It is no secret that freelance writing is on the rise, increasing in popularity in the modern world. For most people, it sounds like the dream job: not having to leave the comfort of your home, managing your time and work in whatever ways you want and being able to travel and work from literally anywhere in the world, as long as there's Internet! Freelance writing is appealing to most because it gives them a sense of freedom that most jobs don't. Sure, you'll still have to sit down and write, but you don't have to do it in a confined office space where you are forced to sit for 8 hours a day. Instead, you get to choose your 'office' for the day, whether this is a café, a library, your kitchen or a hotel room. And this is why freelance writing is a great choice of career! But the big question I am always asked is how to get started?
When I first started looking into freelance writing jobs, I had no idea what I was doing! I didn't know of any freelance platforms or websites and how reliable they were; I didn't know what kind of work experience I needed, or if I needed any particular degree or online course...I was, in the true sense of the word...clueless!
How to get started
Technically, anyone can become a freelance writer. All you have to do is write, so there's no science there. But I found that a few things really helped me to get my first job in the industry. The first and most obvious one...you have to...write! Ta-da!
1. Start a blog. Blogs are a great way to showcase your work and get noticed. They can be used as your portfolio for future job applications and they are the perfect place to start! Not only do they show to the employer that you have the flexibility to write about all sorts of different subjects, it can give them a sense of your writing-style. I can confidently tell you that I have nailed freelance work in the past solely because of my blog. So there you have it! Furthermore, any employer can use your blog to run plagiarism checks and therefore examine the originality of your content. This will tell them whether or not they can trust you and they will use this to decide whether or not to work with you. But that's not all! Your employers can also see how often you post and draw conclusions as to whether or not you are a person who commits to projects and sticks to a schedule for posts, for example. Finally, make sure that you write about anything you can think of, in different styles: poems, travel content, book reviews, personal things about you or your life, product reviews, recipes, your dreams...anything!
2. Make a Media Kit and update it regularly: As soon as you feel like you have a good portfolio of different written content, before it's time to start looking for work, you should do one more thing - a Media Kit. What is a Media Kit? It's a document containing information about your business, product or event. It's like a smaller version of your CV, but only containing relevant work you did in the industry. Now, hear me out! I know you won't have much information on there when you start, however, you can make a Media Kit with your contact information, links to your blog and previous work, maybe even some short samples of written work. The most important thing about creating a Media Kit is that it shows your creativity, originality and makes you stand from the crowd. As soon as you find your first job, update your Media Kit immediately.
3. Looking for work: This is where it gets tricky. The problem is not finding jobs, but getting hired...plus a few other bumps along the way! These days, there are lots of platforms for freelance writers. The problem is that on some of those, you will have to create a profile, submit work and wait for your profile to be approved! You won't be able to apply for jobs until this is done, and you can even be denied access to the platforms after submission... - yup, happened to me once! In some cases, they won't let you re-apply for between 6 months to a year after you've been denied access! And that can be...frustrating! And this, right here, is why steps 1 and 2 are so important. Before you even attempt to open any profiles anywhere (most will require that you submit work prior to admission), make sure that you have enough writing samples and a Media Kit to support your application and give you higher chances of getting approved and an account set up.
4. The best platforms to get started: When I first got started, I registered in a few platforms. There's a few important things that you must know: firstly, most platforms will either charge you to register or take a percentage of your earnings if you get hired through them. Accept this from early on. It's frustrating, but it's just how it is. Keep reading and I will explain how you can easily get around this issue when you're hired. These are the best platforms to get started: Freelancer, Upwork, Iwriter, Guru. I never really bothered much with other websites like People Per Hour. I always found the quality of jobs posted to be very poor. I had my first big break with Guru. I find this platform to be of extremely good and extremely poor at the same time. But the reason I find it so poor is not because of the quality of jobs posted; it's due to the quantity of scams and fake posts. Guru have good policies in place to deal with this, but I find that they should make employers pay to create the job posts, to eliminate scammers from the platform altogether. Despite this, my first experience with Guru was a very positive one. It was through them that I found my very first freelance writing project.
5. How much to charge: Rates for freelance writing work can vary quite a lot. But before I get into it in more detail, it's important to mention that you should not be charging by the hour! If you only take one thing from this post, let it be this: charge by word, not by the hour! If you're potentially looking at a long-term or repeat client, you may want to avoid charging by the hour. You should also consider what I mentioned above: the fact that some platforms will take a percentage of your earnings. Be smart and charge more per word to make sure you will not be losing money. Depending on your level of experience, the average rates do not vary much from this. The rates below are based on 500 words.
Beginner/Entry Level - you should charge somewhere between .03-.06 per word.
Intermediate writer - you should charge somewhere between .17-.12 per word.
Experienced writer - you should charge somewhere between .13-.20 per word.
As I mentioned, this is only a guideline. How much you charge your clients should be based on different variables such as your skill level, your portfolio, your niche, where you live, your expenses and the time that it takes you to write/research for the projects.
6. Building relationships with clients: I cannot stress enough the importance of this. Having a healthy relationship with your clients means that not only they might choose to keep you on for longer or give you more projects in the future, they might also recommend you and your work to other professionals. Right from the start, it is important that you develop healthy working relationships with your clients, to keep them coming back for more! This could be done by giving them a discount in rates if they assign you a big project, for example. I always make sure to email my clients if I haven't heard from them in a while, just to check what projects they are working on at the moment, and if they need any help with any written content.
7. SEO, SEO, more important than you know: I used to know nothing about SEO. Just the words search engine optimisation sounded way too complicated for me. But as soon as clients started asking SEO as a requirement for the jobs, I had no choice but to learn about it. And as it turns out, the practice of increasing quality and quantity of traffic to your website is, of course, of major importance! How did I not know this a few years ago? Now, I'm not going to lie, I only know the basics. I am still in the process of learning more about it, but I can't lie: SEO has changed the way that I write and the titles I give my blog posts; I started paying attention to keywords. Why? Because the content of a page is what makes it worthy of a search result position. I am no expert in SEO, but I have been learning more and more about this, making my own research and reading about how I can make my blog more SEO-friendly.
8. Putting it all into practice and important tips for you: Freelance writing doesn't have to be a Boogie Man. Getting started is the most challenging part of your journey for sure, but once you get used to the requirements of the job, and more importantly, once you get your first big break, you can only grow from that point. It's nailing that very first job that's often challenging. Be persistent through the hard times: you will hear a lot of no's before your first big yes! But freelance writing can be so much fun! You have the opportunity to work on some pretty exciting projects, and it can be super rewarding once you get there.
I would, however, also advise you to be careful with freelance writing. It wouldn't be right not to do so. If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this: Never, ever, ever submit any online work outside your chosen freelance writing platform (I was stupid enough to do it once, and the client ran away with my work. I didn't receive a penny!) I learned that the hard way, so please remember that although the Internet is a great place; although we live in a great digital era, the online world can also be very nasty. Don't ever do it, not even for the sake of making a good impression, in the hopes of getting the job! The platforms have policies in place to protect you in case of fraud. Outside the platforms, you're on your own! If a client asks you to submit any work via Skype, Messenger, Whatsapp or email, politely decline and explain that it's safer to do it on the platform. Keep communicating via the platforms, so that everything gets registered in the chats. I've also gotten used to taking screenshots of every single conversation I have with my clients (mainly everything that involved payment agreements, completion dates for work, etc. You can never be too careful).
Now that you have the tools to get started on your freelance writing journey, I hope your future is filled with lots of interesting projects.
A few questions for you:
1. What do you love the most about freelance writing?
2. What further advise would you give someone to help them get started?