The Definitive Guide on How to Start Freelance Writing From Scratch
By Craig Cannings
Are you looking for a side hustle or second career that allows you to work remotely and set your own hours? If so, freelance writing may be the perfect option for you. Whether it’s blogging, copywriting, ghostwriting, or technical writing, you’ll find plenty of opportunities out there if you know how to start freelance writing the RIGHT way!.
In this blog post, we’ll cover what exactly is involved in starting your own freelance business, including tips for success and some common challenges freelance writers face along their journey. We will also include a list of resources that will help you find clients and kickstart your new career. So, let’s dive into learning about how to start freelance writing today.
Table of Contents:
How to Start Freelance Writing
Freelance writing is a form of self-employment that allows writers to work independently and earn money from their skills. It involves creating different types of written content for clients, like web copy, articles, blog posts, press releases, white papers, or any other type of written material.
Freelance writers can work with businesses in various industries or specialize in one particular field. They’re often paid per word, per project, or hourly depending on the agreement between them and their client. For example; someone could specialize in writing a certain number of blog posts per month for health and wellness coaches. The opportunities to niche down are endless!
Types of Freelance Writing:
As mentioned above, you can choose from many different types of freelance writing if you decide to follow this career path. In addition to article writing and blog post creation, you can specialize in ghostwriting books or ebooks, SEO content creation, editing/proofreading services, and more.
In our Writing Foundations course, we cover a number of additional writing specialties you may enjoy including:
– Website copy
– Email copy
– Business/ grant writing
– Video scripts
– Social media writing
– Technical copy (user experience [UX] writing)
– Sales pages / ad copy
– Course curriculum and quizzes
– Resume writing
– Blog posts
With so many options, you can find a fulfilling, rewarding freelance writing niche that draws on your past experience and preferences!
Key Benefits of a Freelance Writing Career:
One major benefit to freelance writing is the ability to set your own hours and manage your workload according to your own schedule. Additionally, you have the potential to make a good income if you’re able to find consistent projects with high pay rates; some experienced freelancers even make six figures annually.
It also gives you the opportunity to hone your craft while exploring new areas within the industry that interest you most. You have the freedom to block out time in your schedule for other business activities while still meeting your client’s work deadlines.
As you can see, freelance writing is a great way to make money from home, and with the right skills and knowledge you can build a thriving business you love.
Whether you’re looking for a side hustle or a full-time career, freelance writing can be an excellent option for those who are self-motivated and have strong writing skills. Here are some tips on how to start freelance writing.
Develop Your Skills and Knowledge:
Before you start freelancing, it’s important to hone your craft by taking courses or reading books about the different types of writing. You should also consider developing other related skills such as SEO, copywriting, and content marketing that will help you stand out in the competitive freelance market.
At Freelance University, we offer training for writers and editors including the Writing Foundations course and more specialized courses in Copywriting, Blogging, Email Writing, SEO Content Writing, Website Writing, and Proofreading.
And we always recommend that freelancers become lifelong learners. So, once you’ve developed your skills, keep them up to date by seeking additional training along the way.
Find Clients and Projects:
Once you feel confident in your abilities, it’s time to find clients and projects that match your interests and skill set. Networking is key here; reach out to people in your industry through social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter, attend local events related to freelancing, or join online communities where potential clients may be looking for writers like you.
In the Writing Foundations course, we recommend asking for referrals from colleagues, clients, friends, and family. You can also develop your experience by seeking subcontracting opportunities with local agencies. Below we’ll discuss more ways you can network and promote yourself online.
Streamline Your Business Management Tasks:
Freelance work requires more than just good writing skills; you need to think of yourself as running a business too. This means using tools like Dubsado or Honeybook to set up contracts with clients outlining payment terms, deadlines etc., keeping track of expenses (including taxes) using accounting software like QuickBooks or Freshbooks, creating invoices for payments received, etc.
All these tasks can seem daunting at first, but once they become part of your routine, they won’t take long at all. For example, you can note your yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily tasks and goals in a journal, planner, or digital note-taking app. That way, you can prioritize each business management task without becoming overwhelmed.
Starting a freelance writing career is an exciting opportunity that requires dedication and hard work, but with the right strategies, you’re on your way to developing a flourishing business. Next up, we’ll explore tips for successful freelance writing to help you get ahead.
Tips for Successful Freelance Writing
1. Create a Professional Writing Portfolio.
Creating a professional portfolio is essential for any freelance writer. Your portfolio should include samples of your best work, such as articles, blog posts, and other writing projects you’ve completed. Having a well-crafted portfolio will help potential clients get an idea of the quality of your work and make it easier to land new gigs.
And if you don’t have any writing samples yet, Robyn-Lee Samuels recommends creating “dummy projects” in her article, “How to Start a Freelance Writing Portfolio with No Experience.” She says,
“This means you’ll write content that doesn’t have a client attached to it, but you’ll still treat it as if it does. In television and publishing it’s called writing on-spec (or speculation) and it’s a great way to get your feet wet and start building your portfolio.”
2. Network and Promote Yourself Online.
Networking and promoting yourself online are also important aspects of successful freelance writing. As mentioned above, you can research, follow, and connect with your target client audience on social media platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn.
It’s also helpful to join online communities related to freelance writing, like Facebook Groups, so you can stay up to date on industry trends and find new opportunities. Another way to promote yourself online is by setting up profiles on writing marketplaces like Upwork or specialty platforms like Contena and the Editorial Freelancers Association.
