Are you wanting to plunge into the world of freelance writing?
Now is a great time to create the life you’ve always wanted – whether it’s traveling more, spending more time with your family, or wanting to work for yourself, you can have it all and I’m going to show you how.
If you’ve been thinking about becoming a freelance writer for a while now, then I’m sure you’ve read your fair share of blog posts on how great freelance writing or blogging is.
But, are you having trouble finding the exact steps to take in order achieve freelance writing success?
In my last post, 8 Ways to Take Your Freelance Writing Career to the Next Level, I gave away tips on taking your business to the next level.
Well, what if you don’t even have a freelance writing business in the first place? What if you want to be a freelance writer, but don’t know how?
Well, I decided to write this series on getting paid to write in order to help SAHM’s, SAHD’s, part-time workers or people who just want to do something different with their life get on the track to becoming a freelance writer.
I plan, over several posts, to give you a step-by-step approach to getting your business up and running.
You will learn:
- How to create your online professional presence
- If you have it in you to be a freelance writer
- How to build your writer platform
- Freelance writing types and terms
- How to create a winning writer website
- How to build your portfolio
- How to pitch the right way and land gigs
- How to build traffic to your writer website
- And much more
I did or learned about each of these steps to get where I am today and I’m going to show you how you can take your idea of wanting to make money writing and turn it into a thriving business.
The First Thing You Need to Do To Become a Freelance Writer
One of the first things you should do to kick-start your freelance writing business is to create an online presence.
And I’m not talking about starting a Facebook page or Twitter account (although getting on social media is important).
No, what I’m talking about is making sure people online know you are ready to be a freelance writer. Because, most, if not all of your clients are online, and if you don’t have an online presence, good luck trying to land writing gigs.
Here are three ways to signal to potential clients that you’ve opened shop and are now ready to get paid to write.
1. Create a Gravatar
If you’ve been busily commenting away on all your favorite freelance writer sites, then I’m sure you’ve noticed the small images next to people’s comments or questions in various forums.
These little images are called avatars. Having a Gravatar is an avatar that makes it a whole lot easier to bounce from blog to blog or forum to forum without having to upload an image each time you leave a comment.
Why is this important to your freelance writing business?
- It’s the beginning of branding yourself – The head shot or picture you use to tell the world who you are should be constant all across the digital world. From all your social media profiles to your author bio to even your Gravatar, having a consistent photo will establish your brand and help others quickly recognize you.
- It helps you stand out – Linking your photo with your meaningful and insightful comments will get you noticed more than if you didn’t have your Gravatar. Also, having the interaction with the blog owner and other commenters lets you be easily visible and known. This contributes to your credibility as an authority in your niche.
- It can drive traffic to your site – As you leave more and more comments on various blogs, readers will begin to recognize you because of what you bring to the comments – useful engagement. This in turn, will drive traffic to your site because readers will want to check you out. Blog owners may get wind of you as well, and guest-posting opportunities may arise, bringing you even more traffic to your blog.
So, having a highly identifiable image linked with an insightful response or unique opinion will grow awareness to your brand as a freelance writer.
2. Create a Professional Email Address and Include a Signature in Your Footer
Here is where it gets real – having a professional email account. It’s important when developing your brand as a freelance writer to create an email that is professional and signals to prospective clients you are a business.
Just think about it – if you were looking for a web designer to design your website, would you take someone serious if their email address was, email@example.com?
So, if you want to be taken seriously, have a professional email address. The best, by far, is a customized, domain-specific email like firstname.lastname@example.org.
You know what this means, right? Stepping up and registering your own domain (your writer website will be focused on later on in the series. For now, I want to focus on the little things to get you ready for paid writing gigs).
Another thing that will help you build your credibility fast as a freelance writer is to have an email signature at the end of every email you send.
You may think it’s a small thing to do, but it’s usually the little things that can set you apart from other freelance writers.
So, what can you include in your email signature?
- A head shot– Many email platforms have the option of putting your head shot in your email signature. While it isn’t necessary to do this, it can quickly create a sense of trust when corresponding with a potential client. It’s also another way to extend your brand in your email.
