There has probably never been a better time to take up freelance writing, since the need for content has literally exploded with the proliferation of the Internet itself.
New websites are coming online every day, and many of these require well-written, meaningful content in order to meet the objectives of the site owner. In addition, there is a growing need for online e-books, e-zines, and newsletters, which are rapidly making inroads, if not actually replacing books, magazines, and newspapers.
Even neophytes in the freelancing world can find work that pays good entry-level money, and persistence as a newcomer will eventually lead to better-paying jobs that are more challenging and rewarding. $80 – $200/hour to be exact, according to Vennage recent studies.
In the discussion below, you’ll find both general information and some specifics provided by a site owner who has been in the business of working with freelancers for more than a decade. These insights should help to improve your approach when you want to move to that next level of professional writing.
Tip #1: Communicating with potential employers
Some freelancers make the mistake of over-selling themselves when communicating with a potential employer, rather than allowing their resumes or bodies of work do most of the talking for them.
The truth is, when someone in need of written material receives applications or other forms of communication about possible employment, they are looking for the same kind of concise expressiveness that Internet readers favor overwhelmingly.
That means short, concise paragraphs, rather than long-winded, flowery descriptions of accomplishments, aspirations, and objectives.
For example, this email is too long:
A better email is:
If your email to a possible employer looks like a white paper, it is much more likely to end up in the white circular file next to his/her desk.
The same thing holds true for the way that you communicate.
When an employer starts reading through an email that sounds like a formal letter – something which might have been sent verbatim to another hundred destinations – this is a big turnoff, and shows a lack of genuine interest in the specific opportunity being applied for.
A far better approach is to write concise emails, make your inquiry more personal, and include more about the details of the particular writing task.
Tip #2: Value-added writing
Adding value means that your writing brings more to the employer than just a narrative with a specified word count, and which deals with a particular subject.
If you have an active account on one or more of the social media, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc., and you have a base of followers who regularly read your posts, you would be automatically bringing along more readers for the employer’s content. The whole object of posting content or having it published on an Internet site is to encourage readership for some greater objective.
That might be to establish the owner as an authority within the field, to inform people about company events and initiatives, to promote branding or a company image, or simply to sell products and services in greater volume. This would normally fall to the site owner to accomplish through various marketing and audience-targeting strategies, but if you as a writer can provide a strong personal brand and built-in audience ahead of time, which makes the whole task of marketing a bit easier, and a lot faster.
Tip #3: Research capabilities
Most experienced freelance writers have had to conduct some fairly serious research in order to write authoritatively about certain subjects, especially those that are detail-laden or heavily laced with statistics.
Other topics which are relatively obscure and not part of common knowledge, also require some careful information researching to provide supporting facts and data for the topic at hand. Research skills are indispensable to a serious freelance writer, because the alternative would be that the site owner or some intermediary would have to handle that research for you.
There are cases where links to background information is provided to a freelance writer, especially when the client wants that specific information included or featured in the writing.
More often than not however, there is a tacit understanding that all necessary research will be conducted by the writer, since he/she must determine the direction and flow of the content in the first place. If you have really good research skills, you are ahead of the game; and if you don’t have good research skills – get them somehow.
Tip #4: Attitude toward publication
Almost all writers take a certain degree of pride in their creations, and understandably so.
After all, they are legitimate works of creativity, expressed in language and images entirely generated in the mind of the originator.
However, once an article or piece of content has been prepared for publication, it is often needed by the site owner as a representation of his or her (the owner’s) views, because the point of the piece may have been to establish the owner as an authority in the field.
If you are not willing to cede publication rights, or at least to share them with the site owner, the content could only be presented as the work of a guest writer, which diminishes the value of such a piece. The point here is that if you really want to get a piece published and receive fair pay for your efforts, it is advisable that you be prepared to at least share the work once published.
Tip #5: Networking with other writers
If you’ve been in the business of freelance writing for a while, you will generally come in contact with other freelancers as a matter of course. This can be through online forums, social media, networking at gatherings, or any number of other contact points. While you may not be enthused about the idea of recommending any of your would-be rivals to a site owner or potential employer, it still can be a pretty fair selling point if you have several other freelancers in your social network.
There could be times when an employer has a huge volume of work that you alone could not possibly complete by a specific date, or there might be occasions when a specialty other than yours is needed for a certain project. Whatever the reason, it can sometimes be very useful to a site owner if you can contact other reliable writers that you can vouch for, so that the employer doesn’t have to go through a whole process of finding, interviewing, and gaining confidence in an unknown freelancer.
Getting an important freelance writing job that you really, really want usually involves more than sending a pre-canned email to an employer, along with your best writing samples.
Sending a personalized communication that is concise and to the point, has a better chance of being read and honestly evaluated. If you can bring more value to bear for an employer, that will help too, especially if you have your own followings on the social media. Having good research skills is a must, being flexible about publication, and knowing other reliable writers can all be great recommendations that will also help you land the writing project you’re pursuing.
Jerry Low is the founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed (WHSR) with more than 12 years of experience in web and affiliate marketing. Over the years he had the privilege to work with more than 30 freelance writers. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.