“What is freelance writing anyways?”
Pretty much what every single person asks me this when I tell them I get paid to write words online.
If you’re a fellow freelance writer, you can relate.
Freelance writers are people who want to peck at the keyboard and have people pay them. And you know what, it’s 100% possible to turn this dream into reality.
If you’re looking to start a side hustle or build an online business without much experience, freelance writing could be your savior.
I’ve been successfully writing since January 2018 and can’t believe the opportunity in this business model. In a short time, I was able to 10X my income working part-time and even make $20,000 in one single month!
Seriously, all you need are the skills to type up a blog post and you can make life-changing income from your laptop. You don’t need any crazy writing skills either!
Table of Contents
What is a Freelance Writer?
A freelance writer is someone who works for themselves as a self-employed entrepreneur. I like to think of us writers as digital entrepreneurs.
I really like Quora’s answer:
A freelance writer is what I like to call a “Pen for hire.” In every niche that you work in you’ll exchange your words or time for money.You work completely independently. You don’t work for anyone, but you always work with people on your projects.”
As a freelance writer, you monetize your skills and write for clients on a regular basis. Typically, you’ll have more than one client (good to not have all your eggs in one basket) and you submit work on a recurring basis.
Clients differ in so many ways. Sometimes you’ll write one-off projects others are weekly, and some might have a monthly posting schedule. These are all terms that are discussed before getting hired as a freelance writer.
Depending on the work you do, you’ll have a number of different job titles. Some of the most common ones including:
Freelance Web Content Writer
The focus is on providing generalized content for the web. This is commonplace for a lot of freelance writers to get started writing and build their business.
As a freelance blogger, you write blog posts for clients. You can make awesome money just writing blogs!
The focus is on different types of content but not limited too white paper, blog posts, eBooks and more. A content writer is similar to a freelance web content writer.
As an SEO writer, you focus on providing highly optimized content for search engines as a way to rank in Google. If you want to make it big as a freelance writer you need to focus on SEO.
With more and more content coming 0ut regularly, SEO knowledge can help you stand out in the crowded marketplace. I talk a little bit more about SEO for bloggers but also recommend reading this post from Moz on “What is SEO.”
If you’re a newbie writer, don’t get overwhelmed but make it a point to learn as much as you can about SEO as you gain more experience. A good place is to start is my friend Mike Pearson’s course, Stupid Simple SEO.
It’s by far the most comprehensive and easy to understand course on SEO.
As a ghostwriter, you focus on providing ghostwritten (not in your name) blog posts, eBooks, website pages, email, white papers and more. While not as glamorous as getting your name credited to your writing, it can pay a lot more than normal.
Personally, I have no problem ghostwriting as much of the content isn’t going to end up on Forbes anyways.
I ghostwrite for several golf blogs and influencers and it’s been amazing. Once you find the tone of someone it’s easy to replicate and pays extremely well. If you want to build your resume, this isn’t the best option as you don’t get credit but you can use it to reach your income goals.
Don’t forget, companies pay big money for ghostwriting!
Once you’ve worked as a freelance writer for a while, you can officially graduate yourself a professional writer. I guess I should take my advice and level up to a “professional writer” as I’ve been doing it full time since May 2017.
What Is Freelance Writing?
Now that you know the different types of freelance writers, it’s time to cover exactly what a successful freelance writer does.
First off, what is the definition of a freelance writer?
Here’s my freelance writing definition:
Freelance writing is any sort of writing an assignment that you do for pay, outside of a staff position. Simply put, you get paid to write words.”
You are not an employee receiving company benefits such as sick leave or vacation pay, or 401(k) matching. So if you’re someone who does the bare minimum and loves taking sick days to not work, this might not be your chosen job profession.
One of the biggest perks of freelance writing is that you can work from wherever you want! Whether I’m traveling the country, working in my home office or setting up in a coffee shop, it doesn’t matter!
To me, this is the biggest perk of doing this type of work: location freedom 🙂
You work in a place of your choosing, with your own tools, setting your own hours. Another part I love is that I work when I want.
I wrote most of this article at 5 am as I’m an early person who loves writing early. Some people write midday and some crazies write into the late hours. As long as you submit projects on time, you can write whenever you want!
**Some freelance clients will want you to work on-site but I recommend being careful. That might require you to keep regular hours at their office and the IRS may reject the idea that you’re really a freelancer at all.
