Where Do I Start? How to Become a Freelance Writer

If you really want to make writing more than a hobby or a side gig, the time will come when you have to go all in. Once you’ve decided that you are going to be a freelance writer in more than just a casual way, you’ll need to make some major changes in your life. These changes can be difficult, especially for anyone who’s resistant to change by nature. However, with patience and hard work, the choice to start a freelance career will be very rewarding.

Everyone catches their big break in a different way. Some writers might have a personal connection with a company that is able to send lots of work their way, while others might make critical connections at a conference, and others might be lucky enough to get noticed while bidding on a contract. My first big break was landing a client who had a steady stream of writing that needed to be done. Having this client under my belt was the perfect leverage. I was able to write for them and make the income I needed while getting enough experience to start approaching other clients. The biggest advantage of this arrangement was that freelance writing finally was my day job, and all of the work I did (paid or not) related directly to my goal of building a writing career.

We live in the real world, so yes, income is important. It’s nice to buy groceries once and awhile and have enough gas to drive your car. When I landed that first steady client I made sure that every week I was doing enough work for them to pay my bills, and I spent the rest of the time reading tips from other writers, emailing prospective clients (literally hundreds), honing my business approach and figuring out what made me distinct. It was kind of like product development, and in the end I had something I knew how to sell to people.

But how are you going to make the jump? Let me just say this: no matter when you do it, it will be hard. It will only work if you are 100% committed to (1) putting in the time that it takes to build something from scratch and (2) learning how to operate like a business. On the flipside, don’t quit your job prematurely if you have a steady income coming in. Use your evenings and weekends to do some part-time freelance writing so that you can gain experience and build a portfolio. Gradually build relationships with clients who can support you when you’re ready to take the plunge. The healthiest and most sustainable growth in your freelance career will be incremental, so don’t expect overnight success.

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