Tips for Freelancers
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As most people know, I left my 9-5 job in April of 2013 to work as a web-based writer. I was already writing quite a bit up to that point, but it was always a “side hustle” or a regular ol’ part-time job. It was only last year when my part-time income finally surpassed what I was making at my full-time job. Once that happened, I was finally able to break free from the chains of regular employment. #SeeYouBye
Since then I’ve always met or exceeded my monthly income goal of $4,000, with most months earnings coming in somewhere between $5,000 and $6,000. As someone who never dreamed work-at-home jobs could pay so well, I’m pretty happy with the way things have gone. Being self-employed isn’t perfect, but it sure beats wearing a monkey suit and staring at the clock all day. No thank you.
Anyway, I recently got a reader email about freelancing and thought it would be fun to write a post about it.
Hi Holly, I currently am a student working toward a communications degree and want to start getting my stuff published in some real publications. I have only had articles printed in the school paper. High School and College. I am curious how one goes about getting that done, what price to ask for each piece, and just the basics of freelance journalism. I would greatly appreciate your advice.
Tips for Freelancers
First of all, when it comes to web-based writing, networking is your best friend. So kudos to Patrick for bothering to email someone for advice. Reaching out to people is sometimes the best way to learn about jobs that might be available or opportunities that may not be advertised. In addition to making an effort to meet new people, there are dozens of ways to build your income. I cover all of these in-depth at my freelance writing course, Earn More Writing, but here’s a few tips to get you started.
Answer Emails Faster Than Everyone Else
I’m pretty sure I get some of my writing jobs simply because I answer emails promptly. If you’ve ever emailed me before, you probably know just what I’m talking about. Woah! I’m all over it. But it isn’t just the impressive email speed that seals the deal; it’s the fact that I’m easy to get ahold of. Think about it. Would you rather work with a freelancer who gets back to you within an hour or someone who might reply to you by Friday?
When dealing with a potential client through email, be polite! That may mean going out of your way to say “please” and “thank you” or adding smiley faces to your responses. Do your own thing. In fact, do whatever it takes so that your emails come across as pleasant. Nobody wants to work with a Negative Nancy.
Ask For a Job
Web-based writing is an extremely competitive field. That’s why it’s important to learn how to ask for jobs instead of waiting for them to magically appear. Whenever you’re dealing with a client or someone who might need your services, take an extra minute to remind them that you’re available for work. I get jobs this way all the time!
Start a Blog
I wrote a whole post about how to start a blog, so I won’t go into the details here. What I will say is having a blog is a great way to attract clients. They can come to your blog any time, see your body of work, and get a sense of what you have to offer. They can also find you by clicking on your contact page or “Hire Me” button.
Write For Free
People always ask me how I got hired to write at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, U.S. News and World Report, and other big sites I write for. Newsflash: I got all those jobs by writing for free. It’s amazing how far a great guest post can go, especially when you’ve followed the other tips I mentioned here such as being polite and answering emails promptly.
Your Free Gift!
Being a web-based writer isn’t always easy. You’ll experience your fair share of rejection and fail from time to time, and the comments you get from readers can be brutal. On the other hand, the perks of this lifestyle are outrageous. I can literally work anywhere in the world with an internet connection, and I often do. And I answer to no one other than my clients.
You simply can’t put a price tag on that.
As a gift for visiting, I’d like to invite you to my FREE webinar – “Build a Six-Figure Writing Career.” We’ll cover tips for getting started, reasons you need a blog, and the 6 most important skills you need for freelancing success. Like I said, it’s free. Just follow the link below to enroll.
Build a Six-Figure Writing Career – FREE WEBINAR! Join Now.
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You have such a great point about answering emails promptly. It really does convey a sense of reliability and punctuality. I need to get better at that- when I get overwhelmed my email responding tends to fall off my list of things to do!
I stay on top of them all day. Otherwise it really does get out of hand.
Being prompt in communications is very important in showcasing your professionalism. Some of my accounts who don’t respond in kind I often perceive them as not as engaged in the business.
Exactly. And a lot of people don’t have time to wait 2-3 days or more for a response.
“it’s important to learn how to ask for jobs instead of waiting for them to magically appear.” I’m just starting to do the leg work involved in monetizing my blog. That bit about learning how to ask for jobs will be something I’ll bring forward. I wouldn’t mind some magic – but it won’t happen unless I step forward. Thanks for the timely advice! (And congratulations on your success : )
All great tips Holly! We use quite a few of these ourselves with our business in order to get work. The reachability aspect is a huge one in my opinion. You never know who you might be competing against and getting back to the potential client right away is one of the better ways to help you set yourself apart. The other thing we do is outright tell them what we can do for them, sort of along the lines of asking for the work. We often get work for things that wasn’t asked for originally because our thoughts spurred something for the client and then we get hired for it.
Yep. That’s how it happens! Letting people know you are available is huge!
Great straight forward tips Holly. Prompt responses and being polite are good tips for anything you do!
That’s probably true. Being polite is always a good thing.
I love the bit of freelancing I’ve been doing so far, but I have a couple of hesitations. I feel like if I don’t have the structure of my day job (and let’s fact it, I get lots of freelancing done during my day job) that I won’t get anything done. Plus, I really like my day job. Also, while I’m all about being accessible, it has to be tough because you can’t just take a day off…am I right?
