One of the oldest professions in the world is that of a writer. It's one of the rare opportunities to share perspectives on the world or various topics and profit from imagination or expertise. While it can be tedious, it's unlike any other career.
The sheer vastness of topics, the chances to expand your knowledge while building a career that allows you to set your hours is what makes it such an exceptional job.
In this article, we will be walking you through the steps you will need to take to become a freelance writer, breaking down key advice so that you can avoid most of the common pitfalls that can kill careers early.
By the end of this article, you should understand the blueprint to success that will help you get the best rates, handle clients, and quickly build your client list while improving your work quality gradually over time.
Freelance writing is not as simple as sitting down to a blank screen and writing the next great novel. Various forms and types of freelance writing can suit writers of every kind.
Some types require significant technical prowess and high attention to detail, all while balancing heavy jargon subjects with a small timeframe for returning work.
Other forms of freelance writing work are leisurely, permitting the writer to take liberty with fact and harp on creative types of writing for entertainment purposes. It all depends on what your strengths are. It's important to take your time understanding your weakness and your strengths.
Everything plays a part, from your education to your past writing experiences, your typing speed, and more. Your expertise in a particular field can be the difference between churning out mass quantities of low quality work or crafting quality content at a fair pace for a great price. Before we begin, ask yourself:
Understanding your plan for your business is the primary way to ensure that you will be on the road to success instead of a dead end. Most writers look at freelance writing as just that, writing or an art form.
While it is an art, the moment you begin accepting money for it, it becomes more than that. It becomes a business and a relationship with every client that you accept.
How you cultivate your business and those relationships will be your lifeblood for a long time. If you think that you can just dive right in, you’ll find yourself eventually stagnating and frustrated from either lack of quality clients or too much stress.
For instance, many writers load up on easy to find writing jobs, choosing things sporadically without having a plan or exit strategy. Working for content mills versus for content providers or as a provider for a business that uses content is entirely different.
Your hours are longer, your turnaround time for writing content is quicker, and the quality requirements are lower because they are meant to be placeholders in many cases. Who you choose to write for can either help sharpen or increase your skillset, or it can dull it.
There are many categories for freelance writing that can require varying forms of skills and expertise to break into. Many writers enter the market with some experience, but it isn't necessary depending on what you plan to do.
While there are many sub or ambiguous categories, these are the main ones that are the money makers. They each have different high and low ends of payment, time investment requirements, and quality standards. What works in one category may not work in others.
Many writers choose to become specialists in one type of writing, and that becomes their primary focus for the long term. We will go into why that may or may not be a good idea later on.
If you are someone that excels as a scientific writer or are a writer that is capable of doing in-depth research and deciphering an array of numbers, data, consider being a technical writer.
Technical writers handle everything from textbooks to instruction manuals. If you can teach and lead people to understand complex operations with concision, then technical writing may be suitable for you, and it pays well.
The type of writing that everyone dreams of, entertainment writing can mean anything from writing for BuzzFeed to a comedy site. Entertainment writing can pay a lot, or a little and jobs tend to be super competitive.
It's due to the massive amount of writers that think they can write comedy or exciting pieces. While it's not only web content work, that is the bulk of it. Work can also include writing frothy romance novels on ultra-specific topics that there is a market for. It all depends on what projects you are willing to accept.
The pay range will vary wildly upon how you establish yourself, your ability to churn out creative work consistently, and how much time you are willing to wait. It also depends on how well you can find the work itself due to the flood of writers. Your competition will either be mild or high on a project to project basis.
Informational writing is different from entertainment in that its purpose is almost exclusively to inform. There may be overlaps in the two writing styles that cause them to be similar, such as in the case of news articles, but for the most part, informational writing is focused on facts more than conjecture.
Informational writing usually takes the form of articles on more dense topics such as real estate, business, health, self-help, DIY projects and more. This content can come in various forms from long articles meant to educate the reader on how to accomplish a task to what symptoms of a particular illness are.
Not all topics are hard; some can be lighter and tend to be toward the goal of solving a problem or question that the audience is asking.
Informational writing is particularly valuable because it requires the writer to be able to also break down a myriad of different points of information into one source that can gradually become a network of info in the form of multiple articles on one topic.
Informational writing skills that are vital to have is the ability to research, quickly draft, thoroughly edit, and turn around work within a small time frame. The better quality content you can write and the faster you write it, the better you can do with your earnings.
This is the easiest area to break into and make a living. There is always an abundance of people trying to find out information, which means there is always topics you can write about and a client that needs your services.
Sales copywriting is perhaps one of the hardest but most fulfilling types of writing to undertake. It requires the writer to be capable of understanding audiences, products, and how to bridge the gap between them.
Sales copywriting can range from ads to email list writing, to creating products and sales pages. Sales copywriting pay can also vary but for the greatest writers who establish themselves, can be wildly lucrative.
Sales copywriting is exceptionally competitive, but the better of a salesman you are at getting clients, the better you probably will be at the job itself.
The primary challenge of sales copywriting is knowing which headline will grab attention, which paragraphs and sentences come across wrong or interrupt the flow of your intended target's buying decisions and more.
Sales copywriting is perfect for those that have an aptitude for sales and want to apply that skill set into written form.
Regardless of whichever you choose, the questions that were mentioned before are all you need to find out how to exactly make the most out of your skillset.
While some types offer an advantage, others only require a bit more effort to break into the income range you want. Patience is the most significant key, so before we get into actually finding jobs and building your brand/identity, let's talk writing styles.
Many people believe that they are good writers because they received commendations in school. The first thing to understand is that writing for school and writing for clients is completely different.
