How to Become a Content Writer With No Experience
You see the job posts on social media feeds while you’re scrolling, and you’ve heard people say they’re “content writers.” You might wonder how to become a content writer with no experience?
Although you’re not 100% sure what that means, you know they can work from home (or anywhere) and don’t seem to leave their computers much. And you want in on that seemingly cush job.
The problem is, you don’t have any experience.
Well, if you can write and sound semi-coherent, the rest is trainable. To get the best paying jobs, though, you’ll have to put in the hours to learn how to write well.
(No, you can’t write good. That’s not grammatically correct, and knowing that is part of your soon-to-be job.)
Still, if you put in the effort and learn the ropes, the life of a content writer can be pretty incredible.
Aside from a workstation, a decent computer, and a strong WiFi connection, there’s not a hefty initial investment. You can work from anywhere in the world, and the demand for good writers is massive.
So how can you become part of the freelance writing niche club? Read on to learn all of the content writer secrets!
Know Your Stuff (or Learn It)
Freelance writing jobs are requested by clients who have a reason to need that content.
Almost exclusively, the primary target is to bring readers to the site first and inform them about the topic second.
To do this, you can’t simply create content out of thin air and expect it to reach thousands of readers. There’s a special system called an algorithm that search engines use to decide which sites show up in a user’s keyword query.
Chances are, you’ve heard of search engine optimization (SEO), keywords, hashtags, and terms like those. Each one is an integral component of an entire algorithm formula.
The more original and relevant parts a site has, the higher it ranks in a Google search for that query. Ultimately, the goal for every serious business is to make it to the coveted first page.
Unfortunately, if everyone knew what was involved in the formulas, it would be easy to subvert the system and cheat your way to the top ranks.
Google and other search engine developers understand this. They make it harder for these sketchy practices to occur by revamping the algorithms randomly.
Your job is to learn these ever-changing algorithms and merge the components seamlessly into the content you write.
These pieces include, at a minimum:
- SEO best practices
- Keyword research
- Including compelling headlines (don’t forget the H2, H3, and H4s)
- Differentiating between “content” and “copy” (there’s a distinct difference, and clients can ask for either or both)
In addition to your search engine specialization, your grammar and writing skills will have to be above average.
Grammarly is the go-to for verifying that your grammar, spelling, and sentence structure are correct.
Hemingway focuses more on readability and clearly written sentences. After all, if a reader struggles with understanding a long, complex paragraph, they’re probably going to skip it and head elsewhere.
But they need to be strong enough that you can engage in a written discussion with the person hiring you to write for them. You must know your to, two, and too’s and your you’re and yours.
Practice Makes Perfect
As “simple” as content writing sounds, let’s break it down into a realistic picture.
You wouldn’t expect to get hired as a doctor without having years of education and experience. No one wants a general contractor who doesn’t know how to plan and manage construction sites.
And it’s not unfair for your clients to expect to hire a content writer who has experience writing content.
Start Building Your Foundation of Skills
So, you’ll do what anyone trying to pick up a new trade or skill does.
Seek out a mentor, and become an apprentice of sorts to them. Ask for writing samples and assignments. Then, let them nitpick your work until you have a good idea of what a solid article or blog should include and what to avoid.
If you don’t have a mentor in your back pocket, one place to find them is at a web writing convention.
While you’re there, you’ll also learn about the differences between content and copywriting. (Spoiler alert: Content writing educates or entertains the audience; copywriting is strictly informative.)
Next, you can move into publishing your work online (even if you don’t share it with anyone).
Start your blog, or write articles and publish them on platforms like Medium. Talk to other bloggers in Facebook groups and ask about guest posting for their site (writing content that they post with your byline).
Ask to Take on Writing Assignments at Your Current Job
Are there any writing opportunities at your current place of employment? If so, volunteer to take them on for free or apply for the role if it’s an actual full-time job position.
It doesn’t hurt to let your employers know that you’re trying to better your writing skills. It can lead to a transition to writing positions.
You may be happy there for a while until you’re ready to make content writing a full-time gig.
Collect Referrals and Portfolio Work
Whichever way you choose to bring writing into your job, it’s all about building your network.
