How to Start a Career As a Freelance Writer
If you want to turn your writing skills into a career, you don’t have to take a chance on becoming a best-selling author. Freelance writers are in demand in many different industries, from print and magazines to businesses and nonprofits. Commercial freelance writing—writing advertisements, brochures, web copy, and communications for businesses and nonprofit organizations—is often the most financially lucrative and dependable of all writing careers, not to mention the easiest to break into.
Consider Going to School First
There are many different Bachelor’s degrees that lend themselves well to a freelance writing career. English, Journalism and online communications degrees are perhaps the most common, but other options will prepare you as well—including sales and marketing, public relations and business. Pair any of these degrees with strong writing skills and solid business acumen, and you’re very likely to succeed.
A college education won’t hurt—and you’ll be competing against many other writers who have one—but most potential clients won’t ask you about your education once you’ve established yourself. They’ll care more about your experience and clips. College is a great place to get started gaining that experience, however—and picking up the writing and business skills you’ll need to succeed.
Start a Portfolio
Working as a freelance writer has many freedoms including the ability to choose in what direction your career will take and what type of work you want to do.
Clips are examples of your work that show your experience and skills. Good clips show how well you write and the types of jobs you’ve done before. While you’re in college, make it your mission to collect a portfolio of good clips. Publish a few articles in your school newspaper. Take a copywriting class and save your assignments. Make friends with someone in a online graphic design program and work together to create portfolio pieces you can both use—your friend can design mock brochures, ads and other pieces, and you can write the copy for them. This way, you’ll be able to hit the ground running with a professional-looking portfolio when you graduate—and start qualifying for paid work right away.
Get Noticed for Your Work and Writing Ability
Once you’re ready to get started, there are a variety of ways to reach out to potential clients. One of the necessities of modern freelance writing, however, is a website. Your website will make a business case for hiring you online, with all the information a potential client could want—including your experience, your portfolio samples, and more. You can simply use it to refer potential clients to, or you can use it as a profit center in itself by ensuring it’s SEO-optimized and writing a blog that attracts clients.
Once you’ve got your website up and running, you can get in touch with potential clients by sending postcard mailers, starting a phone marketing campaign, or cold-emailing potential prospects.
Sharpen Your Skill Set with Continuing Education
Continuing education is also important. There are plenty of online classes you can take that will help you hone your skills. Online courses in marketing, copywriting, e-commerce, or technical writing could all open up new business opportunities for freelance writers.
Pick A Niche
Your possible clients are endless—every business and organization needs communications and marketing material. You may want to narrow down the list by considering which businesses or organizations your background qualifies you to work with. If you have a background in a certain industry—anything from hospitality to finance or health—you can use your years of non-writing experience to differentiate yourself from other freelance writers who may not have worked in the industry before.
In addition, some “middleman” clients can be lucrative partners. Look into getting in touch with local advertising agencies, graphic design firms, web designers and SEO companies. These businesses work directly with their own clients, who often need writing done as well. If you can step in as the middleman’s partner and get the job done, you could have steady work.
Freelance writing can be a fun, lucrative and steady career for someone who loves to write. It’s easier to break into and depends less on luck than a career in novel writing, and it’s flexible enough to allow you to pursue creative interests on the side. If you have entrepreneurial skills in addition to strong business communications and knowledge of promotional writing best practices, you should be able to write your way to a career in freelance commercial writing for nonprofits, government and businesses in every industry.
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