How To Be a Successful Freelance Writer

This is the first post my our new staff writer Miranda Marquit. Since Miranda has excelled at being a freelance writer, I thought what not a better introductory post than for her to share how she has become successful at what she does Enjoy!

Freelance writing can be a great way to make money. I know. I’ve been supporting my family with my freelancing writing for more than five years while my husband works on his Ph.D. As far as writers go, I’m reasonably successful. I make decent money, I rarely work more than 30 hours a week, I get to set my own schedule, and I work from home — allowing me to be here for my son. When people I know see my lifestyle, many of them want to know how they, too, can be successful freelance writers. While success isn’t something I can just bottle up and hand around, I can offer a few insights gleaned from my experience.

How To Be a Successful Freelance Writer
Creative Commons License photo credit: markkow

Write what you know

It sounds overused and cliché, but it really is true that you find more success if you write what you know. It provides you with a knowledge base to draw on, and if you are experienced in some area, editors and administrators are more likely to trust you as a source of information. Even if you don’t know something particularly well, you can learn about it. If you are interested in a subject, and would like to write about it, do your research. My first freelancing gig was as a reporter for a physics web site (I still write for this site), since in a former life I was a physics major. I thought I would do science writing, and even did a couple of small pieces for Discover magazine. But when someone wanted me to write about finances (hey, it’s just math, right?), I decided to learn what I could about money. I studied up, and learned what I could. Now most of my writing revolves around business, personal finance and investing.

Get a little training and practice

If you want to make it as a freelance writer, it helps to have some sort of training. You don’t have to get a M.A. in Journalism (like I did), but it helps to take a writing course or two at the local college, learning the basics of sentence structure and grammar, and practicing your skills. Even just taking some of your writing to someone you trust in order to get a critique can be very helpful. But if you don’t practice, and if you aren’t willing to learn ways to improve your writing, you landing gigs becomes difficult. Practice so that you deliver quality pieces regularly, and you will find your skills in demand.

Network

Finding gigs requires a little legwork. Whether you look at online job boards, put the word out through family and friends, or sign up for LinkedIn, networking is essential for freelancing success. Carefully consider social media outlets likely frequented by your target clients. With online writing, I have found success with my profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon (yes, I have landed gigs through StumbleUpon). Offline, my twice-monthly column in the local newspaper, as well as my willingness to interact with others, has provided a number of opportunities. Networking also requires that you help others. Turn and turn about. When you provide what assistance you can, others will be more open to returning the favor. Just remember, though, sometimes helping out with networking is more of a “pay it forward” thing than a “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” thing. And, of course, be sure to maintain your professionalism throughout.

Be willing to start small

I took a lot of crappy jobs that first year or two, just to gain experience and build my portfolio. Your willingness to start small and do a good job with those initial gigs is essential if you want to move up. Just make sure that you pay attention to where you are going. You want to be able to upgrade to better paying jobs, and eventually set your own rates. So, be willing to start small, but be ready to move on when your hard work results in better opportunities.

Success is freelance writing is largely individual, and requires hard work. But if you are willing to put in the effort, chances are that you will be rewarded with a satisfying career.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information and are not intended to provide specific advice and/or recommendations for any individual.

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Comments | 1 Response

  1. says

    Very interesting. I would love to get to the point that I could make a full time living from writing. Been blogging for several months now. I know that it is a process that takes time.

    One of my questions is how do you determine what is reasonable to charge for freelance writing projects.

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