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How to Start Freelance Writing

get started freelance writing

I was answering a pile of emails today when I noticed a really touching question. This question made me think and really ponder on the tips I give here. While most of them are practical, hardly any of them is really useful for the beginner and confused freelance writer.

How do You Really Get Started as a Freelance Writer?

You’ve probably read a lot of quality freelance writing tips on other blogs. You’ve also read success stories from other freelance writers and you’ve probably given some of the tips a try, but you just can’t seem to move beyond where you are. Worse still, you’re confused but don’t know who to ask for support.

I have good news for you! With as many practical tips and information as possible, this article will show you how to really get started as a freelance writer.

The Cold Hard Truth

You should probably know this before you get started, otherwise you will have to keep digging without any results.

The hard reality of being a freelance writer is that it takes hard work. It takes real hard work!

If you’ve been made to believe that all you need to do to succeed as a freelance writer is to write alone, you’ve probably been deceived and will wait for a very long time before getting the results you desire.

Let’s get started with some realities you should know as a new freelancer.

5 Realities Every New Freelance Writer Should Know

#1: You Don’t Just Write

You’re a freelance writer but that doesn’t mean you’re just a writer.

In fact, the freelance writing market is getting so competitive that freelance writers won’t be making big bucks any more; smart marketers will be!

Even though you’re a freelance writer it isn’t just your duty to write. You have to learn the technical aspects of what it takes to succeed, you have to learn the marketing aspect of succeeding as a writer and you have to be ready to network with those who will aid your journey to success.

You don’t just write; you have to do much more than that to succeed!

#2: You’re Probably Not Going to Write about Your Passion at First

I get really frustrated when I get emails from people who are interested in freelance writing but want to write about their passion. I don’t get frustrated at them or at their emails, I get really frustrated at not being able to help them.

I’m sorry, but if there’s a solution I’d be very happy to share it.

If you’re looking to break into the freelance writing market you probably have a lot of challenges. You have to pay the bills, feed your family, enjoy yourself and do other important things. In a situation like this you should actually forget about writing about your passion – for the time being.

The key to successful writing is being able to write in any field, because writing isn’t just about writing. It is about researching, writing and moving the hearts of people and you need skills to be able to do that.

If you’re ready to work hard and wait for a year or two to get your first client then it’s okay to focus on your passion, but if you want to get clients right now you have to think about other opportunities.

I’m not talking about abandoning your passion altogether. Instead, I’m talking about looking for jobs that are well-paying and from clients who will respect you. Treat this writing opportunity like a real job and use the income from there to support yourself and your business until your passion takes off. In other words, you have to start a blog focused on your passion for the time being, keep working on it and marketing it and keep spending money, time and whatever it takes for the time being. Over time, you’d have built a solid audience and a solid source of clients – some of whom you can easily forego when their gigs have nothing to do with your passion.

#3: You Have to Spend Money to Make Money

I once got an email from a particular new subscriber telling me that he’s willing to learn from me but not willing to spend anything. Without hesitation, my response to that subscriber was that he should immediately un-subscribe from my list.

I’m sorry, but even if I want to help everyone in the world how can I help someone who doesn’t have an open mind towards spending to make himself a success?

It has been the law of nature for a very long time and whether you agree with it or not, it stands true. That law is that it takes money to make money; or let me rephrase it, it takes money to make real money.

I’m actually not suggesting that you start spending your money on things you don’t need. Instead, spend your money wisely on things that will help your growth.

Some of these things include a solid website, a cheap but professional website design, tools that aid your productivity and other things. It also includes quality courses and support like The Freelance Writers Den.

If you want a list of things you need (and probably have to spend some money on) to make your writing career a better one make sure you check my resources page.

#4: There is No One-Size-Fits-All Solution to Every Problem, or a Guaranteed Approach to Freelancing Success

It’s mostly all about you, your approach, your existing skills and your resolution to succeed.

