I was tagged in a comment to a post submitted to a Facebook writers’ group the other day, where the poster asked for some general background information on how she could get started freelancing without compromising the integrity of professional writers – in other words, without devaluing the work we create or selling herself short.
Without meaning to, I replied with some fairly extensive and blunt advice that I think might be useful and applicable to a lot of beginning freelance writers.
Forget Bidding Sites
First, get off of any sort of platform like Freelancer, Upwork (especially Upwork – I wouldn’t send my worst enemy there), etc. Any of those sites, and the jobs you bid on, are a waste of your time where you’re competing for bottom-of-the-barrel bids with the slimmest of chances you might find a decent client who’ll pay you what you’re worth.
Figure Out Your Rate
Second, find a rate that you’re comfortable with. It should be at least double digits. The rate needs to match what you expect out of freelancing. As freelancers, we’re responsible for self-employment taxes, our own insurance plans, etc. etc. so our rates need to obviously reflect that, as well as the actual service we’re doing.
I don’t have an official rate; I consider each project based on its specifics. What am I being asked to write? What’s the topic? What type of content? Word count? How much research will I need to do? Am I getting a credit (byline) or am I ghostwriting? Sourcing images? Special formatting? Uploading to a client’s site? How difficult is the client going to be? etc. etc.
So when a client asks me to write for them, I’ll ask them some onboarding questions and determine my rate based on what they want, keeping my “comfortable rate” in mind. So say my average rate is 20 cents a word, but this client seems really awesome and I’m passionate about the work they’re doing. I’ll probably be willing to negotiate down some. If a client thinks they’re “doing me a favor” by hiring me, I’ll quote my usual rate. In this business, always remember: time is money, and if a client is likely to require more of a time commitment from you, that’s time they’re taking away from other projects you have to complete.
Create A Website
Put together a website, as well, and I’d say start blogging on it. Your blog can be related to your field of expertise, or it can be whatever you want, but your blog posts will serve as writing samples. When I first started writing and didn’t have much of a portfolio, I linked my blog posts to potential clients to serve as a representation of my writing ability and my propensity for stringing words together in a way that made sense.
RESOURCE: How to Start a Small Business Website (and yes, freelancing is a small business)!
Define Your “Ideal Client”
Then identify the types of clients you want to work with. I’m not too fond of the advice to “niche down” and write only for clients in specific industries, but whatever you choose, figure out a way to connect with them. Cold-emailing, engaging with them on Twitter, and connecting through LinkedIn are all great ways to find clients. Additionally, ProBlogger, reddit.com/r/forhire and reddit.com/r/hireawriter all all great sources for finding clients too. If you really want to find clients, use all of these methods.
Offer Discounted Trial Articles to Your First Few Clients
In the beginning, because your portfolio’s a little light, when a prospective client first shows interest in hiring you, if they’re a little hesitant, offer to write a discounted paid trial article (ie: if you’d charge $100 for 1000 words, say you’ll charge $75 but only for that first article, just so you can prove yourself to them). Never write for free, unless you’re guest-posting somewhere that’ll give you a link back to your site. If you do go down the guest post route, only do a couple free guest posts, max.
Maintain a Professional Relationship
Always remember, too, that you are a business, a professional, and an expert. While you certainly want to treat clients with respect, they do not own you and they are not your bosses. You want to have an equal footing with the clients you work with, so they don’t dictate anything to you except the work itself that they’re hiring you to write.
Looking for more advice? Here’s three resources that helped me launch my freelance writing career!
Any Other Tips?
Are you an established freelance writer with some more advice and tips to leave newer freelancers? Or are you just starting out and have a question that needs answering? Connect with me on Twitter or leave a comment below!