How to Start Freelance Writing – Advice From 11 Pro Writers

How to Start Freelance Writing – Advice From 11 Pro Writers

How do you get started freelancing?

How do you find high paying clients?

These are a couple of the questions you’re probably asking yourself.

After all, launching a freelance writing career is tough.

You need to improve your writing skills, learn marketing, and get your foot in the door.

That’s why I interviewed 11 freelance writers to give me their professional advice on how to start freelance writing for beginners.

Here’s what they had to say. 👇

Get your feet wet with job boards

Tom

Tom Nathaniel is the founder of LushDollar.

“Consider a platform like Textbroker to get your feet wet. The pay is low, about a penny a word, but it’s a great way to find private clients and earn some cash while learning about the field.  

You can start within a few days and the work comes to you. I found a lot of private clients who pay me well over the $0.01 per word rate. This is a great option if you don’t want to hunt for clients right away.

Shameless plug: I did write about 17+ writing websites for entry-level writers if interested, https://lushdollar.com/entry-level-writing-jobs/.

Textbroker is another one of my favourite options, even though it gets a bad rep online.  However, it’s not the only game in town. Be sure to check out job boards such as Upwork, ContentRunner or the ProBlogger writing board. 

There are a ton of job boards out there, and sometimes, landing a job may feel like winning the lotto, but I promise people do hire. You just have to be diligent.

A higher-paying writer knows more than just writing.  They know SEO, copywriting and basically what’s expected of your content.  While spelling and grammar is important, it isn’t everything when it comes to your paycheck.”

Choose a niche and double-down

David

David Michael is a freelance writer for hire.

“To get started with freelance writing you need to understand what type of writer you are, and the basics of each discipline. For example, there’s a big difference between a blogger and a UX copywriter, or a headline writer and a journalist.

Before you start outreaching to clients, you’ll need to put together a portfolio. If you’re inexperienced, you can put together some proactive examples, or start guest blogging for some lower-profile sites so you have some live work examples.

You can start getting clients in a number of ways. The two most common are through an agency, or directly with the client. You can find both types of opportunities through professional platforms like Linkedin.

You can also build connections with people who work in professions closely related to copywriting. For example, I’m connected with a lot of designers and developers on Linkedin, who frequently need copywriting work. 

The best websites to find writing gigs are generally freelance platforms like Upwork, Fiverr or Problogger. However, more lucrative projects come through building connections with both clients and agencies on platforms like LinkedIn, or even your own portfolio website. 

Generally, if the impact of your work has the potential to make clients lots of money, then you’re more likely to earn good money. Conversely, this means short-form copywriting is better paid than long-form (i.e. blogs).

The most lucrative contracts are in UX copywriting for products or corporate companies. Businesses will pay very well if they believe your skill will land them more conversions and sales.

Study the copy on websites like booking.com to see how crucial it is to their user experience. Freelance bloggers earn less because they are easier for clients to find.”

Tap your existing network for leads

Jay Clouse

Jay Clouse is the Founder of Freelancing School.

“I’m a fan of working directly with clients, as opposed to subcontracting or looking at marketplaces.

When it comes to finding clients, the best way to find immediate work is through your existing network of clients and advocates. 

Dedicate a lot of time to reaching out to your advocates: your friends, family, clients, and collaborators. Approach it as an empathetic, fact-finding mission: ask them how they are doing, and listen to any problems they bring up. 

If you are able to help them or introduce them to someone else who can, you’ll find new work, build strong relationships, or both.

They’ll likely ask how YOU are doing too – this is an invitation to talk about your business. Let them know you’re freelancing and looking to meet people in some sort of target industry or niche.

Be specific about the type of outcome you help clients with, and what kind of clients you generally help.

With enough conversations, you’ll start to create client projects or be referred.

If you want to look at freelance writing websites, I recommend Contena, Contently, and Upwork.”

Leverage communities to grow your freelancing career

Abd

Abdulaziz Ali is a Content Strategist and Content Writer at Digital Growth Boost.

