Have you ever wondered how to become a freelance writer? Ever since I left the 9-5 in 2017 to focus on writing and blogging, I’ve had to explain myself to a lot of people that still don’t really get it. But now that I am earning $4,000 or more each month as a content writer, its become easier to explain. Personally, I still pinch myself that I get paid to write for other websites and bloggers. While it’s not always easy, it’s definitely a great way to make money online and turn into a full-fledged business. Thanks to the internet, you can make money and earn a good living writing for clients online. The best part is that you get to work at home and create your own schedule. The bad part is that it can take time to gain momentum, build your portfolio, and get clients. But with hard work and determination, you can become a freelance writer full-time or make money outside your 9-5. After reading this epic guide I’m 100% confident that you will learn what is freelance writing and have the tools to get started.
Freelance WritingEveryone is bound to start freelance writing differently. For me, it was out of my love for helping people and wanting to never work for someone ever again. You might relate to one or both of those. Plus, I wanted to work at home and not have a location or schedule tying me down. Most freelance writers work out of their home but some might opt for a shared workspace. In rare instances, clients might want you to write in their office as well. Freelance writers are also business owners who are responsible for their own taxes. While you don’t need to become an LLC, it’s a good idea to separate business and personal expenses. When you are a freelance writer only half your job is writing, the other half is being a business owner. This includes spending time pitching clients, sending invoices, tracking time, and a variety of other tasks.
How to Become a Freelance Writer (Even With No Experience)I’m sure you’re thinking, this all sounds great but “How do I actually become a freelance writer?” Here’s the step-by-step process to help you get started. If you’d prefer to watch the video version, make sure to click here or the image below for the Youtube video.
1. Start With The Right MindsetTo learn how to become a freelance writer you need to realize first off that it’s not going to be an overnight success. There is no such thing as online success in any business to get rid of that belief now. Freelance writing is a skill that is learned over time. As I said, the job is all about being a part-time writer and part-time business owner. You need to have a growth mindset if you want to become a freelance writer. You need to be able to push past the fear of uncertainty, rejection, and potential obstacles. Before starting, make sure you know that you are going to need to learn, take feedback, and meet deadlines. With a growth mindset, you can always learn more! Like any entrepreneurial journey, understanding that it won’t be easy in advance, already makes it easier.
2. Choose a Writing NicheYou might be thinking, what should I actually write about? Creating a niche is important but not as important in the beginning as other bloggers and freelancers talk about. Instead, think more general and niche down as you become more experienced with the entire process. For example, I started with personal finance which is a very lucrative freelance niche. This entailed writing about student loan debt, saving money, homeowning, investing, and other financial topics. But, as you become a more seasoned writer, you can specialize in one or two topics. This is how you can earn more money as a specialist. Don’t be afraid to start as a generalist as a beginner freelance writer.
3. Create a PortfolioOnce you have the mindset and have chosen a niche, next is creating your portfolio. You need a portfolio to showcase your writing samples. While you can use your blog (if you have one) it’s not always the best idea. Often times your blog niche might be different than your freelance writing niche and doesn’t make sense to have off-topic articles. You have two options to start your writing portfolio:
- Create a free Upwork profile and upload your samples directly.
- Build a personal website and upload your samples to your page. More on this part below.
4. (Optional) Create a Personal WebsiteI put this step as optional for one reason. Beginning freelance writers will see this and stop dead in their tracks. I can already hear “I don’t know how to build a website.” If that’s the case, you can always hire someone for a minimal fee to build a basic website for you. Ultimately, having your own website makes you look much more professional to potential clients. You can also build your own site for cheap. With Bluehost and WordPress, it’s only $3.95/month. If you are intimidated by this, hire someone to do it so you don’t procrastinate any longer. Remember, your portfolio isn’t just for work samples but to also help potential clients learn more about you. Clients hire people they trust. Make your personal website user-friendly by adding pictures of yourself, significant other, pet or family. Showcase yourself, your work, and your likeability! Here is my personal freelance writing site for an example. Your site doesn’t need to be elaborate and should include:
- About Page
- Portfolio: Link to your articles or downloadable PDF’s Page
- Contact Page
- Work With Me/My Services Page
Start Writing on MediumIf you don’t have a blog and don’t want to create a website yet, Medium.com should be your new best friend. This site lets you create a profile in minutes, is 100% free, and can get you massive amounts of free exposure. Medium is a relatively new site but has gained in popularity along with Quora over the past five years. Try to write posts in your ideal client niches. I’ve found with Medium, a personal story can go along the way gaining trust from the audience. As your writing improves start applying for publications to get in front of a bigger audience.
