So you want to be a freelance writer but don’t know where to start? You’ve scoured the web for the best freelancer guide but do not quite seem to get one that answers your pertinent questions.
The first few weeks are going to be challenging and will eat into everything that you’ve got. So where do you even begin? What processes and structures do you need to have in place? How do you find clients? And how do you know how much to ask for? Endless questions, right?
Every successful freelancer once pondered on these questions.
Freelancing world in itself is diverse in nature. There are several options to opt for, depending on your skills and expertise. Freelance designing, writing, transcription, virtual assistance, social media marketing, consulting business, media agency, SEO etc. are but to mention a few.
As a freelancer you’re your own boss, and that entails a lot of mundane tasks that require good judgement on how you go about doing it. How do you make it through? In this freelancing guide I will take you through the nitty gritty details.
Use the table of content below to jump to specific sections of the article. I'll cover:
Preparing to become a freelancer. (Freelancers Guide)
Becoming the best freelancer is not such an easy task. It’s not cracking open another freelancing guide and boom you go. It calls for hard work and commitment.
- Find out what you are good at. Not everyone was born to be a freelance writer. Some have great designing skills, journalism expertise, arts and painting, photographing, transcription etc. By aligning your freelancing path in the direction of your expertise you will be in a better position to delight your clients by delivering pure gold.
- Hone Your Skills. While preparing to launch your freelance business, you need to focus on your skills as well. Are your writings at per, are your tech skills up to date etc. Buy books and online courses. You may also need to take time to learn complimentary lessons on topics such as freelancing, cold pitching, email marketing and click funnels.
- Build and Update Your Portfolio/work samples. If you have done jobs before you want to consolidate all your works and prepare them for display on the web or have them stored for easier and faster retrieval. Your clients will certainly want to see samples of your works before they decide on hiring you. Having an online portfolio makes it easier, both for you and for your clients. If you are into freelance writing, then ensure that your samples are your best works, redo them over and over.
How to make it into popular freelancing sites.
There are so many freelancers out there looking for freelancing opportunities in various freelancing platforms. This is how you can stand out and hence secure yourself a chance.
1. Do your research well and pay attention to the competition.
There is always competition, people who are so good at freelancing that could knock you off your feet. Looking closely at what others are doing, will help you sail through.
All too often clients looking for freelancers have no central data bank to find you or other freelancers. You have to be in the right place at the right time.
You can easily differentiate yourself from your competition by having an attractive personality, and a digital presence that stands out from the rest. You achieve this by delivering work that is better than anything your competitors are doing.
Even when you have experience or none at all, your job is to perform better than everyone else in your field, both in the work you do, and the way you act. But how do you know what your competitors are actually doing? what are they up to? Keep your friends close, and make friends with your enemies.
Share, trade, and exchange what you can from your own knowledge and then keep doing it better.
2. Have a plan of action.
Freelancing is no fun as a hand-to-mouth game. Never undervalue time taken to plan. A plan can be a simple as deciding what is your next move.
Carefully draft and re-draft personal business plan, including your financial requirements, goals, and how you can actually translate into action.
Nobody chooses this path with the goal of living on a financial knife-edge. Don’t be a dumb ass, keep your eyes open, know your limits, and plan accordingly.
Becoming a smart freelancer isn’t easy, but it is not something metaphysics or rocket science either. it’s within your grasp.
Use your plan of action to grow your network. This creates an opportunity to learn, improve and perfect the skills. A plan of action will save you frustration.
3. Reach out to all your contacts.
Clients take time to develop. Don’t put yourself in a position to do the work “in a week”, when the discussion you need to start may take that much time anyway.
The more experience, contacts and references you have when you go the freelancing pathway, the easier making that final break from your job will be.
Building a network and finding work are two sides of the same coins. It’s never too late to start reaching out to people and expanding your network.
If you have work to show for your efforts already, your outreach will go much further. Keep yourself fresh in people’s minds and be their go-to person when they need a professional in your field.
4. Build your personal brand
As a freelancer, you are a brand that has to be well-known and updated all too often. When you are selling your services, you are actually selling yourself.
Your personality counts.
Social media will help you sell out your brand to potential clients. Starting online, understanding who’s important to your business, preempting offline events by connecting with people via Twitter, and leveraging LinkedIn connections into meetings for coffee.
If you combine a strong digital brand with meeting people in person, you’ll make yourself easy to connect with.
Stay focused, stay targeted and talk to every new connection like they’re your best friend.
Having your freelancing website is a plus. This is so because you can easily showcase your recent projects, highlight your recent mentions as well as accept payments right from your website.
5. Have Freelancing Business Cards
Get out there, hand out business cards and make friends. In the event of building your brand, you will meet amazing people and potential clients. Business cards are becoming very essential tools of saying, “Hey, I think you are amazing, can we connect?”
4. Don’t burn any bridges.
Every contact counts, and reputation is key. For the record, your current employer is your strongest link to your first job as a freelancer.
If your job is at all related to what you plan to do, they may themselves be your first client. If you have a boss who knows anything, that’s the best place to start.
You however need to have a strong reputation with your boss for this to work out.
5. Get a Mentor.
Convince your mentor-to-be that you are worth that little bit of time and effort, and sure enough they could pass you a first client after only a couple of weeks and you’ll be officially on schedule and making money.
Whether it’s your boss, mentor, professor, uncle, slave driver, or homeless dude with good advice, be accommodating, be thankful and be willing to work your to always go an extra mile for an opportunity to do what you love.
Where to Work: Freelancing Guide
There are several freelancing websites, however deciding on which one is suitable for you can really be very tricky. I recommend you start by checking out the following. With time, you can move to higher paying clients and as well as start adopting methods such as cold pitching.