“Joining a community of marketers or writers will guide you to opportunities and plenty of learning materials. You can find such communities on Slack, Reddit, and Facebook.

After you lock your first client ask them for a referral and offer a 15% commission once a sale is closed. If the referral comes through up your price. Make it a habit. For every new client increase your rate.

To demand the premium price you need to specialize in an area, industry, or a topic. Remember go an inch wide and a mile deep. Lastly, avoid freelancing websites. The competition is extremely high, focus on joining a community of marketers and writers.”

Use SEO to generate inbound opportunities

Janice Wald is a freelance writer for hire and founder of Mostly Blogging.

“Have a static page on your site advertising you do freelance writing. Pages get indexed faster than other website content.

Make sure your page says what people might search. For instance, would people search for “Experienced Freelancer”? Would people search “Freelance Writer for Hire.” This is what you should name your page. I receive many queries. People find me on Google; they tell me when they send me queries.

Promote your Freelance Writer for Hire page. I received a good gig on Twitter. I also receive queries on LinkedIn. Promote your Hire Me page on social media sites.

The best websites to find writing gigs are the ones that have you as a contributor. This means return business. Even if it doesn’t pay a lot, the return business makes up for it. 

Have a current list of places that accept freelancers such as this one

Subscribe to a blog that makes available current freelance opportunities. I recommend Beyond Your Blog.”

Refine your pitch and writing samples

Viktoria

Viktoria Krusenvald is a freelance writer and Owner of Zerxza.

“We get tens of messages on a daily basis but 90% of the time these writers all share a common trait (which makes us refuse them): they don’t have any content to show for.

We are very picky when it comes to the content we are willing to showcase (as, I’m sure, most websites are). However, when I ask the writer to send us some examples of their previous work, often they don’t have anything to show.

And by that, I mean they don’t even send a casual writing sample. We’re always telling them to just send us an example of something they’ve written (even if it’s not published and just sitting in their drawer).

My advice to any aspiring writer: have your best work ready. Even more, when you’re reaching out to a website, let them know you’re willing to show them your work, so they could see for themselves what you’re capable of.

Most site owners receive hundreds of queries every day and most of those queries are very low-quality mass-emailed messages that lack any personality. If you put your heart in it and let the website know you are willing to show examples of your work, that will go a long way!

And another tip: don’t reach out with generic content ideas. “10 best X” or “How to X” content ideas won’t get most websites interested. Actually, we usually just delete the message and forget about them. Pitch something truly unique – something that showcases your personality in its truest form. Something you have a legitimate opinion on.

If you give the website a valuable, unique, interesting idea, they’ll be more than willing to have you write for them. We (i.e. site owners) are just sick and tired of run-of-the-mill content. If you pitch us something unique, we’ll jump in joy!

To kickstart a freelance writing gig, I recommend reaching out to various websites and simply asking. As an alternative, freelance job sites like Upwork are also solid for aspiring writers who want to start earning some money. Even if the starting prices are low, there are still legitimate writing gigs that can easily turn into bigger opportunities. Don’t shy away from any writing job – as a writer, ANY writing job will help you get started!”

Use cold emailing to get clients

Heather

Heather Ritchie is a freelance writer and Owner of Writer’s Life for You.

“The easiest and quickest way to get started working is to choose a profitable niche or topic that interests you. For instance, I specialize in writing blog articles for businesses in the security industry. 

Next, you pick a domain name. Your domain name should make it clear what you do. It could be something like your last name, followed by writing like mine is ritchiewriting.com. You don’t have to use your name, but your domain name needs to make sense. 

Then you need to create a website and purchase web hosting. It’s best to start with WordPress.org because you have control over your website. You can get hosting at places like Bluehost. Your website is a critical marketing tool for your freelance writing services. 

After you create your website, you need to create social media accounts for your business because social media is the key to finding high-paying writing jobs. You’ll want to research your ideal client and figure out where they hang out. 

If you want to write for businesses, LinkedIn is the best place to start. Tell the world you’re a writer!

