How to Become a Wildly Successful Freelance Writer
Freelance Writing Jobs On Steroids
Note: This article was originally published on WriterTown.com.
Many of you go through it everyday…
You wake up, inspect a few gigs posted on various job boards and immediately contact them one by one. You don’t care how much they pay; you are just happy to have $5 or $10 deposited into your bank account by the end of the week.
After all, the money does add up and helps you survive another month, right?
While the above scenario may help you pay the bills, there is one undeniable fact you can’t ignore: You are not happy with your current situation.
You see your friends and family earning a respectable living through conventional jobs, and you are secretly hoping to make just as much money — if not more. The problem is that you are not comfortable with the 9-to-5 routine; therefore you are desperately trying to find a golden client that would make your freelance writing dreams come true.
Sadly, months or years go by and you are still scraping by, accepting the occasional gig that puts some gas money in your pocket this week, but not much more than that.
In a sense, you feel like you’re not living, but merely existing.
What can you do to get out of this never-ending lifestyle? You have seen the occasional freelance writer talk about his admirable monthly earnings, but you don’t quite know how in the world he or she got there…
It’s time to change all that.
The following tips will get you started in the freelance writing world and ultimately turn you into an unstoppable, word-cranking machine.
There are also guides for freelancers available online to help you hone your skills and learn how to manage a successful freelance career. These range from launching a powerful marketing plan to efficiently managing an entire support team remotely.
Oh, and there is plenty of money, too, without working any harder than you are working now.
These strategies apply both to online and offline businesses. Additionally, most tips are listed in no particular order — though you should start with the very first one below and then proceed freely.
1: Be Presentable
kropekk_pl / Pixabay
The biggest mistake you could make is coming off as an amateur freelancer, which will undoubtedly hinder your efforts from the start.
Buy a decent web hosting package and construct a simple, yet professional website to show prospects you mean business. Your website should show off some of your best work, especially if published on reputable sources.
Focus heavily on its navigational structure by providing self-explanatory categories or menus; these would ideally contain your bio, portfolio, testimonials (if any), your social media page(s) and at least two direct ways to contact you.
Speaking of contact information…
2: Be Widely Available
geralt / Pixabay
While most of us merely provide a standard contact form on our website, why not go for that extra mile to ensure clients get a hold of you right away?
Install one of many live chat plugins and be available to answer questions instantly during the day or evenings.
Your homepage should clearly state your availability in big, easy-to-read font, ensuring that this is the very first detail everyone sees upon landing on your website.
For example, compose a static message that says, “Available to Chat and Answer Questions Between 12pm — 5pm.” Your prospects will be able to see the chat session with a “Live” status as provided by most website plugins.
Thankfully, building and managing a website with such features no longer requires programming knowledge, as Content Management Systems like WordPress make this process extremely easy and efficient.
Want to take your contact information to the next level? Provide people with your telephone number and/or make yourself available on Skype. Again, state of availability so that people know when to best reach you.
Note: Need additional help with these technical details? Contact me at Writertown@Gmail.com and I’d be more than happy to assist.
3: Step Up Your Game: Contact Local Businesses
Life-Of-Pix / Pixabay
We all like to establish relationships the comfortable way: We reach out to clients when they post a gig on the internet.
Sure, this works quite well considering the thousands of online writing jobs posted every day throughout multiple sources. However, did you know that you can get better-paying gigs by contacting local or otherwise offline businesses?
Step out of your comfort zone; spend a few days every week visiting businesses in your area (as well as those not so close to you). Naturally, you will find places such as:
Clothing stores Restaurants Barbershops Jewelry stores Self-storage facilities Hardware stores Computing stores
These places all have one thing in common: They need promotion and clients, just like you.
Therefore, most of these actually have a website, but they are largely outdated or could use a makeover from a copywriting standpoint.
This is where your skills come into play.
Depending on the business in question, some may need your writing services just once while others will have endless freelance writing jobs available.
A medium-sized restaurant, for example, may require you to update the company blog on a daily or weekly basis by summarizing special meals or offers. Considering how close you are to them, you could visit them and take a professional photo of a given meal, if applicable, then write an eye-catching blog post about it.
Now, imagine this type of recurring work with five or more clients. Remember, a town or city normally has multiple competitors; why not write for them all?
