Last Updated on: June 20th, 2017
Ali Luke is the “Freelancer In The Spotlight” today, as part of the F.I.T.S. (Freelancer In The Spotlight) Series on Wording Well.
She’s been freelancing for years, has created many wonderful things for writers and bloggers (including a membership site and some e-books), and is my special guest this week.
We’re lucky to have her here, and I would love it if you’d take a moment right now to show her some appreciation for being here by Tweeting the following message.
Now please welcome Ali Luke to center stage.
Take it away, Ali!
How Ali Got Involved in Freelance Writing
I started freelancing by accident. Six years in, I’m still going strong.
Back at the start of 2008, I’d launched a blog that – rather naïvely – I hoped would quickly gather hordes of readers and bring in loads of money.
Of course, the reality was a little different: it took me eleven months to get my first Google AdSense cheque from that blog.
But early on, I tried guest posting to get more traffic. The very first blog I wrote for happened to be looking for paid writers. I still remember how I felt when I got an email from the editor asking if I’d like to write a couple of posts a week for them, at $20 a post. I hadn’t even realized freelance blogging existed and – even though I charge a lot more these days – I was delighted by the money I could earn.
Of course, I was lucky. Freelancing jobs don’t normally appear in your inbox just like that (as I found over the next few months and years), but gradually, I built up my freelancing work, and was able to quit my day job about six months after getting that first paying gig.
Since then, I’ve added extra income streams, too – ones that don’t just get me paid per hour. I sell a series of Blogger’s Guide e-books and run a teaching/community site for writers, Writers’ Huddle. In the past, I’ve also worked one-on-one with writers as a coach, and run stand-alone e-courses.
The e-books I sell include The Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing, The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing, The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks, and The Blogger’s Guide to Loyal Readers. You can learn more about – and buy – these books by visiting Blogger’s Guides. Membership of Writers’ Huddle is just $19.99/month (paid via PayPal). There’s no minimum commitment: you can even join for a month, take advantage of all the existing content, and leave.
If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about some of the ways I’ve made money through writing, then head on over to my post How I Make My Living as an Online Writer (And How You Could Too).
Ali Luke’s Top 5 Freelancing Tips
Over the past six years of freelancing, I’ve definitely learned a few things – many of them the hard way!
Here are my top tips for freelancers:
1: Be Willing to Work for Free, Initially
This is perhaps a little controversial – some writers strongly believe you should never work for free – but my career would never have got off the ground without me doing some unpaid work.
When you’re just starting out, no-one knows who you are. They don’t know how good you are at writing (or editing, or proofreading).
By working for free, you can create two absolutely vital pieces of marketing material:
- A portfolio of “clips” – examples of work you’ve done previously. (It’s really handy if at least some of your initial work is online, so you can link to the full pieces.)
- A set of testimonials – even if you just have two or three from people you’ve done a bit of free work for, this is a great start.
So where do you find opportunities to write for free, for reputable companies or publications?
I began by working with small charities and with blogs – whatever your area of expertise, you’re sure to find some relevant blogs that would welcome guest contributions.
2: Look for Long-Term, Repeated Work
I’m personally not a fan of constantly pitching for new work and new clients, so in my freelancing, I’ve tried to focus on jobs that will last for months or even years.
Some freelancing gigs are one-off – like writing a single article for a magazine. Others are ones that you repeat week after week or month after month, and these might include having a magazine or newspaper column, writing for blogs (which require a steady stream of content), or working with clients who need consistent mentoring, editing or proofreading (e.g. they’re writing a book).
Of course, I’m not saying you should never take on individual, one-off jobs – but if you can make regular work your “bread and butter,” you’ll have a lot more security as a freelancer.
3: Have a Professional Web Presence
You don’t need a slick, expensive website – but you do need to come across as a competent professional. I’d say that a website is pretty much non-negotiable for freelancers these days: your clients will expect you to have some sort of web presence beyond a Facebook page or Twitter account.
Your website should:
- Look professional. If (like me) you’re definitely no designer, keep things simple and straightforward. Stick to one or two colours and one or two fonts – don’t try to get fancy. I recommend using self-hosted WordPress and buying a premium theme (usually $20 – $100). If you can’t afford that, there are lots of free WordPress themes available.
- Be complete. You should at least have a Home page, introducing yourself (or listing your latest blog posts, if you prefer), an About page giving more details, and a Contact page letting people know how to get in touch. You’ll almost certainly also want a Services page to let people know what you offer: you could include testimonials and clips here or on separate pages.
4: Have a Professional Email Address
I strongly recommend having an email address at your website domain (e.g. mine is email@example.com because my website is www.aliventures.com). Using your Hotmail or Yahoo address looks unprofessional, especially if you have a nickname rather than real name there.
5: Keep Costs Low and Keep Things Simple
When you start out as a freelancer, it’s easy to think that you need to buy all sorts of things to get your business up and running. Perhaps you’re thinking about a new computer, lots of business cards, leaflets to advertise your services, hiring an accountant, registering as a business…
Try to keep things as simple (and cheap!) as you can, to begin with. Chances are, you’ll find yourself refining and changing your services once you’ve had a few clients – and you don’t want to have to get all your business cards and leaflets reprinted.
Depending on where you live, you probably won’t need to spend a lot of time and money setting up your company as a full business. Here in the UK, for instance, I’m simply registered as a “sole trader” and this has been a really straightforward way to manage my freelancing.
Freelancing is a wonderful journey, and whatever stage you’re at, I hope it’s going well for you. I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below, and if you have any questions about anything I’ve said, just ask!
Check out the other freelancers in this series:
If you want to raise your freelancing rates, read How to Ask for a Raise (and Get One!) from your #Freelancing Client.
If you want to know why you should be gathering testimonials you can use on your website, read about The Power of Client Testimonials.
Ali Luke blogs at Aliventures, has been seen on many places on the web (including some top blogs!), and offers a free seven week e-course, On Track, for writers who want to get moving again with a big project – find out more about that here.