9 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Freelance Writing

Table of Contents

1. Income can be very unreliable

As is the case with any freelance work, income is notoriously unreliable. One month you might be making thousands of euros while the next you’ll barely cross the 500€ line. Especially in the beginning you shouldn’t rely on your freelance income if possible. While writing is very time consuming it’s highly advisable to only use it as a side job initially while still retaining other income streams. This could be your day job or whatever you are working on at the moment that egenrates a bit of money.

Even successful freelance writers have slow months. The key is to not calculate your lifestyle according to months with high income but rather average them out to account for the ones with fewer assignments.

2. If you don’t have experience in the finance world outsource any accountancy tasks

Finances are incredibly tricky for freelancers as you have to handle everything yourself. Navigating taxes, invoices and late fees can be a challenge especially if you have no experience in the finance world. This is not something you can easily teach yourself so if you don’t intend to spend hours researching and watching Youtube videos then definitely outsource these tasks. Even if you manage to do it yourself you’ll still risk doing something wrong along the way and potentially paying fines or losing money. It’s just not worth it.

There are programs to help you with accounting tasks which are fairly easy to use even for beginners. If your budget allows you can also hire someone to do this for you to save you even more time. When it comes to taxes definitely outsource at least in the beginning until you’ve had some time to figure out how it all works. Especially if you’re earning money from abroad this might be a unique situation and worth spending some time to look into.

3. Invest in Grammarly Pro

If you’re not already using a grammar checking app then what are you doing?

Even if you’re an expert when it comes to the English language you’ll benefit from a sophisticated checking program. Grammarly (or alternatives such as Hemingway) are much more than just a spell checker. However, their free versions are limited and in my opinion investing in a pro membership is more than worth it. If writing is your main income source you’ll want to supply your clients with high quality texts that have been polished until they’re absolutely perfect. Most large businesses check their publications using Grammarly before they publish anyway so making as many improvements as possible is a must-do.

4. Gain experience in different niches

Company’s love to hire writers who already have experience in their desired niche. If you’re a travel writer you might want to branch out into lifestyle content or even social media copy. However, without any experience in these niches you will most likely not be the first choice as a candidate.

Picking a niche as a writer is really important and you shouldn’t attempt to do too many things at once. That being said, experience in a few key niches related to your main one is highly beneficial when it comes to landing new writing jobs. Niches tend to be inter related and the more diverse your portfolio is (to a certain extent) to more experienced you will seem. However, don’t overdo it. Sell yourself as an expert in one or two main fields with some experience in others. Don’t claim to be a travel writer who also knows about motorsports as well as skin care. Your portfolio should still make sense. For example:

“I’m a travel writer who focuses on hotel reviews and destination guides. I also have experience in the lifestyle niche which includes sustainability and skincare. “

While these niches are all different they’re still inter related to some extent.

5. Charging low rates to build your portfolio is okay but don’t stay there

While I generally advise against working for free, you’ll most likely start out with very low rates as a freelance writer. I’m always a fan of charging per word although for some projects it makes more sense to charge per article. Having a portfolio is extremely important as a writer although what most people don’t know is that this doesn’t necessarily have to be published work. You could have a portfolio of just pieces you’ve written for yourself or even your own blog. However, if you’ve written for larger websites that will of course give you more credibility as a writer.

What I’m trying to say is that charging low rates is fine but don’t forget to raise them after a while. If what you’re earning is not sustainable for you then you need to ask for a rate that will allow you to have a decent hourly payment. Don’t be afraid to lose clients if you raise your prices. Just make sure to explain why you need to ask for more and the right type of client will understand.

6. Make your conditions clear from the beginning

I can’t count the number of times where I eagerly accepted a new writing assignment only to be asked for things later on that i wasn’t anticipating. Always ask the right questions and clarify what exactly is being asked of you. Customer service is important but draw a line when requests become unreasonable.

If a client asks you to add in a few extra keywords you might let that slide to please them. However, if you’re being asked to also find photos for the article or include external links that might be taking it a step to far if these requests weren’t agreed upon before. Here is a quick checklist of things to ask:

-How many words?
-What is the deadline?
-Are keywords provided?
-Is an outline with headings provided?
-Is author credit given?
-Where will the article be published?
-Is it a hard or soft word limit?

7. Read

The best way to improve your writing skills is to read. This doesn’t just mean content in your niche though. read as much as you possibly can even if it’s just passively. Online newspapers, articles, books or whatever you can find. Of course, content that aligns with what you’re writing is really helpful to see how your niche is developing. However, at the end of the day, anything is better than nothing when it comes to reading.

8. Track your Time

A rate of 0,05$ per word might sound great to a beginner but once you calculate your hourly wage you might just realise you’re barely making minimum wage. Dn’t forget that writing isn’t just the time you spend putting words on a page. It includes research and the time you spend thinking about the topic and how you can approach it. Try to track your time as much as possible to get an idea for what a fair rate is for you.

Some articles might be very straightforward to write so you can accept a lower rate for them. However, others might require a lot more research so know where to charge more.

9. Always look for new work

Don’t get too comfortable as a freelance writer. Even if you have the perfect roster of clients you never know when one might suddenly disappear. Good writing relationships last for years but they are incredibly hard to come by. In my experience, the majority of entry level writing gigs tend to only have a lifespan of 6 to 12 months. This of course applies to jobs that don’t have a lot of requirements meaning writers are easy to replace. Looking for new clients is an absolute must if you’re trying to keep your income steady.

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Hi, I'm Victoria

I’m 24 years old and grew up in Germany. Right now I’m studying at a university in Scotland and am about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Full-time travel is my dream and I’ve spent the last few years slowly building my online business. Guide your Travel is technically a travel blog, but I also write about photography, social media and how you can start blogging. Don’t forget to check out my destination guides and travel tips.

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