Setting your own hours. Creating your ideal work environment. Making money while your dog is curled up next to you.
Pursuing a freelance writing career is appealing in many ways. But being your own boss has its pros and cons, and even the most seasoned of freelancers sometimes have trouble balancing the added demands that freelancing presents.
Whether you’re freelancing as a side hustle or pursuing it as a full-time career path, here are six tips to get you going on the right track:
1. Master the Art of the Pitch
Pitching is essential to a freelancer’s success, especially because having a difficult time finding clients is one of the biggest hurdles freelancers have to face.
Pitching provides freelancers with a great opportunity. It’s where you get to say, “I’m the best person for the job, and this is why.” But in a world where 53 million Americans freelance, the competition is steep. So how do you catch a potential client’s attention?
It’s important to do everything you can to stand out from your competitors — something that makes you memorable. Pitching starts with a good subject line that identifies you as a real person — not a spammer.
Next, you’ll want to address the editor or client by name whenever possible. Introduce yourself and let them know why you’re writing. Show them that you’ve spent time exploring their site or business by referencing something specific that you genuinely engaged with.
Next, it’s time for you to shine. Tell them why they need your expertise. Highlight your credentials and share relevant links to your website and portfolio.
Leave them will a call to action and make it easy for them to get in touch with you. If you can master the art of the pitch, you’ll be well on your way to a successful freelance career.
2. Create a Spotless Online Portfolio
Showcasing examples of your work is perhaps the most important part of finding success as a freelancer. If you don’t have examples of your great work to show potential clients, it’s unlikely they’ll want to hire you.
Setting up a writer website is a great way to present a professional appearance and also gather all your clips in one spot. If you’re not ready to set up a website yet, online portfolio services like Contently are fast and easy ways to post your best work.
You should be selective about what goes into your portfolio. Only your strongest pieces should be on display. If you have testimonials or client feedback, it’s a good idea to include that as well.
Each outstanding piece of work or blurb of positive feedback gives prospective clients another reason to choose you in a sea of eager freelancers.
3. Set Hard Deadlines
You can be your own worst enemy when it comes to getting things done. And when you have clients waiting on you, completing work in a timely fashion is more important than ever.
You’ll need to manage your time wisely if you want clients to keep coming back to you (and also be a person who sleeps and has a life outside of work).
You really need great time management skills, because freelancing isn’t just about pitching clients, writing content, and marketing yourself. It’s also about developing a sound business plan and making sure you’re prepared for taxes. These things, while definitely less fun, are essential to your freedom and success as a freelancer.
General guidelines like always completing your most difficult task of the day first thing in the morning or working in 90-minute blocks are great ways to dial in your productivity.
If you’re still struggling, try one of the many productivity apps that can track your time and block distracting websites.
4. Create Professional Invoices
Nothing says “I’m new at this” more than fumbling the payment process. You’ve delivered your client a product they’re happy with. You want to work with them again. Making the financial transaction process as easy and as clean as possible is key to success. Remember, you are a business.
Services like PayPal and Square let you send invoices via their platforms. If you want to go the direct email route, create an invoice template that you can personalize for each project.
Include a breakdown of services, contact information, date sent, and date payment is due. Be sure to keep all the invoices you send on file so you can check in and follow up if needed.
5. Just. Keep. Pitching.
It can be tempting to stop or decrease the number of pitches you’re sending to prospective clients once you get a few takers.
Getting work as a freelancer can be difficult, and is always exciting when you succeed — so much that it’d be easy to say, “I did it! Now I can stop!” This is a common pitfall that leaves many freelancers with unnecessary lulls in their workload.
You should always be pitching new clients so you have options to pull out of your pocket when your current workload starts to slow down. Eventually, enough clients will say “yes” that you can be more picky about the projects you pursue, but even then — pitching remains a constant.
6. Find Your Niche
Developing a niche can make your life as a freelancer a lot easier. Instead of staring into the deep, dark abyss of potential topics, clients, and projects, finding a niche allows you to focus on one area of expertise and work on building your reputation in that arena.
If you’re into technology, dive right in and make that your niche. Target clients in the tech industry and experts in the field. Or maybe you’re more interested in and knowledgeable about food or education or the outdoors. Anything can be a niche. Once you find yours, life will be a lot easier (and more interesting)!
By mastering the art of pitching, creating an online portfolio, managing your time well, creating professional invoices, always looking for new clients, and developing a niche for yourself, you’ll have all the building blocks of a successful career as a freelancer. Now get to it!