When it comes to freelance careers, writing is one of the most popular paths. Freelance writers have access to a wide range of jobs from writing entire books to designing small ads for social media. And with the rise of powerful online platforms, you can easily start freelance writing and turn your words into cash.
For some writers, it can be a challenge deciding where to start. Transitioning to a full-time writing career is a big move, and if you don’t have a plan, you can get lost. There are tons of tips and tricks to consider before getting into the marketplace as a writer. So, in this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to become a successful freelance writer.
How Can I Start Freelance Writing?
To become a writer, you don’t need a large investment. In fact, to start a business as a freelance writer, the least you’ll need is a good laptop and a comfortable workspace. The rest of your foundation is all about your work ethic. Writing as a career requires a huge amount of discipline and self-motivation.
As a freelance writer, you can develop your career in one of these specialties:
- Content writer
- Email marketing writer
- Social media copywriter
- SEO writer
- Academic writing
- Creative writer
- And many more!
Why Should You Become a Freelance Writer?
There are several advantages to working as a freelance writer. Check out a few of the reasons you should consider this career.
Flexibility in Choosing Customers and Demands
One of the most amazing aspects to start freelance writing is choosing your clients and projects. This flexibility could mean that your professional life is more interesting and fun. The average 9-5 can become stagnant and boring. But, as a writer, you have the chance to work on whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want – that means you can continue to work while traveling the world.
Opportunity to Learn… and Teach!
Gaining experience working with clients and editors can help improve your skills quickly. Each new job can be a challenge to do a great job for your clients. After a while, you can also work to share your knowledge and experience with others. Many writers end up creating a blog or YouTube channel, which can generate even more credibility for your writing services.
New Professional Routine
Sometimes, it’s exhausting to wake up every day and repeat the same routine. As a freelance writer, however, your work can change day to day, and you can manage a better work/life balance. For instance, freelancers can alternate productivity methodologies to find the right pace or create their own way of doing things.
You have the chance to set your own schedule. This includes what time you’ll start and finish working, and whether you’ll be available every day. There’s no obligation to work a certain number of hours per week or to comply with a predetermined schedule.
Improving Your Income
Instead of having a fixed salary, your income will vary. It may seem daunting at first, but the truth is that it can work in your favor. You can cover an unexpected bill by putting in a few extra hours of work. You can even start your own writing agency if you have a bunch of clients and too much work to handle on your own.
And, of course, you’re saving money when you don’t have to buy office attire and gas for a long commute.
Helping People with Your Writing
The satisfaction of earning money on your own terms is a wonderful feeling. However, being able to make a difference in your readers’ lives is priceless. Your writing can help people, teach something, and make their lives easier. Depending on the work you’re doing, your content could reach thousands of people and be a positive influence!
No Experience? Become a Freelance Writer in 9 Simple Steps
It can be intimidating when you’re learning how to become a freelance writer with no experience. However, becoming a writer can be easier than you think. You don’t necessarily need a university degree or any particular qualification. You just need the skills for the job at hand and a passion for the craft. Over time, you’ll develop specific techniques to grow your writing style. Follow these steps to start freelance writing and succeed on your projects.
Step 1: Develop Your Skills
Before you start offering any services, prepare yourself by learning the skills to provide quality work. Client projects should not be your training ground. You have to be ready to deliver.
If you want to be a great copywriter, you should always be learning. Grow your knowledge by taking Skillshare or Udemy online courses, watching YouTube videos, or even reading books on how to start your writing career. Follow expert copywriters on social media.
Practice writing content by making up fictional clients as an exercise, or volunteer on a platform like Catchafire. There, you can help real people who need a hand and support causes like violence prevention, environmental issues, or animal protection.
Just avoid writing for free when a company could actually hire you. While you may be recommended as a great writer and get more clients, you can develop a reputation as the freelancer who works for free.
Step 2: Pick a Niche
When you start freelance writing, choose a topic you know. A big part of a writer’s life is research. The more you know about the topic, the easier the research process will be – and the less time it will take to write.
Make a list of the skills you have and the topics you’re comfortable writing about. Consider your work life, the tools you’ve learned through life, and your hobbies to brainstorm your ideas. As you complete projects and discover what you’re best at, you can start narrowing things down a bit.
There are hundreds of interesting niches to develop as a writer, like:
- Fashion writers
- Tech writers
- Real estate writers
- Marketing writers
- Travel writers
- Romance writers
- Medical writers
- Food and hospitality writers
If you don’t find your niche immediately, you can let the niche choose you. Scroll through freelance writing sites to find the niche that’s in-demand and can bring you more clients.