- Dot Writer
Tips to getting your first order from bidding sites.
To find organizations in your area, start with your best friend Google and don’t forget to ask your real friends and colleagues for their recommendations.
Most industries have professional associations; it’s worth it to research the ones in your field, to see if the membership dues come with access to specialized job boards, career advice, education, or other support.
Employers are more willing to give you a chance if you come recommended by someone they already know and trust.Freelance gigs are particularly well-suited for this job search method.
How do you get started networking? If you socialize with present or former colleagues or anyone in your industry, you’re making and forging connections that will help you find work, freelance or otherwise. Your goal now is to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities.
Reach out and build strong with other Kenyan freelancers who are killing it in the industry.
You can leverage your existing social media presence by quietly announcing to certain connections that you’re looking for work, or post a general notice on your own profile that you’re now accepting freelance clients.
Your favorite social network can be your personal website, free advertising, all in one.
There are several ways in which Kenyan freelancers can use social media to acquire new clients, but you have to do it right.
Job Sites/Job Boards to Find Freelance Jobs
Most of the major job search sites allow you to search for freelance gigs as well, either by keyword, filter, or category. Generally, there are plenty of sites that cater specifically to folks looking solely for freelance work. Be on the lookout.
- Problogger Jobs Board
- The Freelance Writer’s Den Junk-free Job Board
- Freelance Writing
- Krop Jobs Board
- FreelanceWritingGigs.com Writing Gigs Category
- WritingCareer.com Jobs Category
- LinkedIn Openings
- BloggingPro Jobs Board
- Simply Hired Writer Category
- Writers Job Board
Mistakes New Freelancers Should Avoid.
You have now tested the waters with both feet. It can be tempting and exhausting if you really don’t know what you want and how to work with limited time. Avoid these mistakes:
1. Taking every task that comes your way.
It’s OK to turn down some projects.
Don’t get stuck taking on every project that comes your way. This can be overwhelming because you already have a full work load.
Anything that involves something you don’t really know how to do, unless it’s a really simple skill to add to your portfolio, can suck away your energy.
Projects from clients that don’t actually know what they want or balk at paying from the start are a definite red flag.
Projects from family members or close friends are always tricky. It’s hard to say no, but sometimes it is the best thing so that feelings don’t get hurt and relationships are not strained.
Anything that comes along when you are booked solid. If you really want the project, ask if the timeline is flexible, but don’t take on anything that you can’t meet deadlines for. Don’t be greedy, you will loose it. 🙂
2. Over-promising and Under-delivering.
You want to be accommodating and easy to work with, but you don’t want to get a reputation for falling short.
Don’t promise anything that you are not sure you can deliver. It happens all the time. Be flexible when in conversations with clients.
Listen to what is needed and for anything that is not a sure but say “that sounds good, but I’ll need to think about how to make that work.”
Then you have some options for whether you can do it, how to quote a price for the service and even have a way out if you just don’t think the request is workable.
3. Working without a strategy.
If you are just working along with no regard to what comes next, then you could be in for a rude shock. Freelancers need to develop a business plan and strategy.
Remember that you are now an entrepreneur, and you work needs deserved seriousness.
How long do you want to write for that platform? Where do you want to be in five years? What amount do you expect from your clients? It’ll be hard to get there if you don’t even know where you are going.
4. Betting Too Much on Current Clients
As a freelancer, you have to bear in mind that any client could disappear any day. It’s kinda heart breaking but it’s true.
It’s simple, diversify your client base and ensure that you have good working relationships with your current clients. Do you have a plan for how to replace a client in case the terms of working changes?
5. Undervaluing Your Work
Most freelancers severely undervalue their time and work. For that reason, some do projects for free or at very low-cost this tells your client your worth and they may take advantage of it by paying you peanuts.
Establish pricing that makes sense in your market and is in line with the services you offer and stick to it. Be confident in your work and always a start bargaining from the highest prices. To start charging more, you need to critically assess your worth and start charging what you deserve.
Where and how to back up your work.
Afraid of losing everything you’ve written? There are many ways to back up your written work in case a virus attacks your computer.
For a Mac, the OS X Mountain Lion switches your written work to the Pages app, which saves documents to the cloud. So, you can work across your devices without e-mailing them around
Time Machine can back up all your files, and when you make significant progress you just e-mail the document to yourself so it’s in Gmail’s cloud.
Most web and mailing list hosts have backup procedures in place, but it’s still sensible to keep your own backups in case your web or mailing list host decides to terminate your account.
For premium back up solutions, you can try Carbonite, Crashplan, and Mozy. All three work on Windows and Mac. They all have limited free options, so you can try them out and see which one works for you.
In as much as your work is already published online, a backup will help you refer, or trace your work in case it disappears and takes forever to be found.
Get a Flash disk. Always save your work offline as well. All of my articles are available on my Google drive, my PC, Dropbox account and my flash disk…. and my phone storage as well.
Bonus Section: Directory to Learn about Freelance Writing and Transcribing for Kenyan Freelancers.
- Be a Freelance Blogger
- Freelancer by Walter Akolo
- Writers in Charge
- The Write Life
- The Penny Matters: Yes my own website 🙂
- Freelance Writing Gigs
- Funds for Writers
- Freelance Folder
- The Freelancer By Contently
In a Nutshell
Your ability to understand the big picture and refine each detail to pixel-perfect clarity is what will make you who you are and good at what you do.
Freelancing is something you really have to want, and be prepared to work hard for. And the result of that is a lifestyle, and a sense of freedom that is unrivaled by any other job in the world. Go for it.
Got better ideas or anything to add? See you in the comments section, right below 🙂