Five Tips for Beginning Freelance Writers

We get the odd question here from people who are just starting down the path of freelance writing.  Sadly, been hearing from more than one ex-journalist these days.

Seriously, though, what do you need to know when you first start out?  I would dispense the following advice:

1.  Don’t Buy Anything That Professes to Tell You All the Secrets
As you will learn doing copywriting, or as you already know, this is simply a marketing gimmick done to sucker you, the cash-flush reader, into parting with your money for a kernel of truth wrapped in a giant burrito of BS. This includes e-books, courses, webinars, and anything else that professes huge results in a small amount of time. Your money and time are best invested in building your portfolio, familiarizing yourself with style guidelines, and practicing your writing by doing it rather than reading about it. I buy the odd book by people who know what they are talking about and that is all.

2.  You Don’t Have to Pay to Get The Gigs
Elance, Guru, and other sites are arranged to give you the convenience of going into one place to get all of your work. These sites are nothing more than trumped up temp agencies that charge you a membership fee and take a cut of your work. The kind of buyers that post jobs on these sites are generally $5.00 per article types, if that. Don’t waste your time when there are abundant sites like this one, Craiglist,,, and others purpose-built to help you get gigs at no charge.

3.  Join a Professional Association
In Canada, that would be PWAC. At least one regular reader of this site has had success landing clients through being listed on their website after joining. One good client can repay the $400.00 membership fee, plus you get to go to fun events with other members and network.  It’s all good.

4.  Have a Good Portfolio
A lovely resume and a killer website will do you no good. Build up your client base and your portfolio if you don’t already have one. Try to round it out with samples from various industries, as potential buyers like to see samples from within their own sector.

5.  Smile And Laugh
Don’t forget to have fun. You are a creative, and we creatives are the envy of every cubicle worker out there. Enjoy it and be happy that you’ve taken the bold step to be a freelancer in the first place.

2 Responses to “Five Tips for Beginning Freelance Writers”

  1. I would have to respectfully disagree with your second point. I have managed to find many great clients through Elance, and I am definitely not charging $5 per article. While those types of jobs do exist on Elance, there are also hundreds of excellent job leads and clients to be found every month in the Writing category.

    I would highly recommend that new writers approach sites like Elance with the attitude that they will charge what their services are worth, and avoid competing solely on price, which can be difficult to do if living in North America.

    May 11, 2009 at 9:02 am
  2. admin #

    Thanks Benjamin – it is good to know that the quality of the buyers has gone up since I was last exploring Elance, which was admittedly some time ago. I’m still a little shaky on the membership fee plus cut of profits that they take, since there are so many free job sites out there, but I thank you for pointing out the error.

    May 11, 2009 at 9:14 am

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