Five Career Opportunities for Freelance Writers and How to Get Started

by HeatherGeo

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image courtesy of ishelby.com

“Writers become working writers not because they literally cannot do anything else or are better writers than anyone else. They simply cannot stand the idea of doing anything else.” Writer, Brad Schreiber

If you’re a full-time freelance writer, you’ve probably discovered that diversity is golden. Whether you’ve been pounding out prose for years or you’re just getting started, here are a few ideas to diversity your offerings and find more clients.

Freelance copy editor

What you do:

Edit fiction and non-fiction manuscripts, e-books, corporate communications, magazines, and copy for trade books. Check for correct spelling, grammar, punctuation and catch inconsistencies throughout the document. Your job is to make the writing shine and be free of errors.

How to break in:

Start by contacting local ad agencies (you can do a quick search on LinkedIn) often they bring in freelancers to help during busy campaigns. If you see an ad agency that is hiring for a full-time copyeditor ask if you can help them out with a few assignments why they are looking for a full-time person. This could turn in to a great part-time gig or at least boost out your copyediting portfolio.

Small print houses or print-on-demand services use freelance copy editors to review their clients manuscripts before printing.

Freelance writer (ok, duh!)

What you do:

Write articles for blogs, consumer or trade magazines, e-books, create website copy, company newsletters or white papers. Any company that has a website needs a writer.

How to break in:

Build a freelance writer website and start a blog. There are tons of freelance designers who can help you put up a simple website and it doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars.

I found a local freelance designer who built my website for way less than a thousand dollars, gave me some great tutorials to get started, and advises me on maintenance.

Your website is an investment in your business. It’s your digital calling card and your biggest marketing tool.

Next step is to find a niche or two or three and become an expert. Read incessantly about your niche and research what companies sell products to that industry. For instance,if your fascinated by green initiatives you can guest post for green blogs, write for gardening, scientific, and environmental trade magazines and websites, or write for businesses that produce green products.

Go after your niche market by searching through social media sites and start building relationships. You can search through twitter using the # (for example #greenliving) and find people who work in your niche.

Manuscript evaluator

What you do:
Edit and critique fiction and non-fiction e-books, book proposals and manuscripts.

How to break in:
Start with who you know. If you’re excited about slogging through manuscripts than you must have some writer friends. Let them know you’re editing manuscripts and casually slide in “Didn’t you mention one time you were writing a sci-fi novel?”

Connect with local writers groups and offer to conduct a free editing workshop. During the workshop you can pass out your business cards and talk about the manuscript editing process.

Build up your email lead list by starting an editorial blog or weekly newsletter. Another option is to join a freelance editorial firm. These firms do electronic copyediting and usually charge by the page.

Technical writer

What you do:

Write instruction manuals, work with software companies, computer manufacturers, and other tech businesses to take complex information and break it down into every day language for the end user. This is a highly lucrative and growing field.

How to break in:

If you’re not a tech expert become one. Most tech writers start out with experience in a technical field like web design, engineering, or computer science. If you’re not ready to chunk out the change or time for one of these degrees then build up your tech writing portfolio by writing a how to guide for a piece of software or review a new gadget for a tech blog.

Brett Kelly was a big fan of Evernote and decided to write an e-book guide called Evernote Essentials. The guide scored Brett a job with Evernote and he’s still earning a nice income from online sales.

Find tech people online and at trade shows. Head out to a tech trade show and pick up user guides on products or white papers to understand how technical information is put into everyday language.

Self-Publisher

What you do:

Ditch the traditional publishing route and self publish e-books and digital products.

How to break in:

Pretty simple here, you have to write an e-book. Initially, the majority of self-publishers were writers frustrated with the limited powerhouse publishing opportunities. Now many digital entrepreneurs pay ghost writers to pen books on hot topics such as weight loss, travel, and self-help.

If you want to write the book yourself, start with your passion and expertise. Then do some market research. Review the big e-book marketplaces (Google play store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble) what can you add to your subject that’s not already on the market.

Make a customer profile – who is going to buy this e-book? Just like any good marketer you need to understand what’s keeping your audience up at night. If you’re a blogger, what questions come up over and over again in your comment section? Pick one thing and answer the question throughly. Be an expert!

Once you’ve written your e-book find an editor (or a writer friend to do a close read) and a designer. The last thing you want after spending time writing is to deliver a product that looks cheap and is full of punctuation errors.

Extra tip: Connect with other professional writers and editors by joining a professional association.
National Association of Independent Writers and Editors
Editorial Freelancers Association

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mick Murillo August 20, 2014 at 10:01 AM

Yeah, these are good ways a writer can make a career… I sometimes write fiction and some article, but I don’t know If someday writing will become something I do professionally. As a comicker it is part of my work, but in creating comic books (or manga, because my style is highly influenced by the Japanese) writing is usually present from the initial synopsis you make to the final dialogs.

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HeatherGeo August 26, 2014 at 9:18 PM

Thanks for your comment. Really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment.

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