This post is brought to you by my friend Chonce, who blogs over at My Debt Epiphany.
Chonce is a personal finance blogger and freelance writer who enjoys sharing debt stories (as she and her husband work their way out of $40,000 in debt) along with talking about saving, budgeting, conscious spending and improving your financial house. In her spare time, she enjoys working out, playing sports with her son, cooking, and thrifting.
Finding flexible ways to earn extra money is all the craze right now and for good reason. Many of us are super busy between working, managing our homes, and trying to have a social life and prioritize our relationships with the people who matter most.
This is why online or work-from-home side hustles have become so popular. Three years ago, I was deep in debt and stressed out about money in general. I had an entry-level paying job when I started my blog and I saw that many other people were earning money from freelance writing.
I love to write so I figured I’d give it a try and it helped me knock thousands of dollars off my debt total and literally turned into a long-term career for me. Last year, I quit my job to freelance and blog full time.
I generally earn around $5,000/month from freelance writing and I spend about 25-30 weeks working. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m so happy I didn’t listen to the naysayers who told me I’d never earn any real money writing.
Freelance writing has allowed me the freedom and flexibility to earn more money doing something I love and work whenever I please. Plus, it’s completely legit despite some of the scams that are out there.
If you’ve ever been curious about freelance writing or are serious about finding an honest way to make money from home writing, here are a few tips to help you get started that I wish someone would have told me starting out.
Don’t Stress Out About Your Writing Skills
It’s a common misconception that you have to be a flawless writer to be successful as a freelancer. While it helps to have skills, know that your writing talents will develop the more you write and that nobody’s perfect.
Even though I have a journalism degree, I’m still not a perfect writer and I’m still learning a lot from other people and developing my skills.
Just make sure you are motivated and willing to get into the habit of improving your writing and sticking with it regularly.
Choose a Niche
Choosing a niche is very important as a freelance writer because specializing in something makes your job easier and you can also position yourself as an expert.
My main niche is personal finance and most of my clients have blogs because I love writing for blogs. I also like to write about small business, parenting, and sometimes travel.
However, I don’t try to be a jack of all trades and cover any and every topic because I know I don’t enjoy writing about certain things and probably won’t be good at it.
Over the past two years, I’ve improved the quality of my personal finance articles which allowed me to go from a rate of $30 per piece starting out to $300+ per post for some of my clients.
Create a Website or Online Portfolio
I think one of the things new freelancers don’t realize is that they have to find some type of way to prove themselves before they can land a promising client. Working online is flexible, but people are often hesitant to hire someone they don’t really know who doesn’t have a proven track record.
This is why I wouldn’t even consider trying to pitch clients if you don’t have writing samples or your own blog or online portfolio.
I’m so happy I started a website early on because it really helped me land gigs faster as a freelance writer. I started out with my own blog and used it as my portfolio to showcase my writing. Then, I created a ‘Hire Me’ page to list out my writing services and link to a few of my samples.
I also have an online portfolio on a site called Contently which is a great tool to use to help you land quality freelance writing jobs.
Build Your Network
Building your network is so important as a freelance writer and the sooner you start, the better. The other day, I had to quit working with a client who just wasn’t the right fit. I started searching for new writing clients and came across a site I was interested in.
When I clicked on one of their articles, I saw it was written by a writer I know online so I emailed her for more info. Turns out, she was more than willing to tell me about her experience writing for the particular client and put me in contact with the editor.
In other words, thanks to my network, I was able to find another promising client lead in less than 24 hours.
It’s important not to see other writers as competition because there is more than enough work to go around for all of us. Consider partnering up with other freelancers in your niche instead and sharing resources and tips.
You can attend local events or conferences to network or you can even network online by joining Facebook groups, attending webinars, and interacting on other social media networks.
Diversify Your Search For Clients
Searching for clients can be one of the toughest aspects of getting started as a freelance writer but everyone goes through it. Normally, you need to send an email pitch (which should just be a few sentences long) to prospects to see if they’d like to hire you.
Normally, I target bloggers who seem like they hire writers or can afford to, small businesses that fit in my desired writing niche, and even big corporate clients who publish content.
I like keeping my client list diversified because it makes my workload more stable since I’m not getting all my work from one source. I’ve written for big companies like Credit Sesame and Lending Tree, but I also write for smaller blogs and start-ups as well.
In addition to pitching a variety of clients, you can also try to diversify your search by using other methods like applying for gigs on job boards like BloggingPro and the ProBlogger Job Board, connecting with people on social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn, and asking your network.
Once you land a few clients, you can always ask them if they need any additional help or know anyone who looking to hire a writer whenever you want more work.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Selling yourself short is something freelance writers do often. I still struggle with it sometimes myself. Back when I got started, I was so desperate to make money and find clients that I was willing to accept just about any opportunity.
I knew that I did really good work, but I accepted low rates and said yes to projects I wasn’t really interested in. This made working on those assignments somewhat miserable. Plus, sometimes it was hard to break even with my earnings and expenses.
When setting your rates, you have to realize that freelancers have expenses to cover like taxes to pay, fees to keep their website or blog up and running, as well as unpaid time spent answering and responding to emails, sending invoices, and promoting their services.
If you aren’t carefully and accept a job that pays too low, you could wind up in the negative or earn an amount that just doesn’t seem worth your time.
This is why I always suggest putting a price on your time and setting your rates accordingly. Don’t be afraid to charge a little more than you would like to earn because some people might try to negotiate lower rates with you.
If someone says no or can’t afford your rate, don’t worry because there are plenty of fish in the sea and someone else will.
Realize There Are Some Drawbacks
For my final point, I just wanted to mention that freelancing is not all roses and unicorns. It’s hard work at times, but it can be a great way to earn money from home (or from anywhere) for the right person.
As a freelancer, your income will fluctuate and clients may drop off the face of the Earth, but you will always have the freedom to find more clients and grow your income as much as you want.
You will have to pay what seems like a boatload of taxes to Uncle Sam sometimes since you’ll be working as a contractor and you’ll be in charge of providing your own employee benefits like a quality health care plan and retirement plan.
Sometimes it’s lonely working all by yourself and you’ll get cabin fever.
But at the end of the day, you’ll have your own business that you can operate on your own terms. You won’t have to ask for permission to start or stop working with a client.
You can set your own rates and give yourself a raise whenever you please. If you want to take the day off to go on a field trip with your child you can.
All in all, freelance writing has changed my life for the better and it’s become a very fulfilling career for me.
If you’re interested in becoming a freelance writer, I hope these tips help because the more you know ahead of time, the more successful you can become.
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