So you are dreaming of spending more time behind your computer or laptop? Picturing yourself on remote locations writing while travelling and sitting on fancy terraces in upscale places like Paris or Milano staring at your iPad to find that inspirational opening line for your first novel, your blog that makes you enough money to pick any plane at the airport and even go there by taxi?
You have some dreams! Let me tell you: if you are in a job right now: do not quit your job over your new career dreams yet!
There are a few steps you have to follow to make sure you can pay next months rent or at least the electricity bill to keep that computer switched on.
And after that it is still risky business that whole writers thing, for there a zillions of us out there that love starvation because of writing, that are willing to sacrifice all for that never to be published novel and that are staring at their advert income every day, only to notice it will not even buy you coffee.
So make sure you have a plan! A business plan! That you have an endless list of addresses you can pitch to and a determination that will never ever run out. For you will need all of that.
Having that said, let’s get started on that career of yours!
Step 1. What kind of freelance writer do you want to be?
If you look startled now and think: a writer writer……..go back to your job and forget about this career. I tell you. You have to know at least that there a several different kind of freelance writing jobs only to not end up in the one you chose to be in. And there is this to consider as well:
the financial part of the job: how many articles do you need to write to get by and how many to live well? Are you in it for the extra money or as an actual job?
And how many words per article do you like to write?
How fast is your typing?
if you are to become a blogger: what is your blog about? Do you know your audience
and last but not least: How many hours do you have to spent on your new career?
- for there is research,
- following up on leads,
- presenting yourself in social media
- the accounting that needs to be done
- the actual writing
- the checking, checking and checking of what you have written
- the re-writing
- the pitching
- the after sales
- and follow up on your pitches
And as the cherry on the pie: this time next year: what will you have accomplished? You have to set yourself some realistic goals.
Write all that down in your business plan.
And if you need advice, do not hesitate to ask me!
Step 2. Build yourself a website.
If you take my steps and make them daily plans, you can practice on the job while shaping your new career. For example: yesterday was step 1, the first freelance day of your new future, than step 2 will be a next day. This time you can practice and see how concentrated you can work, how disciplined you are and what you need to accomplish your future tasks.
In step 2 it is time to build yourself a website.
My advice is to do it right from day one, many will advice you to take this easy, but professionalisme counts, and branding yourself is serious business, you only get that first impression once!
You do not need to know HTML to build yourself a website or a portfolio. And you can also settle for mediums like about.me or LinkedIn to profile yourself. They can be very powerful specially when you set your profile on public and have it filled out the right way. (if you need any help, do contact me!)
If it were up to me, I would buy a domain-name and get myself cheap hosting and/or use a platform like wordpress.org or dot com to make a profile and portfolio, or Tumblr. There are some smashing portfolio themes out there that are very easy to use. And you will need it anyway when your career is successful.
Your website should at least contain the following:
- your name
- a short explanation of what kind of writing you do
- how people can contact you, so either a contact form or an email address
- links to your social media accounts
- a page where you write your portfolio with links to published articles
- a place to publish future articles
use original photos, no stock photos, there are enough websites that will provide royalty- free photo-material that is not obviously Shutterstock or stockphoto. A website like ImageNomad.com even offer to make the photos you need if they are not available yet.
Step 3. Get those social media accounts ready
Most of your leads will come from social media. When you are active on those that are useful to you and your future career you will participate and follow other writers, but also editors and publishers and if done well they will notice you.
Link your social media accounts together as much as possible and useful so people know on any medium immediately when you publish something.
Make sure that your pitch is the same everywhere and that you are recognisable. Whether people follow you on Twitter or Facebook, Google Plus or Pinterest they should know instantly it is you.
That is called branding. Here is an article on that subject if you want to dive into it.
Choose your social media wisely, it can consume a lot of time. Know where your peer audience is and where the best interaction takes place. Usually for writers I say that is Twitter and Facebook groups. although the Facebook groups are rather ego centrical and it is more about showing than sharing.
I made myself a time management sheet for social media that keeps my on track.
- do not use your private FB profile, make a page! Private stuff should stay private and not mix with business
- take certain time per day to do certain social media, once active you will get the hang of the best times to interact where.
- Do not automise too much on sociale media, I do use Hootsuite every now and than, but nothing beats personal interaction
- your phone is your office, use the apps and use them wisely.
