To be successful at freelance writing, you have to go where the fish are.
Many people want to know how to be a freelance writer, because many people write. Or many people feel like they could be writing. It’s not all that difficult after all.
Or is it?
I mean, what do you have to do? Have a laptop/computer?
Something to write about?
A decent grasp of whatever language you’re writing in?
Check. Check. Check.
But when you sit down to write, you realize that you have no idea what the hell you’re going to write about. You think about random stuff like what you had for breakfast, and the fact that you hate cleaning, but none of that gets your creative juices flowing.
In addition, who wants to read about the fact that you hate cleaning? Doesn’t everybody hate cleaning?
The fact that many people hate cleaning makes it the perfect topic to write about. If you can write about it in a way that’s relatable and entertaining to those who hate cleaning.
Especially for those who have kids. Cleaning is a whole different animal when you have kids.
But I digress.
I’ve always wanted to write for a living.
Wait…I also wanted to be a lawyer. But that requires much more schooling that I wanted to go through, so my fallback career proved to be an ‘easier’ challenge.
But like many, I thought that freelance writing would be ‘easy’. I excelled at writing in high school, and English was my best subject, so why not?
Why couldn’t I be a freelance writer?
Let me say this; writing is relatively easy. Writing in a way that makes sense to the average Jill / Joe…not so much.
Freelance writing for clients who give you a topic to write about is a difficult thing to do, especially if you have no interest in that topic. Trying to write about it can feel like having teeth extracted without Novocain.
In this technological age, where just about everyone’s touting how easy it is to make money doing anything online, it’s easy to get swept up in the dream of making your million$ without leaving your laptop.
But I always say, “nothing worth having is easy to get”.
When it comes to writing on a freelance basis, “easy” is far from easy.
The competition is fierce at best. And unless you differentiate your work, or how you find that work in some way, you’ll get discouraged before you’ve found your first client.
According to statistics, there are 12 million registered freelancers on Upwork.
That number boggles the mind. And if you think too hard about that number in terms of competition, you definitely won’t get started.
Finding Your Clients
I have a friend who is a freelance programmer. She has more work than she can shake a stick at, and she’s not on Upwork, or any other freelancer platform.
She gets all of her work by word of mouth, and makes in excess of $30k for each project.
How does she do it?
This woman is what I like to call a ‘social animal’.
When you’re out in a social environment, you’re going to meet people. When you meet people, it’s inevitable that someone’s going to ask, “So, what do you do?”
When she says “I’m a programmer”, the person that she’s speaking to either says “Oh! I have a great idea for an app!” (which everyone and their dog has), or they know someone who’s also got a great app idea, and is actively looking for someone to build it.
To my knowledge, she got her last 3 clients this way.
The same is true for content writers.
When I tell people that I write content for a living, either they, or someone they know has “always wanted to start something online” but don’t have the time or the skill to create the necessary content.
Content is King
No other phrase speaks to the value of the freelance writer, greater than this one.
Think about it.
What IS a blog without content?
What IS an e-commerce site, without content?
Until we’ve reached a certain level in our writing careers, it’s almost second nature for writers to undervalue what we do. Because ‘anyone can do it’, so it can’t be of much value, right?
Like I said before, every website and/or blog needs content. If you can write good content, your skills are in demand.
But I don’t believe that offering those skills on platforms like Upwork are going to get you where you want to be. Sure there are those who will tell you that they found success there, but I’d bet my last dollar that they started there years ago, before there were 12 million other freelancers on it.
In addition, when you go fishing, do you go to the most over-fished lake or pond in the country?
No. Because every other fisherman/woman and his/her dog is there.
I took a page from my friend’s book, and started telling people that I write content, and build websites for a living.
And do you know what happened?
My client list grew.
Everyone was someone, or knew of someone who needed a website/blog, or content for an existing digital business.
Here are the steps I took to get regular freelance work;
- Write, write and write some more. Your own blog is a great place to start writing, as long as you know how to market it, people will actually see what you write. Whether it’s one person, or one hundred thousand.
With 500 million blogs online, the only ones actually making money are those who’ve been online since Christ was a child, and those pouring a ridiculous amount of money into ads. Save your breath with the blog.
2. Create an easy ‘elevator pitch’ for when people ask “so what do you do?” You never know who’s looking for someone with your skillset.
3. Unless you feel like you absolutely must (and by that I mean life or death), skip high saturation platforms like Upwork and Fiverr. You’ll only be setting yourself up for disappointment by competing with people who’ve been on them since the dawn of time.
4. Be social.
As someone who’s not at all social, I can tell you that this one is difficult. I’m not saying that you have to go out of your way to be in places that you wouldn’t ordinarily go, but when you are being social, get ready to speak to others about what you do, and why you do it.
Trust me, someone in that environment is looking for your services.