Creative Spotlight: Tips for Getting Started as a Freelance Writer

Working as a freelance writer has become one of hottest careers available for people looking for a non-traditional job away from the everyday stress of working for a brick and mortar establishment. While a professional freelance writer has the option to work at home, at a local cafe, or sitting on the beach, it is not all glamour, working in your pajamas, or working when your “creative” juices are perking.

Tips for Living the Life of a Freelance Writer

The true story behind freelance writing is it is hard work, which includes long hours that can, all too often, run into the wee hours of the morning. Besides the ability to provide quality content, you’ll also need to maintain an ongoing schedule of things to do. You’ll be responsible for promoting and marketing your skills, staying up-to-date on current trends if you plan to write for specific niches, educating yourself on the elements necessary for freelance writing, and competing for assignments against writers who may have much more experience than you bring to the table.

If you’re contemplating a freelance writing career, the following “tips” are designed to point you in the right direction to a successful freelance career.

Things to Do

Research and homework will prepare you for what lies ahead.

  • Resume – just like you need a professionally written resume for a brick and mortar job, the same is true when applying for freelance opportunities. If you’re just starting out, your résumé is going to show only your traditional work. To grab a client’s interest, promote your ability in your field of work.
  • Portfolio – this is a “must have” for many freelance positions. In it, the client will want to see samples of your published and bylined work.
  • Samples – create several samples covering different topics to present to client’s who want to see your approach to writing.
  • Multiple sites – to get the experience necessary to create an impressive writing resume and portfolio, apply with as many content sites or platforms as possible. Once accepted, you’ll have the opportunity to expand your topic base and writing experience.
  • Personal blog – while you’re building up your writing experience, consider starting your own blog. Write about something you have experience with, such as a hobby, gardening, fashion, computer gaming, etc. You can use the work as sample examples when applying for a content site or private client, creating a writing resume, and adding to your portfolio. It’s all about starting from nothing and building a base to expand upon.

Tools

  • Internet presence – open accounts at sites such as Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Plagiarism checker – open an account with a site offering an online plagiarism checker to make sure your content doesn’t trip the client’s plagiarism software.
  • Grammar checker – you’ll also want to open an account with a website offering an online program that checks spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Tips

  • Read aloud – always read your work aloud. You’re more apt to pick up missing works, see typos, as well as hear how well the content flows.
  • Bullets – bullets are a great tool, but never end an article with bullets, as the piece will look unfinished. Include an intro and a closing statement to sum up the content or a call to action, aka, CTA.
  • Byline – include in your search for client/content sites those that offer a byline for published work.
  • Avoiding hurt feelings – freelance writing is a tough and competitive environment. For this reason, you can’t take things personally, such as having your application turned down, revisions, rejections, or subjective editing.
  • Terms of Service – always thoroughly read the TOS and Privacy Statement from top to bottom. Yes, it’s a lot of verbiage but you need to know what your rights are in all areas. Saying you didn’t know after clicking the “I Agree” button won’t work.

Vocabulary 101

Image via Flickr by SEOPlanter

  • Gigs – when you hear or see this word regarding freelance writing, the person is not talking about computer storage. The nickname used often by writers and clients referring to job assignments is “gigs.”
  • SEO – if you don’t know what that stands for, it’s a good place to start your research. Clients may ask for content that is “SEO rich” or needs to be SEO oriented. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO incorporates methods to potentially increase website traffic to a client’s website. SEO uses strategic techniques to achieve placement high on the page of search results when someone uses one of the available search engines.
  • Plagiarism – plagiarizing content means copying another writer’s work or information from online sources and claiming it as your own. Plagiarized content can cost you your clients.
  • AP Style – this isn’t a shorter version of an app. Another freelance tool you need to have in your freelance writing arsenal. AP stands for Associated Press Stylebook, which is a guide to English grammar and usage.
  • CMS Style – no, this isn’t a special version of a Chicago style hotdog. Like AP Style, you need to know what it is and how it works, as some clients prefer this style guide over the AP style guide. CMS stands for Chicago Manual of Style. It is also a guide for correct American English usage.

Things to Expect

  • Revisions – this is something every freelance writer will experience. Clients can be very demanding about what they want, so be ready for not hitting the nail on the head every time. Revisions are part of the process. No one writes perfect copy every time.
  • Rejections – these happen and there’s nothing you can do to avoid it if you didn’t produce content per a client’s instructions or the copy is fraught with typos, punctuation issues, and bad grammar. If the site you’re writing for has a rejection policy, understand what it entails especially when it comes to you retaining the rights to rejected work.
  • Plagiarism Checker – if you’re working with a private client site or a platform for clients to contract work with writers, expect your work to be run through an in-house plagiarism checker.

For those who have the talent, patience, and are willing to take the time to research, expand their knowledge base, listen, communicate professionally, and submit top-notch work, freelance writing can be a long-term and satisfying career choice.

About the author

Vickie Ferguson

Vickie Ferguson is a professional freelance writer who operates her own informational travel site in Florida. She is an avid reader, DIY craft person, and historical buff. Stop by her social media page and introduce yourself.