Our Step-By-Step Guide To Becoming A Freelance Writer

Freelance Writers

If you want to get into freelance writing, you’re in luck; you’ve just stumbled onto the literary cartographer’s handbook! As industry leaders, we at The Content Panel happen to have some insight on this subject that will prove invaluable to your endeavor!

It’s not all going to be lollipops and sunshine, but if you have the perseverance and confidence, then we may be able to show you how to become a freelance writer!

Step Zero- Understanding All Types Of Freelance Writing

Before we even begin to begin, you should know the types of freelance writing that you can offer, so you can decide for yourself how to make a living as a writer! We won’t discuss the entire history of digital freelance work, but many of us starting had no clue what the difference between B2B, Copywriting, or Technical Writing was. So let’s dive in!

Step Zero (A)- Blogging Is NOT Dead

We won’t touch too deeply on this one, simply because you almost certainly know what a blog is. The difference between a personal blog and a professional blog, however, is the proximity of the content to a revenue stream.

In other words, if the content of the blog is aimed at making money from sales or ad revenue, then it’s a professional blog. If it’s a journal of how many different smells you can find in your town, then it’s personal.

Step Zero (B)- Types Of Writing

Copywriting is the general breadth of writing copy for a business to use for general purposes. This could be for ads, product descriptions, landing pages, “about us” sections, and pretty much any other business-related copy that would need to be written.

Technical writing is a branch of copywriting where the writer strictly writes highly formal instructions, descriptions, or diagram-type copy for a business; usually in a scientific or manufacturing field.

B2B is a branch of business copywriting that entails business writing specifically to other businesses. Often to make comparisons, discuss financial obstacles, etc. You’ll see a lot of this type of writing on finance sites, and business blogs.

Step Zero (C)- Ghostwriting For Total Anonymity

Similar to copywriting, but with a few key differences. Ghostwriting is generally used for an individual who wants copy written for them to claim as their own. Unless it is for a blog, businesses won’t have a use for ghostwriters.

This is especially open to those who have a way of communicating points of view that don’t necessarily align with their own. In other words, as a ghostwriter, you’re most likely to be successful if you can detach yourself and allow the client to express themselves through your skills as a writer.

Step One- Finding Your Voice, Audience, And Inner-Entrepreneur

At The Content Panel, we are a literal army of writers, editors, and marketers; all of which are experts individually in our applicable industries. Every industry imaginable, spanning over a workforce of more than 3,000 writers; most of whom have developed their voice and discovered their audience and niche.

This allows a knowledgeable voice to reach out to any audience they choose via our network of collective knowledge.

Every writer exhibits a range of “voice,” or tonality in our writing. While some can implement this over a wide range of subject matter, not everyone with exemplary writing abilities knows exactly what to say when given a specific subject to discuss or tone to convey.

To become a content writer, ideally, you’ll want to diversify both of these facets of your skillset. On the other hand, you can still succeed in writing with a specific voice that you favor or a niche that you love. The key is to find what you are an expert at, and use that to your advantage. Exploit your natural talents to find your written identity!

Step One (A)- Offer Something With Your Writing

Aspiring writers aren’t at risk of becoming endangered any time soon. In such a low-margin industry, there are countless prospects with the same goal as you, which means you have to offer something that can’t be found in others.

It could be a specific tone that you tend to carry in your writing or even the way you use adjectives to conjunct other parts of a sentence descriptively. Learning how to be a writer who has more than skill to offer can take a lifetime.

This is where the criticism from your readers comes in handy; ask them what they like and dislike about your style, your tone, your delivery, etc. Listen to them closely and you’ll find out what you need to embrace and emphasize as a writer!

Step One (Aa)- Don’t Take It Personally

When someone says that they loathe a certain food that you couldn’t imagine life without, it’s hard to wrap your mind around, right? Not everyone likes cheese and even though that’s baffling, that’s okay! Similarly, there will be those who just don’t have a taste for what you’re offering, no matter how talented you are.

Don’t let this discourage you from learning how to become a freelance writer! Criticism is not only essential for growth, but it is the only method of learning how to communicate with audiences outside of your comfort zone! Absorb critique as a chance to become a better writer and you undoubtedly will!

Step One (B)- Having Confidence In Your Work

Success “on purpose” only occurs through confidence and perseverance. Without one of these qualities to balance the other, they both become negative. Confidence without perseverance lacks honor, becoming cockiness, whereas perseverance without confidence lacks willpower, becoming stubborn submissiveness.

