What is the Most Important Thing I Need to Start My Freelance Writing Career?
The process of setting up your freelance writing career can be daunting especially with all the material out there about starting and marketing a freelance business. There are just so many elements to consider - your pitch, getting your website up and running, your marketing strategy, how your brand should be presented, which niche to specialize in etc. And while all of these are certainly key parts to the whole, this video will go into the single most important thing you need to build credibility, trust and to set yourself apart from the vast majority of freelance writers applying for the same gigs.
Also, if you need some guidance around identifying your freelance writing niche, here is a free resource that you can access today:
People who are thinking about starting their freelance writing career often have a lot of questions about the best way to go about it and one of the common ones I hear a lot is, "well, aside from all the other stuff, there is so much material out there about starting and marketing a freelance business, what do I actually need to have, Laura, to get this started?" and there are different components that you need to consider like your pitch, a website, how often you are going to market yourself and what your brand is going to be you like as well as the niche that you are going specialize in. However, you are not getting anywhere with all of those different aspects until you have writing samples.
Writing samples are your calling card
Now this is particularly for freelancer writers. For different freelancers, you are going to want to have samples of whatever your work is; so, a web developer might have a fully functioning website, a graphic designer might have a set of promotional materials they have created but for writers the only thing that sells your writing ability are your writing samples.
Aim for well-written and presented writing samples
I recently wrapped up looking at more than 180 (yes, 180!) writing applications for a company that I am working with and the vast majority of them had subpar writing samples. In fact, I eliminated most of them because the writing samples were improperly formatted, didn’t have keywords, had no sub-headings, were too long, weren’t the type of content we were hiring for etc.
When someone is hiring you and you are a complete stranger on the internet, the only way to help get over that hump of lack of trust is to show them an amazing writing sample. Show them that you know what you are doing and that you have great writing jobs. The client will be much more likely to work with you if you can convince them that you are a real professional and that you know what you are talking about. But if you submit subpar writing samples that you spent 30 minutes throwing together, it will show, and experienced writers and project managers can see right through it. If you are going to spend hours working on any one aspect of your freelance writing career before you get started, it should be your writing samples. A website does you no good if your portfolio and your writing samples are not good too. These should be created first. They are your calling card.
When I open an email from a prospective writer to work either with me or on a project that I am managing at the time, I give their email approximately 30 seconds. Because think about it, I received almost 200 applications for one position, I cannot spend an hour on every person. That 30 seconds is my initial review. So, I am looking at your basic pitch and I am looking at at least one writing sample. If I can spot errors in your pitch (spelling, grammar, punctuation etc.) in your pitch or in whatever writing sample I open - and it could be random - then you are not getting hired on the project. It really is that simple.
So, if it can’t be submitted properly in the pitch before we are even working together, what are you telling the client about the quality of the writing that you are going to submit when you are being paid? They have no reason to think it will be any different. So, if the writing samples are hard to open, unclear, poorly written, have no formatting whatsoever, or are about completely unrelated topics, the client is not going to hire you.
Stay relevant and match the client's tone & style
I’ll give you an example of someone who might have made the cut on that recent project, were it not for the writing samples they submitted. They submitted a slew of self-help and personal relationship advice articles. However, the client I was hiring for wanted B2B/B2C-style articles that are written in a professional tone. Because I didn’t see anything of a professional tone, even though there was nothing wrong with the relationship-type articles, that writer didn’t even make it to the second round for the editor review.
So think about the type of samples that you are going to create for your clients and how you are going to showcase the talent that you have. You don’t need to go and create a sample exactly what the client is looking for, but if you are pitching to businesses, have a business-ready sample. If you are going to be a white paper writer, create one fake white paper just so you can show the client what you can do.
If you are not submitting a sample that is written well, that looks kind of like what they are looking for and has the same tone and style, they may not even give you a second chance and you will never know, because they don’t have the time to reply to everybody.
So, I'm sharing this in part because I couldn’t reply to everybody who participated in that job application process and many people did not realize that the mistakes they were making were shutting them out before they even had a true chance. If you are going to spend the time on any one aspect of getting your freelance writing career together, honestly, it should be the writing samples. These will be worth thousands of dollars to you, if you put in the time and effort. So, view them as bringing you that return on investment and give it the same focus that you would anything else that would have the potential to bring you thousands of dollars.
I'd love to know what questions you have about creating writing samples. If you would like to learn about how to identify a freelance writing niche and launch your freelance writing career, check out this link or my website betterbizacademy.com.
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Hi, I’m Laura!
You’ll find all my best advice about building a fulfilling and sustainable business here. It’s where I’ll give you all the juicy details about building a strong digital team or using project management to stay on top of tasks.