Like becoming a virtual assistant, turning to freelance writing is one of the most appealing and seemingly easiest ways to earn a living online — but how can you earn a good living from freelance writing online where you’re making Western wages, and not being paid $3/hour while competing from writers in third-world countries? How do you get real clients who value you and your work, and pay you accordingly? Those are the key questions.
The good news is that while freelance writing is not a walk in the park and it definitely takes time to work your way up, it is absolutely possible to make a reasonable income from it. Plenty of people have proven that — and in fact, many such people have shared their stories with us below. These are stories, tips and advice from people who are actually earning a living (or have earnt a good living before) from freelance writing. Not simply generic tips from people who have no actual experience earning an income from writing.
To put this together I reached out to, and am still reaching out to, all kinds of freelance writers, as well as put the following query out:
For freelance writers, what’s your story in how you got started and what tips/advice do you have for aspiring freelance writers? All input welcome. Looking to hear actionable advice that will be useful to new writers who are looking to make additional part time income or perhaps make the transition to full time freelance writing.
I got a lot back in response to that, most of which I’ve chosen not to publish. I’ve included only submissions that I felt would definitely be useful for aspiring freelance writers, and (as mentioned above) from people who are qualified to speak on this topic.
To summarize some of the great advice people submitted, I’ve listed the main points below. I’ve also included links to the submission(s) for each point:
- Pick a specific niche to write about (link, link). This will allow you to command higher rates, become an expert, and do much better work. The niche you choose ought to be something you have an interest in (link)
- Check out Facebook writing groups where writing jobs are posted (link)
- When just starting out, focus on actually getting clients, not wasting time on a fancy website design and logos (link) (EDITORS NOTE: This is probably the most important thing when you’re starting out, in my opinion — get some money coming in first!)
- If you do create a simple website when starting out, you can use it as a blog to write about things that interest you, which will serve as a live portfolio (link). You can also start writing and publishing on LinkedIn (link)
- Open a separate account for any business expenses, and track your money and taxes (link)
- Try emailing small businesses in your area asking if you can add a page or two of content for them (eg. how they’re dealing with COVID-19) (link)
- Be aware that sites like UpWork have big downsides as they take a big cut, don’t let you contact clients outside the platform, and can be hard to charge high rates on (link) (EDITORS NOTE: This is true, but UpWork is still often considered the best bet when you’re getting started). The best leads may come from your own website (link)
- Track your time and set deadlines (link)
- Check out some of the freelancing communities (link)
- Use a plagiarism checking tool like Copyscape Premium (link)
- Make sure to deliver what you offer (link)
- If you’re reaching out to people, be resilient, because you’ll inevitably get rejected plenty of times (link)
- Set clear goals such as earn a certain amount, pitch a certain number of clients, getting published etc (link)
- Be patient in the beginning (link)
- Always be networking, including by asking past clients if they know anyone else who needs writing (link), looking into your existing network before you started writing (link) and connecting to other freelance writers (link)
- Update your social media profile(s) (link)
- Perfect your pitch when applying to jobs — be short and concise, and try ending with a question (link)
And, here are the best submissions I received. If you’re committed to starting out as a freelance writer, I strongly recommend taking the time to read through them:
My advice to aspiring freelance writers would be to think about the type of content you would like to write, the industry you want to focus on, and to network within that field as much as possible. Brush up your skills on keyword research, SEO, brand voice, content marketing, etc. I would suggest building an online portfolio and maybe even creating your own website - you will want to be able to demonstrate what you are capable of. And most importantly, start writing! The sooner you get your name out there, the sooner you will be recognised.
--Alice Johnson, Vegan Sisters
I'm currently a blogger and freelance writer who has written for a few prestigious SaaS and Marketing Blogs like OptinMonster. But I have also scrapped peanuts writing for no-name sites with demanding editors in the past.
What made the difference wasn’t learning how to write better, it was packaging and networking.
The no. 1 thing every freelance writer should have is a professional website and portfolio. That covers the packaging part.
The 2nd thing you want is your name on big blogs, even if you have to write a few posts for free. That covers the portfolio part.
For me personally, doors only started to really open when I guest posted on BloggingWizard.com. And access to big sites like that only come through networking.
Once you’ve got those two, all you need to scale is to start cold emailing (not en masse please), sticking to deadlines and also, asking existing clients for referrals.
