How to Become a Freelance Writer

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If you’re like millions of other people who are looking to make some extra money, you’ve probably considered a number of different side hustle ideas, weekend jobs, or business opportunities. Every now and then I have friends or family ask for my suggestions about how to make money online. Freelance writing is always one of my first suggestions, and I’d highly recommend you consider it as well.

Before I worked online full-time, I did a lot of freelance writing for several different blogs. It was flexible work and allowed me to make some money while I was also working to build up my own websites and blogs. Over the past 10 years, I’ve continued with freelance writing off and on. With a freelance writing side hustle, I’ve been able to make $500 – $3,000 per month on the side.

Although it’s a great opportunity, most people have no idea where to start. The thought of trying to find paying clients can be very overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.

In reality, finding your first clients usually isn’t all that difficult, and so I wanted to write this article to lay out all of the facts about freelance writing, why it’s a great opportunity, and how you can get started. If you want to learn how to become a freelance writer and get paid to write, read on.

→ Related reading: How to Start a Blog

Why Freelance Writing is a Great Opportunity

Ok, so what makes freelance writing an opportunity worthy of your time?

With a lot of other possibilities for making money from home, why would you want to consider being a freelance writer?

Here is a look at some of the reasons why I highly recommend it as a great side hustle.

Flexible Schedule

As a freelance writer, you’ll benefit from a flexible schedule. Most of your assignments or gigs will have deadlines, and bigger projects may even have some milestones that you’ll need to hit throughout the project, but you’ll have the flexibility to work around your own schedule.

You can have a full-time job and write for clients in the evenings or on weekends. Freelance writing is also a great job for stay-at-home parents. You can write during those peaceful hours when your kids are napping, or after they are in bed at night.

Not only do you have flexibility in the specific hours that you work, but you can also make it as big or small as you want. Just looking for something to do a few hours a week and make some extra money? Or looking for something that could turn into a full-time business? Either way, freelance writing could be a good fit.

→ Related reading: How to Start a Side Hustle

Start Making Money Quickly

This is a huge factor, and one of the main reasons why I highly recommend freelance writing as a side gig. It’s possible to find a paying client today and you could start earning money right away.

I’ve mentioned on Vital Dollar before that blogging is my favorite side hustle. There are a lot of reasons I recommend blogging as a way to make money, but the fact is, building a successful blog takes a lot of time and effort. In most cases, you’ll need to put in months of work before you start to see any rewards.

A lot of people want or need to start making some money right away. If you need to start making $1,000 per month quickly, freelance writing could be a better fit than blogging (you can always work to build your own blog while also doing some freelance writing).

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Plenty of Work Available

Many of your clients will be websites and blogs that are constantly in need of new content. With the amount of new content that is being published online, the need for freelance writers is only going to increase.  By following the tips that I’ll cover later in this article, you should be able to start finding paying clients pretty quickly.

Very Little Investment Required

Many businesses, both online and traditional offline businesses, require a significant financial investment. That’s not the case with freelance writing. All you really need is a domain name, web hosting, and maybe a premium blog theme (if you need help setting up your website or blog, please see my guide How to Start a Blog). You can easily start with less than $100. And truthfully, you could get away without any of those things by using a free website and make money online without paying anything at all.

Make a Good Income Per Hour

There are a lot of side hustles and ways to make money that don’t pay very well. The amount of money that you can make as a freelance writer will really vary depending on the types of projects that you’re able to land. Some of the work out there for freelance writers is low paying, but there are also plenty of gigs that pay very well.

Even as a part-time freelance writer, I’ve been able to find work that pays me $50 – $100+ per hour, and there are many people who do even better than that. Most freelancers are paid per project or per word, not per hour. But regardless of how you are paid, you’ll want to track your time so you can calculate how much you are making per hour.

One of the keys to making a good hourly rate as a freelancer is to find recurring gigs, which is the case with a lot of blogs that hire freelance writers. With recurring gigs (where you write an article every week or month), you won’t need to be constantly looking for work. Land a few recurring gigs and you can make a really good hourly rate.

Of course, most freelance writers don’t start out with great-paying gigs. You may need to take some lower-paying projects to gain experience and to build your portfolio, but know that an excellent income is possible as a freelance writer.

5 High-Paying Side Hustles You Can Start Today

Build Your Own Profile in the Industry/Niche

Most freelance writing projects will allow you to get credit for your work and will list you as the author (if a job is described as “ghostwriting” you will not be credited). If you’re writing for a popular blog or magazine you can quickly establish your own reputation in the industry while making money!

