Blogging With John Chow

The Complete Guide to Launching a Freelance Writing Career — Part One: The Fundamentals

To make ends meet, an alarming number of over-qualified individuals are forced to take dead end jobs. Freelance writing offers these frustrated intellectuals a profitable alternative. However, the illusive nature of high paying gigs and the industry’s steep learning curve are enough to deter many aspiring freelancers.

Quality assignments tend to be extremely rare in the early stages of a career. The ones you do land will likely be on dry topics and pay insultingly little. Is writing fun for you? I promise, writing about ointments for nasty skin rashes won’t be. With that said, there are ways to by-pass the pain felt by most beginners.

Are You Good Enough to Be a Freelance Writer?

Grammar Guy

Successful freelance writers experience a freedom that many find enviable. As long there is access to a computer and an Internet connection, it’s possible to work from anywhere. However, this freedom comes at a price. A great article is thoroughly researched and meticulously pieced together. Obviously, this requires a good deal of mental resources. If you lack a decent attention span, freelance writing is not for you. In fact, sometimes you’ll be spending upwards of 10 hours being immersed in research and staring at Microsoft Word. Are you unable to handle this? Find yourself another profession.

The intent of this guide is to provide a strong foundation for launching your freelance writing career. It is operating under the assumption that you possess an acceptable understanding of grammar. If you consistently failed high school English, perhaps my Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing will be more useful. However, for those of you competent enough to write on a professional level, the below information will put you ahead of most amateurs.

Choosing a Niche

The first step in your journey as a freelance writer is to choose a niche.  Specifically, you should pin-point a few key industries your samples will target. It’s best to research current markets thoroughly before deciding on a final area of focus. The goal is to find a core market to center your writing around. Keep in mind, it’s extremely unwise to focus solely on one niche. Specializing can lead to rapid success, but it’s always wise to ensure other options exist if your favorite industry goes belly-up.

Let’s say you want to become a business writer. Obviously, this is a huge category with thousands of different sub-niches. For example, you could choose digital marketing. Then, you’d narrow the focus even further by honing in on specific sub-elements of digital marketing(Search marketing, social Media, PPC campaigns). As you research and write articles, you’ll naturally uncover lucrative micro-niches that are ripe for exploitation.

Content Mills

Branding

A lot of people call themselves freelance writers. However, very few of them are actually self sufficient. Sadly, a decent percentage of these individuals have been trapped in cycles of frustration, forced to churn out mind-numbing content for pennies until every ounce of creativity has been sucked dry. At this point, most just quit freelancing entirely. So, what makes a freelance writer successful then? What are they doing differently? Here’s a hint — It isn’t writing ability. Truthfully, freelance writing in the digital age is largely a matter of marketing skill

Branding is a core element of all businesses, and freelance writing is no exception. Your brand is what resonates with readers and converts them into clients. It’s what gives your writing personality and sets you apart from the hungry masses.  How you cultivate and maintain this brand will largely determine your fate as a freelancer.

Blogging

The Internet offers unprecedented amounts of exposure for writers, but it’s important to understand the mechanisms behind successful self publishing.  Blogging is the easiest route for launching a freelancing career and landing gigs. However, you cannot simply create a blogger account, post a few articles and expect your inbox to be full of emails from salivating clients. Your blog must showcase your writing ability while simultaneously demonstrating niche expertise.

If you are hinging success on getting thousands of hits a day, you’ll likely be waiting for years. However, if you truly immerse yourself in a niche and make your brand the foundation of your blog, landing paid gigs won’t be too difficult. Remember, the main purpose of your blog is to provide an attractive portfolio of your knowledge and writing ability. This doesn’t require a top ranking in Google’s search results.

Freelance Writing

Start Freelance Writing Today

The above advice is all excellent, but it’s useless if it never gets put into practice. The biggest hindrance to most aspiring freelance writers is the inability to stop researching and start taking action. For this reason, I’m suggesting a method of getting your feet wet as a freelancer without having to work for chump-change.

