Freelance writer

The 5 Secrets to a Successful Freelance Writing Career

If you think about it too deeply, the idea of making money from writing online is absurd. You string a bunch of characters together and sell them for numbers, with the entire exchange never extending beyond the digital realm. Yet by doing so, you can afford to travel, invest, and generally enjoy life in the real world.

The secret to success as a freelance copywriter lies in understanding and expanding upon the value that lies in your words. If you get stuck in the kind of thinking outlined in the paragraph above, you’ll never truly comprehend that value, which means you’ll fail to effectively communicate your true worth to clients.

Instead, it’s important to position yourself as a writer who knows your own worth and whose online presence makes that value abundantly clear to potential clients.

Here’s what you need get started:

1. A high-quality platform (or three) to reach your audience

Many aspiring copywriters fall into one of two traps.

  1. Believing they need their own professional website to be taken seriously as a writer.
  2. Believing they should only write when they have a client, a brief, and a guaranteed rate.

The truth is, you have a lot more freedom than this. Wherever there’s an audience, there’s a platform you can use to start building your online presence, getting your name out there, and earning money.

Platforms like Medium and Quora allow you to take charge of your content creation schedule. You publish when and how you want, and the best part is, they’ll do some of the marketing work for you, getting your articles in front of interested readers.

Medium’s partnership program offers the opportunity to earn money from your articles, and you can boost your readership and earning potential by submitting work to established Medium publications.

Quora doesn’t offer payment, but it does give you an opportunity to build your name, develop status as an authority in your niche, and build a fan base. Writing for Quora was a huge contributing factor to Jordan Peterson’s meteoric rise to fame, so don’t make the mistake of underestimating how powerful this tool can be.

You can also use platforms like Submittable as a guide for finding publications willing to pay for written content. There are no guarantees of paid work with submittable, but the site aggregates writing opportunities, competitions, grants, and other funding avenues you may be eligible for. This makes it a powerful resource for finding opportunities that pay well while helping you build a name for yourself as a copywriter.

2. A niche you can excel in

For your words to have an impact and offer value to readers, you need to position yourself as an authority in the subject matter you discuss. This is impossible to do if you never stick to a single topic for more than one article.

By narrowing yourself down to a niche you love and have experience in, you can gradually develop a body of work that makes your expertise clear.

Your niche could be related to your education or qualifications, your pre-copywriting career, your favourite hobby, or even something you’re fascinated with but yet to explore.

The key things you need are a passion for the subject matter and the ability to offer value to your readers. This value could come in the form of your existing expertise, or it could come from the fact that you allow readers to take a journey of discovery with you, learning from your successes and failures along the way.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that, even if you’re telling personal stories and sharing your journey with the audience, you must always make it about them, not you.

How will they draw value from reading your content? What does your story mean for them? How can you enrich their lives?

The more you focus on your audience and the ways in which you can solve their problems and improve their lives, the more inclined they’ll be to focus on you and your writing.

3. An email list to gain a closer connection to your audience

Email marketing is easy to set up, but difficult to truly master. If you don’t take care to craft them well, your emails can come across as instrusive and annoying. However, if you master the art of the email, you can create a following of fans who derive greate value from the content you send them and the products and services you sell.

No-one likes having ads shoved in their faces. We all hover impatiently over the ad countdown on YouTube videos, ready to click “skip” the moment our five seconds in purgatory are up. However, when an email hits your inbox with a clever subject line, well-written copy, and an offer that matches your personality and needs, it’s easy to forget you’re being marketed to at all. If the product or service you purchase through that email solves delivers the results you were promised, then everyone involved comes out a winner.

Keep this in mind when developing your website, your email list signup page, and the email marketing plan you intend to work from. Focus on nurturing the relationship you’ve established with your readers. By sharing valuable content, offering giveaways and promotions, and only ever sending them deals you know will be good for them, you can turn casual readers into loyal fans.

4. A unique voice and causes to champion

Another thing writers often struggle to make peace with is the fact that there will always be haters. If you agonize over every article, trying to ensure no element of your work could possibly offend any member of society, you will waste dozens of hours on something you don’t have a hope of ever achieving. In fact, if you did manage to write something not a single person in the world could take issue with, it would probably have such little substance to it that it wouldn’t be of any use to anyone.

Rather than worrying about how your audience will take what you have to say, it’s better to invest your time into the kind of deep research and contemplation that allows you to take a stand on important topics and back that position up with solid arguments.

Even if you’re writing advertising copy, you still need to select a target demographic, get to know them inside-out, and then create content designed to connect with them. This will, of course, be unappealing to people who don’t match your target market. However, if you try to appeal to the whole world, you’ll end up attracting no-one.

As an exercise, it’s worth taking a tour through the content created by your favorite brands and authors. Check out their websites, their ad campaigns, their social media pages, and their YouTube channels. Wherever possible, go through the comments sections. You will likely find an equal measure of love and hate, and that’s the way it ought to be.

Get comfortable with haters, and you’ll be the kind of writer who’s capable of winning loyal fans who are happy to go hard in the paint for you, hitting back at negative comments so you don’t have to.

5. Something other than content to sell

Once you’ve worked the four points above into your freelance business plan, this one will be a natural next step. Natural though it may be, many copywriters still fail to implement it.

If you have a growing email list and content that’s drawing attention on popular platforms, you’re in the perfect position to offer products and services that uphold your high standards and offer even greater value to your readership.

The best part is, you have absolute freedom here to go with an idea that suits your personality and career goals. You could create and sell:

  • Online courses
  • eBooks
  • Webinars
  • One-on-one coaching sessions
  • Apps
  • Tools or accessories relevant to your niche

Of course, each of these products takes a lot of time and work to perfect. However, if you start with an eBook or online course, the product will be relatively low-maintenance once you’ve made the upfront investment of time needed to create it.

Since you’ll already have a thriving email list and a platform via which to communicate with your target demographic, marketing your products will be an easy, intuitive process.

It’s worth repeating that if you make sure your focus is always on being of service and helping people solve problems and improve their lives, none of what you do will feel forced, and you’ll never have to resort to pushy sales tactics.

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