How One Writer Created a Freelance Career in Two Weeks
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Freelance writers on the fast track to successBy Laura Reagan-Porras

I was a newbie freelance writer with only regional parenting publications for clips.

Then, I had two big realizations that allowed me to move forward and find better pay — fast.

Realization #1: I dropped the notion that a legitimate freelance writing career only involved querying to national magazines.

Realization #2: I realized I had limited myself by not capitalizing on an area of expertise.

What did I do with these realizations? I changed the course of my career by taking action right away. I focused on LinkedIn to build my online presence and spotlight my expertise in writing about social issues.

Step 1: I revised my LinkedIn profile

I started by adding clips to my profile. LinkedIn allows you to do this in a few clicks.

Then I rewrote the summary section on my LinkedIn profile directly to potential clients.

And, I did this all in one evening.

Step 2: I researched and pitched

I started by using old-fashioned email to introduce myself to a national nonprofit blogger I found.

I sent her my resume so she could see my social sector experience and I invited her to review my new LinkedIn profile that had my description and services as a writer along with my newly posted clips. Then I simply asked if she would consider me for freelance work on non-profit topics.

She emailed me the next day and offered me a gig. I was ecstatic!

Step 3: I used LinkedIn to pitch locally

Next I pitched a local online newspaper. I found the editor on LinkedIn and asked him to be a connection. Then I sent him a message through Linked In and asked about his social sector section, which had not shown much new activity lately.

I told him that I was beginning to do freelance writing, in addition to consulting with my firm for nonprofits. I asked if he had anyone updating his social sector section. He said, “No.” I asked if I might do it. He said, “Sure!”

We met the next week to negotiate the details.

Step 4: I let LinkedIn bring a client to me

The vice president of our local university — a former colleague and LinkedIn connection already — saw my new profile replete with clips and asked if I would be interested in a regular monthly gig writing her donor newsletter and stewardship letters to existing donors.

Of course, I said, “Yes!”

Inside of two weeks, I had three “anchor clients” for my freelance writing business. Two came from my local network, one from a national blog.

It was amazing how the universe opened up when I hung my online shingle as a social issues and social sector freelance writer.

I have a long way to go. But I resisted my perfectionism and sent my first query to a national magazine.

In the meantime, I am breathing deeply, trying to allow the reality to sink in. My dream has come true — I am a full-time freelance writer.

What realizations changed the course of your career? Tell us in the comments below.

Laura Reagan-Porras is a social issues freelance writer. With previous experience as a clinical sociologist and nonprofit manager, Laura has written for regional magazines and nonprofit and private organizations.

Freelance writing success

35 comments on “How One Writer Created a Freelance Career in Two Weeks

  1. Vivienne Johnson on

    I never understood the power of networking until I became a freelance writer 3 months ago and was encouraged to use Linkedin. I too have received quite a bit of work through Linkedin.
    I also want to say that local is fantastic. I freelance 2 days a week now for a magazine and website that only circulates to the South of England. The research and interviews that I do for the local magazine are sometimes suitable to have a new slant put on and sent to a larger circulation publication. This is now starting to pay off and I have had 3 and 4 articles out of 1 interview on a few occasions.
    Very inspiring article, thank you

  2. Nicky LaMarco on

    Laura,

    This is truly inspiring, and shows that when you specialize you win. I teach my students at Get Paid to Write: Become a Freelancer on WOW Women on Writing this. You must choose your niches and your specializations. It helps you narrow down your expertise and shows potential clients where you stand. Well done!
    Nicky LaMarco recently posted…Grow Your Business with a Client ListMy Profile

  3. Lisa Jahn on

    This is a wonderful article! I like the steps you have laid out. Also your ability to take risks is important to note as is the fact that you “ask!” So many times opportunities pass by people because they do not ask.

