I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993 and publish a blog about freelance writing. One of the most often-asked questions is some variation of “How do I get started as a freelance writer?” This question is based in fear. Why do I say this?
Because there’s more than enough info out there already about how to start a freelance writing business for anyone who is really ready to go. But if you’re afraid, asking questions like this makes you "feel like" you’re doing something by reaching out to get advice from so-called experts.
Becoming a Freelance Writer: Fears and Solutions
Following are three of the most common fears I've observed over the years that many who want to start freelance writing businesses have – and some insight into how to overcome them.
1) I Don’t Have Any/Enough Experience: When I first started freelancing years ago, having experience was much more of a factor than it is now.
Online Freelance Writing Jobs Is Where the Opportunities Are
Online writing niches like search engine optimization writing (ie, SEO writing), blogging and social media writing have made experience much less of a factor. Also, the need for constant content has grown by leaps and bounds since content marketing has become all the rage. Proof?
According to the April 2013 industry report, “Characteristics Study: A Look at the Volume and Type of Content Marketing in America for 2013,” by the Custom Content Council and ContentWise, “custom content spending on production and distribution rose to $43.9 billion, the second highest amount to be recorded. [And] Of the average overall marketing, advertising and communications budget, 39% of the funds were dedicated to content marketing.”
This means the opportunities in freelance writing are more abundant than ever because a lot of this content is produced by freelancers.
How to get around the “no experience” problem: Prove you can write. This can be done via:
(i) Writing samples: They don’t have to be for an actual client; write them “as if” you were writing for a client. Then post them on your freelance writing blog / website, which brings us to the next point.
(ii) A Blog/Website: Create a freelance writing blog/website that you professionally and consistently update.
2) Will I Be Able to Earn Enough to Survive: This is different for each person, so sit down and do a budget. Remember, as a freelancer you’re responsible for paying your own taxes. You’ll also have other expenses like medical insurance that are probably covered by your employer now.
How to get around the money problem: I advise all freelancers to, where possible, save six months to one year of expenses before you strike out on your own as a freelancer full-time. This way, you give yourself enough of a cushion to weather the start-up months.
Also, start freelancing part-time while you still have your full-time job. This way, you’ll be able to hit the ground running, so to speak, when you quit to freelance full-time.
3) How Do I Know What to Charge: There’s so much confusing and contradictory info on the web regarding how much to charge as a freelance writer. So just know this going in. FYI, when you conduct research on freelance writing rates, be sure to compare apples to apples, ie, research what others are charging – in the niche you want to specialize in.
How to get around the “freelance writing rate” problem: The way I did it when I first started was to figure out what I needed to earn to sustain myself. Then, I set my rates accordingly. You can always adjust your rates as you gain more experience.
Starting a Freelance Writing Business: Conclusion
The bottom line is, if there’s one subject that’s covered online, it’s how to start a freelance writing career. And while it’s not the easy, it is easier than a lot of other businesses because if you have a computer and an internet connection, you can get started right away.
About the Author: Yuwanda Black heads New Media Words, an SEO writing company she founded in 2008, and is the publisher of Inkwell Editorial, a blog devoted to helping others start successful freelance writing careers. She’s also the author of over 50 ebooks, most of which cover some aspect of freelance writing. They can be found on major outlets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Learn everything you need to know to start a freelance writing business (a convenient, learn-from-home e-course).
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