Non-Fluffy Advice on How to Break Into Freelance Writing, Part 2
Freelance writing seems like a dream career. Imagine rolling out of bed at the hour you choose, heading out to a local coffee shop to grab your favorite morning beverage, and then settling into a day of writing out your best ideas? This is what the world wants you to think about the life of a freelance writer, but really it’s a lot more complex and challenging than this.
In my previous article, Part 1, I introduced the idea of freelance writing and how I personally escaped the corporate world and started my own career literally out of thin air. The benefits of freelance writing as a career and what makes it unique were also discussed. How I went about starting over in a brand new work from home career may not have been the best way to go about it, but you can learn from my mistakes. I took a lot of twists and turns to get where I am today – as a well-known niche writer in the human resource space. I believe you already have it in you to do the same for your own writing career.
Focusing on Your Niche Market as a Freelance Writer
Did you do your homework assignment I mentioned in the last article? Did you decide on your passion and the topic that you want to focus on writing about? If you haven’t taken this first step, I encourage you to do so early on in the process. It can save you a lot of headaches later on.
Freelance writing is a career that has many challenges, but it can be highly lucrative if you put the time and effort into building this career. It’s just like any other career effort – you get what you put into it. If you want to get good, I mean really good, at writing then the goal is to embrace learning all you can about the trade. Think of it as a crash course in writing that can launch an entirely new you.
Once you have decided on your niche areas you would like to write about, it’s time to create your portfolio content. These are examples of your work that you will show to potential clients that demonstrate your abilities as a writer. Before hiring a freelance writer, most companies and even individuals who do content marketing for a living want to see these samples. They are looking for a few things:
- Tone of your writing
- Structure and formatting
- Grammar and spelling
- Expertise in subjects
- Types of clients/publications you’ve written for
Keep these factors in mind as you develop your writing samples, because they will be scrutinized every time you send out an application or inquiry about a freelance writing opportunity.
Creating Your First Freelance Writing Portfolio
To develop a strong freelance writing portfolio, you will want to take the following steps:
#1 – Write down your top 2-3 niche markets you will focus on. This will help your portfolio be more organized once you get working on it. Consider markets that are complimentary too. For example if you are interested in writing about health topics, think about all aspects of the health market like family health, workplace wellness, diet and exercise, medical treatments, natural health, etc.
#2 – Under each niche market, write down at least 5 ideas for articles. This can be researched by going to Yahoo Trends, Twitter, or Reddit to get ideas on what’s hot out there. Do a keyword search using these tools.
#3 – Choose the best idea for each niche market. Now start researching it and write your article(s). This will take time so carefully outline the article and start filling in the sections. Think about what a reader would want to learn about the subject matter.
#4 – Focus on the quality of the writing. Make sure you are including factual information backed up by valid sources, and use a catchy title to attract readers.
#5 – Get your article(s) proofread. Find a fellow writer or an editor to proof read your articles and give them that final special polishing they need. In my early days as a writer, I went to a free writers’ group at a local coffee shop to get feedback from my colleagues.
#6 – Select a self-publishing venue for your work. Potential clients want to see your work as published, so you will need to set up a professional looking blog (WordPress is preferred) or some industry-relative websites where you can be a guest blogger.
#7 – Create a living document for storing your published portfolio pieces. Use a Word document and list out your portfolio examples under the niche topics. You will continually add to this document over time.
Now, you have a lot of work to do, but it’s worth it if you follow these tips. In my next post, I will be talking about how to set up a simple portfolio website for your work and to establish yourself as a leading freelance writer. In the meantime, get started on building your portfolio and check out some of the awesome freelance writing jobs posted here!
Tess C. Taylor, PHR, CPC; Founder of HRKnows is a Human Resource Consultant, Career Coach, and Freelance Web Content Manager from New York. You can find her blogging over at The HR Writer, the About.com Employee Benefits channel, and Payscale Compensation Today on a variety of HR, Recruitment, and Career topics.
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