How to be a successful freelance writer even if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Are you stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic trying to figure out what you’re going to do in such an unstable job environment?
Last week we talked about freelancing from home so this week we’re focusing on freelance writing. If you love to write and have a passion for an industry or specific niche, then freelance writing may be the perfect job for you.
There’s never been a better time than now to start working from home as a freelance writer. Successful freelance writers can make tons of money and find a better work-life balance with a flexible schedule that leaves them plenty of time for family and friends.
How to Get Started as a Successful Freelance Writer
Getting started as a freelance writer doesn’t have to cost massive amounts of money. You can get started for a minimal amount of money. The only thing you really need to spend money on is hosting for a website and your domain name.
I wrote an in-depth eBook on how to start making money as a freelance writer so that I won’t go into all the details here. But here are some of the things you need to start your freelance writing career:
- Domain name
- Niche or topic you can establish authority in
- A website
- Internet hosting
- Email address specifically for your business
- Social media profiles
Here’s another article I wrote on starting your freelance writing business quickly that helps you with some other aspects of running a freelance writing business.
What are the Secrets to Be Insanely Successful as a Writer?
Now I know you’re chomping at the bit to learn the secrets to being a successful freelance writer. There are so many things that I wish I’d known before I started my freelance writing career.
While the internet is super helpful, learning a new skill or trying a new job online can be overwhelming. There’s so much information swirling around, and everyone wants to sell you their latest product or course.
You see, the thing is that I needed a step-by-step guide on how to start a freelance writing business, the projects I could do to make money, how to start my website, what to put on social media profiles, and the list goes on and on.
Here are some secrets that will set you apart from other people starting their freelance writing journey.
1. Decide if Becoming a Freelance Writer is Right for You
Being a writer isn’t all roses and unicorns, but it can provide a great life if it’s the right career choice for you. You must be disciplined if you want to make money as a successful freelance writer.
Yes, you can work the schedule you want to for the most part, and you’re not stuck in a boring cubicle. But you still need to be organized, disciplined, and follow a routine.
Yeah, I’m a night owl, and I get to wake up later in the morning, but I still have to get up and go to work.
You should ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you like to write?
- Are you a good writer?
- Are you self-motivated?
- Can you accept and implement feedback?
2. Pick a Niche or Industry Where You Can Showcase Your Expertise and Establish Yourself as an Authority
Secret number two is, you need to pick a niche or topic that you love and can build authority in and establish yourself as an expert in that field. You can’t be everything to everybody.
Consider this. Say you’re a small family medical practice, and you want to hire someone to make an infographic for you. You have two writers to hire from. The health writer that specializes in case studies and other projects strictly in the medical field.
Or, the general writer that has no specialty and has written blog posts on everything from fashion, cannabis, social media marketing, and more.
You would choose the first writer, right? Businesses want to hire people that can walk the walk and talk the talk in their industry. You can set higher prices when you position yourself as an expert.
Some examples of a niche or specialties include:
- Blog posts for businesses in the software industry
- Network marketing
- Personal finance
- Real estate
- Eco-friendly fashion
- International travel
- Case studies and white papers
- Alternative health-Essential oils, Yoga, Supplements, Cannabis
- Landing pages and sales pages
- Press releases
One of the biggest tips for picking a niche is that the narrower you go, the more expertise you can establish. You can niche down by the type of writing project or industry or both. For instance, I write blog articles for businesses in the security and law enforcement industries.
Also, you can pick a niche that you don’t have experience in but are passionate about. With the internet, you can learn by researching your topic and looking at YouTube videos.
3. Master Writing and the Business Side of Writing
No matter how much you like to write, when you choose to start making an income from it, congratulations, you have a writing business too! You need to become a master writer as well as a smart business owner.
Mastering your business includes finding clients, managing them, business finances, managing your time, and more.
Really you should be pitching to potential clients every day. It should become a habit for you. It’s important not to make the mistakes that many beginners do and that is not setting up your blog and website.
4. Be Realistic
Be realistic about your writing ability, and if it’s not up to par, work on it. I’m not saying that to be mean, but you need to understand where you are today. Don’t worry, you can always learn and get better.
Do you need help with grammar? Perhaps, you don’t know how to format an article.
Writing is a serious craft, and we need to work on it daily to make improvements and become better writers. There’s no use to pitch stories to prestigious magazines continuously if you’re writing is subpar. Now, you don’t have to be perfect by any means.
After decades of writing, I learn new things all the time. I know that grammar isn’t my strong suit, so every year, I purchase a premium subscription for Grammarly.
It’s the best investment in my writing business that I make. There are also plenty of free resources to help you become a better writer.
5. Learn How to Write Good Query Letters
The query letter or pitch is a critical part of selling your piece or writing services. If you can’t hook the client or editor’s attention quickly, then you won’t fair well.
Everyone is busy these days, so whatever you have to say do so clearly and concisely. Read articles and books on how to write query letters. The Writer’s Digest book, The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters, is an excellent resource for this.
