I’ve been freelance writing — on the side — since 2014. And I can now command over $1k per article. I have read lots of cookie cutter advice on how to start writing and getting regular writing work. But if you’re a beginner, you need to take more action than reading. Here are the only one-sentence 26 freelance writing tips that should be able to propel your career.