In a previous FreeU blog post, “How to Gain Experience (and Credibility) When You Have None!” we discuss the importance of sharing your education with your target audience. As you showcase your credentials on your website or social media, “you can talk about what you’ve learned and how it’s enhancing your services.”
3. Manage Your Time Effectively.
Managing time effectively is key to success as a freelancer. Allocate enough time each day for researching topics, pitching ideas, completing assignments, networking with other writers, etc., while still leaving some free time for yourself.
We often recommend using methods like time blocking to manage your productivity. For instance, you can designate one-hour blocks of time for different tasks. Set a timer if necessary, and don’t allow distractions until the timer goes off.
The key is to identify your distractions and choose a time management method that works for you. Improving your productivity and setting deadlines will help keep you motivated and ensure that all tasks are completed on schedule.
4. Develop an Efficient Workflow.
Hand in hand with time management is a freelance writing workflow that keeps you moving forward with your projects. In particular, batching different parts of your content writing in a particular order will help you use time wisely.
For example, instead of switching back and forth between research, writing, and editing, set up separate time blocks for each stage of writing. And most importantly, speak with your client to agree on deadlines that allow you to maintain your workflow.
5. Keep Learning About Language.
Since language changes over time, it’s important to learn about the current trends in grammar and vocabulary, especially if you specialize in online writing.
Some valuable resources to consider, in addition to updated courses and certifications, are Ann Handley’s revised and expanded book, Everybody Writes, and the Grammar Girl podcast. Keep your eyes open for any blog posts and articles in the freelance writing industry that will help keep your skills sharp.
Fortunately, with the right strategies and resources, freelance writing can be a successful and rewarding career. But it is important to be aware of common challenges faced by freelancers so you can plan accordingly.
Freelance writing can be a rewarding and lucrative career, but it’s not without its challenges. From writer’s block to difficult clients, freelancers must learn how to navigate these issues in order to succeed. Here are some of the most common challenges faced by freelancers and tips for overcoming them.
Overcoming Writer’s Block:
Every writer experiences moments of creative paralysis from time to time.
To combat this, try taking regular breaks throughout the day or switching up your environment when you feel stuck. It may also help to brainstorm ideas with other writers or take an online course on creativity and productivity techniques like FreeU’s Productivity Power course.
Another effective method is to use Ann Handley’s Writing GPS. Her advice to produce “The Ugly First Draft” is especially helpful. Since it involves writing badly and writing as if no one will read it, you’ll feel less pressure and are less likely to sit in front of a blank screen for hours. After that, Ann Handley recommends walking away and rewriting the draft later.
Dealing with Difficult Clients:
Working with demanding clients is part of being a freelance writer, but it doesn’t have to be stressful if you know how to handle it effectively. Establish clear communication channels upfront so that expectations are understood from the start, and don’t hesitate to set boundaries when needed.
For example, don’t be afraid to decline requests that go beyond what was agreed upon in the contract. You may also need to refuse unreasonable deadlines that don’t allow you to maintain your effective workflow.
Another option is to include a rush fee in your freelance writing contract for occasions when a client requests a shorter timeline.
Managing Your Business Finances:
Additionally, look into services like QuickBooks Self Employed, which provide helpful tools for tracking income and expenses as well as filing quarterly taxes quickly and easily online. This can help to ensure that you are staying on top of your finances and avoiding any surprises come tax time.
To keep track of your billable hours, expenses, and invoicing, you can also consider tools like FreshBooks, HoneyBook, PayPal, and Dubsado.
Writing About Challenging Topics:
Topics may be challenging for a variety of reasons. Sometimes when you start freelance writing, you realize you don’t know enough about the topic your client has requested.
In those situations, solid research skills will help. You don’t need to know about everything as long as you know where to find the information that will help you write for your client’s target audience.
Similarly, you may find you’re not always interested the topics you’re writing about. In that case, remember to focus on the audience.
Think of how you can make the topic interesting for them. Be creative, and soon you’ll enjoy each freelance writing project as way of serving both your client and the readers.
Although freelancing can be rewarding, you’ll need to be prepared for these common challenges faced by freelance writers. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to help navigate these issues and ensure a successful career as a freelancer. Let’s take a look at some of those now.
Resources for Freelancers
As a freelancer, you can access a wide variety of resources, from professional organizations to courses and training programs. These resources can help you stay up to date on industry trends, find clients, and develop your skills.
Professional Organizations for Writers:
Professional organizations are great places for freelancers to network with other writers in the same field or niche. They also provide access to educational materials such as webinars, workshops, conferences, and more. Some popular professional organizations include Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), National Association of Independent Writers & Editors (NAIWE), and American Society of Journalists & Authors (ASJA).
Courses and Training Programs:
There are many online courses that offer comprehensive instruction on how to become a successful freelance writer. These courses cover topics such as writing techniques, marketing strategies, client management tips, financial planning advice, and more.
Popular course providers include Udemy, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, and Coursera Plus Specializations. And, as mentioned above, we continuously update our Writer/Editor course offerings at Freelance University so you receive the most current training.
With the right knowledge, resources, and support, you can start freelance writing with confidence. Whether you’re just starting out or looking for ways to expand your current business, there are plenty of opportunities available in this field.
Remember that it takes time and effort to build up a successful freelance writing career, but if you stay focused on your goals and take advantage of all the resources available, you’ll know how to start freelance writing successfully.