how to be a freelance writerMaybe you love to write.  You have some wonderful ideas, know how to craft perfect sentences, and can come up with the most captivating and hooking introductions.  If you seem to have all your writing ducks in line, you may want to look into how to be a freelancer.

Today, more and more magazines, websites, and newspapers are relying on freelance writers to get their work done.  Take Elance, for example.  This popular freelance broker site experienced a consistent growth in past years, with freelance writers rising from around 200,000 in 2012 to 300,000 in 2013.  So how do you join in on the (profitable) fun?  We have the steps that will take you from writing as a hobby to becoming a freelance writer.

How to Be A Freelance Writer

Love to write:  This might seem like a given, but you need to remember that as a freelance writer, you will be writing every day of your life.  Make sure that writing is something that comes to you naturally with fluidity and ease.

Be self-disciplined:  Because you are going to be in charge of your own time and work schedule, as a freelance writer you should have good self-discipline.  Writing should be something that you look forward to waking up and doing every day, so make sure that it is something you can do without dragging yourself through the motions.

Get a degree:  This is not absolutely necessary, but to market yourself as a freelance writer, it is helpful to have a college degree in English or journalism.  These majors will give you the skills and requirements that you will need to be familiar with as a writer.  Usually companies or contractors will want to take the time out to train a freelance writer, so it may be easier to get a job that you want in a field that you have a degree in.  If you do not have a degree, consider taking a few classes at a community college or online.

Pick a genre or category:  As a writer, you are going to have to decide if you want to freelance fiction or non-fiction.  Non-fiction tends to sell much easier than fiction, so keep this in mind as you are making your choice.

A hobby or jobAs a freelancer, you can be writing for fun, as a hobby, or to make a living.  Decide which of route you want to take and how much time and energy you want to devote towards freelancing.  These decisions will factor in how you treat freelancing.  For instance, if you choose to do it as a full-time job, it will require a lot more effort and time than it would, say, if you did it for fun.

Put yourself out there:  In freelancing, you are going to need to be thirsty for writing jobs, leads, and prospects on a daily basis.  You will have to learn how to market yourself as if you were running your own business.  Freelancing these days is largely done over the internet, which means that a lot of your communication will be done by email.  However, you will still need proper interaction and negotiation skills to connect with your contractors and your audience.

Write a Query letter:  A query letter will explain to your potential employer or contractor the ideas or concepts that you want to write about, as well as a short explanation about your experiences and qualifications as a writer.  Your query letter should be sent to editors, blog owners, or website operators that you want to produce content for.

Be active:  Just because you are writing from home does not mean that you have to become antisocial.  Networking and being active within the writing community is a great way for freelancers to pick up leads and land jobs.  For instance, it may be a good idea to join writing groups or freelance associations in your area to be able to meet other writers, get advice, and establish your credentials.  Always be on the lookout for contacts that can help point you in the right direction or that you can look to for advice or mentor-ship down the road.

Money Management:  As a freelancer, you are going to have to have good money management and a proper financial system.  It is likely that you are not initially going to be making big bucks from freelancing.  Here are a few things that you can do to make sure that you keep your financial systems in line:

Set goals:  If you still have a day job when you go into freelancing, make sure that you do not quit it until you are making enough money from freelancing alone to support your lifestyle.  Remember that as a freelancer, you are not going to be doing the typical 9 to 5 job.  You may have to work on weekends or late into the night to meet your financial needs or word count quota.  See how well you work under pressure during freelancing, because you will likely always have a deadline that you are trying to meet.

Build your portfolio:  Even if you already have a freelancing job, it is important to continue trying to build your portfolio with every chance you get.  Even if you are writing for small, lesser known publications, you are going to want to start a portfolio to be able to show clients or employers down the road that you can produce good work.  There are plenty of ways that you can go about trying to get your work published, even if you are not yet a freelancer.  You can submit articles to online websites, blogs, or even nonprofits.  You might not get any money at first, but you will get a byline.

The Hunt

how to be a freelance writerOnce you are in the know of what it takes to be a freelancer, you can begin to start looking for your first freelancing gig!  Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Start contacting people in the industry.  For instance, look for publishers or websites that you think you would like to write for, and read any guidelines that they have.  Make sure you do not send your articles to irrelevant publications.
  2. Know the market that you want to write for, and have content that will show them that you can write accordingly.
  3. Send out your query letters.  However, do not sit back and wait for a response.  Continue sending your work out to other publications until you get a few projects lined up.  Always be on the hunt!

Skills for a Freelancer

As a freelancer, here are some skills you should have:

Begin Your Writing Conquest, Today!

As a freelancer myself, I know the wave of emotions (excitement, frustrations, and relief) that can come with freelancing writing in general.  Freelancing is a wonderful way to entertain and apply your talents as a writer, and there are plenty of opportunities available and content needs that you can look into.  Before you take a dip into the world of freelancing, be sure to brush up on any writing skills that you have with these courses, and get ready to take the writing world by storm!

Writing students also learn

Empower your team. Lead the industry.

Get a subscription to a library of online courses and digital learning tools for your organization with Udemy for Business.

Request a demo