Step 3: Build Your Portfolio
When searching for freelance jobs, the competition can be overwhelming. To stand out and attract the right clients, you need quality samples of your work. Your portfolio is just as important as your resume, so you must optimize it for the niche you want to dabble in.
If you don’t have samples of your work, work to create some sample pieces right away. Include samples that are relevant to clients in your industry; the work should let them know that you’re qualified to write on the topic.
Once your portfolio is full of a few credible samples, add a link to your profile on freelance writing platforms, social media, wherever you want someone to find your work. Alternatively, you can write articles on LinkedIn or Medium to grow your digital footprint.
Step 4: Find Freelance Writing Jobs
When you need places to find freelance writing jobs, there are currently tons of sites out there. The best place to start is one of these freelance writing websites, where you can find thousands of jobs and connect with clients.
Upwork is a free platform that connects freelance professionals with companies looking for talent. Thirty percent of Fortune 500 companies hire through Upwork. On the platform, freelance writers generally start working for low rates until they build a reputation through reviews and successfully completed projects. As you increase your reputation, you may be invited to featured jobs that only top performers can apply for.
To get started on Upwork, you must apply to open an account. Upwork’s screening process only allows new workers to join if there is a genuine need for their services in the marketplace. To improve your chances, fill out your profile completely with relevant information. Include a video explaining your services, name the companies you’ve worked with, and previous roles you’ve held. Focus on what your potential clients will get out of your writing services, clearly explaining the benefits of them hiring you.
How much does Upwork charge its freelancers? Check out this breakdown of Upwork’s fee structure:
- 20 percent fee on the first $500 you earn from a single client
- 10 percent fee once you have earned more than $500 with the same client
- 5 percent on anything earned over $10,000 with the same client
Many writers regularly charge more than $500 to a single client, so you can expect a 10 percent fee normally with a repeat client. Just keep in mind that on Upwork, you may have to invest some of your earnings in buying connects, which is the site’s virtual currency. Users can access Upwork on the web or on Android and iOs mobile devices.
Freelancer is the largest freelance platform with over 31 million users. On this site, you can find clients from all over the world and get jobs for writers like ghostwriting, copywriting, and content writing. It works like most freelance marketplaces, where you collect positive reviews and complete jobs to increase your trustworthiness and get more clients.
Unlike Upwork, on Freelancer, anyone can open an account. However, once you’re on the platform, it can be pretty crowded and competitive. One of the benefits of Freelancer is that its fee structure doesn’t surpass 10 percent, so you will receive a bigger percentage of your earnings from the beginning.
- For fixed-price projects, you pay a fee of 10 percent or $5, whichever is greater.
- For hourly projects, you will pay a flat rate of 10 percent, making this a more popular option for smaller projects under $50, as the total fee will be less.
- The freelancer contest fee is 10 percent or $5, whichever is greater.
Fiverr is one of the most popular websites to start freelance writing and earn money online. It focuses on gigs, or one-time projects. You probably won’t build long-term relationships with clients like Upwork or Freelancer, but it offers you the chance to get tons of clients on your own terms.
The amount of services and products listed on Fiverr for writers is overwhelming. You can get into categories like:
- Resume writing
- Ad copy
- Social media copy
- Case studies
- Book and eBook writing
- UX writing
- White papers
- Product descriptions
- Press releases
- Legal writing
- Grant writing
- And much more!
The possibilities with Fiverr seem endless. And the site has a large number of active users who hire freelancers every day. To earn a good reputation on the platform, aim for good ratings and the Top Seller, or even Pro, Level.
The average gigs vary between Basic at $5, Standard at $10, and Premium at $15. But depending on the work and your experience, you can charge much more. Pros can even create custom offers up to $50,000! When you’re just starting out, consider starting with a low rate like $5. Then, when you build a reputation as a writer and get more clients, you can raise your rate.
Other sites that offer quick, one-off jobs are HireWriters and iWriter, but you won’t make a lot of money with these until you move up from the basic to more expert writing levels. The main advantage of these two is that you can pick from the ever-populating list of writing jobs needed in the moment.
Step 5: Pitch Fearlessly and Choose Jobs According to Your Knowledge
In the beginning, focus on jobs that are easy for you. You need to get some confidence, start selling, and get five-star reviews by taking basic jobs at first. It may be tempting to accept as many offers as possible to earn more and show how talented you are. But take it easy!
If the job requires you to write something you know nothing about, you could make serious mistakes. This could result in negative reviews and missed opportunities for future clients.
Avoid serious mistakes in your writing by planning your content and proofreading it carefully. It’s a good idea to create a content calendar to get organized and prepare your topics. Also, using online resources for writers like Grammarly or Hemingway App will make a big difference in keeping you productive and error-free.
