How to Become a Freelance Writer in 2022 (Make $5k/Month!)

1. Big tips

If you don’t have time for the long Q&A, let me give you a few top-level insights that should help calm your worries:

  • Freelance writing is a real, viable career. Not a myth.
  • There are no hard-and-fast rules in freelancing — experiment and see what works for you.
  • There are no ‘going rates’ — every client situation is different.
  • You don’t need ‘credentials‘ or to be an expert.
  • No one can predict how much you’ll get paid to write, or how quickly. It’s up to you.
  • You don’t need ‘contacts’ — you can write your way in the door.
  • The answer to many of your questions is, ‘It depends.’
  • Take your goals seriously — even if others in your life don’t.
  • Don’t worry about finding the best apps or tools to use in your freelance biz. Instead, focus mostly on getting clients.
  • In general, fiction, poetry, and personal essays are not the basis of a bill-paying freelance career (you can get paid to write poetry, but don’t expect it to be a full-time career). The money is in reported articles and writing for businesses.
  • Pitch more and worry less about whether you’re ‘doing it right.’
  • To make this go faster, find a writer community and ask peers what works.

With all that in mind, let’s dig into the nuts-and-bolts of launching a freelance-writing career:

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8. Publish your work for free on Journoportfolio

If you want to know how to become a freelance writer with no experience and you want a place to publish your writing samples for free, Journoporfolio is the perfect option for you.

Journoporfolio is a site that allows you to store your writing samples for FREE.

It looks professional and allows you to have a customizable online writing portfolio, which you can send to potential clients.

2. Upwork

Upwork, previously known as oDesk, is a one-stop solution for all kinds of writer jobs.

Known for freelance jobs, Upwork makes it easy and cost-effective to find, hire and work with the best professionals around the world.

Whether you are looking for creative writing jobs, greeting card writing gigs or medical writing projects, this is a good platform to start. I’ve used Upwork to source a video editor, podcast editor, designer, bookkeeper and more.

Types of Writing Jobs Offered

  • Developers
  • Marketers
  • Researchers
  • Web design
  • SEO
  • Social media marketing
  • Content writing
  • Information security
  • Freelance writing
  • Designers

Pay

Pay rates on Upwork vary, as nearly all listings in the job search are freelance. Potential workers define their payment rate (or bid) in their proposals.

Upwork charges a small fee depending on your account type. This starts at 20% for the first $500 billed and drops to 5% for lifetime billing once you exceed $10,000.

Novice freelancers might find it hard to make good money at first because of the complicated bidding system.

You’ll also need to take on some low-paying work at first until you’ve built a reputable Upwork profile.

Fortunately, you can take expert skill tests for freelancers. Once you pass the criteria, you can display it on your profile and show your expertise to clients.

ProsLong-term contractsOpportunity to earn bonusesAbility to build long-term relationships with clientsReturn and referral clientsFree to joinConsA lot of spam jobs20% commission for the first $500 billed with a client (higher than other platforms)Low-paying jobsA lot of competitionTakes time to build a profile that stands out on Upwork

2. Start Creating Writing Samples

You need to remember that online no one knows you exist yet. You have to show everyone what you are capable of as a writer and this means having writing samples on your website (or other places).

While I created samples and placed them on my blog, the best way to build your portfolio is to guest post.

Guest posting means you create a blog post that will be published on someone else’s blog. You can guest post on popular sites or lesser known sites. The point is you want to have a “live link” of your work to share to prospects when you pitch to a job ad.

But, what if you don’t know your niche?

I suggest you pick a few topics you are interested in and start creating blog post ideas that you would create for your clients. Here’s an example. Let’s say you enjoy health. You run, practice yoga and eat a low-carb diet.

You can pitch to health guest blogs or just create health content for your freelance writer website.

  • 5 Ways to Lose Weight Without Exercising
  • How to Easily Lose the Last 20 Pounds Without Dieting
  • 10 Delicious Keto Snacks for the Busy Mom

To find more blog post ideas, check out my video!

15.All Freelance Writing

All Freelance Writing has helped freelance writers build their writing careers since 2006.

It’s a job board fornovice writers who are looking for new writing gigs.

