6 Steps to Become A Freelance Writer: Step-By-Step Guide for Beginners
This post may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. For more information please check our Disclaimer.
Whenever looking for a remote job, there are numerous opportunities that are available. It is impossible not to find dozens of job postings for content writing. Why is that?
There is a huge demand right now for high-quality content and there is no formal education that exists for it. Those that want to be freelance writers have to think about many different things. Fortunately, the really important information you have to be aware of is presented below. This is what has to be considered as being essential for freelance writing success.
Defining Content Writing
There are various terms and definitions that you might have heard about, like copywriting, content writing and ghostwriting. It is very easy to end up being confused.
Generally speaking and widely accepted, content writing is seen as creating content that is going to market well. This means it serves a purpose, like business or marketing, all while helping an audience understand a brand or an issue. Texts these days are long-form and are search engine optimized. The best examples of this are blog articles.
Copywriting has the main goal of pitching a brand or selling an idea. Usually, it is used as advertising so it tends to be a short-form copy, like headlines or press ads. The copywriter can be responsible for the entire online presence though, so long-form writing can be required. Migrating to content writing from copywriting is really common.
With ghostwriting, we have a writer that simply writes something that will be used by someone else. The work done varies a lot, from journalistic texts to whole books. The work is always credited to a second person.
Available Freelance Writing Options
If you are thinking about becoming a freelance writer, there are 3 options available:
- Working as a corporate writer
For instance, you would have a contract with a publishing organization or company. Remote work is done for them.
- Having your very own writing business
As an example, you can open a blog and monetize it through AdSense or affiliate marketing. This option does take a lot of time.
- Freelance work
This offers the highest possible freedom and access to more job opportunities.
The good thing with all three of them is, that they don’t require you to invest any money (except a laptop or paid marketing). That makes content writing one of the cheapest online businesses you can start.
How To Become A Freelance Writer
Now that you know more about the work of the freelance writer, here’s what to do if this is the career path you want to take:
1. Pick Your Niche
You will have limited options when working just in general positions. There are websites that do not care about content quality since they rely on general gossip and click-baiting to generate traffic. However, if you work for such a site, payment is bad. At the same time, you do not feel that the work is challenging and rewarding.
If you really want to be successful with freelance writing, you have to be focused on a niche. Basically, you have to become a recognized expert in the niche.
It is impossible to be perfect with everything that you do. Choose a niche that you have as much experience in as possible, a niche that you actually enjoy writing about. When you do this, you can become technical and specific to your work.
You should also pick the niche early since writing style is influenced by it. For instance, an article about a science topic is much different than an article about a game. As you start with the niche that is right for you, your focus can be put on the writing type needed.
2. Improve Skills
If you are not an expert in the chosen niche, your skills have to be improved. Reading gets this done.
Those that want to be really good writers have to read a lot. Simply put, you want to read everything that you find in the niche. Ask yourself questions like:
- What is the style used by popular authors?
- What are the terms often used in the industry?
- How is the best content structured?
You do not have to copy what others do but you need to read the best content so that you get inspiration. Look for the traits that make content successful and combine them with your very own personal writing style.
Also, you can read articles that talk about how to become a better writer. Search Engine Journal published a very good one with 8 online free courses for writers. You can even join writing associations, like the Professional Writers Alliance since they offer career tools, resources, and tutorials. Just see if the membership fees of writing associations are worth it in your case.
Remember that if you practice, you improve your skills. This means you have to start writing. You do not necessarily need to write only articles in the niche you are interested in. Every single article written improves your writing.
3. Write Sample Articles
Potential clients always want to see your writing skills. They want to see how content is structured, style and other things. Due to this, you want to be able to show writing samples when you apply for jobs.
All you have to do is write some really high-quality articles. As already mentioned, focus on your niche. You use these articles to represent writing skills.
4. Build A Portfolio Site Or A Blog
After writing samples, they need to be showcased. A great way to do this is to build a blog or a portfolio site. This is where you can show various things, like:
- Past client reviews
- Contact details
- Education and experience
- Reasons why clients should consider hiring you
Offer all the information that can help market expertise. Numerous content writers look for clients right now. This is why it is not enough to be really good. As you build your online presence, you gain an edge that can really be a difference.
Learn more about setting up a portfolio site from this Website Setup guide.
5. Start Pitching
After everything is set up, it is time to pitch potential clients. Cold calling is not something that is preferred by many but this can land some really good long-term contracts. Rates will also be higher than with the job boards.
In order to find clients, research is necessary.
Look at blogs and sites in the niche you want to operate in. There may be some specialized online magazines or newspapers to read. Then, check out Twitter and LinkedIn to find people in the industry.
As emails are sent, be sure that you stay on point. Every single email has to be personalized and you want to research the type of content that is published by the potential client. The email that you send should be about the work that you can do and how you can help the client through your expertise and skills.
