How to Become a Freelance Writer (& Travel the World!)
Are you looking for a side hustle that lets you work from anywhere in the world, so long as you have strong WiFi connection and a laptop? Do people tell you that you have a knack with words? Do you want to ditch the cubicle and finally create some flexibility in your schedule? Becoming a freelance writer might be the perfect fit for you!
Freelance writing can be a great way to make an extra side income, or it can be an opportunity to work full-time on your own. Many freelance writers use this skill as a way to build up their emergency fund, earn an income that lets them travel whenever they want, or they use it as a way to make a full-time income and quit their day job.
For the last several years, I’ve been able to earn a six-figure income as a freelance writer working from my home office, coffee shops around town, or places like Puerto Rico, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico while I travel. With technology becoming more and more accessible, freelance writing is a viable option for many looking to create more freedom in their work schedule.
What is a Freelance Writer?
A freelance writer is someone who is self-employed and might work for one main employer or several different clients to earn income. They may complete one-off projects given to them from clients, or they could secure a retainer agreement where they are paid monthly to deliver a certain amount of regular work.
How Much Can a Freelance Writer Make?
The amount freelance writers make varies quite a bit! What you charge to clients will depend on your writing niche, your level of experience, and possibly your geographic location. For example, a beginner article writer might charge $100, but an experienced writer who is an expert in his niche could charge $500+ for an article.
Copywriters can often command high-dollar for their sales copy (sales pages, website copy) because this type of writing has a high ROI for clients. It’s not uncommon for a copywriter to charge $1500+ to write a long-form digital sales page.
As a resume writer, you can charge anywhere from $150 to $800+ for a resume, depending on the client’s level of experience and the expertise of the resume writer.
What Are Different Types of Freelance Writing?
There are so many types of freelance writing, I could write an entire book on the different niches. Here are a few of the most common types of writing where freelance writers can find consistent work:
- Article Writing
- LinkedIn Profiles
- Email Copywriting
- Sales Pages
- White Papers
- Social Media Posts
- Website Copy
- Academic Writing
- Editing & Proofreading
- White Papers
- Video Scripts
- Grant Writing
The list goes on and on!
Where Do I Find Freelance Writing Clients?
There are many places where you can find freelance writing clients. Many people start out on websites like Upwork where you can find clients posting specific projects they need completed. It can take some work to gain credibility on these sites, but it’s also a great opportunity to get your feet wet. I actually started my writing career on Elance (now called Upwork) for 1-2 years where I replaced my current $40K a year income.
Danny Margulies is an expert copywriter who built his business through Upwork. He now teaches others how to maximize Upwork to find steady freelance clients on his website Freelance to Win.
I also found a few clients on Fiverr, where one of them turned into long-term recurring work editing online course material. After landing my first job with this client, I made an additional $10K over the following year.
However, the best place to find clients is through sending cold emails. These are strategic, targeted emails that you send to potential clients and companies who might benefit from your services. You won’t receive a response to every one of these cold emails, but it’s a numbers game. The more targeted emails you send, the more potential for responses and writing gigs.
Pros and Cons of Freelance Writing
When thinking about starting freelance writing as a side hustle or career, it’s important to consider the pros and cons.
- Very flexible schedule (work when and how much you want)
- It can be quite lucrative once you become an expert in your niche
- Freelance writing can be fulfilling as you work for yourself
- You will need to hustle hard to find clients in the beginning
- Income can be inconsistent, until you become established
- You might have to write about topics you care nothing about in the beginning
Are you ready to become a freelance writer? After being a freelance writer for over 6+ years, I can say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I have definitely experienced my ups and downs along the way, but it’s been very fulfilling working for myself while I get to travel to new places (not being stuck in a cubicle or behind a desk).
If you’re ready to explore writing for income, I put together a few tips below for anyone who is considering becoming a freelance writer:
1 Select a Writing Niche & Become an Expert
It’s important that you select a niche as a writer. Don’t worry if you don’t know your niche in the beginning as it might take some time. I started out taking any work possible, including writing online courses, editing academic papers, writing website copy, and writing sales emails for clients. It wasn’t until about 6 months into my writing career that I began writing resumes for clients and stuck with it.
