How to become a freelance writer

How to Become a Freelance Writer

Do you dream of a becoming a freelance writer? Would you like to earn your living by writing full-time, working from anywhere and at a time that suits you? Those are the three main benefits of freelance writing and why people often ask me how they can become a freelance writer too.

How I Became a Freelance Writer

I was a magazine journalist in Paris, France and I’ve been writing web copy since 1995 when I studied my MA in Design for Interactive Media. But it was years later I became a freelance writer and started charging people for my copywriting work.

Being a freelance writer is the perfect job for me because I like to live by the beach 90 minutes away from the big city of Brisbane. I’m lucky to be able to work from my hometown even though it’s a small holiday resort so jobs are scarce.

Freelance writing offers potential to earn a good living from writing and escape the trap of being the proverbial poor writer. Freelance writing hourly rates range from US$30-150 with a reasonable rate for an experienced freelance writer around $125 per hour.

As well as allowing me to get well paid for my writing, today I’m lucky that I get to pick and choose jobs.

Much of my work comes from web copywriting but blogging has allowed me to diversify into paid blog writing and travel writing including one sweet job where I had to get a massage or go stand up paddleboarding and write about it.

Sounds good? But before we get carried away let’s look into downsides of becoming a freelance writer.

Do You Really Want to Become a Freelance Writer?

These are the drawbacks which you need to consider before you rush into your new freelance writing career:

1. If you set up your own freelance writing business and work for yourself it will take time to get your business started. You may earn very little for six to twelve months. You need to have either a financial cushion to keep you going to begin with, or a full or part-time job that you can maintain while you become a full time freelance writer.

2. Even when your freelance writing business has been established 12 months or more when you’re self-employed you often have an irregular income. Some months you may earn only $2,000, the next month $10,000.

3. It can be lonely working from home. No more chats around the water cooler or after work drinks with your colleagues. Of course we have Twitter, Facebook and now Google+ to help fill that gap but social media can never replace face to face meets ups.

4. You need to be self-motivated, create your own deadlines and work on growing your business even when you don’t have any paid work.

5. Like any job there are boring parts to being a freelance writer. You might have to write sales copy about something uninspiring like air-conditioning units and you’ll have to get systems in place to organize invoicing and pay your own taxes.

Still up for becoming a freelance writer? Great. Then let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Freelance Writing Training, Skills and Qualifications

You don’t need to have any special qualifications to become a freelance writer, just a love of writing. The more you write the better your writing skills will become but a stint in a paid writing job where you write daily and stick to deadlines will help you improve fast.

This is the route I took to become a freelance writer. Think about how you can build up the writing and communication skills you need to become a good freelance writer.

  • I have a degree in French and English so have a strong background in writing, grammar and communications.
  • I’ve worked as a journalist which helped improve my writing skills and taught me how to write faster and more accurately.
  • I have an MA in Design for Interactive Media which allowed me to specialize in web copywriting.
  • I set up my own web and blog design business and started writing copy for my clients free of charge.
  • When demand picked up I was able to start charging for web copywriting and that’s still a big part of my business.
  • I started writing about travel on my travel blog then pitched print travel publications as a freelance writer. I’ve been published in print but it’s not as lucrative as other work and I sometimes get paid to write for other travel blogs like Gadling.
  • I’ve done editing and writing jobs on reports and guides for local businesses and government organisations.

How Can You Become a Freelance Writer?

1. Practice your writing skills regularly

My advice to anyone who wants to become a freelance writer is to write. Start practicing and improving your writing skills now.

2. Start a blog

Create a showcase of your writing skills by starting your own blog. Make sure your blog looks good and presents you as the professional, well paid freelance writer you want to be. A sloppy looking blog or website will make you look sloppy.

Think about what other content you want to share and keep your about, contact and services page relevant and up to date.

In time you can add a portfolio or testimonials page.

Choose a blogging niche and stick to it then update your blog regularly – at least once a week to begin with.

Branch out into guest blogging for other blogs to grow your own blog and boost your portfolio.

You can find more information about how to get started in my ebook Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps.

3. Get some freelance writing experience under your belt

Become a member of freelance writers group The Freelance Writers Den with support from experienced freelance writers Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli teaching you how to get freelance writing jobs, where to look for them and how to make your freelance writing pay.

For a small monthly fee The Freelance Writers Den gives you learning materials galore, access to a supportive community, and the chance to ask great freelance minds for help becoming a freelance writer and growing your writing income.

Carol Tice is a dynamic writer who still works as a freelance writer and started teaching other people how to become well paid freelance writers because she hated seeing writers working for peanuts. I’ve had a look inside The Freelance Writers Den and led webinars with Carol and am affiliate for The Freelance Writers Den because I’m so impressed by her and what’s on offer.

