If you are looking to make the transition to work from home, freelance writing is perhaps the simplest way to get yourself going. That’s not to say freelance writing is easy - it’s not - but it doesn’t take much to get going. You have to be able to write, of course, but beyond that all you really need is an internet connection and the ability to meet deadlines and motivate yourself.
To get started freelance writing you should set up accounts on websites like UpWork.com, as well as apply at BlogMutt, TextBroker, Fiverr, and other services. While some of these might be ‘content mills,’ the industry term for websites that hardly pay anything, they give you a way to earn at least something in between clients while building up your portfolio. What you shouldn’t do, though, is pay for an account. There are so many free sites out there it simply doesn’t make sense for you to be losing money out of the gate paying for a membership on a freelance writing website.
When you go to sign up at these sites, don’t be intimidated by the account setup. Even if you’ve never been a freelance writer before, you do have the skills clients are looking for if you’ve gone to college, worked in an office, or written your own blog. Moving from a business setting? You’ve probably written reports and at some point you’ve had to write a cover letter. Coming from college? You’ve got plenty of experience writing academic papers and proofing and editing. Write your own blog? You have experience writing for a web audience. People are looking to hire writers for all topics, genres, and platforms.
As you begin to pick up clients, be sure to save what you’ve written for them and, when allowed, use the items in your online portfolio. Websites that connect freelance writers with clients generally have a portfolio section and it’s important to build yours up. It not only shows your writing abilities, but also that people are willing to hire you and are happy with what you’ve done.
When you first get going, you may not have a website for yourself but as you begin to get established doing so is definitely a good idea. It lets you showcase your work in a broader way than sites like UpWork give you the ability to, and also brings in clients who may just Google ‘freelance writer,’ and don’t want to set up their own account on a site like UpWork to find a freelance writer. Wordpress is an easy to use, affordable platform for creating your own freelance writing website.
You also need to make use of the resources that are out there. Do a quick google for ‘freelance writing’ tips and you’ll find many experienced freelance writers who have entire websites devoted to advice, job postings, and other resources. If you’re looking to do some pitching to publications, rather than just seek out clients, you should also invest in a copy of the most recent year’s Writer’s Market. This book has the contact information for publishing houses and magazines across the country, and is an invaluable resource for getting your work into the hands of people who actually pay for writing.
While online freelance writing services often have the client provide a budget, or tell you exactly how much you will make per word or piece, if you are finding clients on your own it can be difficult to know how much to charge. Freelance writing is an industry famous for undervaluing itself. It makes sense to set your rates low when you are just starting out and building up your portfolio and client base, but you should begin raising your rates to acceptable levels once you get off the ground. The Editorial Freelance Association offers this handy guide for rates. When setting your rates, always keep in mind the need to attract new clients while making sure they recognize you are a professional. If you’re setting your rate way too low, potential clients may see that as a warning sign. If you’re setting them way too high for your experience level, clients will simply bypass you. Use your judgment, and do some research if you are stuck about how much to charge for a project.
Once you start earning money, you unfortunately can’t just keep it under your mattress. You’ve got to keep track of it somehow, and report it for tax purposes. Create an invoicing system that works for you. If that means QuickBooks or another software, great. If you are only freelance writing on a small scale, doing a couple of pieces per week through a website, come up with a filing system that works for you. Be familiar with your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to money before you start freelance writing. Money and accounting can get complicated very quickly, so don’t forget to factor an accounting and filing system into your freelance writing setup. If you don’t do that when you’re starting out, you may find yourself bogged down very quickly.
Freelance writing is a viable way to earn a living or to just make some extra cash. If you do your research, hone your skills and use the resources available to you, you too can succeed as a freelance writer.