How to, Portfolio

First Steps to Becoming a Freelance Writer

Do you feel it? I felt it!

It’s the freelance writing life, whispering your name.

I have tons of advice and info to share with you on getting out there and making it happen. With clients of my own, sometimes it’s hard to find time to sit down and reply to emails that don’t require my immediate attention.

But I want to let you know something important. Your emails this week, and last month mean the world to me. I read them all. Every single one warms my heart.

I see you. I hear you. I am here for you!

The very first thing I did when I decided I needed to leave my corporate desk job was TELL. EVERYONE.

I told everyone that I was attempting to make a jump into the world of freelance writing.

Tell people about your plan and ask them to share the news.

First, that’s what’s going to make it feel real. You’ve put it out into the world, and now you can’t take it back.

Next, you have to make it happen. The second thing I did was go through my Facebook friends list and ask anyone if they had any writing that I could do for them.

I offered to write or rewrite wedding brochures, website content, newspaper articles, anything at all that I could put in my portfolio.

I offered them my services for free on one condition: They had to leave me testimonials. I needed proof that my work was good!

This led me realizing I wanted a website of my own.

I am going to write another piece next week on how I built my own website with no experience, but for now, we’re going to skip ahead to your portfolio.

Your Portfolio

This is a collection of your work that you will use to showcase your skills. If you have no bylines* (and if you’re brand new to the industry, you probably don’t) you can create sample work.

When I started, I created a fake wedding brochure, an article about the customer service industry, and a pop-culture piece on Tyra Banks. I put these in my portfolio.

I would recommend you choose one lane and stick to it. I was all over the place in the beginning. 

*A byline is exactly what it sounds like: A BY line. By Chandi Gilbert. There’s my byline!


Finding a Niche Versus Being a Generalist

If you’ve been googling how to become a freelance writer with no experience, you have probably seen a dozen articles on the importance of finding your niche.

If you have a niche, that’s great! If you don’t, that’s great too!

Are you an expert in anything?

Many freelance writers have a niche or an area of expertise. Some writers call themselves generalists and are open to writing about many topics. There are pros and cons to both.

How to Find Your Niche as a Freelance Writer

Answer this: What subject do you know a lot about? Be very specific. (For example, I love jewelry, but I really love talking about how certain gemstones look on different types of metal.) You know more than the average person when it comes to THIS.

And now: What subject do you love to talk about? You could happily write about THIS and never get bored.

Your next step should be to visit websites that appeal to your niche. Find out what they are missing. For instance, you might find that a company doesn’t have a blog. This is where you make your move. You’ve successfully found a gap in the market.

If you find that your niche seems too specific, and you aren’t finding gaps in the market, it’s time to broaden your search. OR this could be the perfect opportunity to create your own market for your specific niche.

Your Expertise + Your Passion + Gaps in the Market = Your Niche



Being a Generalist Freelance Writer

This is who I am. A lot of people out there will tell you that you won’t succeed unless you have a niche.

That’s not true.

Many clients seek out generalist writers who are comfortable writing about any topic.

I have a long list of credentials and areas of expertise now that I’ve been a generalist writer for a while.

I can look at a job board and comfortably apply to five or six jobs in different areas because I am a generalist writer. I love learning new things all the time.

If you don’t enjoy researching new subjects, being a generalist writer is probably not for you.

Either way, there is plenty of work for both types of freelance writers.

Do I Need a Blog to Become a Freelance Writer?

No. But could it help? YES!

I get clients simply because they like my blog. 

If you decide to start a blog, focus your efforts on creating content that shows your writing style. There are a lot of clients that don’t care if you have nothing in your portfolio as long as they can see something you’ve written. Also, keeping an active blog shows that you work consistently on your craft.

What if I Don’t Know What to Write?

Ask yourself what your ideal workday looks like. If you like the idea of working virtually with others during set times (like Monday through Friday, 9 to 5), there are lots of clients who are looking for you.

Maybe you want to be able to take a break every hour, noodle around the house, only work from midnight to 3 am…there are plenty of clients who don’t care what you do or where you are as long as you get your work done.

There are lots of different types of writing for freelance writers.

  • Whitepapers
  • Press releases
  • Blogs
  • Social media posts
  • Ghostwriting
  • More!

(If you want me to explore all these types of writing jobs, send me an email or leave me a comment!)

Your Internet Presence

I’ve said it before: I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I just don’t get pleasure from those kinds of interactions. HOWEVER…as a freelance writer, you must have an internet presence, specifically on social media. Eight times out of ten a client will request that you include social media links in your resume or cover letter.

It’s time to take a serious look at your internet identity. For instance, if you want to be a serious, white-paper-writing professional, make sure your public persona reflects that.

My persona is really just me being me. That’s how I sell myself. My smile is my tagline. My whole brand focuses on being genuine.

Whatever you want to convey to potential clients, make sure your photos, bios, tweets, etc., reflect that.

The other significant reason I keep a social media presence is for networking opportunities. I have a wonderful network of friends in some of my Facebook groups. I’ve found a lot of work that way.

To wrap up this blog post, I will leave you with some links to my favorite job boards.




Craigslist in your local area

Upwork (Where I got my start and still find work)


My next post will go into whether or not you need a website as a freelance writer.

What else do you want to hear about? I want to hear all about it! (Ya’ll have been great about emailing me lately and telling me exactly what you want to know! I LOVE IT!)