5. Create a Consistent ScheduleI was horrible about this at the beginning of my freelancing journey. Paired with growing this blog, I ended up working way too much and burning out late in 2017. The only good thing that came from it was learning how important a morning routine was to have a proper work/life balance. I can’t stress enough how important it is to create a schedule for your writing. Not only will this keep you sane, but it will also help you write faster and get more done. Find a time that works best for you. Personally, I like the mornings as I find myself more energized and creative after my morning rituals. If you’re a night owl, do it then. Just make sure you stick to a consistent schedule and don’t burn out.
6. Start Applying for Freelance Writing GigsThis is the part where you have to put yourself out there. You have to find jobs that you think would be a good fit for and apply. Sometimes you will apply through a website specifically, others you will email them a pitch. Don’t be upset if you don’t hear back or get rejected. As Jack Canfield said, “Rejection is a myth. You never even had it in the first place.” Stay persistent, pitch like crazy and eventually you will land your first client! These are some of the best freelance writing websites to get your freelance writing career started.
UpworkUpwork gets a lot of bad press in the freelance writing community as some people consider it a content mill. In reality, it’s only a content mill if you choose to accept those wages. But for beginner freelance writers it’s easy to find potential clients, pitch yourself, and get started instantly. I found some of my best clients and on there that I still work with today. Again, make sure you choose a rate that is fair and not slave labor.
Pro Blogger Job BoardsPro Blogger job boards is another super helpful site to get started finding clients. You can apply directly through the site or follow the instructions from each client.
Blogging Pro Blogging JobsBlogging Pro Blogging Jobs is another great place to find your first potential client. Make sure you sign up for their daily email so you don’t miss any writing opportunities. Also, be sure to check out these 50+ freelance writing jobs online to start finding clients.
7. Set Freelance Writing GoalsTo be a great freelance writer, you need to set goals for different types of activities to stay accountable and motivated. As you won’t always make a ton of money in the beginning, it’s important to set small goals to hold yourself accountable. Goals could include:
- Monthly revenue goals
- Number of clients
- Number of pitches per week or month
- Cold pitches vs. job boards
8. Track Your IncomeAs you begin to land freelance clients it’s super important to keep track of your expenses and income. You can do this old school in a Google doc or use a program like Freshbooks. Personally, I love Freshbooks as it makes it easy to track everything, send invoices, and collect payment. Check out all the other resources below to make your life simpler as well.
9. Invest In Yourself and Your BusinessRemember, freelance writing is a business and you need to treat it as such. Like any good business, you should always look for opportunities to invest in yourself and your business. Here are a few things I have invested in as a freelance writer:
Earn More Writing CourseFor six months I tried freelance writing with very minimal success. I knew people were making good money from freelance writing but I kept striking out. I would land an occasional Upwork client from time to time but the pay was low. Or I would spend a ton of time writing proposals only to never hear back. I won’t lie, it was discouraging. Luckily I met Holly from Earn More Writing at FINCON in 2017. Holly Porter is a freelance writer who regularly earns over $200,000 from writing online. In the freelance writing community, she is someone to aspire to be like. Freelance writing and blogging have helped her pay off a mortgage and make more than most 9-5 careers ever could. I signed up for her course, Earn More Writing, in December and by January I had earned my money back from one writing gig. The best part? I’m still working with that client. Her course has also helped me learn how to work with editors, ask for raises, and learn how to prioritize my time. If you want to take freelance writing seriously you need to act like it. Holly’s course does just that. It will show you how to cold pitch clients, negotiate, land big clients,
FAQ’s About Becoming A Freelance Writer
1. How do freelance writers find work?While freelance writing is fun, finding the work is not always the most enjoyable part of the job. Obviously, it is necessary because (as I’ve found) without clients, you are not getting paid. Usually, freelance writers specify one specific niche or topics such as personal finance, sports writing or resume writing. These are just a few examples of freelance writing niches. Part of freelance writing is finding work and the other part is doing the actual writing. At the beginning of a freelance writing career, it’s easy to spend 90% of the day searching for freelance writing gigs and 10% on actual writing. As you become more experienced and acquire clients less time will be spent searching and more time writing.
