Whether you’ve recently lost your job, are fed up with being forced to work during a global pandemic or are just looking for a change, you may be looking into remote work.
Remote work and freelancing are two things that have been growing in popularity over the past few years anyway. This pandemic has certainly put the spotlight on remote work as well as revealing that many businesses can offer remote work…they just don’t want to.
Anyway, if you have been toying with the idea of becoming a freelance writer during the pandemic, I hope this blog post can be of some use to you.
First of all, there are a few things to decide and research before you take the plunge…
Narrow your focus down
Just becoming a writer isn’t specific enough in this day and age. There are freelancers out there who have been writing for ten years plus and they have specialities and years of experience. If you’ve read anything about freelancing, you’ll no doubt have come across the advice to get a niche. Sorry to sound like a broken record but the advice isn’t wrong.
While there’s nothing wrong with starting out as a generalist, especially if you’re not sure what to focus on, ideally you should narrow your focus on one type of writing or industry.
People who need a writer for their insurance website are much more likely to hire a writer who specialises in law or finance than someone who writes about pets one minute and loans the next.
Alternatively, you might also want to focus on a specific type of writing, for example, website copy, blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks or social media content.
Tread carefully with content mills
You’ll come across content mills pretty early on in your research about freelance writing if you haven’t already. Content mill examples include Fiver, Upwork and People Per Hour.
There is a whole lot of passionate debate in the freelance community about content mills. Established freelancers are often very quick to tell everyone to avoid them at all costs (although that’s where most of them started).
I’m not going to try and steer you one way or the other. If you’re desperate for work, need experience or don’t know where to start, then, by all means, sign up to a content mill. Just be warned that the money you’ll receive is extremely low and you’ll need to do a lot of it to make an income.
Is it a way to build a sustainable business? Probably not but some people do. They only do so after years of very hard work by building up a good reputation on those sites so they can charge more. It’s possible, but if the idea of working for £4 for a piece of work or a content mill taking a hefty cut bothers you, then there are alternative ways into freelancing.
Reach out to people you may know
If you know anyone in business, make sure you approach them to ask if they need a hand with content. Ideally, they’ll say yes and pay you. If not, you might want to offer some samples or a freebie if you don’t have anything on your portfolio. Just be sure to ask for a recommendation you can put on your website and/or LinkedIn.
Don’t rule out regular job postings/websites
There are now more and more businesses out there looking for a permanent freelance writer to work remotely. In fact, that’s pretty much how I started out. I worked for a company as a full-time writer, remotely and set my own hours.
Other companies, especially American tech companies are doing this more often these days so it could be worth looking into if you want something more stable. However, this runs the risk of feeling like a regular job once the novelty of working from home wears off. You may feel stifled or it may be exactly right for you. Just be prepared for a lot of Zoom calls.
Build an online portfolio – preferably on your website
Getting started, it’s hard to build a portfolio if you’ve never done any paid writing work before. However, there are a few things you can do. For example, you can start a blog to show off your skills, you can create samples, guest post on more established blogs or give out free work to build your portfolio up (and hopefully get some testimonials).
Ideally, this portfolio should be on your own website so you have full ownership and control over it. If you want some help on how to start a website or blog, head over to my post where I take you through it – it’s easier than it sounds!
Pitch and prepare for rejection
Don’t just build a website and wait for clients to come to you. You need to go to them and pitch. The difficulty right now is that a lot of businesses have stopped hiring or working with freelancers. So, you might have to be more patient and tactical.
For example, if you want to work in the travel niche, you can probably forget getting some travel copy work right now since the entire industry has shut down. You may be able to get some work in finance, entertainment or health though because they’re big topics right now.
In your pitch, make sure you’re offering examples of your work and can show what you can do. However, most importantly, you need to show how the potential client can benefit. Make it more about the client than yourself and what you can do. Pitching is a fine art that takes a lot of practice and there will be a lot of rejection and ignored emails along the way.
Refine your writing skills
As a writer, it’s important to always be refining your craft and learning more. Make sure you’re subscribed to writing blogs, freelancing blogs and reading up on the best practices for different types of copy. Much like writing fiction or art, you get better by learning how other people do it and analysing the quality of your own work. If you can get some feedback from another writer, this is even better. That’s how I got my partner into freelance writing too.
Freelancing is very difficult to get going but right now it can feel impossible. It’s important to be patient because your progress towards building an income might be slower right now.
I hope this blog post has given you some useful tips on how to get started as a freelance writer – during the pandemic or otherwise.
Are you trying to become a freelance writer during the pandemic or have you written in the past and want to make it your full-time income? Let me know your thoughts and worries in the comments and I’ll see if I can help.