Start your writing career the smart way. Explore the essential factors you should work on before taking up Freelance Writing as a Career Choice.
Has the thought of taking up writing as a job been brewing in your head, prodding, knocking, chipping away at your everyday? Do you find yourself scanning the listings of jobs as a freelance writer and dreaming about the creative expression and flexibility that writing as a career affords?
While a career as a writer could be your calling, building a freelance writing business requires time, patience and a strategic approach. As does finding a full-time writing job with publications and content sites. Tons of writers take this chance everyday but the ones who make a success out of freelance writing are those that begin with a tactical mindset.
So what does that involve? How do you decide that writing as a job can be your viable commitment? How can you be sure of a decent income with a steady flow of jobs as a writer?
Here’s a simple gameplan – 8 aspects to consider for prepping your skills, brand, and mindset for a career in writing.
8 key things you must do before starting writing as a job
Each one of these is a game changer to a degree, but cumulatively, these will be the best strategic moves you can make when you start considering writing as a job.
Set your expectations
Writing is a job, but realistically don’t expect to make (a lot of) money from the get-go.
While you will be writing a lot, it’s only over time when the law of increasing returns will be visible. Both in terms of how much you can charge and how fast you can deliver. But in the interim, and until you build your success to that level, the only thing that might keep you going is desire and discipline. So self-assess your own motivations and reasons for desiring a career as a writer, else the flame might fizzle out with the first gust of wind.
Commit to – and invest in – (real) work
If you want to land jobs as a freelance writer, you ought to have made a commitment to writing already, irrespective of everything else going on in your life. Writing habit matters more than any other factor. Far too many people who want to be writers, aren’t regularly writing.
You don’t need time for writing, you make time.
Make a daily creative date with yourself, and discipline yourself to write something. Even if you are working at a grueling full-time job, and/ or are an exhausted mother or caregiver, it is still better to take a few minutes a day (writing two or three phrases) rather than wait for the day off. Many writers I know write notes at the gym, on lunch breaks, at traffic lights, even bathroom breaks. Neither rain, nor snow or sleet should budge your date with writing.
Explore. Choose. Earn!
Get to know the Different types of writing
It’s good to figure out what you’re writing before you figure out how to write it.
Do you aspire to write a novel for yourself or be a ghostwriter? Are you good with long-form copy or short-form? Do you want to do business writing or fiction? Do you have specialized technical expertise from your previous jobs or are you more of a generalist?
Writers, fortunately, have a lot of niche job options to choose from and it pays (literally) the earlier you think this through. Check out these 24 types of writing jobs & opportunities for a good reference point.
Become a Niche Guru
Even before you write for a niche that you might be interested in – say health and wellness – read up everything you can on it like the news, trends, developments etc. Be an informed writer. Be a writer that can write compelling content and accentuate their work with facts. Follow the key players, study what they write, how they write and what resonates, with the intention of applying those insights to your writing. Get familiar with how SEO affects what you see on Google search.
There is no downside.
Start your business right with your chosen niche!
Browse writing jobs (with intention)
When you scrutinize writing jobs and opportunities, get in the habit of deconstructing them with intention. Look for keywords that repeat or skills that are commonly requested. Also, look for professional skills that you might need to acquire or digital tools that you might need to learn for online work.
This exercise will help you focus your job search, and articulate your skills the right way when you apply for freelance writing jobs.
Assemble a Writing Portfolio
Are there some non-proprietary examples of your work and documents that you can add to your portfolio? Do you have any passion-projects that can display the breadth of your creativity?
Don’t wait to start putting a portfolio together. You can even build it with dummy projects if you have no writing credits yet. Putting a snapshot of your work in one place definitely provides you an edge in getting freelance writing jobs, and gives clients a fast way to learn about your skills.
How to build your freelance writing portfolio as a newbie!
Get the skinny, plus awesome examples to inspire you.
Don’t give up your day job. Yet.
This is tried, tested and true advice – even if you can’t wait to give up your job, don’t.
Instead, start writing part-time alongside your day job. The reason is simple. Unless you have a lot of paying gigs lined up, and you are already a disciplined writer, freeing up your day by quitting your job, is unlikely to increase your monetizable output. If you can manage writing dedication under pressure, that is a stronger sign of what you might be able to achieve with leisure. In fact, so many people who are unable to be disciplined about writing realize that they quit their current work because they probably hated the job more than they loved to write.
Also quitting your day job starts the clock ticking on the pressure of being able to generate income. While in reality, it takes a while before you can claim writing as a sole source of decent income.
Chart your income needs
If you still intend to quit your job eventually to try and make it as a full-time freelance writer, then figure out the income you require at a minimum. If you have a partner supporting you, can you live on no income while you build up your writing credits? Do you have enough of a nest egg for a few months? Do you have enough saved up to keep you going for longer than you intend? Some people scale back and reduce their job commitments to fewer days of the week, in order to write on the other days.
Your income needs will affect your choices, and your perseverance, so before you make any decisions, take stock here.
You want to take on writing as a job? Then think beyond the story.
It takes time and dedication to get good at freelance writing, and build a reputation. Putting some strategic thought and effort before you take the leap into writing as a job will accelerate your journey and sustain your motivation. Your preparation is a prerequisite to your success as a freelance writer.
Abe Lincoln’s words sum it up well.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe!”
You can’t use up creativity. The more you create, the more you have.
A Designer, Entrepreneur & US Patent Holder, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, she has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her forever baby, a Bichon named Miltie.
Amazing write-up, Anjali! I have recently started writings blogs and my clients are really happy with the content. I was literally thinking of leaving my current job and do writing full time. But thanks to your blog, I now think this is not the right time to leave my job yet. I was also planning on getting myself a a business card as well so that people find it easy to refer my contact to their knowns too.
Great tips! I dabble in freelance writing here and there! While I love working on my blog, freelance is a fun opportunity to learn about new niches! These tips will definitely come in handy! Thank you!
Excellent tips! I’ve been looking into freelance writing lately and I think these tips will really come in handy if I decide to move forward with it. Thank you for sharing!
These are great tips! Thanks for writing this 🙂
I would love to try being a freelance writer. I only do a weekly blog for my business’ website and I am enjoying it a lot. maybe I can do that as a side hustle. Thank you for your tips Aditi!
I haven’t tried freelance writing, I prefer creating a blog and publishing content on it but am glad to learn some ways on how I can venture into freelancing writing. Thanks for sharing.