- make sure your bio explains who you are in a few words: freelance writer, mother of three and photographer…….or: freelance writer for (name your website), feel free to check my social media bio’s for more details.
- be consistent everywhere, anytime and always.
- do not use social media to ask for work
- do not self promote yourself too soon, too much.
Step 4. Do some research
When you take one step as one freelance working day, this is day 4 of your new career. You should be active on social media, participate, retweet and interact, in the hope that in the future you will get leads. Check your website once again and re-read your business plan: does it need some adjustment or are you still on track?
Your business plan is a living document, when goals change so does your business plan. So read it regularly to keep focus and to re-adjust whenever necessary.
Today you need to start researching. Where would you like to post an article? How to find those websites that accept guest postings? Be creative, today is also a test: if you cannot handle this and you cannot manage this without me writing it out for you, you might not make it out there.
So how would you go about finding online work and opportunities?
Identify some websites or magazines you would like to do your first pitch.
Criteria for selection:
- they should accept guest articles specially from new, unexperienced writers
- they should match your career and or interest, no use in pitching for a cooking blog if you are all into gardening. My website gets a lot of pitches of topics that are totally irrelevant to my readers, and that takes a lot of my time. So make sure to waist nobodies time specially not your own.
- they have an email-address that you can use to send your pitch, do not pitch in a contact form
- take time to get to know the blogs or magazines you want to pitch for
- look for the pitch guidelines
- make sure they are willing to pay you, you do not work for free!
- keep track of your dream and goals you set for yourself at step 1
Step 5. Write draft posts
Are you doing this day by day? than this is day 5 of your new career. How are you getting along? You like being a freelancer? Any problems? Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions so far.
After your daily social media activities it is time to start writing. You are going to write draft articles for the websites you are about to pitch.
So do your research and start writing.
Do not make the mistake of thinking you can do without and send a link to your portfolio. For you cannot! You have no publications to your name, your website will be nowhere yet and not even show up in any of the search results , so don;t be cocky about this, bow your head and start humble.
Just write a few smashing concepts that will catch the editors eye!
Step 6. Look for apps and software to use
What kind of software do you use to:
- track your time
- do your client management
- keep track of subjects and future topics
- billing and taxes
- spell checker
- proof reading
Is the software you use for writing readable on all devices of all brands? We all know that Apple software and Microsoft software are not to fond of each other. And how are you going to file, back-up and keep track of what you have written for whom?
For example: I have a filing system per year, per months, per client, that goes on a external storage facility after the year is over, so my archive is on an external storage.
I manage my time in my calendar, every client has its own color, and so has the file. And I use Numbers for accounting.
That’s right: I do not use the cloud. I work and travel, and in some countries the internet is so unreliable and so slow I cannot access the cloud, so I do have an external back-up disk and storage disk.
Before we forget: re-read your concept articles again today and adjust where necessary.
Step 7. Send your Pitch
I’m not going to spent much words on this step. After all you have already done research, encountered pitch guidelines and maybe even learned some do’s and don’ts on the social media.
So who am I to tell you again?
If you have your own domain (step 2) than use your email address from that domain and start sending out your pitch and concept articles.
A good pitch is short, clear and dedicated to whom you are and what you want, but also show clearly what the editor wants for his audience.
I’d like to pitch an article called TITLE that I believe would be great for NAME OF BLOG/WEBSITE/MAGAZINE.
I think your readers will appreciate THE QUESTION YOUR ARTICLE ANSWERS and/or THE PROBLEM YOUR ARTICLE SOLVES.
I know that your readers enjoy THE KNOWLEDGE YOU HAVE GAINED FROM READING PAST ARTICLES AND INTERACTION and the enclosed draft article DOES A SIMILAR THING.
A bit about me: MAX TWO SENTENCE BIO, KEEP IT VERY VERY SHORT.
YOUR WEBSITE LINK or LINKEDIN PROFILE
- If the website has any other pitch guidelines to follow, make sure you follow them.
- proof read your concept again before attaching it
- do NOT forget to attach the concept article!
- check your spelling in the email
Welcome to the world of freelance writing!
Now enjoy the rest of your day, spent some fun time relaxing. A good freelancer know when to relax. There is no such thing as working around the clock, only when you have deadlines to meet.
Do not check your email over and over again, just leave it for now, tomorrow is soon enough.
Talk to me: Do you have any questions? How did your pitch go? Any projects yet?
Do share this article if you found it helpful!