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I’ve been obsessed with writing since I was little, but if you took a glance at my resume, you might not believe me.

I got an economics degree in undergrad and went directly into management consulting. I was a big numbers guy, and the job was great. But it wasn’t a great job for me. I was constantly daydreaming about swapping out my spreadsheets for word docs.

So how did I do it?

The Steps I Took to Switch Out of Finance and Into Freelance Writing

I decided to pursue an advanced degree in digital marketing this past year. But I don’t want to scare you—ironically, it wasn’t my master’s that allowed me to become a freelance writer. It was the work I did on the side of it. Becoming a freelance writer ultimately boils to one big important thing: writing. But I’ll walk you through the step-by-step process I took to get there. 

Writing for My University’s Student Magazine

When I began the degree, the university was seeking writers for a new student-led magazine initiative. I had no published articles, but I knew it was the opportunity I was looking for to make freelance writing a future reality. I submitted a scholarship essay I had written several months prior as a writing sample, and I got a job as student editor. This was all free work, but I knew it was how I could build a portfolio and get paid for work post-graduation.  

You might not be currently in school, which leaves you without the opportunity to contribute to online writing for any publication. But don’t worry. It isn’t necessary. There are plenty of unpaid writing opportunities you can take up to get your foot in the freelance writing door. Here are some substitutes:

  • Publish blogs. Write a few pieces of content on your own. These can serve as writing samples when future potential clients ask for them.
  • Guest posting. Try guest blogging or guest post on a website or platform you like. This is a good way for building your voice in that area.
  • Writing articles on LinkedIn. LinkedIn gives all users free access to publishing articles. Doing so is a great way to gain visibility if you share the final piece on social media.

Build a Portfolio

You don’t need a massive quantity of work to get noticed. A few high-quality pieces will be sufficient for demonstrating your writing ability. I didn’t come out of my master’s degree with a mountain of content. But the content I did have in my portfolio opened the door to clients I wanted to work for. After all, people don’t have time for reading 10 different articles you’ve written. Two or three will be enough for deciding if they like your work or not.

Focus on One Written Format

Freelance writing can come in a variety of forms, including:

  • Blogs
  • Webpage Content
  • Social Media Copy
  • Advertising Copy
  • Technical Writing
  • Resumes
  • Cover Letter Writing

…and many more. Though all can pay good money, I knew that what I liked most was writing for blogs and churning out articles. Rather than dipping your toes into any- and everything you find, try establishing your expertise across the one or two formats you like the most. I’ve quickly learned that this makes for stronger, more cohesive portfolio pieces than one without consistency.

Leveraged My Network

I started freelance writing by reaching out to the people I knew who might have connections related to what I was looking for. Professors, colleagues, and friends all introduced me to people who guided and connectd me to various freelance writing opportunities. This made finding work much easier.

Advice for My Fellow Career Switchers

While new degrees and/or writing courses can help in launching you on your path to freelance writing, neither are necessary. You can do the groundwork that I did – or a similar version of it – to start landing those writing gigs and build your portfolio. It’s been a fun journey. Go for it!

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