When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a journalist. After doing a few internships in my 20’s, I decided to take a different direction. I wanted to pursue projects I believed in and that were interesting to me. Writing is also a passion of mine, and I didn’t want to twist and contort my craft into a vehicle just to make money. I was afraid I would lose the desire to write. In 2005, it began with one cold email to a local nonprofit, and my freelance writing career began.
I’ve written freelance on and off over the last 15 years along with having a full-time job. It takes strong discipline and time management skills to write freelance when 40 hours of your time and energy are devoted somewhere else. Since we’re social distancing anyway, freelance writing can be a great second income you can do at home.
Don’t worry if you’re just starting out, and don’t have a professional portfolio. It can also be intimidating seeing established writers with huge platforms and high paying gigs. Each of those writers started from scratch as well. You can build a platform as well with constant practice and a willingness to learn the craft.
When I first started, I didn’t have a niche or any area of expertise. There were several topics I was interested in, but I knew I wanted to write for nonprofits in the beginning. Nonprofits provide unlimited opportunities for writers. They are also often on tight budgets and may not be able to hire full-time writers. They may be more willing to work with new writers.
I’m not an expert on freelance writing, but if you’re looking to get started, here are a few ideas on how.
Make a list of what you’re interested in writing about.
Your focus may change as the years go by, but it’s good to know what topics get your attention when you’re starting out. What kinds of magazines do you normally read on a consistent basis? Are you into fashion, gardening, beauty?
Start a blog or write some good samples.
A blog is an excellent way to showcase your writing ability, and build a following. It also builds a sense of community, and you can get tips and advice from other bloggers. Writing a few good samples is another way to attract potential employers, but in my experience, it helps to have at least one published piece.
Write for your local magazine or newspaper.
It’s easier to make connections in your own community. I’m from a very small town, so I was able to make contacts at my local newspaper and magazine. I was able to utilize those relationships to begin writing for them to get clips. I didn’t get paid much, but I was able to add to my portfolio.
Cold Calling is not dead.
You’d be amazed, but picking up the phone and calling companies is not a lost art. We have become so reliant on digital ways of communication, hearing someone’s actual voice is at often missed. Calling a company directly shows your sincerity, and that you really want to work for them. Cold emailing is also a good way to attract clients, but you must do your research on the company. Find the actual name of the person you’re needing to email before you reach out to them.
Anticipate the company’s needs and what they may ask of you.
Review the company’s website thoroughly to determine what they may need. If the company is missing a blog on their website, you may be able to offer that service to them. Check out the company’s career page and find out what positions they’re hiring for. My advice is to learn how to write a proposal when you’ve established the needs of the company. If you don’t offer a proposal, the company may request one.
Networking is key.
In 2014, I saw an article, Work Like a Mom, Not a Man, on a very popular mompreneur website written by a business advisor, Flesche Hesch, that I admired, so I cold emailed her just to say hello. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Her website, TheBizyMom.com, offers webinars, courses, conference calls and so much more for moms in business that were very helpful. Our online relationship has remained over the years, and one of my blogs, Are You Real or Fake? , is still featured on her website to this day. Sometimes, it’s not about how a good a writer you are, but who you know. Reach out to people and build a rapport. Join groups for writers on Meetup.com and Facebook and build real relationships. Comment or like articles of writers that appeal to you. If you have a LinkedIn account, you can write articles and post them for your connections to view and share.
Last, but not least, the Writer’s Market is an annual resource book for writers. It contains lists of paying newspapers, magazines, agents, publishing companies, and so much more.
You won’t be able to quit your job to write freelance, but it may give you the financial cushion you may need right now.