Freelance Writing 101
Do you want to make a living as a writer? Perhaps it's a dream you’ve always dismissed
as impossible, and you’ve got a "sensible" day job, or a busy family life. But you’ve
never given up your love of words.
I'll let you into a secret. You can make your writing pay. I do, and so do lots of the
people I know. Forget what you’ve heard about ridiculously low rates – it is still
possible to make a professional rate from your freelancing. Here’s how.
Step 1: Pick Your Speciality
When I started out freelancing, I offered everything from website creation to editing
and proofreading. This only ended up confusing me and my clients, and often meant I worked
on jobs which didn’t really interest me. Nowadays, I focus almost exclusively on writing
for blogs, and do the occasional magazine piece.
Don’t be tempted to offer every words-related service under the sun. It won’t get you
more clients. Think of it this way: if you were hiring a designer to create your business
cards, would you go for the guy who does everything from website design to logos to
billboards – or would you pick the guy who just does business cards?
One quick word of advice: it’s far easier to make money from non-fiction than from
fiction writing. By all means keep up with your fiction on the side (I know I do!) but
don’t rely on it to pay the rent.
Some broad areas where you could position yourself are:
• Feature writing for magazines and newspapers
• Writing articles for websites and blogs
• Technical writing
• Copywriting (promotional or sales focused writing)
• Writing resumes
Of course, within many of these areas, you could drill down even further, particularly
as you become more established as a freelancer.
Step 2: Get Some Clips and Testimonials
Freelance photographers and designers have "portfolios". Freelancer writers have
"clips" or "samples" – examples of your writing which clients can look at when they’re
deciding whether or not to hire you. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure that your clips
show your very best writing.
You might feel like this is a Catch-22 situation: you need clips to get hired, but if
you’ve never been hired, how can you have any professional pieces of writing to show off?
There’s an easy answer: you produce some pieces of writing for free. You could simply
write a few samples which will never see publication except on your business website (more
on that in a moment), but you could use this as an opportunity to get publication credits by:
• Doing pro bono (free) work for a charity or non-profit organisation
• Guest posting for a large blog
• Writing for your local newspaper or a free magazine
• Honing a resume for your friend
Where possible, stick with the area you’re specialising in: clients looking for a
copywriter may be surprised if all your samples are book reviews, for instance.