You do not need to be the world's greatest writer in order to be a successful freelance copywriter. But to sustain your own operation, you need to alternate between a marketing hat, a customer service hat, a business owner's hat, and several other hats as well.
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How to be a Freelance Writer

You do not need to be the world's greatest writer in order to be a successful freelance copywriter. On the contrary, you can do well with decent writing skills (including proper spelling and grammar). But you will need to wear other hats as well. To sustain your own operation, you need to alternate between a marketing hat, a customer service hat, a business owner's hat, and several others as well. It's important to realize this early on.

Finding Your Niche

It's hard to become an "all topics" writer and thrive at it. But it's much easier to become a successful niche writer for a certain industry or audience. When you focus on a particular group, you can build up your credentials much faster and pitch yourself as an expert in that field.

For example, I do a lot of writing for real estate websites, so I have an entirely separate website that promotes me as an expert real estate writer. It's something worth considering when you first start out, and it will help you attract more clients over time.

Promoting Yourself

Many writers are humble and modest about their skills. Humility is certainly a virtue. But if you want to be successful as a freelance writer you need to toot your own horn, at the right time and place. Potential clients will read your website to see what you're all about. They'll look for testimonials, credentials, and other insight into your skill. So you need to provide these things.

If you have a hard time singing your own praises, have somebody else write your credentials page for you, in the third person: "John has written hundreds of press releases for dozens of clients, and he has a knack for getting the media to take notice..." You get the idea.

Believe it or not, most clients won't spend much time reading through your samples. They will only view them as part of the bigger picture, perhaps only scanning the first paragraph of a few articles. They want to feel good about entrusting their project to you, and they will seek that comfort by perusing your work, reviewing your credentials, reading through your testimonials, etc. So toot your own horn, wherever it's appropriate to do so.

Growing Your Web Presence

Let's start with the obvious. If you don't already have a website, you need to get one. Most companies find freelance writers in one of two ways -- by getting referrals or by searching online. If you don't have a web presence, you'll have to rely entirely on referrals, and that's going to be hard business. At a minimum, your website should offer writing samples, your bio (that also explains your specialty / niche), testimonials from clients, and your contact information.

Once you have a basic website up and running, you might want to look into creating a blog as well. It's a great way to expand your web presence in order to pick up more search engine traffic, and it also shows off your web writing and technological skills.

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