Every time you submit a pitch, take on a client or otherwise make yourself known to the public, you should do so with pride in yourself and in the work you’re gifting to the world! Always remember that writing is much more than skill and can’t always be learned. This is the reason that writers are truly gifted!

Freelance writing takes the value of your gift and multiplies it exponentially for those people with little to no writing ability. Our freelance writers for hire grant these people the ability to take what they have in their minds and concisely communicate that to the audience of their choosing.

We’ve been humbled by the most sincere gratitude imaginable through helping our clientele here at The Content Panel see their brilliant yet imprisoned ideas come to life! This, Dear Reader, is why you must never lose confidence in your abilities!

Step One (C)- Sharpen That Metaphorical Pencil

As a professional writer, you’ll have minimal use for traditional writing utensils. It’s wise to become closer friends with QWERTY and up your WPM sooner than later.

Familiarize yourself with MS Word, Grammarly, Docs, WordPress, and pretty much any other software that you can process text with.

It also pays (literally) to know at least the basics of SEO, as well as some basic coding. Generally speaking, the more familiar you are with marketing through writing, the more success you’re likely to see early on!

These are your writing utensils and they will constantly need to be sharpened!

Step One (D)- Point The “Business End” Down-Range

In other words, unless you’re already familiar, become savvier of the financial and legal sides of this industry before you get too deep into it.

Ideally, you want to understand enough to have full control over the contracts you engage in, as well as the ability to manage invoices, ownership transfers, taxes, and any other legal specifics that may arise.

Otherwise, you will end up gazing curiously down the “business end” of a metaphorical gun that was loaded before you even picked it up, unaware of how to hold it at all.

Step Two- Take Your Professional Self Seriously

Once you learn how to start freelance writing, you’ll see the many pros and cons that come along with it. It’s certainly rewarding to work from home, but if you hope to maintain this career then it requires arduous hours, sleepless nights, and deadlines that seem impossible.

Alternatively, you can trade the seemingly impossible deadlines for a little knowledge in time management, coupled with some self-discipline. This is the preferred route of most writers.

Time management is determined by your workload v.s the average length of any given job in your workload v.s your average turnaround time for that length of work. Solve that formula and adjust your jobs accordingly!

Step Two (A)- Set Measurable Goals

The difference between a goal that you “try” to reach and one that will be met, is your ability to measure its tangible progress. “I’m going to submit more pitches this month,” is an admirable aim in the right direction, but there’s still no target to hone in on.

If you were to insert a target such as “I’m going to submit 15 more pitches this month than last month.” Now we’re talking about progress that can be seen objectively! 15 more pitches in a month is a very attainable achievement, which gives you a milestone to work toward.

It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” you hit your marks, you’ll have something to pride yourself in! This also helps you to manage your time, if implemented properly.

Step Two (B)- Have All The Necessaries In Order

“The necessaries,” are your financial and legal documents, whether physical or digital, as well as your general mission or vision statement and possibly business cards if you plan to advertise the old way! You’ll want to have templates ready for your invoices and your contracts that will vary in nature and purpose. If applicable, you’ll need to register as a sole proprietorship and have a business tax I.D assigned to you.

Another important often overlooked detail is your rates. You’ll avoid an awkward interaction with your clientele if you can put definitive values on your capabilities. Research the current margins and base it on where you are in your career. If the average rate is currently $1 per word but you are just getting started, try 50c per word and make incremental adjustments. Never undersell yourself, though. Good advice to remember is that “what may seem like a lot of money for doing something that comes naturally to you, may be pocket change for a person who would pay anything to have your abilities.”

Step Three- Be Your Own Billboard

Don’t get carried away with semantics here, we just mean that you should actively promote yourself in as many ways as possible. We’ll discuss some popular and effective options, but never forget that you are your best selling point! Don’t be afraid to flaunt that a little bit!

Public relation is a nightmare for bigger businesses but in a freelance writer’s case? It’s a part of the industry that many writers love and find a passion for! Here are a few ways you can get yourself noticed by potential clients:

  • Facebook is an amazing start to get yourself marketed! Create a “business,” or “public figure” page, then follow other writers and blog pages that fit your niche. You can even link your individual Facebook account to your writer profile and show your friends about your services. Then it’s only a matter of regularly posting content that will engage your target audience.

    Why you would want to use Facebook:
    • It’s the most widely used social media platform on the planet.

    • It’s FREE advertising!

    • Facebook has allowed more revenue to generate for individual businesses than any traditional advertiser could ever dream of.

