What Does it Take to be a Freelance Writer?

I’ve been a (more than) full-time writer for ten years.  It takes talent, ambition and the ability to manage your time and money to be successful. Contrary to popular belief, you can be a successful freelance writer without starting your own business. However, if you have a habit of slacking or procrastinating, this probably isn’t the path for you.

My typical day includes writing for up to ten clients at a time. This includes everything from SEO-rich web content to brochures for international hotel chains. I scour job boards for new openings and apply daily, even if I have a full workload for the next few months. I’m also updating my resume, website and LinkedIn while learning new skills like SES qualifications as I accept new projects.

The Best Resource

A successful freelance writer will receive job offers via word of mouth. Complement your skill set with unique abilities to stand out and get the contracts. The world of professional writing is relatively small. There’s no room for burning bridges or leaving a client hanging.

Unlike my friends who have more traditional careers, I regularly receive job offers for one-time projects via LinkedIn. This means you need to have a professional photo (which means professionally taken), work samples and testimonials on your profile. Update your profile and website as you add new skills and experience to your portfolio. You never know who’ll be browsing for a new freelance writer.

Diversifying Isn’t Just for Brokers

You need a diverse portfolio in order to have the best bait in the waters. You might know that technical writing, specifically with search engine optimization (SEO), often pays the best in the industry. Spend some time learning SEO and Google tools. When you’re first learning a new skill, work for less than your going rate in order to learn and add the experience to your profile.

There’s a good chance that you won’t be working on projects you love all of the time. Those cushy gigs, whether writing about beauty products or blogging movie reviews, are very slim (at least the ones that pay well). However, you can get there if you put in the time and effort. I’ve written for well below my going rate to break into a new market.

Get Committed

If you want to be a successful freelancer, you need to be committed. This means not looking for a permanent position and understanding that there will be lows where you’ll depend on savings. Hopefully, those lean years (or months) will pass quickly. It took me about six months of freelancing before I had a steady flow of combined full-time work, but different writers take different amounts of time.

Employers know that there are many “freelancers” who are just trying to get by until a permanent job comes along. They’ll want you, a full-time freelancer, because you won’t up and leave mid-project. Make sure this is portrayed in your resume, and happy gig hunting.

Michelle is an aspiring writer with a passion for blogging. She enjoys writing about a vast variety of topics and loves that blogging gives her the opportunity to publicly voice her thoughts and share advice with an unlimited audience.


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