The path to become a freelance writer online can sometimes be unclear – but I am living proof that building a sustainable and profitable online business is not only possible, it’s also a very realistic goal; IF you are prepared to put the time and energy into it.
So what is a Freelance Writer?
Here’s one definition (courtesy of Mr Google); a freelance writer is a person who works as a writer, selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., effectively being ‘self-employed’ rather than being paid a set salary or working on a regular basis for one employer.
Do you like the sound of that? When I started my online writing career, the words’ freelance and writer conjured up a vision of flexible working hours, sitting outside drinking coffee in the sunshine, armed with my laptop and a head full of idealistic thoughts and pearls of wisdom that I would impart to a waiting audience who were ready to lap up my every word.
The reality is somewhat different. Sure, there’s flexibility in this type of work, but if you’re not prepared to fully commit to the process, you will struggle to do well in this business. Here are a few thoughts from my own journey, which I hope will be useful as you navigate your own path to freelance writing success.
Make Writing A Daily Habit
Committing to a daily word count is a great way to develop good habits as a writer. The trick to this is to keep your daily writing goal at an achievable level, then meet that target daily – no exceptions. For a new blogger, a target of 300-500 words’ per day should be attainable, whereas a more experienced freelance writer should be targeting somewhere between 1500-5000+ words’ per day.
If you are serious about becoming a freelance writer – particularly if you are looking at building an online affiliate marketing business, you will quickly learn that content is king. Work out how much time you have each day to focus on your online business, and spend at least half of that generating articles or content. After all, writing is the activity that is going to generate your income!
Research Your Chosen Niche
There are literally millions of niche ideas that could generate an income online. It goes without saying that you should choose a niche that you are interested in or even better, passionate about. But before you head off on a tangent to build a website about your chosen niche, do your homework!
Researching your chosen niche can help you understand;
- What kind of competition there is online for your niche and who your main competition is
- Gaps in the market that you could capitalize on
- Whether you can offer a product, service, solution or information that others want
- What search terms are people using to find information about your niche – Keyword research can help you find search terms that can be built into your website and online
- If there’s an opportunity to build an authority website or focus on a mini-niche (where your focus is more narrow)
- Whether affiliate marketing, google ad sense, or directly selling your services (content or article writing, writing e books etc) is the best approach for your business
Create An Online Presence
Authors need author platforms aka a website and a social media presence. So do freelance writers.
At minimum, you need;
- A website
- A Facebook page
I also recommend a combination of;
Which Social Media Applications you choose will largely depend on your personal preference and also your intended audience. Twitter is great for breaking news and keeping your finger on the ‘pulse’ of current events, Linkedin is a networking site largely aimed at professionals, whereas Instagram is great for sharing photos and images. Understand your audience and choose carefully.
Discipline Around Social Media
Once you have chosen your preferred combination of social media to supplement your main website, you need to apply some real discipline around your social media activities.
It can be far too easy to whittle away the hours on Facebook or twitter, all the while neglecting the real work (yes it is real work) of writing. Develop good habits and it will put you in good stead for your online success.
Use an application like Hootsuite to schedule posts and tweets in advance; writing one post and sending it to all your social media accounts is much more efficient than trying to manage each social media account separately. The best thing about Hootsuite is that it has inbuilt analytics, so it’s easy to see which posts and tweets are getting most attention, likes or clicks – this will hugely assist you in refining your social media strategy.
In the same way you need to develop a daily writing habit, you also need to develop good social media habits. I’ve had most success by scheduling specific times for social media activities. It looks a little like this;
- 10 minutes each morning to review Twitter, complete follow backs and reply to any legitimate direct messages etc
- 5 minutes morning and night to check Facebook, comment, respond and share content etc. (I allocate a similar amount of time for other social media such as Instagram etc).
- I only check Linkedin once or twice a week – this is more reactive, I’ll login in respond to direct message or an interesting post made by others
- Once a week I login to Hootsuite to schedule posts and tweets for the coming week across all the platforms. Drafting posts and sourcing suitable images to accompany my posts normally takes about an hour. Wherever possible I use images and pictures to accompany posts and tweets.
Be the Authority
Writing regular quality content for your blog or website, that your readers love, is the quickest way to position yourself as an authority in your chosen niche. Do yourself a favor and really truly understand WHO your intended audience is, and write your content for THEM. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Your writing will end up being a watered down version of boring.
Choose your topic. Clearly define your audience. Write quality articles for them.
Oh, and nothing will ruin your credibility as an authority more quickly than poor spelling and bad grammar. I use SiteRubix’s Content Creation tool for all my website articles. Not only does it check grammar, spelling, sentence structure and punctuation, it also runs a number of checks and measures to ensure that your final document is as polished and word-perfect as it can be.
Build Relationships That Matter
Reaching out to key influencers in your niche can be a daunting task and one that I’ll cover in more detail in another post. Needless to say, your online and real life networks can really help you grow your business. Take every opportunity to share with others what you are doing, you never know how people are connected and what doors they may open for you.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to get as many online followers or fans as possible. Sure, it is a numbers game, but don’t focus solely on the number of followers – you want to make meaningful connections with people that matter.
Another way to build those relationships and networks is by offering to write guest posts for other bloggers and website owners in your niche. When I launched my book, Fraud & Fabrication, I wrote a handful of guest posts and they paid dividends in growing my connections as well as getting traffic for my website and publicity for my debut novel.
Make A Commitment To Lifelong Learning
This quote by Melanie Joy sums up my thoughts on continuous learning beautifully;
“Educating yourself does not mean that you were stupid in the first place; it means you are intelligent enough to know that there is plenty left to learn.”
It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. And that’s what is so exciting about developing an online writing business. Just think how quickly the internet has changed our online digital landscape in the last 30 years – the possibilities to learn new things are endless and we’re only just scratching the surface.
Get excited about what you do, who you are and what you are capable of.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and work on your own self-improvement. It’s an investment that you will never regret.
Find a mentor, take a course, or join an online community where you can learn from like-minded people. I personally recommend Wealthy Affiliate for their huge array of training material and resources for affiliate marketers, as well as their vibrant and active online community. It’s great to know that there’s someone on hand to help if I’m ever stuck or have a question – no matter how silly or tricky it may be.
What’s holding you back? I hope this article has provided you with some inspiration for your own journey as a writer, along with some ideas about where and how to start. Writing is very personal and sometimes it can be daunting to put yourself out there, but with practice and a commitment to developing your craft, you can do it.
Set that daily writing goal and go for it!
Find out more
If you found this article interesting, have a question or would like to share your experiences, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me a line in the comments section below, or contact me at Wealthy Affiliate via my profile.
Thanks for reading and all the very best of luck. Warm regards, Karen