Being a Web-first freelance writer is a great way for many to supplement their incomes. After all, all you need is a laptop, an Internet connection and time to get the job done. And you could be just as productive at Starbucks or the airport or on the couch in your pajamas.
Hirers Are Spoilt for Choice
Having hired many writers over the years, I’ve learned what characteristics the best writers tend to have. If you are interested in trying your luck as a freelance writer, the first thing you’ve got to keep in mind is that there are many, many, many other people who believe that they are just as talented and capable of doing the same.
In fact, in my experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that almost everybody who has a computer thinks that they are a writer. But it’s the same kind of thing as everyone who owns a guitar thinking that they’re a virtuoso musician—it’s simply not the case.
Making It Work
In order to be a successful freelance writer and ensure you are on the receiving end of a steady stream of assignments, you’ve got to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Here are five ways to do that:
- Specialize in a unique niche. Not every writer can write masterfully on any topic, so the more advanced your knowledge and skill, the more likely you’ll be able to land high-paying writing jobs.
Focus on becoming an expert in more technical topics like construction, manufacturing and medicine. That way, you’re putting yourself in a position to pick up more work simply due to the fact that the demand for those who can write with authority on such topics outpaces the supply.
- Learn how to write for the Web. Even the most seasoned print journalist can’t expect that his or her craft will easily translate to the digital world. After all, the way people interact with text on the Internet is considerably different than how they’d read a book or a newspaper.
In the age of the smartphone and tablet, readers have shorter attention spans than ever before. As such, they prefer to skim, scan and scroll through content, attempting to glean as much meaning as they can from an article in as short a period of time in order to determine whether the piece is worth reading in totality.
On top of that, you’ll have to learn how to do keyword research and write with SEO in mind. The ability to write killer headlines won’t hurt, either. Just think: The closer your stories are to being complete when you submit them, the less work the editor will have to do before posting it.
- Become an influencer. Chances are there are writers you follow earnestly, or at least blogs that you regularly visit. So as you pursue your niche and develop your craft, strive for excellence with every word you write. The end goal, here, is to get people hooked on your work so that they start following you or subscribing to your RSS feed, for example.
As you begin posting content regularly and build up a following of those who are truly interested in what you have to say, editors will begin to take notice. Who knows? Maybe you will even be able to auction off your services to the highest bidder.
- Promote your stories. At the end of the day, editors and website owners will care about one thing: Traffic. You could be the best writer in the world, but if no one is reading your pieces, it might force an editor to second guess whether you’re the right person for the job.
So take advantage of your social networks and your friends and family. When something goes live, great! While your job description as a freelance writer doesn’t include you having to promote the stories on your own, think about it like this: The more promotion you do, the better your stories will perform. And all editors are always interested in strong metrics.
By going above and beyond in promoting the content you create, you’re laying the groundwork that will pay off in the future when more assignments come your way.
- Be available. From time to time, most people miss deadlines. Maybe they make excuses for why they can’t submit a piece on time. Maybe they’re telling the truth.
Either way, when editors need content, excuses are hard to swallow. These folk want nothing more than writers who are good at their craft and can consistently deliver: Writers who they can depend on to provide a steady stream of engaging content.
The quicker you prove that you’re the one they can depend on, the faster you’ll find yourself getting more assignments and better pay.
This post contributed by my friend Alicia Lawrence –
Ali Lawrence is a content specialist for an Internet marketing agency and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land about online PR, copywriting and content marketing. Her articles have been published by Muck Rack, SEMrush, and Spin Sucks.
Connect with Ali on Twitter @Ali_MarCom and Google+
Over to You
How are you finding it as an online writer? What are you doing to compete with the hordes of barely qualified people who attempt to write? Please share your experiences using the comment box below.