Here we go… let’s learn how to become a freelance writer, post haste!
We are living in the time of stories! From your bottle of mineral water to your smartphone, from your weekend catch-up with friends to your bedtime meditation – you scroll through many.
Why? Mainly to connect and understand the world in a better way so we can live an enriched life.
Picture this. You are planning to cook a special lunch. You don’t merely browse for a recipe, but a blog where the writer has created an experience around their recipe. While cooking, for a brief moment you experience their life, culture and customs. And it is not just restricted to cooking, even if you are filing your taxes or trying to understand the complexity of a disease or looking for a gadget review, you get help from a writer who has contributed their knowledge to the vast internet.
Now is the best time to pursue a career in writing and become a freelance writer because the internet has broken down the formal barrier of a writing career and made it accessible to anyone who wants to create, share and connect through the written word. It has proven to all that anyone can be a writer. Oh, the joy!
Great! Now that you know that it’s not just for a select group of highly educated or experienced people, you eye all around to see if there’s some way to earn money online from your interests and passions.
Well, you can always join a content company like Shreya in the case study below, but if you value the freedom of selecting your own projects I would suggest waging your own battle.
Welcome! To the world of learning how to become a freelance writer.
But how to start freelance writing? How to become a freelance writer who can successfully sell their wares and pocket some money?
Well, read on.
By the end of this blog post you’ll have a much better understanding about:
The dictionary definition of ‘freelancer’ is pretty self-explanatory – one who is self-employed and is NOT a part of company staff. A freelance writer means that you offer your writing services in return for a fee.
Freelancing comes with some great freedoms such as choosing your own work hours, your own place to work, no forced commute to a dull office, pick projects that satisfy your creative urge, quote a remuneration you think you deserve, no boss to answer to, no communication gap between client and you because of other hierarchical involvement, no office politics and above all, you can take off whenever you want.
Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?!
I’m not going to tell you that it’s all fun and no responsibility. As a freelance writer you’re an independent business owner, so you have to manage all parts of your writing business. But I won’t weigh you down with details as I’d prefer to inspire you to follow your dreams and deal with technical aspects as they arise on your journey.
After all, if you’ve seen any of my content you’ve probably worked out that from my experience, freedom trumps business technical difficulties any day of the week!
So without further ado let’s check out several different types of freelance writing work that you can pursue:
Prefer video format for the 7 Steps to Success? Fair enough, here you go…
Every beginner freelance writer faces the same question – where to begin? If you see above, you will realize the types of freelance writing works are many. It is very easy to get lost. Add to that endless subjects you can write about.
Ask yourself this question: if you want to score some organic produce, would you go to a local supermarket or organic farmers markets? See, you will always approach experts because not only is there an assurance of quality that comes with their expertise but they are also the right people to answer any of your questions, educate you more, add value and make your organic produce buying exercise an experience in itself.
Most marketing gurus share a similar insight to sales trainer and motivational speaker Tom Abbott – “discovering your niche is about finding customers suited to your purpose, expertise and market trend”.
For example, you want to be a travel writer. Great! Ask yourself the following questions –
It is very important to find answers to these because clients are always looking for the best fit for their brand voice. And you can only conquer the battle if you position yourself there well. A 5-star property will definitely not seek a hostel-style review. A luxury train experience won’t have a tone of your Bangkok tuk-tuk ride.
So, invest some time to find your niche! It would also be super beneficial to do Step 1 in our blog on How to Start a Successful Blog which is all about uncovering your passions and experience. This is pretty dang important when refining your niche.
In the book The Talent Code, the author Daniel Coyle discusses his findings surrounding what skill really is. Ultimately it comes down to Myelin which is white matter in the brain that wraps around neuro pathways when you practice something. The faster and more regularly you trigger that neuro pathway through practice, the more Myelin wraps around the pathway which helps you improve.
For example, have you ever seen someone practicing their jump shots on a basketball court? Each time they fire the various brain signals to bounce the ball, raise it up, jump and shoot, Myelin is coating the neuro pathways so that over time each function is done slightly more accurately, resulting in more shots going in the hoop.
