In today’s chapter of the Word Weaver Podcast I’m sharing the nitty gritty of freelancing 101 and how to get started as a freelance writer. There’s a lot to unpack on this topic so if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section below, on Instagram or iTunes.
Before diving in, we have to define what exactly is a freelance writer? Freelance writers are self-employed and typically write for several publications at any given time. In this podcast chapter, we’ll go through the different types of freelance writing that you can do and earn money from. When you’re first getting started it can feel a bit overwhelming of where to employ your word weaving talents, but you’ll naturally gravitate towards the topics and the writing formats that you’re most interested in and best at.
In general, the main types of freelance writing are (Note: I got more in-depth in the podcast):
Article (or “Feature”) Writing
Copywriting / Content Writing (including advertising copy, website content, press releases, white papers, print or digital newsletters, and even in-house or individual e-book ghostwriting)
Social Media Content
Blogging (for businesses or personal)
Editing / Proofreading
One of the biggest keys to being a successful freelance writer, with the goal of making this your full-time living, is to DIVERSIFY YOUR REVENUE STREAM. It’s no longer enough to rely on pitching a few magazine articles each month and hoping they get published. There are lots of companies, brands, and individuals looking to outsource various communication functions to freelance writers if you’re willing to put in the work.
The three key traits that every good freelance writer requires is: self-discipline, self-motivation, and an insatiable curiosity. You have to constantly brainstorm new ideas, always have your antenna out collecting concepts, and reading a wide variety of subjects while analyzing what would make a good headline or unique story angle. Then, you have to have the self-discipline to sit your butt down, spend the time researching, outlining, contacting sources, writing and revising your articles, which can be anywhere between 500 to 2000 words. Self-motivation is essential when it comes to making writing a daily habit, while sticking with the relentless pitching process to editors, companies and brands.
So, once you know that this is what you want to do. How do you establish yourself in the freelance writing space and actually find jobs?
The three steps that I recommend starting with are as follows (Note: I go more in-depth in the podcast):
Create a Website Portfolio
Start Honing your Writing Niche
The Pitching Process
Once you land your first writing gig, whether it’s for a newspaper or magazine or a business/brand, I’ll walk you through the phases of submitting your work, solidifying a contract and payment schedule with deadlines (including how many rounds of revisions), to invoicing and getting paid in a timely manner.
The reality when it comes to pitching is that even if you send 20 pitches, chances are you’ll hear back from 1. As freelance writers, the odds are NOT in our favour when you’re first starting out. I know a lot of people think that freelancers get to sit around in their pajamas all day and sleep in but it is a GRIND and you have to work your butt off every single day (eventually you can do it in your cute flower PJs from home once you’ve set up a system!).
Don’t be afraid to follow up with editors after a few weeks, people usually need (and appreciate) a gentle nudge as their inboxes and requests are overflowing. If you still don’t hear back, never take it personally, just move on to the next handful of editors or places you’d like to pitch from your excel spreadsheet and eventually, you’ll get a bite. Don’t get discouraged, don’t give up, and try to take your ego out of it. Rejections have nothing to do with you (they don’t even know you!) so often it’s about timing or not having space in the magazine. As Lady Gaga has said many, many times “If there are 100 people in a room, and 99 of them don’t believe in you, all it takes is one and it changes your whole life.”
The last burning question I dissect in this Word Weaver podcast chapter is how much money do freelance writers make?
Often those who ENJOY writing feel guilty for getting paid to do something that they LOVE, but you have to remember that when it comes to freelance writing, you are being hired by a publication, company or brand for your unique skill set that they either don’t have time to do themselves, don’t enjoy doing, or haven’t thought of doing yet! Freelance writing is a JOB and you should absolutely be compensated for your work in any industry. Own your worth and be confident in your rates! TIME IS OUR MOST VALUABLE CURRENCY so the amount of compensation you receive should be worthy of the amount of time you put into it.
Freelance writing can be an extremely rewarding career if it’s something you TRULY love to do. Success doesn’t happen overnight so be patient and kind to yourself. Stick with it as a daily habit, persevere through the muddy waters of rejection and treat it with as much tact as you would any other profession and great things will happen!
Freelance Writing Job Board Links
Word Weaver Links
Word Weaver Podcast Soundtrack
Late July by Shakey Graves
Way With Words by Bahamas