Freelance Writing for Beginners | 4 Tips

When you research freelance writing for beginners all sorts of tips and tricks pop up. It’s a bit overwhelming, I know. You wonder how people get started, how it works and if it’s possible to make a living writing.

Freelance Writing for Beginners

Freelance Writing for Beginners

I landed my first freelance gig by accident. I had blogged for a while, for fun, and one day I received an email asking if I would help promote a movie by writing a preview on my blog. It paid $35.

Because I didn’t understand, well, anything about freelance writing and didn’t know anyone who was freelancing I continued blogging for fun and taking freelance writing gigs as they came to me.

Over the years I became savvier and joined professional associations I thought would help me figure things out. It has taken a while but the pieces are falling into place and I believe there are more opportunities than ever for people who want to get started freelance writing.

Don’t Let Technology Hold You Back

These days you can launch a blog or website in an afternoon, get YouTube famous with a couple viral hits and apply for remote gigs from your smartphone. So why not give it a shot?

Launching a successful freelance business is an entrepreneurial venture like any other, and requires a good deal of hard work, focus and discipline. Here are a few quick tips for getting started.

Four Tips | Freelance Writing for Beginners

  1. Set up a website and optimize it for search engines
  2. Think of your website as your digital business card, you resume and your writing portfolio all in one. This is the most important resource in your toolkit and worth spending time creating.

    If you take time to optimize your website for specific keywords, you’ll increase your chances of prospective clients finding you. If you’re looking for some SEO help, here are 6 simple steps to ranking well on Google.

    Although it’s not mandatory to have a website before you can land a paying client, having even a simple site with your name and contact information on it will go a long way to giving you credibility and status.

    Extra credit: Wondering what goes on your website? Here are essential freelance writer website elements.

  3. Create a writing portfolio
  4. When you don’t have experience it’s tough for potential clients to take a chance on you. Writing samples are the freelance writing industry’s version of education and/or experience. In lieu of samples, consider writing blog posts and using those to demonstrate your skill until you build your portfolio.

    Here are a few other ideas for getting writing samples for your portfolio.

    • Offer to write for local charities
    • Guest post on other websites
    • Submit letters to your local newspaper

    Anything that shows that you’re a capable writer is worth displaying in your writing portfolio.

    Extra credit: As you gain experience, collect testimonials from clients. This will help build trust with future prospects.

  5. Market like crazy
  6. Even if you land a retainer client on your first at-bat, consistently marketing your freelance business is one of the best things you can do.

    When you’re just getting started, your marketing will be more outbound than inbound. Think outreach, pitches, cold calls/emails, etc. As you build your brand and establish yourself in your niche your marketing will be more inbound than outbound. Think books, podcasts, interviews, referrals, etc.

    Extra credit: I believe in the power of marketing to transform people’s careers and businesses. Here are three marketing ideas for writers who hate marketing.

  7. Turn up each day, and do the work, whether you feel like it or not

As writing can be seen as a creative job, people sometimes leave their work until inspiration strikes. However, freelance writing is a job, not a creative exercise.

It’s important to turn up each day and do the work, whether you feel like it or not. In no time you’ll be on your way.

Extra credit: Setting goals and dreaming big is well and good but figuring out how to be productive even when you don’t feel like it is key to a thriving freelance business.

When you research freelance writing for beginners all sorts of tips and tricks pop up. You wonder how it works and if it's possible to make a living writing.

How to Be Productive Even When You’re Unmotivated

Setting goals and dreaming big is well and good but figuring out how to be productive even when you don’t feel like it is key to a thriving freelance business.

How to be productive

How to Be Productive Even When You’re Unmotivated

When you’re the one juggling all the balls and keeping your business going, there are times when you might wonder if it’s all worth the effort. No one said running your own business would be easy but sometimes it’s harder than you imagined. So what do you do when you have no motivation?

Tip 1: Stop Making Excuses

If you find yourself blaming outside forces or other people for why you’re not more productive it may be time for some honest reflection. There will always be obstacles and reasons why you can’t work on your business. Stop making excuses and figure out a solution. Keep moving forward.

Example: I can’t market my business, I’m awkward/introverted/etc. Nope. Get over it. You have to market your business. Figure it out. (By the way, here are some marketing ideas for people who hate marketing.)

