How To Become a Freelance Writer was originally published on Xscapers.com.
Freelance writing can be a great way to make a side income or replace your job and be a full-time income that you can do from anywhere in the world.
It’s the perfect business for individuals with no experience working remotely, too!
Freelance writing doesn’t require any formal training or degrees, and the only barrier to entry is how much work you’re willing to put into learning, practicing, and pursuing paying gigs.
This article will take a dive into the types of freelance writing, the skills you need to do it, and ultimately, teach you how to become a freelance writer – even if you don’t have experience.
Types of Freelance Writing
There are many different types of freelance writing. Blogging and article writing are more entry-level freelance writing types. However, you can easily be a B2B or technical writer as a beginner if you have experience or knowledge in your chosen field. Here are 4 of the most common types of freelance writing.
Blogging is what most people think of when they hear the terms “freelance writer”. It is a great way to get started and blogging jobs are plentiful!
Freelance blog writers write articles on a variety of different subjects for online publications. This article that you’re currently reading is a prime example of freelance blogging.
You can write about anything from travel content, parenting content, how-tos, and much more.
Copywriting is a more skilled form of freelance writing that is used in marketing and sales. Copywriters write “copy”, which is the term used for the text that makes up various marketing materials.
Copy is typically short and to the point. It uses specific psychological and emotional triggers to influence a reader to purchase something, sign up for a list, attend an event, or take another specific action.
Copywriting has a distinct purpose: to get the reader to take a desired action. As a result, effective copywriters have a very high earning potential.
B2B stands for “business to business”. Business to business writers write content for companies speaking to other businesses.
For example, a company selling hospital software software needs to reach hospitals with their content. They would produce content that educates hospital staff on how to use their software, show them how it would make their job easier, and more.
Technical writing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: freelance writing about technical topics.
Many industries hire technical writers. Due to the technical nature of the subject matter, technical writers are highly paid and in high demand.
Examples of technical writing include writing white papers, instruction manuals, writing on UX and IT topics, business plans, and much more.
Other Types of Freelance Writing
The types of freelance writing listed here are some of the most common types, but this list is by no means conclusive.
Other examples of freelance writing jobs include:
- Ghostwriting, where content is written by you and published as the brand or company
- Social Media Posts
- Website Page Content
- Magazine Articles
- Newspaper Columns
- Email Marketing Content
- And more.
Skills You Need to Become a Freelance Writer
It is totally possible to start working as a freelance writer without any prior experience. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need skills! Here are the basic skills you should have, develop, or hone in order to have success as a freelance writer.
To learn and develop any of these freelance writing skills, hit the search engines! Google and YouTube are great (and free) places to start.
Strong Writing Skills
It should go without saying, but you need to have strong writing skills in the niche of your choice. And I don’t mean professional essay writing skills, unless that’s the area you’re going into!
Writing content for the internet is vastly different from the papers and essays you have to write in school. In many ways, it’s actually easier. But it still requires practice. Some industries have writing guidelines, and some don’t.
The best way to develop strong writing skills is to just start writing. I always recommend starting a blog on a topic that is related to your industry, or even just a topic that you’re passionate about. If you decide to create a ‘writer website’ to house your portfolio, this is a great place to have a blog related to your industry in some way.
In the process of blogging, you’ll hone your writing skills and learn so much more about writing, blogging, content marketing, SEO, and all things related to publishing online.
Time Management Skills
Time management is a skill that every freelancer needs to have or develop, no matter what type of work they’re doing.
Nothing else matters if you can’t meet deadlines on time and keep yourself motivated when there’s no boss breathing down your neck.
Meeting deadlines for clients is one thing, but it’s another thing entirely to set deadlines for yourself and meet them as well.
Whether it’s teaching yourself a new skill, writing sample pieces, or setting aside time to pitch potential clients, you need to be a self-starter who can effectively manage your time.
Looking for ways to organize your time and workspace? Dani Schnakenberg has some great tips for you here.
Content marketing is incredibly important to understand and learn about. Everything you consume on the internet is content. Content marketing is the act of creating content that consumers want or need to know about, and getting it in front of them.
Content marketing is used to generate interest, teach, promote products and services, and much more. You will not only need to understand content marketing for your potential clients, but also for yourself!
Learn How to Pitch
A pitch is essentially applying for a job that usually doesn’t exist. Pitching involves reaching out to companies or brands, inquiring about their content strategy, and offering your services.
Pitching works, but it takes time, practice, dedication, and the ability to accept rejection. Most people won’t hire you, many won’t even respond, but those that do will make the time and the effort worth it.
SEO Skills – Optional, But Helpful
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is a totally optional skill to learn, but it’s very helpful and in-demand.
SEO content is content that is written around a specific topic or keyword to rank in the search engines. When content ranks high enough in the search engines, it drives free traffic to the website every day. SEO writers have a higher chance of finding repeat work from the same clients and higher pay.
Content that is optimized for search engines is very valuable, because more web traffic typically means more profit.
How Much Do Freelance Writers Make?
There is no set amount that freelance writers make or can expect to make, due to the nature of the work. Some niches are more lucrative than others, just like any other industry.
While some freelance writers will work by the hour, the vast majority of us charge per word or per project.
A low end starting rate per word is around $0.10. At 10 cents per word, one 1,000 word article would pay around $100. Keep in mind, this is on the low end.
