Terry and Tony in South Africa. Two South Africans working from home in East London in South Africa since early 2008.

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How to Become a Freelance Writer

If your writing skills are fairly good, you can become a freelance writer and make money from your writing, but how to become a freelance writer? Do you really have to do a writing course or go to university before becoming a freelance writer?

There are many sites about writing that have tips or guidelines for improving your writing skills. You can learn how to improve your writing for free on the Internet. ahead of becoming a freelance writer.

Being a freelance writer means you will very often have to do a lot of research about the topic you’ve been hired to write about. You can practice your research skills even before you get hired for the first time: research how to become a freelance writer, for example. In the process you will likely discover many other writers – after all, somebody wrote the information or articles you’ll be reading. Take note, and take notes. You will also come across many sites that offer free writing guidelines, for and about just about any writing style.

A freelance writer can of course also just dive right in, and learn how to improve their writing skills – and their research skills, online writing skills, Internet skills, marketing skills and SEO skills – as they go along. You can become a freelance writer right away – but take your time as you go along – you don’t want to be known as a bad freelance writer.

There are many freelance writing jobs available for freelance writers, but how do you find these freelance writing jobs?

There are freelance jobs sites like oDesk that have new available freelance writing jobs that are posted each and every day. You could apply for at least one freelance writing job every day on freelance job sites like oDesk or could even apply for more than one freelance writing job a day if you like.

Once you’ve nicely set up your profile on a freelance job site like oDesk, and have spent some time getting to know your way around the site, you simply look at all the freelance writing jobs that are posted, and you apply for the jobs that interest you or that you suspect you’d be able to handle.

This may sound very easy to do, and on oDesk you can apply for freelance writing jobs posted by anybody in the world, but remember that many other people will be applying for those same freelance writing jobs too, just like many people apply for any type of job.

Even when you are applying for a very small freelance writing job that does not pay much, it is important to treat it as if it was a very important job that would earn you a nice amount of money. Write beautiful application letters and conduct yourself professionally during interviews, even when those interviews may just be via email.

What types of freelance writing jobs are there for a freelance writer like you?

You may be applying for a writing job where you are required to write copy for a client’s website, or for their magazine, or for a brochure, or you may be required to do some editing and rewriting too – of writing the client has already done or of writing somebody else did that has now been forwarded to you by the client.

You may be required to write articles that a client wants to publish on other sites with a link in them that links back to his or her main site. You may be requested to actually post the articles to these other sites yourself too.

A freelance writer can advertise their freelance writing services offline and online – online on classifieds sites and business directories, or on their own website and blog – do remember that if you have your own webiste or blog nobody will see the services you offer on your site unless you also work hard at getting lots of traffic (visitors) to your site.

If you are not sure of your writing skills it may be a good idea to first brush up on your writing skills by doing a writing course, or reading books on writing or by reading books on improving writing skills, or even by reading free writing tips on the Internet.

If you want to become a freelance writer, practicing writing is always a good idea too – the more you write the more it becomes second nature, while you also learn from your mistakes.

Brush up on your Internet research skills too. If you want to become a freelance writer who earns a decent income from writing it is not going to be that easy to accomplish if your writing is not all that good.

Becoming a freelance writer often sort of just happens, as you go along – but nothing will happen if you don’t take the first steps to getting there:

Brush up on writing skills - be sure you can write fairly well, and that your grammar and spelling is good – there are some super (and free) multiple choice competency tests on oDesk that you might like to do.

The results of your oDesk competency tests should give you a good idea of how much time you may need to spend on improving your writing skills.

Apply for freelance jobs – always handling communications professionally

Do not give up – when your freelance job applications are rejected, just apply for another freelance writing job

Learn – as you research, as you apply for jobs, or as you write, always soak up everything you’re doing, even taking notes if it helps, to gain knowledge and to improve your writing skills

How I became a freelance writer:

I enjoyed writing essays at school. I enjoyed reading and read many books – I don’t read too many books now as now I read a ton of information on the Internet instead.

