Break Into Freelance Writing
I get asked on a daily basis (literally!) about how to become a freelance writer. Maybe it's because I can't stop talking about how much I love this field. To summarize my typical response, I recently crafted an email with a few of my top tips and tricks. Here's what I have to share for anyone trying to break into freelance writing:
Find jobs. Start searching on Indeed.com for terms like "freelance writing," "copywriter," and "blogging." Read through the job descriptions and BECOME THAT PERSON. Your best guide is to see what the market wants and find a way to provide it. Do your research and apply for a few entry-level openings as you go.
Publish work. To land writing positions, you'll need to have writing samples with your name on them. You might have to do these for free at first. Create your own blog, write for free on medium.com, or offer to do some guest blogging on your favorite sites. Putting in the groundwork pays off, so see this as an investment in your future success.
Rebrand yourself as a writer. If you can't call yourself a writer, no one is going to hire you to be one. Think about examples of when you've written something. Have you produced handouts, newsletters, presentations, guides, or reviews in your previous roles? Don't sell yourself short! You may be a writer already and not even know it.
Update your resume. The most pivotal place to rebrand yourself is on your resume. Writing is a creative field. You'll want to have a modern, clear resume that's optimized (and if you're not familiar with the term, "optimized" spend time learning about SEO because it's super important in this field). There are plenty of free or low-cost resources online to get yourself a fabulous resume. I had a great experience with www.myperfectresume.com.
Tell your story. Including a cover letter is non-negotiable when applying for writing gigs. Instead of rehashing your resume, take the opportunity to be personable. Have you always loved writing? Who were you before and why are you a writer now? Connect the dots and explain how your prior experience is relevant to the task at hand. My first cover letter started with something like, "As a dietitian by trade, my previous jobs have opened doors to writing about healthcare and more."
Download Grammarly. Even the free version will help you produce clean copy and catch style and grammar errors that can make or break your application. You can't afford to have silly mistakes on your cover letter or email communications when you're selling yourself as a writer. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of the various smart tools at your disposal.
Get your name on stuff (and ask for testimonials). For most people, freelance writing isn't a big moneymaker in the first six months. You have to pay your dues. During that time, focus on the things that matter. A lot of beginner-writers spend hours and hours ghostwriting for low wages (myself included). Unfortunately, that doesn't do much to build your portfolio. Find jobs that include your byline. If all else fails, ask your clients to write testimonials and keep them for your writer portfolio or website.
Network! Networking is key. There are tons of freelance writers on LinkedIn (like me) who are more than happy to share their success and pass along jobs that they've outgrown. I've made a habit of following every company that I apply to and connecting with editors and HR managers with personalized messages whenever possible. Even if you don't get hired for the position now, you may find new opportunities from your contacts in the future. Be bold, and reach out.
Freelance writing is a joy with the definite potential for a six-figure income and flexible schedule. Don't be afraid of the trial and error process. All of these pointers are things I picked up along the way-- winging it! There's no clear-cut manual for success. Bet on yourself, work hard and don't give up. If what you're doing isn't producing results, experiment. Find a new strategy, and make it work.