The journey to become a freelance blogger—or proofreader , copywriter, editor, freelance anything really!—can be an overwhelming one.
You know you want to, you just don’t know where the heck to start!
Do you print up business cards? Build a website? Talk to your accountant? Start looking for work immediately… or wait a few months? Ugh!
Writing has been my sole source of income for over 3 years now and even I get a little queasy looking at that. I remember all-too-well what it was like to be a newbie: As exciting and full of opportunity as it was, it was also gut-wrenchingly frightening.
It doesn’t have to be.
When I first took the plunge and went freelance, I kept wishing that there was a map I could look at. Some sort of step-by-step guide. I understood that the journey was my own—and that everyone’s freelance journey is different—but there were some things that everyone experienced, weren’t there? There had to be!
Turns out, I was right.
The 20 Things Every Freelance Blogger Experiences
At “zero”, The Urge.
Quite likely, this is where you are now. You’ve got that tickle of temptation. You can feel it in your gut:
You want to—nay, must!—become a freelancer.
- Searching for Meaning.
Before you get started as a freelancer, I’d suggest doing some soul-searching. Why do you want to go freelance? What deeper meaning does freelance blogging hold for you? Without a larger purpose to anchor you to your ultimate writing goals, the more likely you’ll be to fail before you even begin. This is a difficult step. But it’s well worth it. This is what’s going to keep you going even when you feel like quitting (and every freelancer feels like quitting at some point).
- Needing to Determine Your Skills (and any gaps in your knowledge).
Try making a list of the jobs you’ve had, your hobbies, your beliefs, your favorite subjects in school, moments that changed your life, your favorite stores, your favorite magazines… Then try to find common themes—repeating ideas—in your list: Those are your areas of expertise. Now make a list of the things you don’t know, but would like to. Those are the gaps that you’ll need to fill.
- Getting to Know the Competition.
Just who is your competition anyway? Probably the easiest way to find out is to Google the search terms YOU want to be known for and see who pops up! Try typing “professional blogger”. Or “freelance writer for hire.” What do these people and websites have in common? How do they present themselves to the public? You don’t want to copy your competition’s style—YOUR personality is what’s going to make you stand out from the crowd!—but it’s good to familiarize yourself with what works and what doesn’t.
- Learning to Value Your Time.
You can make a surprising amount of money as a freelance blogger. But you have to believe you’re worth it. Study up on writing rates. Did you know you could earn $50 an hour? Or sell a single 500-word article for $100? It’s true!
- Starting a Blog.
As soon as possible, get started blogging. Get yourself set up with a free blog or—even better!—invest in a real website with paid-for hosting and its own domain name. Nothing states “I know what I’m doing!” like actually doing it.
- Going Public.
Hang your shingle and state you’re open for business! Don’t wait until you’re “ready.” You could be waiting forever! That said, start small. Don’t ignore the connections you already have. Start by telling the people closest to you: Your friends, your family members, the businesses you frequent. Even if they don’t have work for you, they may know someone who does. And having your first referrals come from someone you know will give you an extra sense of security.
- Getting Used to Rejection.
Every writer has to get used to facing rejection. To hearing “no” time after time after time. That never goes away. Even fantastic bloggers who have been in the game for years have to face rejection. Linda Formichelli of The Renegade Writer recently stated that she’s been rejected nearly 500 times!
- Sticking It to the Naysayers.
You’ll likely have friends and family members tell you to “get a real job” when you first tell them of your freelancing plans. The quickest way to shut them up? Start making money! 😉
- Staying Organized.
When you become your own business, you must fine-tune your organizational skills. Keeping your workspace organized is one thing, but you’ll also have to organize your time, your files, your writing, your e-mails, your clients, and a whole buttload of other things. If you’re sloppy—in the real world or the virtual one—things will spiral out of control fast!
- Sending Out Queries.
Your own blog is a great portfolio piece, but it won’t pay the bills. At least not at first. Thus, you’ll need to reach out to other blogs. You’ll need to start guest posting. To do that, you’ll need to start sending out query letters/pitches.
- Meeting Deadlines.
When you write for yourself, you get to set your own deadlines. When you write for others, you’ll need to meet their deadlines. And consistently meeting deadlines goes a long way toward proving you’re a true professional.
- Staying Focused.
Procrastination is the archenemy of the freelancer. One you’ll have to vanquish nearly every time you sit down to work. Focus is key to success!
- Figuring Out a Routine.
As a freelancer, you get to set your own hours. You no longer have to work 9-5, but you do have to work. You’ll need to figure out when your best action times are, and what routine works best for you.
- Obeying the Law.
Once you start making money, start putting some of it aside for taxes. The laws for each country and each state are different. Learn what the tax laws are for your area and obey them.
- Learning to Use Contracts & Invoices.
Freelance blogging isn’t all fun & games. In order to get paid, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with how to draw up contracts and invoice clients. Just because these are the “boring bits” of the job doesn’t mean you get to skip over them. Never, ever work without a contract!
- Getting Comfortable with Your Title.
Are you a freelance blogger? Call yourself one. Believe it. No one else will believe it if you don’t believe it first.
- Wearing Your Hats Well.
Once you go freelance, you’ll have to wear many hats. You’re not “just” a writer now—you’re also your own boss, your own co-worker, your own teacher, accountant, marketer, bill collector, IT guy, supplier… It takes some getting used to!
- Networking with Others.
Don’t be a wallflower! Mingle! Get yourself out there. Leave comments on other blogs. Chat up people on Facebook. Send some messages on Twitter. Join a group on Google+. Make friends.
There will come a time when you feel like quitting. Usually during the “famine” part of the Feast or Famine Cycle. Don’t. Hang in there!
- Reveling in the Freedom.
You did it. You’re a freelance blogger! Enjoy it.
Never Stop Learning
If I were to add a #21 to the list above, it would be the importance of continuing your education, even after you’ve established yourself in your field.
I had been earning pocket money for my writing—mainly from friends—starting in 1999. However, the first time I got legitimately paid for a writing gig was in 2003. My aunt gave me a copy of The Writer’s Market and I used it to get myself published in magazines.
At the time, online writing was relatively new. The basic consensus in 2003 was that web writing was a novelty, and that print writing was where it was at. And blogging? Pfft. Forget about it!
Can you imagine if I were running my business based on the knowledge I’d acquired in 2003?!
I’d be so, so lost.
Things change in this business constantly. Never, ever assume that you know it all.
You owe it to yourself, your clients, and your readers to continually strive to be better. To always be updating your skills.
I just wrote out 20 things every freelance blogger experiences/needs to know. However, even though that’s quite an extensive list, it doesn’t cover everything.
There are so many things newbies need to learn when they set out on their freelance journey.
So here’s what to do next:
- Write down WHY you long to go freelance. (Remember #1 on the list above? What’s YOUR deeper meaning?)
- Write down what you MOST want/need to learn in order to feel comfortable following your dreams.
- Go and learn it so you can get started!
P.S. Need some help to launch *your* blogging business and land your first paying clients? Check out Sophie’s step-by-step training for beginners:
Get Started for Freelance Blogging Success.