How to Start Freelance Writing - The Full Guide

In recent years there have been lots of people who have started to look for more flexible and remote job opportunities. One of those jobs people have been looking into is to become a freelance writer. Freelance writing requires having good writing skills and the motivation and drive to promote yourself.

Before you jump headfirst into the world of freelance writing it’s essential you learn what the job involves and the steps you need to take to get started. In this guide, we will discuss all of the steps involved and give you some tips on how to do it. But first, let’s quickly discuss what a freelance writer does, the skills they need, and the possible earning potential of a freelance writer.

Let’s get started.

What does a freelance writer do?

A freelance writer produces a range of content, in different formats such as e-books, blog posts, articles, product descriptions, and press releases. Generally, you’re given a brief from a client which outlines exactly what they want the content to communicate. You then set about writing the content to meet their needs. Once you’ve completed writing the content, you’ll either need to edit it yourself or use a third-party editor to ensure it’s free of errors and well-written.

What skills do I need to become a freelance writer?

Communication skills

Getting clients as a freelance writer involves setting yourself up as an independent contractor and finding clients on websites like Upwork, working with writing agencies, or approaching and pitching clients directly. This means you’ll need to have good communication skills and the confidence to jump on the phone or video calls.

Writing skills

Obviously, as a freelance writer, you’ll need to have good writing skills. This includes above-average grammatical knowledge – although with apps like Grammarly this is becoming not as important. Having a good vocabulary is required too for most writing jobs. You should also have some awareness of different writing styles – for example, how to write blog posts versus writing technical articles.

Research skills

Although it helps to have strong knowledge about the subjects you want to write about, this can be overcome if you have great research skills. Most new freelance writers focus on writing about what they know and then expand out from there once they build up a good portfolio of writing. Thankfully, researching virtually every topic is now super simple due to the internet!

Time management

When you become a freelance writer, you’re becoming a solo small business owner. This means you need to learn how to manage your time. For example, you will need to set aside time to write, time to make sales, and time to carry out admin tasks.

Administrative skills

Once you start getting writing jobs, you’ll need to know how to set up some systems to manage tasks like invoicing, paying taxes, and tracking your projects. There are lots of online tools to make this easy, so no need to worry too much about the admin side of freelancing.

How much money can I make as a freelance writer?

According to Upwork, freelance writers can make anywhere from $20 to $125 per hour depending on their level of experience. Unless you’re starting out writing about very technical topics that you’re qualified to write about, expect to earn at the lower end of this scale when you begin.

It also depends on what type of writing you’re doing. For example, someone writing quite straightforward product descriptions isn’t going to make as much as someone writing about technical topics.

Steps to start freelance writing

This is by no means a fool-proof set of steps to become a freelance writer, but we’ve tried to cover all the main tasks that you’ll need to do. 

1. Make yourself familiar with the industry

The best place to start is to make yourself familiar with the industry. Start by searching for articles and blog posts written by current freelance writers. This will give you a good understanding of what you’ll be doing and what it’s really like to jump into the world of freelancing. The fact that you’re reading this guide is a good start!

When you search “freelance writers” you should be able to see some writers who’ve set up a website that outlines their services, pricing, and a portfolio of their work. It’s a good idea to visit a few of these sites to get an idea of the quality of their work, their prices, and how they market themselves.

Finally, check out profiles of freelance writers on Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer to see how freelance writers market themselves on those platforms. This should give you another good source of information about how they market themselves.

2. Set up systems and buy equipment

Once you’ve decided to go ahead with becoming a freelance writer, the next step is to design and set up some systems and buy any equipment that you’ll need to succeed.