--Lily Ugbaja, FindingBalance.Mom
One of the best things I did when starting out was to reach out to other freelance writers to build a network. Whether it was to ask them about rates or clients, having another person that knew what I was going through was very helpful. I found most of my network of freelance writers either on social media or by visiting other freelance writing websites, then I found out another freelance writer was living in my city. It’s so delightful when you have someone to bounce ideas off of and talk all things about blogging and freelance writing. Even though we work from home by ourselves, it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone! There’s a community of freelance writers out there willing to help. Take advantage of that to help improve your skills and increase your earnings as an online freelance writer.
--Carolyn Thompson, Wealth Growth Wisdom, LLC
My name is Colette Tozer and I started my freelance writing career in December 2011. I started freelance writing in college to supplement my income.
I started writing stories when I was ten and all throughout high school, I wanted to be an author. However, after high school, life happened and for about a year I didn't get much of a chance to write until my (now) husband saw a news report on Elance. (The online writing platform that is now Upwork.) He encouraged me to submit a proposal and I got the job.
At that moment, I was flooded with a range of emotions. Excitement. Nervousness...Nausea. I had never had to write anything for anyone before, besides schoolwork and now, I had a paid gig with a deadline.
However, I got right to work and the words poured out of me. I wrote for hours that day and finally came up with my first paid writing assignment.
It was a success and from that day forward, I was in love with being a freelance writer.
After college, I worked a few regular jobs but always found my way back to being a freelance writer.
Now, I am a full-time freelance writer and I couldn't be happier. I love what I do and even in this uncertain occupational climate, I haven't slowed down. I am still writing and working hard every day. I have a consistent paycheck and I have the freedom to truly make my own hours.
My advice for aspiring freelance writers is to know your worth. Sometimes it can be difficult since you are putting your whole self out there through your words and rejection can cut deep. However, there are always new opportunities for writers, and the only way you will not find a good writing job is if you stop applying to jobs.
For job boards, I've had the most success with ProBlogger, BloggingPro, Freelance Writing Gigs, and Reddit's r/HireaWriter and r/ForHire.
Additionally, using file-folders in GoogleDocs to house and organize your portfolio makes for a great, easy to share option for your work and Grammarly is a lifesaver for helping to self-edit everything from proposals to article submissions.
--Colette Tozer, Serial Writer Productions LLC
Here are a few pieces of advice I have for new freelance writers:
1. Beware of online courses: There are a lot of courses on the Internet that claim to teach new freelance writers how to earn six figures from their craft.
However, it's important for new writers to know that it is not as easy as the courses make it seem. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to earn a reasonable wage from freelance writing because a lot of people do not value writing skills. The majority of people will not want to pay you what you're worth.
Now, there are high-paying clients out there, and you only need a few of them to earn a living. You just have to learn how to weed out the lowball offers.
2. Choose a narrow niche that you have expertise in. You won't get very far if you claim to be a writer who can do it all. Freelance writing jobs usually pertain to a particular niche, and clients are looking for people with expertise in those areas. If you can sell yourself as an expert in one industry, you'll find clients who are willing to hire you.
3. Stay away from content mills like Upwork and Fiverr. These are not the best places to find high-paying clients. There's too much competition. You'll need to get recommendations to prove you're credible, and you'll have to work basically for free to get the in-platform recommendations. It's just not a worthwhile investment of your time.
4. Create an online portfolio that has a blog. If you want to establish yourself as a professional, you need a professional website. You can easily create one on Wix or a similar platform. Keep your writing samples in one section, and create a separate section with a blog. In the blog section, write articles that are relevant to your niche.
If you can, use the blog posts to provide helpful information or solve problems for potential clients. You'll demonstrate your credibility within your niche.
Additionally, posting blog content regularly will increase your chances of ranking on Google. If you get to the first page of Google, you'll start attracting clients organically rather than having to chase after them by pitching.
5. Perfect your pitch. If you're having trouble landing clients, it could be because of your pitch. Make sure your pitch is short and concise. If you're pitching a job listing, double-check to make sure you're including all the details the potential client asked for.
End your pitch by asking a question. For example, you could say, Would you like me to send over a sample blog post to get the ball rolling? By asking a question, you increase your chances of getting a response. And if you don't get a reply, keep following up until you do.
