Freelance content writing offers you the freedom to work from anywhere, express your creativity, and make a living doing what you love. In this article, I’ll guide you through the steps to become a successful freelance content writer.
- Identify your niche
- Build a solid portfolio
- Create a professional online presence
- Build up your network
- Set your rates and payment terms
- Market yourself effectively
- Deliver outstanding content
Below, I’ll go through each of these steps in more detail. I’ll discuss what the job of a freelance content writer involves, and answer questions like how much you can make and how difficult it can be. Let’s get into it!
What Is Freelance Content Writing?
Freelance content writing involves writing content of various kinds for clients as an individual who is self-employed. Freelance content writers may work with many different clients at one time, offering content ranging from blog posts to technical articles.
Types Of Freelance Content Writing
Freelance content writing is a broad field, and there are lots of different forms of written content that you might create both online and offline. Here are some common types of freelance content writing:
1. Blog Posts & Articles
Blog posts are informative, engaging, and often conversational pieces of content published on websites. They can cover a wide range of topics, from travel and technology to health and lifestyle. This is probably the most common type of content writing.
2. SEO Content Writing
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) content writing involves creating content that ranks well on search engines. Blog posts can typically fall into this category as well, but SEO content can also cover other pages on websites, not just articles (like product or service pages).
3. Social Media Content
Social media content includes captions, posts, and tweets designed to engage and inform an audience on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (now X), and LinkedIn.
Copywriting, while related, primarily focuses on persuasive content designed to drive specific actions, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or clicking a link. It often involves crafting advertisements, product descriptions, and sales copy.
I’d actually say the two are quite different, and I’ll go into more detail on that below. But some people like to bundle the two types together.
5. Email Marketing Campaigns
Freelance content writers may also create email marketing campaigns, writing engaging and compelling messages to nurture leads or convert subscribers into customers. This can often fall under copywriting if the focus is making sales or otherwise converting readers.
6. Ebooks & Whitepapers
These in-depth pieces often serve as lead magnets or educational resources, and some businesses may take on freelance content writers to put them together.
7. Press Releases
Press releases are written to announce news or events related to a company, product, or service. They aim to generate media coverage and public interest.
Freelance Content Writing vs Copywriting
While freelance content writing and copywriting share similarities, they serve different purposes and require distinct skills:
Freelance Content Writing
- Objective: To inform, educate, or entertain the audience.
- Style: More informative, objective, and often shares knowledge or insights.
- Focus: Building brand authority, engaging readers, and providing value through well-researched and informative content.
- Examples: Blog posts, articles, social media updates, and educational content.
- Objective: To persuade the audience to take a specific action, such as making a purchase or signing up to something.
- Style: Highly persuasive and focused on creating a sense of urgency or desire.
- Focus: Driving conversions, sales, and other direct responses through compelling and emotionally charged language.
- Examples: Advertisements, product descriptions, sales pages, and promotional materials.
Both freelance content writing and copywriting play essential roles in digital marketing and communication strategies. Depending on your skills and interests, you can choose to specialize in one or both of these areas as a freelance writer. If you want to learn more, check out my guide to becoming a freelance copywriter.
7 Steps To Start Freelance Content Writing
1. Identify Your Niche
Before you embark on your freelance content writing journey, it’s essential to identify your niche (or niches!). What topics or industries are you passionate about, knowledgeable in, or interested in exploring?
You don’t need to narrow down too much, especially in the beginning. You might be able to get more clients when you’re a beginner freelance content writer by being more generalist. Obviously a lot of content writing roles revolve around a specific niche or subject, but you don’t need to just pick one.
But in the long run, specialization can go a long way. You can build up a reputation as a content writing expert about niche xyz, and this can allow you to command higher rates and land bigger clients.
2. Build A Solid Portfolio
To convince potential clients of your writing prowess, you’ll need a compelling portfolio. If you’re just starting, consider writing articles or blog posts on topics within your chosen niche and publishing them on your blog or platforms like Medium. As you gain experience, include these pieces in your portfolio to demonstrate your expertise.
Using free sites like Medium or creating your own blog allows you to put lots of examples out there for potential clients to see. It also shows initiative, and it can be a great way to practice your writing skills too! Alternatively, consider platforms like Contently, which allow you to create a free portfolio to show off your best work without having to build your own website.
But to land consistent clients, you need to go beyond just creating a portfolio.
3. Create A Professional Online Presence
I strongly suggest you set up a professional website that showcases your portfolio, lists your services, and provides contact information. Not only does having your own website just look much more professional than not having one or using a free service, but it also allows you to include everything a client needs to know about you in one place.
But you should also optimize your social media profiles, especially LinkedIn, to highlight your skills and connect with potential clients or fellow writers. Your online presence functions as your digital CV – make sure it’s up to date!
4. Build Up Your Network
Networking is crucial in the freelance world. Consider joining online communities, like forums and social media groups. Engage in conversations and offer help to others – you never know who you might meet in these communities.
Networking doesn’t just help you find clients, as it also builds valuable relationships with fellow writers, editors, and potential collaborators. This can all bode well for your freelance content writing career in the long run.
5. Set Your Rates And Payment Terms
Determining your rates can be challenging, especially when you’re just starting out. You need to research industry standards and consider your experience and expertise. You won’t be able to charge your dream rates when you’re trying to land your first clients, but you also don’t want to price your services so low that it’s not sustainable.
