Freelance Writing Guide for Students

So, you have made the decision to step into a freelance writing career, but the problem is that you have no experience? Everyone wants to work with a skilled writer, but how to get started? If this is all about you, then that short article is a must-read. Everybody does start somewhere. So, let the team of professional writers from find out what you will need to appear as a successful freelancer as you work your way towards becoming one.

First off, there is a handful of different types of freelance writing. Whether you want to do SEO writing, content writing, B2B writing, or copywriting, the process for becoming a freelancer within any of those mediums is pretty much similar. When it comes to the types of writing you could do, there is also a lot of categories to choose from – a blog post, white paper, think piece, eBooks, product launches, sales emails, etc. So, our step-by-step guide will be helpful for you, no matter what type of freelance career you choose. Let’s get started! There are only seven steps to your success as a freelancer in college years.

Freelance Writing Guide

Step 1. Take Stock of Skills You Have Already Had

A student can become a freelance writer literally in any field and any industry, so if you have already got certain expertise, you definitely need to try to leverage that. The best way to do it is to make a list. Go through your work and volunteer experience, education, hobbies, skills, things that people ask you for advice on. These are all things a student could potentially draw from for the freelance writing career. Make a list of every piece of knowledge, so you can go through it and figure out where the overlap is between a profitable freelance writing niche and your background.

Step 2. Choose a Niche

With freelance writing, you could be tempted to say: “Anybody can be my potential client”. Well, if you are someone who is looking to hire a writer, do you want a person who can write on anything or do you want a writer that specializes in your particular topic? The answer is obvious. So, niche down multiple times to make yourself much more appealing to your ideal client. For example, not every student can become business to business finance writer for tech websites or do copywriting within the golf industry for large golf membership sites. By narrowing down your field of professional writing, you come across your perfect client who will look at you and say: “A freelancer that knows golf travel and direct response marketing! This person hardly ever exists”. In such a simple way, you are going to be a number one choice for the potential customer.

Of course, it is okay to start broad, but as you begin to hit on things and figure out where your expertise comes into play, focus down on that.

Step 3. Research Your Niche

Make a big list of all the businesses, agencies, blogs, websites, and social media accounts in your industry. Even if not everybody is a perfect fit to be a client for you, the more you know about this industry, the better of you are going to be as a freelance candidate.

Step 4. Create Your Target Client

Target client is also known as a customer avatar. So, figure out the exact person who would make your ideal client. You should ask questions like “Who are they?” “Where do they live?” “How much money do they make?” “What do they do for a living?”. In this way, you can really start to get a good sense of the person you are marketing towards. So, the more you can get in their head and understand what they need, the easier it is going to be to offer it to them.

Let us say you want to start writing about smart homes and connected devices. Make a list of all the products this target person is using in their day to day life. Next, know the places they get their info online, what websites they read (WIRED, Mashable, TechCrunch, etc.) If you are going to get into that industry, then you want to start reading the publications on these websites as well. You want to be familiar with the concepts and news within this field, so when you are talking with potential clients, you can be up-to-date and speaking the same language as them.

All the steps up to this point just laying the groundwork. Once we have got all that figured out, it is time to start putting this business into motion.

Step 5. Build Your Freelance Writer Website

You can use “Wix” or “Squarespace” for this purpose, but we recommend WordPress just because it is the most flexible and most robust way to build your freelance writer website. You are not necessarily using one to find a bunch of new clients. It will take some time for you to rank, search and build up your content, but when you do outreach, send people emails, and give them a business card, the first thing they are going to do is go back to the website.

So, you should have at least a home page, an “about” page, a “services” page, “rates” page, and a blog where you write about relevant events and use it as a way to show off your skills. Have a handful of samples that show the different types of writing that you are capable of.

Start developing a little bit of rapport, add personality into your pages so that people can see what sets you apart from the other random writer down the street.

Step 6. Job Opportunities

Sing up for a couple of professional writing websites like “Contently”, “Skyword” or “Upwork” and begin contacting marketing agencies directly. The sites mentioned above can be great to start getting your feet wet and finding some work, but often the longest term and the best paying customers are the people you reach out to directly.

Sending a personalized cold email is the best way to start building your writing business. It can be painful, tedious, and time-consuming, but over time, it will work. It is truly a numbers game. Consider social media as a place to start building relationships and getting potential freelance clients. LinkedIn is absolutely phenomenal for this. First, find the companies that are in your target niche and spend some time cruising through their website and blog, getting a sense for the type of content they are creating. Then, go to LinkedIn and click on “Jobs”, you might get lucky, and this company actually be looking for a freelance writer. If not, then click on “People”. Look for people with titles that have anything to do with marketing, content or social media and set up a contact request with a personalized introduction.

Under any circumstances, do not pitch them for a job in this first introduction. All you are trying to do now is establish content, start a relationship, and get a conversation going. If you do that with enough people within your industry, there is a good chance that you are going to find some jobs along the way.

Step 7. Consistency

You have to start thinking of yourself as a business rather than just having a side hustle. You truly have to be consistent with your effort, have a plan for how you are going to build relationships and pitch clients, and spend some time every single day on marketing your business, whether it is sending cold emails, talking to people on LinkedIn or working on the SEO for your website.

If you truly invest in yourself and treat it like a business, within days, you will get paying writing work. And it will allow you to make a transition from doing something that you are not stoked on to building a longer-term legacy business.