If you want to be a successful freelance writer, you need to do one thing:
Prove you’re a good writer.
In the beginning, gaining the trust of prospective clients is your biggest hurdle.
Before someone considers paying you, they need to know you can write.
Which means, you’ve got work to do.
Hiring In The Gig Economy
The gig economy is cool because hiring is dictated by ability rather than traditional qualifications. But this also means that your college degree, leadership experience, or volunteer involvement aren’t automatic differentiators.
While you may have honed your writing skills during college, your formal degree doesn’t make you a shoe-in freelance writer.
Nope. The only thing that can differentiate you as a freelance writer is your ability to write.
- Can you write content that generates leads?
- Can you write an article that positions a CEO as a thought-leader?
- Can you write a blog that engages and educates a target audience?
That’s what you need to prove.
How to Prove That You Can Write
Let’s say you’ve never completed a paid freelance writing project. No worries.
I launched my writing business in October 2016. I quit my job without another one lined up, freelanced between interviews, and scaled from there.
In the beginning, I didn’t have paid or published writing samples to share with clients. Instead, I used a digital portfolio I created during graduate school. It contained class assignments and blogs I wrote for fun. In addition, I published articles on LinkedIn pulse like this one.
Self-published articles can prove two things:
- You can write.
- People enjoy reading what you write.
Should I Write for Free?
I’ve never written for free (for someone else) and I highly discourage it. It devalues you and it devalues the profession.
Bottom line, if someone is willing to publish content you wrote, then they should be willing to compensate you accordingly. People will argue this point—decide what works for you.
That said, I definitely wrote for cheap in the beginning. A site like Upwork can be a great way to find work in the beginning (that’s what I did). Upwork takes $20% of the first $500 you make with each client (i.e. $100) and 10% of then next $9,500 (i.e. $950).
While that may sound steep, I viewed it as a marketing expense (it’s technically a commission expense). I was willing to spend roughly 10% of my income to acquire new clients during the first year.
And before anyone says—“But those sites pay pennies!”—I completed $20,000 worth of “pennies” in Upwork jobs alone during my first year. If you set yourself apart as a quality writer, you can command more than pennies.
Moral of the Story
If a marketing director, founder, or agency is going to hire you for a writing project, they need to know you can write.
It is your responsibility to gain their trust.
No one owes you anything in the gig economy (until you land a job, of course).
- Hone your writing skills.
- Self-publish on established platforms like Medium and LinkedIn.
- Don’t write for free (unless it’s for your Mom).
- And don’t immediately reject freelance platforms.
You got this.
Got questions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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.