If they do that, then the IRS will disallow all your expense deductions associated with running your freelance business and potentially sue your client to reclassify you as an employee. So be careful and stick to stick working on your own time and schedule.
The Most Common Freelance Writing Services
In the beginning, I recommend starting with tasks that you can build confidence and experience. One thing so many writers and digital entrepreneurs don’t discuss is the right mindset to succeed.
In the beginning, I had no clue what I was doing, got hit with a lot of rejection and let a lot of doubt enter my mind. But one way to remove doubt and build confidence is to start making money and getting clients, even if it’s short-term or lower-end projects.
I’ve found that confidence is like a snowball in your freelance business.
You start out slow but as momentum takes to control you’re going to end up with more and more until you are getting paid a ton from clients you actually love working with.
I recommend starting with a blog or generalized content writing. Never forget one of the oldest internet marketing slogans, “Content is king.”
While it sounds corny, it’s true. Content is needed from all brands. Whether small businesses, digital agencies or large corporations, they all need content. And you can provide it for them!
Blog writing assignments are typically short projects that you can finish in a few hours. And usually, an hour once you become a more experienced freelance writer.
Most blog posts are between 700-1500 words but I have some clients who are more heavily SEO focused on 3,000+ word post massive guides (like this one).
This is how I got my first client from Upwork and it happened to be a gig for golf writing (I’m a huge golfer). Now 20-30% of my income comes from golf articles
Freelance Writer Jobs
Blog writing is just one example of freelance writing work that you can do. When I first started, I chose three main services to market: blog writing, article writing, and site content. Since then, I’ve modified my services list.
As a new freelance writer, you can focus on one service or several. Here are a few services you can offer when you start out. Here are some examples of freelance writing gigs that you can start a beginner:
Blog Writing (Recurring)
Yes, blog writing is also a recurring job that I recommend you try to find asap. Instead of a one-off piece, you might find a more regular position. I’ve found that you need to spend the majority of your time writing to meet your monthly goals, not prospecting new clients (as you aren’t getting paid for that).
Once you find a client who will pay you your writing rate then you can get recurring income, which is huge! You want as much consistent income as possible so you can play your day, week, and month ahead of time.
Blog or Content Editor
Are you someone who enjoys editing the work of others? Personally, this sounds like my nightmare. Editing is a necessary evil for me, as I’m sure some of my past editors would agree!
But if you like editing there is always a need for it and you can offer basic proofreading or a more in-depth approach, called developmental editing. Rates are slightly different than freelance content writing and will depend on what the client is looking for.
More and more blogs I work with have at least one editor as well as a VA so this is a great idea to get started.
This is a hugely profitable freelance writing niche.
If you can’t sell in today’s world, good luck. But if you’re a wizard with words and can get people to buy online, you make a killing as a freelance copywriter.
You may write copy for the web, press releases, sales pages or use your persuasive skills to update a website. My friend Carlos, regularly earns $100,000+ from copywriting and hasn’t worked for anyone else in a decade because of it!
As I mentioned before, with ghostwriting, the content you write isn’t under your name. For example, a client may want you to ghostwrite regular blog posts or an eBook under their name. Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of charing more than your normal rate as you aren’t building up your freelance portfolio.
Social Media Marketing
A ton of freelance writers also offers social media marketing services in addition to normal writing services. This entails handling a client’s social accounts and updating them on a regular basis.
To help automate everything I recommend using a tool like Buffer to help you schedule out client content.
Blog Management (Content Director)
As a blog manager or content director, you are responsible for managing writers for your client, editing and publishing content on your client’s website. I have these with almost every blog I write for as it helps blog owners massively scale the business.
Freelance Jobs Example
As a freelance writer, I only write content for the web, I’ve never published anything in a magazine but I have published several books on Amazon using Kindle Direct Publishing. Otherwise, nothing in print (yet).
Don’t worry, if all you do is online content, then you’ll be in demand and have no shortage of work. Like I keep saying, content is so important in today’s marketing world!
Here’s just a small list of different types of content that you can publish:
This is what I mostly write and what most companies online need. Almost every company has a blog, even super-niche sites.
Because Google loves content, especially new and fresh content. That’s why most companies have a blog, to help potential readers/clients and rank higher in Google for terms they want to be found.
