Are you a writer who is looking for ways to get paid to write? If so, freelancing may be the perfect solution for you. Freelancing can be a great way to earn a living while working from home, and it offers a lot of flexibility and freedom.
However, starting a freelance writing job can be challenging. Here are some tips that can help you get started.
What is freelance writing?
A freelance writer is someone who writes for different publications, websites, or companies without belonging to any one of them in particular. Freelance writers are often contracted to write articles or produce specific pieces of writing, such as web content or marketing collateral, but they can also work on longer-term projects, such as ghostwriting books or creating content for a blog.
As a freelance writer, you have the freedom to choose your own projects and set your own hours. To be successful, however, you need to be self-motivated, organized, and able to consistently meet deadlines for your clients.
Types of freelance writers
Freelance writers come in all shapes and sizes, with different levels of experience and expertise. Here's a quick rundown of the most common types of writing, so you can decide which one is right for you:
- Journalists: Journalists are trained in the art of reporting and writing news stories. If you're interested in becoming a freelance journalist, you'll need to have a strong understanding of the news cycle and be able to write compelling, accurate stories under tight deadlines.
- Editors: Editors are responsible for revising and editing written content. If you want to become a freelance editor, you should have a keen eye for detail and a strong understanding of grammar and style.
- Ghostwriters: Ghostwriters are writers who create content for other people. Typically, ghostwriters are hired to write books, articles, or blog posts that will be published under someone else's name. If you're interested in becoming a ghostwriter, you should be comfortable working with clients and able to write in a variety of styles.
- Grant writers: Grant writers are responsible for writing grant proposals. If you're interested in becoming a grant writer, you should have excellent research and writing skills and be familiar with the grant-writing process.
- Copywriters: Copywriters create advertising or webpage copy for businesses. If you want to become a copywriter, you should have a flair for writing and be able to come up with creative, attention-grabbing ideas.
- Bloggers: Bloggers write blog posts on a variety of topics. If you're interested in becoming a blogger, you should be comfortable writing in a casual, informal style and be familiar with the blogging platform you're using.
- SEO writers: SEO writers create search engine optimized blog posts for companies. If you’re interested in being an SEO writer, you should have a strong knowledge of current SEO practices and excellent research skills.
- Content marketers: Content marketers create and distribute written content to promote a company or product. If you want to become a content marketer, you should have strong writing and communication skills and be able to develop and execute a content marketing strategy.
How much do freelance writers get paid?
Freelance writers are paid depending on many factors, including their experience, the type of writing they do, and the market they're writing for. In general, though, most freelance writers charge by the project, word, or by the hour.
For example, a freelance blogger who is just getting started may charge $50-$100 per post, while someone who has been blogging for a decade may charge $300-$500 per post. The best way to find out how much you can expect to earn as a freelance writer is to ask around and get quotes from different writers for similar projects.
Setting your own rates can be a tricky process. If you set a project or post rate, be sure to incorporate time you spent researching, writing, editing, and communicating with the client. This way, you can make sure every project is profitable for you.
How to get started freelance writing
For anyone who loves to write, freelance writing can be a great way to turn your passion into a paycheck. But getting started in the freelance writing world can feel a bit daunting. Where do you begin? How do you find clients? What should you charge? Do you have to be a good writer? Here are a few tips to help you get started as a freelance writer:
1. Get your first clients
Getting your first client can feel really daunting, but there are some tried and true tricks to help you get started. One great one? Utilize your networks. If there is a company or publication that you would like to write for, take some time to see whether you know someone who currently works there. Post your interest on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and also make sure to reach out directly to people who you think might be able to help you.
Another option is reaching out to writers that you admire or know and asking if they’re open to a mentoring call. You can offer to pay them for their time, which some people will accept and others won’t — but they will appreciate it as a courtesy. This helps you build your network of people who are already doing the work that you would like to do.
You can also cold email or DM companies or publications. This route is the least likely to produce results, but it’s always a possibility! If you’re choosing to cold contact people, make sure they have everything they need to know about you in a digestible, clear email. Include a brief bio, three links to your best and most relevant writing samples, and why you want to work with them.
If you want to go the extra mile with cold contacts, create a little project plan for them. What do you think they need? How can you help? Make it easy for them to say yes and you’re more likely to get the gig, either now or in the future.
