How To Become a Freelance Writer: A Step-By-Step Guide
If you’re wondering how to become a freelance writer, the good news is that it’s never been easier to get started. Blogging platforms have made it so that anyone with an idea, a keyboard, and an internet connection can start putting their thoughts out there for the world to see.
In some ways, however, that’s made it more difficult. With so many blogs and writers working online, it can be difficult to stand out, or even know where to get started. But if you have a writing talent, work from home writing jobs are abundant, and there are ways you can stand out from the crowd and thrive as a writer.
In this article, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide on how to become a freelance writer and launch your writing career. We’ll talk about ways to refine your writing style, how to build a portfolio, and where to start looking for writing jobs.
Whether you’re determined to be part-time blogger or want to become a full-time freelance blogger, this article is a good resource to get you going.
- Getting Started
- Tools of the Trade
- Building a Portfolio
- Finding Freelance Writing Work
You’ve always loved writing. Your friends tell you that you’re a fantastic writer. You aced English in school and have maybe even considered teaching English online. These are all great places to start — but that’s all they are, places to start.
To get paid to write, you will need to have a great voice (a great skill for voiceover jobs) and ear for the written word. But you’ll also need to know how to produce clean copy that adheres to a style guide, is grammatically perfect (or close to it), and — most importantly — is what the client wants from the assignment.
While we wish this weren’t the case, most clients won’t be looking for thousands of words of fan fiction, or an amusing recollection of a funny experience you had at the grocery store, or any of the other brilliant essays or scenes you’ve jotted down in your notebook. They will be looking for clean, clear, polished, professional writing that achieves a business goal.
To get there, a writing course can be a fantastic way to learn how to produce professional copy. Udemy is an online learning resource with numerous copywriting courses available online that can help you learn this unique skill.
It’s also vitally important to know the different types of writing that are available and which ones you’ll be good at.
Different Types of Writing
Writing gigs are not all alike. While they all might be in English, different writing assignments will require vastly different writing skills. These writing skills are not universal — a great investigative journalist may make a terrible copy writer. But mastering more than one of these styles will make you much more attractive to potential employers and open up different types of work for you.
For example, the type of writing a social media manager uses (bright, energetic, meant to connect with a consumer) will be vastly different than technical writing needed for a grant proposal (clear, informative, precise). Both could be paid writing gigs, but each will require disparate styles to accomplish their respective goals.
To master different types of writing, it’s important to read. A lot. Look up great examples of award-winning copy writing, or read content marketing blogs to see what kinds of writing clients are raving about. Reading articles written in various styles allows you to start analyzing and internalizing the nuances of each, which in turn can help you write in those styles.
Tools of the Trade
Freelancers looking to land paid writing gigs can’t rely on notebooks filled with brilliant thoughts. You need to be comfortable working in an online environment — and having digital skills can make you stand out among the competition. Below are some skills you’ll most likely need to make it as a writer online.
Working in CMS
Many clients require that writers submit work directly in a CMS, or content management system. A CMS is what allows users to write, place pictures, and add links to articles, which will then be published via a blogging or web platform. If you start an online business, you’ll need to be intimately familiar with whatever CMS you build your site on.
Being comfortable in a CMS will save your client time from having to copy your writing over to their platform and have it ready for publishing. While not all clients will grant you CMS access, having that skill in your toolbox is a nice way to stand out.
WordPress is a great blogging platform that’s free, and will allow you to get comfortable in a CMS in not much time. (You can also start building a web presence that way — more on that to come.)
Your writing may be great, but if Google can’t find it, it’s going to be hard for readers to find it. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process by which websites ensure that they connect with an audience via Google and other search engines.
SEO copy takes advantage of keywords, headers, URLs, and other factors to make it easy for search engines to find (and prioritize) your copy. There are great online primers to SEO on Udemy if you want to learn more.