It’s not uncommon for freelance writers to make upwards of $400 per article. The more technical the topic or the more experience you have as a writer, the higher income potential.
How to Become a Freelance Writer
Now that you know more about freelance writing, it’s time to get into the how-to. Whether you want to make a side income or turn freelance writing into your full-time job, it’s very possible, even for beginners!
Note that a “full-time” income as a freelance writer will look very different than working a full 40 hour work week. Freelance writers have the ability to make more money in a shorter amount of time, so it’s realistic to replace your job income and work half the amount of hours.
Assess Your Current Skills and Interests
To get started with freelance writing, you need to assess your current skills and interests. You’ll first need to choose a niche, or an industry, to go into.
What previous job experiences do you have? Do you have any technical job experience that could lend well to technical writing?
Or maybe you have a passion like gardening, spirituality, or travel. Any of these niches can be your chosen freelance writing niche. You can also choose several, but it’s best if they’re related somehow so you don’t seem too all over the place.
Write Sample Pieces in Your Chosen Niche
You’ll be hard pressed to find clients who want to hire you if you don’t have at least some kind of writing to showcase, so this is where the real work begins.
Once you choose the niche or niches you want to go into, do some research. Find out what type of content is being put out in your chosen niche, what does well on social media, etc.
Some ideas for sample pieces include tutorials, how-to’s, answering questions that are frequently asked about your niche or topic, or listicles.
Sample pieces are great to use to get your first few clients. Then, once you have some published pieces, you can link to those as well.
It’s important to note that your writing style will change over time with practice and experience. You won’t use your first sample pieces forever, and you can update them anytime you’d like to change niches or add a fresh perspective.
Create a Writing Portfolio to Showcase Your Work
Once you have your sample pieces written, you’ll need a place to showcase them. Many freelance writers have writer websites, but you don’t need to spend time or energy developing an entire website as a beginner.
There are many websites online that you can upload your writing to, and give the links to potential clients as you start to look for paid writing jobs.
A popular platform for uploading your own content to is Medium. You can also create a writer portfolio on Contently, where all your work lives in one place.
You can put your sample pieces in many places, but for total beginners I would recommend using LinkedIn.
If you’re not already on LinkedIn, now is a good time to create a professional profile and update it to match your new career (or side hustle) as a freelance writer.
LinkedIn is a great place to look for work, make professional connections, and showcase your sample writing. You can publish articles to your LinkedIn and direct potential clients to your LinkedIn pieces.
An added benefit of publishing on LinkedIn is that your content will reach the wider LinkedIn network. This can be a great way to attract potential clients to you as well.
Use Social Media To Your Advantage
In addition to using LinkedIn, you should be using other social media platforms to your advantage. LinkedIn is one of the top platforms for aspiring freelancers, and Facebook is a close second.
You might not think of Facebook as a great place to land freelance writing jobs, but it can be a gold mine! The key is Facebook groups.
Look for and request to join Facebook groups in your chosen niche. If possible, look for groups that have business owners in your chosen niche in them. Entrepreneur groups and blogger groups are great places to start, as bloggers and entrepreneurs frequently look to outsource their content creation.
The key to utilizing social media is not spamming yourself or your services all over the place. Rather, it’s about being genuinely helpful, making connections, which can then lead to paying client relationships.
As you join different Facebook groups, be sure to familiarize yourself with the group guidelines. Many groups have rules about self-promotion or certain days where it’s allowed, and people aren’t likely to hire someone who acts spammy.
Browse Job Boards
Online job boards can be great to look for freelance writing work, but be careful. Websites like UpWork are notorious for freelance writing jobs that pay pennies.
While it may be okay to accept low paying jobs in the beginning as you’re gaining experience, don’t set that precedent for yourself.
A good place to look for freelance blogging jobs is the ProBlogger job board, on LinkedIn job board, FlexJobs, and even here on the RVer Job Exchange.
Start Cold Pitching
In addition to looking on social media and job boards for paid writing opportunities, cold pitching can be a great way to find clients. Cold pitching is emailing or contacting people who don’t know you and don’t know about you in an effort to work with them.
Cold pitching is an art and deserves an article all on it’s own. The key is not to email or DM strangers asking them to work with you right away, but to get to know more about their content strategy and needs and see if you can be of value to them.
When done properly, cold pitching can lead to very high quality freelance writing jobs.
Find Guest Post Opportunities
Guest posting is a great way to get your name out there and get exposure to someone else’s audience. Guest posting is when you write an article to be published on someone else’s website.
With guest posting, there is no pay. But the publisher generally allows you to fit a few links into the article, and gives you an author bio section. In your author bio section, you can include what it is that you do and link back to your writing portfolio.
In addition to getting exposure to other audiences, guest posting also gives you another sample piece for your portfolio.
Keep Learning and Honing Your Skill
Perhaps the most important part of being a freelance writer is the ability to stay on top of your game. Whether you’re working in an industry that’s changing all the time, or you want to learn other types of writing like copywriting, learning is essential.
Honing your skill and getting better every day is what’s going to help you land higher paying clients, charge more, and make more money in the long run.
Choose Your Niche and Start Writing
Freelance writing is a lucrative industry that’s growing by the day. Learning how to become a freelance writer is fairly simple, as far as new skills go. But becoming a successful freelance writer will take time, dedication, and persistence.
Choosing a popular niche and staying away from low-paying jobs is the key to success with freelance writing! So choose a niche, write some sample pieces, and get out there!