If you have a way with words and want to focus more on writing - either as a side hustle, full time job, or to share your ideas and connect with like minded folk through a blog - you’re not alone. Many thousands of people are finding their voice, and starting to write freelance for fun, for a part time income or as a new professional career.
As you’ll probably already realise, the hardest part is knowing where to start.
Here’s how you can go about opening your new chapter as a freelance writer - even with no previous experience.
Let’s start with some good news. Getting started as a freelance writer doesn’t require a lot of resources. You won’t need to pour capital into your business to get it up and running, even if you intend to make writing your full time job.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most important things to have when starting out:
The equipment you need is relatively limited - but it’s worth investing in a quality laptop that suits you, and setting up an ergonomic workspace that allows you to focus. While working from the kitchen table might sound like a dream, in reality it’s a recipe for a bad back and a constant stream of interruptions.
If you intend to work from home, think about how you can set aside a dedicated workspace with the right equipment, and a limit on the likely distractions. This works both ways, keeping your mind on the job in work hours - and stopping your work from seeping into your personal and family time out of hours. Being able to shut the door on your work is never more important than as a self employed freelancer, if you want to avoid burnout and keep up your passion for the work.
Whether you’re quitting your full time gig to move into freelance writing in a big way, or simply intend to set up a blog and put out a couple of posts a week, you’re going to need to motivate yourself to deliver. Being a freelancer requires an enormous amount of discipline and self motivation - although having a structure and being organised about your time can make this feel like much less of a drag.
Set yourself some targets - that may be writing a blog post a week, pitching three new clients a day, or getting your first ebook out within the month. Whatever it is, make it manageable, and stick with it by monitoring your progress and celebrating even the smallest successes. Setting aside fixed writing time works for many people - and as time goes on you’ll find you also need to book time to complete and chase invoices, do tax filing and get stuck into all the admin that comes with being a freelancer.
As soon as you start landing paid work, you’ll need a way to get your money without losing too much in fees. Some employers have fixed preferences, paying by PayPal or check, for example. However, depending on where your work is coming from you may find you benefit from an alternative account type, like the borderless multi-currency account from TransferWise.
The borderless account is especially useful if you’re working with overseas clients, as it lets you invoice and receive payment in a broad range of currencies. You’ll get your own bank details for the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK and the euro area, so you can get paid fee free like a local from these regions. Then hold, send or spend your money, or convert it back to US dollars within the account and withdraw it to your regular bank. If you’re setting out on the freelance life because you love to travel, it’s good to know the personal account also comes with a free linked multi-currency debit card you can use when overseas. You can’t get a card with the business account just yet, but it’s on the way.
When you’re reaching out to clients, you know they’ll immediately google your name and look for your online footprint. Make sure it’s professional, with a sleek LinkedIn profile, website if you choose, and no dodgy social media posts open for public view. There’s lots of advice out there about how to best use your LinkedIn profile to make connections, so take some time to update and upgrade it before potential customers start swinging by.
You’ll also need a smart sounding email address and access to platforms like Skype to connect with clients. While your old fluffyunicorn1995 email address might feel nostalgic, it’ll not win you any business. Upgrade to something professional sounding, to make a better first impression.
Most online freelance job opportunities will ask you to send in writing samples, or links to already published work. Starting to pull together a portfolio of your writing is a smart idea, but also gives you a chance to think about what work you do best. Notice the tone of voice you’re most comfortable writing in, and they type of content that makes you deliver your best quality work. This will come in handy when you’re finding the right niche to work in. More on that in a moment.
You may also benefit from pulling together a pitch email, which you can send for advertised opportunities, or as a speculative mail to companies you admire. Again, think about how you describe and sell yourself, including your experience, style and personal passions. This is your first contact with most prospective employers, and will help you build an immediate connection. You’ll need to tailor your pitch for each particular company or role, but having a base to build on now will save you time in the long run.
You’ve got some basics in place already. Now onto the real work. One thing to consider at this stage, is what niche - or niches - you want to work in.
Most writers are drawn to an area as a result of personal interest or passion, work experience or simple curiosity. Becoming a specialist in a certain niche will be a selling point to the right clients, and help you hone your writing skills and subject knowledge. Your niche may well develop over time, so don’t worry too much about getting it wrong - but do pick a space to start in, to help you build a client base and online reputation.
When it comes to earning money for your writing, having an online presence really helps, and a blog can be an easy way to get your work online and visible.
You’ll find you can either publish for free, or your might choose to buy a domain address and blog there - this involves a cost, so if your budget is tight, look around for deals, vouchers and referrals. You may find a great deal to help you get started.
When you first start out you need a way to drive traffic to your own personal blog or website. Guest posting is a great option - and also helps you network and foster the sense of community that makes blogging fun.
You can guest post either for free or for money, depending on the sites and your personal expertise. To get the highest exposure, try to get free guest post opportunities on high authority blogs. You’ll add a tag line and bio into your post which will include your own blog, and interested readers will click through to learn more about you.
To find guest post opportunities, search for your niche and 'write for us' on Google. You might enter 'financial blogs write for us' into the search bar, if your chosen niche is budgeting and personal finance, for example.
