How to be a Freelance Writer

So you’re wondering how to be a Freelance Writer? Look no further dear friend, you’ve come to the right place…
Twelve months ago, my work days involved analysing budgets, and sitting in a board room across from angry businessmen negotiating the prices of metal nuts and bolts. (Yes, every girl’s dream!) I know you’re thinking “wowwww Mel, how could you leave a life like that behind? Where do I sign up?!”
Flash forward to the present day and I’m living in Italy, working as a Freelance Writer and typing articles on my balcony, bottle of Peroni in hand (it’s always five o’clock somewhere, am I right?) Of course, from an outside perspective, I appreciate that this looks like the perfect way of life, however the freelance game isn’t without its challenges. After dabbling with freelancing for a year whilst holding down a full time job, I finally went insane took the plunge and declared this as the route of my main source of income.
Working Freelance can sometimes feel a little bit like diving into a stormy ocean without a life vest and frantically trying to keep afloat, or trying to outrun Indiana Jones’ boulder down a narrow corridor for 25 miles, or… you get the picture.
It’s not the easiest line of work to opt for, but I am a big advocate of the idea that you should do something you enjoy, rather than something that simply lines your pockets, so if you’re interested in how to be a Freelance Writer, I’ll share my tips from the past few years.

Start a blog

The first step on your ladder to becoming a Freelance Writer is finding your voice and tone. Practice makes perfect, and in the early days, you can use a free blog to hone your skills. Platforms like WordPress.com allow you to create a free site so that you can play around and experiment. When you gain confidence and start developing a readership, consider updating your blog from a free to a self-hosted site where you can implement saucy layouts and designs, and register a URL. This way, your site looks more professional and you can use it as a portfolio to document your writing ability and, later, your published works.

A Good Blog: If you build it, they will come.

Yes, exactly like that cheesy baseball movie. I cannot stress enough the importance of creating a strong blog brand. For example, highheelsandabackpack.com sounds far more memorable and quirky than Melissastravelblog.com.

If you maintain a good blog, this can be a source of leads for future work. I have been presented with a number of opportunities as a result of people looking for writers who stumbled across my blog. I started working for Forbes Travel Guide because the Managing Editor enjoyed my articles about Seoul and invited me to start writing hotel and spa reviews for them.

Get your work featured on more well known platforms.

You’ve written a handful of blog posts  on your website and you think they’ve turned out pretty sexy if you do say so yourself. The way your words eloquently dance off the page, the great puns and your impeccable grammar. HAHAHA! Oh gosh… you wipe a tear of laughter as you chuckle at your own jokes.

You frown at your site statistics and your empty inbox. Surely you’re the next Bill Bryson so why aren’t the offers rolling in? Well… no-one knows who you are, kid! You need to be getting all up in people’s faces in the beginning and be everywhere like God. By that I mean to say, get your name out there and featured in as many places as possible – be it guest posting on more popular blog sites, or blogging for wide reaching platforms like The Huffington Post.

Humble yourself, but don’t be taken for a fool

Bloggers and writers will scream and rip their hair out at the term “writing for exposure” and yes, it certainly isn’t something you’re going to be making a habit of in the long term. However, you can’t very well strut up to a big time Magazine Editor with your 4 blog posts and ask to work for them at $100 an article can you?

Pay your dues in the beginning and it will pay off, but know when it’s time to stop doing this and exactly what unpaid opportunities are worth your time. Blogging for The Huffington Post and having your articles featured on the front page for millions to see? Great. Blogging for an amateur site with few viewers? What return on your time investment are you getting from that?

Equally, do not be taken for a fool. When I lived in Korea, I had a small scale publication reach out to me and ask me to do an article for free that would require me to travel miles and leave me out of pocket… Just, no.

Work on your pitch, and reach out to publications that interest you.

Do you have a dream publication that you’d like to be featured on, or have you found a place where you feel your writing style would really fit in? Don’t be afraid to reach out. Check the website of the place that you are interested in writing for to see if there are any submission guidelines. Many places require you to submit the article upfront, whereas others allow you to pitch a concept.

Have confidence in your writing ability and what you can offer. It’ll help you to form a strong pitch and sell yourself to the publication.

Don’t forget the little guy

Many people start out writing with the aspirations of writing for big name global publications like Forbes, Lonely Planet or National Geographic. While you absolutely should reach for the stars and, provided you are a good wordsmith, it isn’t out of reach, remember that these big dogs are not the only possible sources of income for you as a Writer. Smaller, local publications pay well for Freelancers too, as do copywriting, press release and advertorial vacancies for various businesses. You can absolutely make a comfortable living working in this manner.

Accept that it won’t always be smooth sailing

Especially in the beginning. You need to create a portfolio, become established as a reliable freelancer and build up your clientele. As in any field of self-employment, freelancing is a turbulent source of income. Work can be sporadic – one month, you could be drowning in a sea of articles, feeling like a balla, and another you could be desperately pitching for work, trying to scrape enough assignments together to cover the cost of your rent.

Ensure that you always have a safety net of money to fall back on for these turbulent times. As an example, my rent is paid several months in advance so I don’t have to worry so much if I have a scarce month. Equally, if you are sick, take a few days from working or go on vacation as a Freelancer, there ain’t no money coming your way so prepare your rainy day fund.
Many clients will work on a 30, 45 or 60 day payment cycle. Others, you will have to perpetually chase like a loan shark until they pay up. It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is. Budget for this accordingly and do your background research on your clients before beginning projects so you don’t find yourself in a position where you’ve worked hours, and your client has disappeared into the wind with your brilliant article.

Do you have any more questions on how to be a freelance writer? Drop me an email or leave your queries in the comment box below!

Note: High Heels & A Backpack is a kindhearted soul (if she does say so herself) that will be publishing a new informative article for you each month on “How to be a freelance writer” to help you on your way.
Next in the “How to be a freelance writer” series: Where to find freelance writing jobs. Stay tuned! 🙂

 

 

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