Five Steps to Starting a Freelance Writing Career

By Christine Syquia
29 Comments

Chris Bibey has joined the Entrepreneurs-Journey.com feature writing team and he’s beginning by covering his specialty – How to start a freelance writing career. Chris is very qualified to teach the topic because he’s walked the talk. He left his 9 to 5 job, become a full time freelance writer and within three months was earning $5,000 per month. In October of this year he topped $7,000, not bad!

Chris is going to teach you how you can do the same by telling his story and offering tips to budding freelancers in a new weekly column on a trial basis. If you like what he writers, you can expect to see Chris as a regular at this blog, so please be generous with your feedback comments.

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Five Steps to Starting a Freelance Writing Career

Freelancing in the gardenThe number of people who aspire to become freelance writers is astonishing. Unfortunately, most of these people never take the time to chase their dream. Instead, they work their 9 to 5 office job, take orders from a crabby boss, and get paid less than what they are worth. If you want to be a freelance writer and are tired of any of the issues above, it is time to make a move. The more you procrastinate the more time you are losing.

Even though it will take time to build a successful freelance writing career, the steps to actually getting started are simple. No, these steps do not guarantee loads of money, but they will put you on the right path to earning a solid income sometime in the future.

Here are five steps to starting a freelance writing career.

1. Sooner rather than later, you need to build up enough courage to ditch your current job. Many people are afraid of making the change, and there is nothing wrong with that. Changing jobs can be difficult enough, and doing so to a career that is as unstable as freelance writing can be downright scary. But if you never suck it up and decide to take the chance, you will go on working the same old job, day in and day out.

To combat some of the fear of a sudden change, you may want to consider a part-time career in freelance writing for the time being. In other words, keep your day job and moonlight as a freelance writer. This will allow you to get your feet wet without having to give up your regular earnings. Is this going to be a lot of work? Sure is! But when you finally have enough clients to go into freelance writing full-time, you will realize that the work was well worth it.

2. Determine what area of freelance writing you want to get into. Some people think that all writing is the same, but find out soon enough that this is a myth. Many writers concentrate on web content, whereas others would rather write for print magazines. It does not matter what area of concentration you choose, as long as you choose one. Trying to be everything to everyone can quickly bog you down.

3. Do you have any freelance writing samples? If not, you need to put together a portfolio right away. When you approach clients or bid on jobs, one of the first things that you will be asked for is samples. If you have samples relevant to the potential client, make sure that you offer those first. They will give you the best chance of landing the job. But even if you only have general samples, they are better than nothing.

When writing samples, make sure that they are your best work. After all, you do not want to show potential clients sub par work. Additionally, when putting together your portfolio, add several different types of projects. This could include everything from a sales letter to a feature article and much more. The more samples in your portfolio, the better chance you have of supplying a relevant piece.

4. Do not jump ahead of yourself. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious and wanting your freelance writing career to take off from the onset. But if you get too far ahead of your capabilities, you could find yourself tied down with work that you are not sure about. Consider every job offer that you receive, and use your best judgment when deciding how to move forward.

5. Setting rates is one of the most difficult tasks for a freelance writer. This is especially true for beginners who do not know anything about industry averages, or what most clients are willing to pay. Do yourself a favor and research what other writers are charging. From there, adjust your rates to suit your experience and potential client base. Remember, freelance writing rates are not written in stone. After you gain more experience you can adjust your rates accordingly.

If you want to start a freelance writing career, you now how five steps that can guide you from day one. While working through these steps, you may find that you have to make changes to suit your lifestyle and career path. But for the most part, all five of these steps will have to be conquered sooner or later.

After several years in the corporate world, I put my college degree to good use by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Three months later, my income level had reached that of my previous sales job. Within a year, I was consistently earning $5k/month.

You can do it too.

Chris Bibey

About Christine Syquia

Christine Syquia is the owner of the Accessory Business 101. Get her free 30-page report which discusses how one can start a product based company with little to no experience. You can access the free report here. In addition to working with designers, Christine also enjoys working with local businesses as a business and expansion consultant in Santa Monica, California where she lives.

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29 Comments

  • Tom

    Fantastic post! Writing is a lot of fun and I think that anyone that is blogging has the ability to be a freelance writer.

