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How to Become a Freelance Writer with no experience ( or contacts!)

Published by Simon Elstad on

So, you want to learn how to become a freelance writer with no experience and no contacts?

 

Buckle up and take notes, this one is for you.

Magazines, newspapers, websites, and other outlets need content on a regular basis. It’s how they keep people informed, entertained, and educated. The internet is one big library filled with content. And writers create most of that content.

Freelance writing is a path to being your boss, setting your hours, and working from anywhere you want. AKA freedom. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

Think about it, most people start their careers with no experience or resume. In time they become experts and earn bigger paychecks.

You gain experience by working with the same principle applying to freelance writing. No one starts with a full resume or portfolio. Yes, some people grow up knowing they want to be journalists, but all experience is learned. Professional training might give you the necessary skills, but building a thriving freelance writing career is up to you.

Whether you want to write for print or online media, there are steps you must take to rise and succeed. And of course, the more skilled and experienced you get, the better your chances of earning more.

 

Quick note here. Just because you’re a newbie freelancer doesn’t mean you have to work for free or low wages. Yes, some situations do call for that, for example guest blogging. However, with some foresight, strategy and keeping these tips in mind, you can leapfrog your freelance writing career and earn a decent side hustle income.

 

What are our top tips?

  • Just start writing
  • Expand your network and market your services
  • Explore and discover your niche(s)
  • Take calculated risks and get adventurous with your writing
  • Get proactive in seeking freelance writing clients
  • Build out your portfolio
  • Set your rates & stick to them

Want more? Stick around and find out how the pros got their start and how they maintain their success.

 

Start writing NOW

 just do it

That’s the Nike slogan. It inspires action. To be a runner, run. To be a writer, you’ve got to write. 

Most people never start. They are caught up in the preparation loop. You read about it, lay out the plan, but never do it. Then time goes by, and you imagine you’ve got to learn more about your topic. So you plan more meticulously. You want your first piece to be a masterpiece.

Let’s face it, it’s not going to be. You don’t just wake up one day and paint the Mona Lisa or compose Fur Elise. Unless you’re Leonardo or Beethoven, of course. In which case, what are you doing reading this article, get out there and make some magic! For the rest of us mortals, before we get to a great place, we’ll have produced lots of duds. And that’s okay. It’s where every master begins.

So, get off the couch. Fire up that computer, pull out that notebook, and start writing. It doesn’t matter the topics you pick now. You can write about your cat, your day, or even geopolitics. Write whatever comes to mind. But do it.

 

Write more, edit your work, and ask for feedback.

Now you are a bonafide writer. Let’s get to tip number two.

Build out your profile and portfolio

To become a freelance writer with no experience or contacts is intimidating. Potential clients don’t know you, and you don’t have any credentials or resume to show.

You’ve got to build those from scratch. Don’t worry. It’s not as difficult as it seems.

If you haven’t updated your social media accounts in a while, it’s about time you started. The chances are that you already are on Facebook & Twitter. You can sign up for a few more social accounts. Try LinkedIn.

The point is to start getting in front of potential clients. Connect and put the word out there that you’re a freelance writer for hire.

At the same time, write some more. It bolsters your confidence and helps you build a portfolio.

Clients need a way to gauge your writing before they hire you. You should have something to present. You can sign up for a free blogging platform like Blogger or WordPress and start uploading some of your work there. Alternatively, buy a customized freelancer domain and put up a simple website to display your work. 

Making free contributions to blogs will also get your name out there. Countless blogs accept guest submissions. Ensure you submit quality articles. They will form part of your portfolio and provide a way for clients to find you.

 

Network and market your services

By now you’re on social media, and you have something to show potential clients. It’s time to let future clients know that you are in business. Post on your social media, reach out to friends, family and anyone else who can help you spread the word.

Let people know that you’re in business. Treat your freelance writing career as a business. Be professional about it.

Networks form an integral part of your freelance writing career. It’s how you get some of the best jobs. So go ahead and make some new online (and offline) friends. Comment and socialize with other writers and bloggers online. It helps you learn more about your craft and expands your network of potential clients and associates.

Take calculated risks and be adventurous

Since you’re learning how to become a freelance writer with no experience, get adventurous. Have fun with it. Try out different writing styles and fields to expand your knowledge.

Be versatile and bold in your writing. It helps you quickly discover your voice and writing style. It also comes in handy in helping you narrow down the writing you enjoy.

Educate yourself in the freelancing communities to learn more, see how other casual capitalists make money writing etc. Ask questions and let people review your work. But don’t get cocky or overrate your work.

Discover your writing niche

A niche according to the online dictionary is “a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted.” 

While you can still make money as a general freelance writer, the good money is in a specialty. Specialists have a deep understanding of their fields. That’s why they’re exceptional and why we entrust them with problems. They also tend to make more.

To discover your niche, think about what you are good at, what you are passionate about or consider your professional background. What’s your area of expertise? Everyone is good at something, or they enjoy something. Find your best fit.

Narrow down your list to about 2-3 areas that you’d be comfortable exploring further. It doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with those fields forever. You can change. The point is to help you narrow down your focus and concentrate on a smaller list.

While you discover how to become a freelancer with no experience, take the time to study the market. Look at what other writers make in your preferred niche. Go through job boards such as Problogger and check out the level of interest clients have in your field.

Get proactive in seeking work

Use your networks, social media and contacts to look for writing jobs. The reality is, nobody will hand you the job. You have to ask for it. Don’t be afraid to ask either. Pitch your ideas to potential clients and gauge their interest. The worst they can do is say no.

You can also tap into the shared and gig economy platforms to look for those first freelance writing jobs. While the pay might be reduced and the competition stiff, you can still get some great clients there and expand your portfolio.

Learn how to pitch clients too. Not all your freelancing writing work will come from networks or job boards. When pitching potential clients, communicate the value you can offer. Keep it about them and their success as much as possible.

Bonus Tip: Read widely

All prolific writers are expansive readers. They read to learn, get entertained or study how other writers make their arguments. 

One of my favourite writers is Warren Buffett. His annual letter to Berkshire shareholders is not only a treasure trove of investment advice but also a masterpiece in writing. It conveys the essential financial details in a comprehensive yet straightforward way. Buffett says he spends most of his time reading. He even advises others to do so. He’s worth over $70B, that’s proof enough. 🙂

Reading gives you ideas to explore and expand on. It helps you marry ideas together to come up with original and unique content. Additionally, it’s a great way to relax and kick back!

Final Thoughts

To quote Morpheus from the movie Matrix (huge fan 🙂 ), 

“I can only show you the door; you’re the one that has to walk through it.” 

Whether you’re a college student, newbie freelancer, a stay at home mom or professional who wants to try something different, freelance writing is a great way to channel your creativity and earn some extra income. 

You don’t need a degree in journalism or even any degree to be a profitable freelance writer. All you require is the desire to make a living from writing, some decent writing skills and the willingness to learn how to do it right.

So free your mind and take that leap.Let’s us know in the comment section below how you got your start as a freelancer with no experience and join the conversation on our Facebook Page.


Simon Elstad

Simon Elstad is a freelance writer/editor, digital strategist & all-round online business operations ninja. For work and collaborations, or to just give feedback (or buy him coffee), reach him at: simon [at] simonelstad.com or Twitter @Simonelstad