I’m not going to pretend I’m raking it in as a freelance writer. Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t do so. I’ve only been doing it full-time for a little over a year. Who knows what the future may hold? More importantly, I have achieved one thing. I’m making enough money for my girlfriend and me to see the world.
In this year we’ve gone from barely scraping together enough to live, to being able to travel across three continents (If you want to know more about that kind of life read my article 8 things you need to know about travelancing). Most months we break even and some we even end up ahead.
The best part? I’ve become a better – and faster – writer because of it. That means that for the most part I only work around four hours a day. So we’ve got plenty of time to see the sights. So I’d say I’ve succeeded at my attempt to launch a successful freelance writing career.
So how did I do it? And, more importantly, how can you?
Choose your niche
The first to launch a successful freelance writing career is to decide what you’ll write about. The best thing you can do is find a niche to make your own. Why? Because the fewer competitors you have and the more knowledgeable you are about something the more money you’ll earn.
So, while you might loathe your job and what it was about, don’t just abandon it. Earning money from freelancing is about three things:
- Who you know.
- What you know.
- How effectively you can put your thoughts on paper.
And if you abandon what you did before, you’ll be entirely dependent on point three. As it takes time to become a good writer that’s not a good way to start out.
Don’t feel that you’re knowledgeable about anything? I hear you. When you’re just starting out as a freelancer it is hard to feel confident about what you know. But you do know things. Even if your job wasn’t interesting, you’ll still be knowledgeable about other topics.
Make a list. Include what you studied, what you love to read, what your interests are, what you dream about and what you’re passionate about. That’s your topic pool right there. From there start deepening your understanding, which is something that as a freelance writer you should strive to do every day.
Especially in the beginning, it’s good to get a reputation for being a specialist. In this way, when people think about that topic it is followed by an equals sign and your name. That won’t happen if you’re a generalist until you’ve got a huge reputation.
What’s more, later on when you’re established you can write about other topics. So don’t take this to mean you’re locked in.
You want to work on your portfolio from day one. This is the tool you use to get yourself writing jobs. It is, therefore, instrumental when you want to launch a successful freelance writing career. New to the writing game? Then you’ll have to start finding ways to put things in there.
Fortunately, that’s a lot easier now than it used to be.
In days of yore, it was a real catch-22. Publications would want to see some of your work before they’d let you write for them, but you only had work to show them when you’d written for a few publications.
That’s different now. There are tons of websites where you can submit articles. Some pay, some won’t. All, however, will include a byline with your name. Those you can then use to get writing jobs.
The bigger the website the more valuable the byline is going to be.
Another way to go is to start a blog. Sure, you don’t get the authority of writing for some of the bigger publications. At the same time, it’s yours, which means that you can use the articles anyway that you see fit. It will also let you build a following (provided you market it, of course).
Whichever way you go, an absolute must is to collect links to all your content in one place online where it’s easy to point to. In this way, instead of sending every prospective client a slew of articles you only have to send them one link. That will seem a lot less intimidating (and a lot more professional).
With a website, people can find you easily, while clients you already have can pass on your details to others. In other words, it’s a fantastic marketing tool.
There are many places you can build these online profiles. You can include it with your blog (like I’ve done) or use one of the online portfolio websites.
Try everything once
So how do you find work? The ways are legion. What’s more, somewhere on the internet you’ll find a writer claiming that this way, yes this way, is how to launch a successful freelance writing career.
Some people swear by content mills. These websites collect clients and then pass on the work to writers while taking a (pretty big) cut. They don’t pay great, but they do mean steady work. They’re a great way to become more productive as a writer. I’m the living proof of that. Where before I struggled to break the thousand-word limit, today I bang out three to four thousand words a day.
Other people prefer websites like Upwork and Freelancer. These platforms join up clients and writers for a cut of the proceeds. The good thing is that if you win a contract you can start working almost immediately. On the downside, many clients go for the lowest bids. That means you either have to send out a lot of proposals or end up working for peanuts.
Then there are the job boards like Problogger and SimplyHired. You can find great quality jobs here. There is a lot of competition, though. So you’ve got to have a good portfolio and have your cover letter down to a T.
You can also approach websites directly. Thousands of sites pay for content. Of course, the competition is fierce and it can be tough to know where to look. I’ve found the website Who Pays Writers? to be useful. They’ll tell you which sites pay and how other freelancers feel about working with them.
So, which of these should you use?
Well, it depends. Yes, I know. Massive cop out! But it’s true. It’s all about whom you are, where your portfolio is at, how good you are at churning out applications, if you can deal with rejection, and how good you are at marketing.
My advice? Try them all and find out which one is right for you.
Don’t get stuck, either. It happens. You get a few clients that pay you for your work and you stop looking for new opportunities. Don’t let that happen as that’s a sure-fire way to career stagnation. To keep growing, continue to make forays into new fields. Always look for new clients who you can ask for more money.
That is the key. To launch a successful freelance writing career you have to steadily climb the freelance pay ladder.
Fear of rejection
Let me end by talking about rejection. It’s going to happen. In fact, it will happen a lot. The thing is, you have to stop seeing rejection as a sign of failure.
Sure, it might feel like that. It hurts. But when you see it that way you’ll avoid it, which means you’ll avoid sending out proposals. The problem with that, of course, is that you’re not just limiting your failures but also your successes.
Here’s the deal. Everybody gets rejected. It’s part of the freelance writer’s life. It doesn’t need to mean you suck. It’s like when you pick up a book that everybody else loves but you just can’t get through the first few pages. Clients experience that as well.
Besides, who says clients know what they’re talking about? A lot of clients can’t separate the written word from a squiggly line. After all, they’re not writers. If they were, they wouldn’t be looking for your help.
So should you ignore rejections? No. They can be quite valuable as they offer you insights into what you’re doing wrong.
I find that the best strategy is to take note how many times a complaint comes up. If it only comes up once, then I don’t pay too much attention to it. If different clients say the same thing, however, then it’s something that you need to work on.
The ticket is to not get emotionally involved. For emotions make you reject the lessons that their ‘no’ contains. Instead, see a rejection as a stepping stone. Think of it as inching your way closer to acceptance.
Imagine this. You get 100 rejections. Then you find a client that employs you for the next few years and pays you a great salary. From there, you launch a great career and get lots more clients. Afterward, would you see those rejections as failures? Or are they just steps on a journey to that great client?
The latter of course. So then I ask you, why wait with seeing rejections that way until you get that success? Why not start seeing them as part of that journey right now?
If you can do that, then those rejections will be easier to deal. What’s more, you’ll stay optimistic, which is the right attitude to getting paying clients and to launch a successful freelance writing career.
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