Successful freelance writing is about more than the ability to write, or your command of a language. Writing platforms, content mills, and job boards are full of writers, and there is stiff competition for almost all decent writing jobs.
If you want to get better opportunities, work with better clients, and earn more money as a freelance writer, you need to stand out from the crowd.
Here are some strategies writers can use to differentiate themselves.
Basic Strategies to Differentiate Yourself as a Writer
When you are first starting out as a freelance writer, just getting those first few jobs, building a portfolio, and practicing your craft may keep you busy for a while.
Over time, you will need to find your niche, to give you a competitive advantage for the clients or projects that suit you best.
Here are some simple strategies to differentiate yourself as a freelance writer:
- Have a unique voice or style. Making strong style choices and developing a distinctive voice can be a great way to stand out from other writers. Finding your own voice is a great way to develop your own following, and works well for blogging, personal essays, reviews and reactions, and social media content.
There is always the risk that some potential clients won’t like your style, since many brands want writing that reflects their style and voice, rather than theirs. But depending on your writing business and objectives, creating a distinctive style is a great way to stand out.
- Leverage your platform. If you participate in a freelance writing platform, it’s always important to get as much value from the platform as possible. Most platforms have some form of a profile page, along with reviews, ratings, and feedback.
Take the time to curate your profile on these sites, with customized profiles and bios and work samples tailored to that platform and the kinds of work available. Actively participate in the rating and review process, in any forums or discussion boards, and seek positive feedback on the platform. These platforms often have algorithms that give successful writers more visibility in searches or suggested project matches, so the time you spend positioning yourself on the platform will pay off.
- Leverage your network. If you don’t already have a network within the writing community, spend some time building one. Find fellow writers on online forums, social media networks, or community groups. These networks can be a great way to share tips and tricks, talk about marketing strategy and project rates, and build a strong reputation for yourself.
- Specialize your services. Specialization is arguably the best way to differentiate yourself, no matter what your marketing strategy is. Specializing in a specific type of writing, a certain subject area, or specialized writing techniques helps you stand out from other writers, and more quickly connect with the clients and projects that are the right fit for you.
Advantages of Specialization for Freelance Writers
Choosing a specialization as a freelance writer does more than simply differentiate you from other writers. It has a lot of very specific advantages for your writing business, both in the short term and the long term. Here are just a few reasons to specialize.
- Streamlines your marketing approach. When you have a clear specialization, it makes your marketing much more clear and effective. It streamlines the process of writing your bios and profiles, helps you build a targeted portfolio, and saves time. When you can summarize your specialty in a sentence (“I’m a freelance writer specialized in web marketing for small business” for example), it helps potential clients more quickly understand what you do and the services you offer.
- Helps target the right projects and clients. A freelance writing specialty can help you narrow down your search results to find the right jobs, projects, and clients for you. It can also help potential clients narrow down writer profiles and find yours more quickly.
- Focuses your development process. When you have a specialty, it’s easy to identify the skills you need to develop, trends to watch, and areas for greater research. In between paying projects, spend your time pursuing those avenues so that you can stay on top of the industry, and always know the latest facts, trends, and standards your clients need. Advanced skills and knowledge help you increase your rates by offering your expertise as well as your writing ability. You may even pursue education and certification to demonstrate mastery of your chosen subject.
Examples of Freelance Writer Specializations
There are as many areas to specialize in as there are freelance writers, but here are a few examples:
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Content
- Technical Writing
- Specialized marketing services (SEO, email, B2B, etc)
- Subject matter expertise (travel, health and fitness, designer goods, etc)
In other words, for every type of writing there is, you can make it your niche and your specialty.
How to Choose a Freelance Writing Specialization
Some writers choose a specialization, some have their specialization thrust upon them. When you are considering which specialization to choose, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Identify an opportunity. Use job listings, project descriptions, and client searches to identify popular specialties and the potential demand.
- Look to create added value. For example, if you write about travel, consider including images with your content. If you offer SEO writing, consider adding keyword research. Most specialties have an opportunity to expand your service offerings with related skills, add value for your clients, and increase your rates.
- Leverage your existing skills and experience. If you have a degree in a non-writing related subject, can you use your education to add value to your writing? If you have work experience in certain industries, can you include information and perspectives most freelance writers don’t have access to? If you happen to be an expert on rare butterflies or the 1970s punk music scene, can you build a career writing about it?
- Build connections. The more specific your niche, the easier it will be to find the community that cares about it. Use LinkedIn groups, Reddit forums, social media, or your personal contacts to build connections in that specialization. Your network will help you find the clients and writing jobs that require your expertise.
How to NOT Be More Competitive as a Freelance Writer
There are dozens of ways to do it right. There are only a few ways to get it wrong. Don’t do these things:
- Don’t undermine your platform. Every job site, online forum, content mill, etc, will have terms of service that protect them and their business model. While some of these systems seem lopsided, benefitting clients more than writers, many many freelance workers rely on these sites for access to the jobs and income they need. if you don’t like a platform, leave it and join another. Don’t undermine the terms of service or circumvent the rules.
- Don’t sabotage other writers. In a competitive situation, try to be fair and respectful of the work of other writers. Sabotaging others doesn’t increase your chances of success.
- Don’t underbid your rates. In your quest to differentiate yourself, don’t go down the path of pricing your writing services more cheaply than others. The hyper-competitive marketplace already makes it difficult for writers to earn a fair living wage, and every writer who underbids projects makes the problem worse. While some potential clients will protest and ask you to lower your rate, stick to reasonable prices and support the global community.
Many people start a freelance writing career with little more than native language proficiency and a willingness to write.
Over time, choosing a specialization can help writers differentiate themselves from each other. Increasing their chances of connecting with clients and projects that utilize their unique skills and experience, making it easier to stand out from the crowd, deliver more value on every project, and command higher rates for your time.
Choosing a niche is the natural way to grow your freelance writing work into a business.