Side Hustle Tips to Freelance Writing with a Full-Time Job

Side Hustle Tips to Freelance Writing with a Full-Time Job

I’ve been freelancing as a side hustle while working full-time since about 2015. Writing a few assignments for clients gave me disposable income when I was on a tight budget with my salary, provided me with extra money to pay off my student loans faster, and generate a financial safety net.

Building a small business of freelance writing while having a job not only made me feel accomplished, it makes me feel more secure about my future, especially working in a company where job layoffs happen frequently and unexpectedly. When I eventually did get laid off from a full-time job in 2020, knowing that I had freelancing skills (and articles that showed my range of writing about different topics) gave me the confidence to stick with a full-time freelance writing career.

So how can you find time and manage juggling freelancing while working at a full-time job? 

Choosing to start a side business while keeping your day job is one of the most realistic ways of building your wealth. You can use it to pay off all those student loans, chase your dreams across the world, or take care of your family.

That’s why I recommend checking out this guide all the way through! It’ll teach you each stage of the freelance writing business.

Let’s dive into my guide on how to start a freelance writing business on the side.

Before starting your business, one of the most important steps to take is to get very clear on why you want to start freelancing. Visualize it. Get the details! Maybe you want to start making more money working part-time so you can eventually quit your day job. Maybe you want enough to live a lavish life. Or maybe you just want to be able to buy a round of drinks for your friends. Once you have your goal in mind, you’ll have a better idea about how much time you’re willing to put in to get that level of success in freelance writing.

Step 1 to Start Freelance Writing on the Side: Define Your Goals

If you don’t have goals that are defined and measurable, it’s going to be almost impossible to get to where you want to go.

Do you want to freelance to earn extra income on the side of your day job?

Do you want to eventually replace your income and become a full-time freelancer with all the lifestyle benefits of being your own boss?

Are you using freelancing as a way to achieve something else entirely?

Regardless of what you want to achieve, you need to clarify what you want.

It’s important to carve out the time to have a deep understanding of why you want to be a freelance writer.

Your big-picture goals will affect your shorter-term goals and will change the benchmarks for your success.

Have an idea of the target income (including the extra 25% for taxes), how much risk you can tolerate, and your living expenses. This will help you create realistic expectations on how many clients you will need and how many projects you will need to write.

Decide how much time you have. If you’re already working 60 hours a week, it will be a challenge for you to work another 20 on your side business. If you only have 10 hours a week to put into your side business, you’ll need to be clear on what you need to achieve in that timeframe each day.

Step 2 to Start Freelance Writing on the Side: Pick a Profitable Niche

Most beginning freelance writers think starting out with content mills like Upwork and Fiverr are the way to “build experience” but let me just tell you, this is the WRONG MOVE!

There’s a lot of competition on these sites with people who are willing to charge much lower rates than what you need to reach those goals you just made. There are people from all over the world competing for the same gigs who are willing to work for less.

Instead, you need to change your mindset. It isn’t about racing to the bottom, charging the least amount possible for your writing, and begging for jobs.

Take the time to pick a profitable niche to launch your freelance writing side hustle. If you choose a niche you already have experience in and deep knowledge of, you can present yourself as an expert in that niche!

For example, let’s say you have a background in teaching like I did. Instead of taking any random assignment that came my way, I focused on targeting clients in the EdTech world because I already had a deep understanding of their products, their target market, and the kind of materials they needed.

Once you’ve built your skills, you’ll be able to switch niches if you want. But it’s important to spend at least the first 6 months committed to a niche so you can become invaluable within that industry.

Then you can start expanding your business wherever your curiosity takes you because you’ll have the experience you need to get your foot in the door.

Picking a niche you already have experience in also helps you feel more comfortable charging higher prices. Because the clients are paying for more than the words on the page, they are paying for your knowledge and expertise!

Step 3 to Start Freelance Writing on the Side: Pick Your Target Client

Attracting the right client is just as important as picking the right niche for your freelance writing business.

As you start out, it’s fine to take a “shotgun” approach to landing a client. Your first few clients might be in different sectors of the industry, with widely different monthly income and marketing budgets.

Once you dip your toes in the water, you can start making better assessments about the kinds of clients you want to work with. You’ll start developing a sense of whether you love working with clients like that or not and you’ll be able to decide how to target your pitching.

It can feel like a difficult decision at first because it can mean turning away business, but the process of narrowing your target audience can help you achieve results in the long run.

When you have limited free time to spend on your business, everything you do needs to show your potential clients that you can get high-quality results. As you start building a reputation in the industry, you will start to become the expert writer for that specific type of client.

To find your perfect target client, answer these questions:
  • Which businesses can afford to pay the prices I’ll need to meet my income goal? (You might love a specific business, but if they don’t have the budget to pay you it will become an endless source of frustration and resentment for you both.)
  • Which businesses already use the kind of writing services I want to offer?
  • Who are the decision-makers in these businesses? What are their demographics? How can I connect to them on a personal level?
Once you discover this information, you’ll be able to send cold pitches that get straight to the point of what these clients need. You’ll be able to connect with them easily and have an offer prepared that offers incredible value.

Step 4 to Start Freelance Writing on the Side: Set the Right Price

Setting prices for your services should happen before you send any pitches.