Being a great writer doesn’t mean you’re a great query letter, and I can attest to that. (Not great a writing query letters myself, just sayin’!) Today many publications accept online pitches, and you can find most businesses online as well.
You can also check online writing job listings specifically for freelance writers. Check out this post for more information on websites you can finding writing jobs on—28 of the Best Websites to Find Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners.
You don’t have much time to get the attention of a potential client or editor, maybe 10-20 seconds. So, subject lines are important.
The ad may ask you to use specific words in the subject line, and sometimes that’s to get their attention or to weed out people that don’t follow instructions. So, make sure you follow the instructions in the ad and check your email for grammatical and spelling errors.
6. Be Persistent-It Pays Off
Learning how to handle rejection is one of the hardest things a writer can do. The fear of failure is something that keeps many people from being successful writers. You have to be willing to take the chance and push past the fear.
Even Stephen King admitted that he got more rejections than he could count. His book Carrie wouldn’t have been published if his wife hadn’t pulled it out of the trash where King tossed it after another rejection.
Yes, rejection sucks, but if you stick with the process, you’ll see results. Just don’t expect to become an enormous success overnight.
You also need to be persistent with your follow up. You may not get an answer to your email pitches the first or even the second time.
Don’t be a pest or crazy about your follow up but give them a reasonable time to respond and simply send them a brief email again to check on the status. And you will find that you need to submit A LOT of pitches to see success, so don’t give up.
7. Find a Mentor to Follow
Search for successful writers and follow them. Learn from their experience and mistakes. You just need someone to educate and inspire you even if you never meet them.
There are plenty of successful writers that I follow from afar. Take their classes, devour their freebies, and learn everything you can about online writing from them.
8. Research is a Must
Research is critical, whether that’s learning more about the market you want to write for or data you need for a writing project. Try to approach all your topics from an objective, open-minded point of view unless it’s an opinion piece.
Try to assess the negatives and the positives, especially if you’re reviewing products or services. One place many writers say they look for experts is Help a Reporter or HARO.
Another is ProfNet. Just make sure you follow any rules for either of these sites. There are also very few topics that can’t be researched on the internet these days. Just try to back up facts with statistics and always cite your sources.
9. Build an Online Presence
Unfortunately, you can’t just set up your website and expect all these wonderful clients to find your site the next day. You want to be active on social media platforms.
I thought I knew what that meant, but it wasn’t until I started putting myself out there in Facebook Groups that I truly understood the power of getting yourself out there.
It helps you network with other bloggers and writers with who you form lasting relationships with, and it opens you up to media connections and other opportunities. There really is a whole world of opportunities waiting for you, including possible clients.
You can use Facebook to market your business as well as Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other platforms. All my longtime clients found me through a search or my profile on LinkedIn.
So, it’s essential to create social media accounts and optimize them so that people looking for a writer with your expertise can find you.
10. Showcase Your Work in a Portfolio
The best way to make an impression on potential clients is through samples of your previous work. Both publishers and businesses like to see the style and quality of your writing before they hire you.
Some may offer paid or unpaid trial articles, but before you even get that far, people want to see what kind of work you do.
The best way to do this is to create a portfolio or start a blog. So, what do you do if you have no experience and no portfolio? Well, you create one.
If you want to write blog articles for a SaaS company, maybe find a company that represents your ideal client and write an article that you think would interest them. The key here is not to present them as one of your clients. Make it clear it’s an example.
11. Learn How to Manage the Finances of a Business
Business finances can be tricky. I didn’t start treating my business like a business in the beginning, and I regret that. You need to know how to do your taxes and learn more about typical business expenses as well as the deductions you can take.
You also need to keep track of your finances and learn how to live below your means. Money earned from a business is different than a salary from a company.
A paycheck from an employer is just that, but with income from your business, you also need to take out business expenses like other salaries, quarterly taxes, office supplies, computer equipment, and more.
Being financially responsible is critical to your business’s success. There will be downtimes when there is less business, so it’s a good idea to keep a savings account with enough money that you can survive on for six months, but the more, the better.
If you think that freelance writing is the perfect job for you, then it can really be a lucrative career. You can enjoy financial freedom and build the life you’ve always dreamed of.
Final Thoughts on Being a Successful Freelance Writer
And now that you know some of the secrets to become a crazy successful freelance writer, you’re ahead of many other aspiring writers.
Pick a niche, and if you need help doing that, check out my free challenge where I help you niche down to make more money. Create that portfolio and website.
Make social media profiles and explain who you are and how you can help your dream client so if they see your profile it’s immediately clear to them. If you apply these secrets, you’ll reduce you’re your commute from 30 minutes or an hour to from your bed to the coffee pot.
Here’s another great article on freelance writing written by Chris over at Goldenbloggerz.com on how he earned $3,000 as a new freelance writer. Check it out!