Are you a great writer? Are you good at meandering your way through search engines in order to get the right information? Are you sick of spending hours everyday in jampacked, sweaty buses as you’re stuck in traffic? If so, then freelance writing might just be for you!
Whether you work a 9 to 5 or not, you can earn a living full-time or part-time writing for books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs as a freelance writer.
In fact, according to statistics, 36% of workers in the United States (57.3 million) are freelancers who work from home. They contribute, in total, $1.4 trillion to the economy every year. That’s a 30% increase since 2016. (UpWork/Freelancers Union)
Remote working is the future. Maybe then having pizza delivered right through computer screens will follow. So, if you’re interested in making money with your writing skills, here’s a good place to start.
This beginner’s guide to freelance writing will give you an overview of the freelance writing ecosystem and put you on the path to launching your freelance writing career.
First, the basics.
Who is a freelance writer?
A freelance writer is a writer who works for himself or herself, without the constraints of being committed to a particular company. Essentially, they act as independent contractors; aka, you’re your own boss. There are tons of jobs available for freelance writers online and offline, and as long as you have the right skills and are passionate about creating good content. It can turn out to be a rewarding career.
Good news! It is not obligatory to have any educational degree in English or journalism to become a successful freelance writer. One of the best architects I know dropped out of the university. Today he’s worth hundreds of millions.
How did he do it? Simple. He was able to prove his skills.
Employers care less about your kpali or “papers” than they do about your skills.
While a university degree or diploma is great and might give you an edge in some scenarios, it’s not always necessary.
So what do you need?
Remember when I said “good writer” in the beginning? This is what I mean. You would need good writing skills. Maybe not excellent skills at the beginning; there’s always room to grow and perfect your skills, but good writing skills will take you far enough.
So, if you flunked your English exams through school and struggle to communicate with the language, then you might want to reconsider freelance writing (in English), at least for now. Either go for a university degree in English or Journalism (the long shot), or take online courses or attend workshops to help improve your writing skills.
Even if you have good writing skills, taking courses can help improve your skills, and being certified will give you an edge as well.
There are a lot of websites available online with free and affordable courses and resources to help you hone your grammar or writing skills. Here are just some of them.
- YouTube (free videos)
- Udemy (free and paid (affordable) courses)
- Coursera (free and paid courses available)
- edX (free)
- Khan Academy (free)
- iTunesU (free and paid courses available)
- Lynda (paid)
Furthermore, if you have a degree in any field, you might want to let that show in your writing. For example, if you have a degree in the medical field, then consider lending your expert reviews on health related issues on blogs and forums.
You would need a computer so you have somewhere to type in and save your work . While you don’t need anything fancy, it should be reliable. Some people can also use their smartphones for simple writing jobs. Also have a word processor such as MS Word or Google Docs available.
Again, a fast and reliable internet connection is needed. Some people go as far as having two internet subscriptions. One for backup.
A professional email address so you can communicate with clients, apply for jobs, etc.
A Payoneer, Skrill, or Paypal account
For receiving payment for your work from clients. Where Paypal doesn’t work in receiving money (such as here in Nigeria), Payoneer and Skrill are other platforms you can use. Alternatively, you can use a third party to receive funds through Paypal, then the party would transfer the funds to you. The third party has to, of course, be reliable.
A free WordPress blog or Medium page
Most important of all, you need passion or zeal. Writing is hard, so without a passion for it, you will struggle.
Finding your niche
Your niche is your specialty, your zone. Just as we have lawyers and carpenters and doctors who are professionals in their fields, we also have writers who have focuses on one (or a few more) niches. Here are some of them:
- Website copywriting: Tons of websites are created everyday, and so writers are in demand to fill them up with quality content. From landing pages to About Us and more, this is a great niche to venture into.
- Review writing: You can also choose to write reviews for products or services or sites. For example, a new software that has just been launched or a new smartphone or a hotel that just popped up.
- Product Description: You can also write descriptions of products on e-commerce platforms such as Amazon.
- Blog writing: This is one of the most popular niches. You can write blog posts on a variety of topics for a variety of sites. It is also beginner-friendly.
- Ebook writing: There are a lot books released everyday on epublishing sites such as Kindle and Amazon and even on hardcopy. A lot of these books aren’t written by the authors whose names appear on the book, so essentially, you can help write books for people. If you have experience in a field, you can use that to your advantage. For example, if you have a background in catering, you can help someone write a cookbook.
- Transcription and translation: This is one of the easiest niches to get into. For transcription, it basically requires you to listen to a piece of audio or video and type out what you hear. These audios or videos can be interviews, movies, podcasts, etc.
Translation, as the word implies, involves accurately translating content from one language to another. So it requires you knowing a second language. If you do, great!
You can thrive on more than one niche, just as you can be a great pharmacist and also a great parent. Just don’t take more than you can handle. No one wants a “Jack of all trades and master of none.”
Where to find advertised jobs
Jobs abound for writers with great skills. Armed with an impressive portfolio, here are ways to land land clients.
- Freelance writing job boards: E.g Problogger.
- Content sites: Aka content mills. These have lots of jobs and are beginner-friendly, but they have high competition and can pay low. Anyway, you can still find some decent jobs there. For example, Upwork, Freelancer, Guru, Fiverr, People Per Hour.
- Classified ads: Such as Craigslist, ClassifiedAds, Gumtree, Jobberman, Nairaland.
Building your freelance writing career
To get ahead in your freelance writing career and grow your client base, you have to market yourself effectively. Do you have a LinkedIn account that’s gathering dust? Brush it up. Network with other professionals (attending meetings, seminars, and conferences afford good opportunities to meet people and let them know what you offer).
Also, take advantage of social media; it’s all the rage now. Facebook, Twitter, and Nairaland are great tools you can use to promote your work, and they also help you in your job search. Join groups on Facebook dedicated to freelancing, remote working or writing.
Writing can seem like a very easy thing to do but it’s actually a lot of work if you want to become a successful, sought-after professional in the field. The good part is, though, it actually pays off. You can rake in massive income from writing, but the key to achieving this is consistency.
This post is just an intro. Build your writing skills by writing often. Write everyday and for as long as you can. Also, hone your skills by gobbling down as much resources as possible– take MOOC courses, read extensively, and follow great names in the industry such as Danny Margulies and Jon Morrow. This will help you get better in your writing craft and put you on the right track to becoming a sought-after freelance writer.