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Becoming a Freelance Writer: What You DON’T Need to Start a Freelance Writing Career

The following is a guest post by Laura Pennington.

Every so often, I come across people who would seem to be a great fit as a freelance writer. They’ve got the writing chops or the writing ability but they psych themselves out of ever having a freelance career.

There are lots of amazing resources online to help you put together pieces of the puzzle for your freelance writing career, but there are also a lot of misconceptions about things you need to have in order to start. Most of these are myths, and it holds back plenty of talented people from launching their freelance career.

A Writing-Related Degree

Does it help to have studied writing, English, communications, or journalism? Sure. But it’s also not entirely necessary.

When I got started, I had a bachelor’s degree in economics and politics and a master’s in political science. For a hot minute, I got hung up on the fact that I had no fancy MFA, but I quickly realized it didn’t matter- at all.

With some rare exceptions, clients were looking for two things: writing talent and ability to meet deadlines. That’s still true today.

If you do have some amazing educational experience tied to writing, play it up as much as you can. Some of the best freelance writers I know, however, are self-taught and had no “writing” training before they got started.

Paid or Professional Writing Experience

College students and recent grads sometimes ask me if they need an unpaid internship at a populWhat You Need to Start a Freelance Writing Careerar magazine to get their foot in the door.

While there’s nothing wrong with that opportunity as a way to network, I think you’re much more likely to make money quickly by gathering paying freelance writing clients. If you have some volunteer or internship experience, mention it in your pitch or online profile, but it’s not a must-have.

If you’re looking for regular work with print magazines, it’s a bit harder to break in. You might hear these freelancer writers talking about “clips” of where they’ve been published before. Even if you do intend to break into magazine writing, online writing is the easiest way to do so.

There are way fewer barriers involved in web writing, and you can use some of your online experience to help you land that first magazine gig.

Bonus tip: If you’re concerned about a lack of writing history, put together some amazing samples. Refine them and use those to sell potential clients on your services!

A Steady Lineup of Clients

Does it help to launch a freelance career when you’ve already got three or more people demanding your services? Sure! You can get started with just one client, though, and use that to snowball into more work.

3 Keys to Getting More Work from Existing Clients

One of the big mistakes new freelance writers make is that they don’t know how to capture that first client and turn it into more business, but it’s easy enough to do this:

  • Ask for referrals
  • Upsell the client into more work
  • Ask for a testimonial that you can feature in your marketing

Those are what help you get the steady stable of clients!

So… What DO I Really Need?

It all boils down to talent, the right marketing, and the ability to meet or exceed client expectations. Talent is shown through your online portfolio, writing samples, and testimonials/referrals. The right marketing is all about selecting your niche and directing all your marketing specifically to your ideal client.

Meeting an exceeding expectations means delivering good work, doing it on time, and being easy to work with. If you have these three elements in line, that’s what I call a triple threat in the freelance writing world!

If you’re having trouble getting started, take some time to reflect about your work and your process. What can be improved?

What’s the secret to getting started as a freelance writer? Simply put, spend less time talking yourself out of getting started and more time actually booking clients and writing. I met one of my favorite authors, Jen Lancaster, once, and she told me “If you want to be a writer, write.” Sounds like a simplification, but she’s right on!

It’s a myth that you need to have a particular background in order to become a freelance writer. If you’re willing to invest time in your strategy and process, you can succeed very quickly!

In my next post, I’m diving into one of the taboo topics of the freelance world: writing for content mills. Are they worth it? Are they only for beginners? When is it time to stop relying on them? Stay tuned!

About the Author: Laura Pennington is a former inner city teacher and corporate employee who fled the grind in 2012 to work at home. Since then, she’s focused on SEO content for law firms and insurance agencies, writing everything from ebooks to blogs to video scripts. She now blogs at www.sixfigurewritingsecrets.com.

Share Your Thoughts

Have any of these fears held you back from starting a freelance writing career? Did you overcome them? If not, did this insight help? Please share in the comments section below.

P.S.: Get your writing in front of thousands of other freelance writers. Submit a guest post.

P.P.S.: I’m Ready to Start My Freelance Content Writing Career!

How to Start a Freelance SEO Writing CareerGet the exact knowledge that pushed my freelance writing career to the next level – allowing me to travel and live abroad, get out of debt and really “live the freelance life.” One freelancer wrote:

Hey Yuwanda,

I hope all is well! I just wanted to let you know that this month marked the first month that my writing income surpassed that of my day job.

Thanks to your help and inspiration, I have more work than I know what to do with and have successfully landed a number of clients that give me recurring work. Thanks again for your advice!

SEO writing changed the trajectory of my freelance writing career. It can do the same for you!

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