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I will share with you how to become a freelance writer and make a full-time income writing at home in your PJs or on a beach in Bali: you pick!
Do you love writing? Want to learn how to become a freelance writer?
If you do, the idea of getting paid to write and work from home may sound too good to be true.
Trust me. It’s not.
Making a living as a freelance writer is work, and it’s going to require time, effort, and an investment in yourself to get started. But I can assure you, this career path will give you the flexibility and freedom you are longing for!
Think about it:
You’ll be able to work from the comfort of your home and set your own schedule! Or you’ll be able to work from anywhere in the world! This is perfect for moms, students, or anyone that doesn’t want to be confined by the time restraints of a 9-5 job.
If you love to travel like me, you can freelance from anywhere since all you need is your computer and an internet connection.
The best part?
You don’t need a fancy degree or a ton of training if you want to learn how to become a successful freelance writer. Research shows that freelance writers can make over $70,000 on average annually.
And once you create your own consistent base of clients that love you, you could earn even more!
Case study 1:
How Laura from Legal SEO Writer makes over $15k a month!
Laura started her full-time freelancing career in June 2012. Since then, she managed to scale her one-woman business to a multi-six-figure level!
“I decided to start a freelance writing career because I was bored to death in my office job at an insurance company. I wanted a business where I could decide who to work with and who to turn down.
I’ve had months as high as $28k as a one-woman shop, but I usually hover between $15-20k.
My best tips would be to start small and don’t give up your day job yet.
I stayed in my day job for a year while I built up my clientele and had a year of income reports to prove to myself that it was steady. Taking the leap to go full-time was scary but also amazing because my business grew so much, and I am worlds happier than I was in my day job.
Also, know that you will hear the word “no” or get no response dozens or even hundreds of times. Don’t expect to land your first freelance writing client in five minutes- invest the time to write a great pitch or samples and then start pitching.
During the time I’ve been freelancing, we have moved six times (and I’m currently packing for move #7) for my husband’s military career. Being able to pick up and keep business as usual in a new city is a huge help to me.”
The Difference Between Freelance and Employee
Before I move on, I just wanted to be transparent and point out that freelance writers are not employees, which is why you get so much flexibility.
As a freelancer, you’ll basically have your own freelance writing business, and you can make as little or as much as you want. However, since you don’t have an employer, you’ll be responsible for paying your own taxes and covering benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and your retirement plan.
It’s a tradeoff, but it’s well worth it if you would like more freedom. If you’re able to become a 6-figure writer or earn enough to meet all your financial goals, you probably won’t mind paying taxes and covering your own expenses and benefits.
Okay, so still with me?
Table of contents
How to become a freelance writer
If you’re ready to start your own writing business, I have an 8 step-by-step process that will help you not only to get started but also to make money quickly.
1. Decide what type of writer you want to be
This is such an important first step. There are different types of writers, all of which can be classified under the general freelance writer umbrella.
The most common types of freelance writing are:
- Article/feature writing: This is probably the most common type of writing that comes to mind when people think about freelancing. You’ll be writing for magazines and newspapers either online or for the printed version.
- Blogging: You can make money by either having your own blog or writing blog posts for other bloggers.
- Copywriting: As a freelance copywriter, you’ll write creative copy to help businesses establish and promote their brand, engage with clients, and market products and services.
- Social Media Content: With social media becoming an important aspect of everyone’s life, as a social media content writer, you’ll help brands planning, writing and scheduling social media posts across a variety of platforms.
- Technical writing: The idea of technical writing is to take an overly complicated idea in a specific field and present it in an easy-to-understand manner to the general public. You’re going to need an existing in-depth knowledge of the industry you want to work in if you want to succeed in this type of writing.
Think about which projects sound most interesting to you, along with what you think you’d be good at. For example, you may not find it interesting to write technical instructions. Still, you may enjoy writing a local business feature or discussing your top parenting tips on a mom blog.
In that case, you’d probably prefer to write for blogs, small businesses, or growing websites. The choice is up to you. If you enjoy technical writing, by all means, go for it!
The process of becoming a freelance writer is pretty similar no matter what type of writer you want to be.
2. Narrow down your niche
Now that you know what type of writer you want to be, it’s time to narrow down your niche. The best and most profitable freelance writers specialize in a particular niche. That’s how potential clients find them and match them with projects.
Believe it or not, marketing yourself as a general freelance writer may backfire. If you choose to become a Jack or Jill of all trades, people will assume you’re not specialized enough and just not what they’re looking for.
