Are you a beginner freelance writer with a passion for words? Perhaps you've always kept a journal or even have your own blog but long to turn your musings into hard-earned cash.
Whether you want to write as a side hustle or plan to turn freelancing into a full-time career, the great news is that you can become a freelance writer with no experience!
What qualifications are needed to start freelance writing?
Freelance writing is a great gig to leap into, as there's no barrier to entry. You don't need specific training or qualifications to win your first project and start on the path to success.
Having said that, we see some common paths and backgrounds in the freelance writing community.
Great English language skills
If you'd like to give freelance writing a shot, English doesn't need to be your primary language. But if you want to write for English-speaking clients, you must be fluent in English so prospective clients know you can communicate their message to a native audience.
If your English isn't perfect, consider taking an online course or two to polish up your skills.
If you've been writing academically for years, it's not too much of a leap to become a freelance writer. Don't worry about what subject you majored in, though.
For example, even with a degree in English Literature, you'll rarely bring Charles Dickens or Shakespeare into your writing.
But a college education means you'll know how to conduct in-depth research, structure a piece of content, and stick to deadlines.
If you took Psychology or History, you'd bring the same skills to the table in your freelance writing career.
And if you're not armed with college certificates? It's not a problem. Prospective clients are far more interested in your bylines, LinkedIn profile, and testimonials than your education.
Take it from successful freelance writer Elise Dopson who received an unconditional offer to study digital marketing at university but ended up declining her place.
She explains, "I decided that I enjoyed freelancing more than the idea of going to university." Now she runs a six-figure writing business and works four days a week.
The best writing courses for beginner freelance writers
As a beginner freelance writer, it can be helpful to take a course. The most valuable courses show you how to improve your writing, win work, and communicate with editors.
Here are some of the best programs in the market.
Elna Cain’s Writeto1k course
Elna Cain is a freelance writer, coach, and mother of twins. She's written for Walmart, Zapier, and GoDaddy, to name a few. Her Writeto1k course helps beginner freelance writers land their first client projects and build a solid business foundation.
This course is beginner-friendly and demonstrates how to streamline your processes, find clients, land projects, and get paid.
The Creative Class has supported more than 2,400 students to become pro freelancers. The course transforms your outlook on building a freelance business, so you'll work with fewer clients for more money!
It also teaches you to put firm processes in place because working "on" your business makes it much simpler to work "in" your business.
Kimanzi Constable’s Paid to Publish Masterclass
Have you ever dreamed of having your name up in lights in prestigious publications like Business Insider, Huffington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and CNBC?
Kimanzi Constable's masterclass outlines how to find a relevant editor for the publication of your dreams, craft a simple but effective pitch and see your content go live before an audience of millions.
Marketing certifications for beginner freelance writers
If you're hoping to write for companies online, having some digital marketing skills in your toolbox can be helpful. Hubspot offers a variety of inbound marketing and sales certifications that are well-respected in the industry.
These courses are free but require a little time to complete – up to 3 to 7 hours for each class. Head to the Hubspot Academy to learn more.
How much cash can you earn as a beginner freelance writer?
Freelance writers charge per word, project, or hour and the amount you earn depends on who’s paying you!
When you start freelance writing, you might head to freelance platforms like Upwork or Fiverr, where there’s plenty of work offered at low prices. You’ll pick up content projects for 1 to 3 cents per word, meaning you’ll receive $10 to $30 for a 1,000-word article.
These are desperately low rates but shouldn't put you off freelance writing as a career. Top-tier writers can earn $1 or more per word and charge thousands of dollars for a single article.
As an example, freelance SaaS writer Ashley Cummings produces content for clients like Shopify, Salesforce, and Hashtag Paid. In her opinion, "If you have been professionally writing for at least 5 years, and you're not charging $1+/word, you're not charging enough."
Keep in mind that writing can be incredibly lucrative, and there are numerous examples of writers like Ashley, who achieve six-figure salaries each year.