The site displays pay rates upfront, so you know what to expect before even deciding to write a cover letter. All Freelance Writing includes a writer’s market or jobs board for print jobs and writing opportunities.

It also offers a collection of resources and tips for advancing your professional writing career. All Freelance Writing is an excellent site for mastering the business side of freelancing.

The job listings are varied and even include poetry submissions.

Types of Writing Jobs Offered

  • Ghostwriting
  • Guest posts
  • Blog writing
  • Web content
  • Copywriting
  • Prose/Poetry
  • Business writing
  • Healthcare or medical writing
  • Magazine writing
  • Journalism

Pay

Rates vary. The site categorizes between low pay and pro-rate. Some of the advertised writing jobs go up to $500 or more.

Here is how jobs are categorized:

  • Very low: $1–35 e.g. for a 400-word blog post
  • Low: $25–$50
  • Semi-pro: $50–$100
  • Pro: $250–$500+

ProsFree service for job seekersIncludes only freelance writing jobs and rate informationConsLimited number of writing jobsSmaller jobs board than other sites in this guide

Get Paid for Online Writing

Freelancing is becoming bigger and bigger each year and it’s projected to be a poplar choice for the masses.

And with the internet and ease of access, it’s easier than ever to start a blog and make money from your blog by offering your writing services.

So, come join me today and become an online writer!

Check out my free course to help you find your first freelance writing job!

How to Become a Freelance Writer: Step-by-Step Guide

Freelance writing jobs and writing clients come in all shapes and sizes. Luckily, there are endless ways to piece together a freelance writing career.

1. Build a Portfolio

Small businesses hit just as many highs as they do lows in the beginning. Freelance work is no different. Focus on finding new clients and building up your portfolio. Portfolios are curated collections of “clips,” writing samples that show your strengths and range as a writer. In the beginning, every byline and project you get can and should go towards building your portfolio, but if you’ve yet to land any paying gigs, you can always write up “spec” clips for hypothetical clients, or use blog posts. If you’re stuck on what you should write about, make a list of your passions, or areas you have experience or expertise in.

2. Start Pitching

The hardest part about freelance writing is also the most crucial: You’ve got to put yourself out there and pitch to multiple publications and websites. Always be listening for ideas or trends in your everyday life or the culture at large. Be sure to identify the right outlet and editor—do enough research to make a good guess about the right person on the masthead to contact (very rarely this is the editor-in-chief this person. Keep initial pitch emails brief. Be sure to include links to one or two solid clips, to give them a sense of your voice. When you do get turned down, handle rejections with grace, refine your idea if necessary, then start again with another outlet. Once you get your foot in the door at a publication, pitching becomes easier.

3. Start Your Own Blog

Becoming a blogger is particularly useful if you’re just starting out and don’t have any published bylines quite yet. Many editors or potential clients will request clips or writing samples to get a sense of your voice; this way, you’ll have something to show them. Blogging is also a great way to hone a daily writing practice. Even if your mom is the only one who reads it, building those habits will make you a better writer—and someone very well might discover your work along the way.

4. Scour Job Boards

Not all freelance writing gigs are 12,000-word articles you’ve reported and pitched. Most companies offer part-time contracts for content marketing, copywriting and copyediting for everything from brand partnerships to search engine optimization (SEO) projects. Sites like Contently, Mediabistro, and LinkedIn are a good place to start looking for freelance writing jobs.

5. Embrace the Side Hustle

Writing work, especially at the beginning, can be inconsistent. A part-time day job can help you financially while you build your portfolio and client list, or while you’re in between assignments and waiting on invoices.

3-Publish your work for free on Medium

Medium is all the rage at the moment. Even top writers like Elna Cain are writing on it, because of the exposure you get.

It’s free and you can create a few writing samples and upload them on the site

If the readers like it, you might even be paid!

Medium has this ‘Partner Program’ which allows you to be paid for popular articles that their readers enjoyed.

So, start writing ASAP!

Future Growth for Writers    

Certain jobs within the broader field of writing are growing at a faster pace than others. For example, the field of technical writing is expanding alongside rising demand for technical, scientific, and online support, according to the BLS; the field is projected to grow at a rate of about 8% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average for all professions.

