5 Quick Tips to Succeed as a Freelancer

Freelancing is a vast, deep ocean and there is so much advice for those venturing into freelancing – read this book, sign up for this course, use this social media platform, so on and so forth. Listening to all the self-appointed pundits of freelancing can be so confusing. So, let’s just push away all this information overload, and get back to the basics. Here are five essential tips on succeeding as a freelancer in any field – because, baby, you must get the basics right!

1.  Know what you are good at and package it as a service

When you become a freelancer, you sign up to compete on the world stage. Thanks to the web you can access a global pool of clients, but hey, the reverse also holds true – your potential clients can tap freelancing talent from across continents.

But instead of being bogged down by the thought, ” How the hell am I going to compete!”, put your mind towards packaging your talents as a service.

Your education, life experiences, professional background other than writing, and any other formal training, all go into making your skill set unique. If you have been an employee ( like I was) before diving into freelancing, you will already have an insight into what you are good at; use that to determine the specialized services you will offer.

To begin with, pitch for all freelancing jobs that are in line with your specialization. It becomes easier for clients to choose you for jobs that match your skill set.  For instance, since I am a business writer, I do not market myself as a creative or academic writer.

2. Know how to pick good clients

Choosing the right clients is one of the top decisions that will determine your happiness as a freelancer.  I know cause I burnt myself early on in the game, with clients who basically saw me as a content writer from India who had to do exactly what they said with minimal pay.

When I realized that my time was not worth the project I was working on, I tried to renegotiate the writing fee, but the client turned out to be a devil. The client wrote a scathing review of my writing services, saying that I had backed out without completing the assignment, which was not the case. I had completed all allotted work but declined to take on fresh topics since I was not under any contract that bound me to continue to work with the client.

Unfortunately, like most real-life crimes, such incidents become a ‘he said, she said scenario’, and for any new client who is considering hiring you, that becomes a red flag. Once a shadow is cast on your professional reputation, it takes more than a few solid projects to get back on track.

If you are lucky, you may have feedback on a potential client from a fellow freelancer. But that is a rare occurrence. So realistically speaking, the only thing you can do to choose the right clients, is asking a lot of questions at the start.

Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • What is the duration of the project?
  • Does the client have a sample of the work he expects from you?
  • What assistance can you expect from the client for the successful completion of the project?
  • Who is the target customer of the client?
  • What is the frequency of content submission and the required length of each article?

The intention behind asking such questions is to get an idea of how much thought has the client given the project. A client who is ambiguous about the ‘what, how, and when’ of a project, spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for an unsuspecting freelancer.  On the other hand, working with clients who are supportive and well-organized will make the project worth your time.

3. Be self-driven to do all that it takes

Most freelancers start out as one-person shops and often struggle to perform business tasks that are alien to them. When I started as a freelancer, one of the first things I did was get my business website up and running. Having never done that in my years as a banker, and having no knowledge of WordPress, I had to spend countless hours reading about how to create a website and learn via trial and error.

Hiring a web designer was an option, but I wanted to go through that process to understand what my client’s experience when they begin a business website and create content. And frankly, I’ve had friends who did hire website design firms, but ended by paying for something that was not up to the mark. This is just one example of how you may need to work outside your comfort zone and be perseverant. Whether it’s brainstorming ways to supplement your business income, finding new clients, or handling a difficult project,  it is perseverance that will separate you from the pack and help you in retaining clients.

4. Use a time and earnings tracker

What does not get measured, does not improve. You must use a tracker (it could be a simple excel sheet) to measure how many hours a day you work, or the number of days you work in a week.  So if you slack on a Thursday and Friday, you must make up for some of the lost time over the weekend.  Doing so will ensure that you meet the revenue targets you have set for yourself and that you meet the content submission dates committed to your clients.

Simultaneously, keep track of the money. Track the invoices to be raised and send reminders to clients on pending invoices. Since I use PayPal as a billing platform, it’s easy to track payments and send reminder notices to clients. It also helps me monitor the USD to Indian Rupee conversion rates.

