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What Are Some Tips to a Freelance Writer Just Starting Out?

Dec 10, 2020
(updated: Dec 5, 2022)
Max 5 min read

So you’re launching your freelance writing career. First things first: congratulations! Like many of today’s freelance writers, I grew up thinking that getting paid to write was a pipe dream because online content hadn’t quite taken off the way it has today. Thanks to worldwide digitization, it’s now possible for more of us than ever to make a great living doing what we love every day.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. Starting out and building momentum is hard, but we’re all in this together. Check out these great tips I wish I’d known when I started out.

Weigh the pros and cons of “Content Farms”

The content mill is among the first things you’ll run into as you start looking for ways to write online. Some writers say to run away, but I believe in pros and cons. Yes, they’re low-paying gigs, but they do provide steady work, which can be an income source while you look for higher-paying clients.

When I started with freelance writing, I began with an organization similar to a content farm. The pay may not have been great but because articles had low pay-outs, it forced me to become a far faster writer so I could produce as many as possible in a day. Now that I’m charging a more reasonable rate, the ability to research topics quickly yet accurately and write efficiently is really paying off.

Choose your client-finding approach

Different writers take different approaches to signing new clients. Some have low rates so they can get as much new work as possible (especially those who are first starting out, trying to build their client base). Others prefer to charge higher rates, so they spend less time actually writing but more time finding clients with deep pockets.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference. It’s a good idea to find your balance and approach early so you can pursue the right type of freelance writing jobs.

Get involved in facebook groups

Truth be told, Facebook groups have been among the most profitable ways I’ve built my freelance business. Not only have I found several great clients through Facebook groups, but I’ve seen tons of valuable insights as well. Freelancers share great post content like pricing advice, tips for clients who aren’t paying you, new ways to find clients, and far more. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with other professionals who could lead to a collaboration down the line, like content marketers and web designers.

Prepare a contract in advance

Confession time: I was freelancing for about two years before I started using contracts. I’m lucky enough that I didn’t have any issues with clients ghosting me or refusing to pay, but that’s not something I (or you) should gamble on.

It’s surprisingly easy to create a contract in today’s technology world. In fact, there are simple contract tools that use boilerplate contracts you can customize for each project, and it takes mere minutes. Whether you’re writing full time or part-time, the extremely minimal time investment is well worth the peace of mind.

Socialize with other entrepreneurs

Every freelancer has their favorite types of clients, but personally, I love working with other entrepreneurs and small business owners. For one, they’re easier to work with than large enterprises because there’s usually only one or maybe two people in the approval pipeline – you aren’t trying to incorporate conflicting edits from seven different people.

Second, entrepreneurs have been in your shoes so most are kind and supportive. I’ve even had clients congratulate me when I raised my rates because they know what a great step that is for a freelancer.

Here’s the greatest part, though: many of these entrepreneurs are people I met through random conversations in coffee shops, coworking spaces, and other places where freelancers and contractors go to work. Choosing to work and socialize in these places often rather than work from home every day can lead to fantastic clients.

Choose a niche (but avoid pigeon-holing yourself)

Having a writing niche makes you more marketable because regardless of the industry, everyone wants their content written by someone who’s familiar with it already. Single out the subjects you have the most experience in and those you enjoy writing about most. You don’t need to limit yourself to one niche but having a few specialties will take you far.

Beyond topic specialties, you can also specialize in certain types of content. You might prefer writing web copy, blog posts, ad copy, or even marketing content like a style guide or branding guide. Either way, find your specialties and market them.

Continuously build your portfolio

Your writing portfolio is the #1 thing every potential client wants to see. After all, anyone can call themselves a freelance writer even if they can barely pull together a sentence. That’s why this is one of the most important tips for beginners: start that portfolio early and continuously add to it whenever possible.

Have your own website where you publish this portfolio so anyone can find it and it’s easy to send potential clients a link. This could also allow you to have a more professional-looking email address with that web domain.

Create a time management strategy

I’ve helped to train many emerging writers and let me tell you: time management is one of the most important skills you need, especially as a freelancer. It’s also a skill that doesn’t come naturally to most.

You’ll have many projects to balance at once, and some of them will have several pipeline stages to track. My personal strategy is to maintain a task list at all times, with a time estimate for each task. That way, I can see all my tasks for each day and gauge how much time I have in my schedule. Then, each night, I create a time-blocked schedule for the following day, so I know how much I must accomplish and when. Not only does this let you track your time for freelance writing, but it ensures you don’t forget any projects.

Your path to become a successful freelance writer

As much of a challenge as it is, I’m here to tell you that it is possible and practical to make a good living as a writer. It just takes planning, skills, and the tips above from a seasoned pro. Good luck!

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