Now is the time to launch your freelance writing career.
Almost every business on the planet is investing in content marketing, so thousands of legitimate freelance writing opportunities wait at your fingertips.
I’m proof that anyone half-decent at riveting words together can make money as a freelance writer.
I was never a “good” writer by traditional standards. I always had a hard time stringing words into intelligent-sounding sentences.
But I started writing about a year ago because I realized it was one of the best ways to grow my business.
Getting started wasn’t easy
The first pieces I wrote were awful. I mean, complete and utter garbage. I’ll never forget the reaction I got when I tried to promote those pieces on Reddit. I got trashed in the comments.
Instead of curling up in the fetal position and abandoning writing all together, I learned from those comments. Fast forward six months, and I’m writing for some of the world’s top marketing blogs (Moz, SitePoint, ahem, here) and have my built my own blog to a 50,000-pageview-per-month powerhouse that fuels my marketing business.
In addition, I get paid offers to write for some reputable top brands. Even though I started writing to promote my business, I developed a skill set that adds extra zeros to my bank account each month.
I’m not trying to gloat. In fact, I’m trying to do the opposite. I want you to know I’m not special. If I can do it, you can do it, too.
But freelance writing requires a particular set of skills. Yes, you have to be able to write like a badass bat out of hell. But writing alone won’t cut it.
If you’re going to kill it as a freelance writer, you have to do one absolutely crucial thing: Monetize your writing.
Mo’ money = mo’ problems
But no money = no freelance career
It’s one thing to talk big about starting a freelance life. It’s another thing altogether to actually start making bank from your freelance work.
Here are some tips to help you start making money as a freelancer.
1. Start your own blog and build a following
This is nonnegotiable. If you’re a writer, you need a blog and it needs to be awesome. No excuses.
When I first started writing, I had trouble getting responses from editors because I didn’t have a portfolio of content published on reputable sites.
But grabbing editors’ attention has little to do with where you’ve been published. It has more to do with the quality of your writing.
Not only will you find writing opportunities, you’ll build a following of people who will find value in your content and help promote it.
2. Find paid writing opportunities in your own network
If you’re new to the freelance world, you probably have no idea where to find paying jobs. Luckily, the Internet has made it ridiculously easy to find people who need content.
How many contacts do you have? Let’s say 300 Facebook friends, 200 phone contacts, and 300 email addresses. Assuming some overlap, that gives you about 500 to 800 individual contacts.
What are the odds that some of them need freelance writing work? Pretty good.
But your contacts can’t hire you if they don’t know you’re taking on clients.
Update your social profiles to let contacts know you’re freelancing. Send out the occasional status update indicating that you’re open for business.
Just don’t be that guy who talks about his business in every update. People will unfriend you faster than a moody teenage girl.
Old bosses, colleagues and networking contacts are some of the best sources for finding freelance clients. Just be sure not to oversell yourself, particularly with contacts you don’t know personally.
When you do land a freelance writing gig, share your work on social media. Remember, you’re still building your portfolio!
3. Make it easy to get paid
Every once in a while, someone is going to take your work and not actually pay you. It sucks, but there’s a pretty good chance it will happen at some point during your freelance writing career.
However, there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of getting paid.
- Require payment ahead of time whenever possible
- Require a signed contract, particularly for new clients
- Send invoices promptly, including all relevant info: name, date, invoice number, phone number, services rendered and payment-due date
The financial part is often the biggest hurdle new freelancers face. All that hard work isn’t worth a thing if you don’t get paid.
In addition, take advantage of online invoicing solutions to track your time, send invoices and accept payments online. No paper, no bills, no files to keep! A few highlights:
- Shopify: It’s not just for ecommerce — Shopify also offers an invoicing solution
- Expensify: Similar to Shopify, this option also allows you to track expenses
- FreshBooks: Invoicing is a cinch with this simple and clean user experience
4. Consider the worst-case scenario
When you’re in the trenches trying to decide if now is the time to start freelancing, there’s a lot of noise. The voices in your head worried about student loans and car payments. The business partners or parents who rely on you to keep your stuff together.
Be like Nike: Just do it.
What’s the worst that could happen? Sit down and work out the worst situation in your head and face it.
In 2010, amidst a global financial crisis, I hated my job and was miserable. My father gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me:
“If you quit your job, you can always beg for it back. If you need a place to stay, you can always come home. You’ve only got one chance at this ‘life’ thing, so swing for the damn fences.”
Say you fail miserably. Three months in, you have no clients and you’re ready to throw in the towel.
What do you do? Get your old job back? Work at a bar until you find a job in your field again? Move in with a buddy until you’re back on your feet?
Once you consider the worst that could happen, you’ll be better prepared to plan for success as a freelance writer.
What advice would you add for new freelance writers?