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  • Writer's pictureBart

How To Be a Freelance Writer

Success! I’m officially a Freelance Writer with my own business! Check out www.bjscreative.com if you have any sort of writing or editorial needs :)


In addition to having set up my own LLC, I also got my first pieces of work paid for by clients on UpWork and Verblio. With my business set up and my work paid for, I guess I’m official!

 
 
 

There are thousands of resources online that guide you through becoming a successful writer. Most of which include general information about considerations to take when becoming a freelance writer. With this post, I want to focus on actionable information. I‘m going to share the exact steps that I took to become a freelance writer: from finding my niche to creating a blog to starting a business to making $$$.


... Okay let's be honest, I'm still only at one $ ...


Find your niche

Before starting anything, you need to have a good understanding of what you enjoy and what you're good at. I can’t stress this enough. Find your niche or niches. Otherwise, your skills won't be specialized enough to make a decent profit. Specialization pays.


Another reason for establishing this is that writing can be challenging. Even the most experienced writers get writer's block. Focus on writing about subjects that ignite passion and subjects with which you have plenty of experience. Doing so will only make the writing process smoother for you. Answer the following questions to get you started:

  • What do I have experience in?

  • What subjects excite or motivate me?

  • What kind of writing do I like? Instructional? Promotional? Conversational?

Here were my answers:

  • What do I have experience in? Technical Writer, Chief Editor, Design Engineer, Volunteer Coordinator, Technical Operations Intelligence Officer.

  • What subjects excite or motivate me? Technology/engineering, travel, volunteering, sports.

  • What kind of writing do I like or am I good at? Technical writing, instructional, conversational blogs.

From this simple list, I formalized my niche:

Primary focus on technical/instructional writing primarily in the high-tech. Secondary focus on conversational copywriting or blog writing for sports, volunteering, or travel arenas.

It's really easy to fall into the trap of wanting to write about anything and everything. But that can lead to burnout. And if you do that, good luck ever finding your unique writing voice. Now, with literally hundreds of thousands of writing opportunities out there, I can stay true to myself and stay focused on what gives me the most energy and what I'm most knowledgeable about.


Create a blog and start writing

If you're starting fresh like me, you might have zero or a few writing samples. So how can anyone ever hire you to write something for them? Well, one of the best forms of a portfolio if you don’t have one, is to create and maintain a blog. A blog is completely open to you to write about whatever you want.

There's no better way to showcase your story, your voice, and your interests than your blog!

So how do you create one? Easy! There are hundreds of free blog platforms out there. Each of these blog hosting platforms provides plenty of options to upgrade in the future, so you can worry about things like memory limits (to store photos, videos, etc. on your blog) or establishing your unique domain name (yourownwebsitename.com) later.


I appreciate Wix for its simplicity. Also, Wix isn't limited to blogging. It's a platform for you to create your website. Medium is a similar platform that has an established community of bloggers. WordPress is a highly-rated platform that allows you significant customization capabilities. A quick Google search will lead you to informative articles that can help you choose the best platform for you.


For a simple route, go to www.wix.com and follow the prompts. In 5 minutes, you can have a free blog up and running.


Now get to writing! Again, think back to the questions we answered above. From there, establish a theme for your blog. Be natural. Find your voice. Write for yourself so you don’t ever run out of steam.


Create a real portfolio

When it comes to finding work, clients will want to see samples of your work. Your blog is a great way to showcase your voice and interests, but ultimately, you also need a portfolio with samples. There are several free online portfolio platforms for freelance writers. Choose one and start populating some samples.


Here's a snippet of my Contently page where I've posted examples of some technical articles that I helped author and edit which ended up being published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Now I can share this link with any clients so they can see some of my work.

If you don't have previous work to show, the easiest way to develop some samples is by reaching out to friends or family that might need any sort of content. Does anyone in your network have a website? Applying for college or updating their resume? Own a business? Have a podcast? Or is there anyone in their network that does? Ask them to let you write for free! (If they pay you there's nothing wrong with that...) Stray away from asking for compensation while you're first starting to build your portfolio.


In my case, I'm thankful to have friends like Kevin, who connected me with a Taiwanese e-commerce company that needed writing support and Kyle who agreed to allow me to help create content for his thought-provoking podcast Another Round of Thoughts.


If you have nothing to showcase, you could even keep Google docs of samples. Samples of what? Anything! If you're into promotional or marketing content, think of any product and put together a sample of how you would sell it. You could then share the Google doc example with your clients so they can get a feel for how you write. Eventually, you will find a client that is looking for your style whatever that may be.


