Beginner Freelance Writer Checklist (14-Steps)

When you’re a beginner freelance writer, there are a lot of things to think about. That’s why I’ve put together this handy freelance writing checklist to help you make sense of it all and get your career off to the best start possible!

My 14-step beginner freelance writing checklist is:

  1. Determine your niche
  2. Set up a portfolio
  3. Establish your online presence
  4. Define your services
  5. Develop a pitch template
  6. Build a network
  7. Research potential clients
  8. Craft tailored proposals
  9. Set realistic deadlines
  10. Maintain clear communication
  11. Proofread and edit your work
  12. Build client relationships
  13. Manage your finances
  14. Continuously learn and improve

Below, I’ll go through each of these steps in more detail, and if you follow along you’ll be primed and ready for a successful freelance writing career!

14-Step Freelance Writing Checklist For Beginners

1. Determine Your Niche

One of the first and most important steps for a beginner freelance writer is to determine your niche. A niche refers to a specific area or topic that you specialize in or have a strong interest in.

By selecting a niche, you can focus your efforts on a particular industry or subject matter, allowing you to develop a deep understanding of the field and establish yourself as an expert in that area (which will usually allow you to charge higher rates).

Choosing a niche helps you differentiate yourself from the vast pool of generalist freelance writers out there, making it easier for potential clients with more of a focus to find you. It also allows you to target a specific audience and tailor your writing to their needs and preferences, which can increase your chances of attracting clients.

Specializing in a niche can lead to higher rates as you become known for your expertise in that particular area.

How To Determine Your Niche

To determine your niche:

  • Consider your interests, experience, and knowledge
  • Think about the subjects or industries you are passionate about or have a background in
  • Reflect on what type of writing you enjoy and excel at
  • Consider how competitive the niche is

By aligning your niche with your strengths and passions, you can position yourself as a valuable resource and build a successful freelance writing career!

2. Set Up A Portfolio

Setting up a writing portfolio is essential for beginner freelance writers to showcase their skills, expertise, and writing style to potential clients. A portfolio serves as a professional representation of your work and acts as a sample of your writing abilities. It allows clients to assess your writing quality, style, and versatility, which can greatly influence their decision to hire you for a project.

When creating your portfolio, include a variety of writing samples that demonstrate your range and proficiency in different formats or genres. This can include blog posts, articles, website content, press releases, or any other relevant writing pieces.

Ensure that your portfolio is well-organized, visually appealing, and easy to navigate. Consider adding a brief introduction or bio that highlights your background, qualifications, and any notable achievements.

How To Create A Portfolio

As a beginner freelance writer, if you don’t have many published works or client samples, you can create your own writing samples to showcase your abilities. You can write articles or blog posts on topics related to your niche and publish them on your personal blog or other platforms.

Consider volunteering to write for non-profit organizations or websites to gain experience and add to your portfolio. Over time, as you work with clients and accumulate more writing samples, update your portfolio to reflect your growth and accomplishments.

Consider writing on websites like Medium or use a tool like Contently to make a free portfolio.

3. Establish Your Online Presence

Establishing a strong online presence is crucial for beginner freelance writers. Your online presence serves as your virtual storefront and allows potential clients to discover you and learn more about your writing services. It also provides an opportunity to showcase your portfolio, connect with industry professionals, and build a reputation in the freelance writing community.

To establish your online presence, start by creating a professional website (or free portfolio like I mentioned above). There are lots of great paid and free website builders for freelancers out there. Your website should have a clean and user-friendly design, provide relevant information about your services, and feature your portfolio.

Consider including a blog section where you can share valuable insights, tips, and showcase your expertise. Optimize your website for search engines to increase your visibility and attract organic traffic. This can help get eyes on your content and flesh out the website.

Leverage Social Media

In addition to having a website, you should also leverage social media platforms to expand your reach and connect with potential clients. Create professional profiles on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter (now X), or Instagram, and share your writing samples, industry-related content, and engage with others in the writing community.

Networking through online forums, groups, and participating in writing-related discussions can help you establish relationships, gain exposure, and find potential clients. Remember to maintain a consistent and professional tone across all your online platforms to build trust and credibility.

4. Define Your Services

Defining your services is a crucial step for beginner freelance writers as it allows you to clearly communicate what you can offer to potential clients. When you have a clear understanding of the specific writing services you provide, it becomes easier to market yourself effectively and attract the right clients who are seeking those services.

