You’ve made the decision, for whatever reason, that you want to make a living as a freelance writer. But how do you get that perfect gig and start to see money rolling in? It can be intimidating when you realise just how many writers – both good and bad – are in competition with you. Here are some tips to help you get started and avoid the pitfalls.
Mass Platforms. Inevitably, you will have checked them out. The big players, thousands of jobs and even more bidding on the projects advertised. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve sent proposals for projects on these sites, which have developed into regular work, but they’re few and far between.
As a newbie, you can spend half your day trawling through the ads – not making money – a lot of which are extremely vague. Don’t! If you must use them, only apply for jobs with a detailed brief. Clients usually want you to check out their website/blog to attract writers who can provide exactly what they’re looking for. “I need a Writer,” is a definite No No. Not only will you waste time applying, they will usually accept the lowest bid and a £5 article is never going to be quality work. ‘Paying peanuts gets you monkeys.’ Jargon, cliché, an old saying, yes. But true! Only apply for projects that you are perfect for, be it travel, lifestyle, legal. You can then show your skill, writing for that particular niche.
Develop a Niche. Niche markets are a great way to start. Not only are you writing about something you know about (always a help), but writing this way keeps you motivated and enables you to produce articles at a much faster rate. Who isn’t happy writing about something they enjoy? You usually don’t need to do as much research and you won’t get bored. Joining industry associations and forums are a great way to find work like this. Social Media is also a useful tool as you can follow companies who are in the niches you prefer.
Stand out from the Crowd. You’ve found the perfect job ad, but so have hundreds of others. How do you make the potential client want to work with you? It’s important to check out their style. Writers who apply for jobs using the same cover letter template are boring. Inject your personality into the pitch. Writing in the company’s style immediately makes you stand out and shows you have bothered to look at their online presence. This is your one and only chance to impress, so sell yourself, as well as the knowledge and passion you have for the subject matter (including examples of similar work) if you have them.
Be Professional. You’ve had a bid accepted, now’s the time to get a regular customer or a least, a glowing testimonial.
Reply to any communications promptly. Waiting days for you to get back in touch will not create a professional image.
Think about the questions you need to ask about the brief and send them in one email, not 26. Busy people don’t have time to spoon-feed you with information. It can be helpful to create a template for this, including word count, style, keywords etc. I also have a ‘looking to the future box’ so I can contact individuals/companies down the line with additional services.
Be clear on your rates from the beginning. If you are promoting a special offer, make it clear further work will be more expensive but don’t increase your prices because you think you’re on to a good thing. Finally, always produce your work to the deadline. Clients are not interested that your friend called round for coffee or your cat is sick. If you promise work for a particular time or date, make sure you deliver!
If you have a number of clients, keeping track of work is vital. “Oh, I forgot!” “Sorry, how many words was it?” will not win friends and influence people. Keeping track of clients also builds a database that you can frequent from time to time to see if they have more work.
Prices. It’s tempting when you see people offering cut-price work to try and compete. This makes you resemble a bargain basement outfit. Be confident in your ability to provide thoroughly researched and quality content. The client is working with a professional and that fact should be reflected in your rates. On the other hand, don’t be greedy, start adding extras and talking about increased prices before you have built a relationship with the client and provided them with the quality piece you have been commissioned to.
In conclusion, fishing in a small pond is more likely to hook a decent catch. After that, it’s up to you to provide reliable, engaging content, hopefully developing a sound relationship that ensures future work.
© Donna Hepburn 2016