Decide on LLC or sole proprietorship

At this point, you should have a few entries in your blog, and you should have a set, albeit small, of samples for your portfolio. The next thing you need to do is decide how you want to operate your freelance writer business. Do you want to form a Limited Liability Company (LLC)? I highly recommend forming your own LLC. And I'm not alone. Countless successful freelance writers swear by their decision to form an LLC. Depending on the state that you live in, the costs are minimal, and the process is straightforward if you use a service like LegalZoom.


Some LLC Benefits:

  • You become an official owner of a formal business that is registered with the IRS.

  • Your business assets are separate from you as an individual so you have some protections. For example, if someone were to file a lawsuit against you, personal assets would not be a liability.

  • You have more credibility and therefore a potential for higher earnings in the future.

I had a day off one Friday afternoon in January, and in less than 30 minutes I had submitted my application for BJS Creative LLC. Here's what I did:

  1. Research business documentation providers around me >> I found LegalZoom. Here are some alternatives. You also have the option to file LLC paperwork on your own and you'll only pay the Filing Fee for your state ($301 for Texas), but that takes a lot more work and research.

  2. Create an account on LegalZoom.

  3. Find an available LLC name in the state of Texas.

  4. Apply for an LLC. Here's an exceptional walk-through of the LegalZoom LLC application process.

  5. Make payments: ($329 for Standard LLC application on LegalZoom + $301 State of TX registration fee + any other options like expedited service that can be selected for an additional charge)

  6. BJS Creative LLC was live in less than 20 days!


Buy a domain and build a website for your LLC

If you didn't buy a domain name for your blog and if you're serious about your freelance business, you should purchase a domain name for your LLC. Doing so is invaluable to the reputation and perception of your business. With thousands of freelancers out there, reputation and perception are everything. ~$15/year is a trivial price to pay for establishing work as a legitimate business.


Wix provides support for domain name searching and purchasing. Wordpress and other platforms do as well. Here are some resources for creating a catchy and meaningful domain name:


Create profiles on popular freelance job boards

Until you build up a personal client list, freelance job boards are a great way to get started. Work on whatever project you want and whenever you want. Here are my quick notes on the platforms that I use.


UpWork

  • Open to anyone.

  • Create a profile in less than 30 minutes (but please refine and refine until your profile is error-free and attention-grabbing). Based on my answers to the questions above, my profile markets me as a Technical Writer and Technical Editor.

  • Clients post jobs and writers bid on them.

  • Writers submit a proposal and answer any pre-interview questions set by the client. You could spend plenty of time writing proposals to be accepted for jobs that you may not even get. This is the nature of UpWork and why many freelancers don't like it.

  • Writers must also provide a bid for cost: project rate or hourly rate.

  • If a proposal is accepted, Clients can still request a follow-up interview.

Verblio

  • More exclusive. Writers must be approved to be part of Verblio.

  • Writers must apply and take a writing pre-test. If you pass both, you will be invited to submit a sample proposal (for a REAL job posting by a REAL client). This sample proposal will be reviewed by Verblio admins. If your work is deemed worthy, the admins forward your work to the client. The client can still choose to purchase your work or not, but at this point, you have been accepted as a Verblio writer!

  • Clients post a job description and writers submit content. Clients select and pay for their favorite submission. Verblio writing is ghostwriting.

  • No writer profile or proposal needed. Writers focus on content.

  • Writers know the pay of a project ahead of time.

  • Writers must work their way up to higher-paying jobs. Keep in mind these projects have longer word length minimums, too.

UpWork Vs Verblio

So far, the clear choice for me is Verblio because of its focus on the actual content. Instead of wasting time writing proposals to bid for a job, Verblio writers can simply choose a client's prompt and submit content. If that content is purchased, great. If not, Verblio writers can save the content to reuse it for a future submission or keep it in their portfolio as a sample. UpWork on the other hand is truly a numbers game. Before getting accepted to do the job I showed above, I had to submit 19 proposals.


Find more work!

This is just the beginning. Now's it's time to network and market yourself and your business!

  • Spread the news to your friends and family.

  • Create social media profiles for your business and spread them on personal accounts.

  • Join freelance writing societies. Most communities have them and there are international societies as well.

Now let's see if I can continue to build on the good progress! Until next time OJAY-ers.


...Ok, that probably won't stick...

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