So, you want to learn how to become a successful freelance writer?
What’s it all about and how to become a successful freelance writer? I get a lot of emails from people asking me how to break into freelance writing and no matter where you are in the world, the steps to take to becoming a successful freelance writer are the same.
It’s a great way to earn extra cash and make a living from it, so I thought I’d write a guide to help new freelance writers jumpstart their business.
Because there’s a lot of wrongs advice out there – like how you need formal training to write online. Anyone can be a freelance writer. You don’t need any experience or degree.
It’s the perfect business for bloggers, stay-at-home moms or those just fed up with their 9-5 job. And it’s profitable. Ashlee Anderson of Work From Home Happiness quit her secure job to pursue freelance writing having no professional writing experience.
She earns a full-time income from freelance writing.
And I do too.
Freelance Writing Jobs From Home – My Story
It’s been five years since I started freelance writing.
When I first learned how to become a successful freelance writer, I made the mistake of finding work on iWriter, which is a content mill.
Content mills provide cheap content jobs and they usually batch orders. Their goal is to get a lot of content for cheap. After I earned a measly $2 from my first writing job, I gave up.
This wasn’t for me.
My time wasn’t worth that. I had twins to take care of and a house to run. I almost quit for good back then.
But, I didn’t. I re-grouped and started fresh. I started a writer website, searched for freelance writing jobs and overtime could land high-paying clients. Okay, I glided over the important parts, but I’ll break it down for you in a moment.
With persistence, motivation and hard work I now can have freelance writing jobs from home!
If you want that for yourself, here are the steps on how to become a successful freelance writer you need to get started.
Research About Freelance Writing
When I first started I did a lot of research.
I found other freelance writers, read their blogs and looked at their writer website and learned as much as I could about this business.
I had no clue how to write a blog post or what kinds of jobs there are for freelance writers. I sometimes emailed freelance writers and asked questions like how to set my rate.
Become Familiar With the Writing Skills and Tools Required
Now I know I said you can start freelance writing from scratch. This is true, but if you want a better chance of succeeding, it’s probably a good thing to learn a few skills and tools.
Some skills you should definitely, have for freelance writing are:
You must keep track of all your projects, billing information, client information, pitches sent and content schedule for your blog and sometimes for your client’s blog.
You also must develop a writing routine to organize your articles or blog posts. What are the steps to gather research for your pieces? How do you outline your blog post?
Having a system in place for your projects is key to growing your business. You don’t want to make a mistake or forget to do something.
I primarily write blog posts or digital marketing material – like a lead magnet. When I first started, I had no clue how to blog.
I read tons of blog posts but never looked at the formatting. It wasn’t until I started this blog I paid attention to subheadings and creating white space.
Writing for an online audience differs from writing a term paper for your college professor.
You need to know how to captivate a reader with your headline and introduction. You also need to back up your claims and facts with reputable sources.
And you need to include subheadings, bullet lists or numbered lists and above all, provide actionable tips.
Putting yourself out there and trying to land writing gigs is tough. You’ll get rejected, turned down or you may have a client walk all over you.
To be a successful freelance writer you really need confidence and lose the fear of pitching. I know you may not have it right away.
That’s okay. But, eventually, you will have to take action.
This might mean applying to jobs even though you aren’t that qualified for. It might mean sending off a pitch that isn’t perfect.
The point is, is you have to just do it.
Besides these basic skills, you also, need to know the tools of the trade.
Task Management Program
Since you’re running your business on your own, you need to keep track of everything.
I use Google Sheets and the Productivity Planner for Freelance Writers to keep track of my projects and income. I also use Trello to keep track of my to-listed for the week.
You might find Asana is a better fit for you or even Microsoft Excel. Find a program you like and start creating a system for your projects, finances, and your blog content or pitches you send.
Some of your clients may want you to do images for your content. Or, offer that as part of your services.
Knowing how to add text to blog images is important to know as a freelance writer. It shows prospective clients you know how to blog.
Many people use a free editing program like Canva or PicMonkey. I use Photoshop for all my images.
What’s great about learning how to design images is that you can offer this to your clients or you might find prospects are asking you to do their images.
I have four clients that I do images for and all of them asked me since I’m not advertising this service.
For me, I go through an in-depth editing process before I submit my work to my clients. You might have to invest in a subscription, but it’s well worth it if you plan on making a freelance writing business.
Now, you don’t have to be the best writer to be a successful one. But, you need to know how to write sentences and get your thoughts across!
What if English isn’t your first language? There are many freelance writers who don’t have English as their primary language and they are making a living freelance writing.
So, it is possible but it might just mean you have to work a little harder showing prospects you are more than capable of writing for them.
If, though, you are a fairly good writer, work on improving your writing. Practice adding sensory details, eliminate filler words, and hone your craft. You can do this by starting your own blog.
Not only will this help you become a better writer, but it will also help you market your freelance writing business. I have landed many clients from my blog and I know my blog only makes me more credible as a professional writer.
Reading is also a great way to improve your vocabulary and world knowledge. I try to read blogs in my niche and when I can, I pick up a real book or two to read on my downtime!
Create a Portfolio of Your Work
Most job ads you’ll apply for will ask to see your work. They want to see samples of published work. If you’re new, you won’t have any published work – unless you already have a blog.
So, how do you show prospects you can write? Besides starting a blog, you can create samples.
Draft up a few pieces and either upload them as a Google Doc or publish them on Medium.
Another way to create samples is with guest posting. These are blogs that accept guest writers. Get posted on these blogs means you will have a link to show prospects someone thought your writing was good enough to be published.
Start Pitching Jobs
Now it’s time to actively search for freelance writing jobs from home. But where do you go and how do you do it?
These job boards list new jobs daily and are often good quality jobs. I avoided freelance marketplaces like Upwork because the jobs weren’t high quality and I actually never landed a gig there.
When you find a job, you are interested in the important thing to remember is to be one of the first few to apply (so check the boards before bed and when you wake up) and make sure your pitch stands out.
How do you do this? Show your credibility with guest posts or testimonials. Or, you can relate a fact or story with the business in question.
But, are there other ways to find freelance writing jobs?
You Gotta Hustle
Being a freelancer means you got to hustle for work. But, this doesn’t mean you ALWAYS have to hustle. The goal is for clients to come to you.
But, when you’re new, businesses or magazines don’t know you even exist. So, market your services and get your name out there.
How do you do this? There are many ways, but to start to try these two ways:
- Get on social media – This isn’t for socializing; it’s for networking. Sign up for Twitter and LinkedIn and start connecting or following other writers and businesses you want to write for.
- Guest post – Guest posting is not only a way to build your portfolio. It’s also a way to get your name out there. For every guest post, you write and is published you receive an author bio with links back to your writer website, portfolio, or social media profiles.
When I first started, I only had a Pinterest account and a Facebook account. But, I knew I had to be more social, so I signed up for a Twitter and LinkedIn account and started networking my butt off.
And I can tell you from my personal experience that Twitter and LinkedIn have landed me the most work from social media.
The best thing you can do as a new freelance writer is to continue to learn. Whether it’s writing tips, business tips or pitching tips, hone your skills by learning from those who have done it before.