If you’re tired of the stress of your regular job, and love writing enough to consider committing yourself to a career in wordsmithing, it can make a lot of sense to get into the freelance market. Depending on how much of yourself you’re willing to invest in it, you can either just get by on basic skills and a decent $25,000, or hone your skills to a high level, and go as far in your career as your imagination will allow you.

Your first few weeks finding paying assignments

Oddly enough, my first paying freelance assignments came not from online jobs boards, but from the contacts that I built up over my time at my regular job. I asked both my employer and every other contact I gained in other businesses over the course of my career, about the content needs. When I told them that I was beginning to strike out as a freelance writer, they were happy to help, and even a little jealous of my newfound freedom. Any copy that they needed for the brochures, or the company’s website, they turned over to me as often as they could. My plans at starting freelance writing quickly became reality.

Tapping former work contacts may not work for everyone; if you do have contacts to ask, it’s important to give it a shot. If this isn’t up an option, though, there’s so much more that you can do.

Try a freelance writing jobs board

Trying Freelance.com, Envato, Elance and the other famous names in the world of bid-for-work freelancing is an excellent way to start. Less familiar names such as Krop and Coroflot offer a wide range of possibilities, as well.

When you begin working for the freelance websites, though, it’s important that you know how to position yourself; if you are unfamiliar with the way jobs boards work, you may fall into the trap of lowering your prices to attract custom. This can be a terrible mistake; low-priced work is for those who write with minimal research and little originality. It can be impossible to make a decent amount of pay with work like this.

Freelance websites do attract quality customers from major brands, as well. They need experts with original ideas to put down, and a real, recognizable voice to associate their brand with. They know that this kind of work costs about $100 an hour, and they’re willing to pay. You need to set your price at no less than $50 an hour in the beginning, and aim for the best paying jobs.

Work for yourself

Magazines, company blogs and company newsletters exist out there in their thousands, and you should apply to all of them. When you do apply, though, you will invariably need to offer links to articles previously published. It might seem a Catch-22 at first — how are you supposed to have a published piece if no one will give you a chance without one? In the world of online freelance writing, though, it’s easy — you publish yourself in a serious, high-quality blog.

Buy a domain in the niche that you wish to market yourself in, find a web designer who will do a good job with it, and put your best thoughts down in it. Then, get on LinkedIn, get in touch with fellow professionals in the industry that you’re writing on, and tell them about your blog. You’ll begin to attract traffic.

Not only is this a good way to have published pieces to show when you apply to new assignments, it can also be the first step that you take towards marketing yourself. In addition, your industry blog will one day possibly turn into a force in its own right. A popular, long-standing blog is an excellent way to establish yourself as an industry authority that brings you opportunities over the long run.

Learning to market yourself

Committing to creating the greatest industry blog possible in your niche is an excellent way to begin marketing yourself. There’s so much more that he can do, though. Your primary aim should be to turn yourself into a brand in your niche.

Come up with original ideas to offer others: From the New York Times and the Boston Globe to every industry trade journal, influential material that goes into print comes from freelance writers. The more you try to get yourself into these brand-name publications, the more recognizable your name becomes, and the more sought-after you turn.

Publish your own book: Having a book to your name on a niche subject is one of the quickest ways to win respectability in the area. If you have something truly original to say, you should publish it as a proper, printed book on Amazon. With Amazon’s on-demand printing technology, putting printed books out is affordable.

Be a force in your local area: Local publications and businesses tend to be the easiest to target for freelancers starting freelance writing. Membership at the local Chamber of Commerce and at a local trade association can be an excellent way to build contacts, and find writing opportunities.

Read constantly

Since each business has its own conventions, learning them can do a lot to ease your way in. Reading constantly, signing up for seminars and networking with other freelancers can make your transition into your new business far easier than it would otherwise be, and far more effective.