So You want to be a Freelance Writer

Guest post by Lisbeth Tanz

One of the things I hear most frequently from new freelance writers is that they didn’texpect it to be so hard.

If they had asked me, I could have told them that doing this work isn’t the easiest way to earn a living, at least not initially.

No new business is easy – but when you consider that all you need to start a writing business is a computer, Internet connection, telephone, fax (maybe) and writing talent, it seems like a slam dunk.

However, starting a writing business takes more than just good writing skills. It takes business savvy (or the willingness to develop it), the ability and desire to work hard to get established and an understanding that money won’t start flowing immediately (unless you’re really, really fortunate).

Here are 10 things to consider before you declare yourself in business as a writer:

  1. Identify the things you know a lot about and would enjoy writing about.
  2. Determine how much time per day you will be able to pursue your writing business dream.
  3. Determine the market(s) you want to pursue. Do you want to write for magazines? Newspapers? Web content providers? Your own content? Do you want to create your own products? Do you want to be an affiliate marketer? (You’d be surprised at how much writing is necessary when you promote the products of others effectively.) NOTE:  Each of these markets is different and you may not be able to find work for some of them on the job boards.
  4. Analyze (don’t just look at) the top job boards:  guru.com, elance.com and odesk.com. There are others, but these three are probably the biggest. I could write a post or three on just this topic. You’ll want to look for what the most successful bidders are doing and emulate them.
  5. Take a stroll over to Craigslist to see what freelance gigs might be posted there. Sometimes I find hidden gems on my local Craigslist.
  6. Now that you’ve done some research, you’re better prepared to write down three goals you would like to achieve with your writing business in the next three months, six months and 12 months. Setting goals helps you stay focused.
  7. You’ll also want to calculate how much money you must earn to make this venture worthwhile. You can learn how in this post I wrote about calculating your freelance writing rates .
  8. If you don’t have any writing examples, create some! You won’t need many, but you will need to create a few that can demonstrate your writing ability.
  9. Consider where and when you’ll do your writing. If you have three kids under three, this could be a challenge. But people manage extreme or difficult situations and still make time for writing, so get creative with your planning.
  10. If your skills aren’t up to snuff, search for mentors, websites and books that can help you improve your skills.

There are many other things to consider, but these should get you started. You might have noticed that I didn’t talk about coming up with a business name, creating a logo, making business cards, etc. That’s because you will best serve yourself by considering these 10 points before you jump headfirst into a writing business.

Many thanks to Melanie for giving me the opportunity to guest post on Solo Mompreneur!

Lisbeth Tanz is a freelance copywriter and editor. Her business, The Hired Pen, was started on a wing and a prayer in 2004 (before she understood the 10 points above). Since then she’s written and edited for a wide variety of business clients, but focuses primarily on alternative health and wellness, home improvement and pets/animal companion writing. She’s continually amazed at all there is to learn about writing and business and enjoys sharing her newfound knowledge with new and experienced writers at www.savvyfreelancewriters.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn .

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  • Martha, I’m so glad you found the points helpful. I could probably come up with a whole bunch more. 🙂 I’m thinking you must be a skilled writer (even though you don’t want that as a biz) to have snagged freelancing gigs. Good for you – a well-turned phrase is worth the paper it’s written on. Thank you for taking the time to comment. 🙂

  • Heather, how perfect that you identified a need for your business, took action and have seen such fantastic results! While not everyone will likely have the same experience (although that would be pretty cool if they did), simply knowing how to write better resonates in so many areas of a business – not just the marketing area. Thank you for your kind words – and I agree, we’re in an amazing community.

  • I LOVE this post! While not a writer, per se, I have done some freelance jobs here and there. I’m not interested in having a writing biz but the tips you give are great for even the occasional freelancer! Thanks so much!

  • Lisbeth, well done for ‘making it’ and inspiring the rest of us. I enrolled on a writing course a while ago. Not with the express intention of becoming a writer, but to develop the skills I needed to write about my business. I’ve since been able to get expert comments and articles into many mags, newspapers and on blogs. I’ve recently been approached by my local paper to have a regular column. I’m here to say it’s worth the work and there’s always so much more to learn. Thank you Lisbeth and thank you Melanie for inviting Lisbeth to share her wisdom with us all. What a great community we belong to.
    Much love
    Heather x

  • Kenneth, the name of the game is getting your name out there! Guest blogging is a great way to do that. While it might not seem like in increases your book sales directly, there’s a lot of benefit in the indirect “juice” you get from being seen in the blogosphere. It’s a real plus if you like writing! I encourage you to find blogs that cater to your interests, follow them, comment, comment, comment and, once you’ve developed a relationship with the blog owner, offer to do a guest post. You never know, it could turn into a recurring gig. Best of luck and thank you for reading!

  • Melanie, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to “talk” with your readers directly. I very much appreciate this opportunity to s-t-r-e-t-c-h and share my thoughts with new people! Merci beaucoup!

    • As that old saying goes, Lis …

      I wouldn’t have missed this chance for all the tea in China! Doing a blog exchange with you has been great fun and I’m glad we took the initiative to do some lead-in promos.

      Looking forward to your upcoming teleconference in August!

      Melanie

  • Do you find that building an audience by doing guest blogs is helpful to creating your credibility? As a novelist I have done a number of blog appearances to help market my books, and I must admit that I sometimes wonder if it helps.

    I should add that now I love doing the posts so the sales issue has become less important.