Much like sports skills, freelance writing skills are simply neuro pathways that can be improved upon with practice. Typing, using grammar correctly, pitching to prospective clients, efficient researching for a blog post, using imagination for creative writing, creating an outline or structure for an article. They’re all complex webs of neuro pathways that can be Myelinated, exercised, strengthened and improved.
Of course, everybody can write. But to pen down your thoughts coherently with a clear beginning-middle-end is quite a difficult feat. Whether you are writing a long piece or a catchy ad copy, you need clarity, connect and flow of thought.
Over the years, I have practiced a rather easy method to make sense of all the wordy madness in my head. Writing meditation!
Preferably I do it in the morning, straight up first thing! But if you are a night owl, you can do it then. Whenever suits, but just before you sound your creative gong. And it is a must for a beginner.
So what you do is, pick up a piece of paper, a page of a journal, a Microsoft Word Doc – anything – and completely empty yourself out. Just write down whatever is going across your mind. Trust me your piece does not need to make any sense. Just be yourself!
This exercise not only flexes your brain muscles and aligns your thoughts but also cleanses your brain of any negative energy.
Ultimate result: a vast playing field of thought opens up in your head. You can think of fresh ideas, develop them, tease them and add-subtract without any doubt.
Now that your head is clear, there are other exercises that will help you to practice your freelance writing –
A freelance writer’s portfolio is like a brand’s product page – it lists the kind of services you are ready to offer. An interested client should ideally cast a glance and get a feel of your capabilities.
Why do you need one? Simple! To sell your skill. To get more work. To get paid projects. To build trust.
But if you are a newbie in the writing biz, you might be wondering what to put into your portfolio. Got you covered. Follow these guidelines:
A portfolio is incomplete without a writer’s bio which is basically an introduction to you and your work. Take some time out from all the writing and organize your thoughts around why someone will hire you. Describe what you do and how you do it. As you go on writing things down, you may see a pattern emerging.
It is critical for a lot of clients to see how you work around a project. For example:
I hope you get the drift.
“I started to write from a young age, more as a stress buster. I thought I can best express myself through writing. But when I grew up and started my career, I kept it off thinking I don’t want to end up tied to a desk.
I resurrected it pretty late in the day when friends and clients hounded me to start writing again. Also, I was pretty worked up with working at an office and the daily grind that comes with it. The Internet opened up a new world for me. Now I can travel and write. I love this flexibility!”
What do you love about being a freelance writer?
Shreya – “The independence for sure! Of course, choosing is not easy and financial insecurity has a nasty bite. But am not going to compromise my creative freedom for anything.”
What was your first step to getting started as a freelance writer?
Shreya – “I started by creating a few articles on topics I am passionate about like traveling, cooking and mental wellness. I sent them to a good website that curate crowdsourced contents. I shared them on my social media platforms so that my network can see what I’m up to. Mind it, they were done for free and I was content with being given space in their online web space.
Also, I joined Upwork where I shared the same online published work. Clients could sample my style and efficiency and from there, projects started to trickle in.”
How did you get your first client?
Shreya – “I got my first freelance client through contact, so it was offline. Online, it was Upwork.”
Where do you find most of your freelance writing work?
Shreya – “I regularly work through Upwork. I’m working in Upwork for a year now. The start can be really jittery and nail-biting, but if you keep your cool and be patient and consistently work well, nobody can stop you!”
What advice would you give to aspiring freelance writers?
Shreya – “Don’t expect overnight results even if you are a great writer. Remember J. K. Rowling! Practice peace, meditate, exercise, eat healthily and let the energy flow clean.
Writer’s block is definitely there. But there are many ways to beat it. I usually take off time to pursue other hobbies like cooking something creative if I can’t be creative on papers. This strategy has definitely helped me a lot!”
