It’s becoming more and more popular for people to quit their day jobs and try to make it as a freelancer, and for a good reason; freelance work comes with tons of freedom and other benefits. So if you like to write, what’s stopping you from being your own boss as a freelance writer? Nothing, you just need to know how to start freelance writing, and we’ve got you covered.
Why Become a Freelance Writer?
The list of benefits that comes with being a freelance writer goes on and on, but here are some of the best ones:
You Run the Show
One of the biggest perks you can enjoy when you master how to start freelance writing is that you control your schedule, hours, and time. As a freelancer, there’s no more clocking in and out, asking for time off, or missing out on big events because of work. You still have to work a certain amount of hours and meet deadlines, but when and how much you work is up to you.
Work from Anywhere
Not only can you work from the comfort of your home in PJs or coffee shops, libraries, cafes, coworking spaces, and more, but you can take your work with you anywhere in the world. If you want to travel, you don’t have to worry about requesting time off or losing income.
Another perk of the location independence that comes with working as a freelance writer is that if you want to or have to move somewhere different, you don’t have to worry about the hassle of job transfers or looking for new work. Digital nomads who work as they travel the world and live in different places are a growing group, and freelance writers are a big part of this community.
Ditch the Commute
Most people spend their mornings in a hectic rush to get everything ready and out the door in time to sit through their work commutes, but as a freelancer, you can use that time to do so much more. When you work at home, the commute is non-existent, and even if you want to work at a coffee shop or co-working space, you can find one nearby. So instead of spending your mornings on a packed train or your evenings stuck in rush hour traffic, you can have more time to do things you enjoy.
Make More Money
When you first start with how to start freelance writing, switching a guaranteed weekly or biweekly paycheck to handling your income can be an adjustment, but in the long run, it provides the opportunity to make more money. As a freelance writer, you set your rates and you control how much work you take on. The control over how much you work means that if you need more money or want to save up for an expensive purchase or vacation, all you have to do is take on more. This is a lot harder to do in a conventional job where usually the only way to make more money is to wait for your annual raise.
This benefit might seem out of place since most traditional jobs provide a guaranteed and consistent paycheck, while freelance work involves landing and keeping clients and often results in varying incomes. But in reality, when you learn how to start freelance writing, you achieve a new level of job security. If you’re laid off or have problems with a traditional job, then out of nowhere you can lose all your income. With freelance writing, if you lose a client, it’s only a portion of your overall income, and with some effort, you can replace that client. Just remember, that for this to work, you have to look for new clients and new work consistently.
Work You Enjoy
One of the biggest downfalls of most traditional jobs is doing work you don’t want to do. Even as a writer for a company, sometimes you’ll just be stuck writing about something you can’t stand or bores you to death. When you work as a freelance writer, you choose the clients and projects you take on, so you can focus on doing work you find interesting.
Lots of Opportunities
In recent years, the demand for freelance writers has surged, and it seems to be a demand that will remain high. With search engine optimization (SEO) becoming such a prominent component of all businesses with an online presence, industries ranging from law to health and wellness and everything in between need writers to produce optimized content.
How to Start Freelance Writing
If those benefits sound good to you and you’re ready to enjoy them all and more, here are some expert tips on how to start freelance writing:
While the benefits above are true and 100 percent attainable by anyone who puts in the time and effort to work as a freelance writer, being a freelance writer is still work. It involves putting in the time, meeting deadlines, reaching out to clients, and producing compelling work that stands out among the competition, so accept that you will have to put in a lot of work, especially when you’re just starting.
Set It in Stone
When you take on a new project, it’s essential to get everything in writing and keep it. It’s often best to create a contract that includes what content is to be written, who it’s written for, how much it will cost, and when the deadline is. Sometimes your clients will have their own contacts for you to sign. Other times, you might find a client who wants to agree on the deadline, cost, and other details via email; if you feel you can trust the client, then that’s no problem, just keep those emails!
Create a Portfolio
Whether you’re just starting as a freelance writer or are growing your freelance writing business, a portfolio is essential to landing clients. The more work you take on, the easier having an updated and compelling portfolio will be, but it’s important that you stay on top of keeping it updated.
