Are you looking to start freelance writing in 2023? This ultimate actionable guide will show you how to get things up and running quickly, based on my own experience as a freelance writer.
I’ll discuss everything from setting up your business to finding clients and staying motivated. By the end, you’ll have a clear plan for launching your freelance writing career!
Can You Start Freelance Writing With Zero Experience?
Even if you don’t have any prior experience, you can start freelance writing in 2023. There are plenty of opportunities for inexperienced writers to find work, as long as they’re willing to put in the effort and learn on the job.
Many freelance writers started their careers by writing blog posts and articles for free. Others write guest posts on popular blogs or websites, or even contribute to online forums and discussion boards. All of these activities count as “writing experience,” which you can leverage to land paying gigs in the future.
But let’s get one thing straight.
You don’t actually have zero experience – you just haven’t been paid for it yet.
You Do Have Some Experience
You likely have knowledge or expertise in a specific niche, which counts as experience. You probably enjoy writing, and likely have some samples you can work with to create your portfolio (don’t worry if not, as you can create them without having clients!).
This is all technically experience, even if you don’t have experience being paid for your writing. So, go in with this mentality, and it’ll be much easier to stay motivated and to get your first clients.
But how do you know if this is the right career path for you?
How To Know If Freelance Writing Is For You
Freelance writing is an incredibly rewarding career, but it’s not for everyone. Before you dive in headfirst, make sure to ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I enjoy writing?
- Am I comfortable working alone and meeting deadlines?
- Do I have the necessary time and resources to devote to freelance writing?
- Can I handle criticism constructively?
- Can I afford to go a period of time with no money coming in?
If your answers are all yes, then freelance writing could be a great option for you! If not, freelance writing might not be ideal for the moment, either as a result of your current situation (perhaps you’re a student or are currently working another job) or as a result of your current mindset.
If you don’t handle criticism well, work on that. If you don’t think you enjoy writing, try writing about something else you do enjoy (as you may just think you hate writing after having to do it in school for example). But in some cases, it’s just not right for you. If it is, you may be wondering how difficult it is to start a freelance writing career.
Is It Hard To Get Into Freelance Writing?
Getting into freelance writing can be challenging, but it’s far from impossible. The key is to start small and work your way up. You can begin by going through the steps outlined in this guide (see below), and then gradually increase your workload as you gain more experience.
It’s also important to remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. Freelance writing is a long-term career, so be prepared to put in the work for weeks, months or even years before you start reaping the real rewards. With dedication and perseverance, however, it’s possible to build a thriving freelance writing career!
Becoming A Freelance Writer: The First Steps
1. Set Up Your Business
Before you can start finding clients and writing, you need to set up a freelance business structure. This includes deciding on a name for your business, registering with the appropriate authorities, and opening any necessary bank accounts.
Most freelancers will be able to register as a sole trader or sole proprietor, depending on where you live. This means you still have to fill out tax returns each year, but you don’t need to register a new company to become a freelance writer.
2. Build Your Writing Portfolio
You’ll also need to create a portfolio of your work so potential clients can see what you have to offer. This could include anything from published articles or blog posts to samples of your own creative writing. Once you have some content in your portfolio, be sure to promote it on social media and your own website.
3. Identify Your Ideal Clients
Before you start looking for clients, take the time to identify who it is you want to work with. This will help you target the right opportunities and save you from wasting time on unsuitable leads.
Think about the niche you’d like to write about, the kind of writing jobs you’d want to take on, and who you’d like to write for. Would you rather write for individuals with blogs, or big brands? Would you prefer to write SEO content for businesses’ websites, or does ghostwriting someone’s next bestseller sound like a better option for you?
4. Find Clients
Once you’ve identified your ideal clients, it’s time to start searching for opportunities. You can do this by scouring job boards, reaching out to contacts in related industries, or even pitching directly to potential clients via email or social media.
The latter requires a lot of effort and it can yield quite a low return, and while networking can be a great way to meet new clients it will require you to – you guessed it – build a network! All of this takes work, but it’ll be worth it when you start getting paying clients!
5. Get Paid
You can use a variety of payment methods depending on your chosen business structure and the preferences of your clients. Popular payment options include PayPal, bank transfers, and credit cards.
