3 Things You Need to Know If You Want to Be a Freelance Writer

I completed my first freelance writing project for $7 on October 16, 2016. I spent 15 minutes editing a resume.

This might be my biggest accomplishment to date.

I realize that sounds funny. How could $7 be my biggest accomplishment? But here’s the deal, it’s not about the money.

You know why it was such an achievement?

I completed my first project.

The first project is arguably the biggest hurdle in freelance writing. Trust me.

Nine months later, I just got paid $185 for a single blog post. Pretty sweet, right? If you’re wondering how to start freelance writing, here’s my best advice for finding success:

1. Don’t get stuck in the research phase. How long have you thought about becoming a freelance writer? Weeks, months, or even years? You constantly research freelance writing tips and have a Pinterest board full of resources. But… you’re still not ready.

Tell me if these thoughts sound familiar:

  • What if I’m not prepared?
  • What if I fail?
  • What if I’m not good enough?

Here’s the deal. You will never stop researching. Truly, it’s a wormhole. If you think you still haven’t researched “enough”, set a deadline for submitting your first pitch. Look at your calendar and pick a date right now.

I don’t want to minimize how important it is to learn a few best practices, but you don’t need to spend 12 months prepping. You can (and will!) learn as you go.

2. Call yourself a writer. After I started freelance writing full-time, it took me nearly 5 months to unapologetically call myself a writer. “What do you do?” became an increasingly difficult question to answer. “I’m a writer,” wasn’t a natural response. For some reason, it seemed fraudulent. Inauthentic.

I cycled through different responses. “I have a degree in higher education, but…”, “I’ve teamed up with several start-up companies…”. Every response required more explanation than I was comfortable providing. Finally, on March 3, I called myself a writer. Because that’s what I am.

If you write (paid, or not), guess what? You’re a writer. You have every right to be a writer. Start believing it.

3. Realize being “qualified” means nothing. I don’t have a degree in English or Journalism and I am a full-time writer. I know successful writers who are college dropouts, career changers, and undergraduates.

My Master’s degree in Higher Education and Bachelor of Business Administration make my writing unique. A formal writing degree—that teaches how it should be done—may lead to damaging conformity. Because I undoubtedly break conventional writing rules (and that’s okay!).

So here’s my point:

It’s important to consider what makes you unique as a writer.

Every writer has strengths and weaknesses. What are yours? Are you a great story teller? Do you bring niche expertise from a long career in a single industry? Take time to think about who you are as a writer.

Bringing It Together

I am intimately familiar with doubt. It’s normal to doubt yourself.

But listen up:

If you can construct a sentence and write content people enjoy reading, you can become a freelance writer.

So, when are you submitting that pitch?

Hey, I’m Laura. In October 2016, I quit my job (on purpose) and became a freelance writer (on accident).  Now I share my experience as a freelance writer for 20-somethings. Because contrary to popular myth, you don’t have to wait until you’re 50 to become a successful freelance writer. I’m happy you’re here.

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  1. This is awesome, Laura. Well said and great advice! I love that you’re working to build writers up! “Call yourself a writer” — I couldn’t have explained that experience better myself! Took me forever to own the title.

    1. Thanks for reading, Jessy! That’s exactly it. Taking ownership of the title definitely requires some work and self-confidence. And if I can build others up while reflecting on my journey, I’m all in. 🙂

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