I get a lot of emails from people who want to know how to get started freelance writing from scratch. If that is you, this post is meant to show you how to become a freelance writer.
The sheer number of websites, magazines, and other publications make freelance writing a promising career choice. All these platforms need content and editors are always looking for freelance writers to fill the gap.
The freelance economy is booming, and if the growth projections are to be believed, freelancers will make the majority of the US workforce by 2027.
Before I get to the details of freelance writing, I’d like to address two issues that hold back many who want to join freelance writing.
Another good example would be Gina Horkey who, despite having no prior experience in content writing, quit her job as a financial advisor in 2015 to become a freelance web content writer. She earns a full-time income from writing, which she used to publish on a monthly basis, but stopped at the end of 2016.
I ‘m not a native English speaker, but that has not stopped me from pursuing my passion, and I could give you countless examples of other non-native English writers who are doing well.
It may surprise you to learn that native English speakers also struggle to land writing gigs. It all boils down to your writing skills and how you sell yourself to potential clients.
As a freelance writer, getting down is the tricky part. But once you do, you’ll gain confidence with every article you write.
Your first step should be setting SMART goals. Goals are important because they help you stay on course and measure your progress. So, why do you want to become a freelance writer? Do you want to do it part-time or full-time? How much do you aim to be making in a month? Asking yourself these questions and jotting down their answers will give you perspective.
The second thing you want to do is learn about freelance writing. That means reading everything from professionals on the subject.
Some of the questions that you should seek answers for include:
Freelance simply means self-employed, working on an ad hoc basis for whoever needs your skills at the time. Freelancers can cover an enormous array of topics, styles, and forms. They can also write fiction novellas, medical information pieces, blog posts and opinion pieces.
If there is a piece of text somewhere (usually online these days) the odds are that a freelance writer was hired to write it.
Absolutely, freelance writing is sustainable. If you have great writing skills and the expertise to attract high-paying clients, you can make a very good income.
Rates of pay vary, and can be paid in different currencies, usually by PayPal. At first, you may have to lower your expectations to just a few cents a word at the lowest rate. Some publications will pay more, and there are pieces for which you can be very well paid; but, these tend to be serious, in-depth research articles, for which you’ll need a lot of time writing.
Freelance writing is very much a buyers’ market until you have proven your worth.
Freelance writing jobs abound these days, but you have to choose wisely. Writing jobs can be found on some recruitment sites (but these tend to be permanent work for one company, for a limited number of hours per month), but mainly on job boards, freelance marketplaces and on content mills.
Some sites allow clients to list the jobs they have available, and writers must submit a proposal for the work. The writers give a pay rate and sell their skills in the hope that their skills will put them ahead of the others.
Others, usually described as content mills, have the clients list the work, and then an author can simply select the work and start writing. The latter sites (Textbroker, Writer Access and others amongst them) are better for people just starting out and still don’t know how to promote themselves.
To be a successful freelance writer, you may want to narrow your field of interest. Find clients that deal with your topic and send them a proposal to take over their content writing – they might appreciate your particular skill set more than a site that is geared for a wider target market.
If you do want to specialize fairly narrowly, go with your passion – there is no point learning a lot about something that bores you, clients will pick up on your lack of interest!
Writing a pitch should always be tailored, as far as possible, to the person who will be reading it. Try to find out a name, or at the very least their specific job title.
There is no place, in any form of business correspondence these days, for ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern.’ Get straight to the point, say what work you want, and follow it up with your strengths.
Freelance clients look for different things from their writers, and there are sure to be clients that you do not get along with very well, or who are not happy with your writing style. It is best to severe these relationships quickly, and look for people who do like your writing style. Trying to rewrite a piece over and over is a waste of your time: and a freelancer’s time is literally their money.
Having said that, be friendly without being familiar, always be willing to change your writing to suit their needs (it does not matter how wonderful you think the piece is, the client’s money says otherwise!) and respond promptly to messages and revision requests.
This blog contains articles that address these kind of questions to varying degrees, and I’ll advise you to peruse through it for detailed answers.
Let’s face it: Freelance writing is not a walk in the park. There are potential pitfalls. As a beginner, you can save a lot of time and effort by reaching out to a seasoned freelance writer. This is someone who has made mistakes, learned from them and grown.
Why repeat the same mistakes that other writers made when you could avoid them?
When I look at my journey, I made plenty of mistakes that I should have avoided if I’d had someone to guide me.
An experienced writer can show you the best places for beginners to find work, how to pitch for work, and how to handle a difficult client.
And it is not that difficult to find a mentor. You can search for them on Google or LinkedIn and drop them an email.
Unless you are going to work on content mills where the writing rates are pre-determined by clients, you’ve got to know how to price your writing services if you want to find success.
Sadly, few, if any, new freelance writers know how to set their rates. Many end up underpricing themselves and work for peanuts while others quote unreasonably high rates and price themselves out of good opportunities.
Seeking advice from experienced writers may be the best way to go about it. However, don’t reach out to just any writer who claims to be an expert. Seek estimates from an experienced writer and settle on what you think is reasonable for a beginner.
Consider taking lower rates for your first few jobs and then quote higher once you’ve demonstrated your writing skill.