While this post was written based on my own experience with freelance writing, there is no guarantee that you will succeed following my approach. One thing about life is that change is inevitable, results will often be different and sometimes you have to find your own path.

The only key to success is a combination of the right tips, constant trying and adapting to changes, and learning to discover opportunities and capitalize on them.

No single website holds the key to freelance writing success. You have to try the tips on this site to see if they work for you. If they don’t, try other tips from other sites and keep trying to find what works for you.

Unfortunately, reading is not trying. Don’t expect results just by reading. You actually have to test what you read and give it time.

#5: It’s Not about How Good Your Writing Is

Good writing matters and I can tell you first-hand that people with good writing have an advantage over people who don’t care about improving their skill.

Unfortunately, success is not just about good writing. That is why the most successful writers today aren’t people with  a PhD in English.

Good writing matters, but what matters most is learning to get your writing to pay. You need to master the art of getting clients, making sales and marketing yourself. You have to master the art of building a solid business that takes care of itself over the years with little input from you, besides your writing.

The key to freelance writing success isn’t just writing, it is learning to build a business.

7 Steps to Take to Get Started and Succeed as a Freelance Writer

steps to freelance writing success

Since we’ve covered some harsh realities new freelancers ought to know I’ll be going straight into the 7 steps you should take to succeed as a freelance writer.

1. Decide What Kind of Writing You Want to Do

What kind of writing do you want to do? What kind of skills do you have that can benefit your clients?

Don’t just think about how freelance writing can make money or that you want to make money writing. Instead, think about what you really have to offer through your writing?

Is your writing focused on helping people gain conversions? Do you help people write manuals/tutorials/guides on how to better use their products? Is your writing aimed at helping people market their brands?

Either way, just like you would for yourself, your writing for your clients must have a purpose and you need to determine this purpose before getting your first client. Don’t just do writing, know what kind of writing you want to do and how it can help your client. This is the first breakthrough for new freelance writers and once you know this you’re on your way to success.

2. Start a Blog

Look for a topic you can blog better at and let the aim of your blog be to showcase your writing. Your blog could talk about writing, it could talk about a specific topic you enjoy doing or are really experienced at and it could talk about everything that comes to your mind.

Above all, let your blog have a purpose and let it be tailored at a particular audience. Let your blog be different, have a clear USP (unique selling point) and master the art of traffic generation for writers.

The first step in starting a blog involves choosing a domain name and having a good web host (for which I recommend Hostgator), having a good website framework/CMS that powers your blog (use WordPress; check out this site for video tutorials on how to use wordpress). It also involves having good-looking themes (check out my resources page for my recommendations) and constantly publishing new content.

Your blog should have one major aim, which is to showcase your writing and let people see that you know your stuff. In other words, your blog should contain your best work, something you will be proud to attach your name to and something you will be happy to cite anywhere.

3. Develop a System Focused on Helping You Get Paid for Your Writing

After starting a blog your ultimate focus should be to make it a “lead engine” and get people to pay you for your work. This isn’t something that happens immediately and making the wrong decision will cost you a lot.

Once you’re sure your blog is in good order the next step to take is to develop a system based on helping you get paid for your writing. Your funnel will be different depending on what you want.

Some of us want clients to hire us, some of us want to market our books and some of us are looking for jobs/consulting offers with individuals and companies. The system you develop for your blog should be focused on helping you achieve this ultimate goal.

In other words, if your main aim is to sell your book you should create a landing page featuring your book, focus on getting as many of your readers to check it out by constantly linking to it in your blog posts and by marketing it in guest posts, interviews and other appearances outside your blog.

If your main aim is to get clients your system should be a kind of newsletter that takes your audience through a potential problem they are having and that constantly gives tips and ideas that can help them make improvements. Every once in a while you should market your services to them and let them know you can help implement all the changes you’re suggesting. This approach also works for those who offer consulting services

This takes time and requires effective marketing to get results but you can get results in a matter of months if you know what you’re doing.

