I may as well start with something I know well. When I started out as a freelance writer 20 years ago, things were very different. I wrote mostly for magazines, and I had to rely on snail mail to send out drafts and queries. I'd wait weeks for a response from my editors. Not many people had the patience for it, and few stuck around long enough to ever start earning a real income from it.
But the Internet has changed everything. Today, you can decide to become a freelance writer and, if you're fortunate, get an assignment that very same day. Obviously, the better your skills and training are, the better your projects and freelance writing rates will be.
Today's freelance writers can choose from a variety of markets. You can write for magazines, either online or in print. You can blog by setting up your own site, or by writing for someone else's. The market for new articles on the Internet is vast, and there's plenty of work to go around.
Additionally, book publishers are always looking for the next big book. People need sales letters, white papers, website copy, and e-books. In other words, there's an ocean of work to do, and if you're an ambitious writer, you can dive in and profit.
If you want to work from home as a freelance writer, consider this checklist before you get started:
- Samples. You'll need some samples before you can really begin marketing yourself. Figure out which market you want to approach first, and then find or create some related samples. For instance, if you want to try your hand at blogging, study some successful blogs, and then write a few posts of your own to use as samples. Do this for any and every market you'd want to write for.
- Tools. You don't need much to work as a home-based freelance writer, but there are some tools that you must have. The most important will be your computer. Get the fastest Internet access that you can afford. It doesn't matter what kind of computer you get. Just make sure you're comfortable enough to spend a lot of time with it. Most clients will request that you submit your work as a Microsoft Word document, so make sure that whatever programs you use are compatible. In addition, because you'll be spending so much time at the computer, make sure that you have a good work area with proper lighting. Some clients will want to be able to reach you by phone or Skype, so have both set up and accessible. You'll need an invoicing program, such as Freshbooks, and a good bookkeeping system to keep track of sales, orders, and accounts receivables.
- Job Boards. When you're first starting out, you'll have to go looking for work, and the best place to do that is on one of the online job boards. Places like Guru, Elance, Freelancer, and oDesk are today's writers' best friends. They allow individuals and businesses to post projects, and freelancers to bid on them. Take a look around the sites, sign up for the free access in the beginning, and then begin to place bids on the projects that interest you. It will take some trial and error to find your groove, but once you do, the jobs will start to roll in.
- Persistence and Commitment. You'll need to have a good amount of persistence while pursuing freelance writing gigs. This business is subjective, and while one person may love your writing, another may not. Do your best to always produce good, solid copy and hold on to your commitment to do the best you can for your clients. Just by committing to do those two things, you'll be miles ahead of your competition.