Demand for writers and authors is higher among online publications than print publications. Furthermore, two-thirds of writers are currently self-employed, and today’s media environment offers many opportunities to begin a career as a freelancer.

3. Set up your business

Q: Do I need to register my business?

A: No one can make you, but it’s a real good idea. If you want to write off your business expenses, being registered with state and city tax authorities helps convince the IRS (or your national tax body) you’re a real business.

Q: What should I name my business?

A: Just starting out, your own name is fine. You can always choose another name later, or ‘do business as’ another name. For instance, TiceWrites is my business name, but I do business as Make a Living Writing, Freelance Writers Den, and more.

If you want to be fancy and have serious branding for your freelance writing biz, I recommend choosing a name with keywords that would help clients find you, like: “Healthcare Writer Dana.” Avoid meaningless words and phrases such as ‘communications’ or ‘solutions,’ that don’t really say what you do.

Q: Can I use a fake name in freelance writing?

A: Not usually, no. Noms de plume are for fiction authors. You’ll need to reveal your real name when you get paid to write, anyway — and having a fake identity will make editors wonder what you’re hiding. There’s a legit exception to this if you’re a woman with a stalker…I’ve known people in that sitch, and editors do understand. But otherwise, no.

Q: Do I need a separate checking account for my business?

A: Yes. Just get one. You can thank me later for sparing you endless hours trying to keep your business and personal expenses/income separate.

Q: Do I need to become an LLC or corporation to be a freelance writer?

A: No. I operated as a sole proprietor for many years. An LLC does provide a layer of liability protection between your personal assets such as a home or car, and your business. If you don’t lie or make stuff up, you’ll likely never be sued, so it’s not a big concern, especially just starting out.

Q: What tools do I need for running my business?

A: Beyond a computer and the Internet, the rest is optional. I kept a paper income/expenses ledger for years — but if you want to be more pro, choose a solution such as Freshbooks (which I use and recommend) or Harvest. As I mentioned in the Big Tips, most would-be freelance writers spend way too much time wondering if they need a grammar app, and not enough time trying to find clients.

Q: What do I need to know about taxes?

A: Not much, the first year. You’ll just pay what you owe, end of the year. Set aside a portion of your freelance income for taxes that’s similar to the tax bracket you had last year, as a guesstimate. In the U.S., once you hit the level of owing $1,000 or more in annual tax as a self-employed person, you’ll make estimated quarterly tax payments, based on the previous year’s income.

Q: What about health insurance?

A: If you’re leaving a job and taking the plunge into freelancing, you’ll want to make sure you have health insurance. The good news is there are numerous viable self-employed health insurance plans available for freelancers.

Why You Need to Think Like a Business

It took me a long time to get into the right mindset about running a six-figure freelance writing business. I paid a bunch of my hard-earned freelancer dollars to an excellent business coach who helped me get out of my head and take action.

This is what you need to do, too — except you don’t have to pay me anything (except maybe your eternal gratitude when you become a successful writer).

One of the biggest keys to success in growing your business is to stop thinking of yourself as ‘just’ a blogger and instead as a small business owner.

When you think like a business, you start to run your shit like a business. And that means getting a focus, attracting the right clients in that area, and getting them to pay you real dollars (not $.03 a word) for the content you create.

In reality, becoming a paid freelance writer is not rocket science. It just takes focus and consistency

Once you start making money from freelance writing, it helps you shift your mindset.

The me who was making $.05 a word and the me who makes $1+ a word are in two very different mental places. A big part of that hinged on building the confidence that I could be a writer and make real money.

To do that, I had to bust out of my shell, get focused, and start marketing myself as a serious business owner.

To make it in this business, you need to do the same.

What exactly is freelance writing?

If you’re searching for entry-level freelance writing jobs, it’s important to be specific about what it is that you’re looking for. In short, freelance writing is the work done by a self-employed person—a freelancer—who earns money by writing articles, white papers, blogs, and other text-based content for one or more clients. Often, freelancers work from home offices, coffee shops, or coworking spaces.

