Wondering how to become a freelance writer?
I get it. Believe me.
Some seven years ago, I wondered the exact same thing.
You see, at the time, I was a cubicle dweller. I struggled to climb the corporate ladder. I hated office politics. And I felt drained by the 9-to-5 grind.
That’s when I started to plot my cubicle escape. And I knew, more than anything, that I wanted to become a freelance writer.
And, like you, my first question was simply “how to become a freelance writer.”
As it turns out, the answer wasn’t quite so easy to come by. And, my journey from corporate world to freelance writer freedom was anything but glamorous.
Fortunately, for you, times have changed. And, today, it’s much easier to figure out how to become a freelance writer. There are a number of people, myself included, who’ve been in your shoes (and are willing to share their wisdom with you!).
So, without further ado, this is my no-frills, no-fuss, straightforward advice to how to become a freelance writer in three stupid simple steps.
You Don’t Need Experience To Become A Freelance Writer
Fact: You do not need professional writing experience to become a freelance writer.
Writing is not something that requires years of formal education. Heck, it doesn’t even require previous experience. You also don’t need:
- A college degree
- Tons of writing samples
- To have written professionally before
What it does take, however, is the passion to write. Without that inherent passion to put words to paper, you will burn out. Quickly. And that’s no fun.
Trust me. I know.
I never wrote professionally. And I certainly didn’t know how to become a freelancer writer.
But, I did have the desire to learn AND a passion for writing. Sound familiar?
Good news! You’ve got what it takes to become a freelance writer. A desire to learn and passion to write are the only prerequisites to figuring out how to become a freelance writer!
Got it? Good! Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started.
Step1: Niche Down
A newbie freelance writer benefits from having a niche.
A niche is a specific subject, topic, genre, or industry you’ll write about.
For example, when I decided to become a freelance writer, I opted for the legal niche. I wrote specifically for lawyers, law firms, and corporate legal departments.
But, that’s not the only niche out there.
There are TONS of niches you can choose to write about.
Which niche you decide will likely depend on your knowledge, experience, and interests!
Feeling stuck for a niche? Grab this free guide to 200+ niche ideas for a little niche inspiration.
Why A Niche Is Helpful
As an eager newbie, it can be easy to think a niche limits your ability to find clients. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, your niche will make it easier to find clients. How so?
When you know who your potential clients are (for me it was lawyers), it’s much easier to find them. And once you find them, it’s easier to market to one specific group, instead of trying to please all niches at once.
So, before you start worrying about things like portfolios, rates, and contracts, be sure to pick a niche.
It’s important to note: You can absolutely have more than one niche. And, over time, your niche might change. That’s okay. But, in the very beginning, pick a niche and stick with it. You’ll find it’s much easier to become a freelance writer with a well-defined niche than without one.
Step 2: Get Some Writing Samples
When you pitch a potential client (more on that later), they will want to see samples of your past work.
Now, this is where most newbie start to panic. They now start asking questions like how to become a freelance writer if I have no writing samples?
You write them.
Remember, you’ve already picked a niche at this point. Woohoo. And, while you haven’t yet written anything as a paid freelance writer, it doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead and write them for free.
That’s what I did.
The Power of Guest Posting
You see, I knew I wanted to write for lawyers.
And I knew that most of the lawyers I would write for would need blog posts for their websites. So, I started looking online for legal-niche websites that accepted guest blog posts. In case you don’t know, a guest blog post is typically a one-off contribution from a non-paid contributor.
Some blogs and websites allow the general public to write guest posts that are published on their site. You likely won’t get paid for your work. But you will get a byline (a mention of your name) and a valuable link you can show off to potential clients!
Trust me, when it comes time to pitch, these bylines and guest post links are priceless. Having several guest blogs published on well-known, reputable legal websites helped me land some of my more lucrative freelance writing jobs as a newbie.
So, before you move on. Stop!
Think about your niche. Picture your target client. Determine what kind of content they’ll want.
Now, hop onto Google and start searching for blogs and websites within your niche that accept guest posts.
You can also check out this awesomely detailed guide to sites that take on guest contributors!
Once you complete this step, you’ll have real world samples of your writing skills, published and ready to be viewed when a would-be client inevitably asks to see examples of your work!
Step 3: Know Where To Look For Work
Learning how to become a freelance writer also means learning where to find work as a freelancer.
There are several ways to find your clients:
- Cold emailing
- Freelance websites
- Content mills
- Job search sites
Each have their pros and cons. And, as a newbie, don’t be afraid to try them all. Chances are, you’ll find one (or more) that works best for you. For me, it was a combination of cold emailing and freelance websites.
When you cold email, you are asking someone to hire you out of the blue. This sounds scary. And, it can be, but it is something you should consider doing.
You can find potential clients to cold contact on LinkedIn. If you’re not not on this mega-networking powerhouse yet, what are you waiting for?
Use these tips to create a powerful LinkedIn Profile that gets views!
You can also use Google to your advantage. I would google law firms and lawyers in different metropolitan areas. It was easy to find their contact information. And, in a matter of minutes, I could introduce myself, my services, and send out several pitches.
Pros of Cold Emailing
- You find your own clients
- You don’t have to pay fees to anyone for work performed
Cons of Cold Emailing
- It’s time consuming
- You may get less than favorable responses
Sites like Upwork, Guru, Freelancer, and other freelance marketplace sites exist to connect freelancers and clients. Essentially, they serve as the middleman between you and your clients. That also means these sites take a cut of your earnings. How much, you ask? It depends.