    I am currently working on my first short ebook, and if I enjoy it I am thinking about writing for others.

  • Chris, keep on writing those tips.
    Yaro, keep on publishing Chris’ tips.

    This is just what I’ve been looking for. I’ve been wanting to become a freelance writer all my adult life. I’m seriously considering such an option and is looking at second half of next year to start it off.

    Why second half of 2008? It’s because I need to spend the first half brushing up my English. I guess, to become a freelance writer — let alone a successful one — I can’t be making too many grammar mistakes.

  • nice post chris..
    And good to see you doing well. The Internet offers so much opportunities for freelancers these days. In fact if one is not sure whether to make a switch one can try doing a bit of freelancing on a part time basis. This has an added advantage of helping develop a portfolio when one finally makes a complete switch..

  • I agree with this post fully when you discussed about people not following their “DREAM”. I certainly had a problem with that, but eventually I put my foot down and started my own blog.

    Although I hate how freelance writers now want huge amounts of money, I do like the enthusiam that some bring.

    -Mike

  • Chris, that’s an interesting post. However, your five steps guide does not cover how to market your service or simply put, where to find the first customer?

    Before anyone can ditch their job and become a full time writer, it would be better if they know where and who they can earn their income from.

  • Nice post. I worked freelance before. The number one thing I looked for a 9-5 job is the seasonal availability of work in the Philippines when you are new.

    If I am to go back to freelancing, I will have to build up a large network of clients to have support myself.

  • I think you have to make sure you are a good writer!

    You need to practice on community sites and get feedback and advice. I recommend

    writingforums.com
    scribblesheet.co.uk
    helium.com

  • Chris,

    Great post and one that reflects of where I am exactly now at this stage in my own life. I have just about covered the points you wrote about and am now well into my second good month of earning money as a freelance writer.

    It is great to see that things are working our one by one and that I’m making progress. Not quite at $5,000/month level just yet, but I’m confident that I will get there in due time.

    Thanks for the nice write up and I look forward to seeing more of your posts here.

    Monika :-)

  • Great post, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a book for a while now – this might be the kickstart I need, thanks again.

  • Great write up. I have a friend of mine that is a great writer and I passed your article on to him. I know he will appreciate it.

  • Good article Chris!

    Like any business, marketing is involved, and you have to be willing to promote yourself to the extreme…

    But, I wouldn’t trade the freedom a “writer’s lifestyle” provides for the world.

    Become a good writer, but become an EXCELLENT marketer…and you can have everything a writer’s lifestyle provides:

    1) Freedom to work when and how you want.
    2) A way above-average income.
    3) Knowledge that you gain from the variety of different projects.

    There is much more, but that is the icing on the cake.

    Joseph Ratliff
    Copywriter
    Author of The Profitable Business Edge 2

  • Freelance writing seems like it is a great career option for those with organized writing skills. The 5 Stpes you outlined are helpful. Taking the leap of quiting a 9-5 to do it is what is probaly holding a lot of people back.

    One day perhaps I will don the freelance writter cap.

  • Ameya

    Your comments were really helpful. Thanks for the same. The five steps are really giving a guiding route to the career of freelance writing.
    I would also like to know more aspects and insights of freelance writing with the context of ‘marketing yor skills of writing’. I am seriously thinking of being a freelance writer.

    Thank you for your post!
    Cheers.

  • Finding good writers

    To answer the question of where to find your first customer if you are writing in Australia?

    Before anyone can ditch their job and become a full time writer, it would be better if they know where and who they can earn their income from.

    I needed to find a writer to draft a series of Ebooks in Australia and found them in a website called Service seeking (www.serviceseeking.com.au) which is a community where freelancers compete for work. Within one day i had 4 bids …my favourite writer was located within Australia and prepared the series of Ebooks within 2 weeks. Great result for me and I paid her a grand for her help.

  • Definitely keep good, up to date samples of your work. This will make the business correspondence side of the deal go so much more smoother.

    Prospective clients respond very well to quality, easy to find examples of your work. Keep track of everything you do.

