So you are ready to take the plunge, quit that hated job and start freelance writing? You want to set your hours, pick your clients and topics, make your office wherever you can set up a computer and log into Wi-Fi. You want your salary to depend on your own effort and skill and not on office politics or the competency of the rest of a big staff. Once you start freelance writing, you are on your way to having all this and more.

I decided to start freelance writing for a living about a decade ago, when my children were in high school and needed someone to attend all those soccer games, get a healthy dinner on the table, and be there to make sure the homework got done after school. Freelance writing allowed me to work early in the morning, during school hours, or late at night, and I was able to be there for my kids at this important time in their lives. A surprise benefit was that I made more money freelance writing than I had in any of my twenty years as an executive at a public relations firm. And now that I am an empty nester, I take my freelance writing jobs with me on the road, visiting my grown children in places like New York City, Denver, and San Francisco or relaxing on the beach, computer on my lap, looking out over the Caribbean Sea on a West Indian beach. Choosing to start freelance writing was one of the best decisions I ever made – for me and my family.

Setting The Ground Rules Before You Start Freelance Writing

The fastest way to start freelance writing as a full time occupation – or even to supplement a day job — is to lay some serious groundwork before you take the solo plunge.

Make sure your skills are top notch: Before you start freelance writing full time, make sure you can write quickly and well. Because freelance writing is such a lucrative and enjoyable career, there is a lot of competition out there. If you feel your understanding of grammar or style are lacking, look into taking a class, online or at a community college. Buy a copy of the AP Stylebook and become familiar with the conventions there (most freelance writing jobs, with the exception of fiction and academic papers, want you to write to the AP style guidelines or something close to them). Read the type of writing you want to do. Decide for yourself what makes a piece successful and what dooms it.

Set up a website with examples of your work: To start freelance writing fast, you will need to be ready when a client comes to you. You want to be able to point him or her to a professional-looking website and examples of different pieces you have written or, even better, published. There are plenty of places online to get free or low cost web sites built such as Web.com, Weebly.com, and Wix.com. Just make sure your site looks business-like – and that all the content on it is as sharp and convincing as possible. I had several clients ask me to start freelance writing for them after they read my website; they wanted me to rewrite their business websites so their sites were as crisp as mine. Below is a video on how to set up a site on WordPress in about 2 hours:

Develop some leads on freelance writing clients: The best way to start freelance writing fast is to have some clients begging for your work on day one. In my last months in my job, I talk to everyone I could about my decision to start freelance writing. Some friends and colleagues said they would hire me outright; others sent me to their friends and colleagues. One the day I left the office to start freelance writing, I already had three solid jobs lined up and many more leads that would eventually turn into jobs.

Know what’s available online: Though online freelance writing sites have been a big part of my business plan, relying on those sites, especially at the beginning of your career, is not the fast way to start freelance writing. Jobs you find on Craigslist, Elance, iWriter, Scripted, and Freelancer often require you to bid or apply, and it can be days before the client gets back to you, months before you get chosen for your first freelance writing job. Some sites, like the one I work for, Constant Content, require you to pass a rigorous grammar test and have a writing sample evaluated by their editors. Once you get into the system, your articles go through editorial review before you can offer them for sale. All of this benefits the writer in the end, as Constant Content has a reputation for quality writers and products that command higher prices, and many freelancers I know, myself included, use our work with Constant Content to generate income between big jobs. But, because of the wait — for editorial review and approval in the case of Constant Content, for bidding and client decisions in other online freelancing sites – using these may not be the fastest way to start freelance writing.

If You’re Going To Start Freelance Writing, Do It Now!

Had I known all the benefits, I would have chosen to start freelance writing for a living long before I finally did. I have been able to set my own hours, earn good money, make my own decisions about clients and writing topics, and work from anywhere. I firmly believe that this career path is open to anyone who has good writing skills and just a touch of entrepreneurial spirit.

If you are looking for the fastest ways to start freelance writing, take a lesson from successful sprinters. Those who run the fastest usually have done the most training before the race even begins. The fastest way to start freelance writing is to prepare before you open up shop: hone your writing skills, set up a website, develop a list of potential clients, and understand your online opportunities. After that, all that is left is to go for the gold.