The support and community will motivate you to stick with it but you also get to:

  • Attend a live monthly Webinar;
  • Join weekly live Den Meeting Q&A sessions;
  • Enjoy unlimited, on-demand access to more than 200 articles, Webinars, teleclasses, and podcasts, organized into handy theme courses for your convenience — so you can learn what you need when you want;
  • Get questions answered privately during weekly Den Mother’s office hours;
  • Chat with other serious freelance writers 24/7 in the Den forums.

Click here to find out more about The Freelance Writers Den. The doors are only open from now until April 24th this month and spaces are limited so you can’t sign up right now make sure you register so you don’t miss out next time.

4. Get your first paid job

Accept that to begin with, when you don’t have much experience you’ll need to charge a lower rate but as time goes on and your experience increases along with demand you should be able to slowly increase your rate.

5. Network

There are plenty of places you can look for work like Elance but I recommend business networking groups for face to face meet ups and online networking on Twitter. Other copywriters may also be happy to refer you work if they have too much on.

You can network online but do also get out of the house and go to local business groups or even social events. If you have an area of expertise organizing your own events can be an effective marketing tool.

6. Be versatile

Be prepared to write anything from reports to ebooks and website copy to magazine articles. There may be one area you prefer but to make your career as a freelance writer work you should be willing and able to take on almost any type of writing job.

That’s all I have to say about how to become a freelance writer. I love freelance writing so I’m happy to help you start your own freelance writing career and become a professional freelance writer if it sounds good to you.

The main key is to stick with freelance writing because no business is built overnight but in time you will gain the experience you need to make a success of it.

Resources to Help You Become a Freelance Writer

Online Resources

Books

Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps is a timeless resource that will help you set up your own business and market it effectively. I wrote it specially to help small business owners and writers tap into the power of blogging.

The book demystifies blogging and is designed as a self-study course with checklists and activities so you don’t miss anything. It covers everything from blog planning and design to content writing and blog promotion.

There’s also a chapter on guest posting and a bonus chapter on motivation to make sure you stick with blogging long enough to reap the benefits. Click here to find out more here.

Freelance Writers DenMentoring Programs and Courses

The Freelance Writers Den is a membership site with a difference because it’s run by freelance writers for freelance writers. For a small monthly fee you get access to courses and forums as well as individual help from experienced freelance writers who know exactly what you need to do to make your freelance writing business work.

Click here to find out more about The Freelance Writers Den or register your interest in joining now. The doors are usually only open for a few days each month so be sure to leave your email address to stay in the loop.

Are you a freelance writer or would you like to be? Share your questions or tips in the comments.

Photo credit: Erin
Author: Annabel Candy

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Harrison April 19, 2012 at 8:45 am

Great post Annabel, I will defiantly putting this into practice as I just got me first regular gig.

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Annabel Candy April 19, 2012 at 8:57 am

Hi Lisa,

Woo hooo:) Well done, that’s a landmark:)

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Hannah April 19, 2012 at 10:14 am

This is a great post! My only question is this: I am a lifestyle blogger. As such, I don’t blog consistently about one topic but rather about multiple topics that I rotate. What are your thoughts on this? :)

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Annabel Candy April 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Hi Hannah,

Isn’t lifestyle a topic in itself? Although like travel it’s a broad topic which is better narrowed down slightly, for example by making it family lifestyle…. It’s fine to have sub-topics within that main topic and important to stick to that so you show prospective clients that you understand it’s important to focus on a topic and a reader and that you can do that:) Thanks for asking!

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Johanna April 19, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Practical and sensible advice from someone who knows the business. I think you’re spot on with these tips. As you say, freelancing is a tough and competitive arena, and to make a living from it you have to work hard and diversify in order to make money. I would recommend anyone who’s serious about freelancing to learn all they can, do a course with Carol Tice buy a book such as your, “Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps,” and make connections. I’ve been freelancing for 30 years (some have been very lean, some fantastic) but it never gets to be Easy. There’s a helpful Freebie about freelancing on my blog site too, if I’m allowed to mention that?

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Annabel Candy April 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Hi Johanna,

Absolutely, thank you for mentioning it. I think people just have to subscribe to your blog to get your free ebook How to Be a Well Fed Blogger:)

It really helps freelance writers get started having that support and tips from other writers and great to hear that you’ve stuck with it through thick and thin. I guess you really have to love writing to make it work:)

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Johanna April 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Thanks so much, Annabel.
Yes, my ebook for freelance writers and bloggers is free when people subscribe to my blog.
You’re right, to make writing work, it has to be a compulsion. An itch that you just have to keep scratching :)

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Johanna April 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Ouch, spot the typo when I changed the comment! Writers – Read your work out loud before you hit the Publish button!!!!!

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Annabel Candy April 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Lol, I hate it when that happens! I fixed it:)

Linda H April 20, 2012 at 8:15 am

Great tips, Annabel.
I’m one of the Moderators for Carol’s Freelance Writer’s Den and I encourage everyone to join in or connect with her Make A Living Writer’s blog. I learned a great deal from your podcast with her and still refer to my notes.
Your tips for tight righting are spot-on. Just shared them with an educator client I have who struggles with writing; she could definitely use these tips with her submissions!
I’ve been a freelance writer for over 25 years and still learning. As technology changes along with our global business world, reader habits change. Connecting with tight writing earns you name recognition, solid branding, and credibility. Wish more writers would heed your tips. The world needs tight writing instead of all the junk that’s out there.
Love this post, thanks for writing it!

