If you have writing skills and enjoy researching and writing about topics that interest you, then you may want to start a freelance writing career.
It can be daunting to start a freelance writing business when you have zero experience. But, there are so many opportunities out there to help you get started!
Original content is in high demand, and there are many small business owners looking for writers.
If you’re determined, you can get started today and make extra income with freelance writing. Or you can persevere and create a full-time writing business that lasts for years to come.
Either way, this guide will help you understand what kind of writing services you can offer, and the steps to getting started.
What is a freelance writer?
Freelance writers are individuals who are hired to write articles, blog posts, or other kinds of original content for a fee. A freelance writer is a person who works for themselves, instead of working for a company.
Freelance writers are self-employed and work independently, so they’re in charge of their own projects. They set their own rates and typically provide a contract and invoice to clients.
Customers who work with freelance clients will typically receive an agreed-upon rate for the work they do. This rate may be calculated on an hourly basis, per word or per writing job.
There is no set route to becoming a freelance writer, but many people start by writing for free online and then looking for clients who require their services.
There are many resources available to help new freelance writers get started, including online forums and blogs, writing courses offered by colleges and universities, and self-help books on the subject.
Is it hard to become a freelance writer?
A freelance writing career is not easy to attain, but it is well worth the effort. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be successful in this profession.
At the outset, hard work often pays off in terms of a larger paycheck. However, over time you may be able to earn more by cutting back on hours or focusing on other areas of your career.
Self-belief, practice, determination, and networking are all you need to be a successful freelance writer.
Types of Freelance Writing
There are a few different types of freelance writing, and each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.
1) Content Writing
Content writing is probably the most common type, as it can be done quickly and easily by anyone with some writing experience.
Content writing is the process of creating, editing, and publishing online material on websites, usually for marketing purposes.
This type of writing often includes blog posts and articles, video and podcast scripts, as well as content for specific platforms, such as captions for Instagram and Facebook.
Copywriting is a very important part of advertising and marketing. It’s the process of writing persuasive words that inspire or motivate people to take a specific action.
Copywriting is slightly different from content writing because it’s more focused on marketing a business and converting visitors into sales.
Copywriters are people who are trained to write in a way that will connect with the target audience and move them to do something.
A ghostwriter is someone who creates original text on behalf of another person, with the understanding that the text will be attributed to its author rather than the ghostwriter themselves.
There is a lot of work to be done in the field of ghostwriting, and it can be a satisfying and lucrative career if your ego can cope with not having your name on the published work.
Ghostwriters are very frequently paid to write ebooks, children’s books, and novels. These types of projects can easily be 3,000 to 10,000 words so they are big writing projects!
4) Technical Writing
Technical writing is a type of writing that is more specialized and requires a good working knowledge of fields such as information technology (IT) or engineering. A technical freelance writer may be hired to create user manuals for parts or machinery or write reports or white papers.
Freelance journalism still exists, and you don’t have to necessarily work for a magazine or newspaper, or local TV station. There are independent media outlets on Youtube and creating podcasts that hire freelance journalists to conduct research, and interviews and provide notes for breaking news and investigative reporting.
In addition to content writing, many online businesses may need help with script writing if they want to produce video content or podcasts. If you have a knack for storytelling and can communicate your ideas convincingly through writing, then there’s likely a market for your skills elsewhere on the web.
7) eCommerce Writer
Ecommerce businesses have a wide variety of products and a large budget to market their brands. Writers may be hired to create content for the products, buyer guides, brand guides, or category descriptions of a company.
How to Start a Successful Freelance Writing Business
Here are a few essential steps you need to follow in order to start a successful business:
1) Niche Down
When you’re first getting started, it can be very tempting to write about all kinds of topics. But the type of content you write about should be very narrow and specific. You should be known as “that freelance writer that specializes in x, y or z”. You will have a much easier time finding potential clients and landing new clients when you are focused on a specific industry.
Here are just a handful of freelance writing topics you can choose to specialize in:
- Finance (personal, taxes, business, etc)
- Computers and technology
- Food and drink
- Real estate
- Home improvement
- RVs and campers
- College preparation
- News and politics
- Public health
Keep in mind that these topics are still very broad. If you can narrow down your topics of choice even more, the easier it will be for you to establish authority on that topic, and grow your writing portfolio.
2) Invest in a Course
There are many training courses out there that you can invest in. Some of them are free while there are more thorough courses that you may purchase.
Either way, after you select an industry that you want to write about, then you should find a course that’s focused on that industry.
If you are willing to pay for a freelance writing course and work through the modules and video trainings thoroughly, then you will vastly expand your writing skills.
A skilled writer is a valuable writer for busy business owners!
3) Create a Website
There is a big debate on whether or not freelancers need a website. I’m on the side that thinks you should have a website.
WordPress pricing ranges from $15 to $50 per month, depending on which plan you select. Sometimes your domain name and hosting are included in the first year, but you may have to pay more after the first 12 months.
I’m currently paying $25 per month for WordPress, $18 per year for my domain name, $6 per month for my email address, and about $10 per month for Bluehost (hosting and SSL certificate). I also paid $90 for a custom WordPress theme that I installed myself.
Alternatively, you can create a Squarespace website and pay $19 per month for the personal plan or $33 per month for the business plan. If you pay annually, you can save 25-30% on the pricing.
Squarespace includes a free domain name and professional Google email address for the first year. It also takes care of the SSL security for you. They also have a library of website templates for you to choose from.
