Have you always wanted to go freelance, but have no idea where to start? Before devoting my writing efforts to Crestfox, I was a freelance writer, too. I loved the freedom of it, but I didn’t know how hard, and sometimes discouraging, it could be. I made lots of mistakes in my first few months as a freelancer that I would love to help you avoid. I can help you turn your passion into your profession, with just a little insider advice from me, and a lot of hard work and chutzpah from you. Let’s get started! Here are 11 steps essential to getting your freelance business off the ground and going strong.
1. Develop Your Pitch
Your pitch is the first, and often the only, piece of writing a client will see from you before deciding whether or not to respond. A pitch has to catch the client’s attention and convince them that you can solve their problem. So including a bit about the client – that you’ve looked at their website, understand their voice, and care about the content – will go a long way toward building trust and securing you a gig.
2. Pitch Every Day
Especially when you’re just getting started, pitching regularly is essential. Until you have a client base established, send out 5 personalized pitches a day to jobs you’re interested in.
I know a lot of writers who don’t want to waste time pitching, and will send out a form letter to as many jobs as possible to see what sticks. I don’t like this approach. I’ve found it far more effective to approach fewer clients with more thorough proposals. After all, your pitch is your first impression – make it a good one.
3. Blog Regularly
Even if you’re not planning on monetizing it, every freelance writer should have a blog. If you’re just starting out and don’t have many writing samples to show clients, blogging is a great way to begin building your portfolio, and it’s the best way to improve your writing. I recommend posting once a week to keep up traffic and look professional to clients. It doesn’t look very good when you refer potential clients to a website that hasn’t been updated in months.
4. Beat Writer’s Block
We all have those days when we don’t feel like writing. But when it’s your livelihood, you can’t afford to squander an 8+ hour day. My tricks for avoiding a slump? I read at least a little every day to stay inspired and experience someone else’s voice and style. If I feel a slump coming on, I’ll get out of the house, walk down to the neighborhood coffeehouse, order a cold brew, and get to work. A change of scenery alone is often enough to clear my headspace.
5. Don’t Focus on Rejections
You will get turned down, ghosted, and straight-up ignored, especially when attempting to land your first client. When you are used to a traditional work environment, all this rejection can be very discouraging. It’s easy to question your value and to feel unqualified to do work you know you’re capable of. This is called ‘imposter syndrome’, and it affects all freelancers at one time or another. In these moments, it’s very comforting to have a network of fellow freelancers to commiserate with and draw inspiration from. I was active in a freelance writers Twitter group, but communities exist on nearly all social platforms, and your city probably has a group with IRL get-togethers, too.
6. Find Your Niche
It may seem like limiting yourself, but finding a specialization and sticking with it will make you appear more qualified and knowledgeable to potential clients. If someone is looking for a writer to craft a travel blog, they’re far more likely to hire someone whose portfolio is full of travel blogs than an equally skilled writer who’s covered everything from electrical wiring to cat-sitting.
7. Learn How to Market Yourself
As a freelancer, you need to market yourself like a business. Use social media to promote your writing, approach similarly-minded, popular blogs about guest posting, and ask clients for a written review you can post on your website. Get familiar with content marketing and SEO, both for yourself and your clients. There are plenty of free blogs and guides out there, but it may be worth your investment to take a course from a verified site like Elite Blog Academy.
8. Keep Looking for Clients
It’s easy to get lazy about finding new clients once you’ve established a few reliable ones – but you have no assurance as to how long your current clients will last. Don’t overbook yourself, but keep hunting for new and better opportunities.
9. Prepare for Dry Spells
Even if you have plenty of work coming in right now, a freelance workload isn’t reliable. Save what you can and live frugally until you get your business off the ground. Once you’re established it’s a good idea to keep 3-6 months of living expenses aside in case of an emergency.
10. Write for the Client
Freelance writing is (usually) not about artistry; it’s about providing valuable content for your client. If they have notes on your work, do not argue. Fix it! The best way to prevent miscommunication is by asking a lot of questions about the project up front. You can even do this in your proposal – it shows you care about the work and you aren’t submitting a copy-and-pasted pitch.
11. Find a Mentor
Your mentor doesn’t have to be someone you know and can talk to – although, if you have that relationship, awesome, use the heck out of it! Your writing mentor can be a blogger or journalist you follow, whose work you admire, and who inspires you to grow.
Getting started as a freelance writer is not easy, but if you know what pitfalls to avoid, you can grow your business much quicker and avoid a lot of heartache. There is more copy out there, and more demand for good writers, than ever before. These tips can help you stand out from the crowd and earn your first clients. After that, it’s up to you!