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successful freelance writing

Today, I have a fabulous guest post to share with you, all about how to start a successful freelance writing side hustle – enjoy!

Do you have a passion for writing and dream of being able to get paid to write for bloggers or businesses in your spare time? 

If so, you’ll be excited to know that it’s never been easier to start a successful freelance writing side hustle from the comfort of your own home, and earn a decent chunk of cash each month for your words. 

I’m Ruth, and for the past eight years, freelance writing has been my main jam. Despite starting out with no relevant qualifications and no professional writing experience, I’ve turned my love of the written word into a profitable business that’s replaced my full-time income and given me freedom from the 9-5. 

It’s fair to say that I’ve made my share of mistakes over the years, and I’ve tried plenty of things that just didn’t particularly work out. Along the way though, I’ve also stumbled upon the things that really do work, and can help you to maximise your chances of smashing it as a freelance writer – whether that be in your spare time, or as something that you hope can replace your day job. 

Here are my five top tips for getting started and reaping the benefits… 

1. Choose just one subject that you want to write about 

As a freelance writer, you can get paid to write about pretty much any subject that you can think of. From health and fitness, to fashion and lifestyle, to personal finance and accounting, the possibilities are endless. 

This is a blessing and a curse though, because it’s all too easy to think that just because you can write about everything, you should. By choosing a niche, you’re going to be giving yourself a competitive advantage straight out of the gate. It’ll give you more focus, it’ll make your work more personally rewarding, and it’ll also make your services much more appealing to those who need them. 

The key with choosing your niche is to find a sweet spot between something you love, and something that there’s a decent demand for. Do some research to find out what kind of work is available in the niche you have in mind, and be prepared to embrace just one subject. A little further down the line, you might decide to diversify or add other topics to your offerings, but getting specific will really help you during your first few months. 

2. Create a portfolio with a few examples of your best work 

A few months ago now, I needed to outsource a few writing tasks, and I listed the work on a freelance site. Within a few hours, I had dozens and dozens of applications. Amongst them, there were about 5 that had included examples of their previous work. It made my shortlisting process a lot easier, because there was just no way that I’d take a chance on someone when I haven’t seen what their writing is like. 

The good news here is that if you create a small portfolio, you’re instantly putting yourself ahead of a ton of people who will be applying the same jobs. It’s also really easy to do, even if you’ve never before had a paying client. 

Let’s say that you’ve decided that you want to offer blog writing services to fitness business owners. You’d search for hot topics in that field, and create around 5 examples of your work. You could publish them on a simple blog of your own, or use a portfolio site. This way, your potential clients can see the quality of your work, and get a real feel for what you can do for them. 

3. Get out there and start pitching for jobs 

You could be the most talented writer in the world, but if no one knows about it, it’s going to make no difference. Especially in your first 6-12 months as a freelance writer, it’s essential that you’re proactive when it comes to getting in front of the right people and hunting down opportunities. 

There are so many options here. You can cold pitch companies that you’d love to write for. You can start to build a presence on social media and let people know that you’re available to hire. One of the quickest wins though is to sign up for freelance sites like People Per Hour and start pitching for jobs. 

You’ll be able to search for projects in your niche, and send proposals over to the potential clients, telling them why you’re a great fit and how you can help them. It’s rare that I do this these days, as most of my work comes from returning clients and referrals, but I used this exact method to attract almost all of my clients during my first few years. 

4. Charge by project, instead of by the hour 

One of the biggest areas that I’m asked about when it comes to freelancing is how to charge. And it’s pretty important, because obviously you want to get paid for your work. Your first instinct might be to bill by the hour, because that’s the way that most of us are used to being paid in the traditional world of work, but I definitely recommend charging by the project. 

That might mean that you get paid £100 for writing a blog post, just as an example, regardless of whether it takes you an hour or a full day. Working like this is just a better way to manage your client’s expectations, it means that you aren’t penalised for cracking on and getting stuff done, and it also goes a long way to helping your clients understand the value that you can bring to their table.

Ultimately, no one cares how long it took you to create that piece of work. They just want the end result. In most cases these days, I charge a set fee for a package, and it works great for both my clients and me. 

5. Commit your goals to paper, and make them as specific as possible 

When you work for someone else, you have plans. You have goals. You have non-negotiable tasks that you need to take care of, regardless of whether or not you feel like doing them on any given day. With a side hustle, there’s no such luxury. So if you’re serious about making it work, it pays to step into the shoes of being your own boss and work out very specifically where you want to go.

Maybe your dream is to be earning £500 per month within the next 3 months. Maybe you want to bag your first paying client in the next 30 days. Or maybe you’re going to make it your business to pitch for projects daily.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve, writing it down makes it real, and gives you a level of accountability that doesn’t exist when it’s just in your head.

Starting any kind of small business or side hustle is always going to involve some steely determination and a dose of good old-fashioned hard work. Getting started with freelance writing though is one of the best things that I’ve ever done, and it’s given me the kind of freedom that I could have once only dreamed of.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to turning your words into a profitable side hustle! 

Ruth is a freelance writer and blogs at RuthMakesMoney.com about genuine ways to make money on your own terms. 

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