Saturday, March 22, 2014

How to Break Into Freelancing

I’d like to introduce you to Nikolas Baron, who’s guest-posting today on Straight From Hel. Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

How to Break Into Freelancing
Breaking into freelance writing can be challenging. With the plethora of blogs and online publications, it may seem as if everyone is writing online. Job boards can make the writing scene seem even more depressing, with ridiculously low rates offered for high word counts. Freelancing is a business, and like any other business, it requires commitment, dedication, and a certain level of expertise to achieve success.
The writer who approaches freelancing as a business will succeed more readily than one who is passionate about writing but doesn’t understand the difference between writing for one’s self and writing for publication. Writing for publication requires the ability to channel one’s passion into topics that others want to read and create valuable content. Professionalism requires a constant pursuit of quality in the craft. Using tools like writing courses, books, critique groups, and an online spelling, grammar, and plagiarism checker can help the writer improve his or her technique to the level of producing publication-worthy material regularly.  

Writing every day is important to success. Guest blog posts are an excellent way to get started. The aspiring writer should seek out blogs that are open to guest posts and send the owner a query, or a “pitch”, asking about the possibility of writing a guest post for the blog. These jobs don’t often pay well, or sometimes at all, but they can be an opportunity to collect writing samples to use when querying larger markets. Most freelance writers spend about half their working time actually writing and the rest on seeking out markets for their work. While it is possible to write first and sell later, it’s more economical to write queries and secure approval from an editor before beginning to write. By using queries, the writer can save him or herself a lot of time writing generic articles that don’t capture the fancy of any one blog or publication.  
A solid query is a valuable asset. After all, the editor is evaluating the writer’s skill in putting together words into coherent sentences. If the query is sloppy, poorly written, or not carefully checked for grammar and spelling, the editor is unlikely to be interested in the writer’s work. The query should receive as much attention and care as the actual article or blog entry in order to make a solid impression. Even if the first query is turned away, a writer who presents a professional image is more likely to have a later idea picked up.
Pricing is one of the most challenging aspects of running a freelancing business. There is a strong temptation to accept very low pay in order to establish a presence online. Although it may be wise, occasionally, to write for little or no pay, this should be done very judiciously, either in support of a cherished cause, or for the chance at significant exposure. Freelancing is about earning a living by writing. It’s difficult to pay the bills with likes, comments, and online interactions with readers. While the fanfare that comes with a well-received blog article is gratifying, it doesn’t buy groceries. It’s important to set a reasonable price on work done.
Building a freelancing business, just as with any other enterprise, requires an investment of time and effort. Maintaining professionalism requires attention to detail and a dedication to constantly making personal improvements. In addition, deadlines are critical to the freelancer. Competition is fierce, and writers who do not meet deadlines will soon find themselves out of work. Writing is also a passion for most aspiring freelancers. As such, keeping a regular schedule helps keep deadlines under control and also creates a sense of purpose. The schedule should include both regular, focused writing time and time for marketing, reading, and seeking out new markets and clients.
Freelance writing can be a fulfilling career for the one who is able to maintain focus, self-direction, and motivation. Certainly, passion for a particular subject may be the driving force that motivates a writer to begin freelancing. However, sustaining a career as a writer demands knowledge of running a business, an attitude of professionalism, and a firm dedication to quality.

Leave a comment or question for Nikolas. Have any of you used Grammarly’s online proofreading application?


  1. Helen, thanks for introducing Nickolas.

    Nickolas, you've touched on an area I have run into. Coming from a print newspaper background I hit a brick wall, so to speak, when I decided to try freelance writing. Despite 30-plus years of writing articles covering a vast array of subjects, I had nothing to show clients. You also make a good point about the query letter and what it represents. Good advice here, thanks.

  2. The freedom of freelancing is attractive, but I guess the income may cause some worries, at least in the beginning >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  3. Hi Helen and Nikolas .. such a good article to have here and one we can access for reference purposes. As you mention being professional at all times is an essential quality ... shoddy work in any form just won't cut the mustard ...

    Thanks .. this is so helpful ... cheers Hilary

  4. Interesting post, Nikolas. I've never heard of a plagiarism checker. Where can I find one?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...