Once you select a niche, you will start to build credibility as an expert. You will also have more relevant examples in your portfolio to show potential clients. In addition, the more of an expert you become, the more you can charge.
2 Create a Website to Present Your Work
I can’t stress enough the importance of having your own website as a writer. You want to think of yourself as “one-man business.” Would you trust a business that didn’t have a website?
On your website, you can showcase relevant samples of your work and provide a short bio about yourself. It’s also a great place to begin gathering reviews and recommendations from your past clients.
Squarespace and Wix are excellent platforms to create your own website for free or cheap. Use a memorable domain for your website, like your name (Example: WesPearceWrites.com).
3 Start Getting Client Reviews
One of the best ways to convince clients to hire you is by gathering reviews in a visible place. Think of the power of sites like Yelp, which can make or break a business based on reviews. The more verifiable 5-star reviews and recommendations you can gather, the easier it will be to persuade clients to pay you to write for them.
Once you get your website up and running, you can verify your website as a business with Google. After you set up your Google business page, you can begin asking clients to leave a review for you. I have actually had clients contact me who found my Google reviews and wanted to hire me before even speaking on the phone. This is the power of reviews!
Another great place to gather reviews is through your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn allows you to ask connections for “recommendations” where a connection can recommend your work. Finally, adding these reviews and recommendations to your business website can act like business references.
4 Start Getting Clients
One of the best ways to get freelance writing clients is to perform some research and pitch companies directly. You might send pitches to clients on LinkedIn or through their website directly.
Jorden at Creative Revolt offers great advice about the art cold emailing and how you should cold email your butt off as a newbie freelance writer. She writes that:
“Effective cold emailing means sending a tailored, strategic email to a target client in your niche. The entire email should work together to build trust with them and make it easy for them to say “YES!” to your call to action at the end.”
As an example, she spent a day sending 17 targeted cold emails to potential clients and landed 2 solid jobs as a result. This should give you an idea of how many cold emails you should be sending as a newbie writer.
Fortunately, once you do get the ball rolling with your freelance writing career, referrals are common (as long as you keep happy clients).
5 Build a Portfolio of Work
It’s more than essential to build a freelance portfolio. This is a body of your work that you will show to potential clients to build trust that you can actually perform the job you’re pitching.
So, what do you do if you’re a newbie writer and are trying to pitch clients…but you have no portfolio? There’s a solution. Head to a website like Upwork and find a legit client project that has been posted.
Read through the Upwork posting to determine what they are looking for. Say they are looking for a 500+ word article on weight loss for women. If this is something that interests you, go write a 500-word article about weight loss for women.
Then, when you send in your proposal for the project, include just that one targeted article as an example. This one article will show the client you are able to complete the work. Many other writers might be including a portfolio of their work which is broad and not focused on weight loss, so when you send your targeted article, you’ll instantly stand out.
If you’re contacted by the client and hired for the job, congrats! If not, now you have a high-quality article to add to your new freelance writing portfolio that you can show to other potential clients.
6 Become an Influencer in Your Niche
Another way to attract clients is to work on becoming an influencer in your niche. Naturally, it takes time to build a platform for yourself along with some authority in your field. However, once you are recognized as an expert, clients will start coming to you, instead of you pitching to them.
One way to start building credibility as an expert is to share your articles on social media platforms. Once of my favorite platforms to grow a following is LinkedIn which allows you to actually use their publishing feature to write and publish articles to your profile.
You can share these articles with your own network and in relevant groups that you have joined. LinkedIn is also a great place to build new connections and generate referrals.
7 More Experience = $$
Once you get some experience under your belt, you can slowly begin charging more for your work. I tend to raise my rates about 15% every 12 to 18 months. You will begin to get a feel for how much clients will pay for your work, and it’s OK if you have a few clients say you’re too expensive.
You never want to be the “cheapest” writer around, but you also don’t want to be the most expensive. The sweet spot is a happy medium where clients feel like they are getting a good deal for your writing, but they’re still financially invested in the work. Often those clients who think you are too expensive in the beginning will come around later to hire you, once they hire a “cheaper” writer and have a bad experience.
Are you ready to become a freelance writer? Are you already a writer who has found success? What are your tips for newbies who want to begin writing as a side hustle or career?