6 Steps to Prepare You to Write for a Living

6 minute read

Do you want to go from writing as a hobby, maybe earning a little money on the side, to writing for a living? All it takes to go from hobbyist to professional is the right mindset and some basic organization.

Remember the Boy Scouts’ motto, “Be prepared”? Preparation is key to how fast and how far you’ll go in this new venture.  

If you implement the steps mentioned here, you’ll have a jumpstart toward making the shift from your current job to being a paid, published, freelance writer.

There are things you can do that will not only make the switch easier but also catapult you into your new career. Think of these six steps as a treasure map to guide and inspire you as you turn your writing hobby into gold.

Step 1:  Adjust Your Mindset

It’s normal to have moments of being unsure about your talents. At times, you’re probably going to experience the dreaded imposter syndrome.

Knowing what to expect when it strikes will give you the tools to overcome it.

Think about your “Why.”

Why do you want to become a successful freelance writer? For the freedom? For the money? So you can travel? Or, because you can’t imagine doing anything else? Remind yourself of the answer every time you start to question your talent or you think about throwing in the towel.

Revisit your most important reason for becoming a professional writer, and watch your resolve surge.

Also, recognize that success WILL TAKE TIME. It might be a short time. It might be a long time. And, the amount of time it takes is different for every writer. Don’t let a fixed idea of when you “should” be successful get in your head.

Instead, commit to steady, consistent action.

Write every day, whether it’s for work or pleasure. And, send a query or pitch a project every day. Do those two things consistently, and eventually you’ll find yourself on the path to earning a living.

Step 2:  Make Research Your Friend

Read everything you possibly can on setting up a freelance-writing career. You’ll encounter some bad advice — hogwash is prevalent on the internet — but you’ll also hit pay dirt and find lots of useful, actionable information to help you succeed.

The cool thing about it is you can Google lots of different phrases to find information. Things like:

  • How to become a freelance writer
  • How to set up a home office
  • How to write for a living
  • How to find clients
  • What to charge for writing projects

 Pro Tip:  If you’re on a budget, focus on free information first. Apply all that you learn… and then, when you start earning money, invest part of your new income into courses and books.  

Reminder:  All the practice you get researching now will help you on your writing projects, too. Knowing how to conduct thorough research is often a key part of writing projects.

Step 3:  Start Building Your Network

Talk to other freelancers on LinkedIn and Facebook. Follow writers on Medium, YouTube, and Substack. Or, choose from innumerable other sites where writers congregate. Join freelance-writing groups. Plenty of writers enjoy supporting each other.

Jump in. Introduce yourself and let others know you’re new and would welcome any tips, as well as offer any help you can. There are writers who are wet behind the ears and writers who have been writing for a living for decades. You can learn from both.

You can:

  • Share resources
  • Cheer each other on
  • Ask questions
  • Rant
  • Get feedback

All the while, you’ll know these are writers like you, who can relate to what you’re going through. These are people who have been in your shoes. Find out what has worked for them and what hasn’t. Share what you’re trying. Collaborate and commiserate.

The big bonus from connecting? Friendship.

Outside of other writers, tell everyone you know in your inner circle and everyday life you’re a professional freelance writer. Tell them what kind of writing you do, and what kind of businesses you can help.

Pro Tip:  You don’t need to write for a specific amount of time to earn the title of professional freelance writer. Start getting used to referring to yourself that way!

Step 4:  Set Up Your Office… and Your Business

If you’re going to write for a living, you need a place to do it.

Set up an area with a desk and computer. Make sure you have good light and room to do a little pen-and-paper brainstorming, should the need arise.

Once you have your desk area arranged, you need to make some decisions about how you’ll organize your business. Things like…

Deciding which type of business you’re going to have — sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC (Limited Liability Company). It’s best to study these options to choose how you’d like to move forward.

Writing your mission statement and your “Why.” A mission statement is what purpose your company will serve. Eventually, you’ll set some goals and objectives, and create an action plan… but for now, start with these:

WHY:  This is the reason you show up every day, the benefits being a writer will create in your life.

MISSION:  This describes what your company stands for, what its values are, and how it will help transform the people you work with.

Having a business plan in place, even if it’s a simple outline to start. This can guide you as you go about things like marketing, setting prices, and signing contracts.

The way it looks may change over time, but you’ll have something to send, if necessary.

Creating some templates. You’ll send proposals, so a standard proposal outline will be helpful. The same is true for contracts.

Pro Tip:  Canva is perfect for creating just about anything you need.  

Any communications and work you send out represent you. It needs to be sleek, clear, and professional.

Step 5:  Find Resources to Improve Your Craft

You can learn a lot from free resources available online, but eventually, you’ll want to dig deeper into mastering your craft. When you reach that point, you may start investing in some courses. A few to consider:

a) awai.com (Of course!)
b) www.hubspot.com
c) www.copyblogger.com
d) www.hemingwayapp.com
e) www.grammarly.com

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a solid one filled with reputable companies. They can help you improve your writing and reach your goals faster.

Step 6:  Start Pitching Projects

There are a lot of ways you can approach clients, so you’ll need to make some decisions about how you’ll go about this step. Here are some choices:

Find your target audience on LinkedIn.

There are over 800 million members on the platform. Many businesses look for employees and freelancers there, so it’s a great place to make connections and land work.

Pro Tip:  Getting your profile just right will aid in wooing your ideal customer. You can hire someone to help… or, if you know how to optimize (SEO), hire yourself.

Produce paid ads for social media.

There are so many options when it comes to paid advertising. Take some time to explore a few. Get to know the rules and the audience, and then plan an ad campaign that fits your budget.

Find work on sites like Fiverr or Upwork.

Both are great avenues when you’re starting out and even afterwards.

There are two camps in place about this subject. On one side are those who think writers on these sites are underpaid and it’s not worth it. On the other are those who have made quite a good living from it.

Here’s the thing. If you’re just starting out, these sites can be an excellent way to land a project or two, and build both your confidence and portfolio. You can also take the time to really get to know the platform and land high-paying projects.

I myself have gotten incredible work I’ve truly enjoyed from Upwork.

Pro Tip:  Pitch as much as you can. Save your pitches in a document with notes about which ones were successful. Over time, you’ll learn what type of queries get attention in different situations.

Pitch to specific publications like magazines, podcasts, or newspapers.

Pitching to large companies is excellent for your self-confidence, since, just by hitting that submission button, you’ll feel a bit more legit and worthy as a writer.

Make cold calls or send cold emails.

This isn’t the easiest route, but it’s one that will pay off eventually. It’s a numbers game. The more you pitch, the more you win. Try to have other irons in the fire, too, which will help boost your client list.

Although it’s not necessary to do all of these options, you can. Or, to begin with, you might choose two or three to focus on.

The Most Important Step Is to START

You could give yourself a “Start by…” date or just jump right in, but now’s the time to decide.

Writing for a living can take you to new places, both literally and figuratively. It takes preparation and stick-to-it-ive-ness to become a paid freelance writer. But, once you start landing projects, you’ll find it’s a life of flexibility and freedom. It’s a life of dedication. It’s the writer’s life. Come prepared.