I’ve been asked multiple times by people if I can offer tips for breaking into freelance work, or becoming a writer.
I see a lot of posts on social sites, web forums, and even articles that purport to offer advice but most of it is junk. That’s why I decided to write this article.
What many of those supposedly “helpful” channels won’t say, however, is that you need to dive in headfirst.
The most valuable advice I could give you — if you are considering a career in freelance — is to stop planning, dreaming, or thinking about it, and just get it done.
It sounds so cliche, I know, but believe me that’s the best way to get into the market.
In any career field, you won’t get far without experience to show, even if you have the most awe-inspiring scholarly credentials out of all your peers. Employers and freelance clients want to know you have what it takes to actually get the work done, and that you’re not just blowing smoke up their asses.
With freelance work, that’s a bit difficult, especially since you need to be hired first before you can create anything.
But that’s not actually true, even if you may not realize it right away. You can still create and produce content in the freelance field you’re interested in, even if you have no active contracts or jobs.
For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to talk about becoming a freelance writer.
Believe it or not, becoming a freelance anything in another field is no different. If you want to be a web developer, designer, artist, or something else, just apply these tips to your own field.
Build a Freelance [Writing] Resume
The first thing you need to do is build a resume that’s all about the field you’re interested in. This will help you garner interest from potential employers.
In the case of writing, you’ll want to populate it with absolutely anything that relates.
For example, talk about the time you wrote for the school newspaper and what kind of responsibilities you had. Show off any personal blogs you update on a regular basis. Track down work you’ve done in the past, even for school, and use it as an example.
When you’re first starting out, you’re not going to have much in the way of experience, so make it up where you can.
Potential employers and clients merely want to know you can do what you’re promising. If you can provide them examples of your past work — even if it was a high school or college assignment — they’ll accept it.
Another tip I can provide is that you may have to accept cheap projects or provide pro bono work when you’re starting out. Tons of freelancers will say “no way, never” to this tip, but the reality is it helps bolster your resume.
But please keep in mind, if you do accept cheap or free work do it within reason. Don’t agree to write a 25-page research paper for a random stranger somewhere just to get your name out there. That’s ridiculous and it’s a lot of work.
I’m talking about small projects. It would be better to accept a job publishing small, occasional posts on a news or blog site. We’re talking 300 to 500-word articles every couple of days or weeks.
Don’t take on extensive work providing your services for free. That much is a given. However, it helps to have a little more on the resume than exaggerated content.
Create a Personal Website, Portal, or Channel
If you’re not comfortable working for free — and I highly recommend you get over that — then you can always set up a personal website or blog to share custom content.
Honestly, you should do this anyway, even if you have work.
What you want to show with your personal channel is that you have what it takes to remain consistent and focused. Employers will often ask you to produce work over an extended period of time, and they’re used to dealing with flaky people who promise to remain motivated and then disappear after a few days or weeks. This is annoying, and they want to ensure any new hire is going to keep their end of the bargain.
By publishing your personal content on a schedule, you are showing potential clients that you can satisfy their needs.
Find a topic that you enjoy talking or writing about and follow a loose outline for creating regular content about it. If you’re a web designer or photographer, then share custom creations on your site regularly, just as you would if you were writing blog posts.
It’s extremely important that you keep this channel up to date. This will be the face of your business, so to speak.
Want an example?
I created brileyk.com to show potential employers. You don’t have to go all-out like I did, but something comparable is what you should strive for.
Solicit Guest Work
No one likes soliciting unless you’re a door-to-door salesman or pyramid marketer of some kind. Sadly, in the freelance world you have to do it just to get your name out there.
The good news is that this is pretty easy to do as a freelancer. There are so many websites, channels, and online portals that are thirsting for content.
You don’t have to establish yourself as an authority in your field, we’re not trying to become internet marketers here, but you do need to get your name visible.
What you’re looking for with guest work is that byline, and you want your name to be associated with high-quality, grammatically-correct content.
Solicit websites or portals that relate to the topics you wish to write about. Promise to write a high-quality guest post for the site, and do your best to keep the content relevant and evergreen. In the world of content marketing, the term “evergreen” stands for content or topics that are always relevant and timeless long after they were published. These are things like how-to articles, best of, reviews, and more.
Most websites will want you to produce content that shares your experience and expertise, so you’ll need to choose a topic that you are relatively familiar with.
Most importantly, never forget the reason you are doing this.
The guest content will be created and hosted so that you have something to show on your resume. That means hundreds — maybe even thousands — of potential employers will be looking at this content. Make sure the sites you choose will continue to host the guest articles for a long time after they are published, and ensure that the site is something you would be proud to share.
In other words, be smart about it. Don’t publish an erotic story or adult-themed content on a porn site, because it’s probably not going to go over well with potential clients — unless that’s the field you plan to work in.
I Could Write for Days…
If I’m being honest, I could write for days about this subject. Hell, I could probably fill a textbook with freelance tips and advice. The tips you’ve read here, however, are the most important.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to give me a shout, either through my personal website or leave a comment on Medium.
I’ll do what I can to help anyone looking for assistance.