacorps to quarterly journals, from multimedia financial publishers to lone novelists, he’s assisted forlorn scribblers seeking to develop and hone their chops. Currently, he’s helping people get jobs by serving as an editor for Indeed’s Career Guide.
Figuring out how to become a freelance writer can be daunting at first. Freelance writing is a job anyone with the interest and dedication can do, but it is especially attractive for self-motivated individuals who want more flexibility in their day-to-day lives. As a freelancer, you can create content as different as articles, blogs, scripts, instruction manuals, technical documents, short stories and advertisements. If you are considering starting a career as a freelance writer, it is important to learn what the job entails and how to jumpstart your independent business.
In this article, I’ll share some tips for getting started as a freelance writer, as well as answer frequently asked questions to help you successfully begin your journey.
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What does a freelance writer do?
A freelance writer can produce different types of content for a wide range of clients across diverse industries. Some freelance writers specialize in a particular niche, while others may write in a variety of categories, including fiction and nonfiction.
They usually don’t have to work on location, so freelance writers communicate with clients via phone, email or video conferencing. Most writers work remotely on their own as independent contractors, but some may work in collaboration with other types of freelancers and full-time, in-house professionals.
How to become a freelance writer
Here are the steps you can take if you are interested in becoming a freelance writer:
1. Research the freelance writing industry
Before you start writing as a freelancer, it is essential to find out everything you can about the industry. Perhaps you’ve already started this step if you searched “How to become a freelance writer” and landed on this article. Visit the websites of established freelance writers and read their biographies, articles, blogs and other content.
Many writers share helpful information about what it takes to be a freelance writer, how they manage their writing businesses, what their writing processes are, where they look for work and how they set their rates.
To learn more about how to get into freelance writing, you can browse opportunities on freelance writing job boards. That will give you an idea about what kind of jobs are available, what employers expect and what current market wages look like.
2. Develop necessary business skills
Freelance writing is a business, and to succeed as a freelancer, you need good organizational and time management skills.
You should implement a set writing routine to work on your projects and have a clear system for keeping track of in-progress, completed and pending projects. Additionally, you must keep track of sent and pending invoices, received payments, writing pitches, job applications and client responses. Many writers also maintain a growing list of writing ideas so they never run out of topics to write about.
3. Ensure you have the tools of the trade
You will need a laptop or a desktop computer equipped with a writing program, a task management program and photo-editing software, since freelance writers often have to include images with their content.
It is important to set up a website to showcase your writing samples, a business email account, a phone and a video conferencing account. You will also need a bank account and an online payment service account to receive remuneration from your clients.
4. Understand current writing conventions
There are different conventions to follow for different types of writing. In online writing, for instance, it is typical to include helpful links to other articles and use headlines and short paragraphs to make content easily scannable. The way you write and format a blog is different from how you would write and present an academic paper.
You will need to know how to research an array of topics and cite your sources. It is also important to know how to catch readers’ attention and write in a style that will keep them reading until the end.
5. Work on improving your writing skills
Even if you are a good writer, there is always room for improvement. Read extensively. You can learn a lot about sentence construction, vocabulary, avoiding fillers, including evocative details and much more from reading other people’s writing. Read things relevant to your professional niche, but also read widely outside of it.
Write constantly and read your writing aloud. The more you practice, the more you will improve.
6. Decide on a writing niche
As a freelance writer, you can pursue business writing, speech writing, video script writing, newsletter writing, copywriting, technical writing, journalism and more. You can write about pets, babies, antiques, comics, health products, food, art, architecture, science—the possibilities are endless. But pick one or two topics that catch your interest and concentrate on those first.
Once you get established as a freelance writer and are better able to manage your time, you can expand the scope of your content production to other niches.
7. Create a writing portfolio
A well-presented and current writing portfolio is extremely important for your freelance writing business. Set up a professional website where you can upload and stylishly present your work samples. Depending on your preference and knowledge, you can include articles in a specific niche or content covering a variety of subjects.
If you don’t have professionally published clips, write the type of content potential clients will want to commission and showcase it on your website. You can also start a blog to compile clips about the topics that interest you.
8. Market your writing
Marketing your writing services is an essential component of being a freelance writer. Having a professional website and a blog will help with your marketing efforts, and creating content regularly will improve your ranking in search engine results.
On your website, include a page detailing the writing services you offer, a page informing clients who you are and how you are qualified to help them, a portfolio with your writing samples and a contact page to make it easy for clients to get in touch with you.
You can use social media and business networking sites to market your services by posting links to your latest published articles or blogs and providing updates on your availability. Social media also helps you stay updated on industry developments and job opportunities. You might also consider writing guest posts for other writers or hosting their writing on your site.
9. Find freelance writing jobs
You will find many freelance writing opportunities online. Visit job boards that update their listings daily and look for work that seems interesting and offers decent pay. Also, look for jobs on business networking sites and social media. Additionally, you can pitch articles to magazines and online journals and even send cold pitches to companies.
Before submitting your job applications or article pitches, spend some time researching the companies. It is important to check if they hire freelance writers regularly and to discern how writers have rated working with them. Also, review the content on their websites to get a better idea of their writing requirements. Customize each application to the job’s requirements and include the appropriate writing samples.
FAQs and key takeaways
Here are some key points to answer commonly asked questions to help you start a career in freelance writing:
I want to be a freelance writer, but I have no experience. Where should I start?
You can start with improving your writing skills, polishing your knowledge of grammar and expanding your vocabulary. Then, you can research the freelance industry and find out about the different types of opportunities available for an aspiring writer. Decide which type of writing you want to do and create a portfolio of relevant samples. Once you’ve done that, browse writing job boards, select the jobs that interest you and send out your applications. While many employers prefer experienced writers, they may consider hiring you if your writing samples are of high quality.
Can I be a freelance writer in different niches?
Yes, it is possible to write content that specializes in different subjects. Research the niches you want to work in and make a list of topics to write about. Create writing samples and upload them in separate categories on your website. Contact clients that focus on these different niche industries and include the links to your writing samples with your applications and cover letters.
What key skills should I have to start freelance writing?
Good writing skills, strong research skills and grammatical knowledge are all essential for getting started as a freelance writer. Knowledge of common style guides is also beneficial. Knowing how to run your business and manage your finances are crucial skills as well.
How much do freelance writers make?
According to Indeed Salaries, a freelance writer typically earns an average wage of $23.19 per hour, though it will vary depending on the kind of writing you are doing and how efficient you are at managing the business side of running a freelance writing business.
For example, if you are a technical writer, you may make more than someone writing novels or marketing blog posts. The amount you make will also depend on how much work you can accomplish as well as who you are freelancing for, whether for a large company or an individual. Before accepting a writing assignment, consider how much time it will take you to research the topic and other unbillable hours you may need to keep your freelance writing business afloat.
[Source: This article was first published in indeed.com]