I make a living as a freelance writer. It’s what I do every day. Frankly, that is quite unbelievable to me.
Just two years ago, if you had asked me if I – or anyone, really – could make enough as a freelance writer to support my family of 7, I’d have laughed at you. “After all”, I thought, “aren’t most writers starving dreamers? Isn’t it just the top 1% or 2% of writers who actually make a living from their work?”
That may have been true years ago. I don’t really know. But if it was once true, the internet has changed all of that.
Content is King
You’ve probably heard or read that phrase before. Here’s what it means.
Quality content is the lifeblood of digital marketing.
Quality content is what attracts search engine traffic. It establishes credibility, brand personality, and authority. Social network activity revolves around quality content. In short, quality content is the most important resource in a digital marketer’s arsenal.
This is what the phrase “content is king” means. It means, that in the world of digital marketing, quality content is most valuable resource any marketer can hope for.
What does all of this mean for you? It means that in the history of the world there has never been a better time than the present to make a living as a writer. Today, quality written content has very real monetary value.
What is Quality Content?
You know what a puff piece is, right? All flair and no substance. Flowery phrases overstuffed with keywords that don’t actually say anything.
Quality content is the exact opposite of that. Quality content is defined by three characteristics:
- It is well-written. Reading quality content should be a pleasure, not a chore.
- It has personality. Quality content shouldn’t read like the Wikipedia article on the same topic.
- It has genuine value. Quality content says something that is worth reading.
So the key, dear reader and aspiring freelance writer, is to become a producer of quality content.
Establish yourself as a producer of quality content and you will be recognized as a valuable asset in the realm of digital marketing.
Get Started as a Freelancer Writer in Three Steps
Easy-peasy, right? Just spit out quality content and you’re golden!
Well, yes and no. Yes, that is part of the process, but, no, that isn’t the whole process. You’ve missed steps two and three.
Let’s walk through all three steps in order.
Step 1: Write
Find a personal outlet and produce high-quality content. The key is to identify a niche, write consistently (at least once per week), and publish quality content.
While you can publish your content on LinkedIn, Medium, or Tumblr, my vote is for you to set up your own personal, professional blog. I’ll even tell you how to do it. Drop your email address in the box below and I’ll deliver my free email course, Learn to Blog in 7 Hours, to your inbox.
Go check your email quickly and look for the confirmation email, then get back here and finish reading!
Step 2: Read
Find a few great writers or blogs in your blogging niche and read everything they write.
I don’t mean that you have to go back and read their entire archive. However, you should subscribe to their newsletter, follow them on social media, and read all (or at least most) of their future posts.
As you read their content, watch for two things:
- Pay attention to the things they write about. While you won’t want to copy their posts, you will want to gain a sense for the sorts of topics they write about and incorporate what you learn into your own writing process.
- Pay attention to the way they write. Become a real student of their writing style. Pay attention to sentence length, grammar, paragraph length, word choice, and such. As you read, think to yourself “why did they say it like that, and how would I have said it?” Again, you won’t want to outright copy their technique, but you can learn a great deal by studying how they do what they do.
Early on, I identified the WPMU DEV blog as a blog I wanted to follow and learn from. I liked their style and they produce some of the best content in the WordPress ecosystem. All of that study paid off, and about 8 months after I started following the blog I was added as a contributor to the site.
Step 3: Reach Out
Once you feel ready to stretch your wings and begin writing for pay, you need to start reaching out. But how will you know who to reach out to? Well, there are several ways you can identify potential clients for your writing. And here are four ways that I’ve personally found clients in the past 18 months.
Reach out to blogs and websites you already frequent.
Many websites that publish and pay for posts will advertise that fact on their site or in their newsletter. Go to blogs and sites you frequent and look for a page titled something like “write for us.” Pay attention to their newsletters and watch for notices advertising contributor opportunities.
In addition, put your Google skills to work and locate other blogs and websites that cover the same general topic and look around to see if they hire contributors.
Check job listing websites.
My first paying gig as a writer was found through Flexjobs, a job site that specializes in remote job listings. While most general-purpose job boards won’t have many freelance writing opportunities, if you stick to those that are oriented towards remote workers, you’ll have better luck.
Make your presence known.
Make it very easy for people to contact you through your blog. In addition, when you do publish posts at other blogs, give preference to opportunities that include a byline (your name and a short biography) or an author page.
By social, I do mean social networking. If you’re already active on social media, join groups that are aligned with the topics you write about and make connections with editors and internet marketers. I have landed paying writing opportunities by being in the right Facebook group and by connecting with the right people on LinkedIn.
Getting your foot in the door as a freelance writer takes persistence, focus, and intentionality. However, it’s a goal that is within your reach, and you can begin striding towards it by taking three simple steps:
- Write quality content.
- Read and learn from successful, established writers in your niche.
- Reach out to potential clients.
How are you struggling as an aspiring or current freelance writer? Let me know in the comments section! I may know a thing or two that can help you out!