It’s easier than ever to be your own boss — especially if you become a freelance writer. The gig economy is booming, opening countless self-employment opportunities for professional writers. But you may find it overwhelming to leave standard salaried employment and pursue freelance writing if you don’t know where to begin.
Becoming a freelance writer isn’t always a breeze, so we want to help make your journey easier. This simple step-by-step guide will explain how to become a freelance writer and provide actionable ways to get you started on your freelance career.
What is a freelance writer?
A freelance writer is contracted and paid to write specific items for one or more clients. This differs from working for a sole employer and being paid an hourly or salary wage. Freelance writers create articles, newsletters, website copy, blog posts, press releases, and other types of content for clients.
Contracted writers may work as full-time freelancers by juggling multiple clients or simply earn extra cash as a side hustle in addition to a traditional day job. Either approach works; that’s the beauty of freelancing! As a freelance writer, you set your hours and decide how much (or little!) work you do.
What are the qualifications to become a freelance writer?
The good news is — there are no qualifications to become a freelance writer! Practically anyone can do freelance writing. People from all walks of life have become content writers. All it takes are good writing skills, perseverance, and a plan to begin your journey.
Can you become a freelance writer with no experience? Yes! The good news is that you don’t need any prior experience and skills apart from basic writing abilities.
How to Become a Freelance Writer
Preparation is key as you become a freelance writer. Here are eight basic steps that you can follow when forging your path.
1. Understand the Industry
You’ll have difficulty becoming a successful freelance writer if you don’t understand the profession and the industry you’re working in.
Before diving in, do lots of research. Find out everything you can about the freelancing industry. Ways you can do this include:
Find reputable freelancers online and through social media who blog, vlog, or podcast about their advice
Join a community of freelance writers with message boards where you can ask questions
Ask friends and former coworkers who became freelance writers about their journeys
Read many articles like this one that explain what to expect in the freelancing business
Spend a few days or weeks delving into the industry and forming a thorough understanding of its ins and outs. During this time, ensure you’re certain you want to become a freelance writer. This business can be tough at times, so don’t pursue this career just because it sounds idyllic and stress-free.
Ongoing learning is crucial to being a thriving content writer, so never stop reading.
2. Build Necessary Business Skills
You are already a good writer if you’re considering becoming a freelance writer, so now you need the business skills to succeed. What types of skills are necessary to be a good freelance writer?
Time management and organization: It’s your responsibility to keep track of your current projects, deadlines, and client expectations. You need to stay productive without having a boss to monitor you.
Different types of writing: Not all freelance writing is identical — and it’s nothing like your old college essays. Learn how to change your vocabulary, syntax, and structure to adapt your “voice” and appeal to different readers.
Mastering new topics: Every piece you write for a client may be about an entirely different subject. Hone your ability to research, comprehend, and relay information you’re not an expert on. Learn how to learn quickly!
Marketing: A lot of freelance writing involves SEO and marketing. So, ensure you understand how businesses use content marketing to reach potential customers, pitch their services, and rank high on search engine results.
Charisma and fortitude: Being a beginner freelancer involves a lot of rejection. It can be discouraging! Even in the face of rejection, you still need the confidence to sell your writing services to potential clients.
Refine your skill set before seeking professional freelance writing opportunities. Consider practicing as a blogger with your own website blog. Take a writing course if you need to brush up on your skills and learn some copywriting techniques.
3. Find Freelance Jobs
Now that you have the knowledge and skills, it’s time to enter the arena. Start looking for freelance gigs that fit your current skill set. Scour job boards for online writing gigs and look for postings on LinkedIn. Beyond LinkedIn, other websites to find freelance writing jobs are Upwork, Indeed.com, and ProBlogger.
Even better, let someone else do the searching for you. Join a freelance community like MVP Match that connects business owners with freelance writing clients.
As a new freelance writer, don’t set your expectations too high. Find an opportunity that will allow you to grow at your own pace. An excellent first client is within your wheelhouse and will be patient with you as you learn the ropes — perhaps a small business that only needs periodic copywriting done.
4. Purchase Tools and Equipment
Do you have the hardware and programs you need in your home office to start your freelance writing business? You won’t have company-provided equipment to use anymore, so make sure you create a setup with the tools you need for freelance writing work.
Every freelance writer should have:
A quiet space where they can work without interruption
Comfortable furniture — a desk and adjustable chair that support your posture
Quality computer equipment, including a webcam, microphone/headset, and at least two monitors
Basic word processing and audio conversion software
A reliable internet connection and mobile phone
Access to a printer/scanner
Subscriptions to editing guides like the Associated Press Stylebook
As you become more established as a professional freelancer, you may want to consider obtaining additional tools like accounting software, workflow management tool, or a website.
