What does it take to become a freelance writer? First and foremost, a passion for writing and a curious mind. This is a career where you learn as you go; clients who use freelance writers serve different markets, and each has their own way of doing things. One might need a writer to compose email campaigns to sell party supplies, while another may hire freelances to write content for DIY articles. Of course no one is an expert at everything, so you also have to be willing to put in the work required to find your niche, and be willing to do what is needed to keep your clients happy.
Okay: What Does it Take to Become a Freelance Writer?
Freelancing School explains that freelance writers work with clients, companies, publications and agencies, providing writing services for a variety of projects that they are hired to complete. Instead of being hired full-time, they are independent contractors and (usually) must file 1099 tax forms. Freelance writers must be willing to handle this part of their taxes, since clients normally do not take those out of your paychecks.
Freelance copywriters and content writers have to adapt to different styles and tones, and also need to understand digital marketing and SEO basics. While copywriting is more focused on persuading audiences to take actions (like making purchases), content writers compose pieces designed to educate, inform or entertain. Oftentimes these responsibilities overlap, and you will see this on job postings. These writers handle social media ads, taglines, website landing pages, blogs, video scripts and more. Freelance writers also create academic content, columns for publications and work written on behalf of (and credited to) other individuals or companies; the latter is referred to as ghostwriting.
First Steps for Freelance Writers
Although freelance writers do not need formal degrees, it will look better on your resume and can give you an edge over other applicants. Remember, there is a lot of competition for freelance work! The Write Life advises prospective freelancers without college degrees in related fields to take online writing courses. These are less expensive, and you can take them in your spare time. Another option is to take a part- of full-time job that involves some writing or gives you the opportunity to do so; you can also volunteer your writing skills and see how much you can learn.
As you gain experience, save your work and start building up a portfolio because prospective employers will want to see samples. This is also the time to determine your niche – which kind of work are you best suited for? What do you enjoy writing about the most? Once you get a better feel for this, you can start searching for work that fits into this bucket. Be prepared though, because the rejection rate will be high – only a small percentage will even respond, and when they do you still have to pass their interviewing processes.
Keep at it and your skin will toughen up quickly. Another way to get new clients is to showcase your work with an online writing portfolio. You can create a simple site with a template, and promote your services through social media. The Write Life also has suggestions for writing portfolio website templates, and suggests trying Squarespace, Clippings.me and Muck Rack.
How Else Can I Find Freelance Work?
Once you have some experience and an impressive writing portfolio ready, you can start searching job posting boards. Enter “remote freelance writing” or something similar and you should see a lot of opportunities on the results pages. You can narrow it down for what meets your qualifications, and begin applying. There will be many employers who do not include the pay rates until a position is offered, though. Even if some seem low, you can try them out to get some experience under your belt.
Networking is another way to get freelance assignments. Start first with friends and family, letting them know that you are seeking writing work. Also, join the local chamber of commerce if you can afford to do so, and read local publications and social media for any networking groups that you can join. Remember, when you are first starting out you may have to accept pro bono and low-paying work to get more experience.
We saved this part for last – freelance writers must be willing to meet client deadlines. Something like a ghostwritten article could have a month-long deadline, while website content writing can be as little as 24 hours. If you are uncomfortable having to work hours that are outside of the 9 to 5 workweek, freelancing may not be for you. What does it take to become a freelance writer? A talent for writing, the ability to develop a niche, salesperson skills and a strict adherence to deadlines…all are of equal importance for successful freelancers.