How to become a freelance writer

Freelance writing is a great way to earn money doing what you love. If you're interested in becoming a freelance writer, click here to get started!

How to become a freelance writer

If you’re a good writer, chances are you’ve dreamed of launching a freelance writing career. You can work from home on your own schedule, getting paid to research and write about interesting topics. You may picture yourself at a gorgeous desk, words flowing like water from your fingertips as you dazzle your readers and earn enough money to support a comfortable lifestyle.

Being a freelance writer can be all of those wonderful things, but it’s also a lot of hard work. Read on to learn how to get into this career field and what it takes to succeed.

Benefits of being a freelance writer 

Being a freelance writer can be incredibly rewarding, lucrative, and flexible. For one thing, you get to spend your days writing about topics you’re excited about and learning about new subjects. You can often pick the topics you want to write on and work with a variety of companies to create quality content.

There are few jobs more flexible than freelancing in general and freelance writing in particular. You can write from anywhere, any time, making it possible for you to travel, take care of your family, and even work other jobs while making great money. In fact, freelancers earn more per hour than 70 percent of traditional workers, so you might even get a pay raise from this gig.

Realities of being a freelance writer

As wonderful as being a freelance writer is, it also comes with some definite challenges. First and foremost, the amount of money you make is directly tied to the amount of work you do in a day. Unlike with a traditional job, you can’t have a bad day and phone it in without losing money that month. 

Being a freelance writer also takes a lot of hard work and hustle. You have to find clients, and you’re going to deal with a lot (and we mean a lot) of rejections, and you have to get your writing done every day. You may have to work while your family is on vacation, through weekends, or late into the night to finish what you need to accomplish. 

Take the right classes

If you want to become a freelance writer and you’re still in high school or college, it’s a good idea to sign up for some writing classes. It’s true that, unlike many traditional jobs, freelance writing doesn’t require a specific degree or classes. But having some writing skills under your belt can go a long way towards helping you find success as a freelancer.

In writing classes, you’ll learn how to put together outlines, construct paragraphs, and craft an introduction and conclusion. You’ll also learn how to vary your sentence structure to keep things interesting without your writing becoming incoherent. These skills will help you work faster as a freelance writer, and in this industry, time is money. 

Start with a day job 

When you first start your freelance career, it can be tempting to dive in with both feet, jump-starting your freelance career. But the truth is that freelancing is an unsteady career, especially at the beginning. It’s better to start with a day job that will provide a steady salary while you grow your freelance business.

If possible, try to get a day job in a writing-related field to grow your portfolio and experience. This could include working for a newspaper or magazine, writing technical manuals for manufacturing companies, or editing in a publishing house. The more writing and editing experience you can get, the better your resume will be when you apply for freelance writing gigs.

Put yourself out there

As important as a good education and resume are, the big number-one key to launching a freelance career is to put yourself out there. You need to start applying for freelance writing jobs, and you need to apply for every one you can get your hands on. You’re going to get a lot of rejections (or just straight-up ignored), so you need to apply to twenty times as many gigs as you think you can handle. 

Check freelancer networks for freelance writing gigs every day, and apply to anything you think you may be qualified for. Create social media pages for yourself and run advertisements through those platforms. Print business cards and hand them out to anyone you talk to; you never know who might want to start a blog. 

Create an online portfolio 

As soon as you start writing articles, you need to put together an online portfolio. This will be what you send to potential clients every time you apply for a new gig, so it’s something you should use every day. Having this portfolio stored in a cloud folder will make it easy for you to share the link with potential clients. 

Try to get work from a number of different topics in your online portfolio. Oftentimes, potential clients will want to see samples of your work in the industry their business is in. Having these categories set up ahead of time will make it simple to provide samples to with any of your dozens of applications. 

Build your network

When you start your freelance career, you may feel like your days of making small talk to build your network are over. But this couldn’t be further from the truth; in fact, your network will be more important and extensive than ever when you’re a freelancer. You need to land writing jobs based on who you know, and the wider your network, the better off you’ll be.

Connect with small business owners in your area who may be looking to start a blog or newsletter. Join groups of other freelance writers and connect with people who may be able to send clients your way. Also let all your current connections know about your new career, and ask them to send referrals your way when they get the chance.

