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If you survey successful writers, it is likely you’ll find that the path to success is different for each one. That’s because there is no one single path for aspiring writers. The path you take depends on your skills, talents, resources and determination. But there are basic steps to follow to make the journey a bit smoother. To become a freelance writer you’ll need to set goals, create a plan and market like mad to land customers.
Assess Your Skills
Breaking into a new career is not always easy. While success for some freelance writers requires a degree in English or journalism, strong writing skills can be your calling card if you lack a degree. Look at what you have written in the past and assess your work. Ask a trusted teacher or colleague to assess your writing. An honest evaluation will let you know if your current writing skills are good enough or if you need an upgrade before jumping in.
Claim Your Niche
Next, determine your writing forte or possible niche. The writing field is broad and getting off to a good start typically requires focus in one area versus trying to write anything and everything. Do you favor business or technical writing over news reporting? Do you prefer creative fiction or nonfiction? Do you want to focus on copy writing, grant proposal writing or article writing? Knowing your knack will make it easier to plot a plan for moving forward.
Define Your Customer
When you know what you'll write, it’s time to figure out who you’ll write for. Identify potential consumers of freelance writing talent with your skills and interest in mind. Is your customer an author who needs a ghost writer? Do you want to write for magazines, small businesses or industry-specific corporate clients? Other possibilities include government groups, advertising agencies and educational institutions. The idea is to match your skills and forte to a market that welcomes freelance writers.
Develop a Plan
A plan with actionable steps is vital to becoming a successful freelance writer. You must map out how you will reach your customers, how you will deliver services to them and how you will be competitive. You must also map out financial goals, the level of business needed to reach those goals and how you plan to get that business. Preparing a business plan will help you sort this out.
Set Up Shop
Sitting on the beach with laptop in hand is often touted as the freelancer’s life. That’s not reality for most writers. You will need a dedicated space with basic tools such as a computer, word processing software and a reliable Internet connection. You’ll also need access to various references for marketing and writing research. And before the money rolls in, you may need a business license; you'll definitely need arrangements for paying income and business taxes.
Market Your Goods
Marketing is a must. You can’t just declare you’re open for business and expect customers to find you. You must proactively find your customers. This means making pitches, networking, making direct contact and using social media to get your name out there. You also need to create and maintain a portfolio of writing samples to showcase your writing skills for potential clients.
- University of Texas at Austin: Liberal Arts Career Services -- Freelance Writing
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Writer or Author
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Writers and Authors Do
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Create Your Business Plan
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Filing and Paying Taxes
- University of Missouri Extension: Home-Based Business -- Market Your Product
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