--Samantha Warren, samanthawarren.com
I've been freelancing for several years now, and the best advice I can give is threefold:
1.) Determine how you want to position yourself in the marketplace
Who are you trying to help, and how do you help them? If you can put that in the format of, I help [x] do [y] then you'll be memorable and easy to refer. I help [this type of client] do [this kind of thing].
For me, I help creatives thrive as business owners.
2.) Update your digital identity to reflect that positioning
Update your social media identity and your website (if you have one) to show this new positioning. If I'm the client you're seeking to serve, and I come across you online, it should be obvious that you help people like me.
3.) Begin having conversations with people in your network to socialize this position
Reconnect with your friends, family, coworkers, and former clients to check in with them. How are they doing? How can you help?
Eventually, they'll ask you what YOU'RE up to, and it's an invitation to talk about your new freelancing practice.
--Jay Clouse, Freelancing School
I spent a year as a freelance writer before founding a more scalable business, and I've coached a few others on the process, too.
A few keys to success:
1. Choose a specific niche
When somebody is hiring a writer for their business, they want an expert in their field. For example, a financial website wants a finance writer. A medical website wants a health & wellness writer.
Given the choice, they're going to hire a specialist, which is why you'll gain more business by specializing.
Many first-year freelance writers feel that they're missing opportunities by choosing a narrow focus, but what I found is that you're missing opportunities by not having a narrow focus.
2. Get one or two great testimonials as quickly as possible
Testimonials will help you sell your service, close more deals, and get more business. So in your first year, try to get one or two outstanding testimonials as quickly as possible, even if it means doing a free or discounted project.
Then, put them everywhere - your website, your profiles on any freelance websites you're using like Upwork or Freelancer.com, etc.
This will make clients more comfortable hiring you and will boost the amount of business you receive
3. Always be networking
After you've completed one or two successful projects, try to build more connections in your industry. Ask your past clients if they know anyone else who needs help with their writing. While they won't likely refer you to a direct competitor, they may have colleagues in an adjacent niche. For example, maybe you completed a project writing articles for a credit card & personal finance website, and they refer you to a stock trading/investing website.
4. Choose one freelance website and spend time each day
I personally chose Upwork.com when beginning my freelance writing career. While it's not perfect, and it's certainly competitive, I did find multiple jobs in my first few months, often paying $1,000 or more.
Some of these clients led to repeat projects, referrals and testimonials, which led to even more clients down the road.
I recommend choosing one freelance platform because you'll build up reviews on the platform more quickly, which will make your profile more impressive.
That's why I chose to only use Upwork.
--Biron Clark, CareerSidekick.com
My arrival at freelance writing was not on purpose. I had a PR job in NYC at the time and I thought I was going to work in politics. I ended up quitting my PR job because I hated it so much. I went home that night (2015) and figured I had to do something or else I'd end up on the streets. I went on Fiverr and opened gigs to write blogs, website content, and press releases.
Next thing you know, 3 years later, Fiverr asks me to join Fiverr PRO, effectively taking my rates of $15 per press release to $100. One year later, CNBC featured me for making 150k every 6-months as a freelance writer. My life changed forever, and I would trade it for the world.
My advice to budding freelance writers is as follows: be patient in the beginning. You're going to have to prove yourself and build your portfolio, so it's ok to charge less than what your work is worth. The practice is priceless. Over-time, you will be able to raise your rates.
Don't wait years to raise them, either. Reevaluate every 6-months. I made the mistake of waiting too long to raise mine.
On sites like Fiverr and Upwork, reviews are gold. Therefore, you do need to go above and beyond for your first clients to solidify a 5-star review. Customer service is just as important as the writing itself, so download their mobile apps so you can be responsive to client questions.
With patience and commitment, there's no reason you can't do this full-time in a matter of months.
--Alexandra Fasulo, Instagram profile
Freelance writing is a great way to make a living online, even for people who have zero professional writing experience. I started freelance writing for content mills with no professional writing credentials to my name and I didn't have a journalism degree either but that hasn't stopped me from being successful.