What do they all have in common? Each started out as a beginner freelance writer and worked their way up to the top.
How does one become a beginner freelance writer?
Are you itching to start freelance writing? Let's put the building blocks of your business in place so you can find clients and start publishing.
Set up a professional website
Do you need a website to showcase your writing? Technically not. But it looks a whole lot more professional if you have one.
Your website doesn't need to be super complicated, it just needs to be a home for your business on the web. As a minimum, publish a home page explaining your services, your background, contact details, and a few links to your work.
Companies may find your site in a Google search or on your social profiles if they're looking for a writer like you! You can also link to your website in your author bio box.
Every time you publish an article online, your bio will display your name, headshot, a bit of blurb, and a link to your website so clients can learn more about you and get in touch!
As a beginner freelance writer, you probably don't want to shell out a ton of money on the first iteration of your site. And thankfully, you don't have to. A domain name and hosting can cost just a few dollars a month through a provider like Bluehost or Squarespace.
Set up social media accounts
Social media accounts are essential for gaining visibility as a beginner freelance writer. Editors and content managers use social to send callouts for writers and pitch requests. The two best platforms for writers are Twitter and LinkedIn.
Optimize your bio with keywords explaining what you do or the caliber of companies you write for.
For example, "Freelance Personal Finance Writer" or "Forbes contributor." This will elevate your work in the eyes of potential clients.
Get insurance and open up bank accounts
Insurance is a must if you're working with clients – consider public liability and professional indemnity insurance, which will protect you just in case something goes wrong with a project.
You'll also need to set up a dedicated business bank account to keep track of expenses and income. This will make it much easier when it comes time to do your taxes at the end of the financial year!
Don't forget to set aside around 30% of your earnings for taxes.
Set up an LLC
An LLC structure limits your personal liability if something goes wrong with your freelance business. It's not required, but it may give you peace of mind if you're handling client finances or working with sensitive data.
Set up an LLC by yourself or hire an attorney or online service to help you. Once you've registered your LLC, open a business bank account and get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.
Decide what type of writing you want to do
Freelance writing is a broad term, as there are multiple ways to earn money for the art of putting words together. You may choose to offer a range of writing services or to niche down into a specific area.
Promoting yourself as a specialist can be nerve-wracking, you might feel like you're closing doors on other types of writing work.
But setting yourself up as an expert in a single area can lead to higher-paying projects when you're the go-to person! Here are some areas worth exploring.
Blog and article writing
Long-form writing is incredibly profitable. Google's algorithm updates focus on providing value to the searcher, meaning in-depth content covering all the angles of a particular topic.
If you are familiar with the ins and outs of SEO writing and editing, a client will be making a good financial choice by hiring you.
However, some clients focus less on keywords and prefer to promote thought leadership content writing on their blog.
If you have an engaging writing style, this could be your area! Thought leadership pieces require more research and in-depth interviews, so they take longer to write.
Landing page copy
If you prefer to write bottom-of-the-funnel content focused on conversion, you might want to explore landing page copywriting.
Your job will be to create persuasive copy that moves a reader to follow through on the desired action; perhaps filling out a form or making a purchase.
This type of writing is about understanding what motivates readers and how to appeal to their desires.
Your job is to take a potential customer on a journey, from the moment they first see the product to the point where they need to buy it. You'll need to be persuasive while still staying true to the client's brand voice.
Newsletters or email copy
Editing and writing newsletters is another great way to break into freelance writing. Companies send out newsletters regularly, which can give you a reliable income stream and can be an excellent way to build a relationship with your audience.
Start by asking if local businesses need a freelance writer to help with their newsletter. Or, if you have a particular interest or expertise, you could start your own newsletter and build a subscribers list. Use platforms like ConvertKit or Mailchimp to get started.
There's tons of noise on social media, which means businesses need to cut through the clutter and stand out from the crowd. That's where social media copywriters come in!