Tip 2: Celebrate the Victories, Big and Small

While you were analyzing your freelance business did you stop to celebrate the small wins? Take a moment now. You’ve worked hard, you’ve had some good times. Acknowledge it.

No matter how small the accomplishment, give yourself some credit. Savour it. Pat yourself on the back. Being a business owner is tough, whether you’re a plumber or freelance writer. You’ve earned this moment of celebration!

When we’re stressing about how to be productive and worrying about how far we still have to go it’s easy to miss the progress we make. Try to see it. Try to feel positive.

Once you’ve found a few victories write them down and remind yourself of your progress every time you’re feeling down. Use the small wins to spur you forward.

Tip 3: Ask for Help | How to Be Productive

Just because you’re an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself. If you’re feeling stressed, overworked or under pressure it might be time to ask for help. Sure, you may have a time management issue and if there are systems you can implement and changes you can make to your routine then you should do it. But it also may be time to ask for help. Outsourcing isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of growth. Finding the right strategic partners could make all the difference.

If this sounds like what you’ve been looking for, learn more here about marketing and SEO agencies.

Tip 4: Analyze and Evaluate

Rather than digging in and pushing harder, it might be time to take a step back and take stock of your situation. Give yourself some space, evaluate where things are at compared with where you want to be.

Here are a few questions to consider. Are you circling burnout or do you just need a bit of help? Is your work/life balance in tact? Are you working towards your S.M.A.R.T. goals or are you just working?

If your business financial health is in question, it may be time to dig out last year’s reports and take stock of your actual numbers. How did things go? What’s changed?

Once you have a good idea of where things are at you can re-evaluate where you’re going. Take a look at your road map and adjust as necessary.

Setting goals and dreaming big is well and good but figuring out how to be productive even when you don't feel like is key to a thriving freelance business.

Five Tips for Optimizing your Social Media Profiles

Optimizing your social media profiles is important! You want to ensure potential clients know who you are, what you do, and why they should hire you.

Optimizing Your Social Media Profiles

These tips are available as a free download, plug your email address in below and I’ll send you the printable.

Optimizing Your Social Media Profiles

When you’re a hungry freelance writer or getting started in the industry it’s difficult to know where to look for work. Things like job boards, Craigslist, and cold emailing queries are what people trend towards but these are (in general) low paying, competitive and an exhausting hustle. Your chances of landing solid clients are low so your pitch rate has to be high.

If you’re wondering how established freelance writers generate leads they’ll tell you most of their work comes through warm leads (existing relationships) and referrals. Even if you’re just starting out these options are available to you too, the trick is letting people know you’re available so they think of you when an opportunity comes up.

The best way to let people know you’re available is by saying you’re available. It’s easy to look at your social media profiles as places where friends and family connect with you, so there’s no reason to talk about your business (don’t they already know what you do?) but what better place to find referrals than your friends and family list?

One More THing…

And don’t assume they’re aware of what you do or even understand it. Do you know the details of your entire network? I don’t. Take assumption out of the picture and optimize your social profiles for your freelance writing business. Lay it out for them so it’s easy for them to think of you when they hear about someone looking for a writer.

Another reason to optimize your social media profiles is because your reach is wide on social. A potential client is more likely to run across you on Twitter or LinkedIn before ever seeing your website. You want to ensure you tell any potential clients who you are, what you do, and why they should hire you.

These tips are available as a free download, plug your email address in below and I’ll send you the printable.

Five Tips for Optimizing your Social Media Profiles

  1. Choose a professional/standout profile picture and cover photo
  2. Your profile photo should be high quality, square, reflect your brand, stand out in news feeds, and be a picture of you.

    Your cover photo (on applicable platforms) should be high quality and represent the core values of your brand.

    The more consistent your images are across platforms, the better.

  3. Make it easy for people to know who you are/what you do
  4. If you want to capture leads from your social profiles then use your full name or business name. Nothing cute here. A great social media bio explains who you are and what you do, shares your personality, and targets your niche audience with keywords. Think of it as an amped-up elevator pitch.

  5. Link to your website
  6. Some gurus teach linking to your professional Facebook page and if that’s where you prefer doing business I won’t stop you. But don’t leave the URL section blank. Think about it this way, where do you want your prospective clients to go? Send them there. I want them to go to my website so I can showcase the best of my work on a property I own and control.

