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Freelance Writers: How to Earn Your First Freelance Writing Paycheck
Written by William Ballard, Freelance Writer and Author
With most jobs, you sign on to work for an employer for a regular paycheck or at least for an hourly wage. Freelance writing, however, involves you contracting your services out on a project by project basis. You essentially need to complete the projects before you will be paid on them, although some projects do pay you when certain project milestones are reached. In other words, there at times that you may be paid an initial compensation at the beginning (or half-up front) and then the remaining total paid once the project is complete.
Either way, though, you first have to find your first project or two to work on before you can expect to be paid at all for your writing talents!
Finding Your First Writing Assignment Can Be Hard, But Doesn't Have to Be
Many clients who may be interested in contracting you for your writing services will want to see an example of what you can do. Most new freelance writers get started in this business knowing that they love to write and knowing they do it well, but they may not have the experience under them necessary to win writing gig after writing gig. So there is indeed a bit of difficulty for new freelance writers to get those first few paying gigs.
Start Putting Samples Together Now
You may be able to find a random assignment for a client who doesn’t want to see some samples of your work, but for the most part, you will find that clients want to see what you can do before they promise to pay you for your work. Moreover, it is quite understandable. You wouldn’t want to dish out your own money towards someone or something unless you knew it or they were of value and could produce the results that you were wanting.
Therefore, you will want to put together some samples of your work. You can always pull up an old college essay, but generally these are pretty dry and aren’t in the style most clients are looking for. So you likely will need to create some samples. Pick topics that interest you and write up a few different articles using a different tone and voice in each. The articles don’t have to be long, and really most clients will not read more than the first few paragraphs of what you send anyway.
Related Post: Do Freelance Writers Need a Blog?
Never Compromise Integrity for Growth
While some clients really do want to work with only an experienced freelance writer, some just don’t care. They want to find someone skilled who can do the job, and they don’t care how many other people you have worked for in the past. While you don’t want to dwell on the fact that you are “new” in a job proposal, you also don’t want to lie either. So you must remember to be specific about what experience you do have in writing, such as the fact that you did the marketing writing at your old job or that you majored in journalism in college.
If you have to lower your rate … lower it, but never lower than the industry average
If you really have nothing to entice a client to work with, such as any type of previous writing experience at all or a major in a related field, you may need to offer another type of incentive to draw them in. Some freelance writing coaches will tell you to lower your bid (or your opening rate), but I disagree. Considering to work for less than what other freelance writers are offering to do the work is stupid.
If you really believe in you, your writing, and what you bring to the table (or to the market place), you should never shoot yourself short. You have to be sold on yourself and the value you bring. If you are not sold on you, then your potential client will not be either.
Free Work at Major Publications Pays You in Attention and Exposure
On the other hand, there are times that you need to work “pro bono” so that you can get your feet wet and so you can get some experience. Depending on what you expertise is in, if you can get a routine gig to write for a major publication in your field as a contributing writer (for free) you end up being paid with extreme attention and exposure. For example, I am passionate about business (sales and marketing) and entrepreneurship. So I wrote an article to Entrepreneur.com (read the article HERE) which ended up increasing my Twitter following and drove more traffic to my website where I got more clients reaching out to me about hiring me to write for them.
That kind of exposure is extremely powerful!
Because most potential clients already have a respect for the Entrepreneur brand, by me writing for them for free, I get to capitalize on that already established respect.
When you start bringing in paid clients through these highly respected publications, I highly encourage you to make sure that you specify you would like a solid testimonial if they are happy with your work. If you have a few samples to provide, many clients will jump at the chance to get a good deal on your services in exchange for writing a testimonial or review.
It sure can be intimidating to get your feet wet in the world of freelance writing, but when you follow these tips, you will find that you can more easily find those first few jobs you need to establish yourself and gain some experience, too!
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About the Author
William Ballard is the author of, "8 Tips to Freelance Writing Success (Article Writing Series)" and "3 Steps to Blogging Success: Discovering Your Passion, Finding Your Audience, and Developing an Income Stream (Article Series)".
He has been writing professionally for over 10+ years and has much experience within the industry, both in publishing and in freelance writing. He has successfully self-published over 10 books and eBooks. Visit his Amazon Author Page to see list of his most recent projects.