How to Start Freelance Writing

The Very First Step

Young Woman Writing by Computer in Apartment
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If there's an email that I get once a day, it's some variation on the question "how do I get started as a freelance writer?" Luckily, I get a bit of background with the question, and so I can (sort of) tailor the answer to the individual email -- even if it's just a sentence or two.

For example, I may refer a former technical writer wanting to turn freelance to the Society for Technical Communication, while I would direct a stay-at-home mom looking to make a few extra dollars to Freelance Writing Gigs.

I recently told a downsized administrative assistant that she should start with some business writing such as brochures and newsletters, and suggested to someone who desperately wanted to be a full time magazine writer to read Writer's Market cover to cover. I don't mind trying to keep up with the individual emails, but I do think it would be much more efficient to put this down in one place!

There are two main categories that readers seem to fall into. Those that work full time and want to transition to freelance writing, and those who want to freelance "on the side." However, both groups need to take the same first step.

Get a Clip!

I could call this "get some experience" or "get some volunteer work," but despite the phraseology, the first step is essentially the same: you need some kind of example to show a potential employer. You can't put together a resume without an example, and there's no use in having a website or blog heralding your services without an example of those services.

No matter who you are, what path you're taking to freelance writing, or what kind of freelance writing you want to do, your number one step is to get a clip.

So, how exactly do you go about that?

  • Volunteer for a writing project with a local non-profit.
  • Write up your most perfect, flawless article on a subject that interests you (and then turn it into a nicely presented PDF).
  • Scrounge up a (short) paper from college, and make sure it's perfect.
  • Use a piece that you've written for past employment.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper or magazine that is passionate and informative.
  • Start a blog.

Whatever you decide to use or write, make sure it's as near to perfect as possible and fits in with the kind of freelance writing that you aim to do in the future.

Want some advice tailored to your specific situation? Send me question and I'll try my best to help you out! You can find my email and social media sites here.