How to Get Started with Freelance Writing

Over the weekend, I was asked by my friend Karli how I got started with freelance writing, because she was interested in starting a freelance career of her own. I’ve touched on this subject a couple of times on this blog already, but I thought it was worth revisiting to give a slightly fuller back-story.

In the Beginning

As you may recall, I really got started with blogging thanks to my friend Joseph Planta from The Commentary. This was way back in our high school days when The Commentary was on an email distribution basis. I started a similar publication called Now That’s Entertainment and it distributed the same way.

Eventually, Now That’s Entertainment manifested itself into a free Geocities website, which I coded by hand using raw HTML. Considering that I had no technical knowledge at the time, this was quite the challenge. Along the way, I gained a good deal of trade show coverage experience writing for The Commentary, hitting up skateboard competitions, food expos, and similar local events.

When I decided that I wanted to embark on a “real” freelance writing career, it became time to buy my own domain and get some web hosting. That’s when came to light and that’s when Now That’s Entertainment matured into Beyond the Rhetoric.

Blogging as a Career

By and large, those writing interests — as well as acting as the co-editor for a newsletter at university — were unpaid hobbies. It was only when I started writing for Mobile Magazine that you could really say that I had a “job” as a writer. How I got started with Mobile Magazine is actually a very simple and short story.

I found a posting on Craigslist. I replied to it with a writing sample. He hired me on the spot and I was on my way.

It really was that simple. I was then able to parlay some of that writing experience, which includes both blog-style news writing and product reviews, into more positions with other clients. When I found other postings on Craigslist and other job boards around the Internet, I was able to direct them to my writing samples. That helped and everything basically snowballed from there.

Networking and Marketing

A lot of people ask me where I find work. Initially, the onus fell largely on me and it was to me to find appropriate job boards, send in applications, and see where those went. These days, I rely much more on word-of-mouse marketing. It is by building an online presence and networking with the right people that I have been able to find the majority of my current work, either directly or indirectly.

That’s one of the major reasons why I choose to attend Dot Com Pho. I came to know about these weekly gatherings thanks to Ed Lau, a friend I had only known (up until then) through a local car enthusiast forum. It is through Ed that I met John Chow and it is through John (and Dot Com Pho) that I was able to connect with other people online, like Zac Johnson, Nate Whitehill, and Gary Jones.

And that’s my single greatest piece of advice for anyone interested in starting a career in freelance writing: network and connect with the right people. Even if they don’t take you on for some projects of their own, they will likely recommend you to their colleagues. Referrals are a huge part of the business.

Update: I just realized that this blog post is probably better titled as “How I Got Started…” rather than “How to Get Started…”, but you get the point.