  7. Include keywords about your services
  8. If someone is searching on Twitter for someone like you, what will they search for? Make sure those words show up in your profile in a non-spammy way. Avoid buzz words, use terms your ideal client would use, be concise, and mention the benefits of what you do.

    And my favourite tip for Optimizing your Social Media Profiles

  9. Be clear on your location/contact info


If you work from home you may not want your address listed for the world to see, but how about your city or region? Adding your location helps potential clients discover you. And what about your contact details? Make it easy for people to get in touch, but only share what you’re comfortable with. Adding a phone number may be too much, but what about your work email address? If you want people to contact you with work, tell them how to reach you.

Now get out there and be social!

These tips are available as a free download, plug your email address in below and I’ll send you the printable.

Optimizing your social media profiles is important! You want to ensure potential clients know who you are, what you do, and why they should hire you.

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What is a Ghostwriter?

“What is a ghostwriter?” At a recent writer’s breakfast workshop on book writing and publishing, a writer asked me this. The topic came up as I was giving examples of alternative publishing options to.

What is a Ghostwriter

My example, in this case: ghostwriting.

“What is a ghostwriter?” The workshop attendee asked. “Is it when you change names in your memoir to avoid disclosing someone’s identity?”

This was a new concept to the workshop attendees. As I thought about the term I realized how weird it is. I mean, it kind of sounds like some sort of niche mystery writer. The answer is much less sexy, sorry.

What is a Ghostwriter?

When people outside the industry think of writing I think they imagine a standard person-writes-book-and-puts-name-on-it. But when you enter the wonderful world of professional writing you realize there are SO MANY MORE OPTIONS.

Sure, writing a book and putting your name on it is a thing. A big thing. And the easiest way to explain ghostwriting to someone who things of the writing life as limited to authoring a book is this: a ghostwriter is someone who writes a book for someone else. They provide the service of writing a book and then release the rights to that book to the person who hired them to do it.

What does this mean?

When you write a book for someone else it means you get paid once and they sell the book as their own. They put their name on it. They take all the credit. And they get all future money for it.

And it’s totally above board, don’t worry. Sure there are other arrangements ghostwriters make with their clients. Sometimes the book will say “so and so with so and so,” which indicates the it’s the first person’s story but the second person put it together and did the writing. And sometimes the writer does receive royalties. Quite often these are collaborations with an editor and done for people who are celebrities, politicians or CEOs.

Other Types of Ghostwriting

I look at ghostwriting as any writing you aren’t credited for. And there are so many times where this makes sense. Some examples: website copy, product descriptions, social media posts, podcast show notes. It doesn’t really make sense to have a byline on things like this. And you maybe you don’t think about this type of writing as professional writing but it is.

The label for this type of ghostwriting is something like business-to-business writing or even professional writing. In essence, you’re hired to write for a company and once your contract is completed they own the copy and you get paid.

Makes sense, right? Do you still wonder what is a ghostwriter?

Another type of ghostwriting is taking one form of media and transcribing it into written form. You aren’t coming up with the ideas or doing the research, you’re just repurposing it. It doesn’t make sense to have author credit because, well, you didn’t write it. Not really.

I could keep going but I think you get the idea. The great news about ghostwriting is often it is better paying than writing for credit because people understand what you’re giving up and compensate you for it.

A writer asked me what is a ghostwriter. It came up because I suggested it as an alternative to traditional publishing and it was a new idea for attendees.

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Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Freelance Writing Business

You may or may not have heard of creating S.M.A.R.T. goals before. It takes some planning and brainstorming but it works!

Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Freelance Writing Business

If you’re a writer, you probably have something you want to accomplish. You know, a big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG). Write a book. Make 100 per cent of your income from freelance writing. Secure year-round contract work.

So, what’s your goal?

And how long have you not been reaching it?

I don’t mean any offence, I just know from experience how those BHAGs can paralyse, overwhelm, and otherwise sabotage productivity. That is, until the BHAG is broken down into smaller, less hairy, S.M.A.R.T. goals. You know, the ones that will spark your creativity and propel you towards your dreams.

No pressure

Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals

For years I’ve said I want to write a book. In an offhanded, joking sort of way. And yet for all my wanting I have 1,600 terrible words accomplished. Why? Don’t I want to write a book? Then why am I not writing it?

