Self-employed writers are freelancers who are very much in charge of their own schedules and career trajectories. Whether you’re a ghostwriter creating content to be published under others’ names or a freelance writer seeking to advance your career through networking at writers’ conferences, making the right connections and thinking like an entrepreneur helps put you on the right path.
The Basics of a Freelance Writing Career
Freelance writers help their clients turn ideas into cohesive stories. Sometimes you may see your own name in print, or you may create work to be published under the byline of the person who hired you. When you write for a client, you’re able to view the content more objectively than if you were writing, say, your own novel. The more you learn to spot the strengths and weaknesses in a story, the better you get at applying a critical eye to your own creative work.
Clients typically pay freelancers upfront in stages. Because of this, freelance writing may let you do what you love without struggling to make ends meet. A single book project can pay a ghostwriter from $10,000 to more than $50,000. You can also write blogs, white papers, reports, and articles as a freelancer for fees ranging from under $100 into the four-figure range.
Essential Skills of a Freelance Writer
Freelance writers need excellent writing and researching skills. In addition, organizing information and managing time are among the most important elements of a freelance writer’s day. Clients are likely to come to you with loose ideas or pages filled with notes. Some clients have a clear vision of what they want, but others might not even have a definite goal in mind. You have to ask the right questions to draw out useful information. At the same time, you must be able to absorb a lot of details, choose the most relevant elements, and create a cohesive written piece.
Clients trust you to adopt their voice and values to tell the right story. Freelance writers need strong people skills, confidence, and the ability to offer honest feedback and guidance. It’s often helpful to have industry-specific knowledge to write on a variety of topics.
Finding Freelance Writing Clients
Getting steady work requires a mix of marketing, writing experience, and networking. Freelance writing assignments often come from people already in your network, such as former colleagues, clients, social media followers, and friends of friends. If you have experience in a particular industry or subject matter, networking with people in that industry may lead to freelance gigs. Having a portfolio of work to show helps potential clients trust what you have to offer. Advertising your services on freelancing websites is another way to put your services before your potential public. It’s your job to optimize your luck by getting the word out about your services.
Growing Your Audience
Busy freelance writers don’t wait for jobs to appear. If you want people to value your expertise, be proactive about building relationships and promoting your skills, and follow these tips for marketing your business.
- Write consistently. If you regularly write a blog, sell e-books, or contribute to a reputable publication, clients can see your skills and writing style firsthand.
- Create a freelancer website. Share your work history, education, and testimonials from clients, and describe the process you use to help clients achieve their goals.
- Brand yourself as a specialist. As a freelancer, you’re more credible when you demonstrate extensive knowledge about a specific topic and create a body of work that shows how well you understand your clients’ needs.
- Make friends. Take advantage of writer associations and networking events to meet editors, publishers, and fellow writers who can offer referrals.
Don’t expect a thriving freelance writing career to happen overnight. Be patient, and commit to a writing schedule while you work to build up your audience. In the meantime, talk to other people about their professional goals and aspirations. Finding out what’s important to potential clients is the best way to sell your freelance writing skills as a solution to their needs.
The Experience of Attending a Writers’ Conference
Attending a writers’ conference is a great way to meet fellow creatives and to learn how to treat your craft as a business. Writers spend a lot of hours alone staring at a screen or scribbling away in journals. No matter the stage of your freelance writing career, you can use writers’ conferences to gain insight from people who know how to succeed in this tough industry. Writers’ conferences bring together writers, publishers, editors, and agents to discuss ways to hone your craft and navigate professional hurdles. Common topics at such conferences include:
- Tips for writing specific genres or content styles
- Strategies to improve plot and character development
- Methods to work through blocks and storytelling obstacles
- Tips for networking and pitching
- Advice on self-employment, marketing, and time management
- Ways to leverage trends shaping the industry
Conferences also give you a chance to participate in workshops, listen to live readings, and talk one-on-one with editors and agents, any of whom might be the source of your next writing job.
Where Are the Best Conference Events?
Since some writing conferences come with a cost, it’s best to attend events that are in line with your professional goals. Genre-based conferences cater to creative writers pitching book and article ideas for publication. If you’re a blogger or copywriter, it’s smart to choose events tailored for web and marketing writing. The Canadian Authors Association and Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs are great resources for finding events as well as lists of niche membership organizations.
Benefits of Networking and Conferencing for Freelance Writers
Getting involved in conventions and festivals is a great way to network — a true necessity for freelance writers, who can easily lose out on the camaraderie and connections that come with traditional jobs. Conferences surround you with a focused community that can offer support and share experiences, teaching you how to achieve better results. For careers such as journalism, copywriting, and ghostwriting, making connections is a primary means of landing well-paying gigs and referrals.
Connections With Industry Professionals
Agents and publishers often receive unsolicited submissions from aspiring writers. While some agents and publishers choose not to work with freelance writers with no insider connections, these same industry experts love finding promising talent at conferences. They prefer to meet in person and feel out your ideas before getting more details. Going to conferences sets you apart as a serious writer, making other professionals more receptive to your pitches. In addition, pitch clinics are a staple of writers’ conferences. At these workshops, writers get expert coaching on how to propose a story and opportunities to test their skills on real editors.
Inspiration and Creative Energy
Writers sometimes face writer’s block, but stepping away from work and talking to other writers can lead to breakthroughs. All writers deal with similar problems, and bonding over mutual experiences is a useful way to recharge your energy and creativity.
Conferences arm you with an arsenal of entrepreneurial tools to manage just about every situation you encounter as a professional writer. Seminars and panel discussions expose you to a wide range of professionals with insightful stories to tell about lessons learned throughout their careers.
Learning to self-edit and look at your work objectively is essential to being a great writer. Writers’ conferences provide educational resources that show you how to get better at uniting the elements of a story. Use the available workshops to learn new techniques in your genre, resolve problems in your stories, and figure out which ideas have potential.
Canadian tax laws let you deduct expenses for up to two conventions a year as long as they relate to your profession and occur in the general region where the sponsoring organization operates. These deductions typically apply even when you attend an event run by an organization in another country.
How to Get Real Value From Writers’ Conferences and Networking Events
If you come to networking events and writers’ conferences with the right mindset, you can benefit greatly. You can usually get a list of attendees ahead of time to help you plan which industry contacts you want to meet. This gives you time to draft top-flight pitches for them. Bringing business cards to hand out helps you stay connected with your new contacts.
Writing frequently begins as a hobby, with writers creating their own unique path to success. As you carve out your freelance writing career, use tools to make the financial side of self-employment easier to handle. QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage business on the go. Download the app.