Want to be a Freelance Writer? 5 Things You Need to Know First

freelance writer

Content is still king, in the world of online marketing. That’s good news for you, if you want to be a freelance writer. The dream of writing in an office with lapping waves instead of walls and salt air drifting over your skin, is very real.

Ready to dive in? The journey is worth it, however here are 5 things you need to know first.

1. A freelance writer really does love writing

freelance writer

Sound too obvious? Sadly, it’s not. It’s likely you’ve stumbled on badly written posts, designed to fool you into clicking on ads you’re not interested in. They’re swamped with keywords, aggressively announcing their intention, rather than flowing with a story. It’s hard to believe content like this is written by freelance writers who love to write.

Mostly, they’re not. As with any industry, everyone’s after a bargain. Even large corporations choose to pay what amounts to your morning coffee, for content that’d have a hard time passing a primary school English exam, let alone entertain and inform.

It’s the passion for writing that differentiates a good freelance writer from those churning out copy for a pittance. It’s the magic ingredient that gets you out of the slush pile and into the realm of worthwhile gigs.

2. Your passions are your most valuable tools

freelance writer

How do you get yourself ‘out there’, with so much competition in the freelance writing marketplace? Again, it’s your passions that will light a path to success. Do you love fashion, gardening, pets, real estate, finance or politics? Are you a sports fan? Does your professional background lend itself to a particular niche?

The keyword here, is niche.

No matter what you’re into, others most certainly share your passions. Businesses are promoting associated products or services. Online communities are discussing the ins and outs. While it pays to be versatile as a writer, when you offer expertise in niche areas, you stand out from the crowd.

This also gives you a theme for providing writing samples, designing websites, guest posting on relevant sites, creating a social media presence and marketing yourself to the right clients.

3. Good people skills are crucial

freelance writer

Even if your office is a plush hotel with sweeping Italian views, wine and grapes, ‘office politics’ don’t disappear. Good people skills are crucial in securing clients and creating beneficial relationships.

You need to be able to take a step back from your own goals, to truly listen, understand and offer valuable content that’s tailored to your client’s needs. This also means fostering the ability to take legitimate feedback and constructive criticism on board, without taking it personally.

As with everything though, it goes both ways. No matter how much you need your next gig, taking on disrespectful or unreasonable clients just isn’t worth it. You won’t find many freelance writers who haven’t encountered clients who won’t pay, are rude, unprofessional and make unreasonable requests.

Freedom is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a freelance writer – so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you don’t have any. You’re the boss. When you offer sincere value with your service and give your best, you attract clients with the same mindset. Practice saying “no” to people who undervalue your skill, time and effort. It’s never as hard as you think.

4. Know your worth as a freelance writer

freelance writer

Freelance writing is like any other job, in that you’re spending time and effort on providing a service that you deserve fair compensation for. Despite that, you’ll see job descriptions that read something like this:

Freelance writer required for weekly, 500 word blog posts for popular website. Must have experience with SEO, WordPress, image sourcing, basic HTML and social media outreach. Please provide samples of published work on influential sites. Rates are $5.00 per post.

Given that a 500 word post, uploaded to WordPress, takes most professional freelance writers at least an hour to produce, a rate of $5.00 is beyond laughable, though it’s all too common. Even when you’re building a portfolio, know your worth and don’t be fooled into thinking that underselling your skill is the only way to get there.

If a client is expecting professional skills, you deserve fair compensation. Depending on where you live and the expenses you have, this might vary. However, even if you’re working from Bali, Chiang Mai or Budapest, five dollars isn’t going to buy much more than two meals, so it pays to keep things in perspective.

Plus, remember that freelance writing is going to be your industry. Though the ‘starving artist’ tag still lingers over many of us in creative industries, it’s simply because we’re still under the impression we should feel grateful to do it all – paid or not. This mindset is all too easy to take advantage of.

What’s the bottom line?

Know your worth and the worth of your whole industry rises.

5. Keep your mind open

freelance writer

When you’re starting out, there are unlimited opportunities for work, with freelance writing job boards and marketplaces. Though this is where you’ll find those ‘five dollar’ gigs, there are plenty of legitimate clients, paying fair rates. Online agencies are fantastic learning grounds for new writers to practice liaising with clients, negotiating, adhering to deadlines, building portfolios, gathering contacts and figuring out next steps to enhance a freelance writing business.

While it’s important to read reviews and educate yourself about scams, stay open-minded. Even the top agencies and companies attract bad publicity from disgruntled writers. Try every avenue that appeals to you. If you don’t like it, simply move on to the next. Look at each opportunity with fresh eyes and steer clear of advice that’s overly negative, promotes how ‘hard’ freelancing is or tells you you’ll never get there if you don’t…xyz.

Harness your passions and forge your own way. After all, isn’t that part of the reason you wanted to be a freelance writer, in the first place? Don’t ever forget it and you’ll be on that beach with your laptop, a smile on your face and the writing career you’ve dreamt of.

Do you have any questions about starting your freelance writing career? Comment below and I’ll be happy to help.

Thanks for sharing!

3 Comments

  • Reply November 11, 2017

    James

    This article is so helpful and inspiring! I have a question though… I often have trouble negotiating prices with clients, how do you personally approach this? Thank you again, love your website 🙂

  • Reply November 11, 2017

    NicoleLeighWest

    Thank you James! 🙂 I totally understand how hard negotiating can be, not to mention disheartening when someone tries to knock down a very fair price for your work. I take a very honest approach to this with clients and simply let them know it’s not financially viable for me to work under a certain rate. On the flip side, to negotiate a higher rate, I outline the details of the work involved, the time it takes and the value offered.

    For your own peace of mind, the key is to pick a figure that’s the lowest you’re willing to accept for a certain amount of work and be willing to walk away if it’s not matched. Allow the client to offer a figure first and negotiate based on the possibilities. Remember that a client’s budget could be very tight and it simply might not be possible for them to increase the offered rate. Though negotiating is a skill, it’s also a game that’s best played with honesty, transparency and respect by both parties. When you define your own boundaries and adhere to them, you’ll find the process much easier. 🙂

  • Reply November 15, 2017

    Paul v Walters

    James , work out what you are worth and charge accordingly. remember you are out there competing with people who charge $10 for a 1000 word piece…great way to go broke. Nice piece Ms West !

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