For someone who's interested in getting into freelance writing online right now as a way to make extra money or replace a full-time job that may have disappeared thanks to COVID-19, here are my best tips:
1. Choose a profitable niche. A niche is your area of expertise or specialty. So for example, I write about money but other freelancers may specialize in copywriting or digital marketing or parenting. The key to choosing a niche is to pick something that you enjoy writing about over and over again, is an in-demand topic and has clients that have the budget to afford to pay a competitive rate.
2. Become an expert. Becoming an expert in your niche means you know it inside and out and that's key to making more money as a freelance writer. When you establish a reputation for being an expert writer about one or two things, you'll find that clients are coming to you to offer you work rather than you having to chase them down.
3. Cast the net wide. Freelance writing is a numbers game and you have to put yourself out there in the beginning to look for work. So this may mean applying for writing gigs on job boards, pitching would-be clients directly and canvassing your network. The more pitches you send, the more jobs you apply to and the more people you connect with, the more chances you have to land a paid writing gig. And cultivating your network is especially valuable since that can lead to referrals.
4. Set clear goals. Having goals can be a huge help for getting ahead as a new freelance because it gives you a target to work toward. So for example, you might set a goal of making $2,000 a month or pitching 50 clients a day or getting published in 3 big-name publications in your niche. Whatever the goal is, make it specific and actionable. Then set a deadline for reaching it. That can be a huge motivating push to focus on building up your freelancing business or side hustle.
5. Believe that you can. Freelance writing is not something just anyone can do but it is something a lot of people can do if they're willing to be patient and put in the work. So even if you've never done any writing professionally or you don't have a background in journalism, believe that you can be successful with freelancing. Taking action is part of it but you also have to have the right mindset.
--Rebecca Lake, Write to Six Figures
Making a living as a freelancer writer is not easy and the environment in the publishing sector has certainly got tougher in recent years. But it can still be done if you are smart about it. As someone who has previously worked full time as a freelance writer, the best advice I have is to really take the time to read the publications you are pitching to and make sure you understand their needs, and what you can offer over and above what they are writing about. It could be that you have specific expertise in a subject area, you have great contacts, or you live in a particular region that the publication is interested in. The other advice I have is to be resilient because you have to deal with rejections and pick yourself and move on to the next pitch. Respect the editors you are dealing with, and if you idea is not accepted take the opportunity to ask them how you could put together a piece that they area interested in. And above all try to reduce your living expenses. If that means living abroad somewhere cheap, that's often a good way to minimise your expenses, see a different part of the world and earn enough money to stay afloat.
--Rick Wallace, The Navient Class Action Lawsuit Site
I started out as a freelance writer with only an ample amount of knowledge about this business. All I had was the skill to write engaging and persuasive words, but I didn't have any client base. Little by little, I was able to establish myself, gain and earn the trust of my clients, and now, I am making a profitable business by writing.
Here are some tips on how you can make a living as a freelance writer online:
- Start small and work your way up.
No one starts at the top of the food chain - if you really want to be successful, you would endure and persevere all the hardships until you reach the top of the ladder of success.
- Build your client base.
You can start by working as a freelance writer on some legit paying freelance sites such as UpWork or Fiverr. Gain clients and earn their trust - this is how you can successfully build a client base.
- Deliver what you offer.
If you say that you can finish an article, a script, or a write-up in a specific number of days, make sure that you will be able to deliver it in the quality and in the time you promised it would be delivered. This is also one way of earning your client's trust and confidence.
--Lewis Keegan, Skill Scouter
I'm a copywriter with 8 years experience, working across a number of roles including full time editorial staff for a magazine and as an SEO account manager. I've been freelancing for 5 of the last 8 years.
Although I have used sites like PeoplePerHour and Copify to find gigs, the best leads I've ever had have come from my own website. My advice to new freelancers would be to focus on building your presence on a platform that you have complete control over. It might seem like a lot of work, but once your website is established, you could be seeing a steady flow of new copywriting leads every month. Your website is a chance to showcase what you can do, even before you've landed your first gig!
--Laura Howarth, Left Field
I ventured into freelance writing when I was still studying. I was in college and I realized my average writing skills could be honed and used to earn some money on the side. I applied to local agencies here in Mumbai, India and soon received small-time gigs. They paid a pittance at start but then I also had some great writing samples to showcase and build my freelance job. This initial writing projects really showed me the way and that was back in 2012. Over the years, I have worked across projects and taken full advantage of my freelance background. Today, I still freelance while maintaining a permanent day job. While in 2012 it was to earn some money, today it is as a secondary source of income which is essential to lead a normal life. In times of epidemic such as this, freelance is all the more important.