    • If you have a Facebook account, then you already have built a network of possible clients. Many of whom you may know personally! Let them know about your capabilities, and they’ll at least spread the word.
  • Start a blog that reaches out to a target audience if you have one chosen. This can be a multifaceted approach because if you blog on a site such as WordPress, you can create a portfolio, a biography, a contact page, and have a blog, all at the same time! Link this blog to your Facebook, and get your network flowing!

    Blogs are very useful for many reasons:
    • You increase your credibility with your audience by showing them what you’re capable of, while also showcasing your knowledge.
    • Blogs allow for a more professional feel compared to other social media platforms.
    • Blogging can earn you ad revenue through affiliate marketing, which can become a source of income by itself! This is also an easy way to earn money while you figure out how to become a freelance writer.
    • It affords you the chance to hone your craft while you learn about yourself, your niche, your audience, and even your marketing strategies.
  • Job boards like LinkedIn have been proven to be useful to any freelancer from any market. Get your profile set up then be sure to link your blog and Facebook to it, so that your credibility is increased! Just be wary of scams that tend to pop up on job boards. Follow the rule “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

    Don’t let that deter you though! Simply having a LinkedIn account will prove useful, even if you never actually use it. Job boards are effective because:
    • Clients and possible employers are combing those sites for people just like you.
    • They boost your name’s SEO rating.
    • Job boards actively push your portfolio or CV toward possible clients!
  • Contently is a widely used platform for writers that is somewhere between a job board, a writer mill, and a portfolio. Create a profile to start adding projects to your experience, so that you can be found by those who require your specific talents!
    • Contently matches you with clients that are seeking whatever you have to offer.
    • It is a great way to be part of a community of like-minded hopefuls who can share ideas and even collaborate!
  • Good old-fashioned word of mouth is the time-tested pop-up window from the days before digital marketing. It begins with you spreading the word either in passing conversation, or active advertising on the street with fliers and business cards.

    Once you get a few clients (with patience it will happen) to show what you can do, they are usually more than willing to pass the word of your services along! This could even be as direct as walking into a small business and inquiring about their ad content writers.

Step Three (A)- Build Your Portfolio ASAP

To be successful in this industry you must “pay your dues,” so to speak. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to slave away for a content mill, producing content for a fraction of the rates you’d hope to receive.

Sometimes it means producing content that you’ll never be paid for at all! If you don’t have a degree in any specialized fields that you can boast and you still aren’t sure how to become a freelance writer quite yet, you will have to buckle down and volunteer some good writing to begin a portfolio.

This isn’t to say you should write for free for an extended period of time! However, your portfolio is what “sells” you to your potential clients, and without one, you have nothing to showcase your abilities.

You would never expect to be hired by any viable company without submitting your CV and the same applies here. Build a small portfolio to start with and it will grow and evolve.

When you begin to choose work for your portfolio, it can be anything that you deem your best material. Optimally, you will diversify the type of content that you include while simultaneously exhibiting the variation in your tonal capabilities.

Here are a few examples of what you could include when starting:

  • Unpublished writings that you’re proud of. I.e Prose from an old notebook or impressive research papers saved from school.
  • Published writings that you own. I.e Guest posts for blogs or websites that didn’t purchase ownership of the work.
  • Personal blog material or even your blog itself, so long as it all belongs to you and can be viewed by visitors.
  • Fresh material that was written specifically for your portfolio. A sample landing page, product description, or mission statement for a hypothetical business; the options are truly boundless here.
  • If you are low on material and simply cannot produce copy without external direction, keep in mind that some writers have had luck using their better Amazon reviews.

Cash In On Your Passion!

You may find it difficult at first to find your place in the freelance writing world, and that is to be expected! Nothing rewarding ever comes without a lot of effort, planning, and hard work. However, once you finally start landing jobs and seeing repeat clients that appreciate what you do for them, it makes all the effort more than worth it!

Use the tools available to you to sharpen up your skills in the meantime! Work on projects that have real deadlines and clients that have real demands that require your very real abilities! Don’t be the person who sits idle waiting for their blog to skyrocket with visitors, take action today, and start getting paid!

At The Content Panel, we’re proud of every writer we employ, because they are all masters of their craft and they all do spectacular work! We reward that hard work with incentives and better higher-paying jobs which are more than plentiful and increasing in number as we progress. There’s a lot of bad hype on the internet about “mill” work and the fact is that some mills do pay their writers’ bogus rates and to us, there’s just no honor in that. I guess you could say we’re not your “run-of-the-mill” content mill! You have much to accomplish in your career as a writer and there will be a lot of steps to take and a lot of time to wait. If you’re ready to start making money today, you should come and write for us!