Start by identifying the types of writing projects you excel at and enjoy working on (or think you’d enjoy). This could include blog post writing, article writing, copywriting, technical writing, or any other specialized forms of content. Consider your niche and expertise when determining your services, as this will help you stand out and differentiate yourself from other freelance writers.

The Scope

Also specify the scope of your services.

  • Will you only offer writing or additional services such as editing and proofreading?
  • Will you provide SEO?
  • What about social media posts?

Clearly defining your services allows clients to understand exactly what they can expect from you and this helps manage expectations.

Once you have defined your services, create a clear and concise description of each service that you offer. Clearly communicate the benefits and value that you bring to clients through your writing. This will not only attract the right clients but also help you set appropriate pricing for your services based on the complexity and time required for each type of project.

5. Develop A Pitch Template

Developing a pitch template is an important step for beginner freelance writers to streamline their client acquisition process and increase their chances of landing projects. A pitch template serves as a foundation for crafting persuasive and professional pitches that effectively communicate your skills, experience, and value to potential clients.

When creating a pitch template, start by introducing yourself and briefly highlighting your background and expertise. Personalize the pitch by addressing the client by name and showing that you have done your research about their business or industry. Clearly state the specific services you offer and how they align with the client’s needs or objectives.

Your USPs

Highlight your unique selling points and emphasize the benefits the client will gain by working with you. Share relevant writing samples or portfolio links that demonstrate your skills and expertise in their specific industry or niche. It’s also helpful to include testimonials or references from previous clients to build trust and credibility.

Customize the pitch template for each client by tailoring it to their specific requirements or project details. Personalize the pitch to show that you have taken the time to understand their needs and how you can provide a solution.

However, ensure that the core structure and key elements of the pitch template remain consistent to save time and effort in the pitching process. With a well-crafted pitch template, you can efficiently reach out to potential clients and make a compelling case for why they should choose you as their freelance writer.

Just make sure to continuously update it as your skills, services, and prices change.

6. Build A Network

Building a network is an essential step for beginner freelance writers to expand their professional connections, gain valuable insights, and access potential opportunities. Networking allows you to connect with other writers, industry professionals, and potential clients, opening doors for collaborations, referrals, and new projects.

Start by attending industry events, conferences, or workshops where you can meet fellow writers and professionals in your field (use a site like Eventbrite to find events near you). These events provide opportunities to exchange ideas, learn from others’ experiences, and establish meaningful relationships.

Consider joining online communities and forums dedicated to freelance writing, where you can engage in discussions, seek advice, and connect with like-minded individuals.

Use Social Media

Utilize social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook groups to network with professionals in your industry. Follow and interact with industry leaders, join relevant writing groups, and actively participate in conversations. Engaging in discussions, sharing insights, and providing valuable input can help you establish your presence and build credibility within the freelance writing community.

Remember that networking is a two-way street. Be proactive in supporting and promoting others in your network, as this can lead to reciprocal support and referrals. Cultivating genuine relationships and maintaining regular communication with your network can lead to a steady stream of opportunities and collaborations throughout your freelance writing journey.

7. Research Potential Clients

Researching potential clients is a crucial step for beginner freelance writers to identify and target the right customers for their services. By conducting thorough research, you can understand the needs, preferences, and goals of your potential clients, allowing you to tailor your pitches and proposals to resonate with them effectively.

Start by identifying your target market and narrowing down the industries or niches you want to focus on (as I discussed earlier). Once you have a clear idea of your target audience, research companies or individuals within those industries who may require your writing services. Look for information about their business, their content needs, and their existing online presence.

Dig Deeper

Explore their websites, blogs, and social media profiles to get a sense of their writing style, tone, and the type of content they publish. This will help you align your pitch or proposal with their brand and showcase your ability to provide content that matches their voice and requirements (or it’ll confirm that they’re not an ideal client, saving you time and effort).

Gather information about their current content gaps or challenges they may be facing. This can help you position yourself as a solution provider that’s worth paying. The more you know about your potential clients, the better equipped you will be to craft compelling and targeted proposals that demonstrate your value and increase your chances of securing projects.

