How to Start a Freelance Writing Career

The Very First Step

Young Woman Writing by Computer in Apartment
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According to the Freelancers Union, 55 million Americans work as freelancers. That's 35 percent of the U.S. workforce. And, with the continual growth of technology and the ability to work from home (or Starbucks), the trend will only increase. While independent numbers don't exist for how many freelancers work are writers, the profession has always lent itself to working off-site

If you're a writer who wants to segue from contract writing to freelance writing, or, if you're just starting out as a writer, you're probably asking, "how do I get started as a freelance writer?" Luckily, there are many avenues open to you.

Hone in on Your Expertise

The first thing to do is hone in on your expertise. If for instance, you have experience as a technical writer and previously worked in-house for an IT company (or were a staff writer for an IT publication) you would explore your options by joining an industry association such as the Society for Technical Communication. If however, you were a journalism major who always enjoyed and excelled at the craft and you're a stay-at-home mom looking to make a few extra dollars then you should visit one of the many writing job posting sites like Freelance Writing Gigs. Writer's should also stay apprised of the industry by reading the publication Writer's Market cover-to-cover. 

Hone in on Your Background and Personal Life

Even if you have no credentials you don't have to give up. Let's say you spent years as an administrative assistant. That means you were exposed to the business world and understand the jargon and inner workings of the business world.

You might excel at business writing and should try for a gig writing brochures, newsletters, and emails. People are also hiring freelance writers well-versed in social media platforms. If you tweet, instagram, or snapchat a lot (even for fun) you likely have a skill set you weren't even aware of. Employers looking to hire freelance social media writers will post their openings online on sites like indeed.com.

Get a Good Clip to Show Employers

Even if you have to do an internship, work for peanuts, or do volunteer work, the first step to getting hired is having an example (or clip) to show employers. And, the more clips the better. It doesn't matter how recent they are. What matters is how well-written they are and that they show your writing style and diversity. You can't put together a resume without an example. Just like there's no reason to have a website or blog touting your services if you don't have an example of those services. No matter how stellar sounding your resume, or what kind of freelance writing you want, your number one step is having a good clip (or two).

Steps for Acquiring a Clip

  • Volunteer for a writing project with a local non-profit.
  • Take the time to write (and perfect) a flawless op-ed style article on a subject that interests you and convert it into an attractive PDF.
  • Go through all your files until you find a well-written paper from college.
  • Use a piece that you've written for a previous employer, even if it was a one-time gig.
  • Start a blog.