How to Get Started in the Bewildering World of Freelancing

Figure out your ideal niches and research them

Your first steps to becoming a freelance writer involve finding your ideal niche and researching it; list areas that you have expertise in, enjoy writing about or want to learn more about. Once you have these, find out which are profitable and need writers. In the beginning, you might want to take any job you find, but some freelancers advise drilling down to find a niche within a niche. The top three niches for freelancers in 2020 are fintech writing, UX experience writing, and digital marketing.

Once you’ve chosen what you want to write about, ask yourself questions about the type of clients you want to work with. Type your niche + writer into Google and find the major blogs, brands and publications you can later begin pitching too. Make a list of these possible clients.

Build a website with a portfolio that showcases your skillset

Create a compelling website for your new freelance business that is SEO and niche optimised. To be a legitimate writer in the eyes of your clients, you need a website. This is your point of contact and a powerful marketing tool. To create your website, you can pay a professional or use Wordpress,Squarespace or numerous other easy to use platforms. If you don’t have the time or money to invest, you could start out with a Facebook business page, a LinkedIn profile, or a portfolio site like Contently, Journoportfolio, Clippings, or Pressfolios. Either way, take the time to write a striking title, and tagline and a charming bio.

These will communicate who you are and what your clients can expect from you. Then write some killer samples in your niche and add these to your portfolio section. Another way to create pieces is to offer your services to friends or nonprofits, like those on Catchafire. You could also self publish on Thrive Global, Linkedin, and Medium or your own blog.

Time to get the tools you need to do business and set your rates

With your site up and samples ready to go, gather the tools you need to streamline your business. Start with Paypal, editing apps like Grammarly and The Hemingway App, and tools to get you organised and keep you motivated, such as Trello, Slack, and Airtable/ Get the Google suite of Docs, Calendar, Drive and the ever-useful Evernote. There are many more apps to aid freelancers, so experiment with what works for you.

When it comes to setting rates, in the beginning, you won’t have much choice, but as time passes it’s essential to figure out what you need to make and raise your rates as you progress. You can charge by the hour or by the project, but you should have a baseline rate that you won’t go beneath.

Let’s Get Down To Business

Start pitching

You have a website, your social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) are linked, and you have samples; it's time to get to start pitching. Pull out that publication list and draft a template for cold pitching and warm pitching. Whether you find your clients through networking, social media groups or online publications, each pitch needs to be tailored for the editor and checked for perfect spelling and grammar.

Try sending your pitches to a specific editor by name instead of submitting to bulk acceptances like submit@. You need to get them to open your email; so be personal, know what they’re looking for, and don’t waste their time. Pitch them a story with a clear angle that hasn’t been recently used, link them to your portfolio, and drop some positive comments about their publication.

Impress the editor by creating a professional email signature to sign your pitch with all your media linked. Ask for a reply and then follow up. Be prepared for rejections or no response, even J.K. Rowling received more than 200 rejections before Harry Potter was published. These are some resources to help begin pitching: Writer’s Digest, Elna Cain’s blog, Ann Friedman on Medium, and The Write Life.

Look for gigs

Beyond pitching, there are other ways to look for freelance work. You can join Facebook writing or entrepreneur groups, search Linkedin job posts or join content sites like Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, Problogger, Contently, Skyword, Dribbble, and For a newbie, freelance platforms are an easy way to find jobs in the beginning. You could also directly contact marketing agencies who might need content writers, like Kingfish Media, Newscred, nDash, and Smart Bug Media.

Optimise your portfolio with the best samples for your niche.

Once you have published pieces from your pitching, you need to optimise your portfolio. Curate your finest pieces for the portfolio with reputable publications and never use ghostwritten content unless you have explicit client permission.Otherwise, clients may view you as untrustworthy. However, you can use ghostwritten samples by writing a summary or showing a small piece of the article.

Market your business

Once you have your freelance business running, you need to set specific goals and track your progress. SMART and Stretch goals will help you follow through and succeed with your writing business. These should be around finance, growing your business, pitching and marketing. Create a detailed marketing plan based on cold emails, follow up emails, updating your website and Linkedin, networking, and content marketing. Set aside blocks of time each week to focus on your marketing to accomplish these goals and build your client list.

There's no doubt about it, freelance writing can be a fulfilling career for the devoted writer. It can also take some time to establish yourself. As you prepare to work on your own, this guide should be a helpful map. Think and dream big and know that writing for a living is entirely possible.

Additional Resources For Freelance Writers: