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Getting Started as a Freelance Writer in 2021

by Amanda Hundley Revels about a year ago in career
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Everything You Need to Know about Launching a Freelance Writing Career this Year

Getting Started as a Freelance Writer in 2021
Photo by Dan Counsell on Unsplash

When I started freelance writing back in 2006, things were quite different than they are today. It makes me feel old just saying that, but its true. Technology has changed and with that change, doors opened that made it possible for literally anyone to make a living as a freelancer no matter where they live. If you have a computer and an internet connection, you can be a freelancer. Now, I say anyone can be a freelance writer, but it is a job that isn’t for everyone. Freelancing takes skills outside of just creating content for a client. I am going to walk you through getting started as a freelance writer and the skills needed to be successful.

I want you to make note that this is not a get rich quick scheme. You will find or may have already found, many articles that say you can make thousands of dollars the first month of freelance writing. This is not true for everyone. A lucky few can make thousands of dollars, but if you have never been a writer before, it will prove to be quite difficult to make that kind of money your first month freelance writing. Do not get discouraged though. You will get there but it takes hard work, dedication and a passion for your craft.

What Skills Should You have as a Freelance Writer?

Yes, everyone can be a writer, but there are certain skills that you will need to be successful as a freelance writer. Not everyone possesses the skills needed to be their own boss which is why I’m going to talk about them here. People come to me all the time and ask me why their freelance writing career is failing. It doesn’t take long after asking a few questions for me to figure out why. When I point it out to those people, they either get offended, walk away from writing, or home in on those issues and completely turn their writing career around.

The most important skills you need to have as a freelance writer are:

• Time Management

• Self-Discipline

• Motivation to Succeed.

• Dedication to your work as a writer

Time management is essential when you are trying to be your own boss. Its one of the biggest downfalls of most people who failed as freelancers. You must set aside time to be a freelance writer, set aside time to work. If you spend 10 hours a day hanging out with friends, watching tv, or playing Candy Crush on your phone and didn’t write a single word, you will never make it as a writer. The work isn’t going to do itself. Create a schedule and stick to it. If your friends call and want to hang out during a time you set to be working, tell them no. I’m not saying don’t have a life, just don’t waste your day doing everything but writing if you want to be a writer. If you set your schedule to work from 9am to 5pm, then work from 9am to 5pm.

That’s where self-discipline comes in. If you don’t have it in you to tell people no, you can’t hang out when you’re supposed to be working, then you aren’t going to make it as a writer. Time management and self-discipline go hand in hand. The same with motivation. If you don’t have the motivation to be your own boss, to be a successful freelance writer, then you’re not going to make it as a writer. If you aren’t motivated, you aren’t going to make time to write or stick to a schedule. If you aren’t motivated, then you won’t be dedicated to your work as a writer.

If these are areas you struggle with, you should really consider these before trying to launch a freelance career. Freelance writing is not for everyone. Anyone can be a freelance writer but not everyone can do it.

What is your Niche?

What are you going to write about? Every successful freelancer got their start writing in one subject area. Keep in mind that you do not have to stick to this area your entire writing career. Once you get a good client base, you can start looking for clients in other areas of your expertise. Prove you can be an amazing writer in one area before trying to write about everything. When I got started as a freelance writer, I was writing product reviews for a client I found on ODesk (now named Upwork). I wrote for that client for months and got to review hundreds of amazing products. I only made a few hundred bucks a week, but it was a start and I loved it. Your goal is to get started as a writer in an area you enjoy writing about. Once you get a good income coming in, you can begin to branch off into other areas.

Deciding on a niche can be hard, especially if you are like me and have an interest in multiple things. Here is a list of questions to ask yourself when trying to decide on a niche.

What are things you are good at? Hobbies? Topics that you can easily carry on a conversation about.

• Of that list of things that interest you, which ones can you explain on paper to someone who knows nothing about that topic? Example: if one of your interests is cooking, can you explain to someone in 500-1000 words on paper, how to be a good cook? Or The best recipes for quick meals?

• Next, you want to ask yourself, is there a market for your niche? The easiest way to determine this is with a bit of market research. Look at google analytics and check out how many people search for cooking or quick and easy meals? If the numbers are quite high, then there is a good market for this, and you are likely to be successful in this niche.

You should also check out job boards and see if there are people looking for writers in the cooking niche. A quick search on Upwork can give you a good idea on whether people need cooking writers.

Once you have decided on a niche, you are now ready to move on to the next step of starting your writing career. This was the easy part, the next step in the process of getting started as a freelance writer is to create a portfolio with some written content from the niche you choose.

Creating a Professional Portfolio

Even if you have no writing experience other than writing in your journal, you can be a writer. All it takes is a passion for writing and sharing information with the world, and maybe a few grammar classes. Having a portfolio is essential to kicking off a successful writing career. I am going to show you how to create an amazing portfolio with perfect proof that you are the writer to be trusted.

The process to creating a portfolio starts with creating a list of ideas for articles related to the niche you choose. So, let’s say you choose cooking as your niche, ideas for articles on cooking could be something like:

• 25 Great Recipes to Make Under 30 Minutes

• How to Make a Full Course Meal for Easter

• Where to Find Gluten Free Ingredients for Your Favorite Recipes

• The Best Pasta Recipes for People with an Egg Allergy

Make a list of about 25 Ideas or more to get started. Once you have got a good running list of things you want to write about in your niche, choose five to create for your portfolio and get to work. Each article should be between 500-1000 words. Always make sure your work is written in an engaging, informative way and is properly edited. If your work is full of grammatical errors, no one is going to want to hire you as a writer. Don’t worry, there is an app for that. Grammarly is an amazing tool that can be life changing for writers who struggle to edit their own work or just don’t have the time to do so.

Once you have a minimum of five pieces of work, you need to think of a place to showcase your work. There are several options for this depending on your budget. You can create an online portfolio via your own website by using WIX, SquareSpace or some other web design platform. You can start a blog and publish your content there, which is how most people get a start in freelance writing. Blogging is also a great way to make a good side income if you do it right. I’ll publish a separate article on this in the coming days. You can also use platforms that allow guest publishing like Vocal. Whatever method you decide, make sure you can share your work with potential clients. Personally, I use LinkedIn and Vocal to showcase my work.

Start Looking for Clients.

Now that you have a niche, and a great looking portfolio, you need to start looking for clients. I get many of my clients through Upwork and LinkedIn. I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t exactly like Upwork and the platform itself has stirred up some talk in the freelance community, but I find it’s a great place to get started and helps when work is slow, and you are looking to take in more clients. LinkedIn lets you publish content on your profile and advertise your skills as a writer which is a great way to get your work noticed and bring in great paying clients.

If you are just starting out as a writer, I would keep your rates low. Everyone started off with low paying jobs in the beginning of their freelance writing career, so don’t shy away from them. As you build up your experience, people will be more willing to pay more for your work. When it comes to freelance writing, you must start from the bottom and work your way up.

Have your clients leave you a review either on your job board profile, or your portfolio. Client testimonials are essential to growing your writing career. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, it will only help you grow as a writer. After you have a few testimonials, start cold emailing like blogs and websites in your niche and offer your writing services. It may feel tedious, but I’ve had a lot of success as a freelance writer over the last fourteen years from cold emailing clients.

Getting started as a freelance writer is an exciting adventure that will prove to be extremely rewarding if you stick with it. There will be ups and downs and days you wonder if its worth it, but every career path is like that. What’s important is that you are happy as a writer and you’re doing what you love to do. Only then will you truly succeed as a freelance writer.

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About the author

Amanda Hundley Revels

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