Here are some important systems and tools you’ll require:

  • Computer and Software. You’ll need a good laptop or PC to write with obviously. It’s also important to set up and/or purchase some online software programs like word processing, Grammarly, photo editing, time tracking, task tracking/management, and accounting. However, if you’re only planning to start doing a few projects a month you won’t need all these programs to start with.
  • Writing space. Some writers like to set up a writing space that you can work at like a desk or your dining room table might suffice. On the hand, many writers don’t really mind where they work – whether that be sitting on the couch, at a café, or at a desk.
  • Website and email account. Make sure you register a domain name if you want to set up a website and register your email address for when you start to communicate with prospective clients. A bit further down in this guide we discuss what you should put on your website.
  • Financial. If you’re going to be receiving payments directly from overseas clients, you’ll need to set up a Stripe or PayPal account. You can also set up a separate bank account to receive payments if you don’t want them going into your personal bank account.

3. Familiarize yourself with writing conventions

When you start freelance writing projects, you’ll need to be aware of all of the online writing conventions. Some important conventions to know, include:

  • Where, when, and how to add links in blog posts, articles, and other content.
  • How to properly use titles, and headings in online content.
  • How to write meta titles and descriptions.
  • Familiarize yourself with the basics of SEO.
  • If you plan to write academic content, you’ll need to know how to properly cite sources.
  • How to write catchy introductions.
  • How to structure and format the major forms of online content such as blog posts, articles, e-books, and whitepapers.

4. Practice your writing skills

Once you’ve spent some time familiarizing yourself with all the major online writing conventions, it’s a good idea to practice some writing before you start pitching clients. A good way to do this is to write about a couple of topics you’re interested in and then read it out loud to yourself to see how it sounds. This can often show you some areas where you can improve or make your writing freer flowing which is important when it comes to online content. You should also share your writing with friends and family to get some feedback. As mentioned above, it’s also good to read other peoples writing to look out for how they structure their writing.

5. Choose your niche

The next step in our guide for how to start freelance writing is to choose your topic niche. Most new freelance writers start out focusing on one niche that they know well, but you can choose a couple if you’d like. It depends on your experience and knowledge base. Also, keep in mind a lot of topics overlap, for example, food and lifestyle or technology and business.

Some writers also like to choose one or two specific types of content that they are going to focus on when first starting out. For example, you could focus on blog posts, articles, product descriptions, e-books, whitepapers, press releases, etc.

Choosing a niche helps you focus and start to build up a good portfolio of work. Once you’ve nailed your niche you can expand into others.

6. Setup your marketing

Now is the time to put together a portfolio of your best work. Considering how easy website building tools like SquareSpace, WordPress, Ghost, and Wix are to use, it’s a good idea to build a portfolio website if you plan on pitching clients. All you require is a simple website with an about page, services/pricing page, portfolio page, and contact page. This will give prospective clients all the important information they require to consider hiring you.

Once you’ve built your website you can upload all of your best writing samples so prospective clients can read them. If you have any content that has been previously published in the past, make sure it is given a prominent position on your website. If you plan on using freelancer platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer you can also create an account and upload your portfolio for prospective writers to read. 

It’s also a good idea to set up social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. They provide a good way to share your services and tend to rank very high in search results when clients search your name so can in some cases be a good tool to use to promote yourself. LinkedIn is a good way to make connections with people in your niche and reach out to clients.

7. Start pitching for jobs

Now that you’ve got all of your marketing and promotional pages, the next step is to start looking for writing jobs. 

Here are a few good places to start:

  • Start applying for jobs and projects on freelancer websites.
  • To get some early experience, consider applying to work for a company like Writing Studio.
  • Check out student job boards for any freelance writing jobs.
  • Check out remote and freelancer job boards for any freelance writing jobs.
  • Check out job boards like Indeed for any freelance writing jobs.
  • Consider directly pitching companies that you want to work with – just make sure you research the company first so you can personalize the pitch.

8. Get references and testimonials

Once you start getting writing jobs ask clients for testimonials so you can build up a list of them for your website or freelancer platforms like Upwork and Fiverr. This helps to give yourself credibility in the industry which makes getting new writing jobs much easier.

The bottom line

If you’re thinking of becoming a freelance writer, make sure you do your research first to make sure it’s right for you. Once you’ve decided to jump into the industry, sharpen up your skills, market yourself, and apply for jobs that fit your niche. Just remember, it might take some time to get your first writing project – but stay persistent!

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