You’ll also need to consider your pricing structure, and the most common methods are:
- Per word
- Per hour
- Per project
Which option is right for you will depend on a lot of factors and on what your clients prefer. Now let’s look at some of the places you can start freelance writing.
Where To Start Freelance Writing
Job Boards & Marketplaces
Online job boards like ProBlogger and marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, and Guru list hundreds (if not thousands) of freelance writing jobs every day. Search through these postings to find opportunities that match your skill set and interests.
This involves reaching out directly to potential clients via email or social media with a pitch for your services. It can be a great way to find high-paying jobs, but it does require some entrepreneurial spirit and plenty of research. Also be prepared for a lot of rejections!
Many websites offer freelance writing opportunities for specific niches or industries. If you have expertise in an area like health, finance, or travel, look for related sites that are open to hiring freelance writers.
Doing a search on Google for your niche plus the words “guest post” or “guest post by” can give you an idea of some sites that might accept writing pitches.
Your Own Website
To stand out in the ever-growing pool of freelance writers, having your own website is essential. You can use it to showcase your writing portfolio, promote yourself and your services, and even attract clients.
You can use various website builders to put one together, and there are both free and paid options out there.
Content mills are websites that hire writers on a per-word or per-project basis. These sites are a good option for beginner freelancers as they provide lots of opportunities and allow you to hone your writing skills in a variety of areas.
However, content mills do not pay premium rates in most cases. There are also lots of bad actors in the space that take advantage of beginner writers. If you’re considering using a content mill, I recommend checking reviews and user experience on forums like Reddit, as this will give you a good indication of ones to avoid.
How To Find Your First Freelance Writing Clients
This is one of the most effective ways to find clients and can be done either in person or online. Reach out to people in your industry and make sure they know about your services. They may even refer you to potential clients!
Leverage Your Existing Clients
Once you start working with a few clients, don’t forget to leverage them as much as possible. Ask them for referrals and recommendations, as well as any feedback they have on how you can improve your services. All feedback is useful feedback, especially when you’re a beginner freelance writer.
It can be difficult to find clients when you don’t have any experience. One way to mitigate this is to create free samples of your work and distribute them online. This will demonstrate your writing skills and may even lead directly to paying jobs.
While I don’t recommend doing a lot of work for free, as clients may take advantage of you and at the end of the day the goal is to make money, putting together some free samples can be a good idea in the beginning.
Pitch Directly To Prospects
Don’t be afraid to reach out directly to prospects via email or social media with a pitch for your services. While this takes more effort than searching through job boards, it can be a great way to land higher-paying gigs with more established companies.
As I said earlier though, be prepared for a lot of No’s, and many simply won’t reply to your emails.
Lastly, don’t forget to promote yourself and your services. You can do this by creating a website, writing blog articles, or simply sharing your work on social media. The more exposure you get, the better chance you have of finding clients.
Tips For Finding Success As A Freelance Writer
Develop Your Writing Skills
The best way to become a successful freelance writer is to constantly hone and refine your writing skills. Find new ways to challenge yourself with different writing styles and topics, and always strive to produce the highest quality content possible.
Manage Your Time Effectively
As a freelancer, you’re in charge of managing your own time and workload. Make sure you don’t overcommit yourself by taking on too many projects at once, and proactively manage any conflicts between deadlines or tasks.
Invest In Your Business
Don’t forget to invest in yourself and your business! Take the time to create a professional website, join relevant online communities, and build a network of contacts that can help you land new clients.
It’s important to stay organized when freelancing. Create a system for managing projects (there are lots of tools for this, and my favorite is Notion), tracking deadlines, billing clients, and more to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Research Before Writing
When a client contacts you with an assignment, take the time to research the topic thoroughly before you start writing. This will not only help you write better content, but it can also help you understand the needs of your client and provide more value.
Establishing good relationships with clients is key to long-term success as a freelancer. Take the time to get to know your clients and learn about their businesses so that you can better serve them in the future.
Asking questions is an important part of being a successful freelance writer. If there is something you don’t understand or need clarification on, don’t be afraid to reach out to your client for more information.
