Today is a much-requested post here on The Bloglancer. If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that as well as running two blogs, I am a freelance writer. I mainly write for magazines and online sites but have also done some blogging for brands and copywriting. This topic is something I get asked about a lot, but for me at least, getting ahead in freelance writing is the same as any form of media: working hard; not being afraid to put yourself out there every day; making contacts and constantly coming up with new ideas! Here are my ten tips for going from blogger to freelance writer….
1. Read, read and read some more.
I often see people on twitter saying ‘anyone looking for a freelance writer?’ and I cringe a little. I don’t mean to cause offence but to write freelance you shouldn’t just be advertising you’ll write anything. In fact, the first step is that you’ll need to work out your voice and what you want to write about (of course, I’m thinking mainly about journalism here, but this applies to copywriting too- as you often need good knowledge of something to create engaging copy) To do this, start by reading a range of magazines and online sites (an app like Readly is great for this) and looking for…
~What type of features do they run?
~What’s the word length?
~What articles are written by freelancers (usually obvious as they have a byline and aren’t listed as main staff)
Use this to get a feel for what different publications are doing and how you might fit in.
2.Hang out on twitter
Now you’ve started to read a range of publications, follow the editors on twitter (you could even create a Twitter list). Look out for what kind of content they’re sharing, any callouts for contributions and don’t be afraid to chat to them!
3.What contacts do you already have?
Keep a list of your contacts!
Most of my tips are about freelance journalism but copywriting and blogging for brands can also be a good fit. Go back to brands you’ve worked closely with and have a look at their blog content (your best to aim for smaller, independent brands here). Who is it written by? (if just by one person, they often have a content manager?) Are they open to contributors? I’ve been paid for blogging for brands but I’ve also been asked to do it for free. If you are asked to do it for free, consider if the final article is something that could fit in a portfolio? (e.g is it different to what you’re already doing on the blog? is it a reputable site?)
4. Figure out your niche…
One of the best places to start is to think about topics you’re already knowledgeable about. I go on a lot about a niche- and I do think it’s a good place to begin. With freelance writing, it’s all about proving why you are the best person to write the article (instead of them just using a member of staff who already works there!).
Do you blog about beauty? That department of a magazine probably has half a dozen staff members and even more regular contributors. However, do you know lots about natural skincare? dealing with eczema or psoriasis? That’s far more appealing. Make a list of what stands you apart from other writers and create ideas to pitch around it.
5…. and how to go beyond it.
Of course, eventually, you’ll want to go beyond your niche. In fact, one of the best things a writer can have is a diverse portfolio. So once you’ve started writing for a title or build up some contacts, now’s the time to diversify. I started writing about health but over the past few weeks, I’ve written about everything from animal subscription boxes to travel. Having a niche helps you start out, but once you’ve built up content, now’s the time to diversify.
6.Keep an online portfolio.
Use an online portfolio to store all of your articles electronically, and embed this into your email footer. I use journo portfolio (here’s mine if you fancy a peek) which is free for up to 10 articles (just try to make sure that 10 is diverse in topic and publication).
Store all of your articles electronically. Now let’s talk about how to send a writing pitch…
7. Have a clear title for pitching emails
As for the pitching email itself, make sure you use the subject header to spell out the story, e.g. pitch: the 10 best gluten free mince pies. Keep it short and snappy.
8. Make it clear why the story is a good fit.
Use your first paragraph to spell out why the story is a good fit- how does it fit the publication? what makes it timely and relevant? Is it in response to a trend, time of the year or an awareness day?
9…and why you’re a good fit.
And then use the second paragraph to spell out why you’re the one to write it. It might be something you’ve experienced, a qualification you have or the kind of writing you’ve done before. Make sure you give a brief overview of your past writing experience and a link to your portfolio.
10. Use awareness days (but not the fad ones)
Finally, awareness days can be a good thing to plan content around. Health awareness days in particular (e.g. Crohn’s awareness week in December) do well- as people are always looking for case studies and short listicles/top tips. Just be aware of faddy dates; these are usually designed by PRs and are often mocked by journalists. Afternoon tea week I’m looking at you!
Before you go take a look at my last blog post ‘Everything you need to Grow Your Blog’- with a review of the genius blogger toolkit. This is a fantastic buy for your blog but also has several really useful resources around Freelance Writing (include an e-course which explains how to set up a portfolio page etc)