Being a freelance writer isn’t easy.
It takes patience, consistency and dedication to build up a roster of clients and steady flow of income. Stay focused and determined, and you can make a living from this profession.
This summer I’ll celebrate seven years as a full-time freelancer (who earns more per year than when I worked at my last full-time newspaper job).
Each week I hear from people who want be freelance writers. They talk, talk, talk about wanting the freedom and flexibility of being self-employed, but they take very little action to make it happen.
That ends now.
Here is a checklist of action items — yes, HOMEWORK — for you to do to get out of the slump and start making things happen. I suggest doing one or more of these each day, depending on the amount of time you can devote to getting your freelance writing off the ground.
1. Set up business social media accounts.
You will need a professional Facebook Page, Twitter feed, Google+ account and LinkedIn profile to network with possible clients and share what you’ve written.
If you don’t have anything published yet, social media is a great place to share your ideas (to build your credibility), what you’re working on (even if it isn’t done yet) and post links to articles that you enjoyed reading.
Your social media presence helps build your brand as a freelance writer. My clients hire me because I write and promote the articles to an established audience on social media. While you wait for the writing jobs to come in, start building your online presence.
2. Use the freelance writing job boards.
Stop browsing and start applying. What’s stopping you? If your resume isn’t updated or you don’t have a writer website to list on the application, get those taken care of ASAP.
There are free resume services online and often community colleges will host seminars to help job seekers get their professional documents in line. With one simple call, you can find out if your local college offers such services.
And every writer needs a website. You can set up a free site to get started, then upgrade as you build up your income. Something is better than nothing when a potential client is researching the person they are thinking about hiring. If you are hesitant to write about yourself on an About page or create blog posts on the site, maybe it’s time to evaluate why you want to write at all? You should be comfortable writing for yourself first. Practice this, then start applying for jobs to write for others.
3. Network with possible clients.
Read the websites, newspapers and magazines that you would enjoy writing for eventually. When you see an article you like, let them know. Tweet the article with a comment directly to the publisher, email the writer a few kind words or leave insightful, well-composed comments on a Facebook post that leads to the article.
If an editor, social media manager or writer sees your name pop up often, they will realize you love their publication. When they are looking for writers, guess whose name is at the top of their mind? You!
4. Polish your communication skills.
If you have started replying to jobs ads, are you responding in a timely manner? No editor is going to hire someone who takes a week to get back to them. A publisher’s life is based on deadlines.
More times than I can count, I’ve been asked to take on an extra project because another writer didn’t meet a due date. Being punctual and the first to reply to an email can land you the writing gig.
With smartphones, tablets and laptops available, there’s no reason you can’t reply to emails and comments on social media each day (or within a few hours) of receiving the communication. If you’re lazy about communicating, why would someone hire you to write for them on deadline?
5. Join writer forums.
I personally like to browse LinkedIn groups and Twitter chats. These are great tools to connect with other people who are going through the same struggles and triumphs. When you’re a freelancer, you don’t have a staff to bounce ideas off of, so you have to make friends with other fellow freelancers.
Once you have a network of colleagues, you’ll find support to press on, tips about writing opportunities and a little extra motivation to keep on writing and seeking out projects because you know you’re not the only one trying to move ahead in the freelance game.
Are you ready to devote the time and effort that it takes to become a successful freelancer? Let me know which of these action items you are working on TODAY.
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