Freelance writing for a living isn’t a new concept. In fact, people have been doing it for years.
That said, if you’ve never heard of it before now, you might be as intrigued as I once was.
Once upon a time, I knew I loved to write. I was blogging religiously for a hobby. And I’d done some copywriting tasks in previous employment.
But, I never realised that I could turn my passion into a thriving business until I uncovered what it actually means to be a freelance writer.
What is Freelance Writing (for Beginners)?
Firstly, what is a freelance writer? Well, it’s someone who is self-employed and makes their living by writing for online (or offline) publications.
Whether this is producing blog posts, magazine articles or product descriptions for a website, a freelance writer works with multiple clients all over the world on a contractual basis.
New freelance writers usually start as a sole trader, but they may decide to become a limited company later on down the line if they want to expand their business into an agency.
Either way, you work for yourself and you’re the boss, which means that you’re also in charge of sourcing and securing the work.
What Exactly Does a Freelance Writer Do?
There are many different types of freelance writing. However, the most popular are listed below:
1. Blog Writing: Not as technical as some other forms of freelance writing, freelance blogging involves driving traffic to a company’s website through producing valuable and engaging content for their audience.
2. Journalistic Article Writing: If you’re a magazine or newspaper lover, you might want to consider feature or news writing for online and/or offline publications.
3. SEO Copywriting: This involves writing website content based on extensive knowledge of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to help an online business rank better on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and obtain more traffic.
4. Advertising Copywriting: A copywriter’s job is to sell a brand to their target audience through compelling product descriptions, posters, brochures and social media ads (to name a few examples).
5. Social Media Writing: If you’re well-versed in the world of social media, you could produce content for various platforms that entertains, informs or sparks a discussion with users as a way of building a loyal following for a business.
Having said that, many freelance writers don’t stick to just one type of writing. (I know, we’re a greedy lot!)
Personally, I do a nice little mixture of all five of the above with blog writing being my specialism. But it’s completely up to you what you decide based on your passions, niche and skillset.
Are Freelance Writers in Demand?
As the online world grows, so does the demand for content to fill it with.
I mean, more companies than ever are championing content marketing as one of their top advertising avenues, which involves creating and sharing online material to build and engage their target audience. I’m talking about blogs, email newsletters, social media and all the other types of content that we’ve touched upon so far.
Plus, Marketing Mag claims that content marketing is set to be a $300 billion industry by 2020. And with the growing number of freelancers currently representing a third of the U.S workforce, the remote-working revolution shows no signs of slowing down.
Existing freelance writers, rejoice! Potential freelance writers, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get a slice of the proverbial pie.
Do You Need a Degree to Be a Freelance Writer?
Contrary to popular belief, you absolutely DO NOT need a degree to make this whole freelance writing thing work for you. However, some people have purposefully done some kind of writing degree because they already know they want to pursue a career in freelance writing.
(Those lucky lot…)
For me, it was a happy mistake. I adored fashion (one of my main writing niches) and had fun learning about the marketing side of the industry during my Textiles A-Level course. Therefore, I decided to study Fashion Marketing at university and Freelance Journalism at college post-university. It just so happened that both courses covered aspects of writing that might have given me a leg-up when it came to applying for freelance writing gigs.
Concerned that you don’t have a degree of any kind? Don’t worry, it’s perfectly fine. I mean, a lot of successful freelance writers don’t have one.
All you need is discipline, passion, decent writing skills and a special area of interest (or expertise) to excel!
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Freelance Writer?
Let’s face it, I’d be lying if I said to you that you don’t need any special competencies to be a freelance writer.
Sure, ANYBODY can become one. But if you want to be a GREAT one who consistently attracts high-paying clients, you need to possess the following skills (or learn them pronto).
What is a freelance writer without research skills? Well, I’ll tell you – someone who’s unable to strengthen their ideas or add another dimension to their writing through hard facts alongside the viewpoints of others.
