How to Start a Freelance Writing Career

Do you enjoy writing?

Are you good at it?

Did you ever wonder about a freelance writing career?

Freelance writer

Starting a freelance writing career with no experience may seem overwhelming. There’s so much information online that you will find it hard what to believe. From digital nomads to remote workers, freelance writers worldwide talk about all the perks of the freelance writing industry. However, only a few will tell you what it takes to become a freelance writer.

In this article, I’ll show how to start a freelance writing career. Objectively. No fluff. One thing I can guarantee you for sure: you will have to work hard to succeed!

What is a freelance writer?

Let’s start with a simple definition…

A freelance writer is a self-employed contractor who works with several clients or projects simultaneously. It means a freelance writer is a business owner, not an employee. As a result, they are paid by the hour, per project or per word and are not included in the company salary sheet.

In the freelance writing business, there are different types of freelance writers. From copywriters to technical writers, each has its own area of expertise. You can find freelance writers’ work on blog and social media posts, instruction manuals, white papers, press releases or product descriptions.

So, who are these freelance writers, and what do they do?

·         Content writer

A content writer produces high-quality writing for digital marketing purposes. The daily routine includes planning, writing and proofreading web content for blog posts, social media, press releases, newsletters or landing pages.

·         Copywriter

Sometimes, copywriting overlaps with content writing. However, they have different goals in mind. While most of the content writer’s work is informative, in this writing niche a copywriter aims to engage an audience to take a desired action. Usually is to make the audience buy a product or service. So, their job is to write persuasive phrases, sentences or taglines to market a product or service. This process is called writing copy.

·         Technical Writer

A technical writer’s job is to translate complex concepts into simpler words anyone can understand. User manuals and how-to guides are some examples of the writing services available in technical writing. Besides being an expert in a specific field, other skills, such as proofreading or knowing style guides, might be handy.

·         Ghostwriting

Ghostwriters use their writing skills to create web content, e-books and blog posts under someone else’s name. In some cases, ghostwriters also work on creative writing, like novels or autobiographies. The foundation of ghostwriting states that you provide your work and ownership rights. This means that you can never claim it as your own. If you feel comfortable with this, it might be the perfect option if you want to write and keep your identity private.

How to start a career in freelance writing with no experience

Once I realized I could make a career writing (and not necessarily writing novels!) I began to wonder: Will I pull this off?

Putting yourself out there can be scary, especially when you’re passionate about online writing, which you know very little about. If you’re going through the same existential crisis as I did, keep reading! I’ll show you the steps you need to take to fulfil your dreams.

1.    Research the freelance writing business

Since you don’t have any experience in the freelance writing industry, researching the market will be a great starting point. Go online and search for established freelance writers. Check their work and who their clients are. Read about their journey. You will get an insight into the life of a freelance writer.

Each experience is unique, and yours will be too. What I mean is that what works for one writer may not apply to you. However, their experiences will help you define your own path and discover what makes more sense to you.

Also, this research allows you to explore the writing game to its core. Check the job boards and see the clients’ demands. These are some of the best sources of information since you will learn about what experience, training or expertise is most requested.

2.    Choose a freelance writing niche

Even the best writers can’t write about everything. In fact, the best of the best focus on a specific subject where they are experts.

Consider your skills and training. What are you really good at? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? What is your past job experience? By asking yourself these questions, you’ll be one step closer to deciding what type of professional writer you want to be.

Although you might not have any professional writing experience, your past job experience will be a good starting point. Since you’re already an expert on what you do daily, why not write about it?

But most importantly, don’t forget about what you love. Why? When you’re writing about something you’re passionate about, your readers will feel your enthusiasm and become more engaged with your work. Also, why should you waste time writing about something that doesn’t make you happy?

3.    Hone your skills

Successful freelance writers don’t need to spend years and all their savings on a college degree. Online there are plenty of courses that help freelance writers perfect their skills. If your writing is spotless, maybe you only need to perfect some skills.

