Are you tired of working nine to five and having to deal with all the work-place politics that comes with an office job? Or are you a fresh graduate looking for flexibility in your professional life -- something that may allow you to keep your options open while you figure out your long term career?
If your answer is yes to either of these questions, then freelance writing could be for you. It is the perfect gig for anyone who wants to engage in an occupation that would allow them to work whenever and from anywhere they want, and to complete however much work they are able to in a given time frame.
The good news is that if you have decided to start freelance writing, we are here to help. In this blog post, we will walk you through the 9 tips on how to become a freelance writer with no experience. After reading this, you will have a better idea on how and where to begin
What is Freelance Writing?
Freelance writers are essentially their own employers who run the business of writing blogs, white papers, and other marketing content for their clients. They normally are paid by the number of words or by articles, and in some cases they are paid by the hour.
Clients can come from a variety of sources - businesses, government, non-profit organizations (NGOs), academic institutions and even media. They hire freelance writers to write about different topics and may pay higher if the writers have expertise in a specific topic or are in general more experienced with writing, such as former journalists and copywriters.
Who Can Become a Freelance Writer?
And the best of all? You need neither a writing degree nor professional qualification or experience to take on freelance writing jobs. All you need is a computer and access to the internet (We'll get to that later!)
A 2019 study by Upwork and Freelancers Union showed that nearly 57 million of Americans freelance and that an unprecedented number of people now consider freelancing as a long-term career. That number has surely gone up in our post-COVID society.
Why Should You Consider a Freelance Writing Career?
So why do so many people take up freelance writing? For starter, it's the flexibility. As we mentioned above, being a freelance writer means that you can work anywhere you want: from home, cafes, shared offices, the park, etc. And in most cases, you are under no obligation to accept a job when they are offered, meaning that you can choose your own work hours.
In addition to the two types of people mentioned above, there are other who choose to go into freelance writing because of family reasons. One example are parents who want a more flexible work schedule so that they can prioritize their children's needs over work when necessary.
The Good and Bad about Being a Freelance Writer
The good news to those considering freelance writing is that there is now an abundance of demand out there. And the pay is generally reasonable. In 2021, the average writers and authors in America earned a median annual income of $69,510, or about $33.42 an hour. While it's worth noting that there can be a pretty large gap between the earnings of an experienced and successful freelance writer, and someone with no previous professional writing experience, it does point to the fact that you can actually make a decent living if you take the time to develop your writing skills and work hard to find freelance writing jobs.
On the contrary, there are a number of challenges facing freelance writers. As we touched on earlier, the number of gigs are unstable, and it may not be easy to land clients, especially if you are a new to the freelance writing industry. The volume of work is heavily influenced by clients' marketing budget, which means they tend to go down when business environment is not good.
A Guide for New Freelance Writer
So now that you have been given the basics of the freelance writing industry, if you are still determined to give it a go, let us share with you the tips on how to become a freelance writer.
1. Learn From the Masters
There are plenty of material available on the internet to teach you the necessary skills to develop a successful freelance writing business. These content are normally made by other freelance writers and are available as videos on YouTube or as articles on a freelance writing website. Many of these content are free.
Depending on your budget, sometimes it may be worth to invest the money to take a freelance writing course. But if you do decide to pursue this route, make sure the course you are taking involves the instructors giving you writing tips or feedback to your work.
2. Practice - Start a Blog
Among all the tips we are sharing with you on freelance writing, this is perhaps the most obvious. Developing your writing skill is just like playing sports or learning a musical instrument - the more you practice, the better you become. And quicker.
When you write on your personal blog, make sure you try out a variety of subjects. This way you can practice researching different topics and familiarize yourself with the jargons used by different industries and fields. This will also go a long way in helping you coping with whatever writing style that's required by any of your future client.
An added benefit is that after a while, you will have enough writing samples to pull from when you try to put a portfolio or pitch together to offer freelance writing services to clients.
3. Get Feedback -- Publish Your Work for Free
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Xing are good places to publish or share your work. One good thing about having your work out on these sites is that it may invite feedback from people outside of your close circles of friends and contacts.
But more importantly, this would allow prospective clients looking for freelance writing to notice you and your work in a more professional setting. So whatever you decide to put on LinkedIn, you should make sure they are well-researched and well-edited.
4. Meet Other Freelance Writers
The writing industry is not that different from other fields, in that writers also network to exchange information on freelance writing jobs. After all, not all writers treat each other like competitors. At times you can also pick up some important tips on either writing skills or on finding freelance writing jobs from the more experienced writers.
There are plenty of networking events for writers - conferences, seminars or exhibitions. Other than your own professional development, they are also good for your own personal development -- writers tend to work on their own so it never hurt to go out and meet people in person every once a while!
5. Find Your Freelance Writing Niche
While most successful freelance writers are generalists - meaning they are trained to learn and be able to write a topic in a relatively short period of time -- it can a good idea for new writers to pick one or a few specific topics to focus on, preferably those that they are already familiar with.
The idea is that you can concentrate on developing writing skills and not having to worry about doing the extra research. It would also allow you to more easily present yourself as a specialist to prospective clients.
6. Cold Pitching to Prospective Clients
Cold pitching involves sending out targeted emails to people you have never met in order to sell them your skills. Usually it is in the form of an email campaign with follow-up communications.
To make this more effective, it is important that you conduct research beforehand to fully understand who your target organizations and individuals are. For example, in a large company, it would mostly be their head of marketing or whoever that's responsible for content development.
7. Start with Smaller Clients
When you are a new writer, it is always a good idea to approach clients who may not have the budget to hire more experienced writers. The difference between pay $0.05 and $0.1 for a word can make a significant impact on your marketing when you are looking to produce content with tens of thousands of words each month.
When you are only just starting your writing career, don't be discouraged if clients try to negotiate for a lower rate. After all, they are taking a risk too by hiring someone with little or no experience and references.
And last but not least, accepting jobs from smaller clients will not only help you build up a portfolio of writing samples, but it will also train you to write to clients' demand. This is a skill that will become even more critical when you start writing for bigger-name clients, who are often more demanding.
8. Brush up Your Freelance Writing Pitch
One thing that even more experienced freelance writers tend to overlook is the quality of their pitches. This is especially more so among those who get most of their jobs from referrals and other professional or personal connections.
As a new writer with little experience, chances are you won't have too many connections that will lead to referrals, so it is important that you learn how to compile a good pitch and also who to pitch to. There are plenty of online resources that teach you how to do that.
9. Expand your Skillsets
While the ability to write well remains the core competency of any successful freelance writer, with the advancement of technology, there are some skills that are becoming increasingly important if the writer is trying to keep pace with the changes in the commercial world.
A good example is SEO (short for Search Engine Optimization). Businesses and governments nowadays engage in SEO to help their content rank better on Google search. For an SEO campaign to achieve its goals, it requires writing skills that can help the content draw higher traffic and engagement on the clients' websites. A writer who is knowledgeable about SEO works will be able to produce quality content that also meets these requirement.
As a new freelance writer, these sort of additional skills will help increase your chances of getting hired, even when you are up against more experienced or better writers.
10. Job boards
Our last tip is also the most obvious -- something that your parents might have done back in their days when they're looking for jobs. Today many companies still post writing gigs such as copywriting or content marketing on job boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, or ZipRecruiter. There's no harm in trying your luck there.
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