Over the years, I have learned a few secrets of the trade. Here they are: 1. Don't be a general freelance writer. Pick a specialisation and hone your skills on it. In 2019, blockchain was a hot topic and writers with experience were always on demand.
2. Don't depend on a single source for gigs. The client that you have today may not be present tomorrow for any number of reasons. If you have a good standing on freelance sites like Upwork, do not depend on it alone. Look out for more sources. Even when you have lots of jobs in hand, keep an eye out for sources. You don't know when you will need it.
3. Invest on Copyscape Premium or any plagiarism checking tool. It will help you stand out from the crowd
4. One of the first things to do before venturing into freelance writing is to create a portfolio. Lots of portals that can help you with that. Once you get in, update the portfolio every 3 months.
--Tejas Nair, nair tejas dot com
I became a freelance copywriter in January 2015, just months after having my first son. I’d always wanted to be my own boss, and knowing I wouldn’t have a job to go back to made it the perfect opportunity to give freelancing a try, without risking a dreaded gap on my CV (if it didn’t work out, I could just claim I’d been on maternity leave the whole time).
I told myself I had 6 months to make it work or return to employment…
When the deadline hit, I had a business where I earned 42% more income and worked 38% fewer hours compared to when I was employed.
Then in 2017 I was forced to close my business when I had my second son. And yet 3 months after returning to work, I was earning £3k per month working 3 days a week.
So if you’re an aspiring freelance copywriter, my top 3 tips for getting to this position are:
Make a plan
If you want to make freelancing work for you, you need to treat it like a ‘proper’ business that’s built for long-term success. Take the time to properly plan:
What you are going to deliver.
Who you are going to target.
Where you are going to find these people.
Why you are best placed to help.
When you are available to work.
How much you need to earn.
For me, I knew I needed to go niche in order to build a reputation for being a B2B copywriter for small IT and tech companies. This makes it easier for people to identify that I am the right copywriter for them and/or enables them to easily refer me to others in their network.
My plan also gave me the confidence to go out and ‘sell’ myself, because I knew the value I had to offer. And it gave me the flexibility to be a mum to my young children because I had set expectations around working hours with my clients.
Find the community
There are some wonderful communities out there for freelancers andfreelance copywriters, such as:
Doing it for the kids
The people in these communities are some of the most genuine and supportive people you could ever wish to meet…
When you have a question, they’re there.
If you need some work, they’re there.
If you just want someone to give you some reassurance to overcome the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’, they’re there.
You may be a freelancer, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone.. And you’ll learn a lot about building your business and honing your skills from the community.
Know when to say ‘no!’
Turning down work – is that even allowed?!
Yes, absolutely, and I’d encourage you to do it often. I’m not saying it’s easy, particularly when you have bills to pay, but it is necessary because if you’re busy working on the wrong opportunities, you’re missing out on the right ones.
Over time you’ll learn more about how to spot what a good/bad opportunity looks like for your business. But initially I’d advocate trusting your gut – it’s rarely wrong. I have 5 ‘rules’ in my business, the third one being, “If it feels wrong, it is wrong”, and I know I’ve avoided a few horror stories because of it.
--Alice Hollis, alicehollis.co.uk
I actually got my start as a freelance writer in the last recession. Before 2008 I worked as a cook, and (similar to now) restaurant jobs dried up. I was lucky in that my roommate at the time was a technology writer, so she showed me the ropes of getting started.
Advice I give to newbies or those who want to freelance ...
People tend to worry a lot about clips when getting started, but that's more of a misplaced worry. These days, even just writing some good-quality stuff and getting it curated on Medium can give a newbie writer some clips.
What I DON'T recommend is falling into the trap of writing for free for places to get first clips. If the idea and execution is good enough, a new writer can get paid.
To make the numbers work, freelancers need to be quick and have mastery of skills like time management and self-direction. I'd suggest new writers focus on working efficiently, tracking their time, setting deadlines, and making steady progress toward freelance writing (even if all they can manage is spending an hour Sunday morning working on their portfolio). A writer who isn't organized and efficient may luck into a clip here and there, but they will not be able to scale up into earning full-time if they haven't mastered the underlying systems.