This type of writing is more formal and journalistic in nature but can also apply to digital magazines as well.
Businesses have websites with many pages that also need fresh, new and useful content for readers. As a freelance writer, you might be assigned to write an About page, Bio page or Products page.
This typically falls under copywriting but if it’s more of a post than a page, it could fall under the content writing side of things. I’ve gotten paid great money to create content for websites so I highly recommend this one.
eBooks and Lead Magnets
Many businesses use eBooks to attract people to sign up for their email list (please don’t call it a newsletter anymore btw). Most eBook writing is ghostwritten, but it’s a great experience to have under your belt. I’ve written several eBook lead magnets for clients as well as many for my site.
Video Scripts or VSL’s
Video content is in. While writing isn’t going anywhere, you should definitely look into how you can help clients with video scripts or video sales letters. Whether it’s for internal videos or ones for Youtube, clients are doing more video than ever before.
Once clients get people on their email list they also have to communicate with them on a regular basis, that’s where your skills come in. Some clients I have send out communication with their list every single day
These are lead generating professional articles for small businesses. Not every client or blog will need these as they are more niche specific.
Other Types of Jobs
- Media kits
- Case studies
- Radio scripts
- Press releases
- Digital courses
- Business plans
- Research reports
- Marketing emails
- Newspaper articles
- Direct mail sales letters
- Annual reports (corporate or nonprofit)
- Newsletters (physical or email-delivered)
- Internal/intranet company communications
- Magazine articles (for consumer, custom, or trade publications)
Now, figure out what type of writing you’d like to do. Is it blog writing, eBook, magazine articles or something else?
As you can tell from this massive list, the world of freelance writing offers a wide variety of writing types for everyone. There’s also freelance writing for businesses in every type of industry, from golf to home decor to fitness.
Yes, it can be overwhelming!
The trick is to narrow it down so you can focus, and find clients that will pay your rate and you enjoy working with.
Finding Your Ideal Freelance Client
So how do you find your ideal client and attract the right audience?
From million-dollar companies to the hot new internet startup company, content is always needed. And I’ve written for just about every type. From solopreneurs, who need help pumping out content, news sites, and even corporations.
Figuring out your ideal client can take some time but my biggest piece of advice is to just get started. You’re never going to find the “perfect client” if you don’t get out there and make it happen.
Here are some of the most common types of clients you’ll start working on your freelance writing journey:
- Authors: Many authors seek out ghostwriters for their books. It’s weird to think about but some of your favorite books from huge authors are probably ghostwritten.
- Bloggers: Niche blogs need a lot of content. I know because I used to do a lot of freelance writing and now have some for my website. Freelancers help solopreneurs scale!
- Publications: These are magazines, newspapers or trade magazines.
- Marketing Agencies: Content marketing agencies often hire freelance writers. Many of them also have a place to have a profile of your writing ability. If you get a recurring gig with the agency this is a lot of steady work and great for your freelance writing income.
- Educational Establishments: These markets need content for e-courses and other website material. This is a growing niche that is untapped by a ton of writers.
How To Get Paid to Write: 5 Steps Start
So the article has convinced you, but how do you become a freelance writer? And the question I get even more, “How do I become a freelance writer with no experience?”
Read the full article on how to become a freelance writer for step by step details, but here is the quick rundown:
1. Nail Your Niche
When it comes to getting started I always recommend finding your niche. If you’re unsure at the beginning that’s totally fine and you can start out as a generalist. But if you want to make serious money and scale this venture into a full-time income, niche down.
As the old saying goes, “Riches are in the niches.” And it’s true. The more you niche down your expertise, the more knowledgeable you are and higher quality content you can crank out.
Your niche is what will help you get paid a lot more for your writing.
Here are some tips to give you some ideas on potential freelance writing niches:
- Leverage your current job and past jobs. What skills have you acquired and how can that help people?
- Use past experiences and hobbies (as I mentioned, I’ve gotten paid to write about golf, attending seminars, and men’s lifestyle topics)
- Find other successful freelance writers and see what niche they are in. Could you see yourself writing about those topics?
- Look at big brands that you already know and love using. Trust me, they have the budget to hire a freelance writer. This could be any industry too!
- Pick a few niches to try out so you can get the ball rolling.
