Have you ever wondered how to start your career and get paid well as a freelance writer?
In 2015 I left my soul sucking job to focus on content marketing and start a career as a freelance writer and social media consultant. Some people thought it was ‘cute’ and like a hobby of sorts but didn’t really understand how I made money from it. When I tell them now the numbers I earn in a month as a freelance writer their eyes widen, they lean back, and I clearly have their attention. This post has everything you need to start an epic career as a freelance writer. Read on!
Curious? Here’s some inspiration for you in this post:
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The fact is that content writers and creators are in high demand. There is actually a shortage of them now. You may read things like people are only interested in video or podcasts, are listening to audio books etc. but there are thousands of industries that need writers every single day for all aspects of their business.
Especially since the pandemic and businesses have shifted their work online.
Did you also know that websites that contain blog content have 434% more search engine indexed pages that is vital for SEO?
That’s right! Freelance writing is still vital for ranking high on the internet. So even though we may have the attention of less than a goldfish companies and corporations still need writers to get found on the WWW!
Businesses are highly aware of this and that’s why successful and smart companies are hiring freelance writers in droves.
“In 2016 alone, companies spent 195.58 billion on content marketing. And the research firm Technavio predicts that spending will DOUBLE to $412.88 Billion by 2021.”
So there’s a huge amount of data supporting the fact that there’s plenty of work for writers in all niches whether it’s travel, lifestyle, technology, finance, theater, culture, education, parenthood, and the list goes on.
Related: 115+ Sites that pay $50 – $200 per post and up! For writers…
Personally, I have always loved to write, and I am thrilled to get paid to be a freelance writer for other websites and bloggers. Like any job, it’s not always easy, but it definitely beats going into a job I hate every day and it allows me to make a unlimited income online or from anywhere I please.
If you love writing, there’s no reason why you can’t do the same and turn it into a full-fledged business.
Thanks to the internet, you can make money and earn a good living writing for clients online. The best part is that you get to work at home and create your own schedule.
What’s the downside? Well, in the beginning it can take some time to gain momentum, build your portfolio, and get clients.
But with hard work and kick butt determination, you can become a freelance writer full-time or do it as a side hustle outside your 9-5 and use the extra money to pay off bills or save for things you need or want.
After reading this epic guide I’m 100% confident that you will absolutely be certain if freelance writing is something you should do.
I’ll go over all the tools you need to get started too!
Below is a course I developed on how to write copy exclusively for the internet.
How to Start a Career as a Freelance Writer
Everyone gets started freelance writing differently. For me, honestly, I had some health issues, I had to leave my job as a medical administrator. I was a single Mom with 3 young kids, and I needed an income and flexibility to work from home and be able to take them places without asking someone if I could leave.
I’m sure a lot of parents can relate to this.
Most freelance writers work out of their home, but some might opt for a shared workspace. In rare instances, clients might want you to write in their office as well. This is something I knew I could never do because I need complete concentration when I write.
You must realize that freelance writers, bloggers and entrepreneurs are also real business owners who are responsible for their own taxes. While you don’t need to become an LLC, you are an individual or sole contractor and it’s very important to be able to keep good records.
You will need to keep your personal expenses separate from your business ones.
When you are a freelance writer half your job is writing, the other half is being a business owner. This includes spending time promoting your services, pitching to clients, advertising, marketing, sending invoices, tracking time, doing social media and a variety of other tasks.
It may sound like a lot but it really isn’t once you get into the swing of things. With the help of online apps and programs everything is automated so it is really quite simple.
Just remember that you can be the best writer in the universe but that will mean nothing if you don’t have the following skills.
How to Become a Freelance Writer (Even With No Experience)
I’m sure you’re thinking, this all sounds great but “How do I actually get started being a freelance writer?”
Here’s the step-by-step process to get things rolling…
1. Start With The Right Attitude
To learn how to become a freelance writer you need to realize first off that your career will not take off overnight. There is no such thing as overnight online success in any business so just get rid of that fantasy.
You can still make decent money at it while you’re honing your skills.
Freelance writing is an art that is learned over time and the longer you do it the better you will be.
You need to have a growth mindset if you want to become a freelance writer. The most important skill you have is to be able to push past all fears of uncertainty, rejection, and any potential obstacles.
Before starting, make sure you know that you are going to need to learn, take feedback, and meet deadlines. And stay organized!