Finally, you can look at freelance marketplaces. These are job board websites where companies post job briefs looking for freelance workers. They can be a great way to pick up work, especially when you’re first starting out and don’t yet have a robust portfolio or network. Two popular freelance marketplaces are Upwork and Fiverr.
2. Build your portfolio
You don't need a specific degree or qualification to become a freelance writer: You really just need a strong desire to write and the ability to hustle. However, most freelance writing clients will want to see your writing portfolio (samples of your work), which creates a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg problem. How can you provide links if you’ve never been published?
There are lots of ways to get your work online even if you’re not yet getting paid for it. You can do this by writing articles for free or low-cost publications; writing guest posts for other people’s sites; starting a blog or self-publishing on platforms like Medium; or you could take on short-term projects. Once you have a few samples of your work, you can approach potential clients and pitch them your ideas.
It can also be helpful to have a strong understanding of the field you're interested in writing about, although it’s by no means a requirement. More important is a demonstrated ability to do quality research, write clear copy, and meet every deadline — no exceptions.
3. Form an LLC
An LLC, or limited liability company, is a business structure that can offer freelancers some protections and advantages. LLCs are relatively easy and inexpensive to form, and they offer their owners limited liability for business debts and liabilities. This means that if the LLC is sued or incurs debt, the freelancer's personal assets are typically not at risk.
Additionally, LLCs can help freelancers to save on taxes by allowing them to file their taxes as a "pass-through" entity. This means that any profits or losses from the LLC are passed through to the freelancer's personal tax return, rather than being taxed as a corporate entity. For these reasons, forming an LLC can be a good option for freelancers who want to minimize their personal liability and maximize their tax savings.
4. Set your rates and be profitable
If a potential client asks you for your “rates,” they’re asking you how much you charge. Your answer can be by the piece, word, project, or the hour. It’s important to have an idea of your rates before you have any conversations with a potential client so that you’re prepared when this question inevitably comes up.
But be flexible and have a range in mind. For example, some writers give a per-piece price and then offer a discount if the client can promise ongoing work or a large batch of work.
When it comes to freelance writing, a gig being “profitable” just means that you’re making enough money to compensate you for your work, pay your taxes, and cover any expense you’ve incurred in the course of the work.
5. Hone your writing skills
Honing your skills means you’re getting better at what you do. That might mean taking on new types of work, sharpening your research skills, taking online courses and webinars about SEO, or whatever else helps you get better at your craft.
6. Find your niche
Some writers are generalists — which means they can write about most anything — while others have a specific topic or topics that they focus on. If you’re finding your niche, you’re figuring out what that specific topic is for you. Examples of niches are B2B copywriting for tech startups, blog posts for cooking websites, and ghostwriting for corporate executives. The list goes on.
7. Market yourself
Marketing is how you sell yourself and your services. For freelance writers, it might include a great author page or social media. You can also build your network by offering free services, like a webinar, asking for recommendations to new clients from former clients, and building a following on social media.
8. Pitch yourself
In order to convince a client that you’re the right person for the job, you’re going to need to pitch yourself. Talk about your experience, ask them about their needs, and then tell them what you can do to meet those needs. Your goal is to sound experienced, well-informed, and thoughtful.
How to stand out as a freelance writer
If you're a freelance writer, there are a few things to make sure you stand out from the crowd.
- Organization. Keep track of your deadlines and make sure you deliver your work on time.
- Testimonials. Testimonials from happy clients can go a long way in demonstrating your value as a writer. Make sure to collect feedback from clients and showcase it prominently on your website or portfolio.
- Research skills. Do you know what a primary source is? A secondary source? How can you tell if an article is legit? Solid research skills are essential if you want to create quality, informative content for your clients.
- Pitch yourself. If you believe in your writing skills, others will too. Get used to talking yourself up to prospective clients, because you’re your whole marketing team.
Writing for a living used to be an elitist job, reserved only for the highly educated, well connected, and usually independently wealthy. But with the rise of the internet, freelance writing is now accessible to such a broader range of people. It’s pretty amazing.
If you love writing but have maybe been on the fence about it for a while, not sure it’s a viable option, there’s no better time than now. All you need is a decent laptop, some wifi, and the ability to hustle.