  • Chris,
    Interesting post, the part about actually finding a decent paying writing gig is missing from the five steps though. And best of luck to all of those searching for Entrepreneurial Bliss. Pay special attention to tip #4, deadlines and commitments can ruin a budding career.
    Thanks for the insight

  • dorothy

    Hello people am in love with writing and i want to start freelance writing. I wor5ked for a media company 4 years ago and i did quite a number of feature writing but i moved out of my country and no longer have anything linking me to writing again. I would like to fall back into it, freelance writing for that matter now.
    IK have no idea where to begin from can any one be kind enough and advise me what to do now, at least where t start from. I will really be gateful. Dorothy

    • A great place to start will be the blogosphere. Start a free-hosted blog and write about things you love. Join the Entrecard Community and other social media communities and give a good bio in your profile. Within a week, you will make friends and soon enough, you will be able to earn from your skill as you prove to people that you have something to offer. Cheers.

  • I think it’s actually a lot easier to break into freelancing than many people realise. Sure, the work needs to be put in, but how to do it is no particular secret.

  • You know why most people are skeptical and scared of actually leaving their job to write? 5K a month definitely does not sound real to those who want to try freelance writing or are just starting. Didn’t we all go through the same dilemma? But i guess once they see that they’re raking in more cash than when they first started, that’s the time they might look into doing freelance work full time.

  • Hi,
    cool post it keeps me optimistic. I have strarted two blogs few months ago, one is in my own – Slovenian language and the other is in English beacuse I like to spill my guts on what I learn about making money on the web. It’s good to know that there’s more than hope to it. I guess the only problem most of the beginners in freelancing have is being productive and the time managment it self.
    It’s good to know what tools to use. But examples like this are the best too see, it keeps the rest of us determinated ;)
    Thanks for the post

  • DG

    Hi Chris,
    Thank you for posting this….it gives some good basic info and confidence to people like me considering a part-time freelancing career! I would love some more info on the legal/business side of things- for example is it necessary to register a business before you start freelance writing?
    Also, are you familiar at all with the Sydney Writers Centre and if so, would you recommend their courses?

    Thanks, DG

    • Thanks for the tips. I quit my full time job a few months ago and I have already had some of my work published and been asked to become a regular contributor! It’s an amazing feeling seeing your work printed or online.

      I also write on my blog http://www.gourmetician.com.au to keep my creative juices flowing and I plan to write a book too. It’s important for me to have several different outlets because I get bored quickly. If I find the words aren’t flowing for one topic I will switch to another and come back to it later.

      In response to DG. I did an online feature writing course through Sydney Writers Centre earlier this year and it was very helpful. When I need tips I go back to the audio files. Good luck with your career :)

  • [...] find something more flexible or else it would take me forever to finish my degree, so I considered freelance writing. I took a community ed writing course and the instructor told me I needed a portfolio of work that [...]

  • well,that’s a good piece that was put together.But,somehow,the part about writing portfolio seems quite vague in the writeup…Thanks.

  • Karabo Sizakele Hlongwane

    Thanks a mil Chris, I intend to leave my very well paying job to become a free lance writer. It is scary, but I am excited. Your post motivated me even more. I am not fulfiled in my job at the moment. I am a writer not anything else. Thanks a mil once again. Keep up the good work ;)

  • Jody P.

    Chris did fine, but the already-established team member who introduced Chris, and allowed his/her un-proof-read typos to be published, isn’t qualified to be a salaried writer for any organization, never mind to actually introduce an aspiring writer in order for readers to offer feedback on whether or not they think he is qualified to be one. How unbelievably pretentious and denial based. “…He left his 9 to 5 job, become a freelance writer…” “…If you like what he writers… WOW! After reading that, I now know that anyone can become a freelance writer. Thanks for the inadvertently given confidence boost! Cool! I won’t even have to remember Chris’ 5 tips. UNBELIEVABLE!

  • Joan

    Chris,

    Thank you for these tips. I have always had the desire to write, but have never done it. My husband just passed away, and I am now finding myself needing to enter the work force after way too many years of being out of it. This is a tough time for me. I was thinking that maybe I could go into writing and continue being home with my 14 year old son. I appreciate the information.

  • La Toya Wilson

    Hello,

    I have lost my job about a year ago but also always interested in writing articles, short-novels and etc. It has been a passion of mines for awhile but was stuck into my 9 to 5 job. Things happen for a reason and now I definitely want to purse a career in freelance writing. This information gives so good insights to getting starting in writing industry. Thank you….

    Beyo26

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