When I first started out as a freelance writer, I had NO idea what I was doing. I just knew that I wanted to be a WAHM, have a passion for writing and thought why not!?
Here are 10 simple yet powerful steps to help you launch a successful (and well organized) freelance writing career!
STEP ONE: Is freelance writing for you?
Before diving headfirst into building a freelance writing business, you need to decide if it is really for you. In order to do that, you need to know exactly what freelance writing entails.
Do you know WHAT a freelance writer is?
A freelance writer is simply a “pen for hire”. You charge other people, companies and businesses for your time, effort and words!
Are you ready to be your own boss? As a freelance writer, you are responsible for running your own business. So, before making that final decision to plunge into the world of freelance writing, make sure you are ready to be a business owner!
Can you take on freelance writing as a WAHM/WAHD? Make sure you consider this carefully before deciding to pursue it. Is it really the right time? Do you have the time and energy to devote to a business? Do you have the right support?
STEP TWO: Define your niche and target audience.
Once you pick your niche for freelance writing, it becomes easier to find clients and market your services. A niche gives you a specific audience to target, as opposed to throwing your efforts everywhere.
How do you pick your niche?
Simply ask yourself a few questions:
- What are you passionate about?
- Where do your knowledge and skills lie?
- What are you interested in?
Once you have those answers you will have your niche!
STEP THREE: Plan your attack!
You have made the decision to be a freelance writer, and picked your target audience so now it is time to PLAN! I love planning. Too much, in fact. Sometimes (like a lot of people) I get bogged down in planning and don’t get around to actually “doing”. So, whilst it is important to have a plan, don’t use it as an excuse to procrastinate. Set your plan, and then put it into action.
There are several aspects to freelance writing that you need to plan:
- Branding your business.
- Business goals.
- Pitching strategies.
- How you are going to balance it all!
The first step in planning is to work out how many hours per week you can dedicate to your freelance writing business. Take that number and break it down into marketing, pitching, social media, working on your website/portfolio and actual client work.
Once you have broken it down you can create a schedule of where you are spending your time and when. This is so important as busy parents working from home. You NEED a schedule. I love batching for time management. Check it out here!
Now you know how many hours per week you can focus solely on your business you will be able to set realistic business goals. If you can only dedicate 5 hours per week to client work, then there is no point setting a goal of earning a full-time wage. Set realistic and achievable goals. This is key to success.
I like to set a big yearly goal, and then break this down into quarterly and monthly tasks to achieve this goal.
Don’t forget about “branding” your business. This is all about how you want your business to look from the font and colours to logo and headshots that you use. Make sure that your “brand” is consistent through all your social media channels and website.
One of the hardest aspects of being a WAHM freelance writer is BALANCE! In order to create a balanced home and work life you need to create a schedule (and stick to it) of when you can work without interruption. Look at what support systems you have (partner, childcare, family and friends) who can help you out.
STEP FOUR: Develop a marketing plan.
Marketing plans are tied in loosely with your business goals. Your marketing plan is all about your visibility and your strategies to achieve that. Your marketing plan must help you achieve your business goals.
I like to keep my marketing plan simple. For one, I don’t have the time to spend developing a marketing plan with a million different facets! I use this 7 step simple plan I developed way back when I first started my freelance writing business:
- Define your target audience.
- Create your writers’ platform.
- What is your marketing budget?
- How will you market your business?
- Projects/tasks for marketing.
- How will you find clients?
- Project/tasks for finding clients.
STEP FIVE: Develop your writers’ platform.
A writers’ platform is all about your visibility as a freelance writer. It is a tool that helps with promotion and marketing, so should be a key tool in your marketing plan!
What is involved in a writers’ platform?
There are several fundamental tools to an effective writers platform. They include:
A website creates a “home” for your online business. You need a landing page for potential clients to see who you are and what you do. On your website, you should also develop a blog. This helps to form part of your portfolio, a showcase of your work that will help to attract potential clients.
A strong social media presence is all about connecting with potential clients and building your network. I suggest starting with one or two platforms, build them up to a point you are happy with and then moving onto another. Research where your target audience hangs out the most and start with those.
STEP SIX: Create a portfolio.
Your portfolio is a way to display your writing skills and expertise. It forms your freelance writing resume to show potential clients your amazing writing.