4. Network with Successful Writers to Learn from them and Leverage their Network

Don’t limit yourself. Go out there and move with other successful writers. You can benefit a lot by moving with them.

By networking with successful writers who are getting results, you can improve your knowledge, get answers to questions for free that others would have paid for, contribute a guest article to their blog and gain exposure, or end up being interviewed for their blog.

Most of these writers have access to other successful writers and if you can prove to them that you can be trusted, they will end up giving you access to their network.

We need each other to succeed and ten people will easily achieve a lot more than one person will achieve alone. Master the art of networking with other writers and you’re on your journey to success.

5. Learn as Much as You Can about Marketing

This is where most people cringe, but it is also where most people experience breakthroughs.

Succeeding as a freelance writer doesn’t mean you have to involve yourself in unethical marketing practices. You might not even get yourself too involved in the whole game. Just 3 hours of consistent marketing a week can make your freelance writing business a success.

Make sure you read books on marketing; read blogs on marketing; read articles on marketing and even take courses on marketing.

There are several approaches you can take to market yourself just by writing but you will learn about a lot of them when you start to take action.

I’ll also be publishing articles about marketing on this blog in the future so make sure you’re subscribed!

6. Package Your Offerings

If you have more than one skill, especially those that work hand in hand, then you can improve the potential of getting hired more and getting paid more for your services by packaging your offerings.

For example, if your main specialization is copy writing you can package your copy writing services, headline writing services and email newsletter services into one offering and give anyone who orders the package a discount. By doing this a lot of people who wouldn’t have otherwise used some of your services will order the package and you will – as a result add more income to your bank account.

7. Apply to Writing Offers on Quality Sites Online

Surely, the approach I’ve explained in this article takes time, especially if you want to get started freelancing asap and need funds for important things in your life.

You shouldn’t rest in a situation like this. Instead, apply to writing offers online.

You can get started by submitting your application to offers from top writing jobs online, you can get started by writing for top blogs that pay writers and you can partner with big businesses to be their source of content. Sometimes, most of these potential clients will already have a framework for you to build your application on and sometimes you will have to start from scratch, let them know what services you offer and how your services can help them.

If you want to get started asap you can start with the Problogger Jobs board or with my list of 30 websites that pay you to write.

Top Resources to Help You Get Started as a New Freelance Writer

1. The Freelance Writers Den: This is currently the only freelance writing course online I’m personally subscribed to. It costs $25 monthly and contains tips that will help you make several times that in a week. It also features regular interviews with experts.

The founder, Carol, also regularly runs blast-off classes that costs around $197 per run, but members of The Freelance Writers Den can get it for free.

2. Make a Living Writing: This blog is also run by Carol, the founder of The Freelance Writers Den and veteran freelance writer. Personally, I think this is the ultimate site online as far as freelance writing is concerned.

3. GhostWriterDad: GhostWriterDad is run by Sean Platt, a special writer and ghostwriter who knows what he is doing. Sean has written the best copy from some of the biggest blogs online, he knows what he is doing so you should definitely check him out!

4. Goins,Writer: This blog by Jeff Goins is one of the best writing blogs online. While Jeff seldom talks about freelance writing he regularly offers quality tips that will benefit freelance writers as well. Jeff’s articles are usually concise and easy to read and the community interaction and support on his blog is awesome.

In a nutshell, if you need real inspiration and motivation as a writer make sure you read Jeff’s blog!

5. My new ebook, The Writer’s Handbook: How to Write for Traffic and Money: It is still in the works but I can’t wait to put it out.  I’ll be releasing it soon, but you can make sure you’re the first to know when it is released by subscribing to my newsletter.

Contribute Your Own Quota!

If you learned something from this article please do just two things:

1. Share this article with at least one person; it could be via email, Twitter, Facebook or any other medium. Make sure at least one person gets to read this article from you.

2. Let me know what you think in the comments below. This article was inspired by an email I was reading today, even when I had no idea about anything to write. Share your opinions about this article below; it will surely motivate me and others reading this article and it will also help us learn something new.

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Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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