As a result, your writing risks being dated, lacking in important details and heavily biased. And in this instance, you might only be able to sell a piece of it for £10. Not cool.
If you can’t write a page in Word without the red squiggly line popping up here, there and everywhere – then I’d be seriously worried about trying to make a go of this whole freelance writing thing.
That said, both research and writing skills can be learned. You could always take a technical writing course online (or offline) to improve your ability, which would ultimately aid your career.
Similarly, great communication skills are essential if you want to be a flourishing freelance writer.
You have to be clear with your written communication in not just your writing work, but also in your emails to clients. After all, it will most likely be the sole way you converse with them.
Producing content for companies, businesses and other bloggers is often a collaborative process.
Consequently, you have to be able to work well in a team (as well as on your own).
What is a freelance writer without creativity skills? I mean, writing is literally “creating” words. Therefore, being a creative person and good idea generator will help you be proficient in your career.
If you’re not creative, you’ll probably struggle to get motivated in this kind of role.
You may even fail before you’ve had the chance to get started – but don’t sweat it. Like with any job, freelance writing isn’t going to be for everyone.
How Much Money Can You Make as a Freelance Writer?
If you do possess the skills to make it as a freelance writer and you’re really excited about the prospect then I’m excited for you! After all, there’s a lot of money to be made in this industry.
Even though the average freelance writer salary is different for everyone, the good news is that you have the power to set your own rates. Ergo, you’re always in control of how much you make. (Happy dance.)
While you’re still building your business in the first year, you may not make as much as you’d like – but that’s okay. It takes at least five years for a new business to really get off the ground.
That said, I was in shock when I first started freelance writing as my biz became profitable in the first month. Your going rate really depends on your niche, experience level and the type of writing that you do.
To give you an idea, I sold my first blog post for £10. I was building my portfolio and had to start somewhere. Nowadays, I can easily make £300 for a blog post in my main niches. Having said that, it’s completely up to you when it comes to how much you want to charge.
How to Start Freelance Writing
Even though it can be challenging to know how to become a freelance writer online, I’ve got you covered. Follow the below steps to financial freedom!
1. Decide On Your Niche(s)
Nail down your passion or key area of expertise and make this your main niche where you’ll earn the most money.
Look to your past jobs, work experience and hobbies for inspiration.
2. Build Your Portfolio
Set up your own blog, guest post on other people’s blogs and start creating writing samples in your niche(s).
You can then include these links in your proposals to prospective freelance writing clients to help you sell your services.
3. Create a Professional Website
If you want to show that you mean business to potential clients, create a professional freelance writer website. As well as outlining your services, your website should include a portfolio of work and lay out your employment history.
This is a valuable opportunity to sell yourself – and demonstrate your top-notch writing skills – so don’t waste it!
4. Market Yourself
Whether it’s through social media, LinkedIn or offline networking events, you need to be shouting about your services in any way that you can if you want to drum up interest (especially in the beginning).
Why? Well, you just never know what might come of these opportunities.
It’s all about connecting with new people, making unexpected friends and earning client referrals, which ultimately translates to money in your pocket. Winning.
5. Start Pitching!
Finally, cold pitching is the best way to secure high-paying clients.
That said, the easiest way to get your foot in the door as a newbie building their portfolio tends to be via freelance marketplaces and freelance writing job boards.
Personally, I used a combination of all three to propel me forward in my freelance writing career. And this hasn’t changed much almost three years later.
Freelance Writing: A Fun and Rewarding Career
Even though the prospect of freelance writing for a living can seem overwhelming at first, there are many benefits involved. As well as being a creative’s ideal job, you just can’t beat being your own boss.
(And I’m sure tons of fellow freelance writers will agree with me!)
After reading this post, I hope that you’re no longer left scratching your head wondering “what is a freelance writer” and you’ve decided that freelance writing for a career is the way to go! I wish you the best of luck!
What are you looking forward to the most about being a freelance writer? Let me know in the comments!