Your ability to write is based on how adaptable you can be, and in many cases requires you to take an honest look at what kind of writing style you have, and what you need to improve on.
One of the best ways to find out how quality your writing is is to check the Reddit writers section or join a forum or facebook group. It's the cost-efficient method for finding out how good your writing is, by simply asking for feedback on an article you wrote. More often than not, writing communities are supportive.
You'll receive detailed reasons from a variety of sources where and how your writing is lacking and recommendations on what to read or study to improve. Writing is much like any other skills, education and reading good writing, leads to improvements.
One of the hardest parts of setting up a good stream of writing work is picking what you want to write about. The way it works is that the market is usually able to offer you whatever you are looking for, it just requires you know what you want to write about, and what you want to get paid for it.
You have three options:
The reality is, the harder a topic is to write about, the fewer people want to or can write about it. The niches that are the most challenging to write about but pay the most tend to be:
These are the automatic money makers, and they are ingrained in people's lives as some of the essential things to know about. Consequently, they tend to be the most boring for most people to write about, the hardest to research, requiring dense reading materials or having a background in the subject.
If you want to write for pure earning capability, pick a technical or harder to write for a niche that requires education. It means you will probably always be able to find good work, and if you are good at it or learn to be good at it will be able to earn consistently.
One of the more popular choices is to write for your passion. If your passion is fashion, there is a way to make money from it as a freelancer. The primary challenge is the competition and the pay rate that you will likely have to fight for.
If you are willing to take the challenge just so that you can write about subjects you enjoy, there is much more work involved in the long term and requires that you essentially build a portfolio that is niche specific.
You need to be abreast of what the current trends are in your niche, and you need to keep writing about the subject even when you don't have work to fulfill.
All in all, writing for your passion is more work than writing about difficult subjects in some cases.
There is a middle ground that exists that you can take advantage of. You can mix your workload, using main projects that would be your primary income that could be for passion or the money. You can then use the other to supplicate your income.
Your ideal niche should be something that makes money but isn't too painful for you to write about. You should take the time to research what the experience and education you have are best suited toward.
Whatever you choose to write about, keep in mind, you can always change your focus later on/incorporate it into your overall business plans.
The process of finding your writing jobs itself is dependent on a few variables:
Every opportunity to get a writing job will play a part in your next job. Your time is your most valuable commodity, and if you get lost in doing one type of job, you'll find it is difficult to upgrade to something else that you may want to do.
The best places to get your first writing jobs are:
Each has their advantages and disadvantages. Upwork is excellent because of the diversity and specificity of the job opportunities you will have at your disposal.
They have a robust suite for doing everything from managing clients to bidding on jobs with live updates and push notifications. It is easy to establish yourself, and you can take tests to make yourself more relevant to your clients.
Not to mention, the subscription features make it easier to get the higher quality jobs and make yourself more visible to clients.
Problogger is a favorite for many because their job board offers solid contracts from reputable sources at the click of a button. All of their employers are well vetted and have a firm understanding of what it means to work with a freelance writer.
The job descriptions are clear, the pay is usually fantastic, and their expectations are reasonable.
When it comes to places like upwork, sometimes you'll get clients that have no idea what they want and aren't willing to pay enough for the headaches.
Fiverr has a similar problem, but it's easier to break into, though one of the main limitations is that Fiverr is oriented towards clients that want the most for the lowest price possible without realistic expectations as well.
Fiverr is good for quick, easy jobs, whereas sites like Upwork and Problogger are open to everyone from career writers to weekend warriors. The healthiest writer client bases are ones that have work from a bit of everywhere. The best clients you will deal with will only be 30% max of the ones that you work with at some point.
Writing-jobs.net is one of the few on this list that goes above and beyond both with their customer service and their job pool to get writers the best jobs at the best prices.
Sites like writing-jobs.net and upwork use their subscription fees to keep poor quality or underinvested writers away from the higher paying clients that will give you the best experience. The more low-quality writers a potential client has to deal with, the worse they will be when you have to work with them.
The research process for articles is pretty simple. You should first start off by asking yourself questions about the topic.
Starting here will make it easy for you to become at least competent in the subject. The basis you have in the topic educationally is what will make it easier for you to find the answer the questions that your audience wants to know and your article needs to address.
As you work through the questions, your research will help you by answering those questions. When you write your article, it will come across naturally, and you will be able to convey the information appropriately.
There are mainly four main points to consider when working as a writer for taking care of your clients if you want them to be your patrons for long.
Stick to deadlines is as simple as it sounds. Don't skimp on clients time. One of the biggest things that stop clients from using a freelancer again is them being unreliable. The more consistent you are with your work quality, and the better their experience, the more they want to work with you.
Every freelance writer needs to have a revision policy. A fair revision policy is usually one to three revisions for a client. This helps to make sure that you get them what they need regarding quality and what they were looking for, but it ensures that you don't end up wasting too much of your own time.
Before we wrap up, you now know what to do, so you need to know what not to do.
One of the worst things that can end a writers relationship with their client is plagiarism. It's better always to give credit to sources and paraphrase when you can. The same goes for stuffing keywords into content.
It makes the writing come across awkward and forced. You should learn to find ways to incorporate keywords naturally into your content.
Being a concise writer is essential. Fluffy writing is the antithesis of exciting writers. It comes across sloppy and lazy. It offers no value and does little to improve the quality of content.
The way you kill the temptation to write fluffy material is to over research. The more you know about a topic, the more you will be able to share with valuable information.
By now, you should have the blueprint to become a successful writer, or at least to get started. If you don't know what to do next, then the best place to start is to reread this guide and answer the questions laid out in the article.