by Sawyer S
Whether you’re looking for a full-time career or a side hustle to make ends meet, freelance writing can offer anyone with a unique voice and strong work ethic a flexible, diverse, and engaging way to make money. Being a freelance writer means making your own hours, choosing your own projects, and working from anywhere. It can provide creatives with more financial freedom and can help aspiring writers cultivate a portfolio and platform for their future careers. That being said, being a freelance writer isn’t easy, and getting started often proves more difficult than people realize.
I have been working as a freelance writer for over a year, and while I now find the job to be fulfilling and financially stable, I didn’t always. It took a lot of time and resilience for me to find my footing along the rocky road of freelancing, but now that I have, I can share some of the important lessons I learned and tricks I picked up along the way.
The first thing you have to consider before you even begin working as a freelancer is whether or not you’re going to use a platform. There exists a multitude of online forums which help connect freelancers with possible clients. There are free platforms, like Upwork and Blogmutt, and there are ones with membership fees like Contena.
These websites can be incredibly helpful for freelancers who are just starting out, and my not have any connections or experience. That being said, some of these platforms take a substantial cut of your earnings, and some make it near impossible to get jobs without paying for a premium account. Upwork, for instances, takes a hefty 20% of all your earnings, and BlogMutt’s free account option is really limited.
If none of those platforms sound appealing to you, maybe you need to carve your own path. While creating your own website can also be costly, and very time consuming, at least you have complete control and will get to keep 100% of the money you make. A few tips for starting your own website – make sure you know how to use social media (or hire someone who does), this will be your most effective outlet for reaching potential clients.
Also, ask around. Chances are you have friends who own business, or who are in need of some writing assistance. Let everyone know that you’ve become a freelance writer so that they think of you next time they need a new press-release, grant proposal, or are maybe just looking to spice up their LinkedIn bios.
Once you’ve decided how you’re going to approach freelancing, you have to learn how to promote yourself as a freelancer. Whether you chose to join a freelance platform, or want to create your own website, you’re profile/bio needs to be eye-catching and engaging. This is how potential employers are going to get to know you, so let them! Don’t suppress your personality for the sake of sounding professional.
Trust me, these employers have read thousands of professional sounding bios, and yours will not stand out. When you’re competing against the entire internet’s worth of freelancers, you have to take every chance you get to separate yourself from the herd. Don’t be afraid to start out your bio with a funny tagline, or your favorite quote – draw your reader in, and then outline your skills and experience.
Promoting yourself doesn’t end with your bio, however. You also need to know how to promote yourself when you’re applying for jobs – especially in the beginning. If you’re just starting out, chances are, you don’t have much of a portfolio to pull from when applying, which can be frustrating when every job you look at asks you to “send links to previously published work”. You’re going to run into that request a lot, but don’t let it discourage you. There are ways to get around it.
When applying for jobs for which you have no previous experience, you should start out by humbly admitting it. I have found that not only do employers respond well to honesty, but also lying and/or stretching the truth when it comes to getting freelance jobs can quickly land you in hot water. On most freelance platforms, there is a rating system, which is used by both freelancer and employer to evaluate each other after a job is complete. When you’re just starting out, one bad rating or comment can plague your entire profile, and make it very difficult to get any future jobs.
After you’ve admitted that you may be a bit underqualified for the job, you should always offer to send either inapplicable samples of your writing, that way they can at least gauge your raw talent, or, if you’re comfortable doing work for free, you can offer to send them a spec piece. A spec piece is something you write specifically for the project you’re applying to, but without any expectation of payment or compensation.
Unfortunately, not every employer is going to give you the benefit of the doubt. A lot of them will see that you don’t have any experience and immediately delete your application. It took me over a month to get hired for my first job, but once I did everything changed. With one good review and some well-needed experience on my resume, suddenly almost all my applications were being considered, and I was even sent unsolicited job offers!
After you’ve successfully completed a few writing assignments, and have padded your resume a bit, you can start being more discerning when it comes to applying and accepting jobs. The freelance writing world is notorious for being financially insecure, and as you will probably notice once you start looking for jobs, most clients pay astonishingly little. That’s why it’s imperative that you understand what kind of writer you are.
If you’re a quick creative writer who can pump out prose for hours on end then it might be worth it to you to get paid $300 for 30,000 words. But, if you’re a slower, more methodical writer, you should consider applying to long-form article jobs, possibly in the academic field. If you know how you write, and more importantly, know your worth, it will make sifting through the thousands of daily job proposals much easier.
Working as a freelance writer will be difficult, unstable, and frustrating at times, but you can rest assured, it will never be boring. There are countless job opportunities available for those willing to put in the effort, so stay committed and keep applying. Remember, even the most qualified writers once started out experience-less, portfolio-less, and begging for a chance. But they made it, and so can you.