--Lindsey Danis, lindseydanis.com
I got started almost by accident. A friend's company was looking for freelance writers, and I told her I'd like to be considered for the work even though I didn't have any experience. They gave me a test assignment or two, then started sending me regular work once I proved myself. My advice to people who are just starting out is this:
- Don't be afraid to put yourself out there by reaching out to people. Use your network or search for freelance opportunities online. Tell people why you think you're a good fit for their work, and offer to create a custom sample if you don't have a portfolio.
- Take low-paying jobs at first. It's how you build experience.
- Deliver excellent work even when you're working those low-paying jobs, because the quality you turn in will shape your reputation.
- Find a niche if you can. I know a lot about marketing, the automotive industry, and the cannabis industry. That makes it easier for me to find work with businesses in those industries.
Once you get started by completing those steps, you'll be able to position yourself as an expert and start charging more for your work.
--Dan Gower, Buddy Gardner Advertising
I started freelance writing at a gradual pace and I suggest the same path for anyone who asks. I am a full-time blogger at the moment but began my journey as a freelance writer while also working full time. I took on a few small projects by applying for jobs on Problogger and then as I grew the clients started to come to me.
While stories about quitting your job overnight and buying an oneway ticket to Mexico sound awesome they are also very likely editing out some important details.
1. Do not bother using a website like UpWork, Freelancer and the likes to find work. The cut these websites take can go up to 30% and if you read between the lines when it comes to some of their terms, you aren't going to like what you see. Being in control of your work and being your own boss are the biggest perks you have as a freelancer. If you work for websites that sell you as a service on their platform, you lose a part of that ability. Finally, the rates you will find on websites like those are depressing and outright nonsense in a lot of cases. Tons of new freelancers get taken advantage of through sites like these that do not value your effort.
2. When you are agreeing to a price for your work remember that you are getting no pension, no healthcare, no benefits, no 401(k). You need to charge taking these things into account. The biggest issue you will face as a newbie freelance blogger is not knowing your own worth- normally its more than you think.
3. Being wary of opportunities that sound too good to be true and not rushing into things is SO important when you are on this journey. Working from home sounds amazing and there are thousands of people trying to sell you that dream with some of those people being extremely unrealistic about the way you can get there.
4. I would also suggest treating this like any other job, you may need to get the necessary qualifications to make yourself stand out. For freelance writers, proofreaders, virtual assistants, and website designers there are tons of online courses available that could teach you the ropes and give you a qualification you can flaunt. Another plus is they are super affordable.
Bottom Line: When you do get started on this journey, remember that there is a ton of competition and you need to find ways to stand out with great samples, past employers in the online community ready to recommend you and some certifications to go with it.
--Freya Kuka, Collecting Cents
My advice to those wanting to transition from a current role to be a freelance writer is to start or continue writing and publishing. You can publish articles on your own blog, write whitepapers for your employer, create helpful articles on LinkedIn, or build an online website where you post and share your own content. Once you have some content to showcase to client prospects, you can sign up on websites like Flexjobs, Indeed or Upwork to offer your services as a freelancer.
--Laura Handrick, Choosing Therapy
I’ve been earning $100K+ from my freelance writing since 2011.
I first broke into freelance writing by winning two different essay contests, at the L.A. Weekly, and the Los Angeles Times real estate section. Both papers then asked me to write more for them. That was round one.
After 12 years as a staffer, I broke in again in 2005, partly by asking people who’d been sources I’d written stories about at my paper if they could refer me. One of them hired me to ghostwrite his blog. At the time, I’d never read one and literally went and Googled, “What is a blog?”
If I were trying to break in right now, I’d be looking at the websites of every small business in my town — and then email to ask them if I could add a page or two of content for them, add updates of how they’re serving the community during COVID, or help them with an email sequence or other writing. Or ask the local paper if they could use a story, if you know an interesting person or inspiring initiative that’s going on in your town. Every little, local business is so desperate for help right now!
You can do your first few gigs pro bono, just to get samples. Then, use those samples to pitch for paying work — your pro bono clients have to be sworn to secrecy that you were unpaid, that’s part of the deal.
