How to make it as a freelance writer

I’ve been a freelance writer for three years.

My journey began in 2017, when I started writing for Campus Society. It was a platform that promoted itself as Facebook for students. Users could join channels and were connected with others who shared their interests. As freelancers, we provided short articles to populate the website, ranging from posts about nights out to the ultimate freshers’ guides for specific Universities. Think of it as Buzzfeed with a chat function.

I used the past tense there rather deliberately. As of December 2019, Campus Society ceased to exist. The writers and full-time workers were either let go or made redundant.

In the meantime, a year before the demise of Campus Society, I had started writing for an outlet called BorroClub. BorroClub allows users to advertise their items, from tools to games consoles, that others can borrow for a fee that would be a fraction of the full retail price. I once found a £200 power drill being lent for £5 a day, which is a steal if you only need a power drill once a year.

Thankfully, I’m able to use the present tense for BorroClub. The business is still around and, until the pandemic hit, I was managing and providing content for its social media channels and blog. I lost that gig because businesses that thrive on users sharing items aren’t conducive for preventing the spread of a deadly disease, so at the time of writing, BorroClub is still shut down – at least for now.

I will admit that I’ve been particularly fortunate with my writing jobs. Getting work as a freelancer is hard, especially with the slew of unpaid internships and poorly paid entry jobs that require copious quantities of experience. Here’s my take on how I scored these freelancing jobs, with tips that will hopefully make your life easier.

Campus Society: check your emails

It started when I was in Minorca, a Spanish island, soaking up the summer sun. My phone pinged a notification. I lifted my sunglasses just enough to see this email:

Paid! Writing! How could I NOT take a look?

I didn’t take much convincing. With a quick stretch, I settled down to work. The editors wanted us to submit an article that matched their content style as a way to test our writing prowess. I can’t remember exactly what I wrote, but it was something to do with a night out in Second Year. 

Less than a week later, I received a welcome email. I had made the cut! I was on the team! Though the pay system started out slightly differently, it was eventually altered so that every article compensated us with £8. Alongside occasional bonuses, one month I earned £150. That’s pretty good for a casual job, from the comfort of my home or library, for an otherwise broke student.

Getting into Campus Society was, undoubtedly, a mixture of talent and luck.

BorroClub: check your contacts

BorroClub, on the other hand, mixed together talent with luck, good timing and – honestly – sheer coincidence.

It was the Spring of my Final Year at Uni and, like the majority of Third Years, I’d started panicking about my future. The University of Birmingham then sent out various emails promoting various paid summer internships, one of which being at a Birmingham-based school that asked for an archivist to sort through and organise their records.

Half of my degree is in History, and the other half as may as well be in organising so, elated, I applied. Finally, I could put my productivity hacks to good use. Unfortunately, following an unsuccessful interview, I didn’t get the job. I responded to their rejection email and asked for feedback, but that’s where the story ended for a while.

So, I graduated, moved home, and started working at my local library. By the end of the year, I was soaking up even more sun in another part of Spain, when my phone pinged again. It was an email from the interviewer this time, commenting on how much of an impression my request for feedback had left on them. They mentioned that they were particularly impressed by my blog and writing with Campus Society, and asked whether I’d be interested in working with their partner.

Intrigued, we organised a meeting so that I could learn more. Their partner was the person in charge of BorroClub, and they wanted me to produce content for their blog and social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to drum-up interest in their business – for a monthly fee.

At this meeting, we discussed the categories that I could produce content for; for instance, how to plan for events on a budget. Every category was money-based, as was the nature of the money-saving business. Other than these vague categories, I was left to my own devices to plan and produce whatever content I saw fit. This provided for me so much experience in planning, writing and editing good content, as well as SEO optimisation, all of which helped tremendously in the formulation of my current writing style.

On that note, keep your eyes peeled for a breakdown of how I plan and create blog content in the coming months.

Disclaimer: not me, but basically me.

Blogging: Check your practice

You might say that I got these writing gigs when the stars aligned and, to an extent, that is true. However much luck played its part, I also did everything that I could to make these opportunities happen.

While you wait for (or go out of your way for) these opportunities to arise, don’t stop blogging. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve fallen off the blogging band wagon, but by writing somewhat consistently, I’ve consistently been improving my craft. I’ve also shown my commitment to creating content that I’m proud of, which someone in need of a freelancer will see as vital in a good writer.

Don’t forget that, if it wasn’t for my work on HardlyHamilton, the internship interviewer never would have thought twice about contacting me regarding their partner’s business. No matter how demotivated not getting paid work may be, do yourself a favour, and never stop blogging.

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