5. Connect with friends and colleagues – they may hire you or recommend you

Since I have limited working hours per day, I prefer to work clients who are clear on what they want and give me the leeway to set my schedule for submission of articles.

Finding such clients is not easy, but if you can work with people you know  (friends from business school or work colleagues) then you have a better chance of landing such freelancing jobs. Even if your acquaintances don’t hire you, they may refer you to someone looking for professional assistance.

When you start freelancing, let everyone, and I mean everyone, know that you are now available for freelance jobs. Set up a Facebook business page and send invites to friends to follow your page. Update your LinkedIn profile and create posts on topics related to your freelancing field.

That’s true Mr.Forest.

But we can certainly learn from our experiences and exercise these checks to enjoy our time on earth as freelancers.

All the best everyone.

 

New year resolutions

6 Ways To Improve as a Beginner Freelance Writer

Happy New Year

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:

Improve as a Freelance WriterWhen 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: Writing tips

  • 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.

New year resolutions

Happy New Year.

( P.S Don’t miss my writing tips on Quora)

The Risks and Rewards of Freelance Writing

As with any profession, freelance writing has its pros and cons. Before you quit your job to become a freelance writer, you need to understand what it’s like to be one.

It’s three years since I became a full-time freelance writer. I dabbled with freelance writing assignments for about two years before I quit my job.

I have no doubt in my mind that in freelancing writing I finally found what I was meant to be doing. I love working for me, and I am a happier person now than when I was as a banker earning the fat monthly cheque. Yet, I would be lying if I said all was hunky-dory. I do at times miss the comfort and security that come with holding a steady job.

Remember those times when you fell in love but were not sure whether the person was right for you or not, and you made a list of positives and negatives, to help you make a decision on the relationship? Well, that’s what I have done with my “love, but not so sure” relationship with freelance writing.

I hope the analysis will help you make a better decision about your pending decision to turn freelancer.

THE PROS OF BEING A FREELANCER

As a content writer bidding for jobs, it’s exciting to get a new contract, work with international clients, write for different businesses, earn in dollars while working from home, and to see your writing help businesses achieve their goals.

I no longer have to contend with long commutes to work, attend business meetings that seem never ending, or go through the dreaded annual appraisal. And oh did I mention the office politics?  That seemingly harmless colleague who is secretly harbouring a ‘pull you down’ agenda, well, there’s certainly none of that. I choose whom I want to work with and how much work I want to take on.

Enterprise mobility may still be a nascent initiative in many companies, but  I already enjoy that as a freelance writer. All I need is a computer and an internet connection. Web-based applications such as Writebox and Dropbox give me access to my work files from any computer. I can work from anywhere and anytime, which really suits me as a young mother and an Army wife. All this while having minimum overhead expenses.

Freelancing is exciting. There is always something to do or learn. When I am not working, I am busy looking for new work and catching up with old clients. I am always learning new ways to improve as a writer and online marketer. I now have a much better grasp of various facets of business,  especially when it comes to product development, branding, and social media management.

Doing my own thing gives a satisfaction that no 9 to 5 job can match. Come to think of it I always had a hard time truly agreeing with the approach the boss would take; I’d much rather do things my way. Wouldn’t you?

THE CONS OF BEING A FREELANCER

When you choose to become a freelancer on the World Wide Web, you take on the challenge of competing on a global stage. You compete with freelance writers from North America, Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe. The bidding war revolves around each writer’s skills, experience, price and proposed delivery date.

With the thrill of being a business owner, comes added responsibility. You are the strategist, salesperson, marketer, social media specialist, customer service, and operations specialist. You have to know it all and do it all.

You are continually seeking new clients and trying to bring in more work from existing clients. You are lucky if your sales pitch conversion rate is more than eight to ten percent of customers.

Saturday and Sunday are no longer sanctimonious as days where you can take off. There are days of no work, followed by days where there is more work than you can So you work when you have to, which may include weekends. Yes, there is greater flexibility for fulfilling personal commitments, but time is as scarce as ever. As a freelance writer, you are multitasking for most of your work day and time just flies. You need to cross-check your planner continuously for delivery schedules, making sure you stay on track.

