Freelance Writing from Home: Get Started Guide
Freelance writing from home lends itself well to those looking for a change — perhaps you’re ready to quit your 9 to 5 or just ready to take your career in a new direction.
It also happens to be a great option when you need a flexible schedule that lets you work on your own terms — perfect for caretakers, stay-at-home moms and dads, or when you need to supplement your income.
You’ve probably heard all of this before and that’s why you’re ready to try your hand at freelance writing from home. But there’s so much information out there and different paths to take — how do you know where to start?
The best way to make room for yourself in what can feel like a crowded freelance marketplace is to carve out a niche for yourself.
Why Focus on a Niche when Freelance Writing from Home
Niche writing is great for a number of reasons:
- Establishes you as an expert in a particular field
- Makes it easier to target clients
- Greater referrals
- Higher pay
When you concentrate your efforts on a specific area, you can grow your freelance writing business more efficiently, spend less time sourcing clients and more time doing what you do best — writing!
Become an Expert
You probably wouldn’t start a service business that offered everything from home energy audits, nutrition education, virtual assisting, and life coaching. Why? For one, it’s confusing to clients. And two, you can’t really hone your skills if you’re trying to tackle too many things at once.
I know when first starting out it’s tempting to say, “But I’ll write anything for anyone.” While that go-getter attitude is favorable, the approach is all wrong. People love to know they’ve got the best of the best working for them.
When you have a portfolio of writing samples within the same industry, you stand out as that expert a client is looking for. A portfolio with random samples from catalog descriptions to financial advice and everything in between doesn’t pack as much of a punch.
You’ve got to establish yourself as an expert — even if you’re not (just yet). This is easily done by focusing on a niche when freelance writing from home. Make sure you clearly define what is it you’ll write about and why you’re the best at it. This is your value proposition. It will go a long way in helping you stand out from the competition.
As social media expert, marketer, and digital communications lead, John Gordon, so eloquently put it:
“Experts are not called upon because they are the smartest person in every room; they are called upon because they are the smartest person in a specific room.”
When you find your freelance writing niche, you become the expert in your room — not the entire living space.
What’s in a Niche?
What do you love to do? What do you know a lot about? Are you already an expert in something? If you can answer these questions, you’re well on your way to start freelance writing from home the right way.
Ideally, the niche you pick is something you already have experience in. At the very least, it should be a subject you enjoy. After all, this will be your career and you don’t want to burn out before you even get going. It doesn’t mean you can’t change gears down the road — but when getting started, picking a niche is the easiest way to get established.
In-Demand Freelance Writing Niches
Before I started freelancing writing, I worked as a paralegal. It only seemed natural that I start freelance writing from home in the legal arena. So, that’s what I did. And it paid off.
Since I already had experience in the legal field, I was able to produce writing samples for clients and write knowledgeably on the subject. This allowed me to quickly land clients which led to plenty of referrals and eventually allowed me to raise my rates.
If a niche isn’t jumping out at you right away, consider these ideas for inspiration:
- Ecommerce/Product Reviews/Product Description
Are you a fashionista? Do you love to travel? Have you owned your own business? Combine your life experience and interests and you’ll find the perfect subject matter that you actually enjoy writing about.
You can also head on over to About.com and scroll all the way to the bottom. You’ll see a section called, “Everything on About.com”
Browsing through all of their topics is great for inspiration. Chances are, you’ll stumble upon a niche writing idea that you wouldn’t have considered, but just happens to be perfect for you.
No Experience? No Problem!
Let’s say you clawed your way out of debt and learned tons of things along the way. Now you want to share all that wisdom with others as a freelance financial writer. Great!
So, what’s the problem? You have no experience as a financial writer or writing samples to prove how awesome you are. Honestly, it’s not even a problem.
If you don’t have any writing samples, that’s an easy fix — write them! Sit down and write 3 to 5 high-quality samples that fall within the niche you’d like to write about. At the very least, make sure your samples include:
One shorter article around 500 words
One longer article between 750 and 1,000 words
Clients regularly ask for a short example and a longer one, so it’s best to have these samples on hand from the start. The other sample articles you write can be your choice — just make sure they showcase your writing style and are indicative of the quality a client can expect when they hire you!
Consider Guest Blogging
In the freelance writing from home world, experience is usually second to talent. That is, if you’re able to deliver the quality of work a client is after, they don’t necessarily care where you’ve been published before (or if you ever have been!)
But sometimes, you’ll find a client who specifically requests links to previous work. No problem! The solution? Guest blog.
Again, let’s say you want to become a financial writer, do a little legwork and find websites and blogs in that niche accepting guest posts.
For example, The Penny Hoarder is the world’s largest personal finance blog. They also happen to welcome posts from the public (they’ll even pay you for it!). If you take the time to write a high-quality and thoughtful post for their site, think how impressive that’d look to a potential client.
Not sure where to start? Head on over to Google and type in: Your Niche + Guest Blog
You’ll be presented a list of plenty of guest posting opportunities — helping you get the experience and exposure when just starting out. Guest blogging is valuable to all new freelance writers. It builds up your portfolio quickly and helps you establish connections with professionals in your niche.
Keep in mind, most guest posts are unpaid but still well worth it. Before submitting a post, make sure you thoroughly read a site’s acceptance guidelines (and then read them again).
You want to make sure you go about approaching them in the right way — impersonal and canned pitches that clearly do not follow guidelines will usually get tossed!
Still Not Convinced of the Power of a Niche?
Before attempting to establish a freelance writing from home career, you need to harness the power of niche writing. But don’t just take my word for it.
As award-winning journalist and writer, Nathan Meunier, notes:
“In the freelance world, getting paid to write about topics that resonate with you on a deeper level is powerful stuff. But being able to spin that into a full-time living, where you spend most of your days writing entirely about the topics you’re most passionate about? That’s where the real magic is at…”
You can learn more about the value of going niche in his book, The Niche Freelancer: How to Pitch, Sell Your Work, and Break Into Niche Writing Markets.
Once you pick one niche, you can certainly branch out and establish yourself in others, too. Check out Carol Tice’s How to Figure Out Your Best-Paying Freelance Writing Niche for plenty of extra inspiration and ideas!
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Corina Ramos says
This is great Ashlee. Thanks for putting this guide together and sharing it with us. This is going to be very helpful for anyone who is ready to start a career as a freelance writer.
Thanks again! Hope you’re having a great week so far.
This was so helpful. Thank you!
You’re welcome, Tanai! Thanks for stopping by. If I can help you with anything, please let me know.
Elna Cain says
Found your blog via Pinterest and I love it! I’m also a freelance writer and a mom. I have twin toddlers. This guide is perfect for newbie writers who don’t know where to begin.
You are right about trying to find a niche so that you can market yourself and attract your ideal client.
This is definitely something I would love to do. Thanks for the inspiration!
You’re welcome. Let me know if I can help in any way!
Once you decide on your niche and do some guest blogging, how do you find paying jobs within your writing niche?
Melissa Bullock says
This is a fantastic article. I’m a traveling homeschool mom and I’m looking for ways to bring in some extra income. Thank you for sharing this valuable information.
Your tips are great and have inspired me to give it a go. Freelancing is something that I have always wanted to try but wasn’t sure what I have to offer. Thanks for this post!
Thank you for the tips! I am going to check out some links and see what happens!
Ashlee Anderson says
Good luck, Tammy! 🙂 If you have any questions, let me know!