5 Things You Can Do to Position Yourself as a Professional Writer — TODAY!
If you’re ready to flip the switch from a beginning writer and attract your ideal clients, then there’s good news to share: Positioning yourself as a professional is actually much easier than you might think.
First, it takes an understanding of what makes a professional … well, a professional.
And next, you need to know how to present yourself to clients in a way that showcases your writing expertise and talents.
In this article, we break down exactly what it means to be a professional writer, and share an easy five-step professional makeover to ignite your well-paid freelance writing career.
Why Professional Writers Are in High Demand
When you’re just starting your freelance writing career, it’s natural to assume that it’s hard to make money as a writer.
But this assumption is completely wrong. AWAI has been teaching people how to make good money as professional writers for over 25 years, and all those years, the demand for writers has consistently grown.
The truth is there are countless opportunities available to make an excellent income as a freelance writer. Take a look at our Copywriting Pricing Guide and you’ll see there are at least 80 different in-demand writing projects that marketers use on a regular basis, from website banner ads and blog posts to press releases and emails.
And along with those projects, you’ll see that each pays handsome fees anywhere from $500 to $10,000. That’s because companies recognize the value these projects bring to their businesses, so they expect to pay writers professional, top fees to complete them.
Without copy and content, businesses would cease to exist. They need a constant supply of fresh emails, articles, sales pages, social media posts, and other key writing projects to keep their marketing efforts working.
Companies both large and small are looking for a good return on investment (ROI) from all of their marketing campaigns and efforts, and that includes paying a professional freelance writer to create new pieces of content. Businesses know that the content a professional writer will produce is much more likely to have a higher ROI than content rushed off by someone much cheaper.
This is why many companies actively want to work with professional writers who know their craft and can deliver top-notch results with their writing.
What Makes a Professional a Professional?
For a quick definition, to be a professional means that a person is
“engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime” (emphasis added).
This simply means a professional writer is a writer who gets paid for their work rather than writing only as a hobby without seeking payment.
And there are many different ways to get paid as a writer. For instance, as a freelance writer you can get paid on a per-project basis. Or you can choose to be a freelance writer who focuses on recurring work or retainer agreements, where you write a certain amount of material for a client every month for a predetermined fee.
If you prefer a more permanent position, you can also work as a paid employee for a company. Many businesses hire in-house copywriters on a full-time or part-time basis. These permanent, staff positions may also include medical or other benefits.
You have a variety of options for how to get paid as a writer. But the fact you’re getting paid — and paid well — for your writing already means you’re a professional.
What Clients Look for in Professional Writers
Not knowing exactly what clients are looking for can feel a bit intimidating when you’re a new writer.
This feeling is understandable, because if you’ve never worked with a writing client before, then how do you know what they’re looking for in a writer?
But here’s what might surprise you to know. The most sought-after qualities in a writer are actually the same ones that would be expected of professionals in most other industries:
1. Proof of Expertise
If you have a formal degree or other certification, it’s very easy to prove your expertise in a particular field.
And this is true for professional writing as well. AWAI, as the premier company for training newbie writers, offers various courses and certifications in a wide range of writing specialties, from emails and case studies to blog posts and direct-response sales letters. To get an idea of the types of courses available, you can check out some of our writing programs.
Although having a degree or certification helps prove your expertise, your life experience also carries a lot of weight.
If you’ve worked in another industry before writing, you can use that experience as part of your credentials. For example, if you have a background in the renewable energy industry, companies involved in renewable energy would love to work with you. That’s because you already understand the industry and are familiar with how it works. This means companies don’t need to spend time training you on the industry.
Your hobbies and lifestyle are also important. For instance, if you have children, you know intimately what it’s like to be a parent. So, you could specialize in writing for companies that produce baby supplies, toys, or other children’s products.
When you’re approaching a potential client, all you need to do is explain why you’re qualified to write the content they need completed. It doesn’t matter where you got those qualifications, as long as it’s clear you have expertise in your field.
2. Proof in Ability
A potential client wants to know whether you can do the job. They’re looking for proof of your ability to write whatever it is they need written.
This doesn’t mean you need a mountain of published writing samples to show them. We’ll discuss how to develop a portfolio of writing samples later in this article, but keep in mind that any example of your writing can provide proof of your writing skills.
A well-written LinkedIn profile will highlight your writing ability, as will your writer’s website. You can also share any writing you’ve done in a previous career, for an organization you volunteer with, or as a hobby.