From a purely numerical perspective, you need to determine your hourly rate according to your needs. You can also get a look at how much other freelance writers are charging for certain projects in your niche.

It’s important to remember to price your work based on the value you’re providing, not what your competitors are charging.

Though the norm in your industry might be $50 per article, it’s important not to allow anyone else to dictate the terms of your work.

Businesses with big budgets are willing to spend more and are willing to invest in your services. Smaller clients with small budgets don’t have as much in their marketing budget and won’t be able to pay you.

Remember– you can’t set your prices too high. It might not be the right fit for the kinds of clients you are pitching, but if you do your homework and know who to pitch your services to, you’ll be attracting the clients who can justify spending that much.

Don’t undervalue the work you do either. That’s why it’s so important to understand how marketing works in the industry. Once you see how much money they are actually making from your blog posts or emails, you won’t feel guilty at all for charging $400 per blog post or $500 per email.

Step 5 to Start Freelance Writing on the Side: Create a High-Quality Website

Starting a freelance writing business with a beautiful, clean website can help you stand out from the crowd. It not only helps you build a powerful online presence, but it gives you a place to store all of your writing samples while giving your potential clients a way to check out your work.

The whole point of having a website as a freelancer is to show your work, your style, your past clients to create a stunning first impression. You need to effectively communicate the value you can provide, the services you offer, and who they’re for.

You also need to write your website to show your perfect target market that you’re exactly the person they’ve been looking for. The first impression helps sell you as the best person for the job and as someone your client will love working with.

Your portfolio should include:
  • Your contact information & your personality
  • Your niche and niche samples
  • Relevant skills, education, awards, accomplishments
  • Testimonials
  • Regular updates of your growth
Take a look at other freelance writers in your niche to get an idea of the style and find some inspiration. See how they are communicating their value, how they are positioning themselves, and how they are building their business.

Make sure you put your best work on your portfolio to show your potential clients how incredible your writing is.

Step 6 to Start Freelance Writing on the Side: Create Niche Samples

Your website should serve as a way to demonstrate your authority and expertise within the niche you chose.

One of the best ways to show your potential clients that you are an expert is to continuously publish new content through blogs, videos, emails, or whatever you want to write. You want your target clients to be awed when they land on your site.

Once you get an understanding of your niche, you can create samples of the exact content they are looking for.

The best way to sell your writing is to show them you already know how to make what they need. Plus, it will make writing easier for you because you’ll have a library of related work to get inspiration from.

Your portfolio should demonstrate the quality of work you’ll be creating for your clients.

Step 7 to Start Freelance Writing on the Side: Land Your First Three Clients

Since you’re starting out your freelance writing business on the side, you know you’ll have limited time to spend on client work. That’s why it’s so important to get at least your first three clients as quickly as possible.

It will help you burn it into your mind that you’re a freelance writer while exorcising those “But I’m not a real writer” imposter syndrome BS thoughts.

You can get your first three contacts by talking to your current network and telling them you’re starting a side hustle. You can also talk to other freelancers in your niche. Sometimes they’re too busy to handle all the clients that need them, so they’re happy to hire other writers or refer clients to you.

Step 8 to Start Freelance Writing on the Side: The Ninja Way to Get Clients– Talk About Them!

When you’re just starting out with your freelance writing side hustle, you need to become known in your niche.

One of the easiest ways to become known is to start talking about the clients you want to work with in your blog content on your website. Talk about the companies, brands, and individuals you want to work with one day.

When you publish something that mentions them, reach out and let them know! It’s the ultimate form of flattery!

It will also turn them into a warm lead. You’ll have an established connection that shows the quality of your work and the value you provide. The relationship can often lead to a writing job!

Step 9 to Start Freelance Writing on the Side: Pitch Like a Pro

If you want to be a successful freelance writer (a.k.a. Have paid writing jobs) then you’ll need to learn how to pitch your services.

It’s one of the most important skills for you to learn! Discovering the best way to find, influence, and convert new clients for your business ensures you’ll stand out from the crowd. You’ll be able to land freelance writing clients easily!

An effective pitch includes:
  • A strong open that highlights your value and demonstrates that you’ve researched about the company
  • Selling your strengths
  • Anticipating objections and questions
  • Using relevant work samples and past projects to show your expertise

Step 10 to Start Freelance Writing on the Side: Don’t Get too Distracted from Your Day Job

It can be easy to become obsessed with freelancing once you’re in it. But if you start obsessing about pitching and writing samples before you’re ready to quit your day job, it could jeopardize your employment.

You want to grow your freelance writing business sustainably. And you definitely don’t want to get sued.

That’s why it’s so important to make sure you haven’t
  • Breached a contract or agreement with your company
  • Worked on your business during company time
  • Use company resources like computers, invoicing software, etc. for your freelance writing projects.

Wrap Up

Now that you know how to start your freelance writing side-hustle, I strongly recommend starting your freelance writing career while you still have a day job. It will allow you to build your business without the added stress of having to meet huge income goals while you’re still learning about the process.

If you can find a few hours each day to work on your freelance writing business while still working at your full-time job, you will also learn the kind of dedication you’ll need as a business owner. You’ll have no trouble taking care of your business and staying on track with your deadlines!
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