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Annabel Candy April 20, 2012 at 8:45 am

Hi Linda,

Great to see you here and thanks for listening to the webinars I did with Carol:) That was fun but most of all I was impressed by how much she knows about the nuts and bolts of becoming a freelance writer and how much good information there is in the freelance writers den.

You’re so right, as a freelance writer you do have to keep learning all the time and it’s so important to keep up with technology and use it to empower you in your business. It’s inspiring to read that you’re doing that and enjoying the rewards:)

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Seana Smith April 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

Hi Annabel,
You have written a really comprehensive post here and it’s SO beautifully laid out. Lots of great advice for beginners especially.

I used to write a lot of freelance articles, back in the day when we sent queries by POST and handed in double spaced typed copy. Aaargghhh!!! Just wanted to add that writers can be reassured to know that many papers and mags really churn through articles and so are always looking for new takes on old topics. The business writing was always the most lucrative, if not the most fun.

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Annabel Candy April 22, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Hi Seana,

Oh my that would have been even more time-consuming than it is now! It’s definitely easier to get published in daily newspapers than magazines and love the tip about business writing:) I try to make that fun too when I can but some editors like to keep the serious stuff serious which is a shame.

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Deepika singh April 22, 2012 at 4:44 am

Hello annabel,
I will start it with the two good things, happened to me today.
Number 1,i just started blogging.
Number 2,i found you.( just googled top ten bloggers of 2012,and you popped up,you indeed are a top blogger)…i just read few of your blogs and its too much inspiring…that i may get inspiroclosis.
You made my day.Well i known i am asking you for too much…but can you just check out my first post and give me some feed back?(if possible)..would be a great fuel…
And good news for you too…you got one more permanent reader for your blogs…i wish you grow exponentially.
Thank you
Deepika singh
truthaboutindians.blogspot.com

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Annabel Candy April 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Hi Deepika,

Great to see you here and hooray for Google, I’ll swing on by and look forward to reading it:)

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Shawn Tuttle April 22, 2012 at 5:33 am

Hi Annabel,
I’m new to your blog and love the clarity with which you convey your thoughts on different aspects of freelancing. Your love for your chosen work and lifestyle clearly shine through, yet you also give ample reality check for those who might not be well suited for it.

I admit I was just browsing around, playing the lurker until I got to your post about why you will continue to leave comments. Thanks for the reminder to show appreciation for what moves me. I.e. I appreciate your work =)

One thing that has been really helpful for me goes along with your first point “Practice your writing skills regularly” above under “How Can You Become a Freelance Writer?” Namely, to establish a routine. Putting “Write” on my ToDo list doesn’t work for crap. Dedicating 8-10am every morning does.

Cheers! Shawn

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Annabel Candy April 22, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Hi Shawn,

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate that too:) It sounds like you have a good plan there. That early morning writing session is sacrosanct:)

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Alli April 23, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Annabel, even for someone who ‘writes’, I really got a lot out of this. Especially as I want to up my freelance work! Excellent post – big thanks!!! Now to step out of my Alli & Genine blogging / Profile Magazine comfort zone and tackle some of the big fish! Wish me luck! Alli x

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Lola August 17, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Your post is very informative and it covers everything a new freelance writer should know and more importantly what they should expect along the way. I am also really impressed with the Freelance Writers Den, it is something worth checking out.

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Andrew Pass May 21, 2013 at 5:43 am

Great post. I wish you’d write one on how to find high quality freelancers. I run an educational development company that works with educational publishers and other organizations to develop content. Our writers cannot just be generic writers – they must have pedagogical skills, knowing how to write high quality lesson plans and/or assessments. They also must possess subject matter expertise. I’ve recently been spending time trying to determine how to find high quality writers. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Andrew Pass

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Annabel Candy May 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Hi Andrew,

There are a lot of great writers out there. As with most services you get what you pay for. I’ve been writing professionally for 20 years and was a qualified teacher before that so I may be able to help depending on what the subjects are. Just to give you an idea, my writing rate is $125 per hour.

If you pay around that or higher you should be able to get great writers working for you although I can see that it may be hard if you have very specialised topics but most writers should be happy to spend (paid) time on research if it’s an area they’re not an expert in so they can provide the content you need.

Once you find good writers treat them well and hang on to them! Best of luck.

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Isa June 30, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Hi Annabel,

Great post. I just started blogging but sometimes I find it hard to write creatively and succinctly because English is not my first language. Obviously, the only way to get better is to keep practicing through blogging. Any suggestions that you would like to add?

Thanks

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Pamela Green January 21, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Thank you so much for sharing valuable information. I’m thinking of starting my own blog before trying freelancing career.

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