And some potential clients may ask you to write something original specifically for them as part of a job application.
There are many ways to show a potential client that you can deliver the writing projects they’re looking for.
Being dependable has nothing to do with your writing ability. This is simply a personal attribute that you can easily demonstrate in your professional communications.
An excellent way to show your dependability is in the way you follow up with a potential writing client. For example, if you tell them you’ll deliver a proposal by a certain day, make sure you send it to them by that date. Or — better yet — submit it earlier.
And if a company contacts you for more details about your services, be sure to respond to them promptly with all the information they need.
Taking steps like these will show a potential client that you can be counted on if they choose to work with you.
4. Professional Behavior and Communication
This is another personal quality you can demonstrate in a practical way as you reach out to potential clients.
You’re likely already familiar with professional communications in some way. Maybe you’re a high school student who’s applied to a college or university. You could be a parent looking for a day care for your child. Or you might have worked in customer service.
These are all times when you’ve needed to be professional in the way you communicate with others. And it’s no different when you’re approaching potential writing clients.
Always be courteous and polite. And remember that the person you’re dealing with is likely very busy, so be respectful of their time and keep your communications friendly but to the point.
Also, remember to apply this to all your professional communications, including social media, email, phone, or in-person interactions.
5 Steps to Position Yourself as a Professional Writer
Now that you know what writing clients are looking for, it’s time to get ready to position yourself as a professional writer.
The following steps will help you start marketing yourself as a professional writer.
Step 1: Update Your Mindset
Do you think of yourself as a professional?
If not, it’s time to shift gears.
As we discussed in the last section, you already have proof of some kind of expertise. Whether it’s a formal certification, life experience, or personal knowledge, you’re already an expert in at least one subject. And, more than likely, in many different subjects.
In addition, you can assemble some proof of your writing skills fairly quickly (as we’ll detail in the next section), and you’re most likely already dependable and communicate professionally.
So, what more do you need to start calling yourself a professional?
The only thing missing — if you don’t have one yet — is a paying client. But if you follow the steps we’re laying out here, it’s only a matter of time until you receive your first paycheck.
Consider another professional for a moment, such as a dentist. Once they finish their formal dentist training and start their professional practice, they don’t announce to potential patients that they’re new and practicing dentistry for the first time.
Instead, there’s a point where they have to start viewing themselves as a full-fledged, professional dentist. They learned the skills they need to be a dentist during their training, and they are now ready to start taking on patients.
It’s no different with writing. You already have the skills to start writing professionally. Yes, you will improve your skills over time. But you know enough now to start calling yourself a professional and getting paid to write.
Step 2: Update Your LinkedIn Profile
Of all the ways you can find potential clients, we’ve seen more AWAI members have success by using LinkedIn than any other method.
LinkedIn is a respected platform where professionals from nearly all industries can connect with each other. You can easily set up a profile for yourself on LinkedIn for free. Or if you already have a profile, consider giving it a tune-up.
Make sure you include a professional headshot and clear description of what you do. For example, this is Pam Foster’s (AWAI’s learning chief’s) LinkedIn profile:
As you can see, Pam also does freelance writing work in addition to her learning chief position at AWAI. Her byline clearly states exactly what she specializes in as a writer, and she provides more detail in her About section.
The best part about LinkedIn is that it’s so easy to start using. You don’t need to set up your own website or handle any “tech” details. Simply enter your basic information on LinkedIn, and you’re ready to start connecting with potential clients.
For more details on how to start building your LinkedIn network and finding clients, client acquisition specialist Ilise Benun shares her best strategies in our free webinar LinkedIn Now: Best Practices for Getting Great Writing Clients.
Ilise also created the 21-Day Challenge to help writers find their ideal clients. The 21-Day Challenge is included in the AWAI Method™, our flagship copywriting course that shows you how to write five of the most in-demand writing projects and launch your copywriting business.
Step 3: Create Business Materials
You can easily present yourself as a professional in all the business materials you use to promote yourself.
Make sure your email signature and business cards state that you’re a professional writer, and include a link to your writer’s website or LinkedIn profile.
And start gathering or creating some writing samples for a professional portfolio of your work.
Now, this doesn’t have to be difficult … You are a writer, after all. There’s a good chance you already have some writing samples you can use.
To start with, your LinkedIn profile or writer’s website are living samples of your writing.
