freelance writing guide by Marisa Donnelly

The Ultimate 9 Step Guide To Becoming A Freelance Writer

If you’re thinking about becoming a freelance writer, I can’t tell you how excited I am! Taking the jump into freelancing is exciting! If you’re like me, and parting ways with a full-time position in order to have the independence and flexibility of a freelance schedule, this can be both scary and thrilling. Or, if you’re just looking to add a bit more side work to your daily life, this can be a perfect solution.

Becoming a freelance writer, in particular, is amazing in the fact that you can write for multiple companies through individual contracts. You’re not locked down to a certain topic, position, or even entity! You also have the freedom of creating your own schedule, and sometimes even setting your own deadlines. These are definite perks, but finding consistent work and making enough money to sustain your lifestyle are concerns that can’t be ignored, either.

When you step into freelance writing, you have to be realistic about your finances, expenses, and how hard you’re willing to work. You’ll also need to create a foundation to grow from, which includes things like developing your brand, building up your social media, getting your name out there, and landing your first client, among other important beginning steps.

Whether you’re just dipping your toes into the water of freelancing, or looking to take the leap from corporate to independent, this is a guide that will help you both begin and strengthen your career.

1. Find your focus.

If you’re serious about becoming a freelance writer (full or part-time), the first thing you need to do is find your niche and area of expertise. Are you a creative writer? Or do you prefer copywriting or something more professional? Would you rather accept specific writing tasks and projects, or something more generalized?

Figure out not only what you enjoy the most, but where your skills lie. This will shape the way you build your business, advertise your services, and connect with clients.

2. Develop your brand.

After identifying what type of content you’ll write, your next step is developing you. First, think about what will set you apart. If you’re looking to pursue creative projects, hone in on specific cadences, rhythm, or style in which you write. Also develop a distinct voice—in both your writing and the way you present yourself (ex: social media).

You’ll want to stay consistent with your brand, and you can easily achieve this by creating a universal type of feel to everything that you share with your clients, on your social pages, etc.

3. Establish work style and rates.

Before you officially become a freelance writer, think about what you’d like to charge. Consider, first, a baseline rate, hourly rate, and rates for longer projects. One way you can do this is through a rate calculator to see what’s realistic for your area and expertise. You can also use forums, social media, or tapping into other freelancers you trust to get a sense of what’s a reasonable price to charge.

Another important thing you’ll want to do is create a working document for yourself, outlining how you’ll handle different ends of your business. For example, you might want to create a template for reaching out to a potential client or a calendar of some sorts that you can share with someone when you’re working on longer projects. Having these components thought through and at your fingertips will establish yourself and help you start with confidence.

4. Determine contracts and payment means and contracts.

This is essential. If you want to be taken seriously, (not to mention safe from being taken advantage of), you’ll want to create a contract template. This will outline what services you will provide, the money you will be paid, and the date in which these things will happen. You’ll also want to create signature lines so that both parties can sign, making the document official.

Something to consider is how you’ll invoice clients (i.e. PayPal) to keep a record of purchases/transactions. Payment means will also factor in, here, and you’ll want to find ways for customers to pay you easily. This can be done through sites like CashApp, for example, or through a payment portal you set up on your own website or page.

5. Prepare and get into the market.

Before you can fully become a freelance writer (or declare yourself as one), you have to be ready to enter the market with a few things: your resume, cover letter, portfolio, and writing samples. When it comes to a portfolio/writing samples, this can be previously published work, polished blog pieces, or anything that can really showcase what you can do. If you’ve worked for anyone in the past, use those pieces as examples. Basically you’ll want to sell yourself, and the best way to do that is to showcase your skills.

6. Find and land a job.

And now, the most important part. Finding your first gig.

To find freelance writing opportunities, you can do this in a myriad of ways:
1. Use sites such as UpWork, LinkedIn etc. to look for posted jobs and available open opportunities.
2. Tap into social forums like ‘Freelancing Females,’ for example to see if people may be hiring for something you’re interested in.
3. Pursue any lead that feels like it’s the right fit for you.
4. Ask other freelancers or people you trust where they’ve gotten work from.
5. Google search part-time or freelance opportunities in your area.
6. Share on socials and through your networking sites that you’re open for business.

You’ll also want to get comfortable with pitching (i.e. sending letters, emails, messages, etc. to people sharing why you can help them with a specific task or thing). Getting yourself out there and speaking with confidence about what you do will help you find clients naturally and easily.

7. Network and build your connections + client base.

Networking is everything. Tap into the people you know, friends of friends, and anyone you’ve previously worked with. Use social media as a tool to build connections. Reach out to people who might be able to help you, and offer your services pro bono in collaboration with something you may need.

You can start building connections even before you’ve “>landed your first client. Just know that anyone you meet or work with can pave the way towards your future success.

8. Hustle (and maybe even get a side hustle, too).

You’re going to struggle as a freelancer at times (especially at first). Before you go into full-time freelancing, make sure you determine the cost of living vs. income. Be realistic, too. If you can’t swing your bills with just freelancing, pick up a hustle(s) to make money on the side. Don’t be afraid to work hard, either. This is the only way you’ll get to where you want to be.

9. Continue to grow your network.

Don’t stop after you’ve had a few successful gigs, thinking everything will get easier from this moment on. Establish passive income for yourself, so that when business is slow, you’re still bringing in money. Develop and maintain relationships you’ve made with people so that they feel comfortable going back to you if needed. And, of course, ask for referrals. As you build, build your network.

And don’t forget to have fun, too.
PS: Do you need a writer for your project or gig? Connect with me using the contact form below! I’d be happy to share my prices and availability.


Featured Image Credit: Ella Jardim