Freelance writing isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a great deal of time and energy to build a thriving business. But it’s well within your grasp, once you set your mind to it. Many freelancers start off moonlighting — you know, as a way of establishing a small network of clients before mustering up the courage to ditch the 9-to-5. Others jump in feet first, knowing exactly how to market their services through pitches, queries and sales letters to land that first paid gig. It may just take a few referrals from some longstanding relationships to finally hang that shingle on your own front door. No matter how you get there, every successful freelancer establishes a series of goals that are first logical, then attainable.
Cultivate an Online Presence
Like consumers, organizations use the Internet to make decisions, so it pays to cultivate a strong online presence. Fundamental to this is a website that details your writing services, provides work samples and offers a brief glimpse of what to expect when working with you. On top of these essentials, make sure the site is optimized with keywords, authentic page titles and internal links. But don’t stop the process at a website. A strong online presence entails much more than this. Set up accounts with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to make your name and services much more “searchable.”
Start a Blog
Attaching a blog to your site is also helpful, and a good goal for a fledgling freelancer. First and foremost, each post acts as a page to your website — the more pages you have, the better your search rankings tend to be. Plus, fresh content draws search engines back to your site more frequently, which can help drive more traffic to your door. On top of search results, a blog allows you to share your insights into the industry, which can help build credibility. This is especially true for relevant and useful content. Credibility translates into trust — a trait most clients look for in a freelancer.
Build a Solid Portfolio
A portfolio is essential to any freelancer, and it should be a representation of your best stuff. Past work from previous employers is good place to start — as long as the samples don’t violate confidentiality agreements. From there, add any recent work you’re proud of. If your portfolio is still lacking, consider doing some “pro bono” work for a local nonprofit or even crafting a brochure, advertisement or newsletter “on spec” to beef up your offerings. Remember, these are just examples of your ability, and they don’t necessarily need to be from paying gigs.
Expand Your Client Base
Obviously, you need clients to make a living as a freelance writer, and there are a number of ways to expand your base. It all depends on what type of writing you’re planning on offering. For new freelance writers, reach out to graphic designers in your area — be it by snail mail, email or phone. From time to time, these freelance professionals need writers to provide copy for their designs. If you do good work, they'll come back to you again and again. You should also branch out to local businesses in your community. In fact, many professionals don’t even know that writers who provide marketing content exist, so a quick email or phone call can land you a new client on the spot.
Read As Much As Possible
While you want to spend the majority of your time marketing your services, building a client base and earning money, don’t forget to expand your knowledge. Reading about best writing practices is the first order of business, but devote some attention to the industries your servicing. If you’re involved in marketing, subscribe to RSS feeds devoted to new developments in the field. Health and fitness-related writers might want to subscribe to fitness magazines to stay abreast of new trends. Constantly expanding your knowledge means you’ll have more to offer your clients — both new and old.
- The Well-Fed Writer; Peter Bowerman; 2010
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