The 5 Steps To Actually Starting A Freelance Writing Career

by Anne Wayman

freelance writing careerI often say that there are only three steps to a successful writing career (and I’ve written a free ebook on the subject). It’s true. You’ve got to write, rewrite and market.

  • If you want to be a freelance writer you’ve simply got to write. There’s just no getting around it. And you’ve got to write regularly.
  • Almost everything you (or I) write will need rewriting. Or at least some editing or polishing. There isn’t a single piece of writing, published or not that couldn’t be improved with some rewriting and/or editing.
  • You need to market both your writing and yourself as a writer – you can get a copy of the booklet 40 Ways to Market Your Writing which has 40 ideas you can use as a start – and it’s free.
  • When I wrote 6 Things You Really Need For Your Freelance Writing Business I knew number 6 is really the most important: What you really need is persistence, determination and moxie – that’s what makes you unstoppable. 

The first day of your writing career

Assuming I had everything or almost everything in place what would I do knowing what I do now if I were starting all over again? My first day would look like this:

  1. I’d start with an idea list. I’d probably covert the list to a table with four columns, Idea, Publication, Sent, Result.
  2. As soon as I’d finished writing out a list, no matter if it were one idea or a dozen, I’d pick one and look for a market for it, probably using Writer’s Market, using the steps outlined in How To Read & Use a Market Listing. I’d add to the list every time I had a new idea.

  3. As soon as I found a market I’d start writing – which at first might only be a list of what I wanted to include.
  4. I’d plan on writing, really writing, about three hours. As soon as that piece was finished I’d submit it. If I got stuck or finished before the three hours were up I’d start another piece.
  5. I’d spend another 3 hours working on marketing me. The first hour of the first day I’d spend just listing what I thought my marketing might look like. I’d probably turn this into a table too so I could track my results. Then I’d spend two hours doing something from that list.That might be building a website, updating my blog, or cold calling, etc.
After those six hours I’d call it a good day, knowing I was going to start all over again, using the writing routine I’d figured out. If I were able to do this five days a week, that’s what I’d do. Whatever my writing routine was, I’d know I had to do it over and over and over again.

This is in fact pretty much what I did way back when. Oh sure, there were fits and starts and ups and downs. I had huge fears and self-doubts that delayed me, but didn’t stop me. There were kids and jobs and all the stuff of life. But I kept coming back to the writing, rewriting and marketing.

You’re opening day will look somewhat different than mine. In fact it might take you a week to cover all these bases, particularly if you’ve got a regular job. But unless you do all these things all the time, success at freelance writing is likely to be just a fantasy.

How did you get started? What questions do you have about starting?

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 Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth West September 20, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Your daily routine DOES change. Mine depends right now on how tired I am from the day job. If I had any other way to get insurance (and pay bills), I’d get a part-time job instead of full-time so I could write more.
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Marcia September 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Great advice for a newbie, love the list idea. Thanks!

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Anne September 13, 2011 at 10:55 am

You’re welcome…

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Ahlam August 31, 2011 at 8:49 pm

A timely reminder even writers who aren’t just starting need to remember. Great article to push people (myself included) out of the stuck-zone. Thanks!
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Michael @Blast4Trafficnow August 31, 2011 at 10:29 am

Really inspiring. Discipline is far better than the motivation behind it. But motivation also matters, you need to keep alive or else, writing becomes mountain climbing.
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Anne September 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Yes, motivation also matters… I sort of assume anyone who shows up here is motivated to write… maybe I need to rethink that just a bit.

And I’m looking forward to digesting your post re google.

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Ayo @ Business Marketing Handbook August 31, 2011 at 7:07 am

Great tips Anne.

What I need to do is pull myself by my bootstraps, and get to work.
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Anne September 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm

It’s sure no one else can do it for you. There’s lots of support but, darn it, it’s up to each of us as individuals.

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Amelia Ramstead August 30, 2011 at 11:47 am

That’s pretty much exactly how I got started, which I think demonstrates your approach as both intuitive and common sense. I also wanted to pop in and thank you — your site has been a tremendous resource to me, and I just received my first acceptance letter from a magazine!

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Anne August 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Yea! Congratulations – you get the golden pencil award!

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Ahlam August 31, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Congratulations, you must be very exciting. Keep up the momentum and send out some more queries! :)

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Ahlam August 31, 2011 at 8:48 pm

***excited, oops! didn’t revise comment!
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Nicky Parry August 30, 2011 at 8:26 am

Love this Anne, such a great synopsis to get a writer moving. I think the self-marketing is a huge stumbling block for so many people, and that’s likely why a huge proportion fail – it’s nothing to do with their ability to write great content, but just that they aren’t selling themselves enough. It’s tough! I love how you’ve literally set out a schedule here for someone to follow on Day 1 – the “socks first, then shoes” approach really works!
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Mitch Mitchell August 28, 2011 at 9:32 am

I have to admit that I’m a lousy marketer, which shows in my monetary performance. However, I initially advertised myself on a forum, which got clients, and even after I increased my fee I kept one client and have a second client that asks for sporadic articles. And I’ve had clients here and there.

But it’s been almost entirely blog writing, which isn’t bad except you can only get away with charging so much for it. Sometimes people just find me, but otherwise I know I have to get out there and find those people. However, since I don’t only do writing, it’s marketing for anything I do across the board that needs to occur.

Thanks for the free ebook; I didn’t know it existed until now. I’m certainly going to get through it fairly quickly. ;-)
Mitch Mitchell recently posted..They Say Content Is King; Is It?My Profile

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Bill Swan August 26, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Once again you bring up a point I had forgotten. Maybe that’s why I got stuck. I do need to rework the daily routine again.
Bill Swan recently posted..The Danger of Writing for MoneyMy Profile

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Anne August 30, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Bill, if it’s any comfort I rework my daily routine almost daily during some times in my life.

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