--Carol Tice, makealivingwriting.com
I have been a writer for as long as I can’t remember. At a young age, I have realized that I have a passion for writing. I am an introvert and so what I can’t say freely, I express through writing. Little did I know that writing would be my bread and butter.
Of course, I was once a beginner too. These are the tips I wish I have known by then:
It’s okay to start small. In March 2019, over 4.4 million blog posts were published every day. Imagine just how many writers are there to be able to produce that large volume of blogs. This means that you’re in for some tight competition. Because of that, don’t be too greedy and aspire for high rates and stable gigs to start. It’s okay to start small and work your way up to top.
Update your craft. Writing has evolved from being print media to digital. So while your writing skills are still good, your writing may not be as relevant as it was. For example, SEO plays a huge influence in today’s writing process. Previously, that wasn’t heard of. So, learn continuously. Enroll in free courses or just do your research.
Know where to look for jobs. There are a lot of online job ads from where you can get yourself hired, but not all of them are the same. To be able to start your career and gain the experience you need, you should know where to look. Upwork and WriterBay are nice job platforms for aspiring writers.
--Samantha Moss, romantific.com
Being a writer for a few years now, I can say that this is my calling. I am not overstressed at work, and the time frame is working well for me. This was very far from what I have experienced in my previous jobs, where all I wanted was to go out of the office building at the soonest time possible.
My sudden change of career is mainly because of my own interests. First, I wanted to work from an environment that best fits me. 82% of Americans said that they wanted to work from home. Well, I cannot totally argue with them. Next, I wanted to express myself through writing and luckily, I found a place where I can do what I love and at the same time make a living out of it.
Here are a few tips I can share to aspiring writers for them to be successful:
You have to firmly decide if you will do it part-time or full-time. You can easily focus on this line of work if you have already decided on this aspect. This is because the amount of time you’ll be spending in writing will determine the kinds of the things that you will be needing, like your laptop/desktop and your workplace. For example, if you plan to just write for 2 hours/day, there’s no need to get a heavy-duty working machine.
Make your own blog. Jumpstart your writing career by writing just about anything that you want to in your very own, personal blog. That way, you’ll have a live portfolio. You can send your blog’s link to potential clients for them to see the style of your work and help them decide if they want to hire you. While you’re at it, make time to read and comment on someone else's blog to create a relationship with other writers, and to be actively visible in the writers’ world.
The work-Life balance must be observed at all times. When you find yourself working with different clients all at the same time, it is easy to get drowned in your writing. Even if you have time on your hands, make sure that you will always be able to get enough rest and keep your social life active. This will ensure that your enthusiasm to write will not dwindle.
--Norhanie Pangulima, Hernorm
I started freelance writing by accident. Back in 2017, I ran a blog and I wanted to pay for ads to that blog. I started freelance writing to fund that project. But after several months of freelance writing, I realized it was way more profitable (and enjoyable) than running a blog. In October 2018, I had built the business enough that I left my full-time job to become a self-employed writer.
A lot of my friends have asked for freelance advice, and the most important tips I can give are on the business and financial side. That means:
1. Don't intermingle business expenses with personal expenses. Open a checking and savings account for your business. Online banks like Ally let you do that for free.
2. Track your money and taxes. Yes, freelancers pay taxes! You're required to file both annually and quarterly. Tools like Quickbooks Self-Employed saved my butt when it was time to file taxes. A good software makes this less scary. Once you're making good money, hire an accountant to do this for you.
--Kenzi Wood, Kenzi Writes
I started freelancing without a degree, without any experience, and without any real idea of who would pay me to write. For the past 20 years, I’ve earned a great living as a freelance writer — and I’ve done it while having and raising five kids, including one with significant special needs.
If you’re looking to get started in freelance writing, or you want to earn more consistent income as a freelancer, it’s a good idea to learn more about copywriting. You don’t have to work as a copywriter, but you do want to remember that everything you write — especially when you’re pitching to clients — should always go back to “What’s in it for me?”
Of course, the “me” in question is the person reading what you’re writing, whether that’s the client you’re pitching, or the audience you’re writing for.
If you think about what your reader stands to gain from your writing, you’ll have much better luck signing clients and writing convincing, compelling articles.
