Looking for flexibility in the hours you work and the writing you pursue? Freelance writing may be the solution. However, nothing comes easy in the world of freelancing. In order to be successful, you have to find a market for your work and clients that need your writing skills. If you’re really lucky, you’ll just happen to be an expert authority on the next big thing, and the world will beat a path to your door. But, the overwhelming majority of freelance writers work extremely hard to maintain a business and they often start out with little stability. To find long-term success as a freelance writer, you need to understand your writing strengths and how to reach prospective clients.
What does it mean to be a freelancer?
Because a freelancer is working independently, there are no medical benefits, no 401K, and no paid vacations. These are all things you’ll have to consider – along with being responsible for paying taxes on the money you earn, which in most cases means filing quarterly taxes. Then there’s insurance policies. A freelance writer may need general or business liability insurance, which is often required for contracts and other agreements, as well as media liability insurance, which protects writers against claims such as defamation, invasion of privacy, copyright and trademark infringement, and plagiarism.
Once you have all of this sorted out, you’ll have to set your own rates. While you may write for free at first to build a portfolio, you’ll eventually charge a consistent rate per hour, word, page, or project. Some media outlets and clients will have rates in mind, but it’s smart to determine your own so that you are prepared to negotiate if needed. Consider how much income you hope to bring in from freelancing. Is your goal is to become full-time, or is this just a side gig? This will affect your rates and the type of projects you take on.
Sometimes, freelancers work with companies on longer-term projects or are kept on retainer. This would mean adjusting your rate to reflect the larger scope of your work – you wouldn’t want to charge hourly for something you’re working on for months!
So how do you break in, establish a name for yourself, and get paying clients to seek you out? The first thing you have to do is get some of your work published, and to make that happen, you might just have to do some work for free. The idea is to compile a body of work. Once that’s done, you can attack the market and start making money.
But what can you write about? Should you generalize or concentrate on a specific field or topic? This is a two-edged sword. If you can master a popular subject or industry and become a real authority, it’s easier to find work on that topic. Also, it’s easier to do work on that topic because you don’t have to research as much before writing about it. On the other hand, if you’re adept at research and can conquer a variety of topics, you can cut a wider swathe through the market. If you’re a specialist, your expertise can compensate for a lack of literary flair. But if you’re a generalist, being able to write in an interesting and compelling style will greatly increase your chances of success. If you specialize, you can build a network of experts, and even become an expert yourself. If you generalize, you’re hoping to write as broadly as possible. Either way has its pros and cons. It’s all about what fits your skill set and ambitions.
Here’s a list of places you might approach for freelance work:
• Non-profit organizations
• Professional associations
• Local or regional newspapers and magazines
• Blogs: you can either write a post for someone else’s blog or start your own
• Small, local businesses (larger corporations are interested in freelancers too; some freelancers start out in the corporate world, where they make contacts, and then segue into freelancing once they’ve built a book of potential clients. Others contract with their former companies)
• Websites that revolve around a certain hobby, interest, or professional skill of yours
As you start writing more and more content, make sure you save everything. Prospective clients are going to want to see samples of your work, and having a varied portfolio can greatly increase your credibility.
Freelancing can encompass more than writing too. You can find freelance copy editing, fact checking, and research gigs, just to name a few.
Aspiring freelancers no longer have to walk door to door handing out samples of their work. There are several online tools to help you get started and to help you match your skills to the market. Here are a few:
• BloggingPro Job Board: a free job board updated daily with freelance writing and blogging jobs.
• iWriter: if you’re accepted as a writer for iWriter, you’ll have access to short-term paid projects from a variety of companies.
• Upwork: create a free profile to get connected to businesses seeking specialized talent, which may include: academic writing and research, article and blog writing, copywriting, creative writing, editing and proofreading, grant writing, resumes and cover letters, technical writing, and web content.
• Mediabistro: this is a paid service to find freelance work. Clients can find you based on your specialty or expertise, industry, and years of experience.
• Freelancewriting.com: a free source for educational resources and finding freelance work.
• Fiverr: a free gig posting site with categories such as graphics and design, digital marketing, and writing and translation.
Remember, the most important component of becoming a freelance writer is to write. No tool or advice can help you establish yourself if you don’t take the initiative and get started.
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