How to Become a Freelance Writer (Step by Step)

There’s so much potential in writing, from earning a living to changing lives. Check out our guide on how to become a freelance writer to learn more.

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The best writing shows us new worlds, perspectives, and experiences we can use to better inform our lives. Writing a novel can take years at a time, but what other ways can you use writing to improve your (financial) world? 

If you’ve thought about how to become a freelance writer, you’re not alone. Freelance writing has grown tremendously in the past few years, especially with remote and work-from-home jobs gaining popularity. 

In fact, freelancing is expected to grow by over 10% in the next six years. Did you know that over 80% of freelancers in the United States are writers?  

Everyone has an opinion about how to become a freelance writer, but the truth is that it’s as unique a journey as you’ll find in any storybook. Like any hero, you can start with a mission, but the world has a way of altering your path in ways you couldn’t ever imagine. 

Are you ready to learn more about how to become a freelance writer? Let’s get started! 

What Does a Freelance Writer Do 

A freelance writer is one of the best work-from-home jobs if you’re looking for flexibility and the chance to write your own story. Here are just a few of the projects you could work on as a freelance writer:

  • Create blogs for clients’ websites
  • Write guest posts for websites other than your own
  • Work on technical documents
  • Pen short stories 
  • Develop marketing advertisement copy
  • Manage social media accounts by curating viral content and repackaging it
  • Write YouTube video scripts for money-making channels
  • Help businesses find and earn grants 
  • Write press releases for new products, services, etc. 

The world of freelance writing is vast and contains numerous opportunities to write various types of deliverables, from video scripts and blog articles to technical manuals and social media ads. If a company needs the right words to make a sale, you’ll get paid if you can fulfill that need. 

When it comes to clients, freelance writers often work through the internet to find them, so you’re not pinned down to a specific location. Communicate with potential clients via email, over the phone, or even in a video chat. 

However, you can also find local businesses in need of freelance writing. Your favorite radio station might need a writer to come in and work with their team for a specific ad, a snippet they do on their show, or even an announcement for an upcoming event.  

The best part about freelance writing is that you can research things like “how to live without a job,” “how to become an Instagram influencer,” or “how to use a drone to make money.” The opportunities for learning and getting paid for it are practically endless. 

How Much Do Freelance Writers Make

Indeed reports that freelance writers make an average of $21.26 per hour, depending on location, experience, skill set, etc. At the same time, most freelance writing work doesn’t have to be hourly. 

Instead, you can charge per word, per deliverable, or even per month as a retainer fee. It all depends on which clients you work with and what services you offer. 

For example, you might work with one client to deliver 10 blogs per month. You could get paid per word for each of those articles or a flat fee instead if you upload those blogs to the website each month. 

Getting into the freelance writing industry without any experience is easier these days, especially with AI tools such as Jasper and ChatGPT. These writing programs are certainly a threat in some ways, but they can help new writers get a feel for industry expectations. 

Increasing your income as a freelance writer is a topic for its own article, but starting in a popular niche can jumpstart your freelance writing career. Many evergreen niches include healthcare, finance, technology, lifestyle, and entertainment. 

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How to Become a Freelance Writer

Each freelance writing career is unique. Here are the basic steps you’ll need to follow to become a freelance writer. 

Get Curious

To get into some of the best side hustles, you’ll want to figure out how an entrepreneur took a part-time weekend job from supplementing their income to providing it full-time. That takes a lot of research and learning about other freelance writers’ careers. 

The first step in becoming a freelance writer is tapping into your curiosity. Look into the online business ideas that writers capitalized on to launch their careers to see if you can do the same. 

Many writers have embraced AI, for example, as a way to figure out how to make money with ChatGPT. It’s all about how you use your resources to bring value to your clients and audience.  

The more you can learn about freelance writing, the better off you’ll be when you begin. Learning from other people's mistakes can help you avoid those same pitfalls. 

Getting curious about freelance writing can also help you answer questions like:

  • How much should I set aside in taxes each year?
  • Will I need to pay estimated quarterly taxes?
  • What will I do for health insurance? 
  • How will I get paid? 
  • How can I find clients? 
  • What resources can I use to improve my writing and contribute to my education? 
  • What niches will I write in?
  • What are my goals in becoming a freelance writer? 

If you’ve researched enough about freelance writing and the logistics involved to choose it as a career path, the work has just begun. Now that you know what goes into it, it’s time to apply those lessons in the real world. 

Establish Your Writing Career

Part of establishing your writing career is taking physical action to set up your workflow processes and payment processing platforms, but the other half is all mental. You’ll need to create a contract with yourself to establish your writing career. 

Many of the steps you’ll need to take to become a freelance writer mirror those you’d take if you wanted to start a micro business. Check out our list of the best banks for freelancers to help you manage your money. 

You should also consider your options when it comes to retirement for self-employed people and self-employed health insurance premiums. A task management program, an image editing program, and a business email are must-haves as well. 

It can be helpful to imagine the process you’ll take with a prospective client to determine if you’ve set up your freelance writing business correctly. How will you contact and connect with them, how will they pay you, and how will you agree on terms are all questions you should ask yourself before you start looking for work. 

Establishing writing resources is a critical step in this stage of the game. Find those sources that help support your writing, from grammar tools to inspirational blogs.

Pick a Niche and Develop a Portfolio 

Choosing a niche is often one of the hardest parts of becoming a freelance writer. Though it can be restricting, you should consider it to be the first stone in a path full of many. 

Limiting yourself to one particular area of writing helps to avoid the anxiety of overwhelming opportunity. It’s a real thing in the writing industry, so avoid it by going with a topic you know quite a bit about and growing out from there. 