Quitting the comfort of a well-paying job to start your venture is fraught with uncertainties. As a freelance writer, if you aren’t working, you aren’t earning.

3835160806_cd5fe8a581_o

So should you jump on the freelancing bandwagon? Having weighed the pros and cons of life as a freelancer, this is a question that only you can answer. Although you will receive well-meaning advice from family and friends, it has to be ultimately your call. If you can cope with the ‘uncertainty’ of how much you will earn by when (especially in the initial phase), then freelance writing offers you an exciting opportunity to be the captain of your ship. But, if you aren’t motivated enough to stay focused and work all by yourself, then you will find the going rough in the turbulent world of freelance writing.

freelance writing tips

3 Simple Steps to Start Freelancing

Congratulations on choosing freelance writing as your entrepreneurial venture.  Being a freelance writer is akin to being a business owner. You are responsible for every aspect of your work – from strategizing how to market yourself, to creating and delivering the actual product (i.e. content) and ensuring that your customers are happy.

You have a fair understanding of the risks of being self-employed and are determined to make a go of it. Now it’s time to create your writing business.

Here are three steps to get started as a freelance business writer.

Step 1: Understand how to write content for the internet

Since you are mostly going to be writing content for the internet, it’s important to understand an important differentiation – how writing for the internet is different from writing content for a print publication.

The internet has an abundance of information on any topic, which means that the average internet reader spends only a few seconds on any website, before deciding to continue reading or clicking the back arrow to move on to another website. Because you have very little time in which to make an impression, you need to ensure that the content is both easy to read and engaging. This means choosing the right article header, presenting content in succinct blocks of information ( with subheadings and bullet points), and ensuring that each section moves seamlessly on to the next.

In contrast, a person who picks up a magazine is more likely to be doing so at leisure and is willing to spend more time reading what you have to say.

Then there is the SEO (Search engine optimization) aspect of writing content for the internet. SEO techniques improve the likelihood of search engines finding your content when someone types the relevant phrase on search engines such as Google and Bing. Including keywords, tags, and a metadescription are basic SEO techniques.

Learning how to write for the internet is an art in itself. So here’s what I want you to do. Go to your preferred online shopping website and order this ultimate guide for writing online content.  It’s called – The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World. Priced around 12 USD, this book is the best upfront investment to kick-start your freelance writing career

Step 2: Build Your Writing Portfolio

You know you can write, but to bag your first writing project you need to prove that to your future clients. So before you start looking for work, write at least 5 articles/ blogs. These articles and blogs then become your writing portfolio, which you will submit as writing samples along with each writing project that you bid for on freelance job portals.

Write on topics that you are comfortable with. For instance, if you have worked as a banker, you could write tips on money savings tips or improving your credit score. If you are a new mom, write about your recent pregnancy experience. If you know a lot about keeping dogs as pets, write about that.

Remember to keep the writing style easy. Use words that you would normally use when speaking to someone. Avoid jargons.

Writing your first five articles shouldn’t take more than 7-10 days.

Step 3: Start Bidding for Writing Assignments on Freelance Job Portals

Now it’s time to put your writing skills to the test by bidding for paid writing assignments.

Freelance job portals like Upwork (formerly Odesk), Elance, Freelancer, and Guru, have clients from all over the world posting their content writing requirements. Here’s how you can start sources writing assignments through freelance job portals:

  • Develop your contractor profile – Write a  brief about yourself, services you offer, take skill tests available on the website, and update your writing portfolio
  • Select a contractor membership plan – Depending on your membership plan, your account is credited with ‘connects’ on a monthly basis. You need to have connects to apply for any job.
  • Set up a payment withdrawal method – You can withdraw the money you have earned on the freelance portal through PayPal or a direct transfer to your bank.
  • Start bidding for projects

The cost of using these websites to source work has two components – a monthly membership fee and project commission (deducted as a fixed percentage of your earnings on that project). To circumvent this fee, add the website commission to your article fee rate. So if you want to earn $10 per article, bid at $12 for each article.

becoming a writer

Seek and you shall find, bid and you shall be rewarded. 

