Happy February! We’re excited to kick off the month with a post for our freelance friends. I wanted to write a post for new freelance writers since I’ve been in that exact position before, but this could really be applied to anyone just starting out in their field. There becomes a point when you’ve studied up, interned or put in time at that first full-time job, and have a fresh, but fairly simple, portfolio… And you’re ready to jump in.
But how can you prove yourself as a writer when you don’t have a ton of professional experience under your belt? Or how about when you feel like you’ve prepared more than enough, yet aren’t getting any callbacks from employers or inquiries from clients? It’s a tricky time, but I’m happy to report that it’s also one of incredible growth. Here’s a few pointers for making the most of this meaningful experience as a newbie:
How To Prove Yourself As a New Freelance Writer
Be prepared, and prove it. If you don’t already have a portfolio ready to go (we’ll talk more about portfolios soon, but I suggest having some sort of web version even if not a full-fledged site, as well as a more thorough example of your work and of course, an updated resume), make that your priority.
Research your ideal client and learn how to communicate with them. However you choose to find clients (whether pitching publications/companies, advertising, launching a social media campaign…), you’ll come off as so much more professional of you know your audience. This will immediately put you far ahead of most new freelancers and goes along way in proving yourself.
Create writing samples geared toward those clients. Chances are you don’t have hundreds of articles (or whatever type of work you do) to pull from when asked for writing samples. To prove yourself in an industry where most people are often over-experienced and underpaid, you’ll likely be up against many writers that have more experience than you. In order to compete, you need to prove that you can actually do the job! I find that being proactive about this (rather than waiting for someone to request that you create material for them for free to prove your skills–but that’s another story) gives you practice + prepares you in case of requests. Note: If you choose to submit writing samples you created, let the people you send them to know. Something like, “I haven’t written on this topic as a freelancer yet, but here’s a piece I created to give you an idea of my style,” can be helpful.
Rise to the challenge. As a new freelancer, you will have to jump some hurdles to gain the experience you need to be successful. Getting stuck with a horrible editor. Getting paid a microscopic rate (and then having to chase that payment down). Writing the world’s most mundane blog posts. Just some of the more mild hurdles I jumped (or ran into, whatever), in my first year. Being prepared will help you avoid some of this, but you can’t always predict how your work will be received or presented to the world. It sucks but until you can be more choosy about who you work with, it might happen. Do your best to rise to each challenge and think of every outcome as a lesson. Stick with a client or company if it’ll get you that killer portfolio piece. Get a part time job to pay the bills if it means you can quit jobs that aren’t giving you anything in return (low-paying, butchering your work, and unfit for your portfolio? Run!). Do whatever you can to produce good work until you’re recognized for it. Slowly, you will be. And all of those little lessons will add up, and well, you’ll be a pro.
Any new freelance writers out there? Let me know your biggest questions about getting started, and I’ll answer them in a post!