A few years after school I did a 4 year part time correspondence course with The Writing School which was a great help – I was given tasks to submit, and they were sent back to me later, showing where I went wrong and how to improve my writing skills – The Writing School course material also included a few very helpful books like The 29 Most Common Mistakes Writers Make. I matriculated in 1986 and did The Writing School course in the 90′s.

In early 2008, Tony and I started working from home, designing websites – we started learning about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) too, and how important it was for websites to have a lot of text content on them (if the owner of the site did not want to spend a fortune – or tons of time – on advertising his or her site)

Our web design work was a little slow at first, and I wanted to supplement our income, so I joined oDesk and started applying for freelance jobs – a lot of the work I got was writing related, and I’ve never looked back since.

Now I have done (and still do some of it whenever I get the chance to) all sorts of freelance writing work – website content writing, article writing, editing other people’s writing, writing articles for our own site, selling my articles, writing articles or blog posts on online writing sites, and even a few descriptive short bits of writing for online advertising banners (copywriting), and writing of short Search Engine Optimized meta descriptions for website or blog pages (which could perhaps be considered a type of copywriting).

What is a copywriter?

A copywriter is the writer who writes promotional material for a business, or for anyone who needs something advertised – it is writing that helps promote the business and may appear in various forms, like in an advert in a magazine or newspaper, or in a brochure, or in the content of a website or in the top banner area of a website, or in an online advertising banner.

The results of a copywriting job should be a piece of writing that gets people interested in the business so that the business is contacted by these people viewing the writing

(or, if online, so that an ad is clicked to take the viewer to the website of the advertiser, or to another page on the same site).

A copywriter is not expected to cram 20 lines of boring writing into a small advertising space, but it expected to write snappy and short phrases that get the reader interested.

Let’s compare the two copywriting pieces below:

If you do our writing course you are likely to get many of the writing jobs you apply for. Our writing course fees are affordable and can be paid monthly. Stop reading for a while, contact us, and start writing instead – for money.

Get paid for reading less and writing more!
Learn more by calling us now!

(The two pieces of writing above say pretty much the same thing, but the second one is more likely to elicit a response.)

Freelance writing may not pay you much when you first start out, and when it does start paying you a bit more, it may be less or more than what some other freelance writers are earning. There isn’t really a hard and fast fixed earning amount that a freelance writer can expect. Nothing is written in stone when it comes to freelancing. As you gain experience and as your writing skills improve, you can increase your freelance writing service fees – people are generally happy to pay a bit more if the quality and desired results are good.

What to charge for my freelance writing or freelance copywriting services?

Trying to figure out what to charge for your writing services can be quite tricky, and the best suggestion I can come up with is to do what Tony and I do when trying to figure out what to charge for the various freelance services we offer:

we research what other people are charging for their freelance writing services or other freelance services, and not only what they are charging, but what their credentials are, how much experience they have, and how large their portfolio is. If you are just starting out obviously you cannot charge as much as a person who has more experience, or more credentials (whether the credentials are degrees or being a member of reputable forums, clubs or organizations,) or who has a large portfolio of satisfied clients.

What if a freelancer writer applies for very many freelance writing jobs, everyday for months on end, and doesn’t get any – not even one?

It may be difficult to deal with all that rejection, but you can still make money from your writing in other ways, and then after your writing skills or communication skills or knowledge about freelance writing has improved, you can try applying for freelance writing jobs again, or even offer freelance writing services from your own website or blog.

Having your pieces of writing or articles or even your writing job applications repeatedly rejected does not mean you cannot make money from writing in other ways. You can still remain passionate about writing by writing on online writing sites or on a site of your own. And either of these ways to write online may earn you some extra income.

Write regularly, read a lot of information about writing online or making money writing online, and after a while, after you’ve done quite a bit of this type of writing, start applying for freelance writing jobs again.

You may even decide that writing online on a writing site or on your own site suits you best, and that you no longer want to be or become a freelance writer – you may prefer trying to make money from blogging instead. You may prefer to be a blogger rather than a freelance writer.

© Copyright Teresa Schultz 2014

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