Freelance writing, or working as a self-employed writer, is an increasingly popular career path for many people.
Freelancing allows individuals to have more control over their earnings and their work schedules. Which can be more enticing to people than working in a traditional office job.
Freelance technical writing is a specific kind of writing that can be difficult to get right, but is highly valued by many companies and businesses.
If you have a talent for technical writing, then freelance technical writing might be the right avenue for you.
However, there are a few things you need to know before you begin and some tips that can help you get started on the right foot.
In this article, Pritish Halder talk about what technical writing is, and how you can begin your career as a freelance technical writer.
What Is Freelance Technical Writing?
There’s much more to freelance writing than blogging and drafting social media posts. Pretty much any writing work can be done by freelancers.
Freelancers don’t just work for one company. They work with several writing clients who pay you as a non-employee service provider.
In particular, freelance technical writers specialize in creating written content about highly technical or specialized topics such as engineering or website development.
How to Become a Freelance Technical Writer
Now, on to the practicals! These are the steps to become a freelance technical writer:
- Choose an area of expertise
- Create writing samples
- Create an online portfolio
- Contact potential clients
- Negotiate rates
- Finalize contracts
Let’s have a look at what each of these steps entails.
1. Choose an Area of Expertise
For new freelance writers, there are a few ways that you can select a writing niche. One of the easiest ways to start is choosing industries related to your educational background and work experience.
For example, if you’ve worked as a website developer, you can transition into writing technical articles about UX/UI design or guides for installing website security measures.
You can also choose to specialize in certain types of projects, such as white papers or technical manuals. As you continue to gain experience in a particular area, you can hone your skills and charge higher rates.
2. Build a Writing Portfolio
Once you know what you want to write, start writing. It would be best to have relevant writing samples to create a portfolio to share with potential clients.
Even if you don’t have clients, begin by writing examples pertinent to your writing niche. If writing hasn’t been part of your recent work, it can be helpful to take an online writing course to refresh your skills.
After you have your samples, it’s time to build your portfolio. To start, your portfolio can be a folder of sample documents that you can share with clients.
3. Grow Your Personal Brand and Generate Leads
Starting with a shareable writing portfolio is a good step, but if you want to bring in more clients, you should create your own website that showcases your work and tells clients exactly what types of content you offer.
To optimize your freelance website for lead generation, make sure it has the following elements:
- Services page
- Contact form
- Personal blog or work samples
You can also add positive reviews and ratings to your website once you’ve worked with a few clients.
After your website goes live, make sure to reach out to relevant industry publications to find opportunities for guest posting. With guest posts, you create content for someone else in return for a link back to your website.
We also recommend choosing one social platform where you can consistently share content to showcase your expertise and gain exposure to potential clients. LinkedIn, Quora, Medium, and Reddit are all excellent choices for technical writers.
4. Contact Potential Clients
If you’re not hearing from prospective clients right away, you might need to use some outbound contact strategies to get your first few jobs. When you start freelance writing, there are a few places to look for your first clients.
To start, reach out to your existing professional network, browse job boards to bid on projects, and then make a list of target clients you can contact.
At this point, you need to learn how to pitch your services compellingly to get clients to take meetings with you. The good news is that plenty of successful freelance writers share their best pitch templates online. Find one that works for you and start contacting people.
5. Negotiate Rates
As you develop relationships with potential clients, you can uncover writing opportunities. If someone is interested in hiring you, they’ll typically ask for a project proposal. In that proposal, you’ll outline exactly what you’ll deliver and when.
After you review your proposal together, it’s time to negotiate a rate. We recommend coming up with a price per project (rather than per word or per hour) for highly technical projects. Do your research on market prices and decide your minimum acceptable rate before you negotiate.
6. Finalize Contracts
Always write up a contract for your freelance projects. Contracts help protect you and ensure that you receive payment for your work.
While they don’t need to be complicated, your contracts should define the scope of work, content ownership, payment terms, deadlines, and revision policy. In some cases, clients may ask that you include a non-compete clause or confidentiality statement.
Here are some freelance contract templates you can use to create your own:
- Freelance contract template
- Freelance writer contract/letter of agreement
- Freelance non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
What Kind of Skills Does a Technical Writer Need?
A freelance technical writer needs to have a robust skill set in order to successfully achieve their goals and run a great business.
While there isn’t any formal training or degrees required to be a technical writer, you will want to make sure you have other skills like:
- Technical knowledge and expertise
- Excellent writing and grammar skills
- Editing and proofreading skills
- Project management skills
- Time management skills
- Marketing skills
- Sales skills