The road to becoming a freelance writer could easily become confusing and daring, especially because getting proper guidance is scarce and usually challenging to find local mentors.
I became a freelance content writer through the unconventional way.
You may begin to wonder what I mean by starting a freelance writing career the unconventional way. Well, I started writing for clients before I became aware of the title of the job I was doing. When I first started my career in 2017, I didn’t know the term freelancer or freelancing. I had no idea who a content writer was/is.
All I knew at the time was that I was writing documents for clients online and getting paid. However, as I began to delve deeper and farther into this career path and as I dutifully conducted in-depth research to improve upon my skills and services, It started to become clearer to me what I was doing, and how in-demand it was and still is.
Now, how can one, a newbie with no experience become a freelance writer?
There’s no one answer to this question. So, my answer in this article will be given from my perspective, experience, research and insight on what actually works in these parts going from my years of practice.
At this time, I’ve can boost over three years of being a full-time freelance writer and working for myself. Over three years of ups and downs, learning and unlearning, dry days and days I had to reject jobs and dodge clients messages because of work overload. And sincerely in the first year, I did earn more than I did as an employee.
I am now a digital nomad and enjoy location independence.
I also work wearing any outfit I wake up with the next morning. So, I can totally understand why this question has become a common conversation lately.
Now let’s get to answering your question of how to become a freelance writer.
So really though – how do you become a full-time freelance writer?
If I tell you that there is a guaranteed step-by-step procedure of becoming a freelance writer, then I would be doing you a disservice. You see how I started mine, so yeah. Different writers have different stories to tell on how they finally found their feet in writing or still finding their feet as the case may be.
But one thing that is constant is the fact that we have a good or at least decent command of the English language- I am referring to English Writers in this article. This is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out how to monetise and get paid for your skill. As you might have discovered or will soon discover, this blog is dedicated to this cause, because I have been there and I understand what it is and how it feels like.
However, since you have come to me to seek my opinion on how to become a freelance writer, here is my candid advice.
Get Training to Become a Freelance Writer
And I do not mean learning how to write and structure proper English, but if you need that, then by all means. I mean understanding what content writing is about, the types of content writing niches available, those that pay well, some practices and habits to pick up as a freelance writer, tools of the trade, marketing myself to get jobs/gigs, generally the business side of freelance content writing.
Of course, just knowing how to write doesn’t cut it, our goal is to make money from our writing ability, isn’t it? Seeking out training is something I wish I did at the beginning of my career. And I do not mean formal degrees.
However, If you have the money and time to get a degree from a university, then, by all means. But, I do not think that would be necessary to become a freelance writer, as long as you already have a prior degree be it an English Major or not.
Look for online courses, read ebooks, attend masterclasses whether they are paid or free. All these you can take from home. They are also cheaper than a formal university degree. Nonetheless, if getting a formal degree is still in front of you, you may want to consider writing-intensive majors, as this will help you achieve your goals better. Another plus here is that you get to acquire the soft skills that employers seek for.
Getting some form of training would definitely have saved me a lot of time, money and resources too. My learning curve would have been drastically reduced and I would have been more aware of what I was doing business-wise. I would have also started earning better, faster.
Become a Freelance Writer for Content Mills
If you are just starting out, it could be scary looking for and finding gigs especially those that you feel are worth your time and are high paying. Do not focus on looking for high paying jobs at the beginning because you are most likely to get disappointed and quit. Focus more on building your portfolio.
As a newbie wanting to become a freelance writer, focusing on your portfolio enables you to create suitable samples that will entice prospects to consider hiring you on their projects.
Another reason I vote for content mills is that (and please this is just my opinion), as a beginner in whatever field you find yourself, it’s easy to lose that initial steam you burst in with. This is especially when you aren’t getting the results you expect or see others enthuse about.
However, more often than not, you need just one win to believe in the system and acquire the courage you need to forge ahead. Content mills give you that soft landing. However, content mills do not pay much and as such to become a successful freelance writer you do not need to hang in there for a long time. Just hang in there long enough to get your feet wet and then move on to greater things.
Become a Freelance Writer by Bidding Online
A lot of freelancers start here. Thank goodness we are in the digital age where you can communicate with strangers remotely, send and receive documents remotely and even make payments regardless of where we find ourselves and the distance from each other. This has opened a whole new world of opportunities especially for the Generation Y and Generation Z; heck literally anybody that knows how to use the internet.
