Before you start seeking clients as a freelance writer, there are a few business tasks you should do first.
Finding a freelance writing gig can be challenging if you don’t know where to start. Before I became an editor, I had to start right at the beginning just like you. I wondered, “How do I legitimately get into this industry?”
The good news is that there’s no better time to start than now. The demand for freelance writers has never been higher, with thousands of companies looking to hire writers to create copy for marketing, social media, public relations and branding projects. Thankfully, it’s not as difficult as you may think.
1. Pick a writing niche
Pick a niche and own it. This will position you as the go-to freelance writer for specific topics. While generalists are a dime a dozen, becoming a subject-matter expert will help to establish authority in an oversaturated market. When you carve out a niche you can still apply for generalist projects, alongside writing projects in your niche. When you pitch freelance work it is often a numbers game, so do everything you can to increase your chances.
2. Frequent freelance job boards
If you’re just getting started, you’ll need to pursue clients. Fast track the process and regularly scour reputable freelance writing job boards. Sign up to become a writer on platforms like Upwork, Toptal, Elance, Peopleperhour, Guru, FreelanceWriting.com, etc. As you win more jobs, you’ll start to build a reputation as a quality writer. If you really impress clients, they’ll be eager to call on you again and even refer you to others.
3. Create an online writing portfolio
Your writer’s portfolio is your arsenal. It’s an absolute necessity in this business in order to showcase your work to editors and potential clients. Fortunately, there are many free and simple ways to create an online portfolio for free including WordPress, clippings.me, etc. When you pitch editors or apply for writing jobs, add a link to your portfolio in your email so the recipient can easily ascertain your skills and possible fit.
4. Reputation is everything
When you build a reputation as a skilled, reliable writer you will cultivate a steady stream of work and develop fruitful connections in the writing world. Editors often have a large pool of writers to choose from, so give them as many reasons as possible to choose you. Become known as a writer who takes pride in their work, and writes with heart. Finish each piece by the assigned deadline, follow through on your promises, and be courteous. These are qualities that will leave a lasting impression with any editor or client.
5. Polish your freelance writer resume
While an online portfolio is sufficient for pitching guest posts, some writing jobs require you to send in your resume as well. It may seem like an unnecessary formality, but with so many candidates to choose from, many editors and companies want to see additional information (e.g., skills, past work experience, and motivation for applying.). If your starting from scratch, use a resume template as a foundation. If you really want to impress (and trust me, it does), make a cover letter for each specifically writing job.
6. Launch your own website or blog
If you are published on a bunch of reputable sites it’s impressive. But if you really want to add clout to your name, set up a personal website or blog. This will demonstrate professionalism. Many writers, in fact, got their start in freelance writing via their own website. Don’t get me wrong, it will take hard work. But it’s worth putting in the hours given the potential.
7. Be persistent
Freelance writing is a fantastic career or side hustle for many reasons. As a freelance writer, all you need is your computer and internet connection. Which means you can become location independent, control your earning potential and more. It does, however, require steadfast persistence. Rejection is par for the course, so you will need to grow a tough skin and be proactive.
If an editor or client rejects your piece, you may need to fine tune it with further editing, or perhaps pitch to more appropriate venues. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of following up with a very busy editor. Don’t let a “no” dissuade you from your writing dreams.
If you’re serious about becoming a freelance writer, keep your eye on the prize. Arm yourself with the best resources and work to continually improve your writing skills and reputation. You’ve got this in the bag!
This article has been edited.
Monica Mizzi is a digital marketer and freelance writer who works one-on-one with businesses to strengthen their online visibility. She has lead numerous end-to-end digital marketing campaigns that have successfully transformed companies’ SEO strategy, content marketing, and overall digital branding. As a writer, she has been published in a variety of publications including The Guardian, inflight magazines, and business, tech, and lifestyle websites.