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Five Steps to Becoming a Freelance Writer

Updated on March 31, 2016

First off, what is freelance writing? I mean, if you don’t know what it is, then how in the world are you going to become one? It sounds cool, right? “Freelance” implies a certain casual appeal that differentiates from a normal nine-to-five gig. And, hey, who doesn’t like writing? You’re here because you like to write and you want to know how to make money from it. One way to do that is to become a freelance writer. A freelance writer is someone who writes without belonging to a specific company or project. One might become a freelance writer to supplement their income, as a hobby, to broaden personal skills, add an extra talent to the resume, or as a full time career.

Getting paid to write sounds pretty sweet, but where do you start? Your mind is crawling with ideas ready to spring onto paper. Or it isn’t yet. Either way, whether you are doing this for fun or to put bread on the table, it all starts with the first step: write something.

Step One: Be A Good Writer

Write every day. Practice writing until you have a clear, unique voice that thrills your audience. The best writers are the passionate writers. Be happy about writing, whether you’re writing about the hottest new restaurant in town, or the best type of glue to use for tile.

Be comfortable with other people reading your work. The writer is a living oxymoron. He or she loves to write, wants to be a published artist, and yet trembles at the thought of another being reading their words. If the thought of strangers reading your writing terrifies you, start out small. Have friends and family members help you through the revisions. Then, take that leap into the published world! You’ve got to break the ice eventually.

One of the most important traits in being a good writer is knowing your grammar. An editor is not going to want to waste their time with basic punctuation errors. Remember, Microsoft isn’t always correct! If grammar is something you struggle with, keep a thesaurus and a grammar book nearby your writing space. Become a master at editing your own work.

Read a lot. When you aren’t writing, be reading. Read magazines, books, newspapers, online articles. Read other authors’ work who write about the same things you want to write about. Read other authors who write about things you don’t want to write about. Just read. All the time.

Step Two: Self-Discipline

This is probably the most important step for any type of writer and the hardest to follow. Self-discipline is a requirement for the freelance artist. Create personal deadlines for yourself to keep you going. Create a calendar and post it somewhere you will see every day. Set alarms on your cell phone to remind you to write. Dedicate a place to be your personal writing space. If you have a specific place and time in which you do your writing, you are more likely to stick to your schedule and become a successful writer.

Step Three: Figure Out Your Expertise

You want to write, but you don’t know what to write about or what sells. The oldest saying in the book is to write what you know. This is especially true with freelance writing. Find your niche and become an expert. Think about your interests. What inspires you? What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy learning about? What do you know a lot about already?

Write what you’re passionate about, but also be prepared to write about anything. Many companies will hire a writer to write on a specific topic. If this is something you are interested in, you may have to write about something you know nothing about and must research. Or, you may have to write about something you have no interest in. Use your skills as a writer to find an interesting angle and create an exciting article. This will help you build a rapport and make it more likely for the company to hire you again in the future.

Step Four: Build A Portfolio

Another oxymoron in the business world: you’ve got to have experience to get experience. Saying you are a freelance writer is basically all it takes to earn the title of freelance writer, but it isn’t enough to sell your stuff. A lot of companies won’t want to be your first buyer if you have no prior experience. Build a sample portfolio by doing some low-paying or non-paying gigs. Volunteer your writing to non-profits or small businesses.

Step Five: Find Clients

This is the big one. The reason you’ve read down to the bottom of this article. Unfortunately, finding clients is like finding any other job, especially if you have no prior reputation. You have to reach out. Search for job opportunities on Craigslist, but be careful of postings that require sampling, they’re just looking for free material. Reach out to people on social media, Idealist, Writers Market, LinkedIn, and free trade magazines and publications. Continuously be reaching out to organizations. Send out inquiries to publications and organizations with a copy of your portfolio, even if only one responds you are still creating a network. Get in touch with your local writer’s circles. Eventually, you will earn yourself a reputation and word-of-mouth will bring the clients to you.

© 2016 Sckylar Gibby-Brown


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    • CYong74 profile image

      Kuan Leong Yong 18 months ago from Singapore

      Terse, informative list.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 21 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Wonderful, informative article.

    • Enigmatic Me profile image

      22 months ago from East Coast Canada

      As someone who has been published in the past, I never knew I could become a freelance writer. My published items are related to my work, published in my Alma maters Newspaper, or linked to other web articles.

      I still wonder about the writer I will become, as I have poetry on here, and several other novel projects. I am all over the place, yet I don't know if freelancing is for me. Thanks for the article, well written. Kudos