Take as much time as you need to write the email. You might end up sending many, like 20 per day, until you get contacted back. However, this is worth it since you can get better pay for more stable work.
Extra tip: Remember to follow up. Numerous aspiring writers forget about this important step. Around one week after sending a pitch, it is ok to contact the potential client again. Ask if more information is needed and if more samples have to be sent in. Simply follow-up to be sure that the initial email was read. Just do not overdo it.
6. Promote The Work You Do
While you contact potential clients, you need to also promote the service you offer. You can do this through guest posts or even write on Medium for some extra exposure. Try to be as active as you can in the relevant Facebook groups.
The trick is to stay active and to keep promoting yourself. Networking’s biggest advantage is that you never know when something you do online leads to a client.
More On Freelance Platforms
Cold calling can be really effective but it is time consuming and definitely not for everyone. This is why you can always consider freelance websites like Freelancer and Upwork. Apply to get an account there to get more exposure.
The problem with freelance sites is that competition is huge. It is hard to get a job and payments tend to be really low. Even so, it is a good way to get your career started. With hard work, dedication and a little luck, it is not out of the question to make even $50,000 during your first year just from freelance platforms.
Have a look at this article to learn the best strategy to score jobs on freelance platforms.
Pitching Directly To Websites
If you want to become a freelance writer, you can also pitch established websites. Look for those that need contributors and actually pay them. Generally, the rates are really good. The only problem is that it is hard to be accepted.
Such sites usually have a separate web page where contribution ideas can be submitted. Generally, the sites ask for bullet points, the entire article or headlines. Guides are often presented in regards to how an accepted article needs to look like. Always read guidelines and do the right research to offer great content that would be accepted.
Some examples of websites that accept paid contributions:
- Cooking Detective – You are paid up to $250 for a guide when you can write tasty menus, nutrition tips, cooking course reviews and healthy recipes.
- Barefoot Writer – Earn up to $300 per accepted article. The subject has to be around building your writing career and quality has to be high.
- Great Escape Publishing – Get paid up to $200, based on content. Most topics revolve around getting paid to travel.
- Earth Island Journal – A short article is paid around $0.25 per word and the long feature stories can even be paid up to $1000. Articles have to be about issues related to the environment, including cultural survival, climate survival, public policy, and wildlife.
How Much Will You Make As A Freelance Writer?
Exact numbers cannot be given. This is because the payment does depend on various factors, like experience, skills and even niche. For instance, medical writers are going to be paid a lot more than lifestyle writers.
Generally speaking, if you are a good writer, you should be paid at least 0.02 USD per word. Numerous clients will want to pay less. This is especially the case with freelance platforms. Do not undersell the services you offer.
After some time passes, the rate you charge can be increased. After you are faster and better, charging $0.03 to $0.10 per word is acceptable. The top-end writers will even charge $1 per word.
Clients can also be charged by the hour. Generally, freelance writers are paid around $17 to $20 per hour.
Check out this guide to find out how you can calculate your individual freelance rate.
How Will you get paid?
Payment processing can be a problem. Clients often want to use PayPal for payments but fees can be high. In the event that the client has no problem with it, you could opt for services like Transferwise as fees are a lot better.
Extra Freelance Writing Tips To Remember
- After some time, it is easy to lost track of assignments and who was pitched. You should consider using some tracking tools (for instance, Trello) or at least create a sheet to keep everything as organized as possible.
- Always write down who was contacted and when it happened. You do this in order to double-check that you send a follow-up email.
- Make a separate list in order to track your assignments. Include details like what has to be done and clearly state the deadline since this is very important.
When you start, it looks like you do a lot of unneeded work as you organize everything. However, as you grow your business, it becomes mandatory. It is better to start organizing all tasks and data early.
Are You Ready?
To sum up, you want to start your journey by defining the niche you will work in. Then, you want to improve specific writing skills. Be sure that you create a site to showcase experience and add high-quality samples. Send emails to the identified potential clients and don’t forget about follow-ups. Promote all services offered through online forums, guest posts, and social media.
When you first start writing for clients, payments will seem low. However, after you improve your skills and you have great references, increasing rates is easy.
You do not have to be experienced to become a successful freelance writer. You just need to work hard and keep getting the needed writing experienced. If you are professional and careful in the development of a growth strategy for your writing business, you will be successful.
Are you a content writer? Do you have some extra tips that you want to mention? Let us know through a comment.
Running your own blog has so many advantages! Learn how to start a blog (even as a beginner with no experience or technical skills!) and how to make money blogging!
If you want to make money online with teaching English, VIPKID might be a good idea. We have tested the teaching platform to see if you can really make money from home with this company.
If you are bilingual or have a talent for languages, you could earn a full-time income with your skills. This beginner’s guide tells you step-by-step, how you can become a translator (as a freelancer or employee) and how much you can potentially earn.