Because I’ve never broken down the goal into manageable steps. Daily word counts. Specific time set aside for book writing. Book plotting. Why haven’t I? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s overwhelm. Maybe insecurity. Or maybe I’m waiting for someone to not only beg me to write a book but also pay me to do it.

Enough! time to get going on Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals

It’s time to get real, set the goal, state it, and break it down into steps that will get me there.

Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Freelance Writing Business

Everyone agrees goal-setting is important. However, while it’s fun dreaming and thinking big, the work of it is figuring out how to achieve your goals. The best way to set goals you’ll actually work to achieve is following the creating S.M.A.R.T. goals system. It’s quick, straightforward, and keeps you focused on action.

Once I have my BHAG (in this example, write a book) I break down the goal into smaller, less impossible steps. You know, I make them smart. Here’s how I define S.M.A.R.T. (because there are many ways to do it). I keep things straight by applying who, what, when, why, how to the matter. If I can’t answer those questions, my goal might still be too big.

Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals Broken Down

Specific—what will you do?

Here’s where you force yourself to get clear and focus in on your objective. What do you even want to do?

If my goal is write a 50,000 page book I’m going to have to figure out how to make it happen. I need to break this huge goal into smaller tasks. Maybe it’s write 750 words a day. Maybe it’s a weekly word goal. Oh, or maybe I need an outline and table of contents first. Maybe I need my topic before I get get into writing. By breaking it down into one or several specific goals, the huge task of writing 50,000 words is all of a sudden not such a crazy idea.

Measurable—how will you know you’ve done it?

The problem (for me at least, maybe you’re totally great at writing 50,000 words or achieving any and every huge goal you have by sheer will power and determination) with huge goals is you only know you’ve achieved it once you hit your word count or whatever it is you have as your finish line. But since it’s such a massive goal you need checkpoints along the way to keep you motivated and not paralysed in overwhelm. Break your goals into smaller pieces, all building towards that huuuuuuuuge goal and you’ll see your anticipation and excitement for the task at hand grow.

When I set myself a daily or weekly word count goal I know exactly what I need to do. Once I reach the goal? I feel pretty good. In fact, I feel great. I celebrate the small wins and feel confident I’m one more step closer to reaching my huge goal. Amazing how that works.

Achievable—who will do it?

Of course, goal-setting only works when it’s actually possible to accomplish it. So when creating S.M.A.R.T. goals you do need to ask if you can achieve it. Can you? How? You might have to look deep and get real with yourself at this point. Do you have the skills you need to reach this goal? Do you have the time? How about the resources? Do you have the money?

For me time is always the issue. So I have to ask myself, is this what I want? For reals? Or is it a nice idea. OK then, how will I make this happen? Because “I didn’t do it because I was busy” is a nice excuse, but if I’m going to use it then I should probably give up on my BHAG because it’s not going to happen.

Relevant—why are you doing it?

At this point in the process, you need to make sure you care about the goal and that it fits with your other goals. How does this goal fit in with your other, larger, dreams? Does it drive you forward in the right direction? Does it breathe life into you?

I ask myself if the goal I’m setting is worthwhile, the right time, and a good fit with whatever else is going on in my life. Sometimes I have to set my goals aside for a time while I finish up other tasks. Sometimes I have to shelve them because I realise while it’s a nice idea and fun and stuff, it doesn’t align with my other goals. This is hard but, when done right, honest.

Time-Sensitive—when will you do it?

What’s a goal without a deadline? If your goal is open-ended it stays vague—more like a wish than something you’ll actually accomplish. And because you’ve worked so hard to make your goal specific and realistic, you should be able to commit to a deadline you’ll be able to meet without too much stress. Another bonus when setting deadlines is to keep you focused on your BHAGs and not allow the everyday, urgent, busy stuff distract you.

Once I set a target for my BHAG I find it easier to set individual deadlines when creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. When I have the big number then I deconstruct it into smaller amounts until I have something I can work with, be it a daily, weekly, or monthly goal.

With my goals set I move on to breaking them into tasks, but that’s a story for another day.

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The best way to set goals you’ll actually work to achieve is by creating S.M.A.R.T. goals for your freelance writing business.

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