If you’re trying to make money freelance writing, take heart: there are a lot of ways to get it done. But it’s understandable if you’re worried about how to start or how to find freelance writing gigs. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to make money writing online. This guide is intended to be a hyper-practical way to help you get going, figure out your niche, and start finding clients.
How to start freelance writing
At its core, all freelancing is about execution. You get paid to do something for a client – and are either paid for the deliverable you produce or your time to produce it. Freelance writing is no different. Regardless of what kind of writing you do, you will be paid to produce content for your clients.
Set up your freelance writing business
Setting up your freelance writing business requires three main tasks:
1 – Basic administrative stuff: Get your business registered (you can start with self-employed) and make sure you have simple invoicing software and business banking set up (you can use a free tool like Wave to get started easily).
2 – Finding your focus: This is when you can get selfish. Think about all the kinds of content you like to write – fiction, non-fiction, interviews, investigative, research, and more. Document everything you like writing and would happily do for someone else. You can also note all the types of content you hate writing or aren’t strong in (this will come in handy later).
3 – Identifying your ideal client: Think about the types of content you want to write, then document the types of people or businesses that might need that content. Chances are it will be a wide list. You can narrow it down by thinking about how you like to work. For instance, if you like more consistent work, even if it’s tedious, you might like a bigger corporation. If you like fast, nimble work, you may enjoy working with startups.
Build a portfolio
Because people hire freelancers to do something for them, the first step to starting in freelance writing is to have a writing portfolio. While that term might make you think of art school students with big books of images, a writing portfolio is really just examples you can send to prospective clients so they can see your writing style.
Here are a few ways to start a freelance writing portfolio:
Whatever kind of content you want to do for others, try publishing for yourself. If that’s blogs, consider publishing on LinkedIn or Medium (both free). If it’s web copy or a newsletter, build one for yourself. This is a great way to prove you can write in a certain way or create a certain type of content. And because it’s “owned” content (i.e. you published under your own name), there’s no concern about devaluing your work.
Write your own blog
Becoming a freelance blogger is a way you can make money freelance writing without ever having to take on clients. But even if that’s not interesting to you (blogging is a lot of work!), you can use your blog as a way to talk about the subjects you want to talk about. Or interview the people you like talking to. Or write multiple different types of content that can serve as your portfolio.
Get your name out there by writing a guest post on someone else’s blog! This doesn’t have to be a big, fancy name. It just needs to focus on an area you have expertise in. In this case, it’s a value exchange: the blog gets a great piece of content from a subject matter expert (you!) and you get a link back, a reference, or something similar to help with your brand.
PS – self-publishing, blogging, and guest posting are different from unpaid client work! When you self-publish or write a guest post, you get to control the topic and can reference you work or link back to your personal website. Unpaid client work is not a good strategy to build up a portfolio, because once you start working for free it can be very difficult to charge people.
Talk to existing clients if you have them
If you’re already freelancing and want to break into freelance writing, you might be able to leverage your existing client base. You may end up needing to give them a slight discount if you don’t have any writing work and they are taking a chance on you. However, don’t work for free – they still get value from having someone write content that already understands their business.
Pitch media and magazines
A lot of outlets accept op-eds (which they don’t usually pay for) and do freelance assignments (which are usually paid). An op-ed is a great way for you to share your voice on a subject you’re passionate about, which can be great for a brand and give you a portfolio piece. But getting paid for an assignment is also a great thing to add to your portfolio. It may not be your area of expertise, but it helps to show that you know how to follow editorial direction. Plus, the money doesn’t hurt.
The top ways to make money freelance writing
There are many types of freelance writing. When you’re good at putting words on paper, you can do it in a variety of ways and basically get paid to type at home.
As you consider your focus and ideal client, here are some of the main ways freelance writers can make money and kickstart their earning potential.
1 – Blogs
A lot of businesses maintain blogs, whether for storytelling, customer interviews, support tips, or something else entirely. A blog can really be anything these days, so this is a great way to start making money freelance writing if you can write regular and longform articles.
Rates can easily hit $500+ per article.
2 – Ad copy
Paid advertising is growing like crazy, with over 60% of media spend going digital. Someone has to write all the words that go into ads. Even with AI-based tools to help get things going, a good ad copywriter can do great things.
Rates can be anywhere from $25 to $300+ per ad.
3 – Social media marketing and writing
Nowadays, companies absolutely require an online presence. With literally billions of people and businesses on social media, there’s no shortage of opportunity to help a company streamline their messaging and maintain their brand image.
Rates can range from $15-$50+ per hour.
4 – Web copy
As more companies want to personalize experiences online, they will need landing pages. That could mean landing pages per advertisement, per blog post, or per audience segment.
Rates regularly hit $500+ per web page.
5 – Email writing
Email is still the primary way that millions of brands communicate with customers. It’s one of the most intimate ways we can communicate digitally. This is a great opportunity for freelancers who understand the role of email.
Rates can be anywhere from $35-$200+ per email.
6 – SEO writing
As more things happen in the world and more gets invented, people will want answers. That’s where SEO comes in – you can help your clients become the go-to resource for whatever topics they talk about online.
Rates can be anywhere from $250-$1,000+ per article.
7 – Niche research
Sometimes a company wants to create net-new knowledge or understand a problem in a new way. This opens up an opportunity for freelancers to help with qualitative interviews, analysis, and writing up reports that will go out to the public.
Rates can be anywhere from $25-$75+ per hour.
8 – Ebooks
Instead of just writing a single blog post (or multiple posts), you can write ebooks for clients. Generally speaking, ebooks give you an opportunity to go significantly more in-depth than you can in a blog post. This can be especially helpful if a client wants to use the ebook as a gated piece of content to collect email addresses from prospects.
