Let’s talk about freelance writing, shall we? I’ve been a freelance writer for nearly a decade. I actually started while I was looking for a job right after I relocated from Detroit to Atlanta. My first gig I found on Upwork (formerly Elance) and it was to – get this – ghostwrite a book on all-natural back exercises.
I thought the book sucked, and I was terrified to turn send it to the client. I mean, I wrote it in Microsoft Publisher. BUT when the client paid and complimented the work, I knew I could make it as a freelance writer.
I’ve learned A LOT over the last decade as a professional writer. And yeah, I still do a bit of freelance writing. What I know for sure is that in order to make money as a freelance writer, you have to be able to capitalize on your own creativity and ability as a content creator.
That means figuring out where you fit in, it means writing what you are good at writing, and it means distributing that work to the people who want the content you are creating.
Wow. That’s awesome, Sorilbran. Now, how do you do that?
Focus on your strengths and market them
You’re not going to know everything right away. You’ll spend years learning and re-learning and in professional development (the media/publishing industry is always changing).
So, put your energy into building your strengths. Strengthen your deficiencies as a matter of professional development, but don’t obsess over them, and don’t market skills you have yet to develop. Whatever you are good at right now, that’s what you market.
Get ready to learn something new
I know from experience that it can be tough writing on a topic you know nothing about. You have to learn and understand a topic to write on it authoritatively, and that learning process… well, it takes time. When I first started out, it took me forever to write the simplest articles because I tend to do tons of research.
Over the years, I’ve written on a ton of topics, and there are some topics to which I naturally gravitate – marketing, small business stuff, social media, freelance writing… that sort of thing. But one thing I can say about writing is that you get lots of opportunities to research and write on new topics.
I said all that to say it’s important for you to be able to readily identify the subjects in which you are well-versed AND you need to know what style of writing you do best.
Fiction or Nonfiction – Chances are good you will have a natural proclivity toward one or the other. This may shift over the course of your career depending on your workload and other outside influences. Decide which of the two has the following characteristics:
- Ease of delivery – Which is easier for you to produce? One may feel like it spills out naturally while the other may feel like you have to yank it out with all your might. Does one feel more draining than the other? Which comes to you more quickly? Focus on writing in the genre that is most natural.
- Superior quality – Writer in the genre in which you turn out the highest quality material. If your sci-fi and romance are a little lackluster, your most marketable skills may be in nonfiction writing.
- Marketability – Find out who is in your target audience and what kind of content they have an appetite for. Pander to their desires and you will stay busy with work.
Genres and Niches – There is no limit to the number of genres and niches on which content can be produced. But there are some genres and niches that are more popular than others, and thus, content in these categories is more frequently requested by clients and readers. According to Writer’s Digest, the most popular genres for literary fiction are:
- Thriller / Suspense
- Science Fiction / Fantasy
Niches, on the other hand, commonly refer to nonfiction topics. Nonfiction topics run the gamut from business topics to anti-aging techniques for dogs. Just about anything can qualify as a niche topic. The popularity (and relevance) of any given nonfiction topic hinges on the audience and the distribution method. Still, there are evergreen topics that seem to have a consistent audience:
- Home and Gardening
- Dating and Relationships
- Making Money
- Health and Nutrition
It can be tough figuring out where you fit in when you’re first starting out as a freelance writer. Here’s a tip: Try everything. You really don’t know for sure what you do well until you’ve done it well consistently. You may surprise yourself.