One of the best things about being a freelance writer is there are job opportunities everywhere.
Businesses need you to provide copy for their websites. Marketers want you to write emails with better conversion rates. And in a digital age where everyone has a blog, you could write dozens of original posts every month and still have clients requesting more.
But for the fledgling freelance writer, these opportunities come with a caveat. If you take any writing gig offered to you, you could find yourself collecting random clips that don’t reflect the writing niche you want to specialize in or showcase your true expertise.
Before you know it, you could be stuck creating online content you’re not passionate about (and that doesn’t pay well). Suddenly the reality of being a freelance writer doesn’t look so great.
At times like these, it’s important to know you can still take control of your freelancing career, produce the work you want, and attract better clients.
How? By using the following two strategies.
One of the biggest hurdles you’ll face as a new freelance writer is getting published clips for your portfolio.
It’s the classic Catch-22: you need published content to show clients your experience, but without any experience, websites won’t hire you to produce their content.
Many writers get around this by offering to produce content for free on popular blogs in exchange for a publication credit. If the blog owners feel your work is good enough, your post gets published along with your name, photo, and a link to your website. They get fresh content and you get to refer prospective clients to reputable websites when asked to share your work.
It’s a win-win scenario — especially when other website owners come across your published work and ask you to contribute to their blog.
That’s how I got my position at Hectic. Founder and CEO Darryl Kelly spotted some guest posts I contributed to Freelancer FAQs, liked my style, and asked if I could write for the Hectic blog. Suddenly I was writing about a subject I loved (freelancing) and earning a living doing it.
The main issue with this strategy is that guest posting is often done for free or very low wages. This can be a problem when you’re starting out, especially if you need money to pay the bills.
Fortunately, there’s a way around this problem too.
If you land a job producing regular content (like blog posts) for a client, odds are you’ll get the chance to pitch your own projects.
Website owners are busy people after all, and writers who pitch their own projects help lighten their workload.
This provides you with an excellent way to write about what you want — if you can angle your pitch to fit your employer’s needs.
Let’s say you’re very passionate and knowledgeable about amusement parks. From Disneyland to Universal Studios, you know all the inside stories and little-known-facts that only true theme park fans know.
Unfortunately, you’re writing for a parenting blog that focuses on child rearing tips and isn’t interested in a post on the history of Disneyland.
A blog like that may still be interested in publishing a post on “5 Tips to Keep Your Kids Under Control at Disneyland.” Or maybe, “8 Kid Friendly Universal Studio Attractions Most Parents Don’t Know About.”
By offering your knowledge in a way that benefits your website’s readers, you can produce publishable content that showcases your unique expertise and earns you a paycheck.
And since you’re naturally passionate about these topics, that enthusiasm will come through in your writing, increasing the likelihood that your employer will want more pieces like these.
At this point, two things could happen:
By regularly posting and sharing your content on social media and your website, hundreds — if not thousands — of people will see your new articles and your byline. Eventually, someone may scout you and ask you to contribute to a website better suited to your interests.
This happened to me when the entertainment site Looper spotted some of my comic book articles on ScreenRant and offered me a position as a contributing writer. While I loved writing about comics, my new position lets me produce content on movies, TV shows, and all things pop culture related.
Even if you feel your area of interest is already saturated with other writers, by proving yourself an expert in your field, websites will still want you to add your unique voice to the content being produced.
Okay, but what happens if that offer to write for HuffPost doesn’t come right away?
Since you’ve proven that you can successfully pitch projects that you want to write (and that fit the needs of your client), you can turn any writing assignment into something that reflects your interests.
The fact is, blog posts can be tailored to fit any subject matter if you get creative enough. I’ve seen articles that use MCU movies to illustrate content marketing strategies and Psychology Today blog posts that use the Disney+ series “WandaVision” to examine grief and reality distortion.
I took this approach in my latest Hectic articles, “Q&A with Freelance Voice Over Artist Becky Jo Harris” and “How Talking During the Movie Became a Freelancing Career” which delve into the offbeat world of voice acting and YouTube reaction videos. Not the usual subjects you’d expect to find on a website for freelancers — but since I focused on the business side of these artistic careers, it fit the needs of the blog while offering something new to readers.
In fact, merging offbeat subjects with conventional content is often the best way to stand out from other freelance writers when you’re establishing your brand.
A post on relationship advice might not attract a lot of attention if you publish it on a dating website. But a post for a writer’s blog that shows how relationship advice can help writers get to know their fictional characters better? Now that’s more eye catching — and something potential clients will want to click on when they examine your writer’s portfolio.
Ultimately, most people get into freelancing because they want to enjoy their work and be proud of what they produce.
Unfortunately, if you get too caught up in the struggle of finding work, you may lose sight of the direction you want your freelancing career to take.
Spend time writing in the blog niches you’re passionate about. Let yourself be creative about the projects you pitch to your employers. Even if you don’t see immediate results, investing in your interests lays the groundwork for a job you’ll want to get up for every morning.
Need some more help escaping the freelance hustle and establishing the right mindset for a successful freelancing career? Hectic Academy offers an online learning hub that provides you with the insights, online lessons, and advice to build the career you want.
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