Whether you’re interested in journalism, content marketing, or anything in between, working as a freelance writer can be a fun and rewarding experience. Not only do you essentially get to work for yourself, but you also get to decide what you write and how much you charge for your work.
At the same time, however, the field is already quite saturated—with writing ranking as the third most popular freelancing task and comprising about 17% of the US and UK freelancing markets. As a result, the work can be quite competitive, and writers new to the field may have a hard time making a name for themselves.
If you’re looking to break into the freelance writing market, it’s not about just being good at what you do (though that’s important, too). Finding real success as a writer begins with branding yourself and setting yourself apart from your competition.
So, how can you do that?
1. Define Your Niche
Begin with a solid understanding of the type of writing you want to do. This might seem obvious to you, but it’s important to remember that you’re branding yourself for your potential clients. If you enjoy creative writing, for example, you’ll want to narrow down a genre that’s your specialty. If you’re into journalistic writing, what types of stories do you most enjoy covering? This is your niche.
From there, think about your target audience and what sets you apart from other writers within your niche. If you’ll be writing novels, your audience will be your readers. However, if you’re doing content marketing or blogging for small businesses, you’ll need to think about both your end-reader and the client for whom you’ll be writing.
Articulating what differentiates you from other writers in your niche can be challenging, but it’s important if you want to stand out. If you’re a content writer, for example, you might pride yourself on your quick turnaround times. If you’re a creative writer, you might tell stories from a unique point of view. Determine what makes your writing (or your approach to writing) different and take advantage of that in your branding.
2. Establish an Online Presence
Regardless of your niche in the writing world, you need to have a strong online presence to be successful these days. It’s really as simple as that. This means not only taking the time to build a website, but being active on social media and possibly even starting a blog.
Building a website might sound complicated (especially if you don’t have any firsthand graphic/web design experience), but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of free and inexpensive website builders, including WordPress, that make purchasing a domain and setting up a site quick and easy. On your website, be sure to include things like an “About Me” page, direct links to purchase your work (if applicable), and a way to contact you directly.
Many professional writers also choose to set up a blog directly on their websites. Blogging can be a great way to build a dedicated reader base while getting the word out about your up-and-coming projects. Just be sure to keep your blog updated with new posts on a regular basis; this will not only keep your readers engaged, but will help your branding and marketing efforts as well.
Finally, never underestimate the power of social media when it comes to branding yourself. Take time to set up accounts (if you haven’t already) on social media sites that your target audience is using most. This may include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn. Staying active on these platforms is a great way to engage with your audience while continuing to build your personal brand.
3. Create a Digital Portfolio
If you want people to pay for your work as an emerging writer, you’ll need to get comfortable with providing some free samples. Until your name and writing style are well-known, your potential readers/clients are going to want to get a feel for your writing before they decide to buy your book or hire you to write for them.
The best way to showcase your work? Building an online portfolio, which you can then include on your professional website. Your portfolio should include a sampling of your best work up to this point, whether it’s an article that was published in a newspaper or a sample of a short story that you recently wrote. You don’t necessarily have to include the entire piece in your portfolio, but be sure to include enough so that you reader can get a better feel for your writing style.
You’ll also want to be careful about digital rights and permissions when building an online portfolio. This is especially important if you’re a content writer who has sold your rights to your clients. Be sure that you have permission to claim ownership of the work, as it may have been published under a different name after your client purchased it from you.
Whether you’re just starting out as a writer or have some published work under your belt, building a portfolio and adding to it over time is so important. Don’t forget to revisit your portfolio and update it as your career takes off; this will ensure that your readers and potential clients always have access to your best and most recent work.
4. Design a Logo
You might think logos are only for commercial businesses—but that’s far from true. More often, writers are using logos to establish authority and build a successful brand image. Having a professional logo as a writer is also a great way to set yourself apart from your competition while demonstrating to your potential clients that you take your work seriously.
Not sure where to begin when it comes to designing a logo for yourself? Start by thinking back to your niche and what sets you apart. If you write children’s books, for example, you might want a logo that’s a little more fun and whimsical. If you do professional content writing for businesses, you’ll probably want something more professional and sophisticated.
Generally, it’s best to keep logos simple—meaning that you don’t use too many different colors or too much text. At the end of the day, your logo will be published not just on your website, but on your social media page, email signatures, business cards, and much more. A simple design will have the easiest scalability and will be versatile enough to work just about anywhere.
Still feeling overwhelmed at the idea of designing a logo for your brand? There are plenty of tools that can create a logo for you in a matter of minutes. Consider trying a logo maker first, especially if you don’t have any direct graphic design experience.
5. Have Headshots Done
Last but not least, schedule some professional headshots with a photographer. Even if you had some done years ago, having updated headshots on your website, social media, and in print is a must for building your brand. In general, people like to be able to see the face behind the text—and headshots are a great way to ensure that your image is portrayed professionally.
When hiring for the job, look for somebody who is a headshot photographer with experience in that field. If not done correctly, headshots can actually have a negative impact on your brand and overall image. Take time to review photographers’ portfolios for yourself before you hire anybody so you can get a better feel for their style.
Likewise, do your part to make your headshots as successful as possible. Dress appropriately and communicate with your photographer ahead of time to ensure that the colors you’ll be wearing won’t clash with the background or backdrop. You may also want to consider having your hair and/or makeup is professionally done, if it would make you feel more confident heading into your shoot.
Once you have your updated headshots, make sure you use them on your social media pages, website, by-lines, and anywhere else that may be applicable.
The Bottom Line on Branding Yourself as a Writer
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into building a brand as a writer. Establishing a strong reputation within your writing niche isn’t something that’s likely to happen overnight. Even some of the most successful writers and authors out there today had to start somewhere—so be patient with yourself, but always keep your eye on your goals.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to building a unique brand as a writer, regardless of what genre or niche you find yourself in. From creating a website and building a strong social media presence to designing a strong logo and updating your headshots, a little effort goes a long way when it comes to marketing yourself as a writer. Give these tips a try for yourself and see what a difference they can make as you work to establish yourself as a true professional!