Work on your social media presence 

One of the other crucial steps to growing your freelance business is establishing a strong social media presence. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults have a Facebook page, and another 37 percent use Instagram. This makes this a powerful place for you to connect with your clients and take advantage of affordable advertising. 

Set up social media pages for your freelance business, and make it a point to post there regularly. Run targeted advertisements through these pages, focusing on business owners in industries you have expertise with. Ask your friends to share these posts to their networks so you can broaden the net of people interacting with your page. 

Set up a payment system

You know that you need to get paid for your freelance work, but it can be easy to overlook the practical considerations of that system. How will you charge for your work – by the hour, by the word, or by the article? And once you’ve figured out your price, how will you communicate that to the customer, and how will they get money to you?

It’s a good idea to set up a variety of payment methods so you can work with clients who have a variety of needs and preferences. PayPal and Venmo are very popular options for securely transferring money online. You can also accept personal checks, though keep in mind that you may want to get a PO box to accept these payments so you can avoid giving clients your home address.

Plan for the unexpected

One of the big downsides of freelance writing is that it doesn’t provide steady income. At a normal job, if you slip on ice and break your hand, you’ll still receive the same salary next month. As a freelance writer, your livelihood could be in real danger if an accident like that occurs. 

Make sure you plan for the unexpected, saving money in an emergency fund every month. It’s a good idea to aim to have at least three months’ expenses in your savings in case something goes wrong. You may also want to pay ahead on your mortgage to give yourself extra padding in case of an emergency.

Get organized

When you become a freelance writer, you’re going to have to get your organization strategy on point. You’re going to be juggling dozens of projects from multiple different clients, and each one will have their own set of requirements. You’re going to need to bill each of them and collect money each month, track who hasn’t paid, and keep up with where you are on all those projects.

Figure out an organization system that works for you, such as Hectic. We can help you keep track of each of your clients, all the projects you have going for them, your price rate, your progress on those projects, whether they’ve paid, and when the project is due. You can also make notes about the feedback you get from them so you can better meet their needs down the road.

Learn about SEO 

One of the best ways to make yourself valuable as a freelance writer is to learn the rules of SEO. Search engine optimization uses the algorithms by which search engines rank results to boost a website’s place in those rankings. In essence, SEO is a way to get more people to notice your site when they google a topic related to your industry. 

There are a few basic rules that will improve a blog post or web page’s SEO rankings. Try to keep your writing simple (below a ninth-grade reading level is ideal), and use a dedicated keyword throughout the page. Also make sure you link to a few reputable non-competitor sources throughout the page, as well as to other pages on the client’s own site. 

Find good editing tools 

When you work in a traditional writing job, you have a team of editors looking over your work to make sure it’s grammatically correct. But when you work as a freelance writer, there may not be anyone else reviewing your work before it goes to the client. A serious grammar mistake can lose you a client, so you need to make sure your work is as clean as possible. 

Use tools like Grammarly to check your grammar and spelling before you send a piece to a client. You may also want to use free tools like the Hemingway editor to make sure you avoid too much passive voice in your writing. This tool can also be helpful for keeping your writing to an appropriate grade level if you’re writing blog posts.

Keep your feet on the ground

When you start your life as a freelancer, it can be easy to only see the glamorous side. You may envision yourself sipping coffee or cocktails at fashionable restaurants, writing about fascinating topics for clients who fawn over your work. But the truth of the matter is freelance writing can be a stressful, demanding job that, more often than not, will find you sitting on your couch, having not showered for three days, and writing about the latest updates to a piece of accountancy software. 

Do your best to manage your expectations for your freelance career and what it should look like. Never turn down a job because it looks boring or it doesn’t fit your vision of what your job should be. And don’t get discouraged if you aren’t writing from your yacht in the Mediterranean Sea a year into this career. 

Learn to become a freelance writer

Being a freelance writer can be interesting, flexible, high-earning, and incredibly rewarding. But it takes a lot of hard work and discipline to make this career work for you. Market yourself anywhere you can, stay religiously organized, and do a reality check every now and then. 

If you’d like to find more tools to help you in your freelance career, check out the rest of our site at Hectic. We believe you were made to build, manage, develop, write, and optimize, and we’re here to help you do that. Join us today and start running your business the stress-free way.