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Although some tasks might be paid hourly, freelance writers are normally paid according to the amount of work they do for a client. Sometimes that means setting a price for each word written or for a certain number of weekly articles.

Clients hire freelance writers to create content on a huge range of topics. Some freelancers stick to certain niche topics or fields that they have lots of experience with, often because their expertise enables them to charge a higher rate for their work.

However, a large proportion of successful freelance writers are generalists who quickly learn about and write on unfamiliar topics according to their clients’ needs.

Although a large proportion of freelancers search for and contact clients themselves, finding freelance writing jobs for beginners is time-consuming, and the hours spent searching for new sources of work are unpaid.

For this reason, many freelancers are turning to writing agencies such as Eleven Writing. At Eleven, we pair writers with clients in need of their specific expertise.

Even if you haven’t got any previous professional writing experience, we can help you to develop your skillset while earning a competitive rate for the work you do. Eleven partners with a diverse range of clients, ensuring that the freelance writers we hire always have as much work as they need.

10 Ways to break into freelance writing without experience

Wondering how to get into writing? To help you land your first paid articles, we’ve put together the following ten steps. If you stick to these, you’re sure to find interesting freelance opportunities even if you’ve never written more than a couple hundred words before.

1. Write samples

Whenever I’m asked about how to get started freelance writing, I always recommend putting together a portfolio of writing samples. You can fill this with any writing you have to hand, such as academic essays, but, especially if you haven’t written professionally before, the best thing to do is to write a handful of samples in a similar format to the pieces you intend to pitch. 

Even if they only take a cursory glance, a potential client might be won over by the very fact that you send them a portfolio. Having a selection of samples immediately demonstrates that you are capable of following through on any work you pitch.

2. Find a writing agency to support you

As a freelance writer, the best decision I made was to start working through an agency—this enabled me to skip a lot of the growing pains that new writers typically put up with when launching their careers. One of the most difficult parts of a freelance writing career is finding work. With an agency like Eleven Writing, client outreach is largely handled for you — the only conversations you need to take part in are those related to the content you’ve been asked to write. You don’t have to waste valuable time bidding for work or pitching stories.

The other great thing about working through a writing agency is that you’ll collaborate with experienced editors who can help you level up your writing skills over time. Even if you’re confident in your ability to turn out a good essay, professional writing requires you to adapt to an entirely new writing style, so collaborating with someone who's been in the business for a while is an invaluable opportunity.

3. Launch a blog

A straightforward way to get your writing online is to launch a blog. This is a great opportunity to hone your knowledge and opinions about a certain topic that you’d like to write about professionally. What’s more, if you gain enough of a following, you can consider monetizing your work through ads.

Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of having to build a website by yourself. These days, with extremely affordable web hosting and easy-to-use website building packages, anyone can create a professional-looking website or WordPress blog on a very restrictive budget. Alternatively, you can dive straight in by publishing articles on your LinkedIn profile.

4. Write for friends and family

Practice makes perfect, and all writing experience is worth something. One of the easiest ways to improve your written communication skills is to start creating content for the people around you. Try to canvas any business owners you know and offer to create content for them at a discount rate, or write about something more personal—what you’ve been up to, your thoughts on current events, or a more specialized subject. 

Starting with a small and familiar audience will help you to feel more comfortable when drafting your pieces, and it’s a great way to get feedback on your work.

5. Network with other freelance writers

As they say, it’s not about what you know but who you know. According to some studies, up to 85% of jobs are filled through networking. Using your connections is just as important in the freelance writing industry as any other. 

Reaching out to any contact who works as a freelance writer is a great way to find new opportunities — a more experienced writer will be able to point you to useful resources they’ve used in the past and give you feedback on your portfolio, and they may even be able to pass clients off to you if they’ve got too much on their plate.

If you don’t know any freelance writers in the real world, you might be able to make connections through social media instead. In just a few minutes of Facebook searching, you'll find thousands of regularly updated job board groups. Don’t feel like reaching out directly? Then add some content marketers to your network and get a feel for the type of content they’re putting out.