How to Find Your Niche
Here’s a 3-step process to find your niche:
- Figure out what you like to write about
- Get creative and think about your experience and how you can share your knowledge to improve lives
- Study the landscape thoroughly (remember, competition is a good thing, that means there is plenty of demand)
This is how you find your sweet spot. Do a few Google searches and study people that are doing what you’re doing. This might give you a few ideas of where to get started.
2. Create Samples For Your Portfolio
Naturally, businesses and entrepreneurs won’t hire writers until they see some of your writing. It’s up to you to let people know what you can offer their business.
The best way to show them this is with your freelance writing portfolio. Your portfolio is a collection of your best writing samples.
So, how do you get these samples in the first place? The top three ways are:
- Guest posting on other blogs or websites (I did this on several sites and parlayed them into full-time gigs)
- Start a blog or add a blog section to your freelance website (as I’ve done with this site)
- Create them yourself using Google docs or using Fiverr
Another question I tend to get is “What should your samples be about?”
I suggest you write a blog post to show your writing unless you know that you are going to do something other than content writing.
For example, I wrote blog posts about personal finance when I was getting started. Some of these I published on my blog and some of them I just downloaded as PDF and uploaded to my Upwork profile and writer website.
Generally speaking, the topic of your blog post should be based on the niche you plan to enter. Get creative here, there are endless ways to position yourself and gain experience by creating samples.
3. Update Your Social Media
Resumes are dead.
Social media is the new resume. While it’s awkward at times to share your life, it can improve your writing business.
If you’re not showing up on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, you are missing out. Building a brand on the internet is one of the best ways to stand out and separate yourself from so many other writers.
This doesn’t mean you have to post on every platform, do Instagram stories or create a Youtube channel. It just means showing your face and keeping your profiles up to date.
For writers, I suggest signing up for Twitter and LinkedIn for freelancing success. These tools will help you find a community of like-minded people and potential clients.
Plus, these two social media platforms have helped me land high-paying gigs!
Another way to build your brand is to create your writer’s website. Here is mine as an example: michaelleonard.net
As you can tell, this helps my social presence because if you google “Michael Leonard” or “Michael Leonard + writer” my site pops up.
It’s so much easier to get clients when you have a site that lets clients know more about you and your work. I recommend using WordPress and Bluehost to get started.
Once I created my personal website, my freelance writing biz changed as my identity shifted. I started saying to myself, “I am a writer” on a regular basis.
4. Start Pitching Clients
Now that you have everything ready, you can start pitching clients.
So where do you find freelance writing jobs? Common places include job boards like Problogger, Upwork and more. Or you can choose to cold pitch as well.
Check out my epic list of the best freelance writing jobs online for beginners!
Your pitch is a way to tell someone what you are, what you do and how you can help them with your services.
The key to a good pitch is to keep it short and sweet. People don’t have time to read fluff!
Take some time to develop your pitch and how you want to sound to a potential client. Get creative so you can stand out from other freelance writers.
I suggest to set a pitch goal and get after it. Clients aren’t going to magically find you in the beginning.
Set goals and make it happen. Even when you have a roster of clients, keep creating new goals.
And just because you get one or two clients doesn’t mean you should stop. Keep going so you can earn more!
Remember, not all freelance writing jobs are created equal so do your homework before you pitch.
*Expert tip – Create a professional email address with Google instead of using some old email address for pitching clients.
5. Write and Get Paid
The last step is the easy part. Write epic content that your client loves, send it a day or two early before the deadline (this always helps) and send over your payment.
If you’ve taken all this content and followed the client’s instructions, I have no doubt you’re creating epic content that they love.
If you’re nervous about the payment part, don’t be! You have bills to pay and a life to afford if your work is quality the client should have no problem submitting a quick payment.
Here’s a bit more about getting paid for your freelance writing services.
Freelance Writers FAQs
How Much Does a Freelance Writer Make?
Content prices vary drastically depending on the business that is hiring you as a contractor. My first attempt at getting paid to write was on Upwork, a place many people refer to as a content mill. These sites need quick and short posts and can pay very little.
Getting started on Upwork is easy though. All you do need is an email address to start searching for jobs.
My first assignment was a golf writing gig, it was $30 for 2,000 words (extremely low) but it was how I got confidence that this can work!
And it helped me understand the entire freelance writing process. Plus, I loved writing about the topic so it was easy.
I can say that was probably the proudest $30 I’ve ever made. Aside from my first dollar from Google Adsense back in 2016, it was extremely rewarding.