After researching your ideal client, you’ll want to find them on social media and engage with them. But while you’re doing all that networking, you can apply to high-quality job boards that even have freelance writing jobs for beginners. I have a helpful list here: 28 of the Best Websites to Find Freelance Writing Jobs.  

The good news is that you don’t have to cold-call people these days. Now cold emailing and pitching is a critical part of the process. If you optimize your social media correctly, you’ll have clients coming to you and a steady flow of leads. 

You’ll need to set a certain number of emails you want to send every day. The more emails you send, the more possible clients you gain. I personally applied for jobs on some of the websites I listed above to get started quickly. These are higher quality sites that pay good money even to new writers with no experience. Avoid places like Upwork if at all possible because they don’t pay well.

  • High-paid writers also take courses to improve their writing or, at the very least, write every single day to become better writers. 
  • By niching down, high-paid writers establish themselves as experts and authorities in their field. They become the go-to writer and can command higher prices.
  • High-paid writers also take courses to improve their writing or, at the very least, write every single day to become better writers.
  • Also, high-paid writers target clients who can pay them well. For instance, they target companies that have the budget to hire freelance writers, and you fulfill a specific need for them. These clients may not have time to write their own content, and that’s where you come in. 

Some of the best websites to find freelance writing jobs are listed in the above blog article, but I will leave a few here. 

Build relationships and partnerships with other writers

image

Mollie Newton is a content marketer and Founder of Pet Me Twice.

“Finding your niche is crucial in getting started with freelance writing. You must know your interests and forte so you can do your job with ease. Review your past write-ups and see which fits you the best.

You can also start with blogging, have your friends read your posts and ask them for reviews, compliments, or criticisms to better your performance. This is also perfect if you don’t actually have experience in writing and you’re still exploring the field.

Play the game with other writers. Being a writer may look simple but it actually entails so much effort and skills, that only a writer can understand another writer, and it’s important to be surrounded by people who understand you.

You can start a Facebook page for you to be able to recruit some aspiring writers. Build a connection with them and go for the same purpose and goals in your field. 

Pitch yourselves everywhere to get known and improve your capabilities through this training to help you reach out with potential clients.

Of course, like any other jobs, it’s all about the quality of outputs and the improvements within their stay that separate average writers from high-paid ones. However, it is always possible for average writers to reach the other side that’s why it’s crucial to be equipped with enough training.

I have been searching for writing gigs even before and I think the best ones include Upwork and Guru.

Upwork is very popular and all freelancers must have heard about it. However, you really must have to run the extra mile if you want your outputs published. Being in Upwork is a good training filed for improvement.

Guru, on the other hand, allows you to also post your past outputs and background in writing so freelancers can see your forte of content. It’s also one of the best to work with clients and sell your expertise in writing.”

Don’t let imposter syndrome get in the way of your success

Tony

Tony DeRoia is a freelance content marketer and copywriter.

“A great way to get started freelance writing is to create three 500-word writing samples and then join a few job boards.

One of the biggest reasons why new writers find it hard to land their first job is that they sometimes have a healthy dose of what we call “imposter syndrome,” which is that little nagging voice in the back of their head that says they have no idea what they’re doing and are faking it.

It often prevents them from taking action and applying for jobs that they could otherwise land.

This is completely natural and normal for new writers. The best way to cure “imposter syndrome” is to simply start applying for jobs, landing work, and getting experience. As time goes by, you’ll find that your confidence and skill set will grow.

There are two things that separate average writers from well-paid writers:

1. They’re willing to work for peanuts and lack the self-confidence to ask for rates that are in line with their writing abilities and experience. Determine how long an average content will take you to write and then set your rates accordingly. Don’t be afraid to raise your rates if you think a project will require more time or resources on your end.

2. If you want to become a well-paid writer, you need a personal website. In addition to acting as your virtual business card and showroom for your copywriting and content marketing samples, it also helps present a more professional image. That can also help instill trust in prospective clients.

