Getting your start in freelance writing is relatively easy. Anyone with even adequate writing skills could earn additional money by picking up jobs through freelancer websites and completing them in their downtime. However, if you want to make a career out of it, there are a few traits that you need to possess first and foremost.
- Willingness to Learn
I would say that these are the biggest traits for any freelance writer. They have had a massive effect on my own freelance writing career. By nature, I am a naturally driven person. I want more, and am willing to work to get there. Persistence was tough for me to learn. Rejection is never fun, and I have never been very good at handling it. Some have it naturally. For me, it was a learned skill that took some time to develop. Working through rejections and increasing your chances for success through sheer will will help you to land the jobs that other writers simply don’t have the balls for. Then there is the willingness to learn. No one is going to come into this industry an expert on all types of writing. Maybe you know a fair amount about blog writing – but can you effectively craft response driven copy? Could you write a whitepaper? There is always more to learn and gain experience in, opening up more opportunities to you in the long run.
Identify Your Strengths
Everyone has different strengths. We all have different hobbies and passions. Use your own passions and hobbies to your advantage. Is there a subject that you would consider yourself an expert in? This automatically qualifies you for jobs that pertain to that subject in any way. Maybe, like me, you have a passion for the NFL and football in general? You’ll certainly have an easier time landing a position in that industry rather than attempting to write about something you are completely unfamiliar with.
What Do You Want to Write About?
What interests you? What kinds of things do you do in your spare time? What kind of television programs do you watch? What kind of websites do you personally read on a regular basis? Identifying topics that you are actively interested in will make your life as a freelance writer much easier. Personally, I’d rather write an editorial on my favorite NFL team sooner than I would an article about the oil pipeline industry. It would just come more naturally to me. My voice would be authentic, and ring true with the reader. Identify what subjects you personally would like to write about, and seek out positions that pertain to those interests.
What Are Your Work Habits Like?
Are you the type of person that spends a long time writing short pieces, looking to ensure that you perfect every sentence? Well, you might have a hard time staying employed in this industry if that is the case – but at least you have a good idea of what your work habits are like. The way that you will work will determine what jobs are suitable for you. I wouldn’t recommend a perfectionist take a quick-and-dirty gossip blogging position, as the requirements are more time-centric than quality-centric.
What Types of Writing Interest You?
What got you into writing in the first place? Was a childhood fascination with your favorite novel? Maybe you really enjoyed researching and writing book reports as a kid? Identify the types of pieces that you would like to work on, and target those in your early marketing efforts. Not every high-level blogger makes a great short-form copywriter. Not every novelist can jump into writing whitepapers seamlessly. By identifying the types of writing that interest you, you bring yourself a lot closer to having your dream job (or at least one you can stand.)
Identify the types of writing that you would be potentially interested in learning about as well. Too often we get comfortable in our own little bubble. You will eventually want to expand your opportunities and start earning more. In the meantime, you should be studying different types of writing and working to build out an example portfolio of your skills.
Setting Your Prices
Now that you know what you want to write about, and how you want to write about it – you can begin to look at your prices. Before doing so, there are a few questions that you have to ask yourself;
- Do you have any experience? Experience is important. When applying for jobs, you need to have a portfolio. Learn about building a portfolio.
- How fast can you write? In the beginning, staying afloat can be tough. You may have to take on writing jobs that underpay you. Writing for $1/100 words, or $1.50/100 words can suck, but if you type 100 words-per-minute, you could potentially earn $20-25 an hour writing basic SEO articles. This is the fastest way to earn a decent living as a freelance writer, but you should always keep your eye on bigger, higher paying jobs.
- Do you burnout easily? Avoiding burnout and spacing our your workday is an acquired skill. If you burnout easily, you may need to price yourself a bit higher even as a beginner to avoid burnout. Early on, I would get burned out on a regular basis. I still do. I shouldn’t have been willing to work for the pennies that I was, but at the time I had no idea how to go about finding the jobs that I wanted.
So what should you charge? Ideally, no less than $2-$3 per 100 words. This means that you can earn $20 per hour if you can write two decent 500-word articles per hour. This enables you to build out your portfolio while still earning a decent living.
