Becoming a freelance writer means many things. It means hard work, independent income, pursuing your passion, and constantly developing your skills. There's a lot to it, but there's no reason to fear it. You'll be delighted at the opportunities that will show up for you once you get started as a freelance writer. But first, you need to make sure you know how to get started on the path to success. To help you set a plan in place, we've put together some of our best advice for a new freelance writer.
1. Manage Your Time
The first step to becoming a truly successful freelance writer is managing your time. There are several ways to do this, and the steps you take will vary depending on your personality. However, there are a few basic things you should keep in mind:
- Make lists--the Type-A person knows them well, but even if that's not your style, in this case, it's probably a good idea. Making a list of the articles you need to write, the research you must accomplish, and the other daily tasks that you can't ignore should be top of the list for what you need to succeed as a freelancer.
- Don't multitask--we've all done it, but scientists have proven that multitasking can actually cause you to lose up to 40% of the time you could be productive. In reality, our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, so multitasking is ultimately hours of our brains starting and stopping. In the long run, this usually causes more problems instead of increasing productivity.
- Track your time--with a timetracker or other similar program you can keep track of deadlines, how much you work, and what you've accomplished. This is an essential step to making every second count.
2. Improve Your Writing
Everyone has their own writing style, and that's something to embrace! You're bound to have been writing for years before you decided to start on the freelancing journey, which means you've developed habits. Some of those are the great habits of any good writer, but some of them may need a little tweaking to fit into the freelancing niche.
When you're writing a story or a paper for school, you have the freedom to write whatever you want, however you want. As a freelance writer, you're usually crafting for someone else, which means you have to keep in mind what they want and need. The best way to make sure you're fitting what they want is to use their style guide, if they have one. Most companies have a set guide of specific spellings, voice requirements, and other technical tips to help freelancers fit with their company voice. If possible, you'll want to get your hands on one of these, or at least talk to your client about what they want. Communication is essential to a freelance career, so be sure you're keeping your client up to date on your progress, asking questions, and letting them know of any issues you run into.
You'll also want to develop a good understanding of SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It basically means that you write in order to impress Google and show up on the first page of search results. This includes many facets: keywords that most people search, the number and kind of links you use in your writing, and how you structure your content. One of the best ways to get to know SEO and the other top freelance writing skills you'll need is to enroll in a course.
Finally, make sure you make your writing clear and concise. People don't have a long attention span, and while writer-you may have read the dictionary in high school, you're among the minority there. Use language easily understood by all ages and avoid big words and long sentences.
3. Find Your Expertise
There are a few positions where you can shine as a freelance writer. Choosing the best one for you is an essential part of creating a successful freelance writing career. While you may expand into several niches as you grow your skills, it's nice to have an area where you're an expert. Here’s some options:
- Content writing. This is probably the most common freelance work. It usually consists of writing web content, ranging from web pages to blog posts to white papers. If you prefer long-form writing and enjoy research, this is a great option.
- Copywriting. This is very similar to content writing, but it is generally shorter and more directed towards making sales. As a copywriter, you'll create a lot of ads, marketing emails, or sales pages. If you're more into snappy one-liners and like getting into people's heads, this would be a perfect spot for you.
- Social media management. Social media is constantly increasing in importance, but not every company has the ability to keep up with it. If you can create meaningful posts that remain on-brand and attract likes and shares, companies will be clamoring for your help.
- Journal writing. Freelance journalism is a little more difficult than other forms of writing. However, if you have a degree or a background in some kind of writing, journalism, or educational field, this is a great choice. Newspapers pay well for long, thoroughly-researched articles and news stories.
Once you've found your sweet spot, keep writing and keep pitching! Send ideas to clients as often as you can without being too pushy. It may take a bit, but persistence almost always ends in results. Build a portfolio of examples of the work you can do and don't give up on applying, proposing, and sending ideas. If you don't give up, you're sure to succeed.
4. Set Your Goals
Would you like to be a full-time freelancer? Or are you just looking at saving up some extra cash for vacation or paying off debts? Maybe you just want the chance of using your talents and get the recognition you deserve. Whatever your motives, setting goals to reach them is of utmost importance. There are a lot of high-paying clients out there looking for freelancers, and if you take some time, you're sure to find a path for you.
As one final tip, remember that you're going to need thick skin to make it as a freelancer. We all know writing is a rough business, and you won't fit every client's idea of the perfect writer. That doesn't mean you should give up! Keep a humble spirit, receive corrections, and then get back up and keep writing. And if you need a little help finding your first job as a freelancer, just check out this article and get started.