This is my tenth year as a full-time online freelance writer. In Internet years, I’m often reminded, that’s practically an eternity — especially when one consider that much of my work has been as a professional blogger.
I’ve been able to manage my freelance career almost entirely online, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Some of the things I do as a freelancer are different from when I first started, and the landscape is always changing, but I don’t envision a time in which I’ll give up freelancing.
If you’ve been hoping to turn freelancing into a long-term career, there are some things that you should be ready to do:
Establish Your Online Presence
These days, it’s important to establish your online presence — especially if your freelance career will be focused around the Internet. Even if you hope to do more offline than online, you should establish a presence online. Today, most people turn to the Internet to find what they are looking for. Think about where you turned the last time you were looking for something, even if it was just the hours of the business on the other side of town. Chances are, your first instinct was to search for it.
As you get started with your freelance career, get set up online. Host your own website and blog, and claim social media profiles that are related to you. You’ll want to start off by being consistent across your profiles and with what you write on your website and blog. Judicious use of keywords that describe you and your services is also something that I recommend.
Establishing your online presence is a good way to put yourself out there so that potential clients can find you quickly and easily.
Don’t Turn Your Nose Up at Certain Types of Work
If you have a “day job” and you don’t mind taking your time before you quit and start writing full-time, you can afford to be picky. I, however, started my freelance career right out of journalism school, and I wanted to make money to support my family as quickly as possible.
When your priority is feeding your family, you need to be willing to take on projects that you might not care very much about. I started out writing short keyword articles and tackling such subjects as window treatments and flooring. Don’t expect to write high-minded treatises on subjects you find interesting at first — at least you can’t expect to be paid for them.
Just as I wouldn’t turn down a job at a fast food restaurant if that’s what I needed to do in order to feed my son and keep a roof over his head, I didn’t turn down work because I didn’t think it was “good” enough for me.
I’ve been able to move on from doing just about anything for any amount. Now, I set my own rates and can turn down work if I don’t want to do it. But at the beginning, and even as recently as a few years ago, I did work that I thought was boring, tedious and probably beneath me — just to ensure that I could keep freelancing full-time, without a traditional job to keep me financially afloat.
Create a Good Reputation
Even as I wrote keyword articles and general articles for sites I didn’t always think were that great, I did stay away from some work. Be wary of putting your name on writing that you think might be illegal, or that doesn’t fit with your values. In order to succeed in a freelance career, you need a good reputation that others trust.
It’s been four or five years since I’ve had to rely on job boards to keep my project plate full. In many cases, my clients come to me because they know my reputation. I spent years working on my reputation in the personal finance community.
Here are some of the ways you build a good reputation as a freelancer:
- Turn in quality work consistently
- Meet your deadlines
- Keep clients informed if problems come up and you can’t meet deadlines
- Be active on applicable social media since many expect you to at least share what you write once or twice
- Build relationships in your community, if you are involved in a niche, and take the time to network
When you are involved and consistent, and you do good work, that speaks for itself. You might need to do some marketing in order to get “out there” more, but once people do find you, it’s important that they see that you are trustworthy and that you’ll provide them with what they need.
Word gets around if you are unscrupulous or if you are difficult to work with. Do your best to create a good impression so that you aren’t blacklisted.
In the end, a lot of it is persistence and hard work as you move forward. Maintaining a long-term freelance career isn’t always easy, but it can definitely be done — and it’s almost always worth it.