Also consider whether you want to charge per word, per hour, or per project. Charging per word is the standard for a lot of content writing jobs, especially entry-level ones. Per project is good for longer projects, like ebooks, while hourly rates aren’t as common.
6. Market Yourself Effectively
Marketing yourself is an ongoing effort, but it’s a must if you want to become a freelancer in any field. The more people know about your services, the more opportunities will come your way.
To get the word out, you have lots of options:
- Marketing yourself on your own website
- Using paid ads (not recommended for beginners obviously)
- Social media engagement
- Email outreach (requires a lot of patience)
- Word of mouth
Over time, this will become easier. As you rack up more experience, clients, and portfolio pieces, you’ll find it easier to market yourself to new customers. But in the beginning, you just need to be patient and persistent. But there’s no point marketing yourself unless you can do the final point on this list consistently.
7. Deliver Outstanding Content
Your success as a freelance content writer hinges on the quality of your work. Always aim for excellence – underpromise and overdeliver where possible.
Take time to really provide the best possible service – write, edit, check, and check again. Don’t let silly grammar mistakes be the reason a client lets you go. And always read their instructions a few times before and while you take on a piece of work. Attention to detail is pretty much table stakes for freelance content writing!
Note: For more tips like these, check out our guide to content writing dos and don’ts
How Much Do Freelance Content Writers Make?
Freelance content writers often have the flexibility to set their own rates, which can range from as low as $0.03 per word for beginner writers to $0.50 or more per word for highly experienced and specialized writers. If you charge per project, articles might earn you $100 or $1,000+ once you prove your expertise to high-paying clients.
Entry-level writers may take on lower-paying gigs initially to build their portfolios and gain experience. As you accumulate a body of work and expertise in a particular niche, you can gradually increase your rates. Focusing on high-demand niches like technology, finance, or healthcare tends to allow you to command higher rates due to the specialized knowledge required.
But at the end of the day, how much money you make as a freelance content writer is linked to your ability to market yourself effectively, deliver quality work consistently, and build a network of satisfied clients. By continually honing your skills and expanding your expertise, you can make a very good living as a freelance content writer.
Is Freelance Content Writing A Difficult Career?
Freelance content writing can be hard, as it requires strong writing skills, determination, and adaptability. Writing effectively, with proper grammar and being able to adapt to different styles, is essential. Depending on your chosen niche, you might also need to acquire in-depth knowledge of specific industries or subjects to create authoritative content. This can be tough in itself.
Competition is another factor to consider if you’re looking to become a freelance content writer. Breaking into the field can be tough, especially when you’re just starting. I got my start as a freelance content writer on Fiverr, but that was back in 2019. The freelance writing world is very different now!
With the abundance of AI writing tools, many people turn to cheaper ways of creating content than hiring freelancers. Personally, I think this just increases the demand for high-quality human writers. But in the short term, there’s no doubt that this creates a lot of uncertainty for freelance writers in particular. I go into more detail on these thoughts in my article about the future of freelance writing.
Freelance Content Writing Resources
As you embark on your journey as a freelance content writer, having access to valuable resources can significantly enhance your skills and streamline your path to success. I’ve compiled a list below of some of the best resources to hopefully help you get started.
Writing Tools & Software
- Grammarly: An indispensable tool for grammar and spell-checking, making your writing more polished. Don’t just rely on this though – build up your own abilities!
- Hemingway Editor: Helps simplify your writing, making it clearer and more concise.
- Google Docs or Microsoft Word: These are versatile platforms for writing and collaborating on documents – Google Docs is free and the standard for many clients.
Freelance Job Platforms
- Upwork: A popular platform where you can find a wide range of freelance writing opportunities.
- Freelancer: Offers a variety of writing projects and connects freelancers with clients.
- Fiverr: Known for its gig-based system, allowing you to offer specific writing services.
- Medium: A platform where you can publish articles to showcase your writing skills.
- Contently: A portfolio platform designed for freelance writers to display their work professionally.
Learning & Development
- Coursera and Udemy: Offer online courses on writing, SEO, and other related skills.
- Skillshare: Provides a wide range of creative writing and freelancing courses.
- Books: Invest in books on writing and freelancing, such as “On Writing” by Stephen King or “The Well-Fed Writer” by Peter Bowerman. You can find a full list of our recommendations in our guide to the best books for freelance writers.
- Reddit (r/FreelanceWriters): A subreddit where freelance writers share insights, advice, and job opportunities.
- Facebook Groups: Many freelance writing communities exist on Facebook, offering networking and support.
Productivity & Time Management
- Trello: A project management tool that helps you organize your tasks and deadlines.
- RescueTime: Tracks your computer usage to help you manage your time effectively.
- Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA): Offers resources, networking opportunities, and job listings for editorial professionals.
- American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA): A professional organization for nonfiction writers.
Is Freelance Content Writing For You?
Whether freelance content writing is a good career path for you will depend on a lot of different factors. If you love writing and have a keen eye for detail, it could be the perfect choice! But it’s not without its challenges.
It can be tough to make any money in the beginning, so it’s definitely a risky career. But once you start building up a network of clients, it can be incredibly lucrative. If you’re looking for more tips to land your first writing gigs, check out our guide to getting more freelance writing clients.