How to Become a Freelance Writer in South Africa

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1. Hustling during a Pandemic

With job losses looming and businesses closing left, right, and center (thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic) the working world is currently uncertain and volatile.

jobs

Permanent jobs are scarce and will become even more scarce. 


Many employers are moving away from offering permanent employment, as they're forced to find more affordable ways to do business. 


With that said, hiring permanent employees will soon be a thing of the past with Freelancers set to take over. 


This is wonderful news for budding entrepreneurs who want to earn a living as freelance writers. 


The time has never been sweeter to make the most out of a bad situation.

1.1. “Gig economy”

Gig economy

Many South Africans will have to come to terms with “the new normal” and must stop relying on permanent jobs with perks to make a living.


If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that thinking inside of the box is antiquated. Surviving post-Corona will require us to think big, become self-reliant, and hustle


Our ailing economy, massive debt levels, and corruption are making it even harder to find employment.

But, It’s not all gloom and doom.


Ever hear the saying that every cloud has a silver lining? 


Freelance writing is fantastic because it gives you the freedom to work your own hours and determine your own salary. 


It's a job that will never go out of fashion or be made redundant by artificial intelligence (take that robots!), and it's a skill that’s highly in demand


There’s never been a better time to get started in the industry.

 

Earn Euros and Dollars instead of ZAR? 


I’d take that any day!


This article will shed some light on how to become a freelance writer, what it takes, and how you can get started.

2. Getting Started

How to start as a freelance writer

Being a freelance writer is a massively rewarding and fulfilling job, but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns.


It’s hard work and can be competitive because you’re competing against a global talent pool.


Nevertheless, there are tons of writing gigs and definitely enough to go around, so you’ll soon be typing away merrily and filling your pocket.


The best advice you can get when looking at becoming a freelance writer is to think of yourself as a business


You are no longer just you, but “You — Inc.”

Me, Inc

Your knowledge, talents, and fingers are now your biggest assets. 


These are your business tools that will get investors to start investing in you.


Like any startup, you have to find a way to beat the competition. 


Find your niche in the marketplace and have an edge that is going to set you apart from the rest.


A huge benefit of becoming a freelance writer is that there is no huge cost involved to get started. 


All you’ll need is internet access and a laptop or desktop.

2.1. Baby steps

Thanks to the digital age, the internet has made it easier to become freelancers. 


Print media is on life support. 


When was the last time you bought a copy of a magazine?


Exactly!


The decline in traditional printed media (magazines and newspapers) has opened the playing field to writers around the globe.


It’s never been easier to find work but, also, but, it’s also never been as competitive.

 

The internet constantly fuels the need for fresh new content and with this comes plenty of freelance writing opportunities.


So, with that said, let's take a look at the online world of freelance writing and how you get out there.

2.2. Sell yourself. Get online

Sell yourself! 

Sell yourself

Make a portfolio or website of your work to showcase what you are capable of.


It’s cheap and sometimes even free to do this by using software like systeme.io, Wix, or WordPress

systeme.io logo

systeme.io logo

A website is nothing without content, so whatever you choose, spend time thinking about your brand name, the look and feel of your site, and your unique selling propositions.

 

Make sure your grammar and spelling are on point and include images, links, and photos if you have any. 



Don’t be shy to include any compliments or testimonials you’ve received.


Share and advertise your portfolio on social media


Your portfolio might very well cross the path of someone who’s looking for a writer.

3. Landing gigs

writing fast

Thankfully, to become a great freelance writer, you won’t need to have the name of big publishing houses or agencies behind you. 


Many of the most successful and best-known businesses are remotely based with no office premises.

3.1. What websites hire freelance writers?

Thanks to Google and Bing, finding top freelance writing sites is easy. 


While some sites let you jump straight in and advertise your services (Fiverr, PeoplePerHour.com) others require you do a skills test (usually timed) before you can get started, for example, Upwork or Copify


Freelance writing sites are often places where you'll pick up lower-paid jobs but at a higher frequency than you would by approaching people directly. 


This is a good starting point because it allows you to work, earn money, and find your feet.


There’s no such thing as a bad gig when you’re getting paid. 


Starting small is the best way to go. 


As you gain experience and get the hang of writing, you'll start landing higher-paying jobs.

 

Wordstream hit the nail on the head with their quote, ‘Job boards are like cattle calls. A bunch of generic postings looking for generic work from generic writers. Therefore, they’re only willing to pay generic amounts.’ 


People Per Hour offer varied work and long-form content and others like Copify offer short and sweet product descriptions and SEO work.


Sites like Textbroker let you claim assignments from a job board and let you set your price for private clients. 


The work is slim pickings though, as jobs get snapped up before you’ve even had a chance to log in. 


Each platform attracts a different kind of client, so it'll be up to you to trial and error a few before you commit.

4. Asking for business 

Another way of getting business is, of course, reaching out and asking for it! Market yourself on social media and keep your eye out for opportunities.


If you aren’t sure who to look for, www.whopayswriters.com is a great resource for finding a publication’s rates.

 

LinkedIn is the hunting ground for people who are looking for writers, so be sure to set up a google alert to monitor companies, magazines, or blogs that you would like to work for.

 

Use online classifieds such as Gumtree to look for gigs. 


Many writers have found great-paying jobs by replying to adverts posted on Gumtree.

 

Just like your portfolio or website which promotes your strengths, getting more jobs is sometimes more about sales than it is about writing — and the most important thing you're likely to write is your pitch.

 

So, how can you write compelling copy that gets you hired?

 

Write a pitching email that explains your rates, what you can do, and your suggestions for the types of articles or content items that would greatly benefit their business and bring in profit.

 

Always be polite, be relevant, and proof your grammar and spelling


There’s nothing more off-putting or embarrassing than sending out an email with grammatical or spelling errors, especially if you’re a writer.

5. Know your strengths and weaknesses

Writers are adaptable and versatile creatures


But, it’s very difficult to be ‘all things to all men’. 

 

You might be inspired by novels, love long-form content, and be able to describe something with the perfect adjective.


You’ll naturally have the niche that you'll want to work with as a freelance writer. 


Let your interests inspire and guide you.


The most important USP you will have as a freelance writer is to know what you are capable of.


There will be a niche you can offer, you just need to find it.

5.1. Writing for the digital world

Businesses are becoming more digitally savvy, and for many companies, hiring a full-time person to write their ads, schedule their social media content, or write blogs is just not worth it. 


That’s where you'll come in to “fill the gaps”.


Boost your skills and become even more in demand by growing your technical “web strengths”.

 

If you’re looking at online writing, it’s a good idea to study the art of SEO content writing.


This type of writing is in high demand, and you’ll always land work if you go in this direction.

6. Summary

this is for the writers

In short, nowadays becoming a freelance writer is all about picking up as many writing opportunities as you can and equipping yourself with the knowledge and strengths to stand out in the marketplace.


Learn as much as you can about writing for different platforms and media types — magazine article writing for an established publication will need a different tone, structure, and style to writing for a blog or social media. 


Scriptwriting for video and audio content will also require a different set of skills.

 

Make yourself appealing as a writer but also show prospective employers that you're an asset.


At first, it may be hard to crack into — but when you make it, there’s no more satisfying work!

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