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How to Become a Successful Freelance Writer

How to become a freelance writer and make money writing articles online.

Do you want to learn how to make money freelance writing?

I’ve already been there! And guess what? I became a successful freelance writer despite blood, sweat, and tears.

Here is the deal: I make 30$/hr writing articles, blog posts, and press releases for small businesses, and so can you!

In fact, freelance writing has a low barrier to entry. Most writing jobs are suitable as a side hustle for students or 9-to-5 workers.

Once you’ve built your reputation, it is also possible to work full time and earn a decent living.

I will share my hard-earned knowledge in this guide: how to learn basic writing skills, build your freelance writing business, and find your first clients.

The topics covered are:

I’ll walk you through the whole process!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links (learn more).

Introduction: My freelance writing journey

My freelance writing journey.

It’s been several years since I started freelance writing.

At first, I wrote articles on Fiverr and Flexjobs. I earned about $10 per 1,000 words.

Don’t get me wrong, I like writing. But the ratings were just too low at that time. I was about to give up!

That’s when I realized that some writers make more money than others (more on that later).

So, I chose a niche that pays well (financial writing). Over the years, my income has increased to about $50 per 1,000 words.

With persistence, motivation, and hard work, I am now able to earn a decent living writing articles for websites and press releases for small businesses!

And you? Do you think you have what it takes to become a freelance writer?

Be warned: freelance writing is not for everyone.

A friend of mine invested a lot of time and money into freelance writing before realizing he doesn’t like the job.

Don’t make the same mistake! Make an informed decision before you start.

To guide your decision I have gathered my knowledge about writing jobs: the pros, the cons, and how much money you can make.

Pros and cons of being a freelance writer

There are some aspects of freelance writing you need to know.

Here is why I like this job:

  • Freelance writing is a career-oriented job. Even though your income is quite low at the beginning, writing is a job with decent growth potential.
  • Like most freelance jobs, you get the opportunity to work wherever and whenever you want.
  • There is no required equipment besides a computer and internet access.
  • No specific education is needed to land writing jobs, but prior experience is almost always required.

Nothing’s perfect, there are also some disadvantages to consider:

  • The workload isn’t consistent; you have to hustle every day to find writing jobs.
  • It can be difficult to cope with writer’s block.
  • Working alone can be difficult.
  • There is a wrong perception that giving a freelancer work is giving them charity. Too often I get caught writing a bunch of articles without seeing the paycheck or receiving their paycheck late.

How much do freelance writers make?

On PayScale, a part-time freelance writer salary is put somewhere in the range of $25 per hour.

Note that there is a big discrepancy between starting level earnings ($10 per hour) and top-level earnings ($55 per hour).

In my own experience, it takes time and hard work to land top-tier writing jobs. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you exactly how I did it!

Is it easy to find freelance writing jobs?

Yes.

When I started freelance writing, I was amazed: there are a lot of opportunities out there!

Companies often hire freelancers to write:

  • Web pages and blog posts
  • Video scripts
  • Radio scripts
  • Magazine articles
  • Newspaper articles
  • Press releases
  • Marketing emails
  • You name it!

Once you have gained some experience, you can decide what format you really want to stick with. Specializing in a market is usually a good way to increase your income (more on that later).

Now, let me teach you how to take advantage of these opportunities.

Step 1: Improve your writing skills

A set of writing skills every freelance writer should master.

Before you start freelance writing, you need to make sure you have decent writing skills.

The better your skills, the higher your income!

I’ll teach you how to turn those skills into gold later, now let’s focus on what makes a good freelance writer.

I have gathered in this section: a list of essential writing skills and the best courses/websites to master them.

Enjoy!

Skills every freelance writer should master

Let me be honest with you, freelance writing is not as easy as it seems.

Believe me, it takes a lot of work to become a successful writer!

Have a look at this list of the most basic skills you need to master:

  • A good grasp of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Strong research skills! It adds value and credibility to your content.
  • You need to be able to adapt your writing to meet your audience’s needs. You should not write a blog post in the same way as a press release.
  • If you are writing content for the Web, you need to understand the major aspects of SEO, from finding the keywords that can generate qualified traffic, to making your content Google-friendly.
  • Having a wide vocabulary gives you an edge over your competitors.

Don’t worry. If I have successfully mastered these skills, so can you.

How to improve your writing skills

Now that you know which skills you need to improve, it’s time to get down to work.

