When I was a young freelance writer, fresh faced and new to the whole idea of someone actually paying me for my words, I was faced with a dilemma. I knew there were people out there who were making entire livings as freelance writers, but I had no idea how they were landing those clients. It felt rude to ask them how they were doing it. All the articles I read recommended the same three platforms: UpWork, Fiverr, and creating your own website. None of these seemed like good options for me, for the following reasons.
At the time, I was a low income earner. I started writing at the very tail end of 2014 (literally in the last 10 days of the year) as long time readers will know, that was a year that I made just over $18,000. Writing for free wasn’t an option. I couldn’t crank out 800 word, professionally researched articles for $15 on UpWork or Fiverr.
I also wanted to write personal finance, as I was newly obsessed with all things money. I’d been focusing on paying down my debt for a few months and I was devouring anything personal finance related on the internet.
But of course, I didn’t have any personal finance writing to start building out a portfolio with. I was still learning about money and had a long way to go. Creating a website was a good idea, but I had nothing to put on there. So it certainly couldn’t act as a portfolio, even less so act as a place for clients to find me and want to hire me.
What’s a new freelancer to do?
Start Where You Already Are
I wanted to write personal finance. I was spending all my time on personal finance blogs, consuming their content and leaving comments. Without even knowing it I was already doing such a crucial step to freelance writing; I was networking in the very circles I wanted to be in!
All the blogs I was reading in the personal finance world offered the chance to guest post; essentially, write a post for them for free. One of the websites I read the most often offered $5 for writing a guest post.
Now, I know I just said I didn’t have the time to work for $15 on those job board sites, but this was different.
-This was a chance to write for a blog that I already read, guaranteed to be in the vertical I wanted to write in.
-I had a better chance of my pitch getting chosen because fewer people were pitching this small blog than were pitching those big job board sites.
-It was a chance to personally connect with someone in my niche and grow my network.
I had just started my old blog literally a few days before sending in the guest post. Starting the blog was a low cost way for me to have a space to write about my debt pay off experience. It was also a place I could share my guest posts, and grew to be a portfolio of my writing as I added new content.
You Have To Send The Email
Freelancing is 50% emails. I swear to god, I spent and continue to spend more time emailing than anything else. There’s the pitch, the selection and tweaking of your idea, the edits, the invoicing, the payments, and then…the process begins all over again with a new pitch.
I landed my first piece because I sent an email. I knew the blog was looking for writers, so I thought about what I had to share about money, wrote up a headline, and sent it to the blog owner. She got back to me, told me it was a yes, and we were in business.
I wrote that first piece (shocker: it was about paying off debt on a small income!) and was paid $5 via PayPal. A few days later it was published and I was thrilled- I went and hung out on the site all day and replied to comments from readers. I was a writer! I had been paid! It was real!
Turn a Single Piece Into a Client
Now, everything could have ended there. One and done, know what I mean? It’s all too often the case with freelance writing. (Or other freelance work.)
I turned that single post into a 8 month writing gig. The money I earned from that gig helped me pay off my student loans, and the writing I did there turned into the first draft of my writing portfolio. I finally had writing to showcase!
How did I do it?
I noticed that my piece had done well on the blog. There were more comments on that piece than any other recently published piece. I also Googled ‘how to become a freelance writer’ A LOT and read a lot of people turning one off clients into repeat clients.
So, I emailed back the blog owner and said something along these lines:
“I really loved writing for you, and if you’re open to it, I’d love to do so again! I noticed that your audience seemed to love my piece and I could write a piece once a month on low income and debt payoff practices.”
That was it. You don’t need to write the next Iliad. Short, sweet, and show them your value.
That piece I had written had also gotten picked up by another site and had ended driving a LOT of traffic back to the blog owner. So she was thrilled all around with my writing and agreed to hire me on a once a month basis! I was ecstatic. I set a $12 per piece rate, and I was in business as a freelance writer.
Becoming writer changed my life. My career in freelance writing has brought me more money than any other career and eventually lead to me founding Bravely and doing the events, podcast and speaking I do today.
Interested in becoming a freelancer yourself? You can! I put together a starter guide for all freelancers so that you don’t have to learn on the go like I did. I made a lot of mistakes and wasted a lot of time learning the ins and outs of starting a business as I was doing it- it was a lot of time reading articles on setting rates, crying over taxes, and feeling afraid I was breaking the law somehow. With the Bravely Freelancer Guide, you don’t have to feel any of those feels!
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