As a freelance writer, your portfolio is your marketing tool. No client is going to hire you unless they believe that you can do a good job. No matter where you’re applying for a writing job, clients will always require you to attach work samples or provide a link to your portfolio.
Therefore, you need to start building a portfolio as soon as possible.
Start by preparing a couple of work samples and make sure they are relevant to the job that you are seeking. For instance, if you want to be a travel writer, prepare a few samples on travel. If you want to be more of a versatile writer, make sure your samples capture all the topics that you would like to write about.
Work samples will help you get clients on freelance marketplaces like Upwork, and some job boards but if you want to attract big-time clients, you have to step up your game and build an online portfolio. An online portfolio is an online display of your work for viewing by potential clients.
Ideally, the best place to display your portfolio is on your website. But before you create a website, you can create profiles on Contently, LinkedIn, and Pinterest and create links to your posts.
Once you have a portfolio of work, you should be ready to start applying for freelance writing gigs.
There are 3 major places where you can look for work when you’re a beginner freelance writer, namely, content mills, freelance marketplaces, and online writing job boards.
Most content mills pay writers low rates to write cheap content for their clients. If you are entirely new to writing, content mills may be right places to cut your teeth and gain confidence as a writer before you graduate to job boards. I started my writing career writing for a content mill. Even though the pay was abysmal, the experience and the feedback that I got from clients made it worthwhile. Content mills that are worth checking out include:
Unlike content mills which only contain freelance writing jobs, freelance marketplaces offer a wide range of freelance work to freelancers. However, the pay is also low and people usually bid for jobs. Some freelance marketplaces where you can find writing jobs include:
Online writing job boards are online platforms where clients post freelance writing jobs at decent rates and invite writers to apply for them. As a new writer, you’ll find job boards very competitive. Fortunately, there are some job boards where you can find writing jobs even as a beginner. They include:
Having said that, beware of scams when you are applying for these writing jobs. Scammers usually advertise work and use unsuspecting writers’ content without paying for it.
Regardless of where you prefer to start your freelance writing career, there are key skills that you must possess to succeed. These skills must come to the fore when you are pitching for a job and when you are dealing with a client.
Confidence: Confidence may not be your greatest trait as a new writer. However, you have to show the client that you know what you are doing if you want to increase your chances of getting the job. Using words such as “I’m confident” or “I can assure you” will show the client that you believe in yourself.
Competence: This has to do with the quality of work that you deliver to your clients. If you want to keep clients, you have to keep churning high-quality content on a consistent basis. To achieve this, you must keep honing your writing skill.
Uniqueness: The fastest way to lose a client is to submit plagiarized work. Clients usually run articles through plagiarism checking software to ensure that the work is original before paying their writers. Virtually all content mills penalize or even ban writers who submit plagiarized work. Some of the grammar and plagiarism detection software include Copyscape and Grammarly.
Trustworthiness: You must also demonstrate to your clients that they can trust you if you want to keep them for the long haul. And trust here means keeping your word. For instance, if you take up a job and agree to a deadline, please deliver on time. Better not take up the job than take it and fail to deliver on time.
Respect: Always conduct yourself in a respectful and professional manner in all your interactions with your clients.
Resilience: You need to be very resilient if you want to make it as a freelance writer. You have to learn to bounce back from rejection and keep at it if you want to see results. For instance, I can tell that you won’t hear back from many promising gigs that you will apply for, but you need to keep moving.
Earning your first dollar as a beginner freelance writer might seem slow and scary, but that’s only true when you don’t know how and where to pitch.
To earn your first $100 as a new writer, here is what you need to do:
Once you get your first few pieces accepted and earn your first $100, you will find that the next $100, and the one after that, comes with much less effort as you become accustomed to content writing.
Building networks with other freelance writers, both new and experienced, can boost your freelance career. The goal is not to take advantage of other writers to get ahead but to support each other.
Speaking from experience, I’ve learned a lot through people like Elna Cain that I couldn’t have learned any other way.
You can search for freelance writers to connect with on LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, and in online freelance writing communities on Facebook, Reddit, and Google+.
To grow and be a top freelance who works with high-paying clients and can write for world-famous blogs, magazines, and publications like Forbes, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Economist, you can’t stop honing and refining your writing skill. You can do this by setting reading and writing targets and creating a way to assess your progress.
Starting a blog is one of the must-do things for freelance writers. As I’ve already mentioned, there is no better place to display your portfolio than on your site. And if you work on your SEO, you can rank high on search engines and attract high-paying clients through your blog.
Moreover, through regular blogging, you will become a better writer, attract an audience and make extra cash through the various types of blog monetization.
Once you start a blog you can look for freelance writing jobs by writing cold pitches to companies or blogs that you deem may need freelance writing services. Blogging will catch the attention of the right people, and more likely it’s clients who will come to you, and not the other way round.
Having a blog can do wonders for your career.
There you go! It’s not that difficult to become a freelance writer, is it? I certainly hope that this post has pointed you in the right direction.
Hi, I’m Mercy Mmbone. My mission is to help beginner freelance writers find success online. Even if you don’t have a degree, becoming a successful freelance writer is not as difficult as you’d think. The most important thing you’ll need to get started is self-motivation.
I’m honored to have worked with many popular companies including Ring Central and Freelancer FAQs.