How to become a freelance writer: 4 easy steps to getting started


Four easy steps to getting started as a freelance writer

Emily Vanda

I jumped into the world of full-time freelance writing because I wanted to pursue my passion - writing, and find out if I could make it financially feasible. I’ve dabbled in all types of writing, but nothing could quite prepare me for sending that first pitch, landing my first client, and negotiating a fair rate. How do you go from no published clips to having an article in a national magazine? How do you go from writing for fun or just a hobby to making it a habit? How do you sell yourself and your writing like a product? Well, here are just a few important things to consider before you send that first pitch.

Find Your Niche

I thought I was a versatile writer. And to a certain extent flexibility and versatility will go far in the freelance world. But if you don’t nail down a few topics or industries that you would be happy to write about for the rest of your life, sending those first pitches is going to be much more time consuming than it needs to be. Here’s a great exercise that helped me. Get a pen and paper, or open your word processor and write down 25-50 articles you could type up immediately with little research or hassle. When I did this, I realized I was most comfortable writing about coffee, freelance writing, and travel with a local flair. Focusing on what came naturally to me landed me a project with a national coffee magazine right away.

Get a Space

I cannot stress enough the importance of making a space for yourself. You don’t need anything extravagant. As much as a seaside villa with a mahogany writing desk sounds appealing, a desk and chair in your one room apartment or your house is all you need. It’s just helps instill the idea that this is something you are taking time and space for.

Don’t Underestimate Your Writing Samples

When I started, I had zero published clips. Imagine how depressing it was when every freelance gig included the caveat, “Send 2-3 clips.” I did, however, have a travel blog that I started to share my experiences and pictures with friends and family. Technically those were published online, just not through a third party or recognized website or magazine. But at least I had something to attach to my intro cover letters and resume. Chances are, if you want to pursue writing, you’ve done some writing and have something you could send along as a sample piece to give a feel for your style and voice.

Reboot That Resume

My resume was immaculate, that is, it worked for the world of the 9-5. I had the format nailed and was able to highlight my skills. But, a writing resume is a little different. It’s not about job experience, it’s about your writing know how. Which on paper, with my nearly zero published clips, was less than glowing. I had to figure out how to translate “years of writing and editing experience” to an actual writing resume. Potential clients want to know if you have the chops to do the job and even if you may not have a million published novels and articles, you probably have the chops. Check out other writing resumes and take a long look back at all your experience. For your first resume, you may have to get a little creative. Here are some resume templates for writers to get you started.

Just like any job, getting into the groove and gaining success is going to take time. But the key difference between getting a paid client within a month versus six months, is making sure you are fully prepared. Instead of blindly crawling around the internet hoping, with fingers crossed, for someone to take a chance on you, these are a few ways to amp up your credibility and get into the game quicker.

Do something you love, and you'll never work a day in your life.