Freelance writing. It’s often hailed as the holy grail of flexible, work from home, creatively minded jobs. I look back to my days working in an office admin job with my degree certificates gathering dust, scrolling through ‘how to be a freelance writer’ websites in despair. There’s so much information out there - how on earth do I get started as a writer? Surely there’s no space for me with these huge writers selling expensive courses?
It can all feel a little overwhelming, can’t it? I know it did for me. Yet weirdly enough, it wasn’t until I was actually a parent and had a decent enough personal reason to work flexibly and from home that I actually managed to make freelance writing work. In the midst of looking after a newborn in a global pandemic, I kind of cracked it. I’d love to share with you how I did in a realistic, *not trying to sell you a course* way. Got that? Cool. Let’s talk about how to do this. Here are my five tips for getting started.
Understand the reality
Let’s start with some realism. Freelance writing is not my only income stream. I also offer freelance social media management, and other digital marketing services, which I’ll go into in other blog posts. Freelance writing can be regular, but it is highly dependent on client need. Sometimes my clients are after five articles in a row, all 2000+ words, and I can do them over a few months. Bam - sustainable income. Equally, I might go two months without any writing work. This is just my personal experience, but if you’re after my advice, I think if you’re relying on a consistent income alongside the stresses and busyness of parenting, it might be worth looking at more than just writing to ensure you’re well padded.
Work out if you’re copy, feature, or both
There are actually quite a few different ways of writing online. A short summary is this: you have copy, i.e - writing the text that goes online to promote a product in some way, feature - i.e, journalism, or both. I’m in both camps, but be aware you’ll see folk call themselves copywriters, feature writers, and more.
Decide on your niche
You might hear the phrase ‘nice’ bandied around a lot on social media, but personally I feel it’s the most helpful way to situate yourself as a writer. Think about what you’re good at, perhaps what you have qualifications in or employed experience in, and what you actually would like to write about.
Set up your presence as a writer
Oh hi, you’re on my blog, on my website - which you may well have found via my Instagram or LinkedIn. How funny is that? It’s actually shockingly pre-planned. As a busy parent everything I do needs to have purpose, whether it’s financial, caretaking (for me or my kid or my family) or otherwise. So, this is my online presence. I try and regularly post to social media to show I exist. I have this website which showcases my offer, and I have a swanky email signature to show that I mean business. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to show you’re not messing about. So set up a website, with a proper domain name if you can afford that (for me, this site costs me about £150 a year, for transparency).
Build a portfolio
It can be hard to do this when you’ve never written for anyone, kinda like the age old ‘how do I apply for a job when it needs experience and I have no experience’ rabbit hole! A great way to start is writing a blog, and creating sample style pieces around the type of content you’re looking to write. Equally, if you have a friend who owns a business, ask to write for them! Once you have a portfolio in place, you’re set to start pitching.
There are a lot of ways to get clients, so many that I’m considering writing a whole other piece on that! One way to start, however, is to pitch. That’s cold pitching - emailing the people you’d love to write for in the hope that someone comes back to you! Send along your samples and see who comes back to you. You also have plenty of job boards to work from and apply to, networking on LinkedIn and Instagram - the list goes on!
I hope that very whistle stop tour of how to get started as a freelance writer might give others some context on how it all works. I have big grand plans to create some pieces on where to find clients, the finances of freelancing, and my favourite resources to help, so keep your eyes peeled! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions I might be able to help with too, from one tired parent to another.