Expert Advice Before Your First Time Freelance Writing

Welcome to the #365Firsts Podcast and the Expert Advice Before Your First Time Series. The show aims to encourage, prepare, and inspire you to do things you’ve never done before and complete your #365FirstsChallenge list. 

In each episode of this series, we give you tips and advice to set you up for success, for specific firsts and new experiences. The guests and topics are as varied as the options and possibilities of new experiences. 

Whether you’re trying to learn a new skill, improve your health and happiness, work on your self-development, add excitement and adventure to your life, or simply have first times, you’re going to love our podcast.

In This Episode

As we move into 2020, it’s fascinating to watch the freelancer market and gig economy grow. Nowadays, you can hire a freelancer for almost any job or project – whether it’s graphic design, coding, research or marketing.

One of the most popular freelance industries right now is writing – and that’s what this episode of the show is all about.

In this episode, we’re lucky to be joined by Laura Pennington-Briggs. Laura is a talented entrepreneur, who started off as a middle-school teacher and is now a podcast host, freelance writer, project manager and online course creator. This episode is dedicated to freelance writing in specific, and Laura joined us to share her experience in the sector.

The Guest Expert 

Laura is a certified expert in the world of writing, who started off as a teacher. In 2012, she turned to full-time freelance writing, and quickly established a 6-figure career for herself. Ever since then, she’s helped over 8,000 students establish and optimize their own freelance businesses – and she can help you craft your own, too.

Laura is also the author of the incredible book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business, a VIP contributor for Entrepreneur magazine, a two-time TedX speaker, and host of the Advanced Freelancing Podcast. 

As you can see, Laura has turned her hand to many successful, self-led projects, which make her experience in the world of freelance writing even more meaningful. 

What You Need To Know About Freelance Writing For The First Time

Laura started off the podcast by discussing her interests and entrance into the world of freelance writing after discovering she didn’t find teaching to be a great fit for her personality. She looked into writing as she’d always been passionate about it, but initially struggled to see a potential career in the industry.

The stereotypes around freelance writing e.g. ‘you can’t make a career out of writing’ and ‘you’ll struggle as a starving artist’ are thankfully dying down. Nowadays, there is an incredible demand for freelance writers, and Laura noted how the internet has been instrumental in this.

Do you Have What it Takes?

In terms of knowing whether you’d succeed in freelance writing, Laura asked whether you always meet deadlines, even when others don’t. Are you organized and self-motivated? If yes, you’ll be able to find success in this industry. Additionally, you’re going to need to be resilient, as you’ll experience a lot of rejections when you start out.

A basic level of writing skill is needed to get started as a freelance writer. More importantly, a love and passion for writing is essential. Laura described how freelance writers learn advanced writing techniques, different tones, and writing styles throughout their careers.

Laura answered the question of whether tools and applications for writers were useful by bringing up Grammarly, and noting it is usually 90% accurate and she does use the free version herself. She re-emphasized the importance of tone and understanding your audience, and that you can pick these skills up as you go along.

How to get Started

As a starting point for writers who haven’t had much experience, Laura pointed to writing website content and blogs as a great place to begin. They’re short, simple to research, and easy to discuss – unlike books, sales copy, and whitepapers. Additionally, selling larger projects is much harder as a new writer with a minimal portfolio. 

Laura encouraged new writers to be open to changing their interests as their career progresses, and discussed how she found writing whitepapers to be a chore.

In terms of writing for magazines, Laura acknowledged it was feasible for new writers to get paid writing for them, but cautioned that the time limits can be quite hard to manage. For example, pitching a December article would normally happen during the summer. They also require much more attention when pitching, as editors can be hard to get hold of. 

Finding Clients

To start off finding clients, Laura advised looking into third party websites. She stated setting up a website as a new writer might not be the best use of your time, and cold-emailing people could be unfulfilling. However, researching job boards, as well as, reaching out to clients on those specific types of websites, can be instrumental for understanding how to market to clients, and finding clients, too.

Considering your friends, family and peers for work is fantastic, too. CVs, website content and letters are very popular pieces of content, so see if anyone you know is in need of those content items – this can be a great way to secure work and a testimonial.

Finding your Niche

Laura brought attention to the fact that she started off as a general writer, covering plenty of different topics. She found her niche over time, after working with multiple attorneys and learning more about the subject. Spend time finding what you love, before you invest your money into a specific niche. 

Always Write Original Content

Original content is an absolute must for freelance writers. Laura was clear that plagiarism can get both you and the client into immense trouble, regardless of whether you intended to do it or not. Plagiarized content can get a website blacklisted from Google, which is never good.

Even if you’re writing about the same topic over and over, you need to find a way to make it more niche and unique in order to create a fantastic piece for your client. Look at multiple sources, and use varied pieces of research to craft a perfect blog. Laura also recommended using the tool Copyscape, to help avoid plagiarism.

Be Open to Feedback

Laura mentioned feedback is a crucial part for growth, it’s important to not take feedback to heart. Not every client will love your writing style, and it’s important to bear this in mind. Everybody gets feedback, no matter their experience level.

Setting your Fee Structure

To set up your fee structure, it’s important to price yourself accurately. Laura noted that the bare minimum she’s seen new writers charging is $25 per hour – which is very low, considering the amount of work that goes into writing. 

Starting out with hourly charges instead of charging for packages is much easier for new writers.

In order to figure out how long you take for different word counts, Laura’s suggestion was to create writing samples and to time yourself while doing them. Base your pricing off of this, and then add in revisions, client communication, and editing time too.

Laura noted that she does not consider SEO knowledge to be essential for beginner writers. She advised that, every time you invest in a skill that elevates your writing, you should also bring up your rates, as you’ll have invested your own time and money. Make sure to charge for your experience, qualifications and time, even if you’re new.

Treat your Writing as a Business

One of the most important points Laura made is that it’s vital to always treat your writing as a business, no matter if you’re part-time or full-time. This is for tax and legal purposes- set yourself up the right bank accounts and support systems to keep yourself safely in business.

You should also be networking. Get involved with other freelancers, local creators and writers that inspire you to keep yourself motivated and on the right track. 

Freelance writing can be an incredible endeavor, no matter whether you’re looking at it from a part-time or a full-time perspective. Make sure to be patient with yourself and to take your work seriously, and try not to let imposters syndrome get the better of you. Writing can be demanding, but ultimately, it is very rewarding.

Get In Touch With Laura

It was great to speak to Laura about her experience in this intriguing industry. To reach out to Laura, you can find her at;

If you’ve got any questions about freelance writing and how to get started, we’re sure Laura would be more than happy to speak with you.

How To Reach Us

Listener feedback and topic suggestions are always incredibly welcome for this show, and we would be more than happy to hear from you- whether you want to give positive or negative feedback, suggest a topic or simply say hello.

If you have something that you need to tell us, a member of our team would be pleased to help you out. Please feel free to get in touch with a member of our in-house team at contact@365firstschallenge.com today.

What’s Coming Up Next Time

Brand new episodes of Expert Advice Before Your First Time are released each Tuesday and Thursday, and we’ve got a great roster of expert guests lined up to give you more advice. 

In our next episode on the 6th February, we’ll be chatting to Andrew Alleman about being a guest on a podcast for the first time. After that, we will be speaking to Lisa Concepcion about cohabitating for the first time on the 11th of February.You can listen and subscribe on Apple, Google, or Spotify. While you’re there – please leave a review if you can. It really does help us out with our work, and each review is truly appreciated.

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