Your First Writing Jobs
As was previously stated – you are going to have to write for a low wage initially. When building a portfolio, it’s best to find jobs that are going to give you credit for the article. Avoid ghost writing, writing under non-disclosure agreements and other situations that would keep you from putting your initial projects on your portfolio. There will be plenty of time to seek out these projects later.
Places to Find Your First Writing Jobs
- Freelance Websites. Our guide walks you through the process of finding your first freelance writing jobs on freelance marketplaces. Of course, most of the jobs on these websites will be low-paying, but everyone now and then there are a few real diamonds. Keep a close eye on the job openings and apply for those that you believe you have a solid chance of landing. Follow our guide when creating your freelance profile for maximum chance of success.
- Your Local Area. Many freelance writers start by writing for businesses in their local area. Try asking around, placing some adds, and seeking our freelance work that allows you to meet with them in person. Local clients are a great addition to any portfolio, and since you will be meeting with them in person they would be great to use as a reference in the future as well.
- Internet Forums. There are numerous internet forums that you could begin your freelance writing career on. I personally got my start more than 5 years ago on DigitalPoint, but I would not recommend them in this day and age. Other popular internet marketing forums that have Marketplaces for writing services include Warrior Forum, BlackHatWorld, and Wickedfire, among others.
Types of Jobs to Look For
- Writing SEO Content. Writing content for search engines can pay between $1.50-$3.00 per 100 words when you find a decent job. This can be a great way for you to build a portfolio while learning new skills. SEO content is basic informational content about a subject, and usually there will be many sources online for inspiration.
- Long-Term Work. The hardest thing for most freelance writers is finding enough clients to give them a steady stream of work. If you can find a single client that can provide you with a good baseline of work for each work day, that is an opportunity that you should consider heavily.
- Subjects that interest you. Find subjects that you are interested in. Trust me, it makes your workday a whole lot easier to stand after you have been writing for a good amount of time.
How to Earn Good Amounts Quickly
In a recent post of mine, I detailed the highest paying gigs for freelance writers. While these are great for those with experience, it might not be plausible for a new freelance writer to win a job writing whitepapers for a multi-million dollar company. In my early days, when I was writing low quality content, there were a few ways that I was able to speed up my writing and boost my daily earning.
Use Dragon Naturally Speaking (And Edit Heavily)
Dragon Naturally Speaking is a piece of voice detection software that allows you to speak into a microphone, and have it transribed on the page. I was able to write twice as many articles per hour using Dragon Naturally Speaking. One thing that needs to be taken into account is the fact that the software will often misunderstand what you have said. It is important that you speak as clearly as possible when using the software. However, no matter how clearly you speak there will be some heavy editing that needs to be done after the article was written. Using Dragon Naturally Speakingallowed me to write much more quickly, and take on more work in a day. It also is a great alternative to avoid typing burnout. I would also suggest running articles written with Dragon Naturally Speaking through Grammarly before beginning to edit by hand.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
There is nothing that stops a new freelancer from pricing themselves like someone that has 10 years of experience in writing. You will definitely have a much more difficult time finding work – but once you have that first initial client you will be on the road. With some careful wording you can make a meager portfolio seem like that of a superstar.You can embellish or slightly exaggerate experience, and eventually you will land a job. I would recommend having a secondary income through this phase though, as you may find yourself waiting months for those first few jobs.
There are a few essential resources that I feel that every new freelance writer should invest in when getting started. These resources will make your life much easier. I use each of these to this day;
- The Freelance Writers Den – Hands down the best resource for new freelance writers. Our in depth review gives a full overview of what they offer. They provide basic information and advanced concepts, and are an excellent resource for freelancers of all levels.
- Dragon Naturally Speaking – Dragon Naturally Speaking is a voice recognition software that allowed me to double my writing speed in my early days. Articles written by Dragon require heavy editing, but the software is surprisingly brilliant for new writers.
- Grammarly – Our Grammarly Review shows that I believe that Grammarly is the best grammar checker currently available online. I recommend it for writers of all levels.