The dream for many people is to work from home, be your own boss, and have complete control of your schedule. The idea of a 9-5 job is a nightmare. If this sounds like you, freelance writing could be worth giving a try! But what is freelance writing?
Below, we’ll discuss how to start freelance writing, and answer the question of what do freelance writers do.
What Is Freelance Writing?
Freelance writing is the practice of writing for clients, companies or organisations. You do this completely on your own, without being employed by them. This type of work has benefits for the writer and also for the clients.
Freelance writers are location independent. They make their own schedule and have the freedom to choose their clients and the projects they take on. Simultaneously, the clients can benefit from freelancers as they can have them work on short-term projects.
Benefits for Both Parties
They can also work remotely and there’s no need for a formal hiring process. This can make it very cost-effective, especially for small businesses.
Freelance writers can often choose which topics they want to write about. They can also choose what type of format they want to adopt for their content and who they want to work for. However, getting to this point in a freelancing career takes time and dedication. In the beginning, many freelance writers take on any job that comes their way.
A huge part of freelance writing is knowing how to effectively market yourself and your work. Good writing is key of course, but you also need to know how to sell yourself. Good selling is about helping the client and adding value to their business. So, you need to show potential clients how they can benefit from your freelance writing services. More on doing this in a moment.
If you’re looking to become a freelance writer, there are some key steps you must take first. First, choose a niche and the content format that’s best for you. You might prefer to write short blog posts, while others prefer long-form copy.
You then need to build a portfolio, learn how to pitch to clients and how to improve your writing. This might all seem a bit overwhelming if you’re not used to working for yourself. If you want some tips to make the freelance writing journey a bit easier, jump to this section of the article.
But first, what do freelance writers actually do?
What Do Freelance Writers Do?
A freelance writer simply writes whatever their client needs, in return for payment. There are two sides to being a freelance writer. The first involves choosing a niche and a format that you’re comfortable with. Ideally, you’ll also enjoy researching and writing about this topic and in this style.
But there’s also the business side where you need to seek out new clients and opportunities and pitch your ideas to them. This is the part that involves a bit of time and effort on top of the actual writing.
Getting the Balance Right
Finding the balance between providing quality content for your clients and finding clients to work with is key. At first it can be tough, but once you build up a network it becomes easier to land good jobs.
If you think freelance writing only involves blog posts and news articles, you’ll be happy to hear that the sky’s the limit! There are numerous writing formats to choose from when you begin your freelance career, depending on what kind of writing you want to do. Let’s take a look at some examples of freelance writing formats, so you can get an idea of what you might want to do.
Examples of Freelance Writing Formats
Many beginner freelance writers search for opportunities to write blog posts for clients. There are countless blogs out there that hire for this kind of content. These can cover every niche imaginable, from pets and lifestyle to cooking and gardening. If you get your niche down early, you can find some great success writing blog posts.
If you’re looking to write for websites, there are many ways you can contribute besides just writing blog posts. You can write product descriptions for small businesses for example. Many businesses also hire freelance writers to create their general website copy. From about pages to information about the services they offer, business writing is a good market to get into as a freelance writer.
For those who prefer more technical or business-related writing you can try sales copy. This is copy with the intention making a customer take action. This could involve buying a product or subscribing to a newsletter for example.
You could also write white papers. These are in-depth reports or guides on specific topics that present problems and provide solutions. User manuals for products are also common, along with HR documentation, press releases, and much more. These usually require a bit of expertise combined with good writing skills. So, they might not be best for a beginner freelance writer that doesn’t yet know what they’re good at.
Social media posts are another common format for freelance writers. This could involve writing and curating social media posts for a business for example. Or it could be scripts for livestreams, videos, and podcasts.
You’ll probably come across a lot of ghostwriting jobs as a beginner freelance writer. This involves writing content published under someone else’s name, or under no name at all. Ghostwriting is a good way to get writing experience – and of course some money. However, you can’t claim the work, so it’s not useful if you’re trying to build a writing portfolio.
So, you’re now aware of different niches and writing formats. But how do you start freelance writing?
How to Start Freelance Writing (5 Steps)
1. Have the Right Mindset
The first step to become a freelance writer is to have the right mindset. In Brad Merril’s online Freelance Writing 101 course, he starts out by describing the mindset of a successful freelance writer.
First, you need to know what motivates you. Secondly, you must have discipline, and work to your clients’ deadlines. Thirdly, you have to face your fears. Stepping out of your comfort zone is what’s going to lead you to success.
2. Choose Your Niche
Once you decide that you want to become a freelance writer, you have to choose your niche. The best way to do this is by evaluating your skills and your interests and trying to figure out where they intersect. However, you don’t need to stick to just one niche. You might have lots of interests, but narrowing it down to a few is the best way to find success as a freelance writer.
Let’s say you have a journalistic background and a passion for rock music. You could focus on writing news articles for music websites, blogs or magazines. Or maybe you’re a scientist and you’ve mastered the basics of good research, but you’re also very curious about technology. You could try writing blog posts for websites dedicated to informing readers about the latest news in the world of tech. Combining niches is a great way to get the most out of freelance writing.
3. Build Your Portfolio
Now that you’ve decided on your niche(s), you need to start building your portfolio. This is a collection of your writing that you can show off to potential clients, sort of like a CV or résumé. As a beginner freelance writer, this might involve offering to work for free.
Writing some articles for free gives you a few portfolio pieces to help get the wheels turning. While you shouldn’t make writing for free a habit (unless you really want to), it’s a useful way to break into the world of freelance writing.
The better your portfolio is, the higher you can start aiming and the more you can start earning. Websites like Contently allow you to create intuitive portfolios that easily showcase your best pieces and past clients you’ve worked with.
Having a blog can also double as a portfolio. So, if you’re struggling to get work as a beginner freelance writer, you might want to create work for yourself. This allows you to write targeted posts about the industries you’d like to write for as a freelancer. You can then link potential clients to the blog to show off your work.
4. Find Some Clients
The next step is finding some clients. You can find freelance writing clients in many different places. There are lots of general-purpose freelancing sites, like Upwork, Freelancer and MediaBistro. But you can also try your luck on freelance writing job boards, like BloggingPro or FreelanceWriting. These usually provide more profitable, enjoyable and long-term gigs than sites like Fiverr and Upwork.
5. Become a Better Writer
Finally, you need to know how to write effectively. This means you need to learn to optimise your tone and vocabulary to suit your client’s needs. For sales copy for example, you need to know how to command attention and write compelling calls-to-action.
For technical writing, it’s all about being concise and informative. Regardless of what kind of writing you’re doing, you need to have impeccable grammar and spelling. Proofreading your own writing at least once is a must if you want to keep your clients happy!
Now You Know What Freelance Writing Is
If you’re looking for a way out of the regular 9-5 lifestyle, freelance writing might be for you. It offers many benefits, but it also requires a lot of hard work, dedication and discipline. No formal experience in writing is required, but being a good writer is a must!
If you want to learn more about how to become a freelance writer, check out our other articles about writing here. You can also join our email list below, and get extra tips and tricks to become a successful freelancer!