5. Choose a Niche
Even expert writers can’t serve all clients from any industry. Focus on your strengths and preferences by choosing a freelance writing niche. Find where your knowledge, aptitudes, and interests intersect — and make this your specialty.
For example, this niche may involve an industry you’re familiar with, like computer science, automobiles, healthcare, or education. It may also be a certain type of writing, such as technical handbooks, content marketing, advertisement scripts, or novel ghostwriting.
This can take time and experience to determine. Many writers learn what they’re most comfortable with through trial and error, so don’t expect to decide this before you start.
In addition to leaning into your strengths, choosing a niche makes you more marketable to potential clients seeking certain kinds of writers with specific proficiencies. When it comes to staff augmentation, businesses would rather hire a writer who’s great at precisely what’s needed than a writer who’s adequate at many things.
6. Build a Portfolio
Your initial portfolio will probably contain only what writing samples you have at the time: a college essay, a charitable newsletter contribution, a personal blog post, a grant proposal, etc. You can generate pieces for hypothetical clients that showcase your writing skills if none suffice.
As you begin freelance copywriting for clients in your niche, you can improve your portfolio by adding more relevant, high-quality pieces. These should spotlight your greatest strengths as a writer. Make sure none of the clips you include are bound by a non-disclosure agreement with the client.
Accentuate your clips with testimonials from satisfied clients who have used your writing services. These blurbs can help you win over new clients in the same industry.
Want to have a better portfolio right away? Seek out guest posting opportunities in your niche. Although these bylines are typically unpaid work — or require you to pay the host — they can boost your online presence and portfolio quickly.
7. Market Your Services
This is the most challenging part of freelancing for many people because it can be intimidating to have prospective clients judge you. Not everyone is confident in promoting themselves — especially when they’re just starting as freelancers.
Yet, marketing your services is crucial to reaching success as a freelancer. You must put yourself on the market and continually seek opportunities to present your content writing services to prospective clients. Give cold pitches to publications, websites, startup businesses, and local organizations. Follow up until you receive an answer, but take rejection professionally and move on to another outlet.
Build your online presence by polishing your social media profiles before contacting leads. Create your writing business website that showcases your portfolio, houses your professional blog posts, and advertises your services.
As you build connections, you’ll be able to ask for referrals, establish a network of contacts, and distribute targeted bid proposals or job proposals. These will make marketing your services easier, and eventually, clients may start reaching out to you.
8. Improve Your Skills
A great writer’s work is never done. Every new gig will present fresh experiences you haven’t encountered before. That’s why you need to improve your skills continually.
Even expert writers can still benefit from attending virtual seminars and taking certification courses. These can keep you abreast of the industry’s latest developments while keeping your skills from stagnating. Other ways to keep your expertise fresh and marketable include:
Read all the time. The best writers are avid readers!
Join an active community of professional writers for mutual coaching.
Improve your self-editing and grammar by engaging with editors.
Research the newest trends so you know what clients want.
Write for fun sometimes by journaling, writing creative stories, and crafting poetry.
How much do freelance writers make?
The amount of money a freelancer writer makes depends on many factors like how much work they complete, the industry, their skills, and experience. It is entirely possible for a committed freelance writer to make a living wage.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of a freelance writing career?
The benefits of a freelance writing career include choosing your work, having financial independence, and setting your own schedule. The drawbacks include a lack of company-paid benefits, more tax responsibilities, and financial inconsistency.
Where do freelance writers work?
Most freelance writers work from home. Freelance writing jobs are typically remote, so you could work anywhere — even while traveling! Most serious freelancers don’t work on their couches in their pajamas like some might imagine.
Do I need a freelance writing contract?
Yes, using a freelance contract when you work with clients is a good idea. As an independent contractor, you need the legal protection and assurance that a binding agreement provides. A contract should outline your stipulations, the project scope, payment terms, intellectual property rights, and client policies.
What should I do if no one is accepting my proposals or submissions?
This is where many hopeful freelancers become discouraged. When you’re faced with repeated rejections, don’t lose hope. Take time to reassess your approach and get feedback from other professionals. Ask for feedback on your proposals and rework them to make your ideas and skills more compelling. If you’re still struggling, connect with a client-freelancer matchmaking service like MVP Match.
MVP Match Can Help
MVP Match can help you leave your full-time job to pursue part-time or full-time freelancing. Many talented writers have secured freelance writing gigs through our network of clients. Join MVP Match to unlock more opportunities in your freelancing career.