When you’re just starting out, be sure to put your time into the things that really matter — getting clients who will pay you. You don’t need a logo or a tagline or a fancy website when you’re starting out. Working on those things feels like work, but it’s really just a form of procrastination. The ONLY thing you need to make money as a freelance writer is clients who will pay you.
Also be sure to tie your work back to what your clients really want — which is almost always to make more money or to save time. Show them how your work will help them do that, and you’ll have them beating down a path to your door.
--Abbi Perets, Successful Freelance Mom
I decided I wanted to start freelance writing because I wanted to grow my writing skills while making more money on the side. For the past 3 years, I’ve held full-time copywriting jobs, while working as a freelance writer. I wanted to be able to write about new and different things. I’ve found that at my jobs, I’ve been kind of stuck writing the same things over and over again and I knew that wasn’t going to help me become a better writer.
I learned that you’re going to write best about the things that interest you. Follow your passions, niche down, and pursue writing jobs that you’re most interested in because you’ll do best at those. It’s so tempting to take all the projects you can get, but if it doesn’t interest you, writing it may drain you and leave you feeling burnt out. So now I stay away from projects that aren’t exciting to me.
There are a bunch of groups on Facebook that post writing jobs, you can also follow job boards and get email notifications every day for new freelance jobs from different websites. The best part is all of these are free options. You can also do some research and cold pitch marketing departments and see what happens. I’ve gotten work doing all of these things.
If you’re interested in starting, then do it! There’s definitely potential to create a decent side income or even transition into full-time if that’s what you want. In my first year freelancing, I made a few thousand dollars, which is a good amount for a side hustle. I make more and more each year. Who knows maybe one day I will transition to freelancing full-time...
--Mary Brainard, marybrainard.com
More from ‘founder stories’…
How To Become A Web Designer: Web Designers Share Their Stories
If you’re thinking about becoming a web designer, this is a compilation of stories on how successful web designers got...
How To Start A Band: Musicians Share Their Stories
This is a casual piece where I’d like to collect and publish stories on how different bands came about. Firstly...
Podcasting Stories: 33 Podcasters Share Their Journeys
This piece is a collection of great stories from different podcasters on why they started their podcast, how they got...
How To Start A Social Media Marketing Agency: 17 Agency Owners Share Their Stories
These days practically all businesses need a social media profile, and as such managing social media for companies is a...
Selling Art Online: 10 Artists Share Their Stories
This is a compilation of stories, tips and advice from artists who have made money selling their art online. Here’s...
15 Authors Share Their Stories & Advice
Here you’ll find all kinds of interesting stories from authors on their journey to getting published, as well as some...
How To Start An SEO Agency: 19 Agency Owners Share Their Stories
These days there are loads of SEO agencies out there. And while many of them are subpar, there are still...
How To Start An Ecommerce Store: 22 Ecommerce Store Owners & Experts Share Their Advice
Ecommerce is massive, with thousands upon thousands of people having created successful e-commerce stores. And in this day and age...
How To Write A Book: 30 Different Authors Share Their Advice
Writing a book is usually a daunting task — but does it have to be? To help out first-time authors,...
How To Become A Freelance Writer: 24 Writers Share Their Stories & Advice
Like becoming a virtual assistant, turning to freelance writing is one of the most appealing and seemingly easiest ways to...
Online Course Creators Share Their Stories & Advice
The market for online courses is massive (predicted to reach nearly $400 billion by 2026) and there are thousands of...
Virtual Assistants Share Their Tips & Stories
For those trying to make an honest living online, becoming a virtual assistant (VA) is one way to do it....
Tips & Stories For Aspiring Graphic Design Freelancers
For aspiring graphic designers, this piece is a compilation of some fantastic tips, advice & stories that different successful graphic...
Dropshipping Tips & Stories From Real Dropshippers [IN PROGRESS]
Dropshipping is one of the most popular online businesses these days, especially for digital nomad types — but it’s definitely...
Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) Practitioners Share Their Stories
Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) is a movement that allows its practitioners to potentially retire far earlier than the conventional...
How To Quit Smoking: Ex-Smokers Share Their Stories
Having been surrounded by smokers for most of my life, I’ve seen first hand the harmful effects of smoking and...
How To Grow A YouTube Channel: YouTubers Comment
Are you a YouTuber with >10K subscribers and advice to share on how to grow a new channel? Make a...