3 Tips for Freelance Writers [From the Trenches]
Editor’s note: Today’s post is a guest submission from Ish Stabosz. Ish is a college English professor, co-author of a published tabletop RPG, and father of six kids. In between naps and grading essays, he also does some freelance writing on Legiit. You can check out Ish’s services here.
When I was offered the opportunity to write a guest post for the Legiit Blog, it took me a while to decide exactly what to write about. In the end, I settled on something that was personal to me and, potentially, helpful to my competition: tips for freelance writers.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would I, a freelance writer, peel back the curtain and reveal some of the most important factors to my own success on Legiit? Wouldn’t that just make more competition for me?
Yes and no.
The truth is, there is more than enough work for freelance writers out there. One estimate proposes that there are about 380 new websites created around the world every minute. Even if only one half of one percent of them outsourced their content creation, that’s still more than 2,000 new websites every single day that are looking to hire freelance writers. So I don’t have much worry about being put out of work by encouraging the growth of my fellow lovers of the written word.
At the same time, the better the quality of writing that gets offered across the board on Legiit, the more buyers will flock to it as their go-to place for content. So, if I can help other writers spread the good word, all the better.
So let’s take a look at the three primary tips for freelance writers that I attribute my success to.
#1 Earn Some Street Cred
We’ve already established that there are a lot of webmasters out there looking to hire freelancers. Well, there are also a lot of freelance writers out there looking to get hired. That means, of course, that you have to stand out.
I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do. It will look different depending on your circumstances and background. But you have to earn some credentials as a writer.
I didn’t start my writing career as a freelancer. I’ve been teaching college writing for about 10 years now. And for about a year leading up to my dabbling in freelancing, I was co-authoring a published tabletop roleplaying game (Open Legend) that went on to raise more than $100,000 on Kickstarter.
When I decided to give freelancing a try, I found it pretty easy to convince clients that I was qualified to do a good job. Even then, with no reviews on the site that I was using at the time (before Legiit launched), my first jobs were at an abysmally low rate.
I still remember doing a 1000-word article for $5 on a topic that was completely foreign to me and required me to research scientific studies. Here I was, a college professor with a Master’s degree, making less per hour than I did when I worked at Dunkin’ Donuts back in the day. But everyone has to start somewhere, and I was happy to do it just to prove to myself that I could.
But I digress. The point is, if you are just getting started as a freelance writer, find a way to make yourself stand out. You might not teach English. And you might have no plans to publish a book. But if you have writing skills that are worth paying for, then you should be able to find some way to earn yourself some street cred.
#2 Know Your SEO
As a freelance writer on a marketplace like Legiit, probably 95% of your clients are going to be looking for content that is meant to be ranked in Google. My clients generally consist of three types: small business owners, marketing agencies who are working for small business owners, and internet solopreneurs running their own affiliate sites or e-commerce stores.
Whether it’s an informative blog post or a service page for a plumber, all the wordsmithing in the world isn’t going to help these clients if your content isn’t written to rank. So, if you want to be successful, one of my best tips for freelance writers is to learn the basics of search engine optimization (or SEO).
I actually decided to start selling my writing services because I needed something to fund my SEO efforts. I was learning about affiliate marketing while launching an e-commerce store, and I needed some side money to spend on things like ads (raising 6 kids doesn’t leave a lot of spare change—imagine that). So when I started freelancing, I found it very easy to apply the SEO I already knew to my clients’ work.
Knowing SEO also opens up a world of different opportunities for you. For starters, a lot of your customers will probably have their own SEO agency. They might hire you to write for their roofing client’s blog, for example, but then have you contribute to their agency site too. If you know the industry, you can produce much better work for them.
Also, once you understand the basics of SEO, you can offer tangential services to writing. Most of your clients probably do their own keyword research. If you have the know-how to take that off their hands, a lot of them will pay decent money for it.
If you don’t know where to start with learning SEO, I recommend the Superstar SEO Academy. It’s the most comprehensive SEO course that I’ve seen at about the most affordable price ever. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that when I started in SEO, I paid for training elsewhere that was about 40 times as expensive and had a fraction of the content offered in the Superstar Academy.
#3 Get Good at Research
Finally, if you want to be a good freelancer writer, you can’t just be good with words. You’ve got to be able to adapt to just about any topic that gets thrown at you. If all of your writing practice comes from developing fiction, for example, you probably have a good handle on the English language. But you might struggle with the sort of writing that usually gets hired out to freelancers.
So you’ve got to learn how to research efficiently. Learn the difference between a good source and a bad one. Learn how to fact check your work. Learn how to interpret and use different types of evidence for different purposes.
In my 500+ orders completed on Legiit, my work has run the gamut. I’ve written about dog training, placental stem cell treatment, mold remediation, power tools, and more. Some of it has required decoding in-depth scientific research. Some of it has required analyzing consumer experiences and reviews.
The point is, without a strong grasp of the different types of research that go into freelance writing, you’ll struggle to meet the wide variety of demands that clients put on you.
I always tell my students not to start their conclusions with “in conclusion”, so I just put it in the heading instead!
But seriously, these are three of the most important tips for freelance writers that I attribute my success to. There’s plenty more to it than that, and a lot of what I learned was from making mistakes along the way. So whether you are completely new to freelance writing or are just trying to get a leg up on the competition, keep pushing forward one word at a time.