Any entrepreneurial journey isn’t easy and it takes guts but if others can succeed so can you!
2. Choose a Writing Niche
You might be thinking, what should I actually write about?
Creating a niche is important if you’re creating a blog, but not as important in the beginning of your freelance writing career.
Instead, think more general and niche down as you become more experienced with the entire process.
For example, I started with digital marketing which is a very lucrative freelance niche.
This entailed writing about internet marketing strategies, social media, content marketing, affiliate marketing, web design, SEO, ecommerce and making money online.
This is a great, lucrative niche which got me a lot of writing jobs when I learned to pitch to the right people and companies. More on that later..
As you become a more seasoned writer, you can specialize in more topics. This is how you can earn even more money as a specialist.
Don’t be afraid to start as a generalist when starting out as a beginner freelance writer.
3. Create a Portfolio
Once you have the proper mindset and have chosen a general niche, next is creating your portfolio. You will need a portfolio to showcase your writing samples.
I used my own blog because that was the niche I was targeting. However if you have a blog about parenting, pickle making or Moroccan recipes it’s best you don’t use that one to highlight your freelance writing samples if you want to pitch your writing to a tech company. Get my drift?
The main point is – don’t procrastinate any longer. Just get it up there!
Remember, your portfolio isn’t just for work samples but to also help potential clients learn more about you and your qualifications. Clients hire people they trust. Include any relevant education, especially if you have a degree in English, a certificate, or any coursework and credentials related to the field.
While it’s true your skills as a writer will ultimately land you gigs, having an English degree or a writing-focused educational background (like communications or journalism for example), may open up more doors and allow you to apply for jobs that are not available to non-degree-holders.
You have several options to start your writing portfolio:
A lot of beginner writers create a free Upwork profile and upload their samples directly.
That’s one typical route. I don’t recommend it.
Why? Because on Upwork you will be competing with people who will do the job for pennies, and they will get the jobs because some of these people hiring want to pay as little as possible to get their work done. It’s literally a race to the bottom of the barrel.
And Upwork takes a cut on top of that.
What should you do then?
Build your own personal stunning kick butt website and upload your samples to your page. It doesn’t have to be a fancy 10-page website loaded with content. But it does have to attract leads.
Use this handy domain checker to see if your business name is available:
More details on this below.
Try to write at least five to ten samples before pitching and reaching out to clients. Write these samples for the job you want to have in the near future.
Once you have a few samples you can begin applying or even guest posting for free on other blogs in your niche.
This is a fantastic strategy to network with other bloggers, improve your SEO rankings and get your name out there.
4. Create a Personal Website
These days almost anyone can easily build their own website even with no tech or coding skills. However, with that being said, there are many parts that go into it and if you want a mobile-friendly, adaptive website I recommend you have a professional build it for you.
Ultimately, having your own website makes you look much more professional to potential clients. Having a Facebook page is simply not enough. You need a website.
If you do decide to build your own site you can do it for not much cost.
With Bluehost and WordPress, it’s only $3.95/month sometimes even lower.
The main point is – don’t procrastinate any longer. Just get it up there!
Remember, your portfolio isn’t just for work samples but to also help potential clients learn more about you. Clients hire people they trust.
Make your personal website user-friendly by adding a picture of yourself, about what you can offer and showcase your work to the max! Keep in mind that it’s not about YOU but what YOU can offer to a potential client. Try to look at it from their point of view.
Your site doesn’t need to be elaborate, but it should include:
- About Page
- Portfolio: Link to your articles or downloadable PDF’s Page
- Contact Page
- Hire Me/My Services Page
If you have zero technical or design skills an easy drag and drop website can help you do everything.
Start Writing on Medium, Mix and Thrive Global
If you don’t have a blog and don’t want to create a website yet, Medium.com, mix.com and Thrive Global should be your new best friends. These sites let you create a profile in minutes, is 100% free, and can get you massive amounts of free exposure.
Medium is a relatively new site but has gained in popularity along with Quora over the past five years. Try to write posts in your ideal client niches.
I’ve found with Quora, answering questions is a great way to build yourself as an authority as a freelance writer, get your profile and website out there and develop an audience.
Personal stories can go along the way gaining trust from an audience. As your writing improves start applying for publications to get in front of a bigger audience like Entrepreneur or Lifehackers.
5. Create a Consistent Schedule
It’s common to experience blogger or writer burn out. I did as well and am still guilty of it at times. Paired with growing two blogs, I was writing 12 hours a day and burned myself out bad.