Eventually, when you branch out into a freelance writing career, you may have enough word-of-mouth referrals that you won’t need to do any additional work to get going; those alone can be your jumping-off point!
If nothing else, keep copies of what you write, minus the personal and company details. These will be great to have on hand when you start to build your writing portfolio later.
Seek Out Freelance Assignments
You’re ready to start making some extra money on this new adventure. Without experience, most writers find it easiest cold pitching their skills on gig platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.
Occasionally, new freelancers get lucky and connect with a client who wants a long-term writer.
Just in case that doesn’t happen to you, don’t give up. It’s perfectly normal to have a series of one-time customers, especially if you aren’t SEO-proficient.
It’s also not unusual to have a hard time getting people to hire you when you look like a beginner (because you are).
The Vicious Cycle of Trying to Get Experience Without Experience
The Catch-22 is this: how do you get writing experience if no one will hire you?
In this initial stage, you’re still in the learning process.
Go on platforms like Upwork and Freelancer and see what kind of jobs are out there. Then, write your sample assignments and run them through editing software.
Start the Bidding Process
As you get more proficient with writing (and avoiding plagiarism), you can create a profile on those platforms.
Bid on jobs where the client is okay with beginners for freelance work on low-budget articles.
They’ll tell you what they’re looking for regarding SEO purposes. In addition, you’ll pick up knowledge about preferred styles, headings, font, and other common requirements.
As you gain experience, branch out to other job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed. Business owners in need of website building make ideal freelance writing clients.
If you get stuck, consider working with a recruiter who can help place you with the right freelance contracts.
Some writers stick with the platforms they know and already use to make money. If you’re content writing content for clients on your current writer website, stay there! Bid on high-paying jobs as your comfort level and knowledge increase.
Know What to Avoid
The other part of the new writer freelance learning curve is recognizing what to avoid.
There will be tons of clients out there ready to underpay newbies for their skillset. They’ll try to offer you a penny per word, then critique your work as if they paid you a goldmine for it. After you finish the article and all the edits, you’ll have made a few cents per hour.
This kind of work is not okay. You’ll quickly end up overworked and underpaid.
You have skills, and your time is valuable. When you set your freelance contract rate, check the going fees charged by other freelancers with your skill level. Create a freelancer invoice if the platform you use does not handle the billing for you.
Don’t forget to include the platform’s fees, if any, so you net at least what you need to make the job worth your while.
Watch Out for Scams and Lowballers
Scams are everywhere, including the world of writing gigs. Before you accept a job, review the types of scams from people preying on freelance writers in particular.
Warning flags in a job post will use words like “rapidly growing company” or “interns.” Also, unpaid “test” posts are not acceptable. You did the work, so you should be paid, even if they don’t hire you.
One more thing: Stay away from content mills. They sound tempting, especially if you’re desperate. But these sites make their money by charging clients a higher rate and paying very low rates to freelancers.
Know Your Worth
In short, you are worth more than a few cents paid for hours’ worth of work.
Yes, there are tons of freelance writing jobs for beginners that won’t pay too much.
The difference between those types of content jobs and content mills or scams is that the new clients know they’re not getting top-quality work from you yet.
As you grow, you’ll learn how to be smart about the assignments and organizations you write for (and how they impact potential clients’ perceptions of you).
Don’t be tempted by low-paying gigs that require a lot of time and effort and aren’t worth the low pay. Ghostwriting, white papers, and spinning content into WordPress are not worth the hassle.
Aim for online writing gigs just outside your comfort level. That way, you’ll continue to grow a little bit with each assignment until you’re a successful freelance writer.
If you love the freedom, flexibility, and writing gig, consider starting your website or writing a book to publish on Amazon.
When you’re ready to make writing a side hustle until you can quit your day job, there’s a learning curve involved. You’ll be picking up skills a little at a time until your freelance writing business is a lucrative, thriving success story.
Along the way, you’ll have the challenges every self-employed business owner does: legalities, insurance changes, and other typical hurdles.
Because you’re a small business owner, you have the opportunity to join Selfgood, a site designed exactly for what you need.
Selfgood’s all-in-one app has all the resources to help you become a profitable content marketing and writing freelancer. You work on getting your first client, and Selfgood will be there supporting you every step of the way!
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