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What a Freelance Writer Does: The Job Defined & How Freelancers Can Succeed Independently

If you answered that question with, “Panic around April 15th each year,” you aren’t alone.

This post may help you with some of the more exasperating aspects of professional freelancing.

What Is a Freelance Writer?

“A freelance writer is someone who writes blog posts, nonfiction articles and web copy for magazines, publications, companies and other [organizations],” according to Become a Writer Today: Practical Help for New Writers (BWT).

To expand upon that definition, freelance writers can also work as:

  • Screenwriters for video games
  • Grant writers
  • Resume writers
  • Speechwriters
  • Technical writers (for specialized, high-demand writing roles in tech and medical organizations)
  • Translators
  • Press release writers
  • Writers who develop digital and print magazine articles

“Unlike a journalist employed by a newspaper,” continues BWT, “freelance writers are self-employed, and they typically write for a number of different clients or publications at one time.”

How Do Freelancers Find Work?

New freelance writers can build a portfolio on a site like Elance or any similar job board, choose a membership level and bid on projects that businesses post. When a writer establishes a relationship with a client, the client often contacts the writer directly for future freelance writing jobs.

Those who have a little writing experience or entry-level professional writing skills can contact local publications, companies and nonprofit organizations to ask if they need help. This presents an opportunity for emerging freelancers to perfect their LOIs (letters of introduction). These introductory communications are similar to cover letters, but they should generally be concise and highly-personalized for whatever organization or publication to which a freelancer is pitching their services.

Professional Networking Sites

They can also upload writing samples to LinkedIn and keyword their profile so recruiters can find them. Using Linkedin to find opportunities can be valuable because this platform can also showcase a writer’s resume as well as any other relevant professional areas of expertise that may appeal to potential clients such as content strategy, SEO, digital marketing, and branding.

Mediabistro, JournalismJobs.com, Indeed and even Craigslist post jobs that require a range of experience, from beginner to veteran. However, as professional writers develop sizable portfolios of written work, they can create their own blog and pursue new clients independently. With the growth of search engine marketing, cultivating an online presence is key for writers in order to stay competitive and visible for potential clients seeking freelancers online.

Additional Networking Tips

Daily Writing Tips suggests networking with fellow freelancers: “Establish client-exchange agreements: If you’re too busy to accept a project, you’ll recommend someone else; in return, they’ll do the same for you. Don’t treat colleagues as an enemy you have to keep client contacts or trade secrets from.”

The Write Life recommends joining Facebook groups to find writing gigs and new long-term freelance jobs. Some groups are more helpful than others, and the best ones are usually a secret.

Signing up with a staffing agency such as The Creative Group may be ideal for those who’d like to become freelance writers but are apprehensive about abandoning a job with medical benefits and paid vacation time. For example, The Creative Group offers health, life, and disability insurance as well as 401(k) benefits and holiday pay while giving freelancers ample opportunity to work with a diverse clientele across a number of industries and verticals.

Seasoned professional writers who would like to learn about SEO can write for a content marketing company to produce blog posts, website landing pages, white papers, and social media posts for a variety of industries.

Should a Writer Freelance Full Time?

Carol Tice, who’s written for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Seattle Magazine and a slew of other publications, has told her Make a Living Writing readers that she worked full time for years while she perfected her pitch letter to editors and wrote samples for free to build her writing portfolio. She left her day job as a financial advisor in 2014 and now has a lucrative freelance writing career, charing between $50 and $400 per article. She even made $4,000 within six months of setting up her website.

What to Consider if You Want to Be a Full-Time Freelance Writer

Time magazine offers the following tips for those who aspire to become a freelance writer full-time:

  • Determine how much money you should save before quitting your full-time job. Take health insurance, taxes, and potential emergencies, such as car repairs, into consideration.
  • Calculate the minimum amount you’ll need to earn freelancing in order to pay for utilities, groceries, and insurance.
  • Diversify your income. Invest, if possible, or find some other way to earn money, such as teaching an online course.
  • Decide whether the freedom of working in your PJs is worth the stress of having to pursue clients.
  • Create a backup plan, such as moving in with your parents, if things don’t pan out.

Become a Successful Freelance Writer

If you’re a freelance writer who’s looking for a side hustle, why not try content writing? 

Miranda M.

Miranda is a Cleveland-based content writer, magazine writer, editor, and memoirist.

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