It is hard when you still work a 9-5 job. If you’re ever able to quit, it becomes much easier to be more accessible.
I really appreciate these tips! I only have one client currently, a large non-profit (in the medical industry). I assist with social media needs and just accepted email campaign management. One of my biggest challenges is gathering info from them because the ED is just so dang busy. Sometimes the waiting game really gets to me. I am ready to roll but have to hit the pause button…clearly it’s early on the West and I have not had enough coffee. What a complainy-pants!
Ha! Hey, at least you’re out there doing something!
I didn’t know you wrote for US News. That’s cool.
I’ve heard mixed views on writing for free. I think it probably depends on how established you are, since the advice not to do it comes from people who are already making six figures writing.
I don’t want regular writing gigs, but I have done some one-offs for free, but only for places like the NYTimes. Usually I request compensation. But people generally only contact me when they need specific expertise and that costs. Academia is weird because sometimes you’ll do things for free and sometimes you’ll get paid $100-$500 to do something you would do for free anyway (like review a paper or a book or a grant proposal).
Yeah, there are probably times when writing for free is a bad idea. On the other hand, it is a great way to get your name and writing style out there. When I first started writing on the web, I submitted a lot of guest posts. I can’t imagine how I might have gotten as many jobs as I have without going through that process.
I’m sure academia is a different ballgame since you offer specific expertise. I would want to be paid too if I were you!
You also have a really unique online voice. I can usually tell it’s your writing before I see the byline. I’m sure it’s kind of like dominoes once you get going and have some regular sites you write for.
Really? I hope that’s a good thing!
Good tips! My big problem sometimes is waiting for the client to get back to me. It’s always a dilemma for me whether or not to reach out and let them know that I’m still alive. But I guess a quick email doesn’t hurt!
Nope, it sure doesn’t!
Answering emails quickly and being easy to get a hold of is one of my points as well. When people email me about technical issues with their site, I try to respond as soon as possible. That shows them I read the email and I am on it!
Great tips Holly. I like that you mentioned to write for free as a way to earn work. I’ve done that so many times. I actually think I’m religiously all over all of these…great tips!
These are FABULOUS tips– ones that I am learning very slowly. I am not great at asking for jobs, but I ventured out and put some inquiries in and got one or two positive responses already (even though they are super low paying at the moment!).
Asking for the order is the most important aspect. Hard to believe, but most people do not.
Offering to write for free is fantastic advice. The potential client might know nothing about you, your writing, your promptness, or personality yet. Giving them a chance to learn about all those things, risk free, is a boon for them. The exposure is a boon for you. It creates a both-win.
I’m with you on replying to emails quickly. I’m always on top of mine for the most part and I definitely think that helps me get jobs.
If you are looking to be a writer, the sooner you start a blog the better. As someone who has hired multiple writers over the past year, I always prefer someone who has an online presence and typically the easiest way to have that is through a blog. Plus then you have a TON of writing samples for potential employers to see.
I am also known to respond very quickly to my emails and convey a positive and professional attitude. I also agree that going after potential writing gigs is key. I was in the midst of stepping up my efforts even more so your post came just in time. Thanks Holly.
I’m really trying to break into freelance writing and online work right now. So far, I’m loving it for the flexibility it provides versus my other part-time jobs. I’m even considering quitting one or more of my physical part-time jobs once I have some consistant writing and VA type jobs secured.
These are great tips Holly! I completely agree with the speedy response to emails. If you are prompt with your emails, it makes the people who are going to hire you feel as though you will be prompt with your work and someone they can rely on.
You say it’s good to write for free, which I agree with especially if you are trying to get your name out. Offering to guest post for a site you know is totally cool. I was approached by a site I do not know, and thought it was a paid writing gig. They said it was only guest posting they accepted. Do you have any tips on how to assess an unknown site to know if it’s worthwhile to write for or not?
All awesome advice. I definitely agree with the cold e-mailing and asking for jobs. Rarely is someone just going to hand it to you!
Really great tips! My blog network launched my freelance career. Your network is SO important in this field. Having a blog with writing samples doesn’t hurt either. I think being prompt, appreciative, and communicative all help too. Also, if you can turn things around fairly quickly.
The best part about this was definitely the reference to a “monkey suit”! Great tips for anyone looking to make some side income. Seems like there are a chosen few who are able to make the successful switch from a side hustle to a full time gig. Congrats!
Blogging is a great way to make an online presence like David said. It’s the easiest way to “write for free” and create your own compilation.
I am always prompt with my email replies, because I have realized that I notice that and appreciate it about other people. This is a great list!
Great tips. I remember reading one of your posts where you mentioned answering emails fast, and I keep that in mind. I used to think, “I’ll respond later”, but now I always try to answer promptly. Thanks for that tip!
Good tips. It’s a fact that you have to start with small salary first, that’s normal. Also, be very persistent in your job search, do a good research and have a presence on all freelance websites.
You have a good point in there Holly! As much as I can, I try to answer all the emails promptly in that way my clients know that I’m working during my working time.