I receive a lot of emails from freelance writers keen to learn more about earning money from freelance writing. Recently, I received an email from a reader saying that my blog posts are very helpful, but there's nothing on this blog about how to get started from scratch.
Silly me! I never even thought about that in all the posts I've put on this blog. Everything I've written about is either about finding new markets or finding new clients or finding ways to diversify your income or finding ways to be more productive with your writing or increasing your pay rate or setting up your business to weather any financial storm or...
Those are all things that are still relevant and pertinent to beginners as well as seasoned pros. In fact, they're even more relevant for beginners, because they're easier to put into practice while you're still building your business and your client base.
So! What should you do if you're brand new to the whole freelance writing business thing and you want to get started? Here are some quick tips:
Don't Give Up Your Day Job
Yes, you read that right. Before I went full time with this whole writing thing, I spent months building up a solid buffer of savings from my regular full time job (I worked at a boring old bank back then, but I wrote part-time in whatever free time I could find).
I stayed working full time until my little part-time writing business began to take over every waking moment. At that point, it felt like I was working two full time jobs. I approached my old boss and told him I wanted to drop to part-time hours. He refused.
So I cheated. I called up an old colleague who had left on maternity leave. They wouldn't allow her to return on part-time hours - only full time. Between us, we were capable of working full time hours in the same job role each week. So, we approached the boss with this 'job-share' arrangement. We got our part-time hours. He got the full-time role covered as he wanted. He agreed.
Working part-time hours gave me the opportunity to write even more for my clients. It also still meant I had regular income coming in from my job, so I was fine financially. I was still steadily building up my savings for the day I would go full time.
Build Up Your Client Base
Spend your spare time building up a regular client base. Look for spare writing income sources. Apply to a few content mills. Yes, these are low paying, but they'll give you some experience in writing to a deadline and sticking to client specifications for assignments.
You might prefer to start loading articles for sale on Constant Content to see if you can increase your earnings this way.
Advertise your services on freelance writing sites, like Guru.com or Freelancer.com or register with Odesk.com. These aren't ideal places to work over the long term, but they're fine to make a start and hopefully meet some new clients.
Think about what type of writing you really enjoy.
Some writers do nothing but write web content. Others write sales copy. Some write ebooks as ghost writers. Some write magazine articles. Some write marketing scripts for video sales copy.
I tend to write anything I can handle in my available time.
I know someone who earns good money writing about her travel adventures all over the world. She loves her job and she gets to see some amazing things in her travels.
I also know someone who seriously loves writing about dogs - everything about them. Their health. Training them. Finding toys and accessories for them. Dog psychology. Dog food. You name it - she specializes in this. After some time working with online writing, she started submitting her work to print magazines. These pay FAR higher rates than online work, by the way.
Personally, I love writing about finance and money and debt and anything related to economics. It's my own specialty and I also submit my work to various magazines around the world.
Diversify Your Income Sources
Never. Never. Never. NEVER let your freelance writing business get dependent on one single source of income. If you have a really big client who pays well every month - woo hoo to you! But don't allow that one single income stream ever get bigger than 50% of your total freelance writing income.
Work on different sources of income that are derived by different means of writing. By this, I mean if you focus on web content writing, think about writing short fiction stories or magazine articles or other forms of writing that don't leave you hanging on one style.
Think about ways to increase passive income through writing wherever you can. This includes royalties from ebook sales. It includes Adsense income from blogs or even from revenue-share sites (if you must...I really don't like revenue-share personally, but it's income). You might want to work on ways to use your writing talents to promote affiliate products. You could think about paid forum posting jobs to give you a break from writing articles.
There are plenty of things you can do to diversify your income. I've written about lots of them on this blog. Think about options that work best for you and then set your business up around what keeps you motivated.
Take the Plunge
When you have built up a bit of a savings buffer and you're at the point where your freelance business really does earn you enough money to survive on, it's time to quit your day job and go full time.
I personally took this leap three times. The first two times, I jumped too soon. I didn't have enough regular work. I didn't have enough savings to cover me during those quiet months. I didn't have enough clients to keep my income consistent. So I ended up going back to work.
The third time I tried, I did it the way I outlined above. I saved money. I wrote in my spare time. I learned to write different styles of writing in order to increase my service offerings to clients.
I kept submitting extra articles to Constant Content. I submitted articles to magazines. I write ebooks and reports and fiction novels and anything else I feel like writing.
The real key is to treat your freelance writing business like a full-time business enterprise. It's not a hobby. It's not something you do when you feel like getting out of bed. You really need to work at it.
You also have to have a plan to cover you for those times when orders go quiet. And they do. This is why the savings buffer is so important. This is why the income diversification matters so much.
So, I hope this gives you a bit of direction for your own fledgling freelance business.