The promise of freedom and flexibility that freelance writing offers, beckons many. Maybe you are looking to diversify your income with a side hustle that requires minimal investment. Or you could be a mom blogger looking to also become a freelance writer. But mostly you are here because you want to seriously explore writing as a job or a part-time gig.
Whatever be your catalyst, freelance writing is a top career option in today’s digital-first environment. At a time when the gig economy is growing 3X faster than traditional jobs, writing as a job is becoming an increasingly lucrative work from home career.
What is freelance writing?
Freelance writing is when you write for money while being self-employed as an independent business owner. As a freelance writer, you are your own boss. You can work full-time, part-time and on simultaneous jobs for multiple clients, without being a permanent employee with any one company. Freelancers are often referred to as independent contractors, as they work for the duration of a contract while retaining/maintaining their self-employed status.
Can I become a successful freelance writer with no language degree?
This is a very common question with aspiring freelancers, and one that holds many back. If you have an ability to write, and a passion for writing, then you have the basic ingredients to succeed as a freelance writer. Add perseverance & discipline to it and the lack of a degree stops being a deterrent. Most types of online copywriting & blog writing jobs for example, encourage you to write for an eighth-grade reading level- good writing but not complex. What that means is that unless you opt for technical writing jobs, with relatively decent writing skills, you can easily apply and deliver on a good percentage of online writing niches.
A successful freelance writing career requires skill and experience, but not necessarily a degree. Most freelance writing jobs would hire you with proof of work aka Your Writing Portfolio. It is ideal though to start your freelance writing career alongwith a day job that pays your bills, for as long as you need to. A successful, full-time freelance writing career requires time, consistency and hard-work to develop. Plus some essential factors you should work on before taking up Freelance Writing as a Career.
Bottom line: To pursue writing as a job, all you require is a hunger to succeed, a commitment to persevere and off course writing skills!
To succeed as a freelance writer, remember that as much as you might enjoy writing, this is serious business now. And your business will grow as much as you will grow (personally). It’s a self-regulated career choice and in order to be ready for that, you also need the mindset of an independent, self-employed, home-based business owner.
How to become a freelance writer – 9 vital steps to go from ‘starter’ to a ‘success!’
To become a successful freelance writer, you need to work on your writing and work on your business. As you review this list, keep in mind that you can start from anywhere as long as you work towards building a comprehensive approach.
Work on your Writing
The quality of your writing is the bread and butter of your freelance business. Writing as a job is only as good as your craft. Here are some ideas that can take your writing talent forward.
Narrow your writing niche
The sooner you pick your sweet spot aka your niche, the better you get at articulating your value proposition. Most well-paying freelance jobs as a writer cater to a particular niche.
Were you a finance major at school? Did you work at a travel agency? Most beginner writers pick a niche in areas where they have some past experience and skills.
What if you want to explore new interests?
Fortunately, as long as you write and research well, you don’t need work experience in an industry to write about it and make it your niche. You also don’t need to worry about second guessing yourself and being afraid to commit. The advantage is that once you pick a niche, your next steps acquire more definition and your progress gets so much faster.
If you need help, you can read our blog on the 5 essential steps to choose your perfect blog niche or grab our Online Business Niche Guide that helps you define and refine your niche with templates, exercises, examples and worksheets.
Get crackin’ on your writin’
This is the most important factor. You have to exercise your writing ‘muscle’ by writing more, publishing often, and constantly improving. Basically, take action. Skills are built on execution and repetition. Writing consistently every day, is often the biggest difference between a successful writing career and a hobby. So set a goal to show up and write a minimum of 5 days of the week.
How to improve your writing skills?
Improving your writing skills require a continuous loop of writing and feedback in order to get better. Good writing invokes trust, and the path to it is via deep empathy for your readers.
“As long as your freelance writing serves the reader, and you can anticipate their questions, it will do well.”
In our day-to-day work, we actually manage to do a lot of writing, between emails, messages, social media posts etc. To get better at writing as a job though, aim to do purposeful writing as much as possible. One way is to try writing for a fictitious project based on the writer profile you hope to fashion. So if you are looking to make a mark as a copywriter in the health and wellness space, then create and write for a conceptual healthcare brand.
Choose the best writing niche for YOU!
Seek it. Save it.
As a hopeful writer, you need to read A LOT and mindfully look for inspiration everywhere with an analytical mind- what made you glance at that ad, what made you open that email, what words convinced you to buy that product?