4: Speak Your Prospect’s Lingo
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Emailing or pitching to potential clients is perhaps the step that will make or break you. This is the part that truly exposes you and makes you vulnerable, as the recipient will take action based on what he sees and the way you present yourself.
I am all for professionalism, and it goes without saying that your email/pitch should always represent the very best in you.
That being said, your message does not always need to be dry and boring — or better known as “100% professional.”
Let’s say that you spotted an online ad from a pop culture website dedicated to all things funny. The ad listing is filled with obvious signs that the client is approachable and down to earth: You see exclamation points, smiley faces, an overly-conversational tone, and even the occasional joke…
In this case, you should adapt to their way of writing and get on the same level when sending that golden pitch.
Write in the same way they presented themselves to begin with. Start your message with something among the lines of…
“How is your week treating you guys so far? It’s actually been quite windy here in Boston!”
Focus heavily on a conversational style while sprinkling some professionalism throughout the email.
By the end of the message you should still provide all necessary details (skills, portfolio, availability, and so on) while maintaining that casual approach the client so clearly enjoys.
Case in point: Talk to the client like a human being, or “a friend” if he implied his desires to be treated this way.
This approach builds such a huge sense of chemistry that he will likely pick you over everyone else, as mentioned by Carol Tice in this kick-ass post. I have tried this countless times and have gotten plenty of positive responses.
5: Compose a Memorable Subject Line
HebiPics / Pixabay
As you know, the subject line needs to make a strong impression to prevent the client from deleting your email without even opening it. This much is obvious…
I have personally posted many “Writers Wanted” ads in the past for various projects and have come to know many great applicants.
Yet, I have noticed that most replies are sent with the same headline that my original job posting had.
Do you know what the employer’s inbox looks like as a result?
Something like this:
Re: Content Writers Wanted for Blog Re: Content Writers Wanted for Blog Re: Content Writers Wanted for Blog Re: Content Writers Wanted for Blog Re: Content Writers Wanted for Blog Re: Content Writers Wanted for Blog Re: Content Writers Wanted for Blog Re: Content Writers Wanted for Blog Re: Content Writers Wanted for Blog Re: Content Writers Wanted for Blog
Every line belongs to an interested writer…
Now, multiply that times a few dozen emails, and you’ll know just how little you stand out from the crowd.
So, what do you do? Not only should you change the subject line to something unique, but actually create something that will blow people away. Sometimes this is the only way to land freelance writing jobs in a highly competitive field.
Get to know the job poster however you can. For instance, take his name or the topics he is looking for into consideration, which are often disclosed in the job listing’s body:
Is he looking for movie news and reviews, for example? In this case, why not compose a subject line that reads something like…
“Hi John, I am an Avid Movie Enthusiast!”
Going back to our casual approach, this tip works especially well if the client gives you a down-to-earth and friendly vibe (or a “buddy” vibe, as I sometimes call it).
You should ideally get to know his website as well, especially one of its main sections or categories. This would allow you to craft a simple, catchy subject line that reads…
“Hi John, I Absolutely LOVE Your Website!” (or one of their site’s popular sections).
There is always enough information about the client for you to hack a boring subject line and turn it into a head-turning pot of gold. Don’t be afraid to get creative with this.
6: Aim High
geralt / Pixabay
It’s pretty common for freelancers to start at the bottom and slowly work their way up. We all want to build a varied portfolio and ultimately show it to potential clients.
The problem with this is that many people tend to stay at the bottom indefinitely. People feel that there are more opportunities with lower-paying clients or simply believe they’re not good enough to go after the big guys.
Do not sell yourself short.
You know what you can do. You know you can brainstorm, research and compose excellent content. You know all the rules and can handle any task that a client throws your way. So what’s stopping you from catching the big fish?
Here’s the thing, and I am sure you have noticed it as well: Take a look at large sources such as Digital Trends, TMZ, CNET, The Verge and other outlets.
Compare their articles to the ones you have been writing for small-time clients. Do you see a difference between them?
Whether you’re writing for a one-cent-per-word client or a $100-per-article website, your content will be virtually identical in detail, quality and style.
The only difference here is that the higher-paying client actually respects you and the work you do.
