Have you been dreaming of becoming a freelance writer, but putting it off and off because there’s just so much to figure out? So much to do before you can even think about finding clients? One of those things being starting a blog, which everybody seems to be telling you you must do — myself included.
Last week on the blog, I said that starting a blog is something you absolutely should do if you want to become a successful freelance writer, and it’s not the first time I’ve said it. I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and I’ve decided that that black and white statement is not helpful, especially when you’re just starting out.
For one thing, your idea of being a successful freelance writer may be different to mine. If your idea of being a successful freelance writer is simply getting paid anything at all to write, then you could start out with SEO article writing and become successful. That’s what I did when I first started out, and hey, guess what? I considered myself successful. I had made money writing. Woo!
My idea of being a successful freelance writer now is very different. Now I view it as having clients come to me, and being willing to pay me the big bucks when they do. And that’s impossible to achieve when you’re a total newb. You need to grow a reputation and demonstrate your ability before you can do that. You cannot start out as a freelance writer with clients who’ll pay you £250 for a single page magically landing in your lap. Not how it works.
Getting started is hard, and having a blog can be a good way to start moving in the right direction. But it’s not the only way, and it may not be the best way for you. I didn’t have a blog for my first six months of freelance writing, and I didn’t start writing in it regularly until almost year after I did start it. Weirdly, it didn’t help me get any clients.
Yes, you need to prove you can write before people will hire you. But having a blog on your website isn’t the only way to accomplish that. (And yes, I DO think you need a website to become a successful freelance blogger — black and white, you need a website to be any kind of successful these days. No idea how to create one? Check out this guide I wrote on how to make a freelance writing website.)
Is Starting a Blog Right for You?
There are a few factors that come into play when deciding whether or not to start your own blog:
Do you have anything useful to say?
Can you write on your chosen topic in an authoritative way?
Can you commit to writing in it regularly?
And the big one:
Do you actually frickin’ want to start a blog? Do you have the time and the inclination to do it? Is there something you desperately want to talk about? If the answer is no, then you should probably hold off for now. Because if you start a blog without fully committing to it — writing half-arsed crappy posts and updating it intermittently — that will not make you look good. Nobody will want to hire you if you can’t even maintain your own blog, and if, when you do write in it, you write total shit.
(If you’re concerned about those first two points, worry not: I’ll write about them in the near future.)
What Should You Blog About?
If you do decide to start a blog, what you definitely shouldn’t do is blog about freelance writing. The reason I blog about it is because a huge portion of my audience is aspiring freelance writers. I write about it because it’s something I teach people to do. But you don’t need to do that unless you want to start a business teaching other people to become freelance writers.
You need to write about things that are useful for your target audience. If you’ve chosen a niche you want to get paid to write about because it’s a subject you’re passionate about, go ahead and write about that. And when you do, make sure you do it in an authoritative, helpful way.
If You Don’t Start a Blog, What Should You Do Instead?
If after reading this you’ve decided not to start your own blog right now, but you still want to get paid to write, you may be wondering what the hell to do next. Here are some ideas:
Create a static website. Build a portfolio on it. Pitch guest posts. Apply for writing gigs you’re interested in on job boards. Approach companies you’d like to write for over email or on the phone. In short, do something to get the money coming in. Do something to prove to yourself that people will pay you to write. And then grow it from there. Maybe you’ll decide you do want to start a blog after all, because you want to build a personal brand (difficult to do sans blog), or because there’s this specific topic that you absolutely love. But don’t worry about it right now. Right now, focus on making some money and getting some clips (samples) for your portfolio.