A niche will help you to fill up a portfolio faster than you can say “resume.” There are many free portfolio websites out there that help you display your work, even if it’s something you write up specifically for that site only:

  • Clippings
  • Muck Rack
  • Journoportfolio
  • Contently
  • Pressfolios
  • Behance

Your portfolio should showcase not only your niche but also your experience. If you love to talk about beauty products and received a cosmetology degree, by all means, highlight that experience in your portfolio. 

The idea is to establish yourself as a subject matter expert (SME). This builds your credibility and puts you ahead of general writers with less experience. 

As you build your freelance writing career, you’ll come back to this portfolio and add to it. Testimonials and high-profile clippings can help you find better-paying jobs. 

Set Your Rates

Freelance writing rates are a hard number to pin down, especially in such a competitive market. However, like most online jobs and part-time jobs, there are ranges out there for various experience levels. 

For example, most new writers start their hourly rates between $20-$40. Hourly rates are often used because they’re easier to compare to “regular” jobs than a per-word or per-article rate. 

Established writers who have a few clients under their belt can charge between $50 and $80 per hour. The most experienced writers charge over $100 per hour. 

Part of setting your rates is also coming up with a contract you’ll use in each transaction. You can find many examples of freelance writing contracts online, and even those behind a paywall are often worth the money to use as a starting point. 

Writing without a contract can be a dangerous business. You’ll only do this a few times before you realize you need the protection of a written contract. 

Freelance writers often require business clients to pay half up-front and half upon delivery. Again, the resources you establish to support your writing career can help you understand what’s expected in the industry. 

Market Your Services

Now that you’ve set yourself up for success, it’s time to tell the whole world that you’re a freelance writer! You can use your portfolio, social media, friends, network, and family to get the word out to find clients. 

Freelance writers also connect with clients through cold pitches and letters of introduction (LOIs). Pitches deal with a specific article idea or topic, while letters of introduction simply let that person know what services you offer. 

Business networking sites are a great tool to use as well. You can also stay active in the freelance writing community or the niche industry in which you specialize to find clients, too. 

Surf Job Boards

In addition to pitches and LOIs, you’ll want to establish a list of job boards to surf as you look for work. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Blogging Pro
  • Upwork
  • Fiverr
  • ProBlogger
  • WritersAccess
  • Contently 
  • LinkedIn Jobs
  • Mediabistro
  • Freelancer.com
  • Freelance Writing Gigs
  • Contena 
  • Smart Blogger 

You can also establish and use your own website and various social media platforms to find work as well. Content marketing agencies also hire new writers to help them gain experience. 

Continue Your Education

Learning how to become a freelance writer is also about continuing your own writing education. Check out some of the best entrepreneur books, best business websites, and small business tips to stay ahead of your competition.

Courses and certifications can also help you stand out. Learn about the importance of SEO, how to start a blog, or how to lower your business expenses with platforms such as Udemy and Skillshare. 

You can also network with other freelance writers to see what resources they use. Tap into their knowledge to see how you can take advantage of what the internet has to offer in addition to the clients you connect with. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Freelance Writing

Many people assume freelance writing is one of those easy jobs that pay well. But if you’re sitting at the table trying to figure out how to make an extra $1,000 a month, it takes some experience to make that happen. 

Here are some of the pros and cons millennial entrepreneurs should consider before delving into a career as a freelance writer:

Pros:

  • Flexible work schedule 
  • Work from anywhere with an internet connection
  • Get paid to learn about new things
  • Extensive experience is not always necessary
  • Set your own rate 
  • Choose who you work with 
  • Join a supportive community of successful freelance writers

Cons:

  • Work can be inconsistent
  • Writing can get repetitive 
  • Competitive industry
  • Potential for scams
  • Getting paid can be a struggle at times 

You can become a good entrepreneur even if you’re not good at writing. With freelance writing, there are tons of opportunities to find your niche and succeed without having to be a jack of all trades. 

FAQs

How can I become a freelance writer? 

You can become a freelance writer by setting up a portfolio website, writing a few articles, and earning money by selling those articles. Every writer’s journey is different, but learning from other established freelance writers can help guide you. 

How much do freelance writers get paid? 

Freelance writers are paid anywhere from $15 to $100+ per hour, depending on many factors. Freelance writers can be paid per word, per article, per hour, or even on a retainer. 

What type of freelance writing jobs pay the most? 

The freelance writing jobs that pay the most typically go to writers with extensive experience in a particular niche. However, you can also earn quite a bit if you are good at a particular type of writing, such as technical or email marketing. 

Write Your Future Today

Freelance writing is quickly becoming one of the more popular side hustles that entrepreneurs turn into a source of full-time income. If you’re curious about how to become a freelance writer, we hope this article has helped you not only to see what it’s like but also what your next steps are to enter this profession. 

The journey of a freelance writer can be exciting and anxiety-inducing at the same time. While it’s not a profession everyone can succeed in, it definitely offers writers a chance to fill the pages of their books with whatever comes next. 

Where will freelance writing take you? Start your freelance writing career today to find out! 

About the author

Brian Meiggs
Hi, I'm Brian Meiggs! A personal finance expert, entrepreneur, and the founder of My Millennial Guide. My drive is to help others unlock the wealth of freedom and pave the path to financial success. With my bachelor's degree in finance, I help millennials follow the smart money in order to increase their earning potential and start building wealth for the future. I write regularly about side hustles, investing, and general personal finance topics aimed to help anyone earn more, pay off debt, and reach financial freedom. I have been quoted in major publications including Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, NASDAQ, Discover, GoDaddy, BiggerPockets, Fox News, Debt.com, Quick Sprout, Money Geek, MSN Money and many more!