As The Renegade Writer’s Linda Formichelli says, you are providing so much more than mere words and components to the client. Everything from your extensive education to your uncanny creativity play a crucial role, thus making the client’s business much more successful.
Never go for the low-hanging fruit. You are much better than that. You are a winner.
Granted, large websites and organizations often require a few clips and samples, so you should still start somewhere when creating that shiny portfolio.
However, the point here is to never settle for writing a 500-word masterpiece in exchange for $5.
Here’s what to do instead:
1: Contact semi-established blogs and build a relationship with the owner; leave useful comments on their articles, help them by pointing out a way to fix or make one of their articles better, and send them a personal note thanking them for providing valuable content on their website.
2: These blogs should ideally cover niche subjects that you are passionate about if you are primarily looking to make money with topics that interest you.
3: Repeat this with some of your favorite outlets over the course of several weeks.
4: When the time is right, contact the blogs in question and politely ask if you could contribute a free guest post. Lay out the benefits guaranteed for their readers and humbly remind them who you are (bring up the previous contributions you had made to their site, as mentioned earlier).
Sure, you’re not getting paid for a guest contribution, However, a guest post on a few prominent websites can be much more powerful than working for random, low-paying, unknown clients:
- It ensures you get a byline. — Your name is now officially attached to a reputable source. — It helps you establish a long-term relationship with the blog owner. The sky is the limit once this happens.
From this point forward, you can confidently contact a big website related to the niche you worked on. As you can clearly write the type of content they love, you should have absolutely no trouble landing a gig.
Even if a client does not cover your preferred subject matter, they will feel comfortable giving you a shot because your name is attached to a decent, reputable source. More importantly, they can clearly see your top-notch quality and the value you would provide.
7: Go All Out: Contact Websites Like a Mad Man
JESHOOTS / Pixabay
This final step can get you an unlimited amount of freelance writing jobs, but consistency is key.
Let’s put it this way: Every website needs content. Every website needs someone to research, publish regularly, maintain their social network accounts, among many other things…
Do you think every website under the sun is all set and doesn’t need help?
Not a chance…
A quick Google search for “Entertainment blogs” returned 472,000,000 results as of this writing. This translates to an indefinite amount of potential clients for you to contact.
You shouldn’t just contact every website you come across, of course. Look for signs of “mild authority” first: How well known are they? Do they have any press releases or have been featured elsewhere? What’s the engagement like? These signs help narrow down the list, leaving you with the ones that are most likely to hire you.
Here’s what you should do once ready:
Type your preferred niche topic into a search engine near you, such as “Food blogs” or “Sports website.”
Most reputable websites have an easy-to-find contact page or email address. Copy and paste these details into an Excel spreadsheet or your default word processing program. Include the website owner’s name whenever possible, or at least some key members.
Compile a minimum of 50 authoritative websites, but I highly suggest you aim for several hundreds on a weekly basis.
Now, contact each and every one of them — even if you don’t know whether they’re hiring.
The secret here is that you won’t always know that they need assistance. They won’t always advertise a job listing on your favorite job board and sometimes they won’t advertise at all.
Some of these simply expect contributors to contact them at will, pitching article ideas or asking for more information about hiring.
Believe it or not, even more shocking is that sometimes these places don’t even know they could use some help until you bring it up.
For this reason, contact them and ask if they need some assistance. Mention the possibility of contributing in the following areas:
Regular content writing Social media assistance(maintaining their social pages and answering comments) Answering emails (works especially well with service-based or membership websites)
To make your pitch stand out a bit more, let them know that you are not necessarily looking for full-time work.
Many companies and websites will be more than happy to pay you for one monthly article, as it takes some of the load off while also not spending much money. This is a win-win.
Again, even if they weren’t initially looking for help, some will assess their current situation and let you contribute now that you have opened their eyes to the overall benefits.
Lastly, send a follow-up email to those websites that never responded while continuously searching and writing down new ones. Make this a weekly habit and take it seriously, for your income largely depends on it.
It’s always best to practice several of these tips at once. With persistence, it’s only a matter of time before you have three to five great clients, all earning you the exact amount you need to live comfortably and to the fullest.
What methods have you personally tried that led you to become a successful freelance writer? Can you share some of your success stories and failures?
Note: This article was originally published on WriterTown.com.