Freelance writing: The gateway into the world of professional writing

Every aspiring writer has their dream of publishing their breakout hit. Whether you are a journalist, magazine writer or a blogger, you want to get your name out and have an audience for your work. It can be tough to figure out where to start your writing career, but there is a way you can write about the things you want to and make money: freelance writing.

As the name suggests, freelance writing allows you to operate as a freelancer for different organizations, meaning that you will be your own boss and determine when and with who you work with. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds, as it will require a great deal of patience and time management skills. Good for you, though, we are going to break down the things you need to know to start off your freelance writing venture.

The first step to freelancing is getting your name out there. That means coming up with story and article ideas to pitch to any interested parties, whether it’s a small business or an online publication. You might feel, understandably, pretty shy about your first pitch or so, but remember that this is all a growing experience for you. You are bound to make mistakes, so don’t sweat it if things don’t go according to plan.

This might be a no-brainer, but think of topics that you personally want to write about. Your best work comes from writing about the things you are passionate about. Whether you love creating scrapbooks of different tree leaves or taking photos of historical locations, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you write about something that you are personally invested in sharing with others.

When pitching an article, think of exactly where you would like to see it published. Maybe you’ve been really interested in writing about restoring old furniture that has been tossed out; brainstorm websites and businesses that are related to your topic. Then, do the research about who you want to pitch to. Figure out their goals, who is in charge and any further information about the publication that can give you an advantage when you pitch directly to them.

When you pitch, be sure to introduce yourself, how you came to learn about their organization, and sell your story idea. And remember — unless the publication you are pitching to prefers to look at fully fleshed-out pieces, don’t start writing until you land a gig — otherwise you just run the risk of doing a whole lot of unpaid work.

It is okay to pitch to multiple groups. However, be honest with them that you are shopping your story in other places. Some similar publications may be in communication with each other, so be clear up front whether the story is being marketed to more than one media outlet in order to maintain your professionalism.

Pitching isn’t just one way of selling a story; it’s also a way to build up connections with other publishers and writers. If you have a good standing with people in those industries, they will be more willing to work with you in the future and maybe even provide you further opportunities.

The key to success in freelance writing is effective time-management. Once you have a project with a publication, you will have to meet their requirements and their deadlines. Since you are a freelancer, you won’t have a boss breathing down your neck, but that doesn’t mean you should slack off.

Plan out your schedule and when you will have time to work on your project. More importantly, commit to your schedule. Plans are only as good as you decide to execute them. No one else knows your schedule and your limits better than yourself. Plan accordingly.

It is also important that, starting off, you will want to ease into these projects. Try only taking one or two assignments at first. It can be very easy to overwhelm yourself, and it may reflect poorly on your work ethic if you can’t deliver your assignments on time. Take the time to figure out your own pace and how freelance work affects your personal schedule. Once you gain more experience and confidence, then you can consider doing multiple projects at once.

The final bit of advice for freelance writers is to be open to criticism. Everyone makes mistakes, so don’t let failure make you seize up. Your pitches will be rejected, and your writing will get criticized. However, as stated earlier, this is all part of the process of becoming a better writer.

Be open to your clients’ thoughts on your work and how you can improve on it. It doesn’t matter what skill level you are; any writer can learn how to improve their craft. Feedback is a key part of growing as writer, so don’t shy away from it.

Freelance writing not only provides writers, new and experienced alike, with a way to share their work and make money, but it can also help creators build connections with other writers and publishers, as well as grow in their craft.

By Seth Chapman, first published at March 17, 2021