If you’re reading this, chances are you want to live the writer’s dream: having a respected byline, well-paying gigs, a stable of reliable clients, and the freedom to set your schedule and work for yourself.
And the “writer’s life” has its perks; there’s no denying that. But getting there takes a lot more than a strong vocabulary and an English teacher’s obsession with grammar.
Like any other marketable skill, becoming a writer means having a plan, enforcing some personal discipline, honing your craft, and some serious PR efforts. Here are some tips to get you where you want to go as a freelance writer.
Find Your Niche
Being a jack of all trades is a useful skill in a handyman, but it’s definitely not the way to make money as a writer. If you’re dabbling in five different writing styles in 10 different industries, you’ll never develop the kind of skills that command more than a few cents a word at a content mill.
For example, copywriters generally write on behalf of a client with the goal of getting their customers to take a particular action, while content writers write to inform. And both of them are quite different from novelists, poets, and journalists.
And once you decide what type of writer you are, it’s time to choose your niche. If you’re moving into freelance writing from a career in another industry, maybe tech or healthcare, you’re ahead of the game if you focus your writing efforts on the things you already know. It’s much easier to sell your skills to a healthcare client if you actually know what you’re writing about.
Stick to a Regular Schedule
Even if you’re not working on a paid assignment, it’s important to keep to a regular writing schedule. Write a blog post for your personal website, and build a library of portfolio articles you can market on sites like Constant Content. Write anything as long as you’re exercising your writing muscles every day.
It’s easy to take a day off if you aren’t on a deadline with a paid gig, but just like skipping a day at the gym, you risk getting flabby, and you’ll find it gets harder, not easier, to get back into a productive rhythm when you land that next important assignment.
Be Realistic About What You Can Charge
If you’re just breaking into the field, unless you’re a true subject matter expert, you’ll start at the lower end of the pay range. And unfortunately, for many new writers, that often means working for as little as 3, 4, or 5 cents a word at a content mill.
Keep in mind that even an experienced general content writer can only turn out maybe one decent 500-word blog post every two hours; you won’t get rich as a freelance blogger for content mills. But your best blog posts can help you build up a solid portfolio that you can use to justify higher rates as you gain experience.
And making the leap to higher rates happens quickly with some experience under your belt.
Proven copywriters and content specialists can charge more for their work, especially in high-demand niches.
But competition is stiff, so if you’re pricing your work at 20, 30, or even 50 cents a word, you need to have a record of excellent results, whether those results are measured in terms of website traffic, marketing conversions, or recommendations from editors and corporate clients.
The Right Credentials Matter
A good portfolio speaks for itself, and if you’re good at what you do, no one cares whether you have a master’s in English from Harvard or a GED and a few community college credits.
But if you’re pursuing a career in copywriting or content writing, it’s important to understand the business processes your writing supports.
Hubspot Academy offers free and low-cost courses with certification in content marketing, email marketing, inbound marketing and many other skills that a good freelance writer needs to compete in a competitive marketplace.
The Hubspot brand is respected among the many clients you’ll be contacting. It also looks great on your LinkedIn profile and writer’s website. It’s a win-win for new and established writers.
Put Some Energy Into Marketing and Networking
If you want to get the high-paying assignments (and have clients knocking down your digital door), you’re going to have to invest in marketing yourself.
The first and most obvious step is to develop a solid personal brand across all your digital channels. For most writers, this means a writer’s website, a Facebook page, and a LinkedIn profile (at a minimum).
Use the same profile photo and professional bio to maintain consistency. Make it easy for clients to find you. Because if you aren’t easy to find, most clients won’t take the time to look for you.
Develop a good pitch, and narrow down a list of clients you’d like to contact. Be bold about asking for their work. And once you complete an assignment, don’t be afraid to ask for referrals.Develop a good pitch, and narrow down a list of clients you’d like to contact. Be bold about asking for their work. And once you complete an assignment, don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. Click To Tweet
Check out the writer websites of other successful writers in your niche to see what they’re doing to market themselves; from their examples, create a list of things you can do to improve your own marketing efforts.
Don’t overlook your local market. Purchase professional business cards, and attend business networking meetings in your community. You’d be surprised by the number of local businesses needing help with their writing projects.
Breaking into the freelance writing market (and actually making a living by your words) is not as easy as sitting down in front of the computer and writing a nice article. There’s a lot of hard work and discipline that goes into building your author business and brand.
These five tips will keep you moving in the right direction.
What’s your best advice for making a living writing?
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