6. Get your start with a content network

In recent years, one of the biggest internet media revolutions we’ve seen is the propagation of content networks. In short, these are enormous networks of websites that require large volumes of content on a diverse range of subjects. Also known as “content mills,” three of the best known content networks are Demand Studios, VeryWell, and Writing Bunny.

Content networks and content mills often produce revenue through ads or affiliate links, and they require a mind-boggling volume of original words and articles to operate. Consequently, they’re one of the most consistent sources of work for freelance writers and a great place to begin your search for clients in need of new writers.

7. Revise and refresh your grammar

As a freelance writer, you’ll need to write with a clarity and precision that isn’t needed in the majority of text-based conversations you have day-to-day online. Therefore, if you’re trying to work out how to get started freelance writing, one of the first things you should do is brush up on your grammar and make sure you don’t make any obvious blunders in your portfolio or when pitching to clients. In the Eleven Writing Knowledge Base, you can find guides to help you improve the tone, accuracy, and content of your work.

8. Learn about SEO

In 2020, one of the most marketable attributes you can have as a freelance writer is a working knowledge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is, in essence, the art of getting any articles you write to the number one spot on Google search pages.

At Eleven, we’re experts at doing exactly that, and we’ve even published a few handy pointers to help you advance your SEO skills. If you’ve never heard of SEO before, have a search for a full video course on the topic—there are plenty of great guides out there.

9. Cold pitch larger sites

You can take your freelance writing career to the next level by reaching out to organizations you’ve never worked with before and pitching them stories, even when they aren’t advertising any freelance writing positions.

This is known as cold pitching. Although it might seem more intimidating than using a freelance marketplace such as Upwork, what do you have to lose if you’re turned down by a media organization or company you don’t have a prior connection with?

Cold pitching successfully takes a good understanding of a company’s content requirements; do your research first, and this could lead to lucrative and exciting opportunities.

10. Find a stable place to work

Everyone responds differently to distractions, but there’s no question that writing requires focus. Another core component of successful freelance writing is finding the kind of environment and equipment that boost your productivity.

This could be as simple as noise-canceling headphones or as grandiose as an expensive coworking location membership. With a good office chair and a quiet environment, you’ll likely be far more productive than on the couch.

Why NOT to Start Freelance Writing

Freelance writing is great and all, but the reality is, it’s not for everyone.

Maybe we should have listed this video first as if any of these are dealbreakers for you, then we shouldn’t waste any more time.

Still think freelance writing is for you?

Let’s get to it.

Becoming a freelance writer: Savannah’s story

The only downside to having so many opportunities is that it can make getting started as a freelance writer feel somewhat overwhelming.

One of the biggest initial challenges people face is trying to picture what the process of becoming a freelance writer actually looks like.

While the origin story of every freelance writer can—and does—look a little different, it’s helpful to ask around in person and look at stories online to visualize the process and get some inspiration.

To illustrate the process, I asked my friend Savannah how she got started as a freelance writer, and here’s what she shared:

“Like many people, I wasn’t too sure what to do with my life as a college student. Despite being an English Literature major, I ended up going down the path of becoming a digital marketer because it felt ‘safer,’ and I decided to pursue my love of writing in my free time by creating a lifestyle blog.

While I really enjoyed the analytical side of things with digital marketing (and those skills certainly came in handy later), I found myself longing for more creativity and a better schedule.

I started to travel a lot and grow my blog more as I went along, and I realized that I didn’t want to give those things up.

Basically, the freedom of working wherever I wanted and doing what I loved as a freelance writer grew more and more appealing.

I had no idea how to be a freelance writer, though, so I turned to a friend who was already working as one and asked her for advice. She led me to a freelancing platform called Upwork and was kind enough to give me some tips and share her profile to reference.

Soon after talking with her and putting in some solid market research, I started pitching myself to a ton of potential clients on the platform.

Nerve-racking as it was to put myself out there (and rejections are an inevitable part of the process), it wasn’t long before I found someone who wanted to work with me.

Since then, I’ve continued to grow my own blog and have worked with multiple clients across industries, writing blog articles, social media posts, web pages, and much, much more. As of today, I’ve happily been a freelance writer for the past three and a half years.”

Now, with an idea of the process in mind, are you ready to create your own freelance writing story?

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