Get a Staff Job to Start Freelance Writing
To become a freelance writer and succeed in freelance writing one has to be open-minded and yes, that involves taking up a staff job. Yeah! Yeah!! I know that is not the exact definition of a freelancer, and that may not be what you desire. But, would you rather stay hungry?
As a beginner freelance writer, there’s no loss on this one. Working with other writers and creatives makes you better at your craft. You get solid clips (writing samples) for your portfolio, you get to acquire hands-on training you might have never gotten working on your own.
What’s more? You are most likely to get some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) training which is hugely in demand with everyone craving to be found these days. You will also take with you some other know-how in the bargain.
Get Out and Start Publishing
In the end, the only way to become a writer is to start publishing. More so, you do not have to get a client before you start writing.
There is a hand full of self-publishing platforms (paid and free) available to anybody looking to become a freelance writer. However, as a beginner, I would suggest opting for free self-publishing platforms. One very popular one that I would recommend for everyone looking to become a freelance writer is Medium.
Medium is an online publishing platform used by both amateur and professional people and publications, or exclusive blogs or publishers on Medium, and is regularly regarded as a blog host. They also have an app on both IOS and Android platforms.
Start Applying, Start Pitching
There’s no dodging this one, you have to apply. I know it quite scary but prepare your mind to receive a lot of ‘NOs’. Get used to hearing ‘no’ because you will hear it a lot.
Why should you get used to the ‘nos’? As a matter of fact, getting used to hearing ‘no’ is good for your sanity and mental health. Depression will be warded off and you will be able to forge ahead and not give up on your young career.
Of course, even in the absence of a published professional work, go ahead and apply, because most employers and clients are more interested with whether you know your onions than where you’ve managed to land them.
Show your Samples Online
It’s great to have an online portfolio where prospects will readily access your samples or clips via links. You do not have to go all the way to do this. Earlier, I made mention of Medium. That’s’ a good place to upload your writing samples for free.
If you have the money and resources, you can start your own self-hosted blog; WordPress.org is highly recommended here. Contently is another option that a lot of people rave about; however, I am yet to use the platform. You can check it out for yourself.
Some of these platforms will allow you to publish posts regularly. You should totally leverage because writing regularly is a great way to hone your craft and grow a following if that’s part of what you are looking to do. Remember that every blog post is a sample of the sort of work you do. They don’t necessarily have to be perfect but know that they represent your skill and creativity.
Finally, owning a blog/website will give you feel of being genuine so that you can own your craft and say bye-bye to impostor syndrome– it is totally a thing in this our writing business, so prepare your mind!
Meanwhile, ensure your social media accounts reflect well on your craft, too. Some employers/clients will explore those to learn more about you.
If you really wish to become a freelance writer, take out the time to check out any of these platforms that I have mentioned.
Learn the Tools of the Trade
From writing tools, editing tools, to content management systems, payment processors, social media management systems invoice makers, and even contracts, there is always something to learn about. Once you start finding your feet and getting more frequent writing gigs, you will discover the need for speed, efficiency and automation. Even the best writers need some form of editing tools to help them edit faster. Everyone needs a payment system.
Also, keep things as simple as possible. You may not require the fanciest of tools, just go with what works for you, your budget, your clients and the kind of writing jobs you take on.
Freelance Writing isn’t always Exciting
You need to know this. To become a freelance writer isn’t always dazzling. Months where you hardly get gigs, fickle income, overwhelm – working for yourself is an uncertain and sometimes treacherous path. Therefore, expect the unexpected.
At the very least, you’ll want to equip yourself financially by managing income flow and expenses. You’ll want to cushion yourself for the inevitable dry spells because of the truth I tell you, even for the best writers clients come and go. So, be sure to build up a significant cushion for those inevitable dry periods.
To summarise it all, I’d say this: Becoming a freelance writer requires a lot of dedication, immense curiosity, and a thick skin to rejection. I would like to say luck, but I am of the opinion that if you do the hard word then the luck is most likely to show up.
Although, starting freelance writing is not an easy journey, well I still wonder what is actually easy in this life; however, it’s a journey worth taking and one I am elated to be your tour guide.