Almost any client will want to see how you write before they pay you for writing. Some clients will want writing samples written specifically for them on their topic of choice while other clients will want to see how you write. Even if you’re starting and don’t have any client work, you should create writing samples using topics you can write on well.
Present Your Portfolio
A big part of how to start freelance writing is getting your work out there for prospective clients to see. Sometimes this means spending hours on job boards looking for interesting clients and projects and reaching out with your portfolio. Another effective way to get your samples out there is by creating an online portfolio by starting your own blog or website that displays your work.
Proofread Your Work
As you gain experience as a freelance writer, you’ll produce work that needs less and less editing, but you always want to proofread your work. Just trusting spellcheck and grammar checkers won’t do; there are plenty of mistakes they will miss, and you don’t want to risk appearing unprofessional or as if you have poor spelling or grammar skills, especially in samples and work for new clients.
Figure Out Your Rate
When you’re just starting after learning how to start freelance writing, you’ll probably be taking on any work that comes your way, and often that work will come with a fee set by the client. But if you put in the hard work, soon enough you’ll be landing clients that let you set the price, sometimes this even happens from the start, and it pays to be prepared. Do some research for what the market rate is, which can vary based on writing subjects, and pick a rate that works.
Remember the Research
For determining fees and setting aside time to meet deadlines, most freelance writers think about the writing but forget to factor in the research involved. Research can take up a lot of time, especially if you’re entirely unfamiliar with a subject, so factor it in.
Stay Persistent with Client and Project Searches
Some critical advice for anyone who is learning how to start freelance writing is to stay persistent in your search for more work. Sometimes you have so much work you’ll feel overwhelmed, but other times there will be lulls or clients that no longer need your services, and in those times staying persistent in searching for new clients and projects will pay off. Remember, sometimes a prospective client you’re interested in won’t get back to you until months later when they have a project available.
Can I Really Make a Living Off of Freelance Writing?
Now that you know the benefits of working as a freelance writer and the tips on how to start freelance writing, it’s time for the big question: Can you make a living off of it? How much money a freelance writer makes varies widely and depends on a lot of things, but in short, the answer is yes.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (LBS), the average freelance writer makes a bit more than $60,000 per year, but many freelance writers break annual incomes of $100,000 and more, and hourly rates as lucrative as $250 an hour up. So how can you fall on the higher end of this pay scale? Here are some tips:
Write for High-Paying Niches
Different writing subjects bring in different money. For example, financial writers can make an average of almost $90,000 a year, technical writers can make around $70,000 to over $100,000 a year, and writers in the medical field make close to $150,000 a year. Even ghostwriters can make a liveable (and better) hourly rate with some experience and exposure.
Finding a well-paying niche you can produce quality content for doesn’t mean that you can’t ever write about anything else. You can have your niche as your primary focus and pick up gigs for other topics that also interest you on the side.
Learn How to Type and Write Fast
Time is money, and most freelance writers don’t charge an hourly rate but set a rate per word or a fee per project, which means the faster you can work, the more money you make. To get better at writing faster, practice writing the first drafts of your articles all in one go without stopping to make edits or proofread. Then go back and proofread and make any necessary edits. Over time as your skill enhances, your first draft won’t need much proofreading or editing.
Research can take up a lot of time, especially if you’re writing about an unfamiliar topic. But often writers do a lot more research than they need too. For effective research, an excellent tip to practice is to put in as little research as possible before you write, and then if it’s not enough, you can do more research later. The key to success here is always to start your projects ASAP, so you have time to research later on if you need it.
Deliver High-Quality Work
No one will pay you top dollar for low-quality work, so the secret is figuring out how to write fast and research less while still producing expertly crafted content—and it takes practice.
Whether you’re looking to make the switch from a 9-5 writing job to freelance writing or you’re completely changing fields to take the freelance writing world by storm, you now have the tips you need to know how to start freelance writing. All those benefits we mentioned before are right around the corner.