Have you ever dreamed of being a freelance writer? Do you imagine sitting in a Parisian cafe, or heck, even at home in your pajamas and getting paid to write?
Freelance writing is still big business, and so far the robots haven’t been able to replace us.
So if you’ve got a story in your heart and a pen in your pocket, maybe you’d enjoy being a freelance writer.
In this post, I’m going to talk about how to become a freelance writer, what you need to know, how much you’ll make, and where you can find jobs. I hope it gives you what you need to get started freelancing. Good luck!
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What is a freelance writer
A freelance writer is, quite simply, someone who sells their writing! Sometimes they work by the hour, but more commonly they sell writing by what they produce, charging by the word, the post, or some other finished written product.
Freelance writers work in all sorts of fields, from blog writers to people who write user manuals, from ghostwriters writing books for famous people to someone writing a YouTube script.
Writing is still ridiculously in-demand. And despite the fact that we live in a well-educated society in which just about everybody can write, good writers are still hard to come by.
How much does a freelance writer make?
There there’s a huge discrepancy in what freelance writers will learn. One might make $5 an hour, and another might make hundreds. The biggest determiner of your pay will be how good you are and how well your niche market pays. But also, if you can produce great writing fast, you have a way higher chance of earning what you’re worth, especially if you’re being paid by the article or word.
For what it’s worth, Ziprecruiter reports that freelance writers average $63,000–which is pretty good.
How to become a freelance writer – 6 Steps
This seems like a dumb place to start, but I assure you it’s not. If you were going to be a chef, you would have to practice cooking. And writers need to practice writing.
Just because you wrote some essays in college doesn’t mean you are going to be a good freelance writer. It takes a lot of practice to develop your voice and your abilities. It takes even more practice to understand what your clients want and be able to produce something that fits within their vision.
Start by perfecting your craft first.
Since people hire freelance writers to write everything from technical manuals to memoirs of famous people, you need to get pretty clear on what you are going to write.
Choose a niche that you want to get good in, and focus on writing things that would fit somebody in that niche.
For example, if you wanted to be a freelance science writer, work on pitching science publications first. Maybe start a scientific blog.
If you want to be someone who writes YouTube scripts, dive deep into how YouTube actually works. Learn the algorithms and keywords structures, and start doing it.
No two freelance gigs are the same, and by identifying your niche you will ultimately have more to offer. I do some freelance writing using content and SEO, largely based on the skills I picked up creating this blog.
Ask yourself these questions to figure out your niche:
- What do I know a lot about? For example, if you had a degree in chemistry, you could probably handle technical writing related to chemistry in a way that I can’t with my arts degree.
- What do I enjoy writing about? There might be more money in some areas than others, but you will still want to get out your eyeballs out if you need to spend all week writing about something you don’t care about in the least. The good news is, you can find writing gigs that fit just about any style or interest.
- Where do I have a strong network? Do you have an existing network in a field that will help you launch your freelance career? For example, I was a policy analyst for a while, so I know a lot of people in that space. I could have probably made a go of becoming a freelance writer of policy reports.
- What have I already written? There’s no need to start from scratch. If you already love to write, and have a stash of writing you’ve already done, why reinvent the wheel? If you have a food blog, and you love to take pictures of your food on Instagram and write catchy descriptions, why would you try to start writing about cars? There are lots of freelance opportunities for food writers. Pay attention to what you already have.
If I were hiring you to write for this blog, I don’t give a shit about where you went to school or what your degree is. I care about whether or not you can write.
That’s what’s great about this discipline. It doesn’t lie.
Either you’re a good writer or you’re not. The last time I got hired to write for a tech company, I didn’t send them my resume. I sent them links to a few blog posts here.
You’re going to need to create some sort of portfolio. You could do this by making a personal website, or hosting you’re writing a third party like Medium. You might even be able to get away with a PDF that has writing samples on it and some situations. It totally depends what the people who are hiring you want to see.
I’m in favor of a personal website that showcases what you can do and even has links to your work.
You can use Squarespace to create a basic portfolio website that looks really beautiful. If you want to go to the next level, launch a blog on WordPress instead using Bluehost. That’s what I did when I created Roostervane, and knowing how to use content management systems has been an extra feather in my cap.
Read More: 10 Steps – How to Start a Blog People READ
4. Learn business basics
Becoming a freelance writer means that you are an entrepreneur.
Depending on your personality, that might be either exciting or terrifying. Let’s make it exciting!
You can easily learn the basics of business you need to know for getting set up by dropping into a small business center or reading a few books.
Add to this the fact that platforms like Upwork are ridiculously accessible and easy to use, and you’ll have no problem getting your freelance business off the ground. Chat with your accountant to so that you don’t have any confusion at tax time.
For bookkeeping, I really love the software Freshbooks, which gives you really clean easy accounting software and lets you keep track of your business expenses.
You absolutely should check out some job sites, and I’ll make a list below. But you can also make a point to network with people in your field of interest. In my experience as an entrepreneur, the vast majority of my opportunities have come through networking. This includes freelance writing opportunities.
The more people you know, the more chances you will have. Make it a goal to have some conversations with a few people at organizations that interest you. Get on their radar. Tell them you’re a freelance writer, and you might even ask how you can get on their list.
Read More: 11 Boss-Level Tips on How to Network
6. Maintain great client relationships
When you do land a client, do everything in your power to have a great relationship with them.
If you can find some people you work with regularly, it will save a lot of time trying to chase down new clients.
Of course, don’t work with people who pay you terribly and treat you like crap.
But if you have great clients, treasure that relationship. And do make sure you raise your rates every year.
As you go through this list, come back to each step on it again and again. Never stop improving your writing. Never stopped clarifying your niche. The best way to be a successful freelance writer is to keep going through the steps, again and again, clarifying, strengthening, improving.
Watch how far it will take you!
Where to find freelance writing jobs
Maybe it’s a no-brainer, but the biggest freelance marketplace on the net might be a great place to start. If you’re going on Upwork, make sure you get a clear sense of how the platform works and how to market yourself there. The first few clients will be the hardest, but once you have some reviews and feedback things will pick up!
A community and job board dedicated to freelancing, Peak freelance has a running list of some fantastic writing opportunities–mostly related to content and UX for tech companies.
Problogger was one of the sites that got me inspired when I started blogging. Created by Darren Rowse, the site has lots of great information on blogging, as well as a job board you can find opportunities.
Contena is a great way to get your freelance writing career started. There is a fee to join, but if you’re really serious about building a writing career Contena provides everything you need from training, access to a coach and help with your portfolio.
One of the leading websites for freelance writers to learn, grow, and discuss issues, questions, and more. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just beginning your freelance career, everything you need is here.
Much like Upwork, find remote, hybrid, and flexible jobs of all kinds. They guarantee a top-notch job search experience from start to finish.
Typical job board with great options for freelance writing jobs of all kinds.
This is fantastic option for anyone with a freelancing writing career. ConstantContent connects great brands to freelance content and copywriters.
Updated everyday with new jobs to apply for, BloggingPro is for anyone who wants to write content for bloggers.