Plus, choosing a niche allows you to get better at covering a particular subject so you can eventually become an expert on that topic. Brainstorm the topics that seem more interesting to you and that you have some experience in. You can even create sub-niches from your main niche to allow more diversity.
For example, if you enjoy writing about personal finance, you can also cover specific topics like paying off debt, saving for retirement, and credit.
Here are some of the best and most profitable niches for freelance writers to consider:
- Personal Finance
- Dating and Relationships
- Higher Education
Case study 2:
How Leslie from Blurban Planner makes $4-10k a month by working in a niche she knows well.
Leslie started a company to create multilingual content for luxury resorts, hotels, and real estate.
“I realized a few years ago that my dead-end 7-4 job was not fulfilling. I wasn’t happy, and wanderlust was beginning to pressure-cook below my surface. But I knew I loved writing and had experience with SEO development for real estate companies and resorts (I live in a bungalow on the beach in Virginia).
I decided to take a vacation to Paris for two weeks, returned to my job, and put my two weeks’ notice in with my supervisor. During those two weeks, I teamed up with other bilingual writers to form a content writing company, incorporated my firm, and haven’t looked back since.
Fast-forward to now, and we proudly write for many large luxury brands locally and abroad. I get to travel the world and meet with clients globally. I absolutely love the life I live and the career I created for myself.
My best tips for someone getting started in writing?
Read. A lot. Absorb content on whichever genre interests you and learn writing styles and what will bring value to your potential clients. Read first, write next and never stop learning.”
3. Invest in yourself
Be open to investing in yourself and your writing skills so you can be successful. If you want to improve your writing, you may want to invest in a course or some training to improve this skill set.
Another thing you can learn is SEO which stands for Search Engine Optimization. If you’re going to be a blog or article writer, realize that most clients are interested in working with writers who understand how search engines work and can write SEO-friendly articles.
You should also consider investing in the right equipment, whether that means upgrading your laptop or setting up a home office so you can work efficiently. Here are some helpful tools that you may want to consider using as a freelance writer.
- Grammarly – To help check grammar and spelling for your work (there is a free and paid versions).
- Hemingway App – Free grammar editor that can help you score your writing level and assess your overall sentence structure.
- Wave – Can help you send invoices to clients and track your payments. The best part? It’s completely free!
- SEO courses – I LOVE this one, but if budget is an issue, you need to check out Brian’s free resources on copywriting on backlinko.
Learn from the experts
Starting to work as a freelance writer can be overwhelming at the beginning. When I started my blog, I knew the only way to fast-track my success what to invest some money and learn from the best in the business. And the same goes for every freelance career out there!
Can you make money learning everything for free?
Sure you can! But how long will that take you?
If you want to be sure to make a full-time income as a freelance writer in the next 6 months to a year, I think one of the best things you can do for yourself is to learn from someone who has done it before you.
Holly started her business as a freelance writer in 2011 while still working full-time. Within a year, she was earning over $40,000 and quit her job to become a full-time freelance writer. 3 years after that, Holly was earning $180k, and now she constantly makes over $200k a year!
Holly has created an amazing course to share with everyone how she became so successful at finding high-paying freelance gigs. And with the course, you’ll get access to a private Facebook group where Holly will answer your questions. Several people in the group earn over $10,000 a month thanks to what Holly teaches.
I recommend you to do your own research, but every time I ask someone who is a freelance writer, I hear them raving about Holly’s course over and over again!
4. Do I need a blog?
I think it’s essential for freelance writers to have their own blog, especially if you are just starting out! Having a blog can be a great way to showcase your work if you’re trying to make money writing articles but don’t have a ton of experience.
You can blog about whatever you want and use your blog posts as writing samples to help you get clients. Yes, starting a blog costs a little money, but it’s another way to invest in yourself, and it pays off. Most writers I talk to also have a blog and have used it to help them land qualify freelancing gigs.
Let’s also not forget that starting a blog can be a super profitable and flexible way to make money as well.
While it takes time to make money blogging, freelance writing provides a quicker path, but you can do both to diversify your income. Freelancers tend to have a fluctuating income, so your blog can be the perfect way to even out your earnings and serve as an income backup plan as well.
CHECK OUT: How to Make Money Blogging (In No Time)
5. Build your portfolio (yes, write for free)
I talked about all the money you can earn from freelancing earlier, so some of you may wonder why she is now telling us to write for free?
