Being a freelance writer looks great on paper, but it can be tough to make it pay. The perks are numerous – you’re doing something you love, working from home and in your own time. But progressing beyond low-paid piecework can be difficult. How do you make the transition from undervalued content provider to in-demand writer, able to pick and choose clients, or be sought after for publication in your own right?
Start a blog
Blogging serves multiple purposes. First of all, it’s a public showcase for your work. By posting articles on a variety of subjects, or different kinds of stories and poems (whatever it is that you create), you’re putting together a varied portfolio that potential clients all over the world can view for free. It’s also something that you can link to whenever anyone asks to see your work. Anyone who remembers the pre-internet days of sending writing samples to editors in the post, accompanied by an SAE, will know that’s not something to take for granted.
If you’re trying to establish yourself as an expert or specialist in a particular field, a blog is the best way to go about it. If you’re good, you’ll gain followers and credibility and get your name known. A blog is also a great way to stay in practice and to always have an outlet, even when you’re not getting commissions. And perhaps most importantly, a blog can be directly monetised thorough advertising, sponsorship or affiliate marketing.
Take care of business
Many writers don’t look after the business side of their affairs as well as they could and may end up paying more tax than they should, or not claiming legitimate expenses. Umbrella companies are tax compliant and offer help with collecting expenses and processing payments. A company such as Crystal Choice offers unbiased advice and recommendations on the best solution for your particular situation. Writers who do contract work should definitely consider looking into this as an alternative to setting up as a limited company.
Find your niche
You need to find that ‘thing’ that you can write about better than anyone else. It should be something that you’re knowledgeable and enthusiastic about and that you have good reason to suspect other people are interested in. The trick is to find the balance between a market that has legs and one that is over-subscribed. For instance, you know that people like romance movies. You also like romance movies. However, if there are already hundreds of people blogging about romance movies then you may need to specialise elsewhere.
Do something different
While you do need to study the market and find your niche, you’ll only be noticed if you can bring something fresh and original to the table. Remember that great writers write from the heart. If you’re just doing it for the money, it will show in your work. It’s all about striking the right balance, so keep one eye on the bottom line and the other on the stars.