What exactly do you need to go freelance

If you’ve been blogging for a year or so, you’re probably thinking you’ve got what it takes to go freelance. But do you? Do you really?

For the last four months I’ve been freelancing. After being the travel editor at gapyear.com for two and a half years, and a junior reporter for a regional paper before that, I was better equipped than some to make it on my own, and even I found it difficult at times.

In only four months, I learnt a lot. If you’re thinking of going freelancing sometime soon, I thought I’d give you some hints and tips on exactly how to do it; hopefully you’ll find them useful.
index1. Align all your social media profiles – If you’re a blogger, you should be on Facebook, G+ and Twitter. Also, you should be looking at LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and even a few other social media channels too. Whatever you’re on, make sure all your profiles are aligned. Use the same profile picture and biography, and start being much more active than you already are. If they’re not all aligned, then update them. Do it now. You really want to think about who you are and how you appear online.

2. Start writing for free – I know that sounds completely counterproductive, but trust me on this one. You want to start showing people what you can do, and unfortunately that means writing for free for a few months. If you’re looking for a couple of companies to write for gapyear.com, HostelBookers and MyDestination are always on the lookout for content. If you can, ask to have a link back to your blog; it’s all about referral traffic after all.

3. Promote it – Once you’ve produced something for someone else, promote it. Stick it on all your social media channels, but don’t make it about you, make it about the company you’ve just written for. Say something like “Check out my recent article for @MyDestination on the best beaches in Thailand. #ttot #travelling.” Keep it simple, and promote it a few times over the week. Show them you’re proud to write for them.

4. Do it again – Ideally, you want to be producing two or three pieces of content for the same company before asking for a fee. You want to highlight that you’re a good writer, that you know how to promote something on social media, and that you’re dependable. Once you’ve show trust in a company, hopefully they’ll show trust in you.

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5. Create an online portfolio – Once you’ve started writing for a few companies, create a new page on your blog titled ‘Portfolio’ and start linking to all your articles. I’d like to think this is a very good example. Then, when you’re approaching companies, and they say “have you got any examples of your work?”, you can say, “funnily enough, I do. Check out my online portfolio.” Not only does it highlight where you’ve worked, but it shows that you are professional about it too.

6. Start small – There will come a point where you can’t afford to write for free anymore. You may feel a little embarrassed at first, but you’ve got to ask for a fee. However, don’t be stupid and ask for £500. Start small. For a blog post of 500 to a 1,000 words, ask for somewhere between £20 to £50. Once you’ve started asking for money, you can start building up regular clients.

7. Who do you approach? – There are a few companies out there who pay for bloggers. Who are they? Well, Flight Centre and Round the World Experts pay £100 for three blog posts. Another company that pays is Matador Network, though you’re only looking at $20 a blog post for these. Please bear in mind, you do have to be a good writer!

8. Bigger companies = bigger fees – It goes without saying, but once you’ve started writing regularly, you can start approaching bigger companies. With these, you’re looking at around £100 per article, sometimes more. It’s always best to contact the editor or the content manager and directly liaise with them. How do you get these email addresses? Through LinkedIn and Google of course.

9. Creative content agencies – Contact creative content agencies. They’re always on the lookout for new and talented writers, so make sure you get in touch. Again, if you do a Google search of ‘creative content agencies’, you’ll get a long list of companies. Put a cover letter together and send over your portfolio (it should be looking pretty damn good by now). Be warned though – with creative content agencies it’s not all about travel; there are other subjects out there too, so you should be willing to write about anything and everything.

10. Get your face out there – Going freelance means you’ve got to get your face out there. It’s no good sitting at home sending email after email, hoping for people to get back to you. Ask for meetings and say you’ll come directly into the office to pitch one or two ideas. Keep an eye out for meet ups and industry events. Also, there are a number of creative content groups out there, so join them. Once people put a face to a name, they’re much more likely to hire you.

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11. If you don’t ask, you don’t get – One word that you’ll get used to as you’re trying to make it as a freelancer is ‘no’. However, don’t let that put you off. If a company says no to you, ask for your details to be kept on file, then send a courtesy email a month later stating you’re still available should you be needed. Also, it’s a good idea to ask to be added to any editorial writers’ database for future contact.

12. Be professional – If you’re trying to make it as a freelancer, you’ve got to be professional about everything you do. Head over to Moo.com and print off some business cards. Make sure your invoices look professional, and not just something downloaded from the internet. Remember, your work represents you, but you represent you too! Unfortunately that means being professional at all times, especially at industry events!

13. Be patient – Above all else, be patient! You’re not going to become an immediate success. As Al Pacino once said, “overnight success is 10 years in the making”; these things really do take time. You’ll start out slowly at first, and all of a sudden you’ll be cherry-picking your clients and who you write for. Hang in there and you’ll do fine.indexSo there you have it, a few hints and tips on going freelance. I really hope it helps one or two of you get a regular gig, and as ever, let me know how you’re getting on!

If you’ve got any other hints and tips on going freelance, feel free to let me know in the comments below…