This article was written by Kristen N. Hubbard.
Freelance Writing: What Is It?
Freelance writing sounds difficult doesn’t it? It’s a proactive, self guided effort to create a business with nothing but creativity and a computer. Aspiring freelance writers have to convince prospective employers that they are suited to writing professionally for their business. And they must convince said employer that they can do so with little to no supervision. But while the effort involved is substantial, the process itself is straightforward. Freelance writing is all about making the decision to freelance and then acting on that intent.
In light of COVID-19, a job where someone works from home, sets their own schedule and their own salary will appeal to many people. Especially the younger generation, who was harder hit overall and is more comfortable with computers to begin with. Writers are in a good position to take advantage of the changes work environments have undergone; resulting in more people working from home. Still, the question plagues many an aspiring writer; how does somebody actually create their own freelance writing business? Where do they start?
Step 1: The Portfolio
An aspiring freelancer will be hard pressed to convince anyone that they can write without solid examples of their work. If aspiring freelancers are going to start bringing in business, they need to have a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of work compiled by the freelancer which demonstrates their skills and their range of ability. It allows prospective employers to see what the freelance writer has accomplished.
Having this material online and readily available to view is crucial to the job. Freelancers might already have their work posted on a blog. But freelancers need to remember that a traditional blog, while handy for purposes of outreach, does not serve as a proper portfolio. Prospective employers do not want to wade through journal articles, comments and gifs to find proper writing samples.
Remember: Proper Portfolios Are Public
Aspiring freelancers need a public, easy to view, online portfolio. For example, Writerfolio is a basic public portfolio site that only charges $4 a month, but it’s far from the only site which serves that purpose. There’s also Pressfolios, Clippings.me, Contently and Journo Portfolio just to name a few portfolio sites. All of these sites vary in terms of pricing and what they have to offer, so freelancers should shop around before deciding. And when looking for a portfolio site, the freelancer must also keep in mind that they need a site which makes networking easier.
Step 2: Networking
Networking is almost as crucial as the writing itself. It doesn’t matter how good an aspiring freelancer’s material is if nobody sees it. Unfortunately, there is no way to network which guarantees results. Obviously having an online presence is essential. Aspiring freelance writers will help themselves greatly by getting a LinkedIn page and listing their job title as ‘freelance writer’ and setting their status to ‘looking for work’. They should leave insightful, thoughtful comments on the blogs of fellow writers. This will help to further cement their presence online and aid them in networking. Having an up to date Facebook, Instagram or other kind of social media page which highlights the writers skills can be helpful, but those platforms don’t cater specifically to writers. They should take advantage of networking sites made specifically for writers like WritersCafe, Scribophile and the National Writers Union.
Don’t Just Sit On The Computer, Get Out There!
But the hunt for prospective clients doesn’t end with internet presence. Footwork can be even more helpful than sending emails and commenting on blogs. Aspiring writers will make a stronger impression when they show up in person to events and meet people face to face. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review a face to face meeting is 34 times more likely to yield results. Talking to someone better serves to make an impression than sending a faceless email that could be lost amongst hundreds of others. Sites like meetup.com allow aspiring freelance writers to find events where they can interact with each other face to face. And from there they can help each other find work. They can also hit up their local chamber of commerce for events with other freelance writers or find events via those writer’s networking sites.
Step 3: Keep in Touch
Beyond meeting people, aspiring freelancers have to keep in touch. They should keep up with their contacts, whether they be clients, peers or freelance writers themselves. They will look much better asking for help if they don’t pop up out of nowhere one day and ask for something. Keeping up with people is how freelance writers will increase their chances of getting new and/or repeat business. And since aspiring freelancers want to drum up business and be well known by many people in the industry, they should have their contact information readily available at all times. And with this in mind, it would be a good idea for aspiring freelance writers to get some business cards made.
Step 4: Gain Some Experience
And if the aspiring writer doesn’t have any work out there already, they need to produce some. This doesn’t mean they have to produce some brilliant magnum opus that will win a PEN/Faulkner Award. They can write short fiction, take part in writing competitions and participate in NanoWrimo to start things off. They can offer their services for free as an intern, which is also a great way to network. Interning allows freelancers to gain experience, meet professionals in the field and learn more about the trade in exchange for free labor. Some internships are paid, but an aspiring freelancer who lacks experience should take any opportunities which come their way.
The Trade Off: Experience & Publicity For Free Work
Freelancers looking to gain experience can also guest post, or create content for another company’s website. As with interning, guest posting serves as a way to get some much needed publicity and to start networking with professionals. Some companies might pay for guest blog posts or they may request payment in exchange for hosting content. An aspiring freelancer might balk at the idea of working for free, or worse, handing over money for the chance at publicity. But if they don’t have a portfolio, or much in the way of real world experience, interning or guest posting is a great way for them to begin building a body of work and breaking into their career.
Step 5: The Pitch
And finally, a freelancer needs a pitch. A selling point. Writer is a broad title which could pertain to any subject. But there’s a world of difference between a sci-fi writer and a digital marketing writer. A freelancer has every right to market themselves as a jack of all trades, but they will be at an advantage by finding what they excel at and pushing for work in that arena. They don’t have to limit themselves to one area, but if a freelancer has a specific talent for writing in a specific field, they should emphasize that skill when seeking work along those lines. Freelancers should advertise their expertise via a title on their business card, their online portfolio, their website, etc. Writing is a highly competitive field. Writers need to utilize every advantage they have if they want to stand out.
Freelance Writing: Very Difficult & Very Worth It
Freelancing is above all else, a test of willpower. Starting a business is never going to be easy and freelance writers will never lack competition. Those who want to pursue freelance writing will have to practice diligence, vigilance and perseverance. Freelancers need to develop people skills. Freelancers have to develop a network of peers to find work. And in an industry as saturated as writing, freelancers have to put in extra effort to be noticed. There is a lot of potential hardship that comes with pursuing this career. But freelance writing allows an employee to set their own rules, their own salary and their own schedule. And that means it is worth the effort.
Hopefully you enjoyed this article on how to start freelance writing.