Obviously, I’m not recommending you take $30 posts forever but I am recommending to take action. So many potential writers never even get started.
Once I started finding jobs outside content mills and started to build my own freelance writing business, I started to get .08 cents per word, then .10, then .15, then .25 and even retainer clients.
Trust me, it’s 100% possible even if you are brand new to this business.
How to Get Paid As a Freelance Writer
When you land your first freelance writing client, naturally you want assurance that you’re actually going to get paid. Typically it goes like this:
- You send an awesome cold pitch to a freelance writing job.
- The prospect emails you back wanting more details. This could include samples of your work, your rate, your availability and estimated time needed.
- You email them back your freelance rates (or packages) and anything else from their initial email. Then you ask for their PayPal address and tell them you will invoice them after approval of your content piece.
- You can also send over a contract detailing the process, and project details or the business sends you their contract. I don’t personally send contracts unless it’s a recurring gig or large amount.
- You write the piece, proofread, and submit it to the client. Depending on the size of the project you can also ask for partial payment or milestones.
- The client gives you feedback and sends over any other edits if needed. At this time, I recommend getting testimonials to add social proof to your freelance website.
- You then submit your invoice via Paypal or accounting software like Freshbooks.
- You get paid via PayPal or some other merchant service like Quickbooks, Fresh or Stripe.
What is the Typical Freelance Writer Salary?
One of the most common questions I hear from people who aren’t involved in this business is “Do much money do freelance writers make?”
Unlike the 9-5 life, salaries don’t exist. If you’re motivated and willing to get better, pitch more, and write more, you can make great money.
Personally, I write 15ish hours per week for my clients and earn at least $5,000 per month. I’d spend more time on it but I’m very focused on growing my blog, podcast, and other ventures.
Some freelance writers make huge amounts of money who do it full-time and put in a ton of hours. With more experience, they charge up to a $1 per word and can make $200,000 or more.
For freelance writers, there is no salary per se but there is an unlimited opportunity if you are willing to put in the work. The most I’ve made as a writer was $20,000 in one month!
Individual results come down to you learning the skills and finding companies who need your writing.
More Questions About Freelancing
Do I need a degree to start freelance writing?
Absolutely not! You can start freelance writing if you’re a high school dropout, college student or have your masters.
Don’t let your education (or lack of) hold you back from making great money as a freelance writer.
While anyone can be a freelance writer, you still need to learn the basics of writing content. You can’t expect to make money if you don’t email clients back, hate writing and spell awful.
Sorry, this business just isn’t the right fit for you.
Are you sure this isn’t just a fad?
Yes, I’m 1000% sure. AI can’t replace high-quality freelance writers.
Seriously, freelance writing isn’t going anywhere.
I don’t think robots can do our jobs just yet (knock on wood). According to different studies, there are now hundreds of millions of freelancers around the world. And the trend is only going up.
Get started now so you can learn the ropes, establish your digital footprint, and start making money from your laptop without working for a boss ever again! Learning how to operate a freelance writing business now is an awesome way you can create career stability for yourself.
How much time does freelance writing take?
You’re the boss so it comes down to your workload and writing routines. Your client will provide you with a deadline and you just have to finish it under that time frame.
The more you work as a writer, the quicker and easier projects, research, and editing will become.
To improve your writing productivity and crank out more content, check out these epic writing tools.
Start Your Freelance Writing Business Today
I’m hoping the information that I’ve shared with you provides you with an exhaustive answer to the most common question, “What is freelance writing?”
I appreciate you getting to the end, I know it wasn’t a short read. But I want to share this information as it’s a business that you create with minimal invest and tons of upside.
Plus, you control your destiny! Choose to bet on yourself instead of slaving away at a job you probably hate.
I’m so glad I did as my freelance business has 100% changed my life. It’s allowed me to work from home, pursue other projects and make a full-time income from my laptop.
The opportunity is there if you want and are 100% committed to becoming a successful freelance writer. If you take action to find clients, set goals and stay relentless, you can make way more than most jobs.
Remember, if you can write a blog post, you can get paid $1,000+ month as a writer. Don’t let your lack of writing skills stop you from pitching clients that need your help!
My biggest recommendation is to just start, even if you don’t “feel” ready. If you don’t, you’ll regret it in the future.
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