Most freelance writers put in a lot of time working for other people. Whether you’re writing up an article for a magazine or putting together promotional copy for a brochure, you’re generally working for a client. But by assigning yourself a few projects of your own, you can build both your reputation and your income.
Getting Off the Ground
A side project can be particularly useful for freelance writers who are just getting off the ground — at least in terms of building up a reputation. For a writer with limited clips, a side project can provide some really great writing samples, hopefully in a format that prospective clients can go out and find. Even a small website can demonstrate your ability to finish a project in a way that a client can easily understand.
Of course, personal projects can make sense for more-established writers, as well. When work is slow, a project can fill in the holes in your schedule and give you something to show for that time.
Moving Beyond Books
Traditionally, the big side project a writer could work on has been the book. There are certainly benefits to writing a book: you can get your name out there as an expert in your field as well as make a little bit of money. But a book is a major time commitment — and it isn’t the best way to show off your skills for all types of writers. An informational website, for instance, might be just as useful as an example of just what you can do and, with affiliate marketing or advertising, can be more lucrative than a book.
There are definitely some trade offs between books and other projects, of course. There are certain client demographics that will care far more about a book than any other project you might choose to take on — and that even includes projects where you’re offering the client information for free. There’s a certain mindset, based on the difficulty of writing and publishing a book, that leads many people to assume a level of value for books beyond other projects. That depends largely on your niche. If you work more with tech-minded clients, you’ll likely find that your prospective clients are interested in online projects than if you’re working with a niche, like landscaping, that traditionally has less to do with the web.
The important factors to remember is that you want to create a project that doesn’t directly compete with your freelance writing services but that you’re proud to have your name on. It should still have some relation to your niche, if only so that you continue to associate yourself with your area of expertise — anyone who stumbles across your project needs to be able to figure out that you are a freelance writer as well. Even a simple link back to your professional site can help.
Using Your Project to Promote Yourself
Whether your project is printed or online, it should be absolutely top notch. It should be an example of what you can do for a client if they turn you loose with a budget — and you should showcase it as such. You may have to do some promotion of your project to get it off the ground (maybe a little advertising or a few press releases), but it should be the sort of project that leads an editor or another client to think that they’ve got to work with the writer who put this project together the moment that they see it.