When you’re pursuing a career in a creative field, freelancing provides you with the opportunity to earn money with your acquired skill set. You can become a freelance writer, editor, or proofreader depending on your abilities and your interests. I’ve had a passion for writing for as long as I can remember, and I decided to pursue freelance writing opportunities to build my skills and gain relevant experience.
As a freelance writer, I’ve learned the benefits and downsides that come along with choosing this career path instead of pursuing a set position with one company. Oftentimes, people choose to only freelance part-time as the income is unreliable and it is difficult to branch into a new field with limited experience. While this is true, I liked the idea of freelancing because I wanted to work from home, and I wanted to create my own schedule.
I started as a freelance academic writer and worked part-time while I was still working full-time as a supervisor for Paper Source. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to pursue my dream of writing full-time and took a leap of faith into the freelancing pool. I’ve been working as a freelance writer for nearly two years consistently, and during this time I’ve learned valuable lessons that can make the freelancing career path easier to navigate for beginners.
Start Small and Build Your Experience Over Time
When I first started freelancing, I had no idea how the process worked. I chose to jump without really looking to see where I would land, and while this is in alignment with my personality, it’s not something I would recommend to others. When it comes to freelancing, doing your research is essential as it’s difficult to maintain a set economic balance if you’re only working sporadically. Take time to explore the opportunities available and see which of these opportunities is easiest to gain. As a writer, I decided it was best to reach out to online magazines and publications that accepted submissions from anyone, regardless of experience level. I’ve written my entire life—in journals, for the town newspaper, and entire pages of poetry during my angsty teen years—but I didn’t have any professional writing experience to speak of. I also did not attend college and thus was marginally behind other candidates who would be vying for the same freelance openings as I would be.
Since I knew my experience and education were limited, I understood that submitting work to these publications without the promise of compensation was the only way I could safely build my writing portfolio. When you’re getting into freelancing for the first time, you’ll need to provide examples displacing your skills to future clients. Since I could hardly submit newspaper clippings of pieces I wrote in high school, I built my current portfolio by writing for as many online publications as possible. Building my portfolio helped me learn new writing skills, new style guidelines, and it helped me build connections within the writing community.
Get a feel for what options are available to you and adequately research these options to ensure you know what people are looking for before you enquire about any potential opportunities. When pursuing freelance prospects online, design a website or electronic portfolio to display your work. Then, you can send the link to potential clients when responding to job listings.
Be sure to outline your experience and state whether you have any certifications or degrees in this field in your cover letter. Regardless of the opportunity, you are pursuing, it’s best to provide examples of your work as this helps potential clients see what you’re capable of producing. If you can provide samples that are relevant to the position, such as previous grant writing projects you’ve completed in the past for a new grant writing job, this is preferable. If you don’t have relevant writing experience, don’t panic! Send along the samples you do have and offer to write a sample article of the type of work they’re looking for to prove you’re capable of managing the skills needed for the role.
Networking Is Your New Best Friend
If you’re anything like me, thinking about networking is enough to make your palms sweaty. While you may conjure up images of giant clusters of people exchanging business cards and pleasantries when hearing the word “networking”, there are ways of achieving this goal from the comfort of your own home. I highly recommend Twitter for networking purposes when you’re beginning your freelance career. It’s easy to Tweet someone or privately message them to ask for advice if you’re unsure of where to begin your search. When I knew that I wanted to pursue writing as a career, I took time to search through Twitter to find fellow writers who could potentially serve as sources of knowledge for me while I navigated my new path.
I was lucky enough to connect with a fellow writer, Kelsey J. Barnes, who successfully had work published for MTV and other online publications. Kelsey and I became friendly through clipped conversations on Twitter and I reached out to her one day to ask how she went about submitting her work to these publications. She took time to discuss what the process was like and made a few suggestions as to which publications were most receptive of writers with limited experience. Because of this one connection, I was able to submit work to two different publications within the span of a few months. These submissions built the foundation for my writing portfolio, and I consequently found additional opportunities through these publications. You’ll find that similar companies share an interconnected platform, which helps you traverse the plane of opportunity with less stress and more freedom.
Many of the publications that I was interested in writing for would often promote one another on social media, and this interaction allowed me to reach a wider audience when my work was published. When one publication posted about my article on Twitter, I would browse through the “likes” to see if any other publications were fond of what I had written. From there, I determined what the submission process was like for the new publication and pursued these opportunities as best as I could. Everything that I have successfully written thus far has been because of one connection that I made through Twitter. Networking is infinitely easier to manage when you’re comfortably sitting at your computer and when you can take a few moments to think about what you want to say before messaging someone. Never be afraid to reach out to someone in your field to ask them for advice or if they have any recommendations as to where you can pursue new leads. You never know what might happen if you do.
Explore Freelancing Websites
When you’re ready to pursue paid opportunities, search through the listings available on popular freelancing websites. In my experience, this is easier than searching for potential clients as it’s not always best to offer unsolicited services to companies. There are a few freelancing websites that have proved lucrative for me over the last two years. Freelancer has been the most beneficial as the website allows you to bid on projects you’re interested in and provides a safe platform for you to interact with potential clients before accepting new work. Additionally, Fiverr helps you build a profile where you attach your portfolio of work and create a service listing that is then broadcast to everyone in your desired field. For example, I created a Fiverr service listing for proofreading and editing that appears under the Writing & Translation category. You set the price you want clients to pay for your service and then accept work from there.
Whether you want to pursue freelancing as a part-time hobby or you want to work as a freelancer full-time, it’s always best to do your research to see which options are right for you.
How have you found freelancing opportunities in your field?
About Sam Cohen
Sam Cohen is a writer and editor based in New England. She lives with her wonderful partner Caleb, and enjoys learning new languages, drinking lattes, and spending time with her loved ones. Sam is an avid reader who practices yoga and tries to laugh as often as possible. She hopes to be a published author one day. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram.