The Practical Guide: Freelancing (Part One)

Welcome to our latest mini-series on Freelancing! In this series, we’ll address:

Part One: Gaining Experience

Part Two: Building and Preparing Your Business

Part Three: Finding Work

Part Four: Freelancing Fees

Part Five: Organizing Your Time

If there is anything else you would be interested in learning about with regards to freelancing, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment with your request.

Part One: Gaining Experience

Gaining experience and developing your unique set of skills is the first step to building your freelancing career. Before you can get clients, you have to show them that you are worth hiring.

University and college educations are incredibly useful, though not always necessary. An academic background shows that you have discipline, can work on a deadline, are able to deal with stress, and can multi-task. If you have a degree in your field (such as a B.A. in the Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications department when you’re going into freelance writing and editing), this also shows your clients that you have studied your craft and are a specialist in that field.

Besides having a diploma or some experience in a university or college setting, volunteer experience is also crucial. In university, I was a note-taker for one of my classmates¬†through the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. I had to take detailed, clear notes each class to ensure that my classmate was getting all of the information he needed for studying. When we both received marks in the high 90’s by the end of the year, it was a good indication that being a good note-taker is an invaluable service – and it also honed my skills at writing quickly and paying strict attention to in class.

Another good volunteer experience is to write articles for print and/or online media. My two years working at a university newspaper as a volunteer health columnist, art/theatre/film critic, and proofreader show that I have been published and that I have experience working in a journalistic environment. Writing two blogs on my own time is also indicative of my experience with and passion for writing and editing.

Not only can you show clients your published work, but having been published (even for free) is also like practicing your craft. With every article that I write, I’m able to improve my style and writing technique. My grade¬†11 Creative Writing teacher once said that he wanted us to write a story that was the worst thing we’d ever written, so that we could get it out of our systems and improve from there. Practice is the only way you’ll get better, and you might as well get published while you’re at it!

Newspapers and magazines can be tricky to get into, which is why I recommend writing a blog. Choose something that you are passionate about so that you will be able to continue writing it on a regular basis, always updating with new, fresh content. The blogging world can open up a lot of doors for you, beginning with writing guest posts on other blogs and moving up to getting noticed by print media. Keep writing for the public to see and you will be gaining the experience you need to prove yourself as an accomplished writer.

What things have you done (or are you doing) to gain experience for your chosen career path?