Constant-Content.com is without question one of the most profitable mediums for new freelance writers. It offers an excellent sample of the industry as a whole, and also grants writers the ability to earn professional pay. Basically, it runs as an article market. Writers are able to submit articles and name their own prices. Sales happen every single day, and some people make well over $1,500 a month. For a detailed guide, I highly recommend Celeste Stewart’s Secrets to Success on Constant-Content. She’s one of the site’s highest selling authors, and her eBook proves invaluable for understanding how Constant-Content works. 

Constant Content takes a 35% cut of the sale, which is acceptable since your work sold through their site. Just make sure to adjust your prices accordingly. Their editors are notoriously tough. With that said, they are also fair. This benefits new freelance writers immensely by teaching everything a good editor expects.

Creating Samples and Getting Paid

You now have the perfect platform for honing your craft. Create your Constant Content account, then set up your profile according to the elements of your brand. After that? Get busy researching and writing articles. If your content doesn’t end up selling after a few months, you still aren’t taking a loss. Worst case scenario, your pieces are professionally edited for free and able to be used as samples and blog posts.

Articles that do sell are legally the property of the buyer. Welcome to the double-edged sword that is ghostwriting. Still, it pays much better than corrupt content mills. Personally, I have sold 600-word articles for over $80. Not bad, considering they were left-overs that needed to be liquidated.

Aiden’s note: The Complete Guide to Launching a Freelance Writing Career will be a three part series. Obviously, this article is the first installation and serves to lay the groundwork for a successful career. Part two will cover pen names, writing query letters and locating profitable agencies.

About the author  ⁄ Aiden Wolfe

When I first launched this site several years ago, I was just a child. Well, more specifically, barely in my twenties. Its sole goal was to attract clients for freelance writing. In this regard, it delivered me into the steady employment I currently find myself. That said, my political passions have now consumed me. From here on out, this site is devoted exclusively to fighting right wing nutjobs. I put all of myself into the content I produce here, so I sincerely hope you find it enjoyable.

8 Comments

  • Reply
    Virginia
    August 12, 2013

    Hello Aiden,

    I’ve been freelancing for eight years and work has dropped off recently for a few reasons. One being complacency after success coming too easily for a while (yes, it really does happen), then a lull in inspiration when the flow stopped. You really do need to work at self-promotion as a writer. And as you say, be a specialist-generalist, rather than have a niche focus that can dry up without warning, which is sort of what happened to me.

    So I wanted to say that your article has given me fresh inspiration today and a new perspective. Also that your generosity with personal knowledge is appreciated by a fellow copywriter and Purveyor of Fine SEO Content, all the way from Australia 😉

    Looking forward to the next two installments. And also to good news about a certain other pledge you made today. Go ahead and edit that last bit if you like. I’ll understand.

    Virginia

    • Reply
      Aiden Wolfe Author
      August 12, 2013

      Virginia,
      Thank you so much for the comment. I’m glad that you found the article useful. You are undeniably talented and I’m certain things will turn around for you. I have endless amounts of respect for you and I truly value our friendship. I have a feeling your luck will change soon 🙂

  • Reply
    Matthew Calio
    August 26, 2013

    Very informative, and I will try to folow this.

  • Reply
    Stephane Passebois
    August 26, 2013

    Very good advices! 🙂 Love this blog.

  • Reply
    Nicole Sabo
    August 26, 2013

    Thanks for this, Aiden. Personally, I think anyone who makes a living as a freelance writer is a success.

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    September 3, 2013

    As someone who has been semi-successful as a freelancer (it has provided nice addition to my regular income), I do have to say there are plenty of gigs out there but the pay scale has decreased, mainly because of sites like Fiverr. I’ve seen some real horrible pieces produced through Fiverr but I’ve also seen some very good ones. As people who hire writers learn to “game” the freelance market, writers need to stick to their guns, so to speak, when it comes to negotiating prices.

    Great article, btw. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Felix
    June 6, 2014

    Your piece and writing skills are remarkable. I would love to get an article writing account that allows me to work from here Nairobi. I have recently wrote for scripted.com and londonbrokers.com.

  • Reply
    August 16, 2014

    Just to let you know I stopped by. I have written several papers that were for some college English classes I took. I do research and usually tend to know what I am talking about. Please, let me know when you are posting the rest of your series. Thank you for your kindness and patience with me. Have a most blessed day.

Leave a Comment