How to Become a Freelance Writer
As much as you’d like to, you can’t just declare you are now a freelance writer and suddenly find clients falling at your feet. I wish. You need to know that you have to go searching for clients, they don’t come to you.
Not at first, anyway.
Eventually, if you get things set up correctly, you can have clients seeking you out to write for them for awesome rates. Until then, you’ll have to go out hunting.
If you’re brand spanking new to freelancing, you probably have no idea what to do or where to start. That’s okay. I’m here to hold your hand.
Choose Your Niche
The first thing you have to do is know what you want to write about. I know, that’s hard to do when you’re just starting. But there are only about a billion different things out there to write about. Narrowing things down will help you pick out the best clients to go after.
The best way to find your niche is to think about what you know. Do you have a day job in finance? Did you work retail in your former years? Are you elbow-deep in diapers for the fourth straight year and know everything about parenting?
Pick a niche that you are comfortable with. I don’t care if you worked as a receptionist for the last 9 years of your life – if you want to write about gardening because that’s your hobby and your passion, choose gardening as your writing niche. You just have to be knowledgeable on the topic and understand the lingo. You can’t expect to write in the healthcare industry if you know nothing about it.
Now that you know what your niche is, you need samples to give prospective clients. Hold on now, don’t be scared. It’s not that tough to get some great samples. Samples have one job and that is to let a prospective client know that you can effectively string sentences together that make sense, understand your niche and will be an asset to their company.
If you decided to make parenting your niche, look around at a few parenting websites. Check out a parenting blog. If you notice the writing, it isn’t rocket science. It’s useful information all put together in a pretty little article that starts off with a problem and ends with a solution or two. It flows so that it draws readers in from the headline, gives them information about a problem or issue and then gives a solution. It’s like talking to a friend, only with proper grammar. The articles and blogs you’ll find are written by people just like YOU. I promise. The only difference is that they pitched their services to the company before you. That’s it.
Pick a topic within your niche and write an article about it. Then pick another and write about it. Here are your samples. Yes, it’s that simple. If you aren’t sure about your writing, send me an email with your samples and I’ll look them over for you. I want to help!
Create a Portfolio or Website
Now that you have samples that you’re proud to show off, do it. Show them off. You can build a website that you can send prospects to. This is how you’ll get prospects to check you out and see your work. You don’t have to do this right now, but it’s a good idea. You’ll need a place on the web that’s yours to send clients to. Look at your website site like an online business card. Eventually you can add other work you do for clients, your contact information and things like that.
For now, you can save your samples in a plain Word document or save them as a PDF file. You can put all of your samples in one document, separate them with a page break and combine them into one PDF. That way you can add one attachment to your email and show off all of your talent.
That will work for now, but I strongly suggest that you create a website to show off your work. It’s so easy a 10 your old could figure it out. You don’t need an elaborate, crazy hi-tech website. Plain and simple is just fine for this. I will create a step by step guide for this in the future.
Look for clients in your niche. You could go to freelance job boards like Problogger, or Freelance Writing Gigs, or the paid sites like Contena and Flexjobs, but they are still job boards. There are literally thousands of writers competing for every job posted at these places. I don’t know about you, but competing with thousands of people doesn’t sound like a fun situation to be in. Not only is that drama I don’t need, it also drives the prices of the projects down.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve personally gotten work from all of these writing job boards. It’s a good way to get some quick wins in your book. I still sometimes check these sites out, but I skim them quickly, only looking at the gigs that are in my niche and my pay range. But you don’t want to depend on these boards as your only way to find work.
Look for clients in places that you won’t have to fight the competition. Go straight to the client’s website. If you know your niche is the automotive aftermarket industry, go looking for companies who sell or make aftermarket accessories. Contact them with an email about what you can do for them, include your samples and contact info, then hit send.
Find prospective clients in your niche and make a list of them in Excel or on a good, old fashioned sheet of paper. Find their name and email address. LinkedIn is a great resource for finding specific names in a company.
Once you have several prospects on your list, check out their websites. You can have a basic email that you send to all of them, but it should be tailored to each individual to make the biggest impact. Find out if they have a blog. Look to see if they are in the news in their industry. Let them know you have researched their business and can offer your help. Then hit send. Remember, the best way to help someone is by solving a problem for them. Be the problem solver. Do they have a blog that looks deserted? Are there lots of errors on their website? Do they have a newsletter opt-in on their site? All these things mean a writer is needed. If they have an in-house writer, that writer isn’t getting the job done, apparently. If they don’t have a writer, Great! Be that writer for them.
Once you send your email and samples, letting a prospect know that you can help them, you wait. But don’t wait too long. Some of these people are pretty busy, so don’t expect an immediate response. Some clients have contacted me a week after I send an initial email. Be diligent in keeping track of who and when you send these emails. If you don’t get a response, wait 5-7 business days and send a follow up email. Remind them of the issue or problem you touched on in the first email and let them know how you can help. If you don’t get a response this time, wait two weeks and send another follow up email. Don’t give up until you get a No.
If you do get a response, awesome! If they ask you questions about your experience, let them know you have hands-on experience in this niche (don’t use the word “niche”) along with writing experience. If they don’t ask about more samples, that’s fine. Most are only interested in what you can do for them now.
Do a good job! Turn in your work when you say you will. Don’t string the client along. Being on time for calls and turning in work is important. You’d be shocked at how many writers get a project to do and then totally bail. Do a good job, be a decent person and you will get more work.
If you have any questions or need help, let me know! I’d love to help you get started as a freelance writer.
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