  4. Shauna L Bowling on

    Laura, what an amazing and inspiring success story! I have a LinkedIn profile and belong to several groups there. One thing I haven’t done is add my LinkedIn URL to my cards or my email signature. I can see how that would be beneficial, especially when emailing potential clients. I will make that change today!
    Shauna L Bowling recently posted…The Poop on Composting ToiletsMy Profile

  5. Rob on

    I think it’s time for me to rethink LinkedIn. I’ve never really given it a chance. Your story inspires me to try. Thanks!

    ps: now I have to go back to school and relearn arithmetic. I actually got the wrong answer the first time I tried to submit!!!
    Rob recently posted…The Best Thanksgiving Newsletter EverMy Profile

  6. Matt Blake on

    Congrats, Laura!

    Taking that step out and just pitching yourself is huge toward getting started. Too many people expect that the work is going to find them, and while that might be true once you are established, it takes a ton of ‘hustle’ to get off the ground as a freelance anything! Way to find your niche (that is key) and get out there and make it happen!

    Way to go!

    Matt Blake

  7. karenbissenden on

    I’m just poking my toe in. But the key comment there, for me, was “giving up my perfectionism.” I helped to edit/proof a non-profit newspaper last week and realized that the monthly columnists were not perfect, but they were still accepted by an accomplished editor. I went out this week and found a job locally. 🙂

    • Carol Tice on

      Why avoid LinkedIn? I always say if you’re only going to do one form of social media it should be LI. It’s the only platform where everyone there is strictly business — we’re all there to promote our businesses and find connections and clients, and it’s understood and not considered pushy.

      Also, you can spend about 5 minutes a WEEK on LI and it’s just fine — it’s the least demanding social media arena timewise. And you will be amazed at who might find you on there.

    • Rebecca on

      David, just this morning I sent a LinkedIn InMail to someone who had posted a part-time content writer position, asking if they would consider working with me under contract instead. We have a phone call scheduled for this afternoon! LinkedIn is worth your time!

      • Carol Tice on

        I LOVE the job ads on LinkedIn — I got a great $1 a word gig at one point pitching a full-time job posting editor and asking if they needed help while they made the hire. One of my favorite techniques. Sometimes companies just don’t realize they could outsource it instead, and once they do, they’re thrilled. And in any case, full-time writer hires take 6-12 months in my experience, so meanwhile they need help.

        And LI’s job ads are PAID, so it’s all quality companies with real budgets.

  8. Tanya Adams on

    Wow, Laura! I am really impressed and inspired. I am just beginning marketing after setting up my website. My next step is updating my LinkedIn profile. To me even your regional clips are spectacular. I have very, very old clips (ancient) from years ago. Do you think something like that would be okay to post on my LinkedIn?
    Tanya Adams recently posted…Are Promotional Items Effective?My Profile

    • Laura Reagan-Porras on

      I think it depends on how “ancient” the clips are. I like Carol’s take on thinking about writing samples in addition to clips. Your guest blog posts or any marketing pieces you have done for clients can serve as a way to showcase your work, tone and professionalism. Note that I also included a reference to an operation manual for a dropout prevention program I wrote in my Linked In Profile. The summary section of your Linked In Profile can be an important writing sample directed to potential clients also. After working with Carol, I re-worked mine with the focus of gaining clients.

  9. Erica on

    Way to go Laura! Well done.

    Coming from a corporate environment, I had to realize that I’m now in charge of looking out for my own best interests and career. Wherever that takes me, it’s up to me to make sure my bills are paid and my work/life balance is maintained.

    I also had to realize that yes, I’m going to make mistakes. And that’s okay. Sally forth anyway.
    Erica recently posted…Thankful to be a writerMy Profile

  10. John Soares on

    Excellent Laura!

    I think too many writers focus on writing for big magazines, which usually have a lot of competition for very few writing assignments. There is a lot of work out there, and LinkedIn can be a great place to get it.

    I also refer potential clients to my LinkedIn profile. In fact, my business card emphasizes both my LinkedIn URL and my website URL.
    John Soares recently posted…Top Interview Tips for Freelance WritersMy Profile

  11. Casey on

    Go, Laura!

    This is inspiring–and it shows how taking action and reframing your situation can make a big difference in a short amount of time. Congratulations on a great beginning to your full-time writing career!

    For me, the career-changing realization came when I accepted that I was ready to commit to writing full-time, as opposed to writing as a side gig along with teaching and a dancewear design business. Once I focused on writing–and put my energy into learning from people like Carol–things took off.

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