The year New Year is here, and it’s a good time as any to kick-start your freelance writing career. If you want to improve your writing skills and become a professional freelance writer this year, here’s what you need to do.
1. Read books on Writing – I recommend that you read these three books on writing:
When I first started as a freelance writer, The Yahoo Style Guide was extremely helpful in building an understanding of how to write content for the internet. I read the other two books several months later when I realized that I must sharpen my freelance writing skills to meet international standards.
Even when you aren’t working on paid assignments, spend time honing your writing skills by writing your blog, or reading other blogs. One person whom I enjoy reading is Henneke Duistermaat whose website is Enchanting Marketing. Another blog that I followed closely in the initial stages was the ProBlogger.
2. Start a professional website/ blog: As a freelance writer its imperative that you have a platform that shows your writing skills, as well as contains details of your writing services and experience.
You can create a website or a blog for free on sites like WordPress; although you will have to pay a small amount to have a unique domain name.
To create blog content, list at least twenty potential target blog titles, and then start writing. You don’t necessarily have to write on topics that you know. Your success as a freelance writer will depend on being able to research information and write informative articles; so do the same for your blog. You could pick three or four broad blog categories and then list titles under each.
List your writing services clearly, along with an ‘about me’ page that tells potential clients who you are, especially your academic/ professional background, and your writing expertise. Include a link to your social media sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook ( especially, if you have a Facebook page dedicated to your writing work)
Finally, include a ‘contact us’ form or just share your contact details on the website so potential clients can reach you.
If you don’t have the skills or the inclination to start a website, you can also create an article portfolio on Contently, and then share the link in your project proposals submitted to clients. But you still need to create and upload content here.
3. Write what the reader wants to know, and not what you know: When you write posts for your blog, or for clients, don’t ramble on because you have all these creative ideas and information that you want to share.The question is, does your reader have the time or the inclination to read your content?
Is your blog post or article informative, entertaining, relevant, or pathbreaking? Only content that falls in any of these four categories will succeed in engaging the reader.
Apart from writing quality content, ensure that your content is easy to read. Here are some basic writing guidelines:
- Have a catchy headline. Blog titles with numbers ( e.g., X Tips, X ways) are a great way to communicate a real benefit of reading an article. Another way is to create a sense of urgency (e.g., include phrases such as ‘Need to know’ ).
- List one or two keyword phrases, and include the keywords all through the article, including the blog title, first paragraph, and several times throughout the article. Also, include the keyword in the post’s meta description.
- Divide the article into easy to scan through sections, with subheadings and bullet points. While this style may not work for every client, it is the preferred style of writing for the internet.
4. Seek a writing mentor: Approach a content writer who has more experience doing what you aspire to do. Suggest how you can be of help to them and inquire if they would be willing to work with you as a writing coach.
Even if you can’t identify anyone to help you develop your craft, don’t fret. It may take you a little longer to learn the ropes but the on-the-job experience is the greatest teacher. The more you write, the better you will get.
5. Use technology as an aid – Use online tools to make you a better content writer. The FREE writing apps that I frequently use are:
- Writebox – A distraction-free text editor that allows you to type without worrying about grammar or spelling errors, which you can correct later in the editing stage.
- Hemingway Editor – An app that you can use to improve the readability of your article by identifying sentences which are too long or in the passive voice, as well as by suggesting removal of unnecessary words.
- Grammarly – Another grammar and spelling check app, which apart from checking your content, can also be integrated with your email account to ensure that your business emails are error free.
- Coscheduler – To analyze the effectiveness of your blog/article title
- Blog Title Generator – To generate potential blog tiles when you are stuck for ideas
6. Test your skills as a writer by pitching for freelance writing jobs – Use websites such as Upwork to source content writing jobs ( there are plenty of creative and non-fiction writing jobs) and test your skills as a writer.
You will find loads of tips on my blog on creating a profile and bidding for jobs. For a more detailed update, you could also see my eBook and video series on using freelancing websites to source content writing jobs and make money from home.
As a final tip, if you want to succeed as a freelance writer, it’s imperative that you are professional to the core. Apart from being a good writer, you must be a reliable writer. Maintain a project tracker ( a simple excel sheet would do, or use Google calendar) to plan your article submission dates and to ensure that you never miss a client deadline.
Only commit to a deadline that you can keep. If the deadline promised to a client is 15th January, then try to complete the job by 13th at the latest; this will ensure that the client gets a final product by the promised date.
Now that you have made the resolve to be a better writer, all you need is a disciplined approach to get there, and hopefully, the above tips will help.
Happy New Year.
( P.S Don’t miss my writing tips on Quora)