Rachel Summers 6m 838 #freelancing
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Freelancing — No Experience Necessary
Becoming a freelance writer can be daunting. In a way, it’s a leap of faith: when you start freelancing, the financial security you probably had as an employee is gone. Goodbye, steady salary. Goodbye, comfort zone. You’re now at the mercy of the market (which, as we all know, can be moody) and your own skills. And, given the insane amount of competition out there, it can be difficult to stick out from the crowd if you don’t have a name or a history in the business.
Luckily for you, there’s an easy way to fix this – though you might not like the sound of it: work for free.
This probably runs against most of the job advice you’ve heard throughout your life. Many people will probably tell you to never sell yourself short, to beware of scammers and exploiters, and to respect yourself and your work. They’re right, but freelancing is an entirely different ball game. The point of working for free is precisely to prove that you have worth. Building a portfolio is essential for every freelancer. You don’t even have to work for someone else – you can work for yourself.
One of the best ways to do this today is starting a blog. If it becomes popular, it can even become a source of income itself, and if not, you’re still building a wealth of material to show future clients you know what you’re doing. Sometimes clients will even find you through your blog.
Another advantage of blogging is that, by putting yourself out there, you’re also inviting criticism from your readers. And that’s great! You’re only starting out. You need all the feedback you can get to hone your skill set.
Finally, it’s a great way to find out who you are as a writer. When you blog you’re not bound by any guidelines or directions your client requires of you to follow. As a blogger, you’re your own master, and that means you’re free to explore whatever styles and topics attract you. Whether you are a freelancer or not, this is a crucial step in every writer’s journey: to find your voice. Knowing your strengths also means you’ll know your ideal client, paving the way for a brilliant future as a freelancer.
If you already have some specific market in your crosshairs, another good idea is to create a bespoke piece just for the application. This has the benefit of letting you show that specific market that you share its values and style, which can be refreshing for the client after reading the resumes of so many scattershot freelancers playing the numbers game.
If you’re too proud to even consider working for free, there are still many other ways to get experience and build a portfolio. Lately there has been a boom in the essay-writing business. The Huffington Post has recently written about the phenomenon. If you have a college degree, it’s a great way to kick-start your writing career. Signing up as a writer for one or more of the companies is very easy, and there’s plenty of work to choose from.
However, not all of these new websites are kosher. Many are writing sweatshops, and some of them are outright scams. Luckily, it’s easy to avoid them just with a little research. Sites like Revieweal offer reviews of writing services; check it out to find the right one for you.
Even if you already have a quality portfolio, you might be wondering how you even start to find clients. This used to be the real challenge in the past. Long commutes, interminable letter exchanges, and even cold-calling were staples of the business. Luckily, those days are over. Thanks to the Internet, getting in touch with potential clients is easier than ever. The most popular freelancer platform, Upwork, hosts more than 4 million businesses looking for freelancers. You’ll find new job offers almost every minute. Granted, it can be competitive, but with time, you can build a loyal client base that will provide you with long-term work.
Once you start working, it’s essential to be aware of your brand. In this new competitive world, branding is more important than ever. Standing out from a cat of copycat content writers is a matter of playing up your personal strengths and selling yourself as an idiosyncratic individual with your own ideas and value. How do you do this? Easy: just get your name out there. As mentioned before, a blog is a great way to do this. If you write copiously and widely, clients will be bound to stumble into you enough that your name will keep ringing in the back of their heads. Build a brand image and a reputation. Remember: when you’re a freelancer, you’re a business. Treat yourself as such, and you’ll be in your way to become an established professional.