While Craigslist and UpWork are two huge places where an aspiring freelance writer can find work, keep in mind that you’re competing against thousands of other freelancers–including many people who were recently laid off due to COVID-19. This many people looking for work in the same place often causes writing rates to be a race to the bottom.

There are several other great writing job boards that I point aspiring writers to: The Cult of Copy Job Board on Facebook is one of my favourites. We Work Remotely puts out a daily newsletter that has content writing jobs. Finally, reach out to all of your old coworkers via phone or email and let them know you’ve hung your proverbial writing shingle and are looking for work.”

Get out of your comfort zone

Allan Borch

Allan Borch is the founder of Dotcom Dollar. He started his own online business and quit his job in 2015 to travel the world.. This was achieved through e-commerce sales and affiliate SEO.

“First things first, select a niche and write great sample articles.

Better yet, start your own blog. I picked my niche and put down at least six months of work on my blog before I started looking for online writing jobs. Having a blog with some traction allows you to establish your credibility as a writer and gives prospective clients an accessible online platform where they can read your work.

Second, pitch yourself everywhere. You’ll find that online and print magazines and other outlets may offer one-off paid projects, guest opportunities, or ongoing writing jobs. I personally favour freelance marketplace sites like Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer.com. These sites offer plenty of writing opportunities although they may not be the highest paid out there. Pick the jobs that appeal and use it as a springboard to bigger things if you need to.

Finally, go for the technical stuff. A lot of writers contend themselves with writing articles that are within their comfort zone. The best of the lot are not afraid of stepping out of that cushy box and writing stuff that will require months to learn or multiple interviews just to get things started. Writing the difficult technical or investigative stuff is a sure route to increasing your expertise as well as your hourly rate.

Bottom line: Freelance writing isn’t the easiest industry to break into nor is it the highest-paying.

However, if you get into it passionate, prepared, and willing to do the hard work, you can make it a rewarding profession that also takes care of the bills.”

Brand yourself and prospect on LinkedIn

Danny

Danny Grainger is a freelance B2B SaaS copywriter.

“The three essential steps I took within the first week of starting my freelance writing career are: 

  1. Make a LinkedIn profile
  2. Make a rudimentary website
  3. Publish some material on your own website

Doing these three things gives you a presence and personality. They are tangible resources for you to share with prospective clients, and the writing samples on your website showcase your abilities. People want to see examples before they hire you, so writing a good sample portfolio of around five pieces is of paramount importance. 

There are several ways to get clients.

The first is LinkedIn prospecting. Publish good, pleasing, inspiring material on LinkedIn regularly, and you’ll start to get noticed. Then you’ll get some leads. 

The second is cold pitching. Cold pitching is sending out emails to people and businesses you think would benefit from your service. It’s a grind and a sheer numbers game, but if you send out twenty pitches a week, within five weeks, you’ve pitched 100 people. Even with a success rate of 1%, you’ve got yourself a new client. 

The third is referrals. Contact other more established copywriters and tell them about yourself. See if they have an excess workload they need help with or ask them if they wouldn’t mind passing along your details. 

The two traits that make high paying writers are ambition and perseverance. Anyone can land a high paying client. The high-paid copywriters are simply those who had the guts the approach big clients and quote them large sums of money. “

Final thoughts on how to start freelance writing

Breaking into freelance writing isn’t easy.

That is, of course, unless you follow the advice from everyone I interviewed for this article.

You’ll notice a lot of patterns in their advice.

…Writing great samples.

…Beginning on job boards.

…Launching your own branded website.

Then you need to kick it up a notch by blogging to generate inbound leads and cold emailing for sales.

Contact me if you need copywriting or content writing services to grow your business or get my courses that teach you insider strategies on writing and getting clients.

Carmine

Hey! My name is Carmine and I'm a Toronto Copywriter that's written for Neil Patel, Dan Lok, GoDaddy, and more. I've helped clients generate $100k+ in MRR, 400%+ organic traffic, and 100%+ MQLs. I'm also the Co-Founder of WiseMedia, a law firm marketing agency.