This is for you if you're good at coming up with attention-grabbing headlines and writing punchy copy. You'll need to be able to write for a variety of platforms and understand what each social media site is best used for.
Clients understand the value of showcasing how they've helped other businesses and solved their pain points. As a freelance case study writer, you'll interview your clients' customers to understand how they use the product or service.
You'll then use this information to write a detailed case study that can be used on the client's website or to pitch new business.
This type of writing generally requires a lot of research, as you'll need to understand the details of the client's business and their industry.
Create a portfolio
When you start freelance writing, you'll soon learn that prospective clients are rarely interested in your resume. They want to see how well you write.
The best way to produce writing samples is with your byline attached. Some of the best places to have your work published include:
Set up a free account on Medium and publish articles on any topic that interests you. Write about your experiences as a beginner freelance writer and share your tips with other aspiring writers.
For the best exposure, submit your article to a Medium publication. For example, The Startup has more than 760k followers and 8 million monthly readers.
Freelancer FAQs is a site that helps beginner freelancer writers grow their businesses and take their careers to the next level.
You'll find articles on various topics, including pitching clients, getting published, and marketing. Submit a pitch idea, wait for approval and then upload your draft.
The Good Men Project
The Good Men Project has a high domain authority, so your article is more likely to rank highly on Google if published here.
The website focuses on a range of topics from parenting and relationships to social issues and politics. Articles range from 500 to 2,000 words, and you can submit them via this form.
If you're a beginner freelance writer with an interest in yoga, sustainability, or conscious living, then this site is worth checking out. Elephant Journal welcomes submissions from new writers.
Where better to showcase your business writing skills than on the world's largest professional networking site? Use LinkedIn to craft an article related to the type of content you produce, then share it with your network.
Your own blog
Add value to your website by adding a blog section. Create articles related to your niche and let your voice and style shine through.
Choose a niche as a beginner freelance writer
When you start freelance writing, you can choose to offer a range of writing services or to niche down into a specific area.
Not sure what your niche is? It's no problem to choose a relatively broad niche like "lifestyle writer" while you're finding your feet. Narrow the field down as you pick up more gigs and get a feel for the type of work you like and excel at.
Eventually, you may prefer to style yourself as a “wedding writer” or “parenting writer.”
Where does a beginner freelance writer find work?
When you're more established, referrals and prospects will land in your DMs. But at first, you'll need to do some hustling to rustle up some work. Some of the top ways to land writing work include:
The body of the ad will vary in terms of the details they offer. Expect a job description, required experience, volume of work, and potentially a per-word or per-project rate.
Editors regularly put callouts on Twitter and LinkedIn. Follow someone like writer Kaitlyn Arford who retweets all the freelance opportunities she comes across (daily) and regularly hassles editors to share their rates to improve freelance pay transparency.
If you see a post for a writer role you're interested in, don't just reply, "Hi, I'm interested." Stand out from the crowd by contacting the poster via DM, with details of your experience, samples, and rates.
Make it very easy for them to hire you above all the others who've responded to their post.
Experienced writers are often overflowing with work and are looking for a beginner freelance writer to subcontract to. You'll be shocked at how many opportunities are posted in private groups over job boards.
Connect with the right people by joining membership communities like Superpath and Peak Freelance. You'll also find plenty of gems in Facebook groups like Author Success Collective and The Write Life Community.
These platforms are like marmite. You either love them or hate them. But the truth is that most people check them out when they start freelance writing.
There are some incredible success stories, like 29-year-old Alexandra Fasulo, who made $271,000 in 2021 from her Fiverr account, where she began writing press releases and editing blogs.
But there are also widespread tales of freelancers who burn out using these freelance marketplaces due to high competition and hefty platform fees, etc.
If you're tired of waiting to come across writing work, why not go out there and find opportunities? Reach out to clients you'd love to work with via email/DM and tell them why you'd be the perfect person to write their content.
Be sure to personalize your pitch, so it doesn't sound like another template in their inbox.
