Being a freelance writer is an attractive career option in any economy. With things a little tougher and many people looking to supplement an income, or replace one from a former job after a layoff or downsizing, professional freelance writing looks more appealing than ever. However, being a freelance writer is a little tougher than it looks and most people who start down the path end up turning back, and not by choice.
There are some things that you can do to increase your chances of starting a successful writing based small business and jump start your new career as an entrepreneur.
Freelance Writing Start-Up Phase
The first thing to know about freelance writing is that it is a crowded field. What is worse is that many of the so-called freelancers out there give the profession a bad name by generating low quality work and being unprofessional. In order to succeed as a freelance writer, you have to separate yourself from those who are less skilled and less serious than you are.
The first thing any client will want to see are writing samples. The reason is that everyone says they can write and there is no certification or credential available to prove it. As a client there is no way to tell the difference between a good freelancer and a poor one until you've already put the time and effort into hiring them unless you can see a demonstration of their writing abilities first.
Unfortunately, many start-up business owners who would otherwise make great freelance writers get hung up on needing writing samples. However, with the Internet becoming an ever important force in mainstream business and in mainstream USA, there is no reason you can't generate some high-quality writing samples without much effort.
The key is to not focus on getting paid for your writing samples. While there are ample venues both online and off that will pay for quality writing, they too will want to see the proof of quality first, which means that you need to have samples before anyone will pay you for them.
If you are wondering how to get writing samples when no one will hire you to write something that you can use as a writing sample without having writing samples, you are getting caught up in an assumption. There is nothing that says your writing samples have to be paid for by someone else, or published by someone else. In fact, there is no better way to generate a wide range of quality writing samples than by publishing them yourself.
The easiest way to get started is to follow the herd and start up a blog. Actually, you want to start up a few blogs, one for each general topic you want to write about. Think about topics broadly or you'll end up trying to start 50 blogs at once. For example, if you want to write about being a car mechanic and about restoring old cars, that should be one blog, about all things automotive or mechanical.
If you also want to write about ballet, then that is another blog, though it should encompass all forms of dance or entertainment if you have other things in this area you want to write about.
Buy a domain name and setup your blog on WordPress. After you've been writing and publishing for a while, you can look into other options, but running a WordPress blog hosted on your own domain is the safest route to take while you build up experience and knowledge.
Don't get caught up on choosing a domain name. This is not a make or break decision. Domain names cost just $10 per year, and if you use the proper technique, called a 301 redirect, you can move your site to another domain name at any time without any negative effect. Just get a domain and get it going.
A good suggestion is to get your first and last name if possible. If not, try your first and last name with your middle initial. If that doesn't work, try the name you are considering for your business, or anything else that is short and memorable. Don't pick something too long and try to avoid words that are commonly misspelled.
Once your website is up and running, start writing the articles that you want to write. Do you have a great idea for an article about how to rebuild a 1969 Ford Mustang transmission with VW Beetle parts? Write it!
It makes no difference if it is a hot topic or something that someone will pay for. The important thing is that it is well written. When the time comes to apply for a freelance writing gig for a publisher looking for automotive how-to articles, you have a great writing sample already published and ready to go.
Don't stop with just one article. Keep writing about your chosen topics. The practice will improve your writing and as the number of articles you have published increases, there odds that one or more of them will be a very good fit for any particular freelancing gig that comes up will increase. Soon, you'll have a range of articles you can point any prospective client to, each of which demonstrates that you aren't just some hack.
Even better, a large number of articles suggests that not only have you been writing for more than just a week or two, it also shows that you can write a lot of articles. This is important because numerous writers burn out after a very short time after the easy, no effort, articles they had in their mind have been exhausted and writing new ones actually becomes work.
Once you've filled all of your own sites with at least 10 articles, start writing articles for the various sites that allow writers to publish articles in exchange for revenue sharing. These sites provide a location for publication that isn't your own. This establishes additional credibility in some client's minds. As an added bonus, though it can take a very long time, you can also build up an income stream if some of those articles find a wide enough audience.
Finally, make sure you have a professional presence that includes a mailing address and a phone number. Even online writers should have these. Having a physical presence suggests that you are a "real" business and not just some teenager sitting in their dorm room. Also, print up some business cards and letterhead so that you are ready should the need arise to promote yourself in the offline world.