- Social media contact– Make it easy for clients and prospects to contact you on any medium. Don’t overwhelm your signature with 7 social media links; keep it between 1-4. For me, I only have my Twitter handle as I get the most action on this social media platform.
- Your phone number – Designate a professional line for your freelance writing business. There are many online services that offer a free phone number. Google Voice is the most popular, but other services include iNum and Phonebooth Free.
- Your writer website – Once you have your writer website domain, make sure to include it in your email footer.
- A tagline – If you decide to have a tagline, you could always include this as part of your email signature. This comes in handy when you decide to diversify your business and include other services such as editing or coaching. Your tagline can include these services as a way to communicate you do more than just write.
3. Become Familiar With Online Writing
The online world is fast-paced and people don’t have the time to read everything that they see on a site. So, they skim. In fact, over 80% of users scan blog posts and articles.
Most readers pick out the certain elements in a blog post. These are:
- Your headline
- Your subheadings
- Lists and bullet lists
- Short paragraphs or one sentence paragraphs.
Tailor Your Writing for the Online Scanners
So, if you are new to writing for an online audience, the best tip I can give you is to create a lot of white space. This refers to the amount of space between your text.
Having very little white space means having big blocks of texts. For the online scanner, most likely they will skip words, sentences and paragraphs.
If you want to maximize their time on your post (and eventually your client’s posts), then try these tips for creating more white space:
- Make paragraphs no more than 3 sentences
- Include a 1 sentence paragraph
- Bold important ideas or sentences in your post
- Break up your paragraphs with subheadings, lists and bullet lists
Here are some other miscellaneous online writing rules to follow:
- Use one space after a period
- Don’t underline phrases as this looks like a link
- Create links in your text by linking to relevant words or phrases. For example, if you want to link to a post about a job board, it’s better to link: job board than many places.
- Always provide links in your post. Whether they are internal links (other posts on your blog) or external links (posts you found on other people’s blogs). This helps readers find more information on a topic and it shows readers you did your homework and didn’t just “steal” ideas from others.
- Consider putting visuals to break up longer posts.
Specific Online Writing: SEO and SMO Editorial
You might come across different types of writing. A popular type is SEO friendly or SMO friendly writing.
Search Engine Optimized (SEO) writing, according to Jennifer McKnight on FreelancerFAQ’s
In a nutshell, it’s the practice of manipulating content in a way that improves a site’s search engine ranking. This is the ultimate goal of any online marketer or blogger because increased search engine visibility translates to more visitors, which equals more revenue and a prominent Web presence.
Clients may have you write with a specific keyword in mind and it’s our job to create content that incorporates relevant keywords while still making it reader friendly.
Ideally, you write for your audience, but are conscious of industry related terminology.
(Once you have a WordPress website up and running, there are many free additions you can add to your site to optimize your content for the search engines. These free add-ons are called plugins for WordPress. One is Yoast, a free SEO plugin. Now, don’t worry if you don’t have a website, my series will walk you through setting up a WordPress blog for you).
Social Media Optimized (SMO) writing uses social media to increase awareness of a brand or business. Trending topics and writing to pique reader curiosity are the main ways to attract web traffic using SMO style writing.
Ideally, clients use both types of writing styles to help increase traffic and conversion rates.
All of this leads down to the basic fact that most online writing freelance writers do will be conversational in nature. This just basically means:
- Avoiding “big” words when you can say other words like use for utilize, or joking for banter
- Try to write as if you are talking to a friend or one person
- Use ways to engage the reader by posing questions such as, “do you have the same problem with writer’s block as I do?” or “is your blog ready to make money?”
- Have a call-to-action at the end of your post or site content. This just means telling your readers to do something like sign up to your newsletter or buy a product or leave a comment.
I just outlined three easy ways to start your online presence as a freelance writer. With a Gravatar, email signature and brushing up on your online writing skills, you are on your way to getting paid to write.
My next post in this series will go into if you are really cut out to be a freelance writer.
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