But, expect to cough up as much as 10% of money earned.
Unlike cold emailing, you will not have to search google or scour LinkedIn to find potential clients. Instead, you’ll find a list of active jobs posted by clients looking to hire N-O-W.
You then send in your pitch telling the client why they should hire you over the hundreds of other freelancers.
Sometimes, you’ll get hired. Sometimes, you won’t.
Payments are handled through the freelance site. And clients can leave feedback to let others know how easy (or difficult) you were to work with and the quality of the work received.
Pros of Freelance Websites
- Thousands of jobs right at your fingertips
- Payments are handled for you
Cons of Freelance Websites
- Have to pay fees on earnings
- Competition can be fierce
Okay. I’m gonna come right out and say it: Content mills are controversial.
Some freelance writers cannot stand them. They think that these content mills cheapen the industry as a whole.
Others don’t have too much of an issue with them.
I fall in the latter camp.
You see, the issue with content mills usually stems from the pay.
Content mills get their name because they are sites clients use to mass order writing for cheap. The content mill, in turn, farms out the writing assignments to freelancers. The pay rate is often as little as $0.01 per word (or less in some instances!).
I’ve written for a content mill called Textbroker. You can read my review here.
For a wannabe work-from-home introvert, Textbroker helped me develop confidence in my writing.
Yes, the pay was crap. Yes, I worked hours on some assignments making way less than minimum wage. But, I knew that going into it. And, I was okay with it because Textbroker helped me earn my first paycheck as a freelancer and showed me how to become a freelance writer with practical experience.
Looking back, it was like a paid writing internship. I didn’t earn a lot in terms of money, but the knowledge gained was worth it.
Pros of Content Mills
- Gain valuable experience
- Can start writing for pay quickly
Cons of Content Mills
- Pay can be super low
- Writing assignments may be boring
Job Search Sites
Job search sites aren’t just for full-time office jobs! You can also use them to help you figure out how to be a freelance writer.
It’s simple. Traditional job search sites, like Indeed, make it easy to narrow down postings to freelance-friendly options. Simple search for “freelance writer” in the “what” box and, boom, an instant list of freelance writing jobs.
Keep in mind, not all listings will be work-from-home. Keep an eye out for this as you browse through leads.
Another great option? FlexJobs!
FlexJobs guarantees all of its job leads are 100% legit. And, for freelancers constantly looking for work, a yearly subscription can offer lots of leads to keep you busy.
Save an extra 30% off of yearly subscription plan by using promo code: AFFPROMO
Two other sites I highly recommend (that are totally free) include:
Both sites are job boards specifically targeted to freelance writers, like you. Clients posts ads specifically looking for writers for hire. Browse through these sites DAILY. You never know what you’ll come across!
Again, the method you use to find work will depend on what works for you. For me, it was a combination of content mills, job search sites, and freelance marketplaces. Once you get into it, you too will find the right combo of work to keep you flush with clients!
How To Become A Freelance Writer: Pitch Like A Pro
You have a niche. You know where to find work. But how do you actually get hired as a freelance writer?
That’s where pitching comes into play.
A pitch is your virtual elevator speech. It’s a short and concise rundown of why a client should hire you (and not Freelance Writer Jane or Joe over there).
Effective pitching can make or break your freelance writing career. No pressure, right?
Don’t worry. Pitching becomes second nature after awhile. And, like any freelancer, you’ll refine your pitch the longer you’ve been at it.
But, as a newbie, here are a few quick and dirty tips to remember about pitching:
Let’s say you find an ad looking for a freelance blogger. Tell the client why you would be a great blogger. Don’t write in general terms. Tell them you write blog posts that are engaging, informative, and share-worthy. Always sell your services in terms of what the client is looking for.
Don’t act like you’re new to the freelance writing game (even if you are)! Tell the client you’d be great for the job because of XYZ.
There are a lot of jobs you’ll pitch for that aren’t exactly your ideal client. That’s okay. Always sound enthusiastic, but never desperate. Let a client know you look forward to working with them and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the project further.
Link to your previous work (why it’s important to submit guest posts!). It’s infinitely better to show linked proof to work than send attachments in pitches 🙂
Nobody likes to work with a jerk, right? So, always, always be kind in your pitches. Don’t come off as short or curt. Don’t appear to be overly confident. Be genuine, polite, and kind!
How To Become a Freelance Writer Course
Feeling overwhelmed as you work to figure out how to become a freelance writer?
There’s no shame in asking for help!
For an extra helping hand, I highly recommend the online course Write Your Way to Your First 1K.
The course creator is my friend and fellow blogger, Elna Cain. She started from scratch and built a successful freelance writing career (while raising twin toddlers!). Impressive, no?
If she can do it, so can you. She shows you how in her online course. It’s filled with actionable steps, how-to guides, and lots of real world tips you can put to use immediately.
It’s the perfect course to show you how to become a freelance writer when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Sign up today and be one step closer to earning your first 1K as a freelance writer!
Questions? Comments? Feeling Confused? Leave an SOS in the comments section below. I’m here to help.
P.S. This post contains affiliate links. What are they? Learn more about them in my disclosure statement.