8 Tips to Become a Successful Online Freelance Writer

Online freelancing is becoming one of the emerging job trends in the online work market, here are 8 tips to become an online freelance writer. Online freelancing gives you access to the global work market, regardless of where you are located. There are over 300 work intermediary platforms now available including popular general services sites such as upwork and freelancer as well as company specific sites, such as The Washington Post.

I am not an online freelancer, but I have a team of a dozen online freelance writers from all over the world working on an ongoing basis with articles for digital magazines, blogs and website content. From a client’s point of view, here are 8 tips to become a successful online freelancer writer:

  • Find a niche. To become a successful online freelance writer find a niche in which you have extensive experience and knowledge. Whether the niche is in a writing style: journalistic, academic, or conversational blog articles or topics: alternative medicine, fitness, outdoor sport, arts and crafts, or dog breeds for example.
  • Create an engaging and succinct profile page. Market yourself as a strong specialist and not a generalist. The more specific and succinct you are with your profile, the easier it will be for the client to recognize that you are the person they are after. Include a professional head-shot photo and relevant client testimonials.
  • Build an online reputation with micro jobs. After you have chosen a niche for yourself, start building your online personal reputation by targeting two job types: 1) jobs which suit your exact niche e.g. blog articles about dog breeds or academic writing about psychology. 2) look for smaller jobs that might not be rewarding financially but can add towards building your profile, portfolio, experience and most importantly client feedback and five star ratings. Small jobs may also lead to ongoing jobs. I tested all my writers with small jobs before I decided to hire them on an ongoing basis. The combination of all these factors will help you build your online personal brand.
  • Write an effective cover letter. Respond directly to the unique requirements of the job brief. Do not copy and paste a generic cover letter that you use for multiple applications.
  • Find secret codes. Some clients leave a secret code or word in their job application to ensure that the freelancer has read the application thoroughly. Don’t miss out on the secret code. This is a technique that clients use to filter out generic responses to job requests.
  • The 80/20 rule and client retention. Pareto’s law states that 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your clients. If you identify and target the correct 20% of your clients you will be able to create a regular stream of work and minimise the number of job applications you need to sustain your workload. This is the ideal situation for any freelancer with minimal unpaid work required i.e. job applications.
  • Outstanding customer service. It is easier to retain a client then to attract a new one. Make it a habit to provide outstanding customer service (which consists of soft skills such as effective written communication, respecting deadlines, regular and honest updates, reliable, and timely) to improve your chances of rehire. If you can do this well, you will increase your ratio of paid work versus job applications.
  • The power of statistics. Profile statistics are crucial in the virtual work environment. Everyone, clients and freelancers are judged by how well they work. Every five star or client testimonial counts as someone else vetting your service. Some platforms don’t allow freelancers to review clients, I would be wary of those as a freelancer. I have heard horror stories of online clients deleting their accounts and not paying freelancers for jobs completed. Every time a contract is closed ask your client to leave feedback.

Freelancing is can be rewarding but it requires an understanding of the system. Starting an online career is not just a matter of signing up to a platform and quickly and mindlessly creating a profile. It requires marketing your services, effective communication, and understanding of the client’s needs, as well as patience and persistence in the beginning. It takes time to build a decent profile, apply for jobs and get hired. But once you’ve started, you’ll be well on your way to building your online career and online professional reputation.

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