If you’re like my family or friends, you’re probably thinking one thing when I tell people I’m a freelance writer.
“What is freelance writing anyways?”
When I left the 9-5 in 2017 to build my online business and quit punching the clock I knew freelance writing was my bridge from the 9-5 to full-time digital entrepreneur. But no one else seemed to have a clue what I was doing with my time (or how I paid for life).
If you get the Sunday Scaries, dread the week, and live for the weekends like 81% of the world, freelance writing might just be your solution.
It’s not some get rich scheme. It’s not the 4-Hour work week. But it’s something that you can do even if you have no writing experience. If you want to become a freelance writer and make money without leaving your house or travel the world, you 100% can.
I know because I did and you can too, even if you don’t have experience. This post will clearly explain what is freelance writing, how freelance writers get paid, and some tips on how you can get started.
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 this Quora answer for what is a freelance writer:
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.
Each client is different. 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:
Focus more on creative and managing content. This is higher level and less churning out new content.
Freelance Web Content Writer
The focus is on providing generalized content for the web. This is a common place for a lot of freelance writers to get started writing online.
Your focus is on blog writing. As a blogger and freelance writer, this is how I got my start in the biz.
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 online on a regular basis, 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.
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 (online and offline).”
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 about 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 freelance writing: location freedom!
You work in a place of your choosing, with your own tools, setting your own hours. Another part I love is this 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 Types of Freelance Writing Services You Can Offer
In the beginning, I recommend starting with tasks that you can build confidence and experience from. 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.
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) so it was pretty cool getting paid to write about something I love. Whatever you love doing, there are websites that will pay you to write about it!
Types of 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 a 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. Everyone is selling everything, whether it’s selling online or in person. 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 media 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 an online 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 online: get you started:
This is what I mostly write and what most companies online need. Almost every company online 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 online 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.
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 Video Sales Letters (VSL)
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
- Online 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. And there are publications covering every imaginable topic.
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 Writing Client
So how do you find your ideal client?
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. Both online and offline.
- 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 online e-courses and other online material. This is a growing niche that is untapped by a ton of writers.
How To Get Paid to Write: 5 Steps to Get Started Freelance Writing
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. Find Your Writing 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 writing 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.
3 Step Process to Find Your Niche
Now that I’ve been at it a while, here what’s I recommend to all new freelance writers when it comes to choosing niches:
- What do you like to write about
- What do you have experience in or WANT to learn more about?
- Are people already doing it (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 find people that are doing what you’re doing. This might give you a few ideas of where to get started.
2. Create Samples and Start Building Your Freelance Writing Portfolio
Naturally, businesses and entrepreneurs won’t hire writers until they see some 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:
So what should your sample 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 Accounts
Resumes are dead.
Social media is the new resume. If you’re not showing up on social media you are missing out. Building a brand online 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 to start getting online is to sign up for Twitter and LinkedIn. These two social media platforms have helped me land big gigs and
Another way to start getting online is to have your own freelance website. Here is mine to use 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.
Once I created my personal website, my freelance writing business changed. My identity shifted. It’s so much easier to get clients when you have a site that lets clients know more about you and your work.
4. Start Pitching Clients Relentlessly
Now that you have everything ready, you can start pitching clients. So where do you find freelance writing jobs? 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.
Set a pitch goal and get after it. Clients aren’t going to magically find you. It’s up to you to hustle and make it happen. 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.
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 invoice. If you’ve taken all this content and followed the client 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.
How Much Does a Freelance Writer Make (And How Do You Get Paid)?
Like I mentioned before, I’m not sure my family or friends still get the jist of freelance writing. Even when I dumb it down, people that haven’t made income online just don’t get it. And I can’t judge as I was once there myself. But what’s great about freelance writing is being able to earn what you want.
Content prices vary drastically depending on the business that is hiring you as a contractor it. 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 they pay very little.
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 freelance writing.
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 writing, 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 online 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 $4,000 with a little over a year. I’d spend more time on it but I’m very focused on growing my blog, podcast, and other online 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. While there is no freelance salary, there is an unlimited opportunity if you are willing to put in the work.
What is Freelance Writing? More Commonly Asked Questions
Still got questions about what is freelance writing? No worries, I’m here to help. I want to help as many people as I can leave jobs they hate, make money online, and create a life of freedom and fun. Hopefully, this section helps:
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 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 just isn’t the right fit for you.
But, if you find writing fun, you have the passion, motivation, and persistence to really do it, then you can absolutely succeed.
Are you sure freelance writing isn’t just a fad?
No, no, and no.
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 online presence, and start making money online 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?
Start Your Freelance Writing Business Today
I’m hoping the information I’ve shared with you provides you with an exhaustive answer to the most common question, “What is freelance writing?” This is a career that you create and you control your destiny. If you take action to find clients, set goals, and stay relentless, the opportunity is yours.
Whether you want to travel the world, work at home so you can spend time with family or just hate working for someone else, I totally understand. And if you aren’t ready to take this full-time like me and tons of others, don’t worry, it’s a great side hustle too.
My biggest recommendation is to just start! If you don’t, you’ll regret it in the future.
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