After a car accident and two surgeries—which occurred during my struggles to secure a full-time job—the thought of starting a business began to reverberate in my mind.
I have a knack for writing and real love for the Internet; so, you know what? I started Googling about the possibility of running a writing business from my room. But I had no writing samples. I was a newbie writer. I had no online presence.
Still, I wanted to launch my freelance writing business. And I did.
Though I made a couple of mistakes during my first 2 years, I learned some valuable lessons the hard way. I’ll share 5 tips with you from my learning toolkit, so you can launch your freelance writing business the right way.
1. Identify Your Niche
I didn’t have a plan or strategy, niche or specialty when I started my freelance writing business 5 years ago.
I positioned myself as a “generalist writer.” “I can write op-ed political articles, landing page content, and do product reviews,” I’d claim on my profile. “I’m a talented writer.”
I was like a generalist doctor: I was a neurologist, a pediatrician, and an ophthalmologist all in one. Clients didn’t want to hire me to kill their projects.
It took me a year or so to realize that. Sure, that scared a lot of clients from coming my way, slowed my earnings and business growth.
The moral lesson of my story? Identify your niche before you kick-start your freelance writing business. To do that, look for a topic that:
- you love
- you know
- you’re passionate about
Do you love politics and love writing about it? If yes, stick to it, and tell the world “I’m a political writer.” People love experts in specific niches/fields.
People will hire you.
2. Get Some Writing Samples
I sent gazillion cover letters to clients; they all came back without a job. Noticing clients’ admiration for portfolios and writing samples, I stopped bidding and started writing on topics that interest me.
Luckily, I wrote a piece on politics, pitched it to a national daily in my country and got published. I used the article as a sample, and it had earned me some high-paying jobs.
Don’t rely on a gig. Write your own samples.
3. Register on a Freelance Marketplace
Now that you have positioned yourself as an expert writer in a specific niche and have written one or two articles on the subject, you’re ready to go.
Head to your chosen freelance marketplace and register. Some of the well-known marketplaces include:
Warning: These sites pay as low as $1 for a 500-word article. And that’s pretty bad, but as a newbie, you must start somewhere.
I recommend you register on only one of these websites so you get laser focus on your work. Registration on any of these sites is simple, fast, and, above all, free.
You have no reason to procrastinate.
4. Start with Low Rates or Free Services
All freelance marketplaces are competitive. It’s common, for example, to see 34 freelancers bidding for one job on Upwork.com or oDesk.com. That’s one of the reasons why services on these sites are cheap.
As a beginning freelance writer, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with experienced pros that have a lot of samples to brag about, show, and attract the clients.
To survive and thrive in this market, you need to start with low rates or offer free services for a feedback. With one or two positive feedback under your profile, you can boast: “Take a look at my successfully finished jobs and feedback,” and close the deal: “I always get the job done and meet the deadline.”
Trust me, you’ll be hired.
5. Learn from Your Failure
The more you work on a client’s project—whether free or paid—the more you’ll learn, the better your client base will expand.
I once wrote a 1,000-word article for a US client. Unfortunately, the client threw the words back to my face. The reason, he said, was because the “angle” I took wasn’t what he wanted.
I later learned that it is always great to ask questions before you start a client’s work.
So what questions should you ask your client? Start with these:
- Who is your audience?
- What angle do you want the article to focus on?
- What writing style do you want?
These questions not only help you deliver quality work, they also help you write content that your client loves.
Anyone can start a freelance writing business, but only a few people launch it the right way. Use these five tips—they’ll help you get jobs faster. And who knows? You might become the next success story.
Author: Suhaib Mohammed is a professional freelance writer, lecturer, and prolific blogger. His blog Cademica teaches new freelance writers the art of writing quality words that build businesses and blossom careers. You can follow him on Twitter and catch him on Facebook