Business owners still need writers for their marketing
The first step in getting paid for your writing services is understanding that people will pay you. There are clients out there who want to save time and hire a professional writer to create content and sales copy. Video creators, graphic designers, and other freelancers certainly have it easier when starting out because their work does require the use of more tools and seems more difficult than simply writing.
Some business owners do believe that they don’t need to hire a professional writer—that they can just do it themselves. Just remember that these business owners are never going to be your clients.
The clients you are searching for have already acknowledged that they need to hire a professional if they want their marketing to be optimized and effective. The real challenge that you will have is figuring out where to find them. Once you do that, then all you need to do is sell yourself.
I suggest using these places to find your first set of clients:
- Facebook Groups
- LinkedIn job search (and hashtag search)
- And good ol’ Google
There are a ton of websites and platforms online that provide job postings for freelance writers. You may need to do some spec work in the beginning, either working for free or taking on writing gigs that pay $0.03 per word just to start building a portfolio. However, after four to five assignments you can definitely start charging by the project or by the hour.
What you don’t want to do is start searching in the wrong places. You definitely don’t want to focus your efforts on finding work through platforms like UpWork, Fiverr, or Guru. Although these platforms make the search for clients faster, they incentive that you price your services as low as possible. They also take a cut from what you make. The better approach is to do the hard work yourself and create a dedicated time in your schedule to manually search for clients.
“But what if I just can’t seem to get clients? I have no experience.”
The best way to showcase your writing style, even without a portfolio, is to create a blog. By creating a blog, and ideally an entire website, you are not only showcasing your ability to write clearly and persuasively—you are also showcasing your ability to promote your ideas. Clients want to see that you can provide more than copy or content writing, your competition definitely has more to offer than that.
It’s important to write as much as possible, as websites that publish 16 posts a month get more traffic than those that post weekly. Writing every day is a great strategy as it pushes you to explore more topics and creates a set schedule for you to practice your craft. Your prospective clients can use your blog as an alternative to a portfolio, especially if the client doesn’t need you to have years of writing experience.
There are ways to get exposure
What if you want your clients to come to you? The best way to start getting projects coming into your email inbox or LinkedIn messages is to collaborate. Guest posting is a sure-fire way to get people’s attention. If you have publications that you’ve written for on your website, it validates you as a professional and it makes you more attractive to clients.
It is difficult to start guest posting for websites like Forbes, FastCompany, Wired, or Mashable but, it is not impossible. I’m personally going through this stage of my freelance writing journey myself.
I have to note that it is best to start with guest posting on small publications that can be found on Medium. At the very least, even if you don’t immediately get incoming leads for your services by guest posting, it will increase the overall traffic that you get on your website.
Save yourself time by learning how to structure your business
As a freelancer, you run a business. You will have to be responsible for every aspect of that business, from how to get your clients to how you charge them. One thing I definitely recommend you do is to create a client questionnaire to ensure you understand the scope of work before taking on any project—especially your first project.
A client questionnaire can help you understand what is required of you and it can help you know if:
- You’re qualified to take on the work,
- How much time you’ll need to dedicate to the project,
- If this client is worth your time,
- And if you will benefit from the experience.
I put a list of questions I ask my prospective clients below. I don’t ask them all of these questions during the first interaction but, I make sure that all of them get answered before I begin tackling any project.
Questions to ask before submitting a bid or proposal
- What are the specifications of this project and when do you want it to begin?
- What is your preferred method of communication?
- What is your payment method?
- What are the hard deadlines for this project? Do you need me to set up the specific dates for each deliverable?
- Have you worked with freelance copywriters before?
Questions to ask before the work begins
- Can you describe your business in 50 words or less?
- Who is your target customer (age, gender, location, job role, etc.)?
- What do you want people to do when they visit your site? What is the #1 thing?
- What are the key features of your product or service?
- Describe your current process for making a sale?
- What are your current content assets?
- Do you have direct competitors?
- Can you list any pieces of content, websites, or profiles that are similar to what you are hoping to achieve from this project?
- How many people from your team will be involved in the feedback process for my copywriting?
- If the copy/content is published online, may I get a live link to my site?
- Will I be allowed to use this piece as a sample in my portfolio?
And let’s not forget the documents that you will need to make to make sure you get paid without any hassles. Most contracts, invoices, and other freelancer necessities can be found online as templates. You do not need to (nor should you) make anything from scratch. Just Google “Freelancer contract/Freelance invoice/Freelance proposal/etc. template” and there will be a ton of sites that provide them for free!
There will be a learning curve
If you feel like you aren’t confident enough to write content or create sales copy for a business, there are many resources available so that you can start learning. Youtube is my favorite resource, as there are hundreds of copywriting and content writing professionals who are promoting their expertise by teaching other writers.
There are obviously books that can also help you too, my favorite being On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.
Whichever resource you use, just know that you shouldn’t use the fear of being too inexperienced as an excuse to not get started. I blogged for five years before ever getting paid for a word I wrote. Yet, those years of not getting paid taught me and I am certain your learning curve will be much faster than mine.
If there is anything that you take from this article just know that you can get paid for the words you write—you just have to use the tools and advice from other successful freelance writers and take action.
If you simply start by setting up a blog (you can start writing for free both on LinkedIn and Medium), you’ll be well on your way to becoming a professional writer.
To give you some extra help, here’s a list of resources I use to keep my skills up-to-date and to help me grow as a freelancer:
- Hemingway App
- Plagiarism Detector
- The Cult of Copy Job Board
- Freelance Copywriter Collective
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