If you’re trying to figure out how to become a freelance writer with no experience, this is it. Writing samples are so important, and it’s difficult to get hired without them.
Would you hire a dog sitter who has no experience? Probably not. You’d likely want to see reviews and testimonials from past clients to assure you that they know what they’re doing when it comes to caring for your dog. It’s the same with freelance writing.
Potential clients want to see that you’ve written content before, and they also use samples from your portfolio to get a feel for your writing.
If you don’t have any samples in your portfolio, you may have to write for free a few times, so you have some work to showcase. You don’t have to do this long-term. Just try to land 3-4 solid guest article spots on other sites and deliver your best work.
This is how you do it:
- Search for websites within your niche that accept articles from guest writers.
- Put together a list of your preferred blogs with articles about what you would like to become an expert on.
- Reach out to them to see if they would be willing to have you write a trial article that can be published on their blog. The best approach is to send them an email, tell them why you love their website, and give them a proposal for a few guest post articles you could offer them for free.
A few tips when you reach out to write your first articles:
- Keep it short, simple, and to the point.
- Explain in a brief paragraph who you are and why you’re an expert in that particular niche.
- Pitch your article with a catchy title and a short description of what it will be about.
From there, you can use those samples to pitch other clients for paid work (we’ll talk about pitching soon).
6. Build a network
Don’t underestimate the power of a solid network. Consider joining a few freelance writer groups on Facebook. This will allow you to connect with other writers, ask questions and get feedback.
Most freelance writers in these groups are friendly and more than willing to help other members out. There is plenty of work for everyone, so you probably won’t feel a sense of competition and should feel more like you’re apart of a community.
Below are some of the best Facebook groups for freelance writers to join at the moment:
- The Write Life Community
- 1…2…Freelance: A Community For Creative Freelancers
- No Fluff Freelance Writing Group
- Freelance Writing Jobs
Remember that networking shouldn’t be one-sided. If you join a Facebook group or even connect with other writers via email or in person, be sure to give back and contribute just as much as you receive.
Who knows, you may even be able to share leads with your network once you reach your capacity with clients.
It can happen sooner than you think!
Case study 3:
How Greg started writing for love and now makes $4-8k a month
Greg followed romance and taught himself how to become a freelance writer, using the support of a community to help him grow.
“I’ve been working as a freelance writer for five years now and got my start because of romance. I met a Chinese woman while we were both traveling in Guatemala. At the time, I was working hands-on in agriculture, conservation, and community development… not writing!
But, romance took me to China, which opened up a world of language-related work. I went from editor to transcriber to writer to content manager to small business owner to ghostwriter. Five years later, and I still do a little bit of everything as a remote freelancer and small business owner because we split our life between the US and China.
My biggest piece of advice is to never stop prospecting – even when you’re absolutely full to the gills. That’s when you start pitching 10%-20% higher rates to new prospects – for
every one you land, you can replace that least favorite/paying client!
My second piece of advice: join a supportive community. For me, that’s The Content Marketing Lounge on Facebook. This great group of professionals is willing to answer your questions, and where I got my #1 piece of advice!”
Don’t forget about your blogging friends…
Another fun way to network is to leverage your blog to get other guest post opportunities. If you find a blog that you really like and admire, pitch a guest post idea that you think would be valuable to their readers.
Deliver your best work, then afterward mention that you’re a freelance writer for hire and would appreciate any leads they send your way.
This, my friend, is how you get amazing referrals.
It’s important to realize that networking is all about relationships, and relationships require nurturing.
Don’t expect a ton of favors on the first interaction with someone. Instead, focus on getting to know them and understanding their needs and goals. Build up some rapport and see if you can do anything to help them instead of just flat out asking for a favor all the time.
7. Start pitching: how to get your first freelance writing client
You may actually land your first client by the time you get to this step, thanks to networking and building your portfolio via guest posts.
However, it’s still crucial that you know how to find freelance writing work. One easy way is to look at job boards. Job boards are often filled with freelance writing jobs for clients who are eager to hire. This is what makes it a great place to start your search.
Some of the best freelance writing job boards include:
- ProBlogger Job Board
- Freelance Writing Gigs
- Freelance Writer’s Den (paid membership)
- Media Bistro
The main caveat to using job boards is that they can be competitive since anyone can access the leads.
Another way to find writing work is by sending a cold pitch. If you find a blog or website that you’d like to write for, find out who the editor is and send them an email.