4) Start a Blog
If you are able to invest in your own website, then you can start a blog! Having your own professional website can help you stand out from your competition. It’s also the best way for you to market your business!
Every blog post that you publish is an opportunity to promote your freelance writing. You can publish your own blog posts which is another way to grow your writing portfolio. You can also install Google Analytics and see who is visiting your website.
5) Use a Social Media Platform
If you’re not comfortable investing in and launching a website at first, then it’s highly recommended that you create some social media profiles for your business. They are free to get started but keep in mind that you are operating your freelance business on a platform that you do not own.
Having an online presence can really help you grow your business. It’s not necessary to be on all of the social media platforms, but in general, freelancer writers will have an easier time finding work on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
6) Learn About SEO
SEO has now become an integral part of digital marketing and online businesses.
Ensuring that the website is optimized for search engine optimization (SEO) so that it can be easily found by potential customers. A freelance writer that understands SEO and keyword research is very valuable to many clients.
7) Use Grammarly
Grammarly is a really helpful writing tool because it detects grammatical and spelling errors.
It offers a lot of helpful features like auto-correct and word prediction, so you can focus on your writing without having to worry about mistakes. Plus, it includes a plagiarism report which you can share with your clients. This will put them at ease knowing that the written content you shared with them is original and not copied from other websites.
If you’re new to writing and don’t have any experience, Grammarly is a great tool to start using because it will help you improve your writing skills quickly.
7) Guest Posting
Writing a guest post on another website can be a great way to get your name out there. If you want to publish guest posts on high authority websites, look for sites that rank highly in Google when you search a term.
It can take a while to research and make a list of websites and blogs that offer opportunities for guest posts. There are many independent publishers (AKA bloggers) who will allow you to submit ideas or even a draft to publish on their website.
8) Create Your Portfolio
All you need are some solid writing samples of your best work that demonstrate your skills. Include samples of your work in different formats (blog posts, articles, etc.), along with any awards or accolades you’ve won.
Related: How to Create a Portfolio
9) Set Your Rates
Freelance writing can be a great way to make a flexible income, but it’s important to set your rates accordingly.
There is no one right answer when it comes to how much you should charge for your work. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what type of work you’re providing and how much experience you have. Additionally, consider the time commitment required for each project. If you’re willing to put in a little extra effort, you may be able to charge more for your services.
Decide how much to charge – or how much you would accept as a minimum. Do you want to charge an hourly rate or per word or per job?
Freelancers need to be mindful of their pricing when trying to grow their businesses. Overhead, taxes, and paying themselves as well as growing the business all need to be taken into account when setting prices.
If you want to charge an hourly rate, here is the calculation you can use:
$5,000/month goal ÷ 100 hours/month (billable hours) = $50/hour
10) Land Your First Clients
Landing that first client can take time. It’s okay to feel discouraged during this period of time but don’t give up! You can try networking and cold pitching. Whatever route you choose, focus on it and keep working.
After you land your first set of clients, here are some things you must do in order to make it easier to land new clients:
- Create a workflow that’s easy for you to repeat. This includes using templates for your contract, invoice, questionnaire, canned emails, etc. This will save you a lot of mental work and time down the road.
- Set expectations. Tell your clients when you can deliver your first writing draft and stick to that deadline. Be prompt with all your communication.
- Wow your clients on the first project. You will highly increase your chances of them hiring you again if you provide a positive experience the first time around!
- Ask for feedback, a referral, and a positive testimonial. Most customers won’t do this unless you ask!
Where Can You Find Freelance Writing Opportunities?
There are several freelance writer directories online where you can post your resume and find clients. You can get started with these websites really easily if you have no prior experience.
Don’t join every single website and every single Facebook. Stick to one or two and start putting yourself out there either by networking, sending proposals, or applying for open freelance opportunities.
Upwork is a freelance platform for freelancers to find work and business owners to find talent.
Clients can post job descriptions and search for freelancers to complete projects through the Upwork platform. Clients can choose from a variety of freelancer services, including writing, design, and consulting. Freelancers submit proposals based on the price range specified by the client and work to complete the project as agreed upon.
Similar to Upwork, you can create a freelancer profile on Fiverr. You can create a profile and freelance writing gigs. Get as specific as possible with your gigs because customers will find you by the keywords you use as well as the topics you write about. Many Fiverr writers will create multiple gigs.
Disclosure: Freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fiverr can help you get started when you’re new at freelancing. There are many freelancers who make a full-time income from these platforms. But keep in mind that they have rules to follow and they will charge you fees. So you can use these websites to gain experience, but I highly recommend that you work independently whenever possible.
You can also join Facebook groups and start networking to attract prospective clients. Join groups that are focused on entrepreneurship, blogging, digital marketing, and of course freelance writing.
The best way to network is by providing value first. There are usually many people asking questions in Facebook groups. If you see a question that you can provide an answer to, do that! There are also groups where business owners are posting job opportunities.
It’s a good idea to check these Facebook groups on a regular basis. If you don’t have any clients yet, engage in these groups for 30 minutes to an hour per day. Leave comments on posts and be helpful. You can publish your own posts too, especially if you’re sharing tips or personal experiences that will attract clients.
Ready to become a successful freelance writer? With this guide, you will be on your way to becoming a freelance writer with no experience. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!
This article was originally published in July 2017 and updated with no information in June 2022.