You can also try any or all of these approaches to build a portfolio of writing samples:
- Use writing projects you’ve completed as part of writing courses. For example, AWAI’s writing courses all include writing assignments in some form, where you get to practice the skills being taught in the course. Any of these completed projects can be used as samples.
- Gather writing samples you’ve done previously for professional or volunteer work.
- Offer to write a project for someone you know for free. This gives them something they can use, and you get a writing sample — a win-win for both of you.
- If you know the types of clients you’ll be targeting, write some samples appropriate for them. For example, if you’re going to be looking for clients who are massage therapists, write an e-newsletter or some sample articles that relate to massage therapy.
Your samples don’t have to be elaborate. But they do have to show that you can write what your potential clients need.
For more suggestions on building a portfolio, check out our free webinar How to Create a Winning Portfolio of Samples If You’re Just Starting a Freelance Writing Career.
Step 4: Prepare for Conversations with Clients
One of the best ways to prepare for a conversation with a potential client is to arm yourself with knowledge.
Keep in mind that you may not actually speak to a potential client. Your first interactions may all be through email, but the process will be the same nonetheless.
First, if you’re approaching businesses in a certain niche or industry, learn all you can about that industry. Visit the websites of related professional associations and see what topics are being discussed. Read trade journals and magazines. And speak to people in the field by getting involved in relevant social media or in-person groups.
Also, take note of the types of writing that companies are using in your desired niche. You can find this out by visiting the websites of businesses you might be interested in working with. It’s also helpful to sign up for their email lists and read what they send you.
Getting familiar with your target industry will help you speak their language when it comes time to talk to potential clients.
Another important way to prepare is to get organized and set up some professional templates you can use, such as templates for the following:
- Project proposals
- Project terms of agreement
- New prospect intake checklists
- Creative briefs
- Fee schedule
You can prepare these templates on your own or save yourself time by getting AWAI’s Essential Templates for Your Copywriting Business, which provides fully editable and ready-to-use templates for nearly all business situations you’ll encounter.
If you have these ready before speaking to a potential client, you’ll be able to answer with confidence when they ask what your fees are or if you can submit a project proposal.
And if you need any help determining your fees, simply refer to AWAI’s Copywriting Pricing Guide. You can see which of the 80 projects listed in the guide you’re most likely to be working on and make a short reference sheet for yourself to have ready.
Barefoot Writer also has some good suggestions on how much a beginner freelance writer should charge.
But the biggest thing to keep in mind is that when you’re talking to a potential client, you’re simply having a conversation. Be yourself and ask honest questions about the person you’re talking to and their organization. Try to find out how you can help them and their business.
You don’t have to talk endlessly about yourself. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. Share your ideas and focus on how you could work with them to meet their business goals.
For more tips on preparing for your first conversations with clients, have a look at our free webinar A Potential Writing Client Contacted Me. Now What?!?.
Step 5. Write — Every Single Day!
There’s no better way to learn the craft of writing than by actually doing it.
Although it’s great to say you should write every day, many writers ask us, “What should I write?”
If you’re stuck for ideas of what to write each day, try writing any of the following:
- Samples for your portfolio, such as e-newsletters, emails, or other projects you’d like to find paying work for
- Copy for your website
- Blog posts or articles related to your niche
- Comments on social media platforms, either on your page or on someone else’s page
Another great way to start generating ideas for what to write about is to read or listen to audiobooks about writing, personal achievement, or any other topic that interests you. Exposing yourself to lots of different written material can often inspire some of your own big ideas.
And when you get those ideas — write them down!
Final Thoughts on Being a Professional Writer
Positioning yourself as a professional writer from the beginning can help you establish and grow your writing career much faster.
Potential clients will be able to see you as the professional that you are, who can help improve their ROI and move their business forward. And they’ll be willing to pay you professional fees to do it.
Presenting yourself as a professional isn’t difficult. All it takes is an understanding of what clients expect from professional writers and proving that you have what it takes to do the job.
If you’re ready to start your career as a well-paid copywriter, consider participating in our next Writer’s Launch Party. The party is a five-day, live event where we take you through practical, daily steps to become a professional writer, from setting up your LinkedIn profile to connecting with potential clients and beyond.
And we’ll be there to cheer you on the whole way!
The AWAI Method™ for Becoming a Skilled, In-Demand Copywriter
LinkedIn Now: Best Practices for Getting Great Writing Clients
Access the Inside AWAI archives here.