2. What do freelance writers write about?When people ask “What is freelance writing” they might be surprised about all the options of what you actually write about. Some examples of freelance writing topics include:
- Blog posts
- Media kits
- Grant writing
- Online ad copy
- Email copywriting
- Technical manuals
- Social media marketing
- Trade publication articles
- Online course copywriting
3. Who pays freelance writers?Freelance writers can be paid directly by a client (this could be a single person or a business) as well an agency. Every client will have a different payment system. Some clients will do bi-weekly or monthly invoices while others will pay when the assignment is complete. Some old school clients might even cut you a check. I prefer to use Freshbooks
4. What are the ways you can get paid as a freelance writer?Depending on the client freelance writers paid in several ways:
- Per word basis – You will receive X cents for every word written
- Hourly – You track the hours and set an hourly rate with the client beforehand
- Per project – You receive the total amount that is not based on per word or hourly rate. If it is a large project you might be paid at different intervals of completion.
5. What are the rates for freelance writing?Freelance writing rates can vary depending on your experience and niche. Here are the most lucrative freelance writing niches I’ve found:
- SEO technical writers
- Health care and insurance writers
- Fitness, diet, and nutrition writers
- Personal finance/money management writers
6. What skills do I need to become a freelance writer?You need two major skills to become a great freelance writer: time management and persistence. When you are a freelance writer with multiple clients, you need to be very strict with your time. While you might work at home it doesn’t mean you have 100% freedom in your life. You must have a calendar for your drafts and deadlines for all your clients. One missed deadline and you could lose a client and the income for good. The other skill in persistence. Freelance writers must be tenacious. There is a ton of rejection when it comes to freelance writing. Anytime you pitch a new client you have the option of being denied or never even being responded too. Don’t take it personally — it rarely is anything you did! If you want to become a freelance writer that earns consistent money, you must learn to bounce back quickly and keep working toward your goals.
7. What is it like to be a freelance writer?Freelance writing is pretty awesome. It’s really hard to beat making money writing articles that can get read by thousands or hundreds of thousands of people online. But, in the beginning, I will say it wasn’t easy. As you earn your stripes as a writer it takes time to learn how to write, pitch, and understand the entire process. After you get the hang of it though, you can write a ton of content in a short amount of time. This can lead to more time to work on other projects, start a blog, spend time traveling or enjoy more time with family or friends. Plus, you can make a ton of money as you gain skills, grow your network, and build your portfolio.
8. Do you need a degree to become a freelance writer?While some jobs will say they require a degree, I’ve never had a client ask for any formal certification. You don’t need a degree to become a freelance writer. As long as you write, edit, and get clients you have all the skills to become a freelance writer.
9. How much money do you make as a freelance writer?The best way to answer this question is with a question. How hard do you want to work? I’ve found that once you get comfortable it’s pretty easy to make $1,000 – $3,000 per month only working part-time hours. But, if you want to earn more in the $5,000 – $10,000 range it will require more work, hours, and effort on your end. But it is 100% possible as I’ve routinely met writers who make over six figures per year!
Best Tools To Start Freelance WritingIf you want to become a freelance writer, you need to have the right tools to help you succeed. I wish I’d had known about these when I was figuring out how to start freelance writing. Use some of these tools and I promise you’ll become an expert in no time.
FreshBooksEvery writer needs a billing and bookkeeping system. I’ve used FreshBooks since 2018 as it’s super simple to use, automates much of the busy work, and creates more time for you to focus on earning.
QuickbooksIf you’re a blogger or podcaster and a freelance writer it might make sense to use Quickbooks. They make it simple to differentiate costs so you can keep all parts of your business separate.
GrammarlyIf you’re like me, you need some help when it comes to spell checking your work. Grammarly provides an easy way to proofread your writing. This free app scans your work for typos, punctuation errors, and plagiarism. There is a 100% free version and paid one for even more detail.
BlueHost (Web Hosting)When building your blog or portfolio page, you’ll need to find a host for your website. Bluehost provides great hosting and customer service starting at less than $5 a month. It’s super easy to get set up and very low cost. As I’ve mentioned before, having your own freelance website and portfolio is crucial in becoming a successful freelance writer.
Genesis By StudioPressLike anything in life, you get what you pay for. And if you want a quality freelance site and portfolio, you need to spend the $50-$75 for a paid theme. There are tons of great ones out there but my personal favorite it Genesis Framework by StudioPress (which this site is running).