Starting something new is often the hardest part. Yes, there are scores of more experienced writers than you, which means that bagging your first project won’t be easy. But don’t give up. Keep sending in those project proposals, tailoring how you sell your writing skills as per the requirement of the project.

There will be a lot of questions as you start writing for clients.

This is the beauty of freelance writing –  you are always finding ways for improving yourself as a writer.

Write as much as you can. When you don’t have writing assignments, write for yourself. Every piece of writing will make you a better writer.

And the better you get at your craft, the better you get paid.

All the best!

Image1 credit: Anusorn P, freedigitalphotos.net

Image2 credit: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

How Much Should You Charge As a Freelance Writer?

How Much Should You Charge As a Freelance Writer?

When you start work as a freelance writer, one of the first things you ask yourself is “How much should I charge for my writing services?”.

Finding an answer to that question can be difficult, at first. This is because unlike other jobs or corporate designations, there is no known pay structure that you can reference. Also, it’s difficult to benchmark yourself against other writers. Every writer has unique skills, in the type of content they write as well as the quality of writing. Someone who is just starting out can expect to earn much lesser than an established niche writer.

So that brings us back to the initial question, what should be your freelance writing fee?

How Much Should You Charge As a Freelance Writer?Tips for determining your writing fee

I have been freelancing for the last four years, and here’s what I have learnt about determining pricing as a writer.

1. Start low:  Clients are willing to pay more for your work once they have either worked with you , or when they see high customers ratings from other clients. Since you have neither of these when you start writing, your writing fee may well determine your chances of getting a writing gig. So quote the minimum amount you would be willing to work for. Remember the aim is to get the job and gradually build a client base.

My first job four years ago paid $7 for 400 words and I was thrilled that anyone was willing to hire me.  Today my rate is a minimum of $25 per 400 words. Depending on the type of content being written, that rate can be twice as much.

2. Review freelancing websites for how much others are charging:   I source work primarily through freelancing websites such as Elance and Upwork. Seeing how much other writers with similar experience bid for projects that I am interested in, is a good indicator of the going rate for the project.

3. Charge higher if you have relevant experience:  Having written on the same topic as the client’s current requirement gives you a slight edge. Quote higher than your usual price if you have similar writing experience.

4. Look at the overall client relationship:  Different clients will pay different amounts for the same type of work. For instance, my clients in India tend to have lower budgets than clients in the U.S or U.K. When an existing client has a lower budget, consider other aspects of the work relationship, such as the ease of working with the client, their promptness in clearing invoices, and the potential for future work. Some flexibility in pricing is good.

5. Increase your fee with existing clients, but not too often:  As you work for more clients, across more industries and build a reputation as a solid / reliable writer, you will of course want to charge more. But how often should you increase your rates?

With existing clients once a year, or once every two years, is a good enough wait period before asking for an increase. Speak to your client or send them an email at least two months in advance of the date from when you want to hike your rates. Also communicate your willingness to work at the new fee for the next ‘X’ months.

Some clients will agree readily to the proposed fee and others may negotiate a lower than the proposed rate. There is always the risk that some clients will refuse to accept the revised rate. It is up to you to decide if it is still worth your time to work for that client.

Should you write for free?Should you write for free?

Several well-known publications pay pittance. The low rate is justified by the exposure you get by writing for them. Also, when you start out on freelance job websites like Upwork, clients may offer projects at low fee in exchange for five-star ratings to boost your profile.

Here’s my take on this.There is no way I would work for free. My time is worth something and it is up to me to decide, within reasonable limits, as to how much minimum I would be willing to work for.

As I said earlier, I did start out at a low pay bracket to begin with, but that was just the first couple of months. Once I gained a fair understanding of my skills and how much I was charging versus other writers, I started to pitch for a higher writing fee. While my job success rate dropped, I succeeded in reaching a handful of good clients with decent pay rates, who continue to give me work on a regular basis.

When it comes to determining how much you should charge clients as a freelance writer, you are the best judge of what your writing skills are worth.  But don’t be so unrealistic in your demands that your writing rate becomes uncompetitive.

All the best.