Most writers think they were born with whatever talent they have, and they’re not going to get much better.

They’re wrong!

When it comes to writing, practice makes perfect!

If you can set aside 30 minutes to an hour every day for writing practice (and set yourself a word or page limit to meet), you will become a better writer.

Best courses for freelance writers

It can be difficult to stick to a learning schedule.

From my own experience, following online classes was the best way to stay motivated and become a proficient writer. Here are the classes that I recommend:

Now, if you don’t want to spend money on online classes, I recommend that you subscribe to the following blogs. They will teach you valuable lessons on how to improve your writing skills:

  • The Write Life – the go-to resource for writers who want to make a living from their craft.
  • The ProWritingAid Blog – ProWritingAid is a grammar checker and style editor tool. Their blog is a gold mine for writers!
  • The Jeff Goins Blog – Jeff Goins is a best-selling author. He shares his secrets on his blog.
  • Elna Cain’s blog – Elna is a freelance writer and blogger. She helps people just like you to become a profitable freelance writer.
  • The write practice – want to improve your writing skills? This website is a great way to start your writing practice.
  • The advanced guide to SEO – Quicksprout’s guide covers everything a freelance writer needs to know about SEO.

Best tools for freelance writers

I don’t know about you, but I have poor spelling and grammar skills.

Don’t worry, there is a solution: editors. Here are the tools I use to improve my writing style:

  • Grammarly – by far the best writing assistant. From grammar and spelling to style and tone, Grammarly helps you eliminate errors and find the perfect words to express yourself.
  • ProWritingAid – another online grammar checker and style editor, pretty good.
  • Hemingway Editor – want to write like Hemingway? Paste one of your articles into this editor and see how many issues it finds!

Step 2: Find your first writing jobs

Get your first experience as a freelance writer with one of these online writing jobs.

It’s actually pretty easy to land low-paying writing jobs.

In the beginning, you should focus on these low-hanging fruits!

Why? Simply because it’s a great way to get some experience.

The more experience you get, the easier it is to land top-tier jobs (more on that later).

Starting slowly is also a great way to judge if you enjoy working as a freelance writer.

Easiest writing gigs for beginners

There are a lot of different writing jobs out there!

Some of them are suitable for beginners, some aren’t.

Here are the best gigs for beginners:

  • Articles for websites and blogs – Blogging gigs are some of the easiest jobs to find right now. Blogging is fun and, to top it all, develops your research skills.
  • Scripts for Youtube videos – I wrote a few scripts for Youtube videos, it is a great way to get into freelance writing.
  • And more – product descriptions, resume writing, Linkedin profiles, transcription, you name it!

Now, let me explain how I land these jobs.

List of freelance websites for writers

Freelance websites are the place to go if you want to land low-paying writing gigs.

A lot of freelancers get their first gigs on freelance websites. This is a good way to build your reputation as a competent writer!

Here is a list of the best freelance websites for writers:

  • ProBlogger’s job board – for 10 years the ProBlogger Job Board has been the leading marketplace for blog related jobs.
  • TextBroker – gives you access to thousands of projects to turn your writing skills into cash.
  • BehanceJobs – an online platform for creative professionals.

And some of the best freelance websites:

  • Fiverr – the world’s largest freelance services marketplace.
  • PeoplePerHour – a website where freelancers can bid on jobs.
  • Upwork – a platform that connects top companies to talented freelance workers.
  • Flexjobs – for about $15 a month, you get access to a list of remote jobs.
  • TopTal – through a rigorous screening process, TopTal identifies the best freelancers and connects them to potential employers.

Step 3: Build your freelance writing business

Turn freelance writing into a business and make money writing online.

Now that you have some experience, it’s time to build your freelance writing business.

Here is the deal: some writing jobs are way more profitable than others.

Writing Youtube video scripts and product descriptions will only earn you peanuts!

So what does it takes to land top-tier writing jobs? In a word: professionalization.

I’ve already been there and believe me, some steps are essential to becoming a successful freelance writer. Let me break it down for you:

  1. Pick your niche
  2. Set the right price
  3. Pitch to writing jobs

Let’s dive in!

Pick your writing niche

Finance, travel, digital marketing, education, ghostwriting, white papers, email writing, tech writing, entertainment writing, etc.

There are a ton of different writing niches out there!

Focus on one of them.

Why? Simply because the more you focus on a particular subject, the easier it gets to write quality articles.

