I’ve been a full-time freelancer for about six months or so now. I went from never even hearing about freelance writing to watching a YouTube video (should out to Alexandra Fasulo and this video that started me down the freelance path!) to successfully earning enough to cover all my monthly expenses in just six months. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but I am so glad that I found this path because I truly love writing, working for myself, interacting with interesting clients, and having a flexible schedule!
While I still have a long way to go, I want to share some of my top tips for new freelancers! This is also a bit of an update to an earlier post I wrote right at the beginning of my journey. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and excited for where to go!
Without further preamble, here are my top tips for new freelance writers:
*Note that I have only worked on freelance websites like Upwork and Fiverr, so this advice might not be applicable for someone looking to build their own client base off a website.
1. Don’t be afraid of freelance websites
I would absolutely not be where I am without Upwork and Fiverr. They sometimes get bad-mouthed for super low rates or siding with the buyers over the freelancers. There is also no end to horror stories about terrible clients! And while there are some painfully low rates on there and some bad clients, there are also some amazing opportunities. I’ve met great clients who pay fair rates and are easy to work with.
The best part about working on a freelance platform is that they do all the work for you to get clients. This makes is so much easier than trying to go at it alone, drumming up business.
2. Start small
Don’t bite off more than you can chew! This applies to so many things in life, but especially freelancing. For those first few jobs, take on small projects that you know you can knock out of the park. Don’t take on a 30,000-word book to edit for your first project! Start small to gain confidence (and reviews) and slowly work up to bigger projects.
3. Always prioritize communication
Customer service, client care, schmoozing… whatever you want to call it—it’s important. Communicating with professionalism is of the utmost importance when freelancing, as they are the ones who can make or break your experience.
I always make sure that I am polite and profession—obviously—but also make the effort to connect on a personal level where possible. Small things like connecting based on where you live (“Hi there, it’s great to see another Canadian here on Upwork!”) or wishing them happy holidays can go a long way. Communication is also important to establish yourself as a professional who will meet deadlines, keep them informed on the status of things, and fix any mistakes as needed.
4. It’s not about the money… yet!
At the beginning, you can’t worry about the money. You won’t make much, and certainly not what you’re worth, until you’ve established yourself. It’s all about the social proof, the reviews, at the beginning. It doesn’t matter if you have a MA in Writing or 10+ years experience as a journalist—without a 5-star review, it just doesn’t mean much.
So, focus on building up the reviews by doing an excellent job on short projects. As you establish yourself and get more reviews, you can then increase your rates and start making more money. This takes some humility and a lot of hard work—hours of work for not a lot of money. It can suck at times, but you can move quickly past this stage if you put some hard work in! The money will come, just don’t obsess about it at the beginning. This is also a good reason to not quit your day job (ooops… do as I say, not as I do…!) before you make enough freelancing to replace your income.
5. Do everything with excellence
This should go without saying, but you can’t expect to be a successful freelance writer if you are not a good writer. You definitely don’t need to be a Pulitzer Prize winning author, but you need to write quality material, free from errors, that meets the client’s expectations.
There are tons of freelancers who just spin articles, re-write other people’s work, or leave sloppy errors—don’t be like them! Set yourself apart by doing a great job every single time.
6. Push through imposter syndrome
There are so many times I have thought to myself, “What am I doing?! How can I make a living from this?!” This is imposter syndrome, the belief that you are not meant to be where you are. And you’ve got to start tuning it out and pushing through anyways. I try to remind myself that there are tons of other people out there making a living doing this, so why not me?
There they are—my top tips for someone just starting out. Is there anything I missed?