After a while, people will get used to seeing your name and reading your writing, and your reputation may open up other possibilities in the future.

Write About Topics That You Enjoy

There are freelance writing opportunities on just about any topic you can imagine. It’s possible that you could find work on topics that you know and enjoy, and you’ll actually be able to make money by writing about something that interests you.

→ Related reading: 40 Exciting Hobbies That Make Money

Excellent Supplement to Income from Your Own Websites

When I worked as a freelance writer I was still working to build my own websites and blogs. Because it takes time to grow a profitable blog, I looked to freelance writing as a way to make some money in the meantime. As the income from my own blog grew, I was able to slowly scale back on freelance writing until I didn’t need that income anymore.

→ Related reading: How to Become a Virtual Assistant

No Experience Required

While some writing experience can help, working as a freelance writer is one of the best entry-level work from home jobs. Many opportunities will not require any specific experience and you can definitely find work as a beginner. For proof, see our lists of ways to write and get paid instantly and freelance writing jobs for beginners.

How to Become a Freelance Writer

Now that you’re convinced that freelance writing is a great opportunity and could be a good fit for you, you’re probably thinking “Yeah, that’s great, but I have no idea how to get started and find paying clients.”

So let’s take a look at the steps you can take if you’d like to get started.

Step 1: Select Your Topics

The first step is to think about what types of topics you would like to write about. As I mentioned earlier, there are opportunities for all different types of things. I’d recommend choosing something broad to start with, and then you can narrow it down and focus even more later if you’d like. But don’t put yourself in a bind by focusing only on one very small niche when you’re trying to get started.

For example, choose a broad topic like travel, health & fitness, finance, photography, or parenting. Those are just some examples, but the point is, choose a broad topic that reaches a large audience. Go with photography instead of concert photography so you’ll have more options when you’re getting started.

You may decide that you want to cover a few different topics rather than just one, and that’s fine too. Some freelance writers will write on just about anything, but I recommend having a specialization, or a couple of specializations. Landing clients is a lot easier when you can show them your existing work that is highly relevant to the topics that they want you to cover. Plus, you’ll be able to network in one industry and build up your profile as an expert on that topic.

If you choose a topic, or topics, that you know very well, you should be able to save time in your writing because you won’t need to research as much. Being able to write faster will essentially improve the hourly rate you earn.

It’s also important to point out that not all niches will offer the same income potential. Generally, the industries that produce a lot of money online (finance, business, health, travel, etc) will offer the best opportunities for freelance writers. Topics that tend to be hobbies or are more for personal interest are less likely to pay well.

→ To learn more, check out Freelance Writing 101: Build a Successful Writing Career on Skillshare.

Step 2: Create a Blog of Your Own

When you’re applying to job listings or contacting potential clients, you will need to provide some writing samples. If you haven’t written for other clients yet, the best thing to do is set up your own blog. You can write and publish at least a few articles that will serve as samples of your work. Of course, make sure that you do a good job with these articles since people will be using them to evaluate your quality of work.

Even if you have articles on other sites that you can use for your writing samples, it’s still a good idea to set up your own blog. Include a bio/about page, a page with information about your freelance writing services, and list your email address or include a contact form that people can fill out if they want to get in touch with you. Your blog can serve as a valuable asset for helping you to land clients.

The main purpose of your blog is to have writing samples that you can show to others. You don’t need to worry about trying to get a lot of traffic to your blog, especially at first. Just focus on having it for the purpose of writing samples.

If you don’t have a blog and you’re not sure how to set one up, it’s really simple. Check out my How to Start a Blog page and I walk you through the process.

What About Guest Posting?

Another way to get writing samples is to write unpaid guest posts for other blogs in the niche you are targeting. Many blogs are open to article submissions from other writers, and this can be an ideal way to get your first experience. Honestly, the people who are looking at your writing samples may not know whether you were paid for an article or if you did it for free. Treat these free guest posts as if you were being paid. If you have some high-quality articles on established blogs in your niche, they can prove to be extremely valuable writing samples.

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Step 3: Determine Your Ideal Rate

One of the hardest things to decide as a new freelancer is what you should charge. Most projects will pay a set amount for the completed project or an amount per word, not an hourly rate. The pay for freelance writers can vary widely. Some blogs may pay $10 per article, and others may pay $500. Of course, there are a lot of factors that will influence how much a client is willing to pay.

Since we’re talking mostly about writing for blogs here, let’s continue that thought process. In order to know how much you should charge, you’ll need to know things like how many words the article should include (unless you’re