You’ve made the decision to start a freelance writing career. You may even have a particular niche in mind that you’d like to write about. And while you know what you want to do, you still haven’t actually done anything about it. What’s holding you back?
Is it because you’re not sure exactly how to start? Are you afraid to take the first step? Too many unknowns and what-ifs? Fear not! I know it’s one thing to make a decision and something else entirely to actually take action. And when there’s a lot of information out there on the subject, it can make getting started seem overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are real, practical and actionable ideas you can implement today (yes, today) and start to see results. Before you know it, you’ll have a full-fledged freelance writing career on your hands.
1. Sign Up for Some Content Mills
It’s not exactly glamorous or perhaps the vision you had when you decided to become a writer. But the truth is,writing for a content mill or two can actually boost your confidence, give you real world experience, and help you grow your freelance writing career.
My personal favorite content mill is Textbroker. Why? They offer feedback on the writing you submit. This feedback is very constructive and helps improve your writing.
This is a screenshot of my Textbroker dashboard:
And, as you can see, there are no shortage of assignments to choose from. When you sign up as an author on Textbroker, you’ll be given an initial star rating between 2 and 5. If you’re given a four-star rating, you can work on four star, three star and two star projects. If you’re given a three-star rating, you can work on three star and two star projects. And if you’re given a two-star rating, you can only work on two-star projects.
Each star rating has a different per-word rate — the higher your star count, the more you’ll earn. What’s great about Textbroker, that you won’t find at other content mills, are additional opportunities to earn:
- You can receive higher paying direct orders from clients
- Work on special teams like product descriptions or blog posts
- Become a proofreader
Remember, you don’t have to write for content mills, like Textbroker, forever. Think of it as a paid freelance writing internship — you’ll gain confidence, experience and a little cash along the way.
2. Guest Blog
Take a look around the Internet and you’ll find tons of blogs and websites that accept guest posts (myself included). This is the perfect opportunity for the budding freelance writer to get their feet wet and get their name out there. Plus, it’s one of the most visible ways to build your portfolio with actual links to live work.
The sites you approach about guest blogging should be within the same niche you want to write for. Let’s say you want to write about personal finance. You might want to submit an article to The Penny Hoarder since they cover all things related to money.
Usually, a quick Google search with “your niche” + “guest blog” will give a good list of sites to approach.
Remember, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about guest blogging. Make sure you fall into the “right way” camp by keeping these things in mind:
- Read each site’s guest post requirements, and follow them!
- When submitting a guest post request, be personal! Don’t send a canned email. Take the time to find out the blogger’s name (it’s usually on their “About” page).
- Introduce yourself. Don’t just say, “Hey. I want to write a post for your site.” Explain who you are and why you want to write for them.
- Don’t ask if they pay for guest posts.
Yes, some sites will pay you for your guest post — but those are few and far between. The majority of sites will offer you a link to your personal blog, portfolio or social media profiles — which can be even more valuable than any other payment!
For more opportunities to get your name out there, you need to check out this mega guide of 700+ Guest Posting Sites you can submit articles to.
3. Set Up a Writer’s Website
Speaking of getting links in exchange for guest blogging — when you guest blog, nine times out of ten, you’ll be given an “About the Author” section following your post. This is your chance to write a couple sentences about yourself so that the person reading your article can learn more about you. It’s also a chance to include a link so that readers (and clients!) can find you.
So, what should you link to? Hands down, the best place to link to is your own blog or portfolio. Not only is this super professional looking, it makes it easy to showcase your talent by maintaining and frequently updating a blog with your unique voice.
I’ve had a number of clients approach me about writing for them simply because they liked the work featured on my blog. You can achieve this too — and it’s much easier and cost-effective than you may think.
- Sign up for affordable hosting over at BlueHost. When you do, you’ll get a free domain name (which will save you about $15). Your domain name can be your actual name or, if it’s taken, something like BenFranklinWrites (using your name of course).
- Install WordPress. With BlueHost, this can be done easily and in just a few minutes. Check out my full tutorial for setting up BlueHost and installing WordPress for step by step instructions.
- Select a theme. Colorlib has a great list of free WordPress Portfolio themes that are perfect for showcasing your freelance writing skills.
- Start writing! You can link to guest posts you’ve written on your site, but it’s also a good idea to write an “about” page, services page, and frequently post about relevant news within your niche.
Check out these different freelance writer websites for inspiration:
When you have a portfolio or writer’s website in place, it’s much easier to present yourself as a professional, polished freelance writer!
While you can easily get your own blog or website setup on your own, you may prefer to let someone else do it for you. If that’s the case, check out Fiverr. There are some extremely talented WordPress gurus on there who will get your portfolio site up and running (and looking great!) within a day or two — and chances are, it will cost less than $10.
4. Get Started on Upwork
The largest freelance marketplace is Upwork. There are literally thousands of gigs posted at any time, many of which are content writing jobs. Granted, there is a lot of competition on this site but if you know how to write an effective Upwork proposal, you’ll find it’s not that difficult to land some decent jobs!
I’ve found some great clients on Upwork that I still work with to this day. On average, I spend about 20 hours a month (I usually sit down for about five hours each Sunday night) writing for these clients and can earn about $1,200 for my efforts. That comes out to $60 an hour on average!
It’s free to submit proposals on Upwork but Upwork does take a 10% fee — so keep this in mind when you are bidding on work! You can get paid via direct deposit or PayPal, and can request your earnings whenever you want. My Upwork earnings go straight into my savings account since I’m using this money to build my emergency fund.
What are you waiting for? Sign up and fill out your profile completely. It will take Upwork several hours to approve your profile — but by the day’s end, you’ll be up and running and ready to write!
5. Clean Up Your Social Media Presence
If you’re going to present yourself as a professional freelance writer, your social media profiles better reflect this! If need be, have separate personal and professional social profiles. While you want to show your personality on social media (after all clients like to work with people they feel like they already know), you also don’t want to divulge too much information.
I get several clients who approach me each month via Twitter asking about my freelance writing services. Why? Because my Twitter profile is set up the right way:
<—-That’s me! I’ve got my name displayed, a professional handle, @AshleeWrites, and a description that is search-friendly with industry appropriate hashtags! I’ve also got a link to Work from Home Happiness in there (if you set up a blog or website, and you should, include it here!)
I can’t stress enough how effective social media can be when landing clients. It’s all about how you approach it!
Some best practices to keep in mind when using social media as a professional freelancer:
- Share helpful and relevant industry news on occasion
- Follow other freelancers and prospective clients
- Be active and engage with others (it’s called social media for a reason!)
- Don’t be shy — tweet or post links to your latest works, whether it’s a guest blog post or an article posted to your own website
- Don’t spam — ever. This means no repetitive self-serving tweets and posts
Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or a combination of platforms, social media can be a goldmine of clients when you take the time to market yourself the right way.
Still Not Ready?
Over at Write Your Way to Your First 1K, you can learn the action steps needed to launch a freelance writing career the right way. This includes plenty of practical advice and valuable takeaways that will prepare you to be successful. Learn more about the self-paced course for new freelance writers by visiting Write Your Way to Your First 1K.
Have any questions? Leave them in the comments below! Or, you can email me directly at Ashlee@WorkFromHomeHappiness(dot)com and I’ll do my best to help. Don’t forget to like Work from Home Happiness on Facebook for even more freelance inspiration!
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