Where can you find such courses? Learning platforms, such as Udemy or Gotham Writers a handful of writing programs where you can learn about the basics of freelance writing business, or go deeper into a specific subject, whether it’s regarding creating engaging copy, learning about search engine optimization or how to monetize a blog. Depending on what you want, all you have to do is to choose the writing program that best suits your goals.

4.    Build a spotless portfolio

When you’re pitching and applying to freelance writing jobs, clients will ask you for writing samples. And, if you’re starting, likely, you don’t have any. That’s why you must build a portfolio. It’s the best way to show clients your writing skills and style.

Don’t have any clients yet? Not a problem! Start a blog and write about what you know and love. With each new article, you will build a spotless portfolio. This way, it’ll be easier for your clients to see how good you are.

Besides working as a freelance blogger, you can write on a profit-sharing website, such as Medium. Through their Partner Program, you can earn money and build a portfolio, all at the same time. Each time someone reads your articles, you will be cashing in. Also, Medium presents your writing services to larger audiences thanks to its curation programs.

Bloggers that accept articles from guest writers provide a fantastic opportunity when you’re starting your freelance career. Is there a website or blog that you would like to collaborate with? Get in touch and tell them how your content ideas and skills can help them by providing guest posts!

5.    Set your rates

The dreaded moment for any freelance writer!

And searching online for what’s a fair freelance writing income isn’t helpful! You’ll find rates starting at 0.025€/per word up to 1€/per word. Why such a difference? It all depends if you’re a beginner or if you’re an experienced writer.

So, how can you decide what’s the right price?

As to setting rates, you want your work to be recognized. However, you don’t want to scare off your potential clients! So, how can you achieve the perfect balance?

I believe there isn’t a magic formula that suits all freelancers and all clients. In the freelance marketplace, the rates will depend on a variety of things. What’s the content purpose? Who’s the audience? Where will it be published? What’s the deadline?

All these factors weigh in when setting rates. Also, you must discuss with your freelance clients if your work will be paid per word or by the hour. When the project takes several months off your schedule, some clients will ask you for the total cost.

Whatever the requirements are, be sure your earnings will cover all your business and personal expenses. As such, you must know exactly how much you spend and how much to need to live comfortably.

6.    Find your first clients

This is probably the most awaited moment when starting your freelance writing career. Although you love writing (and would probably do it for free!), you must find a paying gig. So, where can you find your first clients?

Freelance platforms, such as Upwork, Fiverr or Freelancer, are a great way to get started. You will have access to hundreds of offers and contact clients worldwide.

Especially when you’re a beginner, most of these platforms offer low-paying gigs. However, don’t be discouraged! Everyone got to start somewhere! Besides, these entry-level writing jobs are the perfect opportunity to get your client’s confidence and some excellent reviews. Over time, you’ll be able to gradually increase your rates.

You can also apply to job offers posted on freelance writing job boards. Websites such as Indeed or Flexjobs publish hundreds of new offers daily. Like any other full-time job, check the job requirements, see if you’re a good fit and send your offer.

Cold pitching is another option. Since you’re unsure if you might need your services, aim for digital marketing and content marketing agencies. They are in constant need of new talents that will help them and their clients achieve their goals.

Something more you must know…

Starting a freelance writing career involves more than simply writing. When you’re a freelancer, you are also a business owner. As such, you are responsible for all aspects of running your writing business.

This means you’re more than a writer. You’re also an accountant, a customer service specialist, a web designer and a marketer. As a result, you’ll likely end up working more hours than in your daytime job. Rest assured, this is only the beginning. Once you become an established writer, you can outsource all secondary tasks to other experts and focus solely on writing.

What you should never forget…

As I mentioned, each journey is unique, and what worked for someone online, might not work for you. So, don’t get anxious if your path isn’t exactly the same as someone else’s. Do what you love and what makes the most sense to you. With hard work and your passionate writing, you will find your own way to success!