Building a Portfolio
Even if you love writing and consider yourself a good writer, if you don’t have any published writing samples, it will be difficult to get your foot in the door with employers. Potential clients will label you as a new writer — a newbie — and you’ll have to work extra hard to convince them that you have the skills and know-how to succeed.
Getting started in freelancing can feel like a terrible catch-22 scenario. You need experience to get hired, but you can’t get experience if no one will hire you. Luckily, there are ways around this. It’s important to immediately start building a marketing portfolio, even before you’ve landed your first client.
If you don’t have a portfolio, I would at least ask for a letter of recommendation from past clients. That way you have something to show, proving that you know what you’re doing.
Start Your Own Blog
If you want to know how to become a freelance writer, launching your own blog can help you succeed in multiple ways.
For one, it will be a digital home for you to share your voice and passions with the world. By forcing yourself to write and publish, you’ll be creating your first portfolio in real time. Sure, you’ll be writing for yourself, but it will be a place where potential clients can read your work and get to know you.
Perhaps most importantly, it gives you a chance to hone your skills. Like anything in this world, writing takes practice, and the more you’re writing, the better work you’ll produce.
Blogging can trigger other opportunities as well. If you write on a certain topic you’re passionate about (highly recommended), you can connect with other writers in a similar space and promote each other’s work. You can also invite each other to write guest posts, sharing audiences and exposing your work to new readers.
Eventually, your blog can advertise your writing services, provide testimonials from clients, and be the online home for all the clips you’ve amassed writing online. It can also earn passive income for you. But to start, it’s really about putting yourself out there and establishing a digital footprint.
The key to finding new clients is to get yourself out there. It’s vital to let prospective clients know exactly who you are, and exactly what you’re good at.
Good writers will clearly state their areas of expertise, what they’re passionate about, and if they can fill a writing niche for a company. While it can be tempting to say “I can write whatever you need,” that lacks specificity and can be hard for a client to connect with.
A successful freelance writer won’t let clients know she’s “good at writing.” She’ll let clients know that she’s a passionate, professional writer who is CMS trained, an expert at SEO, and has grant writing experience. She’ll also let them know she has a strong knowledge base of the health and wellness industry, and has written in-depth articles on technology.
She’ll use LinkedIn and social media, as well as her own personal blog, to get that message across. Basically, she’ll clearly label her expertise and experience, and she’ll stand out in the process.
Finding Freelance Writing Work
You’ve found your voice and mastered your style. You’ve launched your own blog, and figured out how you want to stand out from the crowd. Now it’s time to find work.
- Upwork is a platform that connects clients with freelancers for specific jobs. If you aren’t sure where to connect with clients, it’s a powerful way to reach a wide client base quickly.
- Fiverrr is an online marketplace for gig workers that includes a platform to help you find part-time freelance writing jobs or even full-time jobs writing.
- Contently is another great resource for freelancers. It has tips for successfully marketing yourself as a freelancer, industry news, and job listings.
Launching a Business
If you land enough freelance writing gigs, the next step is determining if you can launch a freelance writing business. Making a full-time job out of writing is difficult, but if you connect with enough writing clients and continually deliver excellent work, you can make it work.
Just remember: This is a small business, and needs to be run like one. Know your hourly rate (or price per article) and commit to it. Make sure your expenses are covered, and be wise with your time. Set up estimated quarterly taxes and keep on top of invoicing.
If writing is a passion, that’s one thing. (And it can be a great thing.) Many people like to keep writing simply as a creative outlet. But if you want to make a living at it, you need to treat it like a profession.
How to Become a Freelance Writer
Writing can be a good way to make money — if you take it seriously. Learning how to become a freelance writer isn’t just about having a great voice, but mastering the skills necessary to succeed in a digital world.
That said, it’s never been easier to get started. If you love writing, you can start publishing on a blog and see where things take you. At the very least, you’ll have a creative outlet. And if you’re scared you’re not good enough, don’t worry — hustle can go a long way.