How to Make a Successful Career Shift to Freelance Writing

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You aren’t Scott Lang. No Hank Pym would find you among a billion people, pull you out of the dark alley of your job, and make you the famous Ant-Man.

To be the superhero of your career, you have to be Pym and Lang, both.

I’m not Pym either, but I can tell you my journey of a career change.

On 15th Aug 2018, I decided to make a career in writing. Leaving a high paying IT career for the sake of writing seemed insane and unrealistic. Nor was it easy to build an income with writing. But I was sure to change the profession.

With a little planning, good networking, and a lot of hard work, things started falling in place after five months.

If you dream of changing your profession to freelance writing, read through this post and chalk out a plan with practical milestones. You may pick a pointer or two to carve a career trajectory in other industries, too, if not writing.

But first, answer this.

Are You Sure of Shifting Your Career?

Or you are only carried away with the much-talked-about entrepreneurial dreams, or because your college friend is digging a pot of gold in AI or machine learning? Or because freelancing is a buzzword?

Indeed quoted 49% of the surveyed people changed careers. And 81% reasoned unhappiness in their sector or job.

High numbers aren’t a warranty for your success. You have to think about three points:

  • Do you have the skills and interest to write well every day?
  • Are you going to be happy in the new career, unlike this 81%?
  • Will you be able to meet your financial liabilities if you freelance?

At times, the unconducive office environment makes it difficult to love what you do. Sometimes your salary upsets you. Perhaps you are temporarily bored?

These problems have simple solutions. So, before leaping, think through and discuss with people who have done it.

Assuming you have decided to take a leap, let’s delve deep into the dynamics.

How Should You Go About a Freelance Writing Career?

By writing, of course.

I discovered the world of content writing during a fiction workshop in Jan 2018. Lo and behold!

My daydreams changed from an aspiring data architect to a novice content writer. Because I was already penning short stories, my writing skill was reasonably good.

So, if you’re writing anything read-worthy—journal, documents at the office, stories, poems—you can chisel your craft.

But wait! This isn’t the apt time to quit your job.

Test the Waters First

Start reading journals and websites that help people build a career in this industry. Writers Digest, B2BWritingSuccess, The Write Life, Medium are some of the communities you can join.

Once you gain some insights about freelance writing genres, start taking weekend assignments. Take out time after working hours.

You can choose to take a sabbatical as I did. Yes, I opted for 5 months of unpaid sabbatical leave from my organization.

Meanwhile…

Build a Freelance Writing Portfolio

The debate about choosing a niche or not is never-ending. But imagine this. Would you visit a general physician for a tooth-ache? Nope!

Clients look for writers with domain experience. So, keep in mind to choose a niche or two. But first, get the gist of a handful of domains. The field of your previous career could be the right field to start with.

Once you write in a few domains, you will know your likings.

Build a portfolio by posting some in-depth content on Medium, LinkedIn, or your blog on varied topics. And start showcasing these to your prospects. Here’s an example:

portofolio

Say bye-bye to free lengthy sample demands.

Make Time to Develop Skills

This is clear as water. You have to sharpen your skills in the testing phase. Even further.

  • Know how to bag clients.
  • Read how blog posts should be framed.
  • Learn about copywriting and storytelling.
  • Make yourself aware of prospecting and guest blogging.
  • And the list goes on…

Writing well is vital. So is crucial to freelance properly and work with the mindset of a business partner rather than a vendor.

Network to Hit the Bull’s-eye

This post would be incomplete without mentioning LinkedIn and networking.

Make a profile on LinkedIn, and start connecting with the people in the writing industry. You will learn by reading the content from freelance writers and marketers.

Don’t stop at reading. Scrutinize the content. Create too—once, twice, thrice a week or more; your choice.

Learn to garner eyeballs on LinkedIn. Once you soak yourself well in the platform, you may generate 20 leads (and even more) in just 24 hours. Ready yourself for the endgame (just a metaphor, I love anything-Avengers 😊).

And don’t forget to be the friendly neighborhood Spiderman. Ask people around if they need a writer. Drop a message to your friends and neighbors. You might find a few startups in your premise.

When Should You Announce to the World?

As soon as you are confident.

Once you feel you have tested enough, toot the trumpet politely. Some might call you crazy; a few friends would laugh; relatives would offer unsolicited advice to go for an MBA; but remember, ignorance is bliss.

And if you think you have saved sufficient to survive at frugal income for the next 6 months, you are set to put your papers down. You will know better when you are there.

Handling Finances Before you Burn Your Pockets

Have you thought about what your days would be if you don’t get your paycheck every month? Welcome to the realm of freelancing.

When I started in 2018, my first assignment was unpaid. I was desperate to build a portfolio and taste the flavor of freelance writing. I didn’t know the free platforms like Medium or LinkedIn Pulse. You shouldn’t slip on that slope like me.

If you spend ₹40K every month—assuming you have enormous responsibilities being already in a career—do the math. You might need to save up to ₹2 Lakhs before you take a plunge, and make a name and network. Set aside some emergency funds too.

Start saving, go frugal.

Keep an account of your expenses on the courses and subscriptions you buy. You might fancy spending on a few tutorials to understand the nuances of freelance writing. Before you do that, reach out to the veterans in the industry and ask recommendations for free courses and eBooks.

In this article, you’ll find some amazing accounting tools for freelancers.

Pro tip: You’ll find answers to almost all queries by googling. If not, again turn to established writers.

A Word of Caution

Now that you have made up your mind, beware.

You might get unsolicited suggestions. Use your ears and brain well; consume what fits with your plan and agenda, let the trash get trashed.

Find yourself a mentor if you feel so. They should hail from the target industry you are planning to set feet in. If you put your brain to proper use and filter the humdrum, you can do well without a mentor too. Join communities and forums for the guiding light.

Keep your senses open to scammers. Writers are known to get duped for their payments. I lost ₹28K to a fake client last year despite having an agreement.

When prospects ask for free samples, show them your portfolio confidently. Genuine clients would agree to pay for a sample. If extremely necessary, don’t resort to a length beyond 350-400 words.

I stopped writing free samples after March 2019. In fact, that sample converted the prospect into a high paying client.

Before you Leave and Jump Your Career

Don’t assume freelancing is a cakewalk. Get ready for rejections in the initial days. You might break down, but you can make it with patience and oodles of hard work and lessons. Experience is the best teacher known so far.

Drop your thoughts and question in the comment section below. Now, go start preparing. As Iron Man said, “Go, break some eggs.”

PS: My favorite is Captain above Ant-Man, Iron Man, and Spiderman. Want to discuss Avengers? Ping me on LinkedIn.

Rashmi is a freelance writer in technology and HR domains. She also writes website copies for SaaS, HR, and technology offerings. Her writing footprints are visible in Thrive Global, Elephant Journal, and The Writing Cooperative. She has worked with MNCs as a software engineer. However, her heart lies in fiction, and she has been published in half a dozen anthologies. She loves monsoons and beaches and enjoys the diverse seasons of India, sitting at her desk by a big window. When she is not writing, she keeps vexing her daughter in motherly ways.

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