Rates can range from $1,000-$3,000+ per ebook.
9 – Resume & cover letter writing
While this is more geared towards individuals than business, you can make a lot of money freelance resume writing if you build up a good client base. If you’re going this route, it might be a good idea to partner up with college consultants or other people in the education industry.
Rates range between $50-$500+ per resume.
Other things you can do to make money freelance writing
If you love writing but don’t want that to be your whole job, there are a lot of other opportunities and ways to make money with your freelance writing skills.
1 – Editing & proofreading: If you know how to write, chances are you can identify when a piece of content is off base (and fix it with your writing prowess).
Rates range from $25-$200+ per article or web page.
2 – Content strategy: Going one level up the value chain can help a lot. Instead of waiting for clients to tell you what to write, you can be part of the decision making process (and make more money along the way).
Rates can range from $500-$10,000+ per project.
3 – Content advisory: This is kind of like strategy, but advisory usually happens in one of two scenarios. First, when someone just needs a smart person to brainstorm with. Second, when content has already been created and you help them figure out what to do with it.
Rates can be anywhere from $25-$75+ per hour.
4 – Content analytics: If you’re a numbers person and a writer, you can help clients figure out if the content they have is delivering the results you want. Then you can advise next steps – hopefully with you getting paid to write or edit future content!
Rates can range from $250-$5,000+ per project.
5 – Writer management: If you’re a strong and experienced writer, you can help clients manage junior writer teams. This can be like advisory, strategy, and editing all in one.
Rates can range from $40-$100+ per hour.
6 – Writer coaching: Instead of being paid by clients to write, you’re being paid to teach them to write. This could mean helping other freelancers, training in-house content writers, or even freelance teaching with a college or university.
Rates can range from $40-$100+ per hour.
How to find freelance writing gigs and find your first client
There are a lot of fantastic places to find freelance writing gigs and even full-time freelance writing jobs. Here are 11 of the best sites for freelance writers where you can get started pitching for work.
1 – Contenta
This platform offers tools to help freelance writers up their game and find freelance writing gigs.
2 – Freelance Writer Gigs
Like the name suggests, the website features a freelance writing jobs board filled with different freelance writing gigs.
3 – Blogging Pro
Freelance writing jobs posted almost every day, both part-time and full-time.
4 – The Writer Finder
A matching service between companies looking for freelance writing work and relevant freelance writers.
5 – The Professional Freelancer
A newsletter filled with tips for freelancers that also sends out multiple freelance writing gigs.
6 – Counterflows
The personal newsletter of freelancer Lauren Razavi, who regularly shares freelance writing gigs from around the world.
7 – MediaBistro
A job board specifically for freelance writing gigs in the mainstream media. The platform also offers multiple courses for freelance writers.
8 – ProBlogger job board
One of the original freelance writing gig job boards, it also has a large community and other resources for freelance writers.
9 – Your professional network
Let your community know that you are a freelance writer! You never know who needs help. The more you perfect your one-liner, the easier it will be for people to refer you new business opportunities.
Links: Wherever you have a profile online!
10 – Twitter
Twitter is an interesting place for a lot of things. One of them is that people will regularly post freelance writing gigs and freelance writing jobs on the site! To see them in your feed, make sure your profile is optimized with your one-liner and start following people who work in marketing, growth, or are founding new startups (they often are the most likely to tweet about freelance writing gigs).
11 – A custom Google search
A lot of the time, freelance writing gigs show up but aren’t well marketed. Thankfully, Google can do a lot of that work for you.
Do a custom Google search: “Freelance writing gigs [your state, province, or country]” and see what comes up. You could find a lot of great local companies looking to hire talent.
12 – Facebook groups
There are some fantastic facebook groups dedicated solely to freelance writers. Not only do they regularly post freelance writing gigs, but they also are places you can find support and community as a freelance writer. Some popular ones are The Freelance Lifestyle or Blogging Like We Mean It. You can also do a custom search for freelancer groups in your local area.
Freelance writing doesn’t have to be complicated
Starting a freelance business can be nerve wracking, but making money with freelance writing doesn’t need to be difficult. When you first start, you may not be able to charge the rates you’d like (if you don’t have any experience to back you). However, there are a lot of ways to not only build up a nice portfolio of work but also find work that pays fairly.
If you’re thinking about starting a freelance writing business – whether full-time or side-hustle, 2021 could be your year. Demand for freelancing is already skyrocketing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon.
Even if you face rejection to start, keep at it – success compounds over time.
A great article, but there is one thing that should be mentioned – once you start freelancing, there is huge competition at popular platforms. You arrive hoping to get some pocket money (or maybe even some serious money, depends on why you decided to freelance) and you can’t find your first job. Guys with reviews and portfolios get the best deals and the sweetest jobs, and for the rest of the available gigs, you’ve got a whole horde of people willing to work for the cheapest price available so that they could get at least something or fill up their portfolio for the future.
And if you come up there to post a gig, you can get a couple of bids from local pros (who usually tend to set high prices for their services) and all the rest you get is spam. My favorite is “Dear Sir\Madam, I’ve read your description and perfectly understood everything” (no, they didn’t). So it’s a stalemate once again.
The only solution I found was going to less crowded places. I won’t tell you about all of them (I simply can’t know about every freelancing platform available), but take Insolvo for instance – it fast, reliable, secure, and simple. If you’re a freelancer, you’ll get a bunch of gigs right away and the prices are rather good. And if you’re a buyer, you can post your jobs and be sure that your money won’t vanish anywhere, because they’ve got some decent security. Besides, the place is run by an advanced AI, which is the only one of its kind, as far as I know.
My point is – don’t be afraid to scout different places before you start doing anything. Study different options, stick around for a while, try something out, and find a suitable solution for yourself.