Inspiration also has this uncanny habit of striking anytime. The smart writers create a system for filing it away for retrieval on demand. Also referred to as Swipe Files, these are a collection of impactful content you can use for ideas, and refer to for inspiration, or even as templates.
Life as a freelance writer involves hours staring at your screen, doodling on your notepad or consuming inspiration to garner inspiration. But if we do not incorporate systems in place and measure and monitor our daily productivity, then growing our freelance writing business is a losing battle.
Remember sitting at your desk does not equal productivity.
Writing output= Productivity
Set daily writing goals and ensure that you stick by them. This is non-negotiable if you want to seriously consider writing as a job.
Having problems with goal-setting & accomplishing them? You’re not alone. 7 out of 10 people struggle with this because they don’t start right! Our best-selling Ultimate SMART Goals Handbook has EVERYTHING that you need to succeed.
Don’t miss out with to-do lists that go nowhere!
Grab this Ultimate SMART Goals Handbook – Plan, Track, and Crush your Goals!
Work on your Business
Your writing work is your product or inventory and it is your job to get the word out amongst the people most likely to read it. Plus, you also need to put in time towards managing your business as well as finding work. Here are some ways to do that.
Dictate your brand narrative
Your online presence is your professional brand and it is in your interest to dictate it’s narrative. Someone who wants to work with you will naturally want to check you out online. Isn’t that what we all do? That is why having a strong online presence is core to making money online. While a blog or website is not essential to starting a freelance business, it is your online business card and should be a mainstay of your online business strategy.
Besides your blog, getting your work featured in a leading publication or major site instantly adds credibility. Being featured in Scary Mommy for mom bloggers or a lifestyle writer published in Thrive Global makes people sit up and take notice. Review these 11 tips to create a winning pitch for your guest post.
Additionally, review and strengthen your social media presence so it reflects your freelance writing aspirations and skills. Strengthen and stand-out with your Linkedin presence and sharpen your Linkedin headline. Aim to start with at least one more social media account (besides Linkedin) for your freelance business. Choose the one where your ideal client hangs out.
If you are just getting started, you can review these free How to Start a Blog Courses and Guides.
If you are stuck and don’t know how to leverage Linkedin for your freelancing business, then we highly recommend you go for a Linkedin Profile Review.
Want more from LinkedIn but struggling with the ‘how’?
When clients or employers are searching, you want to be found!
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Showcase your skills & work
Your portfolio is the ultimate proof of the quality and breadth of your skills. You can totally build a portfolio even as a beginner freelance writer. Any writing portfolio demands only one key thing – quality content. Write what you know and care about, which you can then either share as text, PDF or as a web url.
With a new portfolio, even 2-3 pieces of your work can suffice. Ensure that they are clear, compelling, error-free, and show your voice and depth of subject matter expertise.
Get the best ideas and examples!
Market. Sell. Network
Beat your own drum!
Marketing and promoting your business is vital for growing your business. If you can’t make the time to market and promote your service then it is unlikely that you can sustain a freelance lifestyle.
Find and build your Client base
As a new freelancer do not underestimate the value of your first client. Your first client is the start of your monetary journey and work that can serve as a future reference, but it’s actual value lies elsewhere. It is your ticket to confidence and momentum.
Linkedin, Facebook Groups, and online communities like Maroon Oak are great for prospecting clients by building a robust profile and engaging with the community. You can also check out a list of websites and platforms where you can find top freelance jobs and opportunities online.
Whether you want to pitch your blog or article, or your services to a potential client, not enough can be said about the research that you need to put in. From thoroughly reading blog submission guidelines to making your outreach more personalized, ensure that your communication is relevant to their needs.
Bill ‘em right
“Freelance ain’t free!”
Setting your rates as a beginner is a daunting task. The pay scale for freelance writing jobs vary considerably based on your skill, experience, availability and type of project that you do. You can set your billing method per hour, per word, per project or even a monthly retainer. Most intermediate to advanced freelance writers charge between 10 cents and $1 per word, depending on the amount of work they will have to put into the project.
To set your pricing, be clear about your expectations from the project and keep your pricing flexible depending on the work involved.
Publish your work even if it’s not perfect. And remember writing is not about starting, it’s about continuing.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you create, the more you have.
A Designer and Entrepreneur, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, where she writes and curates content on business and work-life, Aditi also has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her forever baby, a Bichon named Miltie.