There are several ways that you can go about developing your portfolio.
One of my favourite ways is to blog on my website. You should seriously consider developing your own blog. Not only is it fun, it is a great way to show off your writing skills, develop connections with other writers and also improve your writing. Practice makes perfect, after all!
Another fantastic way to develop your portfolio is to guest post on other blogs. Simply reach out to other people in your niche and offer to write a guest post, or Google your niche + guest post. There will be plenty of opportunities out there, you just need to look!
You can also develop sample pieces to add to your portfolio on your website. These can be blog posts, emails, white papers, site content or even eBooks. Simply pick what skills you wish to market and create mock-ups of those pieces.
STEP SEVEN: Set-up your finances.
No matter your reasons for starting your freelance writing business, it all eventually boils down to money! So make sure you have the appropriate procedures in place to make this as simple and easy as possible.
First off, you need to be able to provide quotes and invoices for your clients. When I first started out, I used a Word template that I created myself. I do not recommend this! It looks unprofessional and was hard to keep track of payments. So now I use Rounded. It is an Australian invoicing online program aimed at freelancers and sole traders. It is fantastic! And it has certainly made being paid and keeping track of finances a heck of a lot easier.
Part of getting paid is setting your rates. You need to decide how much you will charge for certain projects. There are several different ways you can set rates. You can charge per hour, per word, or per project.
STEP EIGHT: Research what tools and skills you will need.
There are endless tools and apps you can use to help with your freelance writing. Here are my favourite, the ones I use all the time and that I honestly could not run my business without!
- Batching tasks (for time management).
- Asana for project management.
- Excel for client details, cold pitching and tracking of publications.
- Writing contracts/Letter of Agreements.
- Grammarly – everyone needs some extra help when it comes to spelling and grammar!
- My planner – I have developed my own version of bullet journaling and would be so very lost without it!
- Google calendar – my husband and I have linked calendars so we can keep track of everything! Appointments, birthdays, work shifts, events and more.
STEP NINE: Find clients!
Now we are getting into the nitty-gritty details! You have set up your business, created a writers platform and put in place systems and processes for finances, projects and organisation. Now you just need to onboard some clients.
The first step is knowing where to go to find clients.
You can look at content mills such as Freelancer.com, Upwork or Fiverr. Personally, I don’t think the juice is worth the squeeze. You have to spend a lot of time weeding out the toxic clients to find quality, reasonable paying clients. As a WAHM I don’t have the luxury of spending hours and hours searching sites such as these for a job that pays peanuts.
However, some people who are just starting out on their freelance writing career may find that places like this are a good place to build their confidence and skills before moving on to better jobs.
An alternative to content mills is job boards. You may still have to spend some time weeding out cruddy clients however they generally have better jobs listed. A few of my personal favourites:
Cold pitching is also another fantastic way to find clients. Do a Google search for companies, businesses or blogs that suit your niche and see what pops up. Look at their website content, product descriptions and blog to see if there is room for improvement. Then craft the perfect pitch letting them know HOW you can help them. Don’t forget to keep track of where you cold pitch and to send a follow up if you don’t hear back.
As you put your marketing plan in place and develop your writers’ platform you will begin to attract clients. Don’t forget to add contact details to your website to make it easy for these potential clients to contact you with enquiries.
STEP TEN: What courses should you take for freelance writing?
Firstly, I want to point out that you do NOT need writing qualifications to be a freelance writer. It all helps, of course. But many successful bloggers and freelancers out there do not have a uni degree in writing.
It is essential that you can string a coherent sentence together and craft compelling copy. If you have the time and inclination there are so many courses out there to help you in your freelancing journey.
Why not try one of Elna Cains’ courses? She has several fantastic ones on offer:
Jorden Roper, who developed Creative Revolt, has a no BS approach to freelance writing. She is up-front and honest and her courses do not disappoint! Why not try:
Another personal favourite and one that gets rave reviews is Gina Horkeys 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success.
I am not an affiliate or earn any money from recommending these courses….I just think these courses (and the people who created them) are fantastic!
Again, courses are not vital to your freelance writing success but they do provide an amazing starting point. They cut through the hours of research you may otherwise do and get you started off on the right foot.
Freelance writing is not for everyone. If you decide it is for you, follow these 10 super easy steps and you will be well on your way to freelance writing success!