When I launched my career as a freelance writer over 10+ years ago, I imagined that all successful freelance writers knew one particular secret. Why did I imagine this?
Well, I was thirsty for work but couldn’t find anywhere to drink. I’d walked to the middle of the desert, looking for an adventure, having been told there was an oasis of great possibilities over the horizon, and my water bottle had run dry.
There was no oasis in sight.
Successful freelance writers knew exactly where to find the oasis in the desert. They knew a secret location, a well-spring of gigs providing lucrative streams of cash flow.
Only, they wouldn’t tell me … because the water supply at the oasis was limited. If they shared the location with any Tom, Dick, or Harry, the work would quickly run dry.
So anyone who had found the oasis was bound to a conspiracy of silence.
What I’ve just described is a common problem for newbie freelance writers, taking their first step into a new profession made up of the desert beast waiting to attack.
All around, newbie freelance writers see established pros earning a handsome living from their writing. Meanwhile, they can’t find a single client that’s willing to pay them the same amount.
New freelance writers are left wondering: “What’s the secret of successful freelance writers?”
It’s a good question, and we’ll come to answer it in a moment.
First, a warning.
The truth is, there’s no risk-free way to be a freelance writer, just like there’s no risk-free way to take a hike in the Sahara. Even the most successful freelance writers have times when they wonder where their next month’s paycheck will come from.
With all that said, you can anticipate the dangers. You can go into the desert prepared. You can pack plenty of supplies, and take a map of the terrain with you. You can read the guidebooks of the people who have walked the road before you.
That’s one of my main aims at my Travel Writing Blog. I would like to think of my blog as a guidebook to the freelance writing pilgrim.
You see, I am here to help you find places to quench your writing thirst and earn money doing so. I’m here to show you where the common drinking wells are. That way, you can get started right away. Beyond that, you’ll have somewhere to go when your throat is parched.
With that said, a common well is a special place. Truth be told, it has been a lifesaver for me in the past, and it was the only place I could find early gigs.
But there’s one problem …
You see, there’s a lot of competition for the water at the common well. Moreover, if work is openly advertised online, it’s for one of two reasons:
- The publication in question is looking for the best of the best and has the financial resources to do so. In this case, it’s worth applying for because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime writing opportunity — but bear in mind, your chances are slim when you are just starting out. Don’t let that stop you though. Go after the BIG fish!
- It’s writing work few people actually want. Either because it’s low-paid, boring, or highly technical. If it was easy to find a capable writer who wanted the work, they wouldn’t need to advertise the job online. In this case, you have to ask yourself: do you really want it? Work that’s too easy to find is often a poisoned chalice. Your time and energy are taken away from what you really care about, and the low pay means you’ll struggle to make ends meet.
But when you’re starting out, what else can you do? Is there any way to find more lucrative work?
The full answer to this question brings us back to the number one secret of successful freelance writers.
My assumption when I started out in this business was that somewhere there is a secret location overflowing with well-paid writing gigs. I was wrong!
Either that, or it’s so darn well hidden that even after a ten-plus-year writing career, I’ve yet to find it.
However, there is a secret that most freelance writers have that enables them to find work. The only trouble is, most freelance writers won’t tell you this little secret … and that is primarily because they don’t really know what it is themselves.
You see, most freelance writers won’t tell you how they really get clients because they don’t really know how they did it themselves. For them, it just happened. Someone in their network approached them with an offer of work, they accepted, and it went from there.
But You’re different. You’re taking a proactive stance to launch a freelance writing career from scratch. And, as of yet, no work has fallen into your lap.
So how can you find these hidden streams of work?
The answer is simple, and it's twofold:
First, let your friends and family know that you’re in the market of providing writing services. It takes courage to reach out, but you’ll find most people are happy to help in any way they can.
In fact, it’s possible that someone in your immediate circle of influence will need help with writing tasks, and you might be surprised at who takes you up on your writing services. And, more than likely, you will come across a friend-of-a-friend who’s got just the right writing gig for you.
Likewise, there is a chance you’ll find nothing … at least not right away. But you’ve let your friends know what you need, and they’ll start looking for it on your behalf. You’ll have a big group of people all looking out for writing opportunities to send your way. And send them they will.
Second, let the wider world know you’re in the market of providing writing services. In other words, just start writing. Write and publish your own blog. Or start writing for Medium. And reach out to other blog owners to see if they will let you guest post for them.
You won’t always get paid for these types of gigs, but you are doing something far more important than earning a paycheck. You’re building an online footprint. You’re establishing your reputation as a high-quality writer.
Sooner than you imagine, you’ll find people start emailing you with the message “I’ve read your article at [insert publication], would you be interested in helping me with this?” Sometimes it will actually feel as if writing opportunities just fall into your lap.
There is NO secret place in the desert (or in cyberspace) overflowing with lucrative writing gigs … or is there?
You see, true successful freelance writers do have a secret. They’ve carved out their own well in the freelance writing desert.
They’ve created their own source of drinking water (substantial income). And that’s far more valuable than being part of some conspiracy.
I only properly discovered this secret when I took a second look at my writing business from another angle.
You see, when I first started this writing thing, I’d kept my writing career mostly to myself. I would scrape by, mainly with work I found online.
But I am finally at this place in my writing career where I’ve discovered the great secret.
The BIG secret is not keeping your writing business to yourself.
You see, to me, that’s the “secret drinking well” I spoke of above. You can’t be afraid to tell people you are in business as a writer.
What’s another name for this drinking well?
Word-of-mouth and reputation. Or simply what I would call, marketing.
Look, most freelance writers won’t tell you that this is how they really get clients… because to them, it just feels like clients walk in the door.
Soon enough, it will feel that way for you too.
If you want to know how to systematically and strategically grow your writing business fast, I encourage you to check out my ebook, “Marketing for Freelance Writers: 4 Profitable Ways to Draw Attention to Your Writing Business.”
Now Over to You
Do you have a story of how a lucrative writing job just fell into your lap? Please share with us in the comments below, and don’t forget to share this article with everyone you think may benefit from it.
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William Ballard is one of the most sought-after business and leadership coaches in the world. As founder and CEO of William Ballard Enterprise, his core business development and leadership programs are designed to be a catalyst for entrepreneurs and leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their business, their lives, and the world. If you are looking to finally start earning what your writing is really worth, allow William to become your Business Writing Coach by clicking HERE.