How to Become a Freelance Writer: Starting from Scratch

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January 17, 2012

This time of year, many are starting new things, eg, diets, exercise programs, quitting smoking . . . and starting businesses. That’s why I thought now would be a perfect time to go over what you need to do to start a home-based, freelance writing business.

As an aside, I was watching the Suze Orman show a few nights ago. It was around 1 in the morning and I was sleepily thumbing through the channels. I perked right up when I ran across her show (I love personal finance shows!). I managed to catch the last 15 minutes or so, just in time to hear her say that, in her opinion, the economy is not going to be adding jobs in record numbers any time soon. She said that for Americans to get back on their feet, they should look at starting some type of low-cost business.

Her exact words were:

if you are not employed, start looking to become an entrepreneur. i don’t care if that means a dog walker, give manicures, do anything like that. look into what you can do on your own without requiring a lot of capital, but for you to be able to pay the bills.

Freelancing writing fits this bill perfectly!

So if you’re new here – welcome. If you’ve been wanting to start a career as a freelance writer – whether it’s part-time or full-time — following is what, in my opinion (and considerable experience), you need to do.

How to Become a Freelance Writer in 7 Simple Steps 

I. Select a Niche: I’ve discussed ad nauseam on this site why I believe freelance writers should specialize. The most important reason though, especially for newbies, is that you’ll land jobs quicker.

How to Become a Freelance WriterRead this post on why choosing a niche is so important as a freelance writer.

Related Article: Learn How to Develop a Freelance Writing Niche with No Experience

II. Decide Service Offerings: The best piece of advice I can give here is to start slow, especially if you’re still working a job. For example, when I first started out as an SEO writer I just offered SEO articles. As clients began to request more things (eg, blog posts, press releases, social media), I added those services – when I felt comfortable and when I knew I could afford to hire help.

It’s easy in certain sectors to get busy quickly as a freelance writer. Even writing a few articles a day can be hard because it’s not JUST the writing, it’s the research, the back and forth with the client, the proofreading, the editing, etc.

So start slow – with one or two services you’re comfortable with. You can always add on services as you grow (and can afford to hire help).

III. Create 3-5 Writing Samples: Once you select your niche, you need writing samples. They don’t have to be for “real” clients.

Just sit down and write samples for each type of service you plan to provide. For example, if you’re going to offer press releases, cases studies and general web articles, write one or two of each type – in your niche —to put on your website. Make sure they’re letter perfect.

Create perfect writing samples every time: Get the ebook  Freelance Writing Samples: 5 Elements Samples that Land Freelance Writing Jobs Must Have.

IV. Set Your Freelance Writing Rates: This is probably the hardest part of starting a freelance writing career because rates are all over the place. Following is a series of posts I’ve written about it.

Posts on How to Set Your Freelance Writing Rates

Freelance Writing Rates: What to Charge for Proofreading, Copyediting, Writing, Etc.

Freelance Writing Rates: And the Debate Rages On . . .

Advice for Freelance SEO Writers: How to Negotiate Rates When Clients Want You to Go Lower with the Promise of More Work

SEO Writing Rates: How to Determine What to Charge as an SEO Copywriter

How to Set Freelance Writing Rates for Online Writing Jobs: A Definitive Guide for Setting (and Getting) the Rates You Deserve

5 Types of Freelance Writing Rates (from About.com)

The best advice I can give is to research your niche to find out what the highs and lows are, figure out what you personally need to make to pay your bills, then set your rates accordingly.

Many will probably accuse you of being too cheap (newbies tend to go lower than higher). Don’t worry about this. If the rate feels right to you, go with it. Then, adjust accordingly as you settle into being a freelance writer. You’ll learn very quickly if you’re working for peanuts and need to raise your rates.

V. Lay Out a Simple Marketing Strategy: If you don’t have any money, there are a plethora of ways to find clients, eg, social media, email marketing, free article distribution, cold calling, etc. Only you can decide what works for you.

But, the most important thing to keep in mind is to systemize your marketing so that it becomes automatic. For example, if you’re going to use email marketing, reach out to a certain number of contacts each day; if you’re going to use article marketing, write and distribute a certain number of articles per week/month; etc.