8. Craft Tailored Proposals

Crafting tailored proposals is a critical step for beginner freelance writers to effectively communicate their value and secure projects with potential clients. A well-written and customized proposal demonstrates your understanding of the client’s needs, showcases your skills and expertise, and convinces them that you are the best writer for the job.

When writing a proposal, start by addressing the client by name and briefly acknowledging their requirements or project description. Show that you have done your research and understand their specific needs and objectives. Tailor your proposal to highlight how your skills and experience align with their project, emphasizing the value you can bring to their business.

Don’t just talk about yourself!

Outline your approach or strategy for completing the project. Break down the steps, deliverables, and timelines to provide clarity and demonstrate your professionalism. Be specific about the services you will provide, such as content creation, revisions, or additional support.

Consider including a pricing section that outlines your fees and any terms or conditions related to payment. Be transparent about your rates and any additional charges or revisions beyond the scope of the project. And be sure to present your pricing in a clear and professional manner that reflects the value you bring to the table.

Finally, proofread and edit your proposal to ensure it is error-free and polished overall. Pay attention to formatting, grammar, and punctuation to maintain a professional appearance. A well-crafted, tailored proposal demonstrates your attention to detail, increasing the likelihood of securing projects with potential clients.

If you’re unsure where to start with your freelance writing proposal, Bonsai has lots of free templates you can use!

9. Set Realistic Deadlines

Setting realistic deadlines is crucial for beginner freelance writers to manage their workload effectively and maintain client satisfaction. Meeting deadlines demonstrates professionalism, reliability, and respect for the client’s time and project requirements. It also helps you build a reputation as a dependable writer, leading to repeat business and positive referrals.

When setting deadlines, consider factors such as the complexity of the project, the amount of research or interviews required, and your existing workload. Be honest with yourself and the client about how much time you need to complete the project without compromising the quality of your work. A lot of understanding what deadlines work for you will come from experience of course.

Be Clear From The Start

It is important to communicate your proposed deadlines clearly with the client upfront. Make sure both parties are on the same page regarding the project timeline and any intermediate milestones or deliverables. Establishing clear expectations from the beginning helps manage the client’s expectations and allows for effective project planning.

If unforeseen circumstances arise that may cause a delay in meeting a deadline, promptly communicate with the client and provide an updated timeline. Transparency and open communication are key for maintaining trust and managing client relationships. By setting and meeting realistic deadlines, you can ensure smooth project execution and build a reputation for reliability and professionalism as a freelance writer.

10. Maintain Clear Communication

Maintaining clear communication is vital for beginner freelance writers to establish strong relationships with clients. Effective communication helps in understanding client expectations, addressing any concerns or questions, and keeping all parties informed throughout the project.

First and foremost, establish clear communication channels with your clients. Agree upon the preferred methods of communication, such as email, phone calls, or project management tools. Promptly respond to client messages and inquiries to show your professionalism and dedication, and to keep things moving in the right direction.

Keep The Client Up To Date

Throughout the project, actively listen to the client’s feedback and requirements. Seek clarification if needed and provide regular updates on the progress of the work. Keeping the client informed about any potential challenges or changes in the project timeline demonstrates transparency and helps manage expectations.

Be proactive in seeking feedback from clients upon project completion. This allows you to gauge their satisfaction and address any areas for improvement. Act on feedback constructively and use it as an opportunity to refine your writing skills and enhance client relationships.

11. Proofread And Edit Your Work

Proofreading and editing are essential steps for beginner freelance writers to ensure the quality and professionalism of their work. Carefully reviewing your writing helps to eliminate errors, improve clarity, and enhance overall readability, which can greatly impact how your work is received by clients.

While it’s likely that your content is being edited by someone else later down the pipeline, making the editor’s life easier is a surefire way to build trust with the client.

After completing a writing project, take the time to step away from it and then return with a fresh perspective. Carefully proofread the content to catch any spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes. Pay attention to sentence structure, flow, and consistency in style and tone, and correct any typos or grammatical errors to present polished and error-free work to your clients.

Do A Deep Edit

Editing goes beyond just fixing errors, as it also involves assessing the structure and organization of your content. Ensure that your writing is coherent and well-structured, with logical flow and transitions between ideas. Consider the overall readability and clarity of your work and make any necessary revisions to improve the overall quality of the piece.

