How to Become a Fulltime Freelance Writer: 5 Simple Steps to Get You On Your Way
If you dream of becoming a fulltime freelance writer, there’s never been a better time to start. The web has opened up all kinds of opportunities, even for this with no experience. So if freelance writing is something you want to pursue, but have been held back for whatever reason, following is some concrete advice on how to make that dream a reality.
Note: I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993, owned an editorial staffing agency in New York City where I hired a lot of freelancers and worked in publishing for 10 years. So, this advice is from both sides of the hiring desk, and from someone who knows the editorial industry inside and out.
How to Make Freelance Writing Your Full-time Career
1. Assess Your Level of Desire: The reason this is important is because it’s not a “skill” that can be taught. There's no ebook, seminar, website or teleclass that can teach you desire. Either it’s a part of you, or it’s not.
If you really want to be a fulltime freelance writer, but it hasn’t become a reality yet, really question your desire. For example, do you think, “freelance writing seems like it’d be a fun career,” or , “I think I’d like to give it a try,” or, "I've always been good at writing so let me give freelance writing a try?"
If you have this type of blasé attitude about it, then it’s probably not for you because you’ll give up too quickly when the going gets tough.
But, if it’s a burning desire, something you not only dream about, but think about and take action towards it every day, then you’re probably ready to take the plunge. Freelance writing – especially at the full-time level, requires some sweat equity. You have to write when you don't feel like it, on subjects you know nothing about and could care less about . . . and sometimes under impossible deadlines.
And, not to mention the constant marketing required to bring in new work. This is a fulltime job in and of itself. All of these “osbstacles" can be overcome. There ARE ebooks, seminars, websites and teleclasses to tell you how to handle these.
But if you must have the desire, the passion, FIRST. If you've got it, read on. If not, you can stop reading right now.
2. Create a Niche: One of the things that’s brought me a lot of success is my niche writing ability. That’s why I'm a big believer in “nicheing it to success." In my experience, it’ s easier to sell your services if you specialize as a freelance writer, as opposed to being an all-around generalist.
Once you get your food in the door with client, it’s easier to get them to trust you with projects that fall outside your niche.
As an Example:In 2007 when I started writing SEO content, I initially “sold" myself as a writer who specialized in real estate, mortgages and general small business matters.
The very first client I landed contacted me because he needed someone to write SEO articles on mortgages.
I went on to write a few thousand SEO articles for this company, on everything from wedding accessories to welding to how to make wire jewelry. None of these topics were in my portfolio that I originally submitted. However, because he was so impressed with my writing abilities on mortgages, he entrusted other types of writing projects to me as well.
This has happened to me so many times in my career. But, it all started because I pitched my freelance writing services in a specialized niche first.
3) Create Revenue Streams: Most freelance writers who are just starting out get confused by doing this because they don't even have clients yet. S, they think, “I’d like to have just one revenue stream at this point." I counter with, "begin with the end in mind." An illustrative example:
Via my local chamber of commerce one summer, I attended a seminar given by a successful entrepreneur, one Jim Ziegler. Mr. Ziegler is a successful author, entrepreneur and motivational speaker.
During his presentation, he put up a chart that illustrated his revenue streams. While, I don't remember the exact breakdown, I do remember that the chart looked something like this:
Speaking engagements: $25K/month
Book Sales: $15K/month
Seminar Presentations: 12K/month
Web Sales: $9K/month
My point? When you first start out as a freelance writer, start thinking concretely about how much money you want to make annually as a freelance writer -- and how you’re going to go about doing it. It doesn’t all have to come from client jobs.
There's never been a better time to be a freelance writer because all of your income doesn't have to come directly from your writing efforts.
My income, for example, is split into several revenue streams, eg, ebook sales, ecourses, “write for pay” sites, affiliate marketing and client projects.
The great thing about having several streams of income is that you inoculate yourself against the ups and downs of being a freelance writer. We all go through dry spells. But that doesn’t mean your income has to suffer.
If 20% of your income comes from ebooks, 15% ecourses, and 12% from affiliate marketing, then if one source or revenue dips, it doesn't have nearly the catastrophic effect on income as a whole.
Marketing Tip for New Freelance Writers
If have no product/service of your own to sell, affiliate marketing is great. Via sites like Clickbank.com, you can start making money from affiliate marketing right away --- without ever having to develop a product of your own.
Warning: Don't spread yourself too thin in the beginning though trying to create too many income streams. Initially, you want to cultivate ways to make money that are not going to take a lot of time to promote because most of your energy is going to be invested in marketing for freelance writing jobs.
4) Marketing: This is the most critical part of starting your freelance writing career.
You have the desire. You've chosen a niche to specialize in and you've thought about how you want to diversify your income streams. Now it's time to put all of it together.
How to Determine How to Market for Clients
How you market will depend heavily on the niche you target and the secondary streams of income you want to create. For example, as an SEO writer, all of my marketing is done online because this is where my clients are. For my ebook sales, I publish two weekly newsletters and use article marketing to get the word out.
To figure out which marketing methods work best for you, keep the following critical factors in mind:
(i) what is my budget; and (ii) where are the bulk of my clients -- online or off?
Remember the following once you start to market:
a) Only use marketing methods you can afford to repeat:The reason is, one-hit-wonder marketing never works. Prospects have to see your ad a few times before they are likely to respond.
Hence, if you spend the bulk of your marketing budget on one ad and you can't afford to run it again, you’ve wasted time and money. Why/how? Because if prospects don't see your ad the first time, you're out of luck.
Drip marketing works best.
b) Contain a certain number of prospects each week -- every week: Why? Because marketing is a numbers game, as I spoke about in the intro to a marketing ebook I wrote entitled, The Small Biz Owner's Complete Marketing Kit! I wrote:
Most small businesses market out of a sense of hopeful desperation, ie, sales are slow, so let's "advertise." You put all of your eggs in one basket and it almost never works out the way you hope. This, "shotgun marketing" rarely, if ever, works. You need a consistent plan.
How to Consistently Land Freelance Writing Jobs and New Leads for Freelance Writing Jobs
Which would you rather do: send out 1,000 emails all at once, or email 10 new prospects a day, every day? Consistency and time are all you need as far as marketing to grow a business – any type of business. If you market consistently, you will land freelance writing jobs – I practically guarantee it!
5) Get Moving! The final thing you need to do to make freelance writing a full-time career is – just do it. What? Anything that moves you closer to that goal. The key is not to procrastinate, ie:
I'll start marketing when I get a website; or
I’ll wait until I have some good samples; or
I need to start a blog first; or
I'll wait until I can pull together that newsletter;
This kind of thinking will make you constantly push back your dream and you'll never become a freelance writer. Don’t let it happen!
Remember this: you're going to make mistakes as a freelance writer. You're going to lose clients because you didn’t price a job right, or there was a spelling error in the email you sent, or because you didn’t get back to the prospect in a timely manner and they found someone else, etc.
But, don’t let the possibility of “mistakes” hold you back. If you really want a full-time career as a freelance writer, it’s possible. Following the advice outline here will make it that much easier.
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