How to become a self-employed freelance writer

Many people dream of a career as a writer and being able to live by their pen, and in today’s world, that often means getting your start as a freelancer. It’s not that hard to get started, but there are definitely some pitfalls to watch out for.

What opportunities are out there?

The first step for those who would like to get their feet wet is to take a look at what sorts of articles companies are looking for. While it may be possible to find a client that wants fictional stories, much of the work will be nonfiction, fact-based pieces. Those are often written for business purposes such as marketing, so it’s a wise move to learn how to prepare pieces for this audience.

It’s also important to recognize that, when you’re just starting out, you may not earn that much. You have to establish yourself and show what you can do. This is a time to build your portfolio and hone your craft.

Unlearning bad habits

Chances are, you took at least one writing class when you were in school and learned the basic ”rules” of writing. Many freelancers write content that will be used online, and this requires a different strategy.

Using short snappy sentences and subheadings helps an article to rank highly on search engines such as Google, and including links to other helpful sites is also important. Citing sources helps to both prevent plagiarism and boost your credibility. Be brief and recognize that many people read content using a phone or other mobile device, which can be made easier by using short paragraphs.

Create your workspace

One valuable piece of advice for writers, whether they freelance, work for someone else or earn their living writing novels, is to make a workspace where you feel comfortable. Some use a dedicated office space, while others choose to write in an easy chair or even their bed. The key is to make sure it is comfortable and free from distraction.

Put yourself out there

If you have never written online before, it’s a wise move to build a portfolio of examples of your work. This can be as easy as starting a blog, as it allows a writer to showcase their talents and become familiar with publishing software such as WordPress. It can be about any topic you wish, but it makes sense for it to be one you feel comfortable writing about.

Landing your first client

Now that you feel confident in your ability and have a strong portfolio that shows what you can do, it’s time to start looking for your first client. Friends, family members and even local small businesses may be happy to help, and if you have any professional or academic connections, now is the time to use them

Building connections

Freelancing may often be hard work, and building connections with other writers is one piece of advice that may be particularly helpful. You can ask for and share tips, commiserate over the difficulties and even share potential clients.

Put job boards to use

Online job boards can be a good place to look for work, especially if you are just starting out. They offer a chance to land your first client and get actual paid experience. Avoid any that ask for an upfront payment, and do your research first. All sites are not equal, and there are scams out there and also sites that may ask for “unethical content” such as term papers and fake medication reviews, so be careful. This is one area where a network comes in handy, as you can share information about what sites to pass by.

Is a “content mill” for you?

Three’s many websites that offer new writers simple pieces that can be written quickly. Those tend to not pay very much, but you can still earn. Many get their start with this sort of work, but move on once they feel they can ask for more.

Don’t forget the business side of the equation

As a freelancer, you will need to make sure you keep in front of the business side of your operation. Revenue Canada requires you to set aside a portion of your income for taxes, and you will also be responsible for planning for the future, such as saving for a pension. You will need to obtain invoices or other documentation that indicate what you were asked to do and how much you were paid. Some choose to use accounting software for this, while others use a real-world bookkeeper.

It’s also wise to recognize that your income may not be steady, so you may need to save for a rainy day.

Still on the fence?

While freelancing may sound like a golden opportunity, it does have its own set of pitfalls, and it may not be for everyone. At Words of Worth, we are pleased to offer our writers a supportive work environment with remuneration that reflects their talents and abilities. Why not submit an application to us so you can begin to earn money from home today?

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