Video: How I started my freelance writing career

It's easy to assume that successful freelance writers always knew how to do things like find clients and send invoices. But here's a secret: we're still learning too.

In this video I explain how I found my niche, landed my first clients and built a stable business. 

Video transcript

Hi. This is Amy. Today I want to talk to you about a question that I get asked a lot, and that is how I got started freelancing, and how I ended up doing what I'm doing now, and all of the obstacles and things that I learnt along the way.

I have been freelancing for four years. Not full time for that whole time. I first started freelancing when I got my first journalism job while I was still at uni. I was writing for a business and management magazine, and just you know, freelance, doing press releases for friend's businesses on the side. It was kind of enough.

I felt comfortable building up experience. Kind of figuring out the business side of things while I also had the guaranteed income, and I was learning a lot at my other job, and it was fine.

But I knew I didn't want to work for somebody forever. For the next few years as I moved between jobs I slowly started building up my freelance business. I thought when I first started freelancing that I would focus on freelance writing for publications.

You know I really wanted to write for the weekend lift outs in the newspapers, and that sort of thing. I'd pitch, and I'd hear back, and I'd pitch. The budgets were small. There was heaps of other writers like me who wanted to do the same thing, and there just wasn't enough regular demand.

While I was focusing on that I thought gosh, I will never be able to freelance full time. What am I doing? And slowly I discovered that I had a pretty unique skill set. I had worked in software marketing. I thought technology was really interesting, but I also had that journalism background.

My freelance career didn't really take off until I thought okay, well what are my strengths? What can I do that other people don't know how to do?

I thought okay, I will combine technology and journalism, and I will be a tech writer, but not for publications, for businesses because I know that they are willing to pay for that sort of work. It wasn't until that shift where I started picking up more clients.

I had a really strong pipeline. I knew that I could quit my job and pay my bills for the next six months. I had a big buffer. That was maybe two years or eighteen months ago that I figured that out.

Since then it has been really easy. You find the niche. You find people willing to pay for your work. I think the main take aways are:

Firstly just start.

Secondly, don't expect things to happen overnight, and thirdly don't quit your day job until you have something to support it, and you have the income to kind of build that up. That's how I got started.

Tell me in the comments how you got started too.

Video: Should you write for Upwork or Fiverr?

When you're starting out as a freelance writer, it's tempting to look for work on freelance job sites like Upwork or Fiverr. But can you really build a career writing $10 blog posts? 

While it's certainly possible, I don't recommend it. In this video, I explain why. 

Not a fan of videos? Read the video transcript below.

Video transcript

Hey, this is Amy again. What I want to talk to you about today is another question that I get asked a lot by people who are just starting out as freelance writers.

And maybe they don't have their first client yet or they just need to build up some experience to be able to show people what they do.

They come to me and they say, Amy, this is my situation. I've been thinking about doing a little bit of writing on Fiverr or Freelancer or oDesk. I don't even keep up to date with what they're called anymore.

They want to know if it's worth, I guess, pimping out their services for $5 an article or sometimes even worse. I have never written for any of those sites and I don't recommend to other people that they do either. It can be tempting, especially if you don't have any experience or a big portfolio.

I also think, in my opinion, those websites, it's a race to the bottom. It's the lowest common denominator. If you're going to pay $5 for an article, you're not going to get quality. As a freelance writer, you're not going to learn very much from the experience either.

I just think there are other better ways to land your first client or to get experience. Get your own website. Start a blog. Start writing. Show people what you can do even if it hasn't been in a paid capacity.

Instead of investing your energy and writing 1000 words for $10, put that energy ... That takes time. That's a couple of hours. Put that time into generating leads. Call an old employer and tell them what you do. Tell a friend or send an email.

There are so many ways to get work and to get experience. I don't think the return on your time investment is worth it when you use some of those sites.

You have to have confidence in your own work, as well. If you have confidence in your own work, you're not going to slum it over on Fiverr or that sort of thing. Maybe slum is the wrong word.

Anyway, there are a lot of people who've had success on those sorts of websites. You do one $0.50 job for somebody and then the next time they'll pay you $50. You get on their books and you build it up and they become a really great regular client.

I'm still not convinced. If you can figure out a way to do it, that's awesome. My advice to people is still that maybe there are other ways to get started as well.

Video: What should you call your freelance writing business?

Let me guess. You're new to freelancing and want to know whether it's worth choosing a business name, or sticking with the name on your passport. 

There's no right or wrong answer here. In this video, I explain my approach, and discuss when you might want to use a business name instead of your actual name. 

Not a fan of videos? Read the video transcript below. 

Video transcript

Hey, this is Amy again. Let's talk about when you first start freelancing, people always want to know whether they should just use their own name or whether they should register a separate business name.

As someone who's done both and who still uses both, I'll explain to you how I feel about it and when might be the best time to use a business name and when might be the best time to stick with your own name.

When I first started freelancing and my focus was more on pitching to publications as a freelance journalist, I always used my own name. I had my own website just with my name on it,, and that worked really well for that specific purpose.

If you're freelancing and it's only you behind the business and you're comfortable with the amount of work that you're attracting then I think that's a great idea and a fine idea.

The reason that I then went and registered Mint Content as a business name, and you can can operate under two names with your ABN, so you don't have to worry about any dramas there. It's really easy to set up.

The reason that I went with Mint Content was because as my business was growing, I was putting in more people underneath me so the business wasn't just about me anymore.

People who deal with my business might not be dealing just with me, they might be dealing with Angela or Yasmin or James or whoever. I needed a business name for that reason.

I also wanted a business name because I was starting to shift into working with a different type of client and they were bigger clients who needed the comfort and reassurance that they weren't just working with some person who moonlighted as a freelancer on the weekends.

They needed someone who was serious and focused, and this was their business. They needed the confidence that I was going to be able to deliver on stuff that was pretty demanding.

I wanted to attract bigger clients with bigger budgets and for me, the logical move was then to register the business name and operate under that now because I don't think I would feel completely honest working with somebody as Amy Louise Birchall and then getting somebody else to do the work. There's a different expectation there.

I still do use the Amy Louise Birchall business name for freelance journalism for all of the reasons that I said at the start.

It doesn't make sense to be doing that under Mint Content, that's a content writing agency. It's a bit easier to have a bit of separation there, so that's what I've done. But tell me what you've done, because I am very interested to learn.

How to win clients and get more work [Slideshare]

 header image - how to win clients and get more work

When it comes to finding work as a freelancer, no one wants to come across as sleazy or desperate.

This makes sense. On one hand, you have bills to pay. But on the other, you want your skills to be valued – not auctioned off to the lowest bidder.

But really, finding clients and winning work is simple with the right approach. Yep, armed with best practice techniques, even the most introverted and inexperienced freelancers can hustle with the best of them.  

Flip through the Slideshare below to learn a few tips and tricks for closing deals, attracting ideal clients and growing a more profitable business with ease.

See? You can grow your business and become a lead generating machine without sounding like a used car salesman.

What other advice would you share for finding clients? Share your ideas with me in the comments below!