How to Start a Career as a Writer or Copywriter

Do you want to become a freelance writer?

Writing as a freelance writer is ultimate freedom. Becoming a freelance writer enables you to work remotely and from anywhere in the world. It's one way to pay the bills while traveling or enjoying a flexible work schedule. But how to become a freelance writer? How can you build a freelance writer portfolio? How can you start a career in writing?

In this article, I will guide you to start a career as a freelance writer:

Build a writing portfolio

Find clients

Get paid

Expand your business

Now more than ever, companies need freelance writers. Over the last ten years, freelance writer jobs have become more abundant and better compensated. It is a highly sought out job opportunity and is a saturated field so you shouldn’t expect to be making a lot of money. But if your priorities are to work creatively with freedom and live in a place with a low cost of living, writing freelance could be the career choice for you.

How to Build a Writer’s Portfolio

It’s a little simpler these days to publish your own blogs via Medium, being a guest blogger or starting your own website. First, you have to have a topic to write about. Start off in your own world of expertise, your hobbies or interests, your community and small newsworthy stories. You could interview and interesting person you know and write about them and their story.

When I was first starting out, I wrote two pieces to showcase as my writing samples when I applied for the local newspaper. Neither were published, but I wanted to show off my journalistic skills in a newspaper format. I wrote two investigative pieces about the unofficial smoking spot in the local community and about a local pilot who saved elephants from poachers in Africa. It landed me the low-level journalist job.

Finding a story is half the job of a writer. You can be an amazing story teller but you first have to find the story to tell. It isn’t as easy as it may seem. You will see something, but look closer and find the angle that isn’t so obvious to the average person. Always ask why and you will find more stories than you can write. Create a Google Drive with your writing samples or make a free website on Wix to showcase them in a portfolio.

How to Get Hired and Find Clients

You can search job openings and will find a ton of offers, but I always think it is best to start on a local level. You can figure out how to find clients as a freelance writer by asking around. Ask local businesses to write an occasional blog for their website. You may not want to give away your work for free, but sometimes it helps to start pro bono in order to convince someone to pay you who would normally not have hired you in the first place. Or better yet, ask for a trade. You could trade yoga classes for a weekly yoga blog or wine for a few winery articles. Once you have one client or the word is out, you will easily find other clients through word of mouth or friends of friends, and of course, from your expanding portfolio.

How to get Paid to Write

Applying for a job as a writer or as a contractor will get you paid as a writer, but if you start out pro bono, you can usually transition into a paid gig within the first 6 months. Demonstrate that you are reliable and professional. Businesses usually can’t function by hiring only people who work for free because they are not consistent enough. Usually, they have no motivation to bend over backwards without pay. If you are willing to stick it out as if you were paid for 6 months, chances are that your employer or editor will want to keep you around and will find it more worth their time and sanity to pay you to stick around.

I started writing for a Cannabis blog for free because I wanted to enter the cannabis space without experience. After contributing 5 monthly articles, I told my editor I was too busy with other paying jobs and then he offered me a stipend per article.

Once your employer recognizes that you are consistent, responsible and have a talented work ethic, they won’t want to let you go and will pay to keep a professional around. If you work like a professional, they will treat you like one (maybe not everyone, but the ones that you want to work for).

How to Expand your Business

Create a professional looking website. After creating my website with my own domain, I was getting more jobs than ever before. I have to admit, my website made me look more experienced than I actually was in the beginning. For one year, it cost me under $80 and I was able to land four new clients that year. Make sure to keep your portfolio updated and highlight the different industries that you have experience writing in like travel, food, sports, finance, etc.

Once you start having more consistent work and clientele, you can easily raise your prices. Find out more about how to price your work. It can be more complex than an average hourly rate and it can work in our favor to be flexible.

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