Consider using grammar and spell-check tools, but don’t solely rely on them. These tools can be helpful, but they may not catch every mistake or accurately assess the context. Always review and edit your work manually to ensure the highest level of quality and professionalism, and this will make you a better writer in the long run.

By diligently proofreading and editing your work, you demonstrate attention to detail and a commitment to delivering high-quality writing. It helps you maintain your reputation as a reliable and skilled freelance writer and increases the likelihood of client satisfaction and repeat business.

12. Build Client Relationships

Building strong client relationships is a crucial aspect for beginner freelance writers to establish a solid foundation for their career. Strong client relationships lead to repeat business, referrals, and positive recommendations, which are essential for sustained success as a freelancer.

Start by providing exceptional customer service. Be responsive, respectful, and professional in all your interactions with clients. Promptly reply to their messages, address their concerns, and keep them updated on the progress of their projects. Showing a genuine interest in their needs and delivering work that exceeds their expectations fosters trust and is key for building long-term relationships.

Keep The Line Open

Maintain open lines of communication even after a project is completed. Follow up with clients to gather feedback and learn from their experiences. This feedback can help you improve your writing skills and better understand their preferences and requirements. Engaging in ongoing conversations and providing value beyond the initial project helps to solidify the relationship and position you as a trusted writing partner.

Finally, go the extra mile to show appreciation for your clients. A simple gesture like a personalized thank-you note or offering a discount on future projects can go a long way in building loyalty and goodwill. Building strong client relationships requires time and effort, but the rewards in terms of client retention, referrals, and a positive reputation are invaluable for a successful freelance writing career.

13. Manage Your Finances

Managing your finances is a crucial aspect for beginner freelance writers to maintain financial stability and ensure the long-term success of their freelance career. As a freelancer, you are responsible for managing your income, expenses, taxes, and financial planning.

Start by establishing a separate bank account dedicated to your freelance business. This helps you keep your personal and business finances separate, making it easier to track income and expenses. It also allows for better organization and simplifies tax preparation.

Keep Your Records

Keep a record of all your income and expenses. Track the payments you receive from clients, whether through invoices or online platforms, and maintain a clear record of all your expenses, such as software subscriptions, office supplies, or marketing expenses. This helps you accurately calculate your profit and loss, and it makes it easier when it comes to tax time.

Stay organized and set aside a portion of your income for taxes. As a freelancer, you are responsible for paying self-employment taxes, which will vary by country, region and state. Consult with a tax professional or accountant to understand your tax obligations and plan accordingly.

By effectively managing your finances, you can ensure a healthy cash flow, save for taxes and future expenses, and make informed financial decisions for the growth of your freelance writing career. It is important to stay on top of your finances and seek professional advice when needed to maintain financial stability and success.

But you can do a lot of it yourself, and it’s easier to do this with the right tools. I’ve previously talked about the best invoicing tools for freelancers, but Bonsai is an example of an all-in-one tool that can handle everything from invoicing to contracts and from expenses to taxes.

14. Continuously Learn And Improve

Continuously learning and improving is a fundamental aspect for beginner freelance writers to stay competitive and adapt to the ever-evolving writing landscape. The writing industry is constantly changing, and staying up to date with industry trends, writing techniques, and best practices is essential if you want to provide high-quality work and meet client expectations.

Invest in your professional development by seeking out learning opportunities. Take courses, attend webinars, or participate in workshops that focus on improving your writing skills, understanding different writing styles, or exploring new genres. This continuous learning process allows you to refine your craft and expand your skill set.

Reading Helps A Lot

Read widely and diversify your reading materials. Explore books, articles, and blogs related to your niche and beyond. Reading not only exposes you to different writing styles and ideas but also enhances your vocabulary and helps you develop a strong voice as a writer.

Seek feedback from clients, fellow writers, or mentors. Constructive feedback can provide valuable insights into areas for improvement and help you grow as a writer. Embrace feedback with an open mind and use it as an opportunity to refine your skills and enhance the quality of your work.

By embracing a mindset of continuous learning and improvement, you can position yourself as a skilled and adaptable freelance writer. It allows you to deliver exceptional work, stay ahead of industry trends, and provide value to your clients, ultimately contributing to your long-term success.

Get Your Freelance Writing Career Off To The Right Start

Follow the points in this checklist and you’ll be set up for a successful freelance writing career! If you want more tips, check out my general freelancing checklist here.

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