Freelance Writer

Startup Costs: Under $2,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? Yes
Online Operation? Yes

Ask the Experts: Chris Bibey, Owner of Chris Bibey Digital, of and Dan Bova, Special Projects Director of Entrepreneur.com.

If you've always wanted to write articles for websites, magazines or newspapers, there’s no better time to do it than now. Just 10 years ago, opportunities for entering the industry were much more scarce, but today all you need is access to the internet and the motivation to sit down at your computer and start. (Talk to any writer and you will learn that that second part is much more easily said than done!)

If you are a complete beginner, be warned: You won't be making a ton of money coming out of the gate. In fact, you might need to start by working for free, but if you have the passion, skills and energy, you’ll eventually grab the attention of editors. While there are millions of posts published every day, there are not millions actually worth reading. If you have a unique voice and can deliver words that inform and inspire — if you can tell stories that make readers think, laugh or cry — you have a real shot at transforming this from a side gig into a full-time career.

What is the first step to getting started in the freelance writing industry?

Bibey:

• Gathering the necessary equipment (computer, printer, office supplies, etc.)

• Creating a portfolio of work samples

• Reaching out to your network to share your new business idea

• Creating a basic marketing plan to help generate early sales
If you do these things, you'll find yourself on the right track.

Is the industry growing?

Bibey: Yes, and I attribute that largely to the fact that a growing number of companies are outsourcing content creation, with the goal of trimming overhead.

What are the current trends in freelance writing and what type of person is a great fit to try this?

Bibey: One trend I’ve noticed over the past 12 months is that companies are hiring content creators who can assist with more than just creation. For example, a writer who also has SEO or email marketing experience. Anyone who enjoys writing, providing clients with a high level of service and making a difference in the online marketing world should consider this career path.

How much money can a person expect to make in the first year and in five years?

Bibey: It takes time to grow a freelance writing career from the ground up. In the first year, a new writer should expect to earn somewhere in the $15,000 to $30,000 range. In five years, it’s not uncommon to reach six figures.

Bova: If you're just starting out, not very much to be honest, but a good ballpark for established writers at bigger-name outlets is $200 to $250 for a web story and roughly $1 per word for a print magazine story. Your experience, the length of the story and the amount of research required will all be factors, along with the outlet. Smaller operations may not have those kinds of budgets.

What kind of experience/training do you need to have?

Bibey: You do not actually need any formal experience or training to become successful. Of course, a journalism or similar degree can help.

Bova: You’ll want to build up a backlog of stories, called clips, that showcase your writing style and get assigning editors excited about featuring you. If you are truly a beginner, the best bet would be to start writing the kinds of articles you'd like to be paid for and posting them on free platforms like Medium. Generally speaking, most people who make their living in this field have an established network of editors that they've worked with for several years, if not decades.

What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

Bibey: I wish I’d realized how important it is to market your services through several channels. Don’t just focus on one tactic, such as cold email or replying to job posts: Create a thorough marketing plan to multiply your chance of landing new clients.

Who are your customers?

Bibey: My clients range from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. A large portion come from referrals, but other ways of finding clients include cold email, cold calling and inbound marketing.

Are there any resources you recommend that were extremely valuable in getting your business off the ground?

Bova: Freelance writing can be incredibly rewarding and fun, but I'm not going to sugarcoat here — it can be extremely frustrating. You will send many pitch emails that get rejected or don't even get a reply. Tenacity is an essential ingredient in making this career happen. As with any industry, relationships are vitally important. At the end of the day, editors want to assign stories to reliable, smart and organized writers who will make their lives easier. Making human connections with other writers and editors is key. People move around a lot in publishing, and you never know; one day a fellow blogger might become an editor at an outlet who has the perfect story for you.

Bibey: A terrific resource is Bob Bly's Guide to Freelance Writing Success: How to Make $100,000 a Year As a Freelance Writer and Have the Time of Your Life Doing It. If nothing else, it will get you into the right frame of mind, but it also helps you understand how to start, what to expect along the way and how to bypass many of the most common roadblocks.

The Market

Your customers will be the editors of your target publications. The way to garner business is to send query letters that describe your story idea and explain your qualifications for writing the piece. If you've got writing credentials from your present or previous job, be sure to include them. If not, you might explain why you have an expertise in the area you're writing about. The query letter is the first test of your writing abilities, the one that will attract the editor's attention, so make sure it shines. Once you establish relationships with editors, you can often call them with story ideas, and they'll sometimes call you with requests. But until then, you'll need to send well-developed and enticing queries to a variety of publications--and keep sending them.

Needed Equipment

You'll need a computer, a laser printer, a fax machine, and the usual office software. In addition, you'll want plenty of reference books, including a dictionary, encyclopedia, thesaurus and style guides.

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