1. Start a website or blog. A lot of potential clients that you find on Craigslist will ask to see links to your personal website. You don’t have to think of it as a personal journal; instead, write on current events and topics that interest you. If you read an interesting news article, write a blog post about it. Something going on in the news that bothers you? Write an opinion piece about it. You can get away with only updating your blog on a weekly basis, so you don’t have to contribute too much time to it.
2. Get your feet wet with content mills. Freelance writers can learn a lot by writing for content mills and it’s the way that most of us got our start. Taking on assignments through these sites lets you try your hand at various types of articles. Clients and editors can provide you with valuable feedback. Freelance writers will also be able to get a feel for what you should charge clients (x cents/word) once you decide to branch out. While the earnings won’t be stellar, the experience gained is worth it. These sites can also help you figure out what your niche is, which leads me to…
3. Find your niche. Have a way with words? Try writing sales copy. Are you able to use descriptive and colorful language? Try your hand at product reviews. Good at explaining things in precise detail? See how you fare with writing technical documents. All of these “genres” of writing have their place in the world of Internet freelance writing. Once you find the areas you enjoy and in which you are talented, you can start looking for sites who employ this type of freelance writer. You can also start tailoring your blog to match your nice, as this will help you to gain a following more easily.
4. Having a solid portfolio goes a long way in securing work. Potential employers will also ask for writing samples. Every freelance writer should try to have one of the following categories: Health, Technology, Product Reviews, Press Releases, Sales Copy, General Blog… and that’s all I can think of for now. Those are the big ones. Freelance writers should also have a few SEO-centric articles in your repertoire, since most clients will want SEO articles
5. If you can find a site that will let you be a contributing author, this is great for a freelance writer’s resume. You can actually point to your work on the web, and that goes a long way. Plus, it’s very rewarding to see your name next to a published article!
6. Join a discussion group or forum. There is a lot of value in becoming a member of such a community. You can find a lot of great advice from people who went through the same struggles starting out as a freelance writer. And they got through it, so they can offer you advice that’s priceless.
7. Become familiar with several writing styles. Make sure that you’re familiar with AP style. This is the most popular style on the Internet, and is found on most of the web’s news sites. However, clients will not only be looking for freelance writers well-versed in AP style, but will want writers knowledgeable in Chicago style and APA formatting.
8. Keep a good record of your articles and earnings. This is more of a practical tip then anything else (and vital for tax purposes). When it comes to tracking your freelance writing earnings, you can buy a ledger or create an excel spreadsheet. Also, try looking at your earnings on a weekly basis as opposed to a day-to-day basis; some days you won’t make that much, while you’ll rake in a fortune on other days. This prevents you from becoming discouraged when you have a bad day. Regarding your articles, you should save everything on your computer. One advantage of keeping your work is that you can go back to older writings to see how much you’ve improved over a period. You can also rewrite your previous articles for writing samples; this way you’ve already researched the topic, and you can concentrate on the writing aspect of the article.
9. Practice your writing skills. Just because you write well now doesn’t mean that you can’t improve. There is always room to learn, whether it’s stylistically or creatively. “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White should be in every freelance writer’s library. If you can, ask fellow writers to critique your work, as they may find ways to reword things that you didn’t see. You can also practice writing different type of articles, such as learning how to effectively write press releases and product reviews, thus expanding your freelance writing portfolio.
10. Always make time to write for pleasure. Internet freelance writers didn’t start their careers writing web copy. If you started as a creative writer, then devote some time each week to writing creative pieces. It’s important to go back to your roots. Taking time out to write for yourself also guarantees that you are enjoying your job, which always lends itself to good work. If you don’t make time to joy-write, you’ll find yourself becoming burnt out much more quickly. I try to take a few minutes at the start of each day to warm up with some writing for myself; as soon as I started skipping this practice to jump into the work day, I quickly found myself struggling. Writing should be fun and pleasurable!