NameCheapNamecheap is where I purchase and manage all of my domain names. While you may be able to get a URL from your hosting company, I like to keep mine separate in case I want to switch providers in the future. I recommend signing for 2+ years as you’ll save big.
WordPressWordpress is going to become your new best friend once you start writing on a regular basis. The more you can learn and understand how to use WordPress, the more likely you are to be a successful writer. Clients love when you can help them out with the little things on the back end.
TurboTaxFor your tax preparation, TurboTax is a popular tax prep software made by the same company who owns Quickbooks. So, if you’re using Quickbooks and doing your own taxes, these two programs integrate perfectly together.
LegalZoomWant to form an LLC to keep all your finances and bills separate? Check out LegalZoom to get started and have everything submitted quick and easy.
ClickFunnelsI use ClickFunnels to customize email opt-in forms, webinar registration pages, sales pages and more. Clickfunnels is fairly simple to use but has a ton of capabilities. and they integrate with almost any email service provider.
ConvertKitThanks to following Pat Flynn for so long I’ve learned the importance of building an email list. And when it comes to sending those emails I recommend Convertkit. This system was made with bloggers in mind as it makes it easy to segment and create automated email sequences.
MailChimpIf you’re just getting started and are looking for something free, MailChimp offers a free email service tier for up to 2,000 subscribers (and 12,000 emails/month). The biggest downside to using Mailchimp’s free version is that you can’t send automated email sequences. You’ll have to upgrade to the paid version to get started.
G Suite Business SolutionsThis is Google’s suite of tools for businesses and how I create custom emails (i.e. [email protected]). It includes Gmail, Google Drive, video conferencing and more. The price is minimal, starting at just $5 per month!
Google DriveGoogle Drive provides cloud storage and file backups for documents, photos, spreadsheets, and more. I write all of my drafts in G-Drive for my blog and all of my clients stuff as well. I choose to pay for the upgraded monthly service but you can get a ton of storage for free as well.
TailwindTailwind is the only Pinterest certified partner to help you schedule your pins. It’s super easy to use and lets you join Tailwind Tribes and schedule pins for months. I can’t recommend this tool enough!
DepositphotosI’ve found in the world of blogging and writing, one way to stand out is your images. Instead of using the same free sites like everyone else, you should invest in a paid software to help you stand out from others. Depositphotos is my go-to spot for quality stock photos. Individual image, monthly, and annual plans are available.
CanvaCanva is one of my favorite tools on the market! It’s an online photo editing program that can help you create images for social media and Pinterest. The interface is super easy to use and it’s 100% free (paid version is available).
99designsLooking for professional looking graphics, web designs, or logos? At 99designs, thousands of designers compete to win your business.
iMark InteractiveiMark Interactive provides monthly maintenance and technical support for WordPress websites. I’ve used them for years and they’ve helped me with so many blogging and WordPress issue’s it’s insane. I highly recommend them if you just need a simple “quick fix,” or setting your entire website.
Google CalendarStaying organized is a key to success when it comes to starting your freelance writing business. I use Google calendar to track all of my deadlines so I never miss one. Plus, the calendar syncs perfectly on all devices.
TrelloOnce you start working with clients I’m sure you’ll either use Trello or Asana to collaborate. Trello is a free program that’s great for managing workflow, especially if you’re passing things off between team members.
Get Started — Freelance Writing for BeginnersHopefully, this post has given you plenty of information to get started landing jobs as a beginner freelance writer. I want to help you start earning more money outside of work! Use these steps to learn how to start freelance writing and get paid to write online! Whether you work full-time, part-time or unemployed freelance writing is a great work from home job. With all the freelance writing sites available and using the tips above I’m confident you can hone your skills to start earning money. If you have any questions about how to become a freelance writer, let me know. I love helping new freelance writers get started. I even created this epic post –> “The Ultimate Guide to Freelance Writing.”
Ready to Launch Your Freelance Writing Journey Today?Tired of reading about it and ready to start making money as a writer!? Then sign up below for my FREE webinar on how to get started freelance writing and find your first clients! This webinar will teach you the 3 best places to start finding freelance writing clients. I can’t wait to meet you on the webinar!
Latest posts by Michael Leonard (see all)
- Episode 112: 7 Lessons From My Failed Blog - July 21, 2020
- Episode 109: 5 Ways to Upgrade Your Life During This Pandemic - July 13, 2020
- Episode 108 – From Dream Job at Google to Full-Time Medium Writer - July 9, 2020