They may or may not be hiring at the time, but there are a few things you can do to make sure your pitch leads to new client work.
Tips to start pitching:
- See if there are other writers on the site. If you see different authors on the blog, it’s a good indication that this client hires freelance writers. Some sites even have a team page where they may include bios for their current writers or the head editor.
- Make sure the content is up-to-date. Don’t waste time pitching a dead blog or website. Seeing fresh content indicates that this prospective client actually cares about the writing and finds it valuable.
- Follow instructions. If there’s a page on the site that highlights a freelance writing opening, be sure to follow the instructions exactly when you send your pitch.
- Connect on social media. A great way to warm up your pitch is to connect with the client on Twitter or LinkedIn to build up some rapport.
- Send article titles and samples. Never send a freelance writing pitch without attaching some writing samples. You can also get creative and send them a few custom article titles that you think would work well for their site. This shows them that you’ve taken some time to read through existing content and learn more about their audience.
8. One last tip: don’t undervalue yourself
It’s unfortunate, but most freelance writers actually undervalue their work and don’t charge enough money.
I get it. It’s tough to ask for more money sometimes, not to mention slightly awkward. Still, you have to do it if you want to be paid fairly and earn enough to support yourself.
Remember, freelance writing is real work and requires a lot of skills and attention to detail. You should be compensated well for the work you do. Plus, you have to cover your own expenses, pay taxes and health insurance as well as save for your own retirement.
To top it off, you may not get paid to do admin tasks that keep your business running, like checking and responding to emails, doing research, editing your own work, and sending invoices.
Factor in that time and those extra costs into your ideal rate. When a client asks you how much you charge, never answer with a general quote. Every client is different in their own way, so your prices should vary.
Take into consideration factors like:
- How long will it take you to write, research, and edit (Pro tip: Time yourself when you do free trial work and write guest posts to build your portfolio, so you have a good idea of how much time and effort goes into writing).
- Whether you will be given a topic and outline or will need to come up with that yourself.
- Whether you’ll be writing under your own name or byline or as a ghostwriter.
NOTE: Most writers charge per-project or per word.
Set an income goal and speak to a tax professional about how much you should save from your freelance writing income so you can pay quarterly taxes. Factor that amount into your rate.
For example, if you charge $75 per blog post but are at a 25% tax bracket, that means $18.75 of that money should go directly to taxes.
Finally, ask yourself if you feel completely confident in the rate before you send it to a prospect. If you secretly feel like you sold yourself short, don’t send it or raise the price.
You will enjoy the work and most likely do a better job when you feel like you’re fairly compensated.
Don’t be afraid to pass on some clients if your rate doesn’t work out. You want it to be a mutually beneficial partnership for both you and the client so respect the fact that they have a budget too. You don’t want them stretching their budget either to afford to pay you because there may not be longevity in that.
Case study 4:
How Samantha uses freelance writing to have a steady income while building her business, Monsoon Blooms, and makes $3-8k a month
Samantha has worked for big publications like Lonely Planet, the Huffington Post, and many more. She is now building her how business and uses freelance writing to diversify her income.
“I studied Marketing at University and quickly discovered office life wasn’t for me and went hunting for a career path in travel that offered more flexibility.
After spending a lot of time working on my portfolio by writing free articles in my spare time, I took the plunge to go freelance… I also used the change as a chance to move to Bali, where the cost of living was lower, and I could more easily manage varying pay-checks. Copywriting has proved far more financially viable than editorial for me, so I always recommend finding your voice across various industries and writing styles.
I also tracked down mentors within the industry and did everything I could to understand how they paved their path. Last but certainly not least, I think it’s important to separate the elements of writing and find your strengths and weaknesses within the skill. I realized that my grasp of the English language is average when it comes to spelling and grammar, but I can put words in great order and know how to evoke emotion. By figuring this out, I was able to scrub up on what I lacked and progress a little further than I had ever imagined.”
Ready to make money as a freelance writer?
You can learn how to become a freelance writer even if you have no experience!
Laura, Leslie, Greg, Samantha, and many others have changed their lives and are now doing what they love.
Follow these 8 steps, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful freelance writer and find your first writing job. Freelance writing can be a great way to increase or diversify your income while simply doing something you enjoy.
And if you want to kickstart your freelance career and learn from a writer who is making well over $200k a year, don’t forget to check out Holly’s course here.