Starting out as a freelance writer can be confusing and overwhelming.
There are so many options and there’s no traditional path to follow meaning you’re on your own to figure out the right first step.
But the truth is that first step doesn’t need to be as complicated as it seems.
You just need to take one action that gets your business off the starting line and moving in the right direction, giving you a little momentum.
Here are eight of the simplest first steps you can take right now to start your freelance writing business and finally get the ball rolling.
1. Sign up for a free WordPress blog and publish a short post
The simplest and easiest step you can take to start today is to create a blog and publish a post about a topic you care about.
This doesn’t cost any money – you can sign up for free — and a simple 300 to 500 word post is enough to get started.
Don’t get caught up in the self talk that says it needs to be a perfect blog post, or that you need a professional site. All of that comes later.
You just need to start.
2. Generate three ideas for niches you’d like to write about
Knowing which freelance writing jobs to apply for is difficult.
Job boards and freelancing sites are filled with hundreds of posts and the high amount can leave you suffering from choice paralysis. Having so many options that you take none.
That’s where choosing a niche (or niches) can help you out. It allows you to filter out the jobs that don’t apply to you and focus on the ones that do. Here’s a quick exercises to help you do this:
Set a timer for 60 minutes. Take a look at where you spend your time and where you spend your money. Do you invest lots of hours each week doing a particular activity? Or, do you spend a consistent amount of money on a particular non-essential area of your life?
Then, with whatever time you have remaining, send a message to some of your closest friends asking if they can think of any areas of life where you stand out.
This introspection can show you niches where you’re what’s called a relative expert. Meaning you’re an expert relative to a beginner. You’ll have an above average level of knowledge or experience in that niche, have formed strong opinions about it and can at least teach the basics.
Write the three niche ideas you’ve generated down and use them as a reference to help you filter out the jobs you do or don’t want to apply for.
3. Find five blogs that pay for posts and bookmark them
You’d be surprised at how many sites pay for guest post submissions and it’s often a good indicator of whether a niche you like is going to be profitable or not to work in.
You don’t even need to do much extra work for this. The Write Life already has a list of 231 publications that pay for posts to get you started.
Once published these pieces also work as solid portfolio pieces, so if you can get paid for them it’s a real win/win in the long run.
4. Bookmark five job board listings you think you could write
Job boards are a great place to start getting a feel for the job market.
You can see lots of businesses actively seeking freelancers and see what’s available to you.
Head to one of these 10 jobs boards and look for five listings that you think you could write. Pop them into a spreadsheet or bookmark them to save them for later. (Don’t leave it too long though; the earlier you pitch the better).
5. Find a local business directory and identify five potential clients
If you search for your local area and the words “business directory” in Google you’ll find an entire database of the business near you. For example:
Jacksonville, FL + Business Directory
You can then work through the list and look for businesses that you think you could work with. These could be in your favorite niches, or ones with professional sites and content marketing systems.
6. Email a local business and ask if they’re interested in freelance writing services
You can either use this step in conjunction with the last one or on its own.
Head over to Google and do a quick search for business near you. Provided you don’t live in the middle of nowhere, there should be more than a few.
Click onto their site and use the Hunter tool to grab their email address and send them a quick message asking if they’d be interested in hiring a freelance writer to work on their site. (Either now or in the future).
This can be done without a website, knowing your prices or having a portfolio in place. You’re just getting a feel for what opportunities are out there.
Do this once every day and you could have your first client in a few weeks.
7. Write a short Facebook post asking if anyone needs a writer
Your Facebook friends list is full of potential first clients. It could be someone you know, or somebody they know, but there is almost always a connection there.
My first two local clients — a translation company and a skills center — were friends of my cousin who he connected me with because of a simple ask I made on Facebook. I’d probably never have found them otherwise.
You don’t need to post anything fancy, you can just go for the straight-up shameless ask and see what comes back to you.
If nothing else you’ve stated to your small community that you now have a business that you run. That should be enough motivation to get the wheels turning.
8. Find a Fiverr designer and design your business logo
Logos have the power to turn your business from an idea into reality, making it a useful place to make a start.
Find a cheap and cheerful logo creator on Fiverr and get them to create a design for you. Once you’ve got the final design you can add it to your email signature and blog to give you a professional feel when you head out and start pitching.
By breaking down starting your freelance writing business into little chunks, you find it becomes more manageable. What was once a daunting task is now a simple five to sixty minute exercise you can easily achieve.
Whilst seemingly small and easy to achieve, these tasks can help you build real momentum going forward, without having to take any dodgy shortcuts or hacks.
So, now it’s over to you! Pick one of these options and let me know in the comments which one you’re going to do.