Freelancing on a Shoestring
There have always been freelance writers, but with the invention of the internet they are appearing in droves. This Hub will help you avoid some costly mistakes (live and learn) so you can spend more time making money (instead of spending it).
This is my story and what I have done to get where I am. Note that not everything will work for everyone - your results will be based on your personal ability and efforts invested.
What You'll Need
Luckily for you, you already have the basics needed. Since you are reading this Hub, you obviously have access to a computer and the internet. That is all you need as far as equipment is concerned.
If you are using a shared or public computer (at work or at your local library), you will need to invest in a removable hard drive. You don't want to save a document for a client and have it read by someone else, or worse yet, have it deleted before you can deliver it.
That's it! Not much is needed to get started at all.
Set Up a Profile
As is said, hindsight is 20/20. If I had known when I began my journey five years ago what I know now, I would be earning six-figures, not four. I am not complaining, because I am the one at fault. Not getting myself out there early was detrimental to my career - I want to see you succeed.
The first step is to set up a profile. If you are paralyzed with fear (as I was), start writing here on HubPages to get your feet wet. What you write is up to you, but be sure you offer your reader at least one of the following:
- information that benefits them
- information that solves a problem they are having
- an educational article (great for the DIYer)
- a source of entertainment
Now, back to the profile.
- Give your reader some basic information about yourself. If you are an aspiring writer, say so. If you are just beginning your career, don't proclaim to be a professional with awards to your credit. People are more understanding when you are honest with them.
- Don't sound too stuffy. Potential clients will want to know you are a real person; one who is willing to work with them on a project.
- Keep it short, but include your credentials. Let them know you are precise when it comes to spelling, grammar, sentence structure and punctuation. Not only that, prove it! If you say you are these things, ensure your work reflects it.
The next section will discuss where you should look for writing gigs, and places to avoid.
Where to Look for Paying Gigs
One of the hardest parts of getting started is knowing where to look for paying gigs. HubPages is great if you want to earn some extra money, but it is a full-time endeavour if you are aiming for an income which you can live on (and retire on).
When it comes to writing, having a few "baskets" is a wise choice. Relying on one sole source does not give you a cushion should a client suddenly stop using your services. Think of a regular 9 to 5 job. You work 40 hours per week and earn a modest income. Suddenly the company you work for changes hands and the new owners want to recruit their own staff. You are handed a pink slip and sent on your way. What do you do?
Chances are you become stressed and worry about where your next meal is coming from. Freelance writing can often put you in the same panic situation, but it doesn't have to be that way. My advice: spread your wings a little and utilize your skills to your advantage.
One of my favourite sites to find clients is Fiverr. I signed up in 2012, and didn't realize the potential until this year (2015). I have earned several hundred dollars in a short time, and had I utilized the site sooner I would be doing much better.
I started with writing articles, but did undersell myself just to get the work. Don't do that! There are people who will pay your fees if they are competitive and if you do good work. I recently had a review stating other Fiverr writers had been hired, but my article was the best they had received. It is reviews like that which help with getting additional orders.
I'm not going to get into the details of the workings, but I do suggest you try them as an additional income source. Offer one or two gigs to begin with, and do your best. Over-deliver and you will soon find yourself with several orders in queue. Fiverr
Another site I used in the beginning was iWriter. It is great for someone just getting started, but the pay is minimal. You can gradually earn more income, but it involves a lot of work as well.
One of the best places to find writing gigs is among your own circle of contacts. Let your family and friends know what you do, and you may be surprised how many could utilize your services occasionally. It could be for a resume, a cover letter or a blog post. Do any of your connections have an Etsy store? Perhaps you could offer to help them tweak their product descriptions.
Look around you - you never know who your next big client could be.
What to Write About
This is where many beginners struggle. I know I did in the beginning. There were so many ideas flowing through my head, I felt overwhelmed and didn't do anything for some time. If you are content to start with articles, write down all of the topics you are interested in on sheets of paper. Put them into a hat and take one out. Write about that topic, edit it, then submit it. As I said, HubPages is a great starting point.
Plus, when others want to see examples of your work, you can send them the link to your articles. Not only do they see your talent, they are adding to your views and income. (More on this in the marketing section.)
When you are working for clients, they will often dictate your topic. It is up to you to do the research required and provide them with a piece that they are pleased with. I find being able to write about a variety of topics helps me stay sharp and always thinking. I love a challenge. One of my best (and most challenging) gigs was to write a subtitle for a product description. The client provided the description and photo - I had to sum it all up in a few words.
That was one of my first copywriting gigs, and I have had several since. I do have to say, copywriting does pay more than a regular blog post. The best resource I have come across to explain the in's and out's of becoming a copywriter is . If you can sell ice cubes to a polar bear with your words, then you most definitely have what it takes to be a copywriter. The Copywriter's Handbook by Robert W. Bly
Expand Your Horizons
Once you get going, you will quickly see it becomes easier. Keep your research materials in a file (hardcopy recommended) so you have them for future reference. Never, ever copy anything word for word. It is your job as a writer to put everything you learn from other sites, books and people in your own words.
Speaking of books, as time goes on you will become a walking encyclopedia yourself. You can re-purpose all of your notes and research, add your own experiences, and write books for either electronic or print distribution. Your research may even lead to settings and characters for fiction. Either way, you can add to your income stream by self-publishing your own books. As a freelance writer, you will possess the skills to bypass an editor and be able to get your work in the eyes of potential readers quicker.
Marketing Your Services
As promised, I will discuss a bit about marketing.
No matter what you choose to write, if you want clients or readers, you need to market yourself. It is not an easy task for many (me included, as I was brought up to not brag about my accomplishments), but in order to succeed as a freelance writer you have to tell others what you do. Luckily, we have the advantages of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites. Taking out an ad in your local paper is not a bad idea either. Depending on your budget, you can advertise on both paid and free sites plus some print publications.
Tell others what you do, link to your articles (which is why submitting to HubPages and other sites where you get credit for the article is beneficial) and offer insightful comments on other blogs and posts. In the case of the latter, many blogs let you add your website or social media profile page to the comment. That will send readers your way, which may result in a new client.
No matter how you promote yourself, do it tactfully and don't spam people. You will quickly become "that annoying person" if you don't act like a personable human.
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Not only can you start your freelancing career on a shoestring, you can use your skills in several different ways. Let's go over what you learned:
- What you'll need for equipment - start with the very basics, which is often a computer, internet access and an external hard drive.
- Set up a profile - start here on HubPages and expand to Fiverr and social networking sites.
- Where to look for paying gigs - social networking sites and your own circle of connections. Fiverr is a good place to start too.
- Expand your horizons - write articles, learn how to copywrite and write your own books.
- Marketing yourself - be shameless, but don't be annoying.
In closing, I will say this: there is no guarantee you will succeed as a freelance writer, but you have nothing to lose by trying. It is a career that does take some work and time to get started, but the financial rewards are many. It doesn't need to break your bank to start though, which is why it is called Freelancing on a Shoestring. Good luck!
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