Becoming a Writer: 5 Important Questions Answered

By | September 20, 2016

becoming a writer

Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step towards becoming a writer!

When I started writing nearly six years ago, I had a list of questions that never seemed to end!

How do I get started? What do I need? Where do I find work? How can I get new clients? How can I be a successful writer?

Years have gone by, and now, armed with triumphs and failures, I would like to answer some of the most crucial questions you may have and help you make writing a well-paying career or a side job for some extra income. While I’d love to answer every possible question that may arise, time is a constraint! Read on, however, for answers to the top five most-asked questions about becoming a writer.

1. What skills or qualifications do I need to get started?

  • Good knowledge of English grammar
  • The ability to learn fast
  • The humility to accept correction

For all intents and purposes, this article focuses on becoming a writer in the English language. The principles, though, apply to other languages as well.

Some clients require writers with a degree in Journalism or an equivalent qualification. However, you don’t need a specific qualification to start writing professionally.

2. How do I start writing without prior experience?

This can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Everyone has to start somewhere, and the most experienced writer earning a fat pay has also started off from scratch.

Here’s what you need to do to get started off with little or no prior writing experience:

  1. Build a portfolio explaining your skills. Include a few samples of work that you can and would like to do as a freelance writer. If you have an existing blog, add it into your portfolio (even if it is a few random musings that you may not have written in your element).
  2. Be prepared to work for free. Before you close this page under the assumption that I’ve gone bonkers, let me clarify – work for free only to gain experience or when it is strategically beneficial.

Let me explain: Assume you’d like to work for client A, so you’ve written in with your portfolio. Client A feels you’ve got potential, but your lack of experience makes him hesitate. In this scenario, you may offer to work on a piece for free, on the condition that should it meet requirements and be used, you’d be paid for it.

Another scenario is where you may write unpaid guest posts since your name is associated with your work, although unpaid, and may land you a high-paying writing gig in the future.

I still guest post for free on credible websites and still encounter several opportunities where a bit of free writing gets me great returns.

3. How do I find a legitimate freelance writing job?

I spent quite a while trying to differentiate between scams and legitimate freelance jobs. This was quite a challenge and I did lose my work (and money) working for sharks who just wanted to make an easy buck or two.

However, there are a lot of real freelance writing jobs out there and with the right research you’ll be able to determine which is genuine and which is fake. I’ll shortly be posting tips to find out whether a client is genuine, as well as a list of tried and tested freelance writing sites where you can find work.

Some people suggest that you avoid bidding sites and content mills. However, if you’re new to the world of writing, they’re decent places to start off, even if the pay isn’t all that good!

If money isn’t a criteria and you’re looking at landing a direct client, I’ll guide you on how to pitch for legitimate, high-paying potential clients. I’ll also let you know how to network to get more clients.

4. How much money can I make on becoming a writer?

Enough with all the rambling about getting clients – here’s where we get to the $$$.

The money you make depends on

  • How you plan to charge your clients (hourly or per project)
  • How well you write
  • The complexity of what you’re writing
  • Whether you’re working for direct clients or content mills

So, the honest answer is, it depends. However, if you’re writing for mills, you can expect to earn between $2.5 and $25 for a 500-word blog post, depending on which level you’re at. For direct clients, I’ve found that most blogs pay between $50 and $100 for around 700 words. Longer stories, interviews and features may pay as much as $1,000. It all depends on the project.

When quoting your price, always quote higher than what you expect for the job. It doesn’t hurt to ask for more. Besides, when clients negotiate down, you’ll anyway end up getting what you expected in the first place!

5. How do I get paid?

Again, it depends on who your clients are and where you live. Local clients may pay you directly via a bank transfer. If you’re working across geographical locations, though, you need a PayPal account.

A PayPal account is free to open and links to your bank or credit card. You can get paid in almost every global currency and withdraw it in your local currency (PayPal charges a small conversion/processing fee). Some countries require you to define a purpose code for transactions. If you are prompted for one, choose Freelance Journalism and you’re good to go!

Do you have a question that’s not listed here? Write it down in the comments below and we’ll help you out!

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