How to become a freelance writer in Africa.
A note from Gertrude:
I grew up in Ghana in West Africa and from time to time, I get the question “can I grow a freelance writing business from Africa?”
My answer has always been a resounding “yes”. Even though Africa has its’ own challenges, I believe there is still a lot that can be done from the continent. But since I don’t live in Ghana full time, I felt I would allow a writer living in Africa give their honest opinion on building a freelance writing business in spite of the challenges.
Djedje Bright first connected with me on Instagram over a year ago. I loved his drive and I enjoy his writing.
Here’s his perspective.
How to become a freelance writer when you live in Africa
So you want to be a freelance copywriter?
Becoming a freelancer especially for Africans is arguably one of the best things that happened to us since the invention of the internet. Why?
It has given young Africans like yourself the opportunity to do something you love, have freedom doing it and get paid a decent amount (usually in USD).
Before we go further, it’s important you know what it means to be a freelancer.
Being a freelancer is simply offering your services to individuals or companies without a long-term contract.
It is not a “job”. But you should treat it like one.
I am a copywriter. So I will write from that angle.
Before you decide you want to become a freelance copywriter, you must have sound knowledge of what copywriting is and must have practiced writing on your own even if it’s not for a client.
And if you’ve done that and you’re confident in your skills, then freelancing is a great way to build on your skills as you go and to get paid too.
I’ll be showing you in this guide, how to start your freelance career and get your first client.
Before we begin, please understand this: freelancing is not an easy path to making money online, but if you can put in the upfront effort and focus the returns are lucrative.
STEP 1: Choose a niche.
This is one step a lot of freelance writers miss before starting.
Sure you could go in without knowing exactly what you want and write for every niche, but you don’t really want that.
Choosing a niche for yourself increases your value in the marketplace and separates you from every other freelance copywriter.
Finding a niche is very important and you don’t have to think long and hard about a niche, just pick something that you’re already interested in and go with that. It could be sports, tech, health, marketing, anything at all.
Gertrude’s note: I am a huge fan of picking a niche. But don’t let that stop you from starting your writing business. I recommend you pick 1-3 areas you think you would be able to write in and keep it moving.
STEP 2: Get the gig
The next step is actually going out there and getting freelance gigs.
There are a lot of ways and strategies online to get freelance gigs and to be honest none is better than the other, but here I’ll be focusing on what I’ve done, worked for me and how you can do it too.
So what have I done?
I’ve built credibility online.
I know that sounds like something difficult but it really isn’t. I’ve laid everything down below for you
- Start building an online presence on social media. LinkedIn and Facebook have been my favorite ways to do this. Once you create accounts here, post regular (daily even) content that speaks to the niche and the type of clients you would want to work with. You want those posts to be both valuable and show your skills in writing. They don’t have to be perfect. Trust me on this – you will improve as you continue to write and post.
- For LinkedIn, you want to start sending personal connection requests to thought leaders and prospective clients in your niche and for Facebook you want to send friend requests to people in your niche. You also want to join valuable Facebook groups in your niche too.
- Create a “home base”. If you can’t create a website now, create a Medium page or a Substack page where you can post long-form, blog content and begin to build familiarity with your work.
The goal for all of this is to establish yourself as a known authority in your chosen niche so people can trust you enough to want your services.
People will naturally begin to inquire about your services as your content that is directed at them begins to speak to them.
STEP 3: Never stop building your network
Gertrude’s note: Yes!! Never stop building your network. As a business owner, if you can master this art, you will never want to business…even during a worldwide crisis.
The last point here is to start networking. After building a pool of valuable content and building relationships, you can now start pitching your services to prospective clients: those LinkedIn connections, those Facebook friends and groups.
You offered value and people are more likely to respond to you at this point.
One thing you can do here to get clients faster is offering to do a writing job for free. You should let them know that if they don’t like it, they don’t have to pay. But if they do and would like to use it they can pay. Many clients will take you up on this deal and some of those clients for me have turned into paid opportunities.
And guess what all these would cost you? It costs nothing but an hour or two of your time everyday to get clients who will pay you and then refer you to their colleagues if you do a great job.
Gertrude’s concluding note: It is possible to start a freelance writing business in Africa. The African continent is still a developing part of the world but with these tips Djedje shared and determination to never give up, it is possible! So if you’ve been thinking about it, go for it!
Djedje Bright is a computer science major and direct response copywriter based in Nigeria. Connect with Djedje on Linkedin.
Want to work with Dr. Gertrude on starting a freelance writing business this year? Check out my course THE WRITE SOCIETY.