How to be a Freelance Writer
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Do you love writing and are wondering how to be a freelance writer? Then you are in the right place. I have been writing for a living full-time since 2012 and today I am going to give you the lowdown of what’s available and how to start.
Many people are starting to realize that there are multiple opportunities to make additional income – or your whole income – online. One way, and a fab one at that, is to get paid for writing.
Working as a freelance writer is a great way to earn income online as you can do it as a side hustle at first and then over time it can grow into a full-time income. There are several ways to get paid for writing. Yes, you can hire yourself out to clients, but you can also create a body of work that you can get paid for time and time again.
However, the first thing I would say is that you need to be a relatively competent writer. Do you need to be an expert? No. But you do need to be willing to learn your craft, take time to edit and proof your work, and have areas of interest that you would like to focus on. You also need to be willing to do additional research for some topics outside of your areas of expertise.
I believe that writing needs to be something you enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still work, and you won’t love everything you are asked to write about, but if you dread sitting down in front of a blank screen – or you write in a stream of consciousness way and find it hard to structure an article – then you will probably not enjoy writing for clients.
I tell you this not to put you off, but just to prepare you for reality. Also, who wants to spend a lot of time getting set up as a freelance writer only to find you hate it!
That said, as long as you have a love for writing then don’t get too caught up in needing to be perfect at grammar and spelling – there are tools to help with that, such as Grammarly.
Ok, so does freelance writing sound like it’s right for you? Great, let’s dig in.
Finding Freelance Writer Jobs
There are many ways to earn income as a writer and we will return to those later, but first, we are going to get started by looking at places where you can earn cold hard cash.
To get yourself off to a good start I would think about the areas of expertise you would like to write about. Does that stop you from going for other jobs? No. But if you can show a business you have knowledge in certain areas then it’s going to give you a head start. Maybe you have experience from places you have worked, or from a hobby you love. Don’t discount anything, because there are people with blogs and websites in all sorts of different niches that might be looking for that specialist subject you know all about.
So to get started let’s look at some places you can get paid to write.
First up, get yourself set up on somewhere like Medium. This is a great place to master your craft and you can write about whatever topic/s you enjoy. It’s also a place where you can start to earn some income with your writing. It probably won’t be a lot at first but it does have the potential to grow over time. It’s also a great place to act as a portfolio for your writing skills. I hired a writer not long ago and what made me choose him was a link to his writing on Medium.
Upwork is the freelancing marketplace I have used the most, both as a freelancer and as a place to find people to write for my sites. It does take a while to sift through all the jobs and that’s why you want to be very clear on what types of job you are looking for and the minimum you are willing to be paid. My word of advice would be to not undersell yourself. Yes, you may need to accept a few lower-paying jobs to start with to get some good feedback, but don’t accept ridiculously low rates – after all you are doing this to get paid.
There are other marketplaces too, such as Fiverr, Pangian, etc, so shop around to see what might suit you best.
Writer Job Boards
There are also a few job boards around where potential clients advertise what they are looking for. The ProBlogger Jobs board is a good one, as is FreelanceWriting.com. There are also others, so again take it back to Google and check out what’s available.
Creating Your Freelance Writing Presence
Once you have a little work under your belt, the next step is to create a freelance writing website so you can tell people more about what you do. You can then share that on social media – in Facebook groups, on LinkedIn, etc – to attract clients.
It can be quite a simple site, the important thing is that you tell people what you offer, e.g. blog posts, articles, e-book writing, etc, and tell people if you have specialist knowledge. I always recommend setting up a WordPress site as this gives you the most flexibility going forward.
It’s also important to future proof the site. As your career flourishes, you may want to branch out into other areas – and we’ll discuss these in a minute – so don’t tie yourself down too much with the domain name. The easiest thing to do is to brand it with your name and that gives you the ability to bring in additional streams of income as you wish.
Tip: If you are doing this alongside employment, you might want to write under a pen name so you keep your professional and freelance life separate.
It is great working for clients but as your experience grows there may come a time when you want to start reducing the number of hours you trade for dollars (or pounds or euros, you get the idea). If that’s the case then you will want to write for yourself. You can start a blog and monetize it through affiliate links and/or banner advertising, you can write e-books for sale, you can create a course in one of your areas of expertise and share your knowledge with others. What do all these things have in common? The ability to write. To put together structured content.
What’s so good about branching out in this way? You can sell them time and time again if they are books or courses, or you can earn money on a blog for years to come.
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How to be a Freelance Writer
Ok, so we have covered some of the practicalities of getting started and learning how to be a freelance writer.
But what other qualities are needed, apart from the ability to put pen to paper – or fingers to keys? Well, you are going to need to dig deep to succeed and your mindset is going to be all-important.
Consistency: At times you are going to get knock-backs, find it hard to find clients, and get bored of writing for yourself. But if you are to succeed you need to keep going, and you need to be consistent. You will need to keep looking for jobs, keep learning your craft, keep putting articles out on
Productivity: If you are juggling writing with other paid work you will need to up your productivity game to keep on top of everything that’s required of you. If you don’t have other work you are going to need to stay productive so that you don’t waste hours of every day. Set deadlines, use tools like the Pomodoro technique, and set goals for what you need (and want to earn) every month.
Hone Your Mindset: If you really want to make a go of this freelance writing career you are going to need to keep your mind focused on success. Don’t give up at the first (or 27th) hurdle, know that you have the skills and drive to get where you want to be, and most important of all pivot when needed. Add other strings to your bow, diversify your writing and your income streams by becoming your own client, and create work that’s going to pay you for years to come.
If you want to know how to be a freelance writer, the bottom line is simple – start writing. Write for yourself, write for others, write for friends and family members if they need help with something, position yourself as the go-to person for words. Step into the role of writer, call yourself a writer, know that writing is what you do and do well.
Simple eh? Now go do it.