So how do you choose your niche?

Pick a writing niche you want to discover or one you already know something about. You’ll ramp up your freelance writing career faster and be more appealing to prospects when you’re the writer for their industry.

Here is what I recommend: have a look at job boards and Facebook groups to find out what jobs are in demand. Given your knowledge and writing skills, decide which writing jobs suit you best.

Can you guess what was my first writing niche? I was writing product reviews for outdoor blogs.

As a hiking enthusiast, I had a lot of fun writing these articles. Let me teach you how I managed to land these writing jobs.

Find prospects in your niche

Cold pitching is my favorite way to land recurring gigs.

I found out this technique in this article: The Cold Pitch that Made Me $5,024 (Writers in charge).

So what is cold pitching?

Cold pitching is the art of contacting bloggers, small businesses, and companies to let them know how your writing skills can help grow their business.

Forget about freelance websites, there’s much less competition and you’ll have a better chance at landing gigs when you contact clients directly.

Yes, I know, it sounds hard, doesn’t it? Especially if you’re new to freelancing.

But, you know what? It’s ridiculously easy.

First things first, you need to locate websites to cold pitch to.

Some companies are trying to grow their online presence, your writing skills can certainly help with that. Writing quality articles is a great way to get traffic from Google!

It’s also a good idea to pitch to websites with established blogs, just in case they need a writer.

In your pitch make sure to include:

  • How you found out about them
  • How you can help them
  • Why you are the best freelance writer for the job

It’s that easy!

How much should I charge?

Now is a good time to start thinking about your rate.

To determine how much you should charge, you need to know what your peers are charging. Look up other freelance writers and make a list of all their pricing plans.

Then, you need to adjust your pricing based on the following factors:

  • Your services
  • Experience and ability
  • Years in business
  • Location

Experience is the most important factor. Inexperienced writers charge around $0.02 per word while some experts can earn as much as $0.30 per word.

You can’t afford to charge more? Let me teach you how to increase your income!

Step 4: Increase your writing income

There is no limit to how much money you can make writing for businesses online.

As I said in the introduction, some freelance writers earn $10 an hour, while others earn $50.

So what’s their secret?

In short, these writers can do what most can’t. They have authority and specific skills that are hard to learn.

Here are a few tips to help you break the glass ceiling.

Guest post on authority websites and publications

Think of yourself as a personal brand.

If you can publish a few articles on Forbes, HuffingtonPost, or any authority website, your credibility is going to go through the roof. A lot of publications and authority websites accept guest contributions.

So, how do you secure a guest post these large publications?

First, take the time to research everything you can about your targeted publication:

  • Potential topics.
  • The publication – some sites have an editorial calendar.
  • The editors – know the person to whom you’re pitching.

Once you have the name of the editors, find the proper email address to send your pitch and cross your fingers. Make sure your email is personal and grabs the reader’s attention.

The most profitable industries for freelance writers

It’s no secret that some industries pay better than others.

Check out this list of the most profitable writing niche (here is where I found it):

NicheHourly rate
Financial$50-60
Sales/Public relation$50-60
Medical$60-70
Ghostwriting$50-60
Technical/trade$50-60

These niches are only for experienced writers as they require specific writing skills.

It’s hard to get a job in one of these niches, but it can be done!

In my case, I started writing product reviews for an outdoor blog. Let me be honest with you, my income was quite low.

Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to write financial articles for an authority website. It’s certainly more challenging to write than product reviews, but at least I earn a living wage!

Create a website to show off your skills

There are a lot of bad freelance writers out there. So it’s important to stand out enough to make yourself noticed.

Unless you’re not interested in growing your brand, you need to have a website.

I recommend this course on how to create a portfolio website (no coding required).

Here is the most important information to display on your website:

  • Details about your writing services
  • Pricing
  • An online portfolio to showcase your writing skills
  • A contact page

The most important part of your website is undoubtedly your portfolio. A portfolio is a proof that you know how to write decent articles. It is also a proof that you can get results for your clients.

Conclusion

Here’s a short recap of how you can start your career as a freelance writer:

  1. Learn the most basic skills: grammar, research, SEO etc.
  2. Land your first writing job on a freelance website.
  3. Professionalization: market research, list your services, pitch to jobs.
  4. If you want to increase your income, publish a guest post on an authority website, and create an amazing portfolio to display your skills.

Now, it’s your turn to make money writing online!

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