Writing tools are diverse. Starting from checking grammar to taking notes, from creating a coffee shop like ambience so that you can focus on your craft (if that’s your thing!), to hunting for stock photos, the range will definitely amaze you. Yeah! You run the risk of getting lost in the forest of writing tools too.
So a piece of advice, search for them and learn them according to your need! You are not required to use a lot of them, and they will hardly improve your writing skills. They are a support system. Remember, there is nothing greater than your talent and skill, which as we’ve already discussed above is definitely improvable.
Below are a few tools that Shreya has discovered over the years which have helped her a great deal and “added the necessary spunk in my freelance online writing jobs” –
Of course, there are plenty more apps, but the above-mentioned ones are a good way to start your journey in the writing ‘tool-verse’.
Writing jobs don’t just land in your lap!
You have to let the prospective clients know that you exist and that you know their needs. Also, that you are the best person for the job. But how do you do it?
Pretty simple! You craft a perfect pitch.
And before we begin, please don’t use templates or cookie cutter pitches or proposals. Even though you might think they’re acceptable, they stink of copy & paste lack of effort.
In freelance online writing jobs, you can face two kinds of scenarios:
The former comes along with a specific requirement in most cases. You can read the job brief and tailor your pitch accordingly.
Shreya had a good example, saying that she “came across a client who is a rug-seller and was looking for a blogger who can write an educating article for his clients on how to choose perfect rug size according to the room. The topic is pretty standard and you cannot budge much or get extra creative with inches and feet. So what can you do to stand apart?
“I ended up suggesting a unique treatment to my client in my proposal mail. My fresh idea of exploring the personality of each room changing depending on the size, texture, pattern, and color of the rug appealed to the client.”
The key to good pitch writing is to keep it short and crisp while briefly outlining the topic treatment.
But one pitch won’t work for another. For the latter where you are proposing a project to an online website, I will suggest you go with a cold pitch. For a cold pitch, you have to meticulously research your client. With in-depth research, you will hit two birds with one stone. Firstly, you will find the holes that you can plug with your proposed topics and secondly, you will find how to make your pitch relevant to the brand.
For offline publications like magazines and newspapers, you should send query letters to the editor which should ideally contain your bio, story idea, the purpose of the article and how you are going to achieve it through the piece.
Writing pitches and proposals can get tiring, but with every attempt, you will improve.
After writing every ten pitches, evaluate and analyze the result. Incorporate the points that work and cut the frill off the others. This will definitely help you be successful in your writing endeavor.
All you beginners out there, the internet is your bae! Make your portfolio in any of the below platforms and kick start your freelance writing career –
This is only the tip of the digital iceberg. Plenty of online writing job platforms are available. Be watchful of the scammers and never pay to get a project.
This is the most important step in establishing a career as a freelance writer. Unlike a fixed salary in your account at the end of every month, most freelancers earn per project. And once the floodgate of projects opens, it becomes tiring to keep a note of everything.
Follow a few basic income tracking methods like the following –
Don’t ignore financial management as this is an important step, otherwise, you will get lost in the chaotic world of freelancing and it will spit you out the other end.
Having discovered first-hand the frustration that comes with pursuing a new venture, such as creating a YouTube channel that I tried to create a few years ago (which failed after a full year of effort and creating over 70 videos), I’m a big advocate for upskilling by learning from other people who have achieved something that you would like to achieve.
On that note, I strongly recommend having a look at the following courses that I found for you.
At the time of writing this blog post Udemy had a ‘Today Only! 24-Hour Flash Sale!’ which significantly reduces the prices of courses, and at SkillShare they have a ‘Get your first month of Skillshare Premium for free’ offer. So no excuses. Grab a course and learn as much as you can possibly absorb!
I chose these 2 Udemy courses as they both had more than 20 reviews and were top scorers at 4.5 stars. I chose these 3 SkillShare courses as they all had 100+ students which is a good sign.
I sincerely hope this blog post has helped you in one way or another and made clear how to become a freelance writer. If you got something out of it we would greatly appreciate if you could share this post so others can also benefit. Thank you and all the best!!