Finally, don’t forget to market yourself and your services! Set up social media accounts where you can post samples of your work, send out regular newsletters, or join relevant online forums and groups where potential clients may be looking for the kind of help you can provide.
7 Key Things To Know Before You Start Freelance Writing
1. Understand Your Area of Expertise
As a freelance writer, it’s important to understand your area of expertise so that you can market yourself appropriately and provide value for your clients. Take the time to research different writing styles and topics you may be interested in exploring further.
2. Develop Good Writing Habits
Establishing good writing habits is essential when freelancing. Set aside specific times each day to write and stick to them as much as possible. This will help keep you focused and motivated, while also ensuring that you meet all your deadlines.
3. Create A Portfolio
Having samples of your work available online is an essential part of becoming a successful freelance writer. Put together a portfolio that showcases your best writing samples and provide links to it when relevant.
4. Set Rates & Policies
As a freelancer, you need to have clear rates and policies in place for clients. Determine how much you’ll charge for different types of projects and create contracts or agreements that outline these policies in detail.
5. Utilize Networking Opportunities
Don’t be afraid to network with other writers or industry professionals! Attend events, join online groups, or simply reach out directly to potential clients. Networking is one of the most effective ways to find new freelance work opportunities, but it will take time.
6. Stay Organized
It’s important to stay organized when managing multiple freelancing tasks. Create systems for tracking deadlines, managing projects, and billing clients to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
7. Learn From Your Mistakes
Finally, learning from your mistakes is an important part of becoming a successful freelance writer. Take the time to reflect on past assignments and consider how you can improve in the future. You need to be able to grow and adapt if you want to find success in the freelance writing industry.
How Much Can You Earn As A Freelance Writer?
The amount of money you can earn as a freelance writer depends on the type of work you do and how much you charge. Freelance writers typically charge by the word, hour, or project. Some may even offer packages with different rates for various types of writing services.
Generally speaking, freelance writers can expect to make anywhere from $15 to $30 per hour depending on their skill level and experience. As your skills improve and more clients hire you, it would not be uncommon for this number to increase to $50+ per hour.
However, you may choose projects that pay per word or per article, and so the ranges can vary a lot. $0.05-$0.10 per word is not uncommon for beginner freelance writers, and a lot of the best writers might charge $1 per word or hundreds of dollars per project.
Charging Per Word vs Per Hour vs Per Project
There are pros and cons to charging per word, per hour, or per project.
When charging by the word, you’re able to accurately calculate your earnings based on the amount of work you’ve done. However, this also means that you’re more likely to be taken advantage of if a client requests too many changes or revisions after the fact.
If you are a fast writer that can still maintain a high level of quality, this method can offer a good way to raise your effective hourly rate. However, chasing higher numbers here is not the way to go in the long run, and charging per project is typically the better option.
Charging by the hour can be beneficial because it allows you to determine how much time each project will take so that you can set an appropriate rate. However, this is not likely to be a common payment option for many clients, as they may be worried you will draw the project out to try and earn more money without adding extra value.
Finally, charging by the project is beneficial because it gives you the freedom to be creative and explore different ideas without having to worry about how much time each task will take or reaching a specific word count (although clients will likely specify a range to stick to).
However, it can also be difficult to estimate an appropriate rate since some projects may require more effort than others. This will become easier as you gain more experience.
Ultimately, the best way to figure out which charging method works for you is to experiment with different options and find what works best for your particular situation. You may find you use different methods with different clients, which is very normal.
Good Resources For Beginner Freelance Writers
If you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, there are some useful resources that can help guide you along the way. Below are a few of my favorite resources for beginner freelance writers:
- Freelancer’s Union – This website offers free online courses and other educational materials about freelance writing and other related topics.
- ProBlogger – This website has tons of helpful tips on how to break into the world of blogging and make money from your writing, and there’s a job board too.
- Copyblogger – This site provides useful advice on how to write better content, market it effectively, and generate more traffic for your blog or website.
- Contently – Contently is a great platform for connecting with potential clients and learning more about the freelance industry, and they have a free portfolio builder too.
Get Your Freelance Writing Career Off To The Best Start
Freelance writing can be an enjoyable and rewarding way to make money while doing something you love. With some hard work, dedication, and determination, anyone can become a successful freelance writer.