Step 6: Find the Right Clients for You
Choosing the right clients is also crucial to your success as a freelancer. Accepting too many offers may mean you regret it later. Be selective and only offer your work to clients whose problems you can solve and who mesh with your personality.
Think of your own minimum requirements to accept a client. Consider these basic guidelines:
- Carefully review job descriptions and make sure it is clear and specific to avoid problems down the road.
- Research the client’s reputation online, like reviews left by other freelancers. If a client has had problems with freelancers in the past, you could experience a similar issue.
- Look for clients with a verified payment method on the freelance website.
- Choose clients who set realistic expectations that you can meet. If you don’t understand your client’s requirements or you don’t meet his expectations, it can affect your reputation.
Aim for good clients, or people who will be grateful for your work, offer fair payment for your experience, and provide regular work.
Step 7: Nurture Your Client Relationships
Maintaining a strong relationship with your clients is essential for earning more work or higher pay. You may make mistakes while you’re learning, but you must be willing to accept feedback and correct them. Avoid getting defensive, but instead, thank your client for taking the time to provide feedback. It helps you grow professionally.
Being friendly and polite is also a good practice for keeping great working relationships. You should always thank your client and communicate promptly. Smooth communication can be a major differentiating factor between freelancers. Focus on providing solutions where you can and aim to overdeliver, so your clients get the maximum value from you.
For instance, if they ask you to write a 1,000-word article, submit 1,350 words. If a client wants a landing page, offer them the landing page and a variant for A/B testing.
Likewise, be ethical and adjust your fees according to your results and experience. Overcharging or undercharging is one of the common mistakes new freelance writers make. Don’t accept money from a client if the result is not satisfactory and the client is upset. Work to fix the mistake or offer a refund. Accepting a payment when you haven’t delivered the expected quality of work can harm the relationship and result in negative feedback.
Step 8: Build a Website to Gain More Exposure
To start a freelance writing business, you need to build an online presence. Create a professional website to promote your personal brand and services. This way, your clients can search for your name online and verify that you’re who you say you are.
Your website can be home to your online portfolio and give potential clients a glimpse into your personality. They can read about who you are and what areas you’re an expert in; thus, you’ll attract better clients.
Step 9: Invest in You
Even if you’ve been in the market for years, there’s always something new to learn. Take courses, research, and don’t limit your creativity. The more we read, the more we know about other people’s writing processes, and that can help us improve.
For example, you can learn how to use Adobe Suite, especially Photoshop or InDesign. These tools will help you serve your clients much better, adding a graphic element to your skills. Or you can learn how to compile an SEO audit to help clients optimize their websites.
It’s also a good idea to get useful tools for writers like SEO software to rank higher in SERPs or a powerful plagiarism detector. Similarly, when you start managing more clients, you can even get a CRM tool for writers to better organize your time and team.
Start Freelance Writing Today and Discover the Benefits!
There will be ups and downs throughout your career, and at many times you’ll have to deal with rejection and criticism. Becoming a freelance writer online takes time, but it is definitely worth it. Eventually, you may become a six-figure freelancer.
If you keep pitching to new clients and nurturing relationships with existing ones, you can generate more income, learn more, and gain valuable expertise. Follow the path traced by writers with more experience than you, model their profiles, and create a portfolio optimized to your niche to be the writer you have always dreamed of being.
Freelance Writing FAQs
Millions of clients are searching for freelancers on many different online platforms. To start freelance writing, you just have to specialize in a skill and find a client who has that need. You can also advertise your services on social networks and pay for advertising using Google Ads or Facebook Ads.
Beginner writers earn lower rates. On average, 30 percent of freelance writers make under $10 per hour during their first year. With more experience, you can expect to join the 9 percent of writers who earn $75-$100 per hour.
Freelance platforms make payments via PayPal, Payoneer, and bank transfers. But, if you work with clients outside a platform, you can send them an invoice when the work is completed using apps like FreshBooks or QuickBooks, or PayPal.
Full-time freelance writers with a huge portfolio, credibility, contacts, and steady clients can make six figures consistently. Normally, content writers earn $15–$80 per hour on Upwork and average freelance writers earn $24 an hour.
Only 24 percent of freelancers have a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, having a college degree is not a requirement when it comes to starting a career as a freelance writer.
If English is not your first language, you can still be a freelance writer working in English markets. Many writers whose first language is not English manage to make a living as freelance writers. It may take more effort to nail down the voice of your target audience, but it’s a skill that you can improve over the years. Initially, you may have to promote your work with lower rates until you can produce work of the same quality as a native English speaker.