Find the company you want to write for, then locate a content manager, marketing manager, or editor who works for them. Connect with them on social media, comment on their posts, and share their content, so you're not a complete stranger when you reach out.
Know that successful pitching is a long game – it'll require some effort to be successful, but it can really pay off.
Work with agencies
Agencies don't offer the highest-paying work to writers because they need to take a cut themselves. And often, you won't get a byline for the content, which makes it hard to build your brand.
But agency work can be a fantastic training ground for any beginner freelance writer. Often, you'll write for a wide variety of clients and have the support of an in-house editor to hone your writing skills. Even with a lack of byline, you should be able to get a great reference.
If you're looking for an amazing agency, check out Grizzle, which pays $600 per article and is renowned for upskilling its freelance writer team.
How to create a schedule when you start freelance writing
Trying to work out how to fit your new freelance writing business into your day? As with most things, you need a schedule that maximizes your creativity.
Write at your most productive
Some people are morning larks and can produce their best work early in the day. Others are night owls and would rather write later on. Then there are those of us who have young children and can only string a few sentences together once they're in bed!
Identify when you're the most productive, and schedule your writing for those times. If possible, avoid distractions during those periods, too, so you'll hit a deep workflow.
Set aside marketing time
When you start freelance writing, you'll quickly realize that marketing is a huge part of the job. You'll soon run out of work if you don't spend time growing your client base!
Make sure to schedule some time each day or week to work on your marketing. This could involve sending out pitches, connecting with clients on social media, creating a new portfolio piece, etc.
Guest posting is also enormously effective. This is when you create free articles in return for a byline and amazing exposure. I did this recently when I wrote a guest piece for Zapier, a huge automation site receiving two million monthly page views.
Top SaaS writer Kaleigh Moore is also a fan of guest posting. She says, "I did this early in my career, and by writing a few guest posts for Copyhackers, I was contacted by a handful of new clients who'd seen my byline there and wanted to work with me."
Keep on top of admin
Set some time each day to attend to tedious admin tasks so they don't get in the way of your deep-focused writing work.
That might mean responding to emails or project management tasks in batches, so you'll handle all your admin in one hit. Or it could mean committing to meeting-free days, so you can concentrate instead of getting sidetracked.
Prioritize invoicing and taxes
If you don't get paid, you're not going to be a freelance writer for very long! Make sure to set some time each week to log your hours, send out invoices and follow up on any late payments.
How to avoid burnout as a beginner freelance writer
Freelance writing is so flexible, we can do it anytime and from anywhere. But that doesn’t mean we should!
Freelance writer burnout is surprisingly common, especially when you’re finding your feet as a beginner freelance writer. Here are some ways to prevent it.
Set client boundaries
Be choosy about who you decide to work with and set clear boundaries from the beginning. If a client is demanding, doesn't respect your time, or pays late, it's not worth your stress.
Remember that you're not receiving a full-time wage, paid time off, and other benefits from your client, as you're not their employee.
Create a "Work with me" document or page on your site to outline your communication preferences, what you need from a client before starting work, and your rates. This will save you time in the long run by weeding out unsuitable clients before you begin a project.
Don’t get sucked into content mills
It can be tempting as a beginner freelance writer to take any work that comes your way. But resist the urge to sign up to content mill projects that pay close to minimum wage.
These sites will burn you out with their unrealistic deadlines, low pay, and lack of respect for your time.
Turn off email and social notifications on your phone
If your phone is constantly pinging with email and social media notifications, it will be hard to get the rest you need and be creative later.
And when it's time for work, put your phone on airplane mode or switch it off altogether. This will help you stay completely focused and prevent burnout.
Are you ready to start freelance writing?
Does freelance writing still sound like your dream job? It fits in incredibly well with family life, allows you to work from anywhere in the world, and can be exceptionally lucrative.
Your first job as a beginner freelance writer is to start building your personal brand. Do a little every day to get your name out and expand your client base.