Having a flair for the written word will more often than not lead you into the world of freelance writing. Becoming a freelance writer is a major milestone to be extremely proud of. Whether the intention is to freelance as a side hustle or as a full-time job, this is one of the best ways to augment your income. You work towards being your own boss doing something you absolutely love.
Breaking into freelance writing and landing that the first client is not an assured path. But once you do, everything else aligns with the amazing viable opportunities you can get out of it.
So many people have expressed their desire to start freelance writing careers, with the prospects of “working from home” an added advantage. But it takes a lot to become a freelancer who can sustain themselves financially especially in this economy.
Getting that first client depends on how you leverage metrics and later present those metrics to your potential client. But before you even pursue a client, there are certain critical steps that you must follow:
1. Develop a writing habit
The habit of practice teaches you how to master any topic you are passionate about. Growing your writing muscle every day is more advantageous than waiting for that one big moment to make everything happen.
In Julia Cameron’s book called The Artist’s Way, writers are advised to write 3 pages of longhand stream of consciousness every day, commonly known as Morning Pages. It is one of the most recommended strategies by a huge number of thought leaders.
Not only does it build your writing muscle, but it helps explore new thoughts, polish your skills and improve your craft. Practice eliminating filler words, adding sensory details, and honing your craft.
Start writing and publishing your work either on a website or a platform such as Medium. You’re one less day away from reaching your writing goal if you start today. This also helps you to market your freelance writing venture.
Publish your first post immediately and don’t worry about perfecting it or who is going to read it. You can only improve on your work. Aiming for perfection adds to the unnecessary pressure we place upon ourselves.
As you grow your skills, so should your following. Distribute your work to platforms where you can easily get feedback from people who keep tabs by commenting or upvoting. These include Reddit, Medium or Quora.
At first, write about as many topics as you like. Don’t rush into niching down. Keep an open mind. Push content into the world and see what sticks. Then with time, you can narrow down to your discovered niche or area of expertise.
Write consistently and don’t be afraid to fail. Mistakes help you grow as a writer. Do more than you think you can.
2. Measure your work
Gone are the days one would write and hope it sticks out there. Creative pursuits now go hand in hand with the metrics. Check how many views you get per article against stats for people who actually read it.
Check for insights into what sparks curiosity and what actually resonates with your audience. Some people don’t find this necessary. If you’re not going to venture into freelancing and only want to write for fun then yes metrics may not matter as much. New clients need proof that you can do what you say you can do.
3. Do a lot of research for your work and save it
Find other freelance writers and learn as much as you can from them about this business. Build up a long list of bookmarks or create a document with ongoing research papers, case studies, and best practices. You can save them in PDF, a good doc or even on a Trello board (link) for personal reference or for your future employers.
4. Know your industry jargon
Words such as “interesting, fun, cool” may not have your work taken seriously by potential clients. Industry jargon is like a test that you have to pass. The most common industry terminologies include;
Click-Through-Rate, Lead Generation, Call to Action, Backlinks, Search Engine Optimization, Long Tail Keywords, Editorial Calendar etc.
Use them when necessary.
5. Craft your pitch and identify potential clients
After writing several blog posts and getting stats to back you up, it’s time to reach out to your dream clients. You can use two approaches –
- Find full-time opportunities and turn them into freelance gigs.
Pitch them on freelancing for the company for now until they can afford to bring you on full-time. This way you can have some income flowing in while looking for additional freelance clients.
- Perfect your proposal and master the pitch.
Do everything you can to stand out from other freelance writers who are also pitching by providing upfront value to the client.
Instead of applying for a writing gig through the company website, a freelance website (these are great for building experience and a portfolio) or cold pitching a hiring manager, create high-quality content and publish it first to your own blog. You can go a step further by mentioning the client wish to work within the piece of content.
Promote the pieces and get your traffic and social shares. Approach the decision-makers in the company by sharing the feature and outlining the potential of working for them. This proactive approach increases your employability by opening dialogue and building a relationship first.
6. Gather writing and productivity tools
Have a system in place to keep track of all your projects and tools of guidance to create credibility for your writing.
Establish a program that you like and start to create a system for your projects, finances, blog content or the pitches you send.
Image editing programs such as Canva or Pic Monkey are free platforms that teach how to design and edit images for your articles.
Editing apps such as Grammarly or Hemingway are great for editing your drafts before you send them to your client for publishing. You can invest in a premium subscription for an in-depth editing process if plan on freelancing as a business.
7. Sign your First Client
When starting out, there is the temptation to pour into the work as hard as you can so as to become successful overnight. Avoid this approach by all means or you’re looking at massive bouts of burnout. There’s need to find a balance that will keep you going for the long haul.
You will be desperate to gain traction but it’s the little moments and wins that lead up to it that matter more. Notice them and acknowledge them.
8. Invest in yourself
With no writing experience at first, you will go through a large learning curve. Embrace that. Keep learning from those who’ve done it before. Spare time for learning new freelance skills by enrolling in online writing courses. Self-improvement is relentless.
In conclusion, whichever approach you employ to get into freelancing, persistence is key. Chances are you’ll get plenty of regret mails but keep going. If a pitch is rejected, send it to another client. Who knows? Someone else may find your ideas worth it. A good idea will turn things around and more work will eventually come your way. Maintain these contacts and build lasting relations.