How to Become A Freelance Writer

I’m a journalist who works as a freelance writer, and I often get asked how I got started? How I get work? And what advice I have on how to become a freelance writer?

Here’s my story:

After working as a news reporter for a decade in several different markets, in early 2017 I started thinking about what I wanted to do before my contract in Hawaii was about to expire. Working and living on the North Shore of Oahu is a dream, but I always had a passion for travel, and I wanted to see the world and learn about new cultures.  I knew I wanted to work while I was traveling and since I am a journalist, freelance writing seemed like an ideal fit.

(I am currently traveling in Central America but please keep in mind that although writing gives me the flexibility to earn money while I’m traveling, I also use money I saved while I was working a full-time job.)

How I got started:

1. Reach out to your network.

I can’t stress this enough! Use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or any network to connect with people who are doing what you want to do. I posted the message below on my Facebook page and not only did I realize that I had friends who were searching for the same advice, I found out that there were a lot of people cheering me on, and I also discovered new leads on a few places where I could get started.

February 2017 facebook post.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

There are so many Facebook groups that you can join that offer tips on blogging, business, and travel. Get involved! Use Pinterest for ideas.  If you still don’t see any opportunities within your network, be persistent and keep searching until you find an opportunity that works for you.

2. Write. Write. Write.

As a writer, there is always another story to be told and another deadline. Whether it’s a story about how an entrepreneur hit success, contributing a blog post for this fashion app, or writing blog posts for my travel website, I always have something to write.

If you don’t have any writing samples, write a blog post or find a topic you are interested in and start writing about that.

I also spend a lot of time reading the news, books and magazine articles to stay informed. From time to time I go through phases where I don’t want to write, and I would prefer to go out and explore whatever new country I’m in or hang out with my friends… but the bottom line is – if you don’t work, you don’t get paid! (I recently scaled back on assignments, so I could enjoy my time in Central America.)

At first, I was hesitant to reach out to companies to find work since I didn’t have a writing portfolio.  I started out by emailing a few friends who worked as writers to get advice. They connected me with their friends who offered valuable information about the business and getting started.

The best advice I ever received – never write for free!  

You wouldn’t work at a restaurant, department store or TV station for free, so why would you write for free?

3. How to pitch.

I know writers who will write about anything, but I prefer to write about things that I can learn about or that interest me.
I also keep my email posted on all my social media sites, so people know how to reach me. Every day I go through about a dozen pitches in my inbox about a variety of things. I keep in contact with PR companies I have worked with and make sure they know what types of stories I’m looking to write.

I’ve been working with HER magazine since May 2017, and I’ve written dozens of articles and three cover stories. HER Mag’s mission is to empower women and entrepreneurs, and I love that.

When I’m pitching a story, I do my research to make sure they haven’t recently published an article on the topic I’m proposing.  I also make sure I’m very clear on what the angle is going to be, how long it will be, who I will be interviewing and how many hi-res images I will include. In my experience, most people or companies you are writing about will provide the photos for you.

I never write any articles, before the pitch is approved. If I’m contributing to another outlet, I make sure to also adjust to their style and needs.

4. Be passionate about what you want to do.

I would say about 90% of my friends know that I love to travel. Whenever there is a contest looking for travel writers, or a job opportunity for writers, I will usually get a few emails in my inbox about these opportunities. They don’t send me job postings for food writers, because as much as I love food… that’s not my thing. When you are passionate about what you want to do, people take notice. If you’re going to do something, don’t waste time only dreaming about it, get out there and find a way to make it happen!

Start a dream board, manifest it, and don’t let a few no’s get in your way.

5. Find a Mentor and Mentor Someone Else.

I have a friend who doesn’t like helping others for free, especially people she doesn’t know. She is an excellent writer and is always busy working on new projects. She has worked extremely hard to get to where she is and doesn’t appreciate someone sending her a message asking her to “pick her brain” or what she did to get to where she is.

I get her point, but I have a hard time saying no to people who ask for my advice.  I enjoy helping others and I also enjoy seeking advice. I look for ways to expand my list of mentors, so I don’t burn any of them out with too many questions. When I reach out to someone for advice, I make sure to check when it is convenient for THEM to talk and I keep the sessions short.

Everybody is super busy with their lives, and I’m happy to share advice, but I also value my time and my mentor’s time. I have mentors who help me in all walks of life, and I make sure to let them know when something they have shared with me is working!

I hope this post helps you on your journey to becoming a freelance writer. If you have any feedback or suggestions that you think might be helpful for others, go ahead and leave a comment below and I’ll add it to this post.

Follow my current travel journey in Central America on Instagram!
Check out my writing portfolio here.

With aloha,
Alex

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Comments

  1. Edgar Teran says:

    I met you when you were at kron in San Francisco . I am proud of you of what you are doing. Life is a river getting wider. Don’t be afraid of changes. The great inventors risk it all

    1. alexcerball says:

      Hi Edgar, Thank you so much for reaching out! I imagine one day I’ll go back to reporting on TV, but for now, I’m having a really great time traveling and writing!

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