The bullet proof guide to launching a successful writing career

Jul 31, 2015

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

It would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Your name on big publications. Waking up to another email from a potential client asking you to write for them. Controlling where and when you work, and the words that you produce.

You want to be a freelance writer.

I have good news for you: there’s a way to start booking high-paying clients so you can write on topics that you love.

Here are six steps you can take to land your first freelance writing client, charge a premium for your work and never have to pitch again.

I used this method to start my freelancing career, and just to make sure, I replicated it again and booked three clients with the framework again. It works for people other than me, too.

Try it out:

1. Create a Writer Website

To effectively land your first freelance client (and all subsequent clients), you need a website.

Having a writer website not only gives your potential client all the information they need in one spot, but it also communicates that you’re serious and professional.

Potential clients need that reassurance. Think about it: in publishing your work, they put their brand in your hands to some extent.

2. Start Building Your Portfolio

Now that you have a website, you might be wondering what you’re supposed to put in the portfolio section. After all, you’re new to this. You don’t have any work to show off yet.

That’s where guest posting comes in. One of the best ways to boost your profile, get exposure, and put your writing in front of thousands of eyes is to write a guest article for a popular publication. Here’s the process:

  • Consider what niche you want to write for
  • Find the most popular publication in that niche
  • Read through the guest posting guidelines – you can find them by Googling “Guest Articles”, “Submissions”, or “Write for Us” along with the publication’s name
  • Once you have a handle on the guidelines and know that you can write for them, pitch them a headline that they can’t turn down.

3. Promote Your Article Like It’s Your Job

When your post goes live, it’s important that you promote the post like it went live on your own website. Share it on all of your social networks as well as within communities that might find it pertinent or useful.

The idea here is to generate as much buzz about the article as possible. Not only will this drive more traffic to the article – and therefore potential clients – but it’ll also increase your social sharing stats, which will help you with the next step.

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4. Ask for Results

Everything you did up until this point was with the purpose of getting results.

So it stands to reason that the next step to land your first (or next) freelancing clients would be to gather those results from the publications you’ve written for. You can start by gathering the public results yourself. A week or two after your post has gone live, go to the website and take screenshots of:

  • Your social shares
  • The comment count
  • Any favorable comments

If your post did well, email the editor and ask for a quote on what it was like to work with you, as well as any traffic and popularity stats they are willing to provide in relation to other articles.

Don’t skip this because asking for results makes you nervous. We look at reviews constantly when making purchases or seeking out services, why should your writing services be any different?

When you have these results and testimonials from the publications you’ve written for, you can begin to add some weight to your website.

5. Answer Enquiries

It usually doesn’t take many articles on truly large publications to begin to get noticed.

Sometimes, a website will come out and ask you if you are taking new clients. But sometimes, an editor will simply ask to guest post. If the case is the latter, it might be worth your while to inquire about freelancing opportunities and payment.

As you continue to post on these popular websites, you’ll begin to notice that clients are coming to you. But, if you want to speed it up a bit and land your first client as soon as possible, you can:

6. Pound the Pavement

After you have a few solid articles under your belt, you can start approaching other publications yourself.

Write a draft introduction email and if you use Gmail, save it as a “canned response”. This will decrease the amount of work involved as you send more and more of these emails.

In your emails, list the articles you’ve written for these large publications as your writing samples, tell the company a bit about yourself, and demonstrate that you have taken the time to get to know their website. Identify a few topics you’d like to write about, should you work with them.

Don’t just send one or two. Challenge yourself to send two emails a day for a couple of weeks. The more emails you send, the more likely you are to land a gig!

Sign up here to receive my free case study that shows this step-by-step process in action (I landed more clients than I could handle).

Sarah Peterson is a writer, traveler, and online entrepreneur who helps people stop settling for careers and lives they don't love.