The good thing is that you will be forced to learn from it.
Maintaining a proper work/life balance is the only thing that will make you more productive, keep you earning and in the writing game for a very long time.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to create a schedule for your writing.
6. Apply for Freelance Writing Gigs every dang day
This is the part where you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You have to find jobs that you think would be a good fit for and apply. Sometimes you will apply through a website specifically, others you will email them a pitch.
Don’t be upset if you don’t hear back or get rejected.
Stay persistent, pitch like crazy and eventually you will land your first client!
These are some of the best freelance writing websites to get your freelance writing career started.
Blogging Pro Job Board
Blogging Pro Job Board is another great place to find your first potential client. Make sure you sign up for their daily email so you don’t miss any writing opportunities.
7. Set Freelance Writing Goals
To be a great freelance writer, you need to set goals for different types of activities to stay accountable and motivated. As you won’t always make a ton of money in the beginning, it’s important to set small goals to hold yourself accountable.
Goals could include:
- Monthly income goals
- Number of clients it takes to reach that income goal
- Number of pitches per week or month
- Job boards to post on
- Social media growth and followers
- Expanding engagement on Quora etc.
Whatever it is, make sure you set some freelance writing goals to keep you motivated to succeed.
When you reach a big goal or land a new client make sure you celebrate and reward yourself!
And then set a new goal!
8. Track Your Income
As you begin to land freelance clients it’s super important to keep track of your expenses and income. You can do this via Excel or Google doc or use a program like Fresh Books.
Personally, I love Freshbooks as it makes it easy to track everything, send invoices, and collect payment. Check out all the other resources below to make your life simpler as well.
9. Invest In Yourself and Your Business
Remember, freelance writing is a business, and you need to treat it as such. Like any good business, you should always look for opportunities to invest in yourself and your business.
Here are a few I have invested in as a freelance writer:
Entrepreneurship and succeeding in freelance writing is in large part a mental game. If you don’t believe in yourself you’re not going to succeed.
For six months I tried freelance writing with minimal gains. I knew people were making good money from freelance writing but I kept striking out. A lot of it was my attitude.
I would land an occasional Upwork client from time to time, but the pay was low. Why was it low? Because I ACCEPTED it.
Or I would spend a ton of time writing what I thought were bitchin’ proposals only to never hear back.
This can be discouraging as anything. I was almost ready to go back to the soul sucking day jobs.
If you want to take freelance writing seriously you need to act like it.
FAQ’s About Starting a Career as a Freelance Writer
1. How do freelance writers find work?
Freelance writers can find work in numerous ways as mentioned above in my massive list! Through blogger job boards, content mills, your personal website, referrals, social media and more!
Usually, freelance writers specify one specific niche or topics such as personal finance, beauty or fashion, travel, education, technical writing or resume writing. These are but a mere drop in the bucket of freelance writing niches.
Part of freelance writing is finding work and the other part is doing the actual writing. At the beginning of a freelance writing career, it’s easy to spend 70% of the day searching for freelance writing gigs and 20% on the actual writing.
But with that being said the ball gets rolling real fast and as you become more experienced and acquire clients less time will be spent searching and more time writing.
So much so that you could have a full plate before you know it and you better know how to manage it all. This is where BOSS organization skills come in.
2. What do freelance writers write about?
When people ask “What is freelance writing” they might be surprised about all the options of what you actually write about. Some examples of freelance writing topics include:
Fun Fact: The word freelance came out of the period between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The term originated when mercenary knights with no particular allegiance would take their lances into battle for the prince or state that paid them the most money.
They were referred to as freelancers by authors in the nineteenth century and operated much like the gunfighters in the American West.
Where you can put your freelance writing skills to work:
- White papers
- Blog posts
- Media kits
- Grant writing
- Technical writing
- Online ad copy
- Email copywriting
- Technical manuals
- Social media marketing
- Trade publication articles
- Online course copywriting
And many more options. Starting a career as a freelance writer is about finding a balance between a form of writing you enjoy and something that pays you well for your time.
3. Who pays freelance writers?
Freelance writers are paid directly by a client (this could be a single person or a business) as well an agency. Every client will have a different payment system.
Some clients will do bi-weekly or monthly invoices while others will pay when the assignment is complete. Some old school clients might even cut you a check. Sometimes I get paid by Paypal or Venmo.