If you haven’t already set up a professional website, you may choose to do so once you start to build up an online portfolio through your own blog, guest posts and other opportunities. Your website can feature work samples, links and a ‘work with me’ page for prospective employers to find you easily.
It’s also worth considering using other social media channels to link to your work, and contribute to the discussion in your niche. Find influencers and established content creators who work in the same field and comment on their posts, connect and start to become part of the conversation. Your name will become more widely known within your niche, and you’ll be seen as an expert - an appealing prospect for a prospective client.
It’s worth keeping a relatively narrow focus on your niche if you can, as you build your name. By removing distractions it’s easier for potential clients to clearly see they type of writing you’re selling, and the topics you can cover.
Publish your work as widely as possible as you start to grow in confidence - using your own blog, Medium, including Medium’s curated publications if possible, LinkedIn, industry publications, and guest posts in other people’s blogs. Share your work on social media and keep your own social profiles updated so people see that you're a writer.
One danger of freelance writing is that it can be a solitary profession - and the fact is that most humans do their best work with a little social interaction. Getting to know some other freelance writers, even in a digital sense, is a great idea. Look on LinkedIn and Facebook for groups in your niche, and reach out using social media or email to writers you admire to say hello.
You may well also find there are meetups or groups of writers working at local coworking spaces. Not only will you have the opportunity to make some new friends, other writers might be happy to share their tips, experience and advice with you.
You can also study other writers websites to understand how they market themselves, where they write and what about.
You love to write. But there are many different ways you can turn that passion into an income, besides writing blog and magazine articles. One quick way to see the range of types of work out there is to look at the job boards listed in the section below, as well as tapping into resources such as the helpful articles on freelancewriter.com. You might also like the podcast ‘All indie writers’ for inside tips and advice. ¹
Here are a few alternative options to consider when you’re starting out.
There’s a huge market in digital products these days, including online courses, eBooks, printables and guides. If you have a specific knowledge or skill to share you might consider creating and selling your own digital products - let’s say you’re a skilled guitarist and you can create a series of instructional videos and a guide to help adult learners take their first few steps in playing. You’d then earn revenue every time you sell the digital guide, through your own website or a marketplace.
Alternatively, you might pick up work ghostwriting digital products for others. Check out a site like Upwork for more ideas of the types of work out there in this area.²
Email marketing is central to many businesses, and with knowledge in this field you might well pick up jobs from around the world. One option is to create a profile on a site like Guru³, and connect with employers that way. However, this may take some time as you’ll need to build a professional online reputation. While that’s happening, you can also look for jobs within your personal network, on popular job boards like those listed in the section below, or by speculatively reaching out to companies which interest you.
There’s plenty of work out there for people who can write witty, effective and grammatically perfect speeches, from wedding speeches to corporate presentations. If you have a specific skill - let’s say writing the groomsman speech for a wedding - check out the market with a quick Google search. You’ll find a range of writing options, from seasoned professionals, which demonstrate the demand. If that’s your niche, think about how you can model your service on the most successful of those out there already. For corporate gigs, check out marketplaces such as Upwork⁴.
Video script writing often involves writing the scripts for the explainer videos you tend to see on websites. There are jobs of this type available on marketplace platforms, but you might also try connecting with web developers, who work with content creators to produce company and professional sites.
Professional writing job boards are another great source of work. Have a look at the boards below to get you started and give you an idea of the type of work out there.
You’ll find thousands of jobs posted here, looking for everything from romance writers, to golf bloggers, to content creators specialising in the 50+ age group. The quality and type of role varies widely - some employers post their salaries, and some do not. Some are long term positions and some are not. Most are remote opportunities where you can work from home. There’s advice on the site about how to apply safely online - it’s worth reading up before you get stuck in there.
LinkedIn is the benchmark of professional recruiting and hosts several hundred writing positions. They are a mix of remote and fixed location, with some offering set contracts and others a more flexible option. In some cases you’ll find a simple payment guide listed, others will classify the role as ‘entry level’, for example, to give an idea of the experience and pay rate you might expect.
No experience needed remote writing opportunities, from fact checking and editing, translation and technical writing, to creating content for shopping sites. There’s a wide range of options available, simply sign up to see the roles, and start to apply.
Freelancewriting.com has a wealth of information about getting in and getting on, in the freelance writing trade. It also hosts a helpful job board you can browse, including relevant positions pulled from other sources such as job board Indeed. You can use the search function and apply online for positions, which include remote, freelance, and fixed location jobs.
Wide range of positions available, with clear helpful listings which show whether they’re remote, fixed contract, part time or full time. There are some positions here which may be suited to people new to writing, and also a range of jobs which require broad experience for later on in your writing career.
Getting into freelance writing will be an evolving process. Maybe you’re starting out writing a personal blog alongside a full time job, and considering how to grow your passion for writing into a bigger income stream. Or perhaps you’re a few steps further on and looking to turn some occasional writing work into a full time career. There are many options out there - both in terms of resources to learn and grow your craft, and ways to find paid work which can prove professionally and financially rewarding.
Don’t forget to put basic building blocks in place early, such as having a great portfolio and sample writing, and a simple but effective account to receive payments from employers, no matter where in the world they are. Check out the borderless multi-currency account from TransferWise to avoid excessive bank fees, and make sure you see as much of your money as possible.
All sources last checked 5 September 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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