Use marketing strategies you can afford to repeat because consistency is what will bring in jobs. If you send out 10 emails and wait two weeks to send out 10 more, it’s going to be slow going building a steady client base. It’s better to send out 2 emails per day, than 10 in one day once per week. And the reason is, the less frequently you market, the greater your chance of NOT marketing on a consistent basis. But, if you send out just a few emails per day, you increase your chance of making it a “daily habit.”

And, the more “touches” you send out, the greater your chance of landing clients.

See the logic?

Good!

One final thing about this step — whatever your marketing plan is, write it down, put it in a place where you can see/consult it every day — and follow it.

VI. Get a Website/Blog: Once you’ve decided on a niche, wrote your writing samples, and decided on your service offerings and rates, then it’s time to pull it all together in one place – on your freelance writing website!

And, it doesn’t have to be fancy. All you have to do is see my SEO writing company’s website for proof of this. I did this basic site myself. This one, InkwellEditorial.com, was designed by professionals. Clear difference. But, my SEO writing company’s site has worked well since 2008. Sure, I plan to have it redone someday. But, if I’d waited to get what I really wanted, I probably never would have gotten started as an SEO writer.

So, do a simple site yourself, or hire someone to do one for you. Affordable web designers can be found all over on sites like Craigslist and backpage. Place an ad, look at some portfolios of web designers and when you like what you see, hire them to do a simple freelance writing website for you.

VII. Just Get Started Already! Many who do all the above still fail to pull the trigger. They will hem, haw, procrastinate, find other stuff they “need” to do, etc. Once you’ve done the above, believe me, you’re more than ready to start your freelance writing career.

There will always, always, always be something else that you could do, should do and/or want to do before you start.

Don’t!

It can wait. All this is is fear at work. And, fear in this situation mostly stems from the unknown, which brings me to the last thing you need to do to start your freelance writing career . . . 

Related Post: How to Become a Freelance Writer in 24 Hours or Less for $0 (forgive the design; this was our old site and I haven’t migrated all the pages over yet).

One More Thing . .  .  Make Time to Study: As in, to learn this profession. This can be as little as 15 or 20 minutes per day and it doesn’t have to cost a dime (although investing in classes, books and websites by reputable providers is never a waste of time).

Find the blog/website of a few successful freelance writers that appeal to you. Many of them dispense a ton of free information about how to freelance as a writer, eg, how to set your freelance writing rates, what to put on your website, how to deal with non-paying clients, web hosting companies, etc.

The beautiful thing about this type of freelance business is that you can always find an answer to your question because there’s a ton of it freely given by those who’ve been at this for a looonnnng time.

Hope this info helps, and good luck starting your freelance writing career.

Did I Miss Anything?

Feel free to share your advice for those who want to learn how to become a freelance writer in the comments section below.

Yuwanda
Find this post informative? Please RT It and Follow Inkwell Editorial on Twitter.
coverP.S.: Get the freelance writing opportunity that allowed me to be financially secure enough to travel, live abroad, get out of debt and really “live the freelance life!”

P.P.S.: Want to start a successful career where you have the mobility to live and work where you please? Visit our freelance writing bookstore for a ton of opportunities (freelance writing and internet marketing) to get you started.

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4 Responses to “How to Become a Freelance Writer: Starting from Scratch”

  1. Andy says:

    Happy new Year again Yuwanda! And – it’s great to read another detailed, fact-filled, common sense Article from you again. I agree, starting a Freelance Writing career in these troubled times makes absolute sense – we also echo that in our ‘Write2Profit’ Site. I also like the fact that you not only talk about relevant areas of Freelancing, in nice logical steps, you also provide Links for further info(good Marketing ploy too, and why not!)in the body of the piece. I look forward to reading many more really useful Articles from your Inkwell Editorial Site during 2012. I’ve already added a short description about you and Inkwell on our updated and re-designed ‘Write2Profit’ Site. Hope you like it!
    Best Wishes, Andy Gage

  2. Lasha says:

    Hi Yuwanda, great info as usual.

    Lasha

  3. @Andy:

    Thanks for adding my info to your site. I really appreciate that. And, glad you enjoyed the post. Thought it was an apropos time for info like this.

    @Thanks Lasha. Hope you’re having a good year so far. :-)

  4. [...] niche will I focus on? Read more about why I think niching it makes it much easier to start landing freelance writing jobs when you first start out (See Step I in this [...]

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