4. What are the ways you can get paid as a freelance writer?
There seems to be a huge variation in the ways that freelancers charge for their writing. There’s not a one size fits all.
Per word basis – You will receive X cents for every word written
Hourly – You track the hours and set an hourly rate with the client beforehand
Per project – You receive the total amount that is not based on per word or hourly rate. If it is a large project you might be paid at different intervals of completion.
Payments can be done in a variety of ways. Some clients will not pay until the work is approved and submitted. Others might pay at fixed intervals such as the 1st and the 15th, similar to a traditional 9-5 job.
This blog post is helpful if you want to compare rates across the country:
5. What are the rates for freelance writing niches?
Freelance writing rates can vary depending on your experience and niche. Here are the most lucrative freelance writing niches I’ve found:
SEO technical writers
Long Form Blog Posts
Saas Content – (Software as a service)
Health care and insurance writers
Fitness, diet, and nutrition writers
Personal finance/money management writers
It’s not to say that you can’t make money writing in other niches but these have been some of the most profitable niches online.
6. What skills do I need to start a career as a freelance writer?
You need three major skills to become a great freelance writer: time management, persistence and persistence.
When you are a freelance writer with multiple clients, you need to be very disciplined with your time.
There are many distractions you can get sucked into and you have to be able to stay on target.
You can’t start cruising social media accounts and the next thing you know an hour has gone by. That’s money out of your pocket!
You must have a calendar for your drafts and deadlines for all your clients. One missed deadline and you could lose a client and the income for good.
The other skill in persistence. Freelance writers must be tenacious.
There is a ton of rejection when it comes to freelance writing. Anytime you pitch a new client you have the option of being denied or never even being responded too.
You have to let it roll off you like water off a duck’s back.
If you want to become a freelance writer that earns consistent money, you must learn to move onto the next opportunity.
7. What is it like to be a freelance writer?
Freelance writing is awesome. I absolutely love being my own boss and being as creative as I want without a boss micro-managing me.
Where else can you make $50-$200 for 500 writing 500 words! It’s really hard to beat making money writing articles that can get read by thousands or hundreds of thousands of people online.
In the beginning it can be tough thought. I’m not going to lie. As you earn your stripes as a writer it takes time to learn how to write, pitch, and understand the entire process.
Once you get the hang of it though, you can write a ton of content in a short amount of time.
Plus, there’s not very many other career opportunities where you can make an unlimited amount of money as you gain skills, grow your network, and build your portfolio.
8. Do you need a degree to start a career as a freelance writer?
While some jobs will say they require a degree, I’ve never had a client ask for any formal certification. You don’t need a degree to become a freelance writer.
As long as you have good samples, decent grammar (there are apps that help with this), are capable of doing excellent research, write often, edit your work, and get clients you have all the skills to become a freelance writer.
9. How much money do you make as a freelance writer?
How much do you want to make? That choice is up to you. When I got started, I made an extra $2500 per month and grew that to $5000+ per month.
I’ve found that once you get comfortable it’s pretty easy to make $1,000 – $3,000 per month only working part-time hours.
Obviously if you want to earn more in the $5,000 – $10,000 range it requires for more top end clients.
Ash’s course can show you how to get these clients once you’ve gained some experience.
I routinely talk with bloggers who make in the range of $10K, $20K monthly writing for top companies and blogging.
Some even more…
Best Tools to Start a Career as a Freelance Writer
Just like a top Chef if you want to succeed in freelance writing, you need the right tools and equipment. Here are some that have really helped me along the way.
Every writer needs a billing and bookkeeping system. I’ve used FreshBooks since 2018 as its super simple to use, automates much of the busy work, and creates more time for you to focus on earning.
If you’re a blogger or podcaster and a freelance writer, it might make sense to use Quickbooks. They make it simple to differentiate costs so you can keep all parts of your business separate.
Grammarly provides an easy way to proofread and spellcheck your writing. This free app scans your work for typos, punctuation errors, and plagiarism. There is a 100% free version and paid one for even more detail.
I also like Hemingway because it scans your writing to make it more readable. If you have a tendency to ramble on…it can clean things up for you and make it a lot more audience friendly.
When building your blog or portfolio page, you’ll need to find a host for your website.
Bluehost provides great hosting and customer service starting at less than $5 a month. It’s super easy to get set up and one of the lowest priced hosting companies.
Having your own freelance website and portfolio is really the way to go if you’re serious about becoming a successful freelance writer.
Genesis By StudioPress
If you want to be taken seriously you need a professional and stunning high quality freelance site and portfolio. You will need to spend the $50-$75 for a paid theme.
There are tons of great ones out there but one of my favorites is the Genesis Framework by StudioPress (which this site is running on).
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the options of beautiful themes out there so try not to get overwhelmed! Just pick one you like that is clean and visually pleasing.
GoDaddy is where I purchase and manage all of my domain names. You can also get a URL from your hosting company but I like to keep mine separate in case I want to switch providers in the future. You can sign up for a year or more.
It’s crucial nowadays to get good reviews for your written work. Amazon book reviews are absolutely critical for writers and Pubby is a great resource to acquire them if you’re a new or seasoned writer looking to gain more attention and make more sales! Check out Pubby today to get your book reviewed!
WordPress is the most popular platform for bloggers and freelance writers alike. It’s hard to believe that when I first started with WordPress I thought there was NO WAY I was going to learn everything that went into it. I’m far from there but I get the basics and the more you can learn and understand how to use WordPress, the easier it will be for you as a writer as well as to help your clients out.
I recommend WordPress.org and not WordPress.com if you wish to own your content and monetize it.
For personal tax preparation, TurboTax is a popular tax prep software made by the same company that owns Quickbooks. So, if you’re using Quickbooks and doing your own taxes, these two programs integrate perfectly together.
Legal Bundle Templates
I use this legal bundle template by Amira (who is a lawyer by profession) for everything from freelance contracts to living wills, POA paperwork, affiliate agreements, privacy policies and more. Want to form an LLC to keep all your finances and bills separate?
Check out Amira’s legal bundle templates to get started, have peace of mind, and have everything submitted quick and easy.
I use LeadPages to create landing pages, customize email opt-in forms, webinar registration pages, sales pages and more. LeadPages is drag and drop simple to use, less expensive than other programs and has a ton of capabilities. They also have the ability to integrate with almost any email service provider.
ConverKit comes in super handy with their automations, RSS feeds and templates. They even have developed a place to sell digital products directly from their platform. Their customer service is awesome and when it comes to hands off scheduling emails I highly recommend them.
G Suite Business Solutions
This is Google’s suite of tools for businesses and how I create custom emails (i.e. Emily@socialbuzzhive.com). It includes Gmail, Google Drive, video conferencing and more. The price is minimal, starting at just $5 per month!
Google Drive provides cloud storage and file backups for documents, photos, spreadsheets, and more. I write all of my drafts in G-Drive for my blog and all of my client’s stuff as well. I choose to pay for the upgraded monthly service but you can get a ton of storage for free as well.
An AI writing tool that uses the power of ai to write for you. Never experience writer’s block or staring at a blinking cursor again. Writesonic writes in over 24 languages and creates all your marketing copy from blog articles, social media posts, white papers, ad copy, ppc ads, email copy and much more!
They now have AI art generated images too!
Try out Writesonic for yourself for FREE.
Let’s face it, we live in a visual world. And in the world of blogging and writing, one way to stand out is your images. Instead of using the same free sites like everyone else, you should invest in a paid software to help you stand out from others.
If you’re looking for free images read my post on the best free stock photo sites:
Canva is one of my favorite tools on the market! It’s an online photo editing program that can help you create images for social media and Pinterest. The interface is super easy to use and it’s 100% free (paid version is available).
I adore Canva, it’s what I use for EVERYTHING because it’s customizable drag and drop, and extremely simple to use even if you have zero design skills.
Once you start working with clients Trello or Asana is perfect to collaborate. Trello is a free program that’s great for managing workflow.
Get Started — A Career as a Freelance Writer for Beginners
Hopefully, this post has given you plenty of information to get started landing jobs as a beginner freelance writer.
Use these steps to learn how to start freelance writing and get paid to write online!
Whether you work full-time, part-time, are a SAHM, retired, or unemployed, freelance writing is a great work from home job. With all the freelance writing sites available and using the tips above I’m confident you can hone your skills to start earning money.
If you have any questions about how to become a freelance writer, don’t hesitate to let me know as I absolutely love helping new digital freelancers get started earning money on the web!
Sign up for more ways to grow your presence, engage your audience, drive traffic, and build your business online massively with this bundle of resources!