If you’re thinking of getting into freelance writing, you’ve probably already heard the same piece of advice hundreds of times, and that is to get a portfolio ready to go. That’s fantastic advice, but you need much more than a portfolio to market yourself as a professional freelance writer.
Freelance writing is an incredibly competitive field. You need every edge you can get if you want to stand out among other potential hires. The good news is if you know how to go about it, standing out isn’t as tricky as it sounds.
For this article, we’re going to skip past the whole portfolio advice and focus on other aspects of becoming a professional freelance writer. If you follow my advice, you will look more serious than most freelance writers out there, so let’s get to it!
1. Get More Bylines Under Your Name
For almost every job posting you find online, you won’t be the only person to apply for it. Freelance writing, in particular, is flooded with job applicants because of the low barrier to entry. However, one quick way to stand out is to have a body of work you can show potential clients.
Putting portfolios aside, the more bylines you have, the more likely clients are to take you seriously. A lot of them will go as far as to google you, so if they see you’ve got several articles to your name, you’ll start looking like the obvious choice.
There are a lot of ways you can go about getting more bylines. The easiest one is to start a blog of your own, where you write about the niche you want to work in. However, getting guest posting opportunities is far more impressive, and it might even net you a modest amount of money in the process.
2. Develop an Onboarding Process for New Clients
I’ve been lucky enough to work for a lot of clients that have very well-defined processes. They know exactly what they want, how they want me to do it, and how long they expect it to take. However, that’s not always the norm when you’re a freelance writer.
In a lot of cases, customers will have a vague idea of what they want. However, it’s up to you to ‘onboard’ them by asking questions, clarifying deadlines, breaking up long projects into parts, and more. One great approach for this is to have a series of questions you ask every client when you start working together, such as:
- Are you a fan of any particular blog’s writing style?
- Would you like me to mention specific pages or include URLs within my final draft?
- Do you need me to provide and format images?
With an onboarding process in place, you’ll need less back and forth with new clients before you start doing real work. Since we don’t charge by the word for client emails, that’s a great thing.
3. Adapt to Each Client’s Style
Every website and publication has a unique style. In a lot of cases, they want the writers who work under them to adapt to it. If you run a children’s blog, for example, you probably wouldn’t want your writers to include profanity in the stories or articles.
When you start working for a new client, it’s important you study their publication’s style. If they have a website, go through its archives, check out what kind of language they use, the types of images the include, and so forth.
For every job you get, you’ll need some time to adapt to its specific requirements. Reasonable clients understand this. However, the faster you can do this, the more impressive you’ll come off as, and studying your client’s style can go a long way towards that goal.
4. Send Personalized Contracts for Each Job
You’d be surprised at the number of freelance writers I’ve met who work at this full time but they’ve never dealt with contracts. Instead, they rely on email ‘handshake’ agreements, freelancing platforms, and so on.
If you don’t want to mess around with contracts and you find you can make a nice living from freelance platforms, then all the more freedom to you. However, professional freelance writers who aren’t afraid of contracts tend to be the types that get hired for more serious jobs.
To be fair – I’m not a lawyer, so I usually rely on contract templates I modify for each new job. In the past, I’ve written about some of the most important clauses you should include in your freelance writing contracts, so take a look at that article.
If you’re lucky, clients themselves will take care of contracts on some occasions. Whenever I run into a gig like that, I hold on for dear life, because those tend to be the best types of clients to work with.
5. Don’t Charge Less than Your Work is Worth
The way I approach new freelance gigs is I have a rate in mind, but I always aim a bit higher. That gives me room for negotiating if a client decides they want to try and get me to agree to a lower rate, and we both get what we want in the end.
Ideally, you should have a specific per word rate in mind as well before you start looking for new jobs. That’s your baseline, and you can alter it depending on how complex each gig is. For example, I charge a couple of cents higher per word for projects I know will take more research.
When job hunting, you’re going to run into a lot of people who think they can hire a professional freelance writer for something like $0.01-0.02 per word. That’s about $20 for a 1,000 article at the high end and it’s peanuts. The problem is, there are plenty of people desperate enough to accept that.
Usually, gigs around that range tend to view their writers as quickly replaceable. That’s not a position you want to be in, nor the type of job you want to take.
Anyone can give freelance writing a shot. However, if you’re serious about making a living in this field, then you need to approach it as a job and not a hobby.
The first step to launching a career as a professional freelance writer is to get your portfolio set up. Then you can get to work on the following:
- Getting more bylines under your name.
- Developing an onboarding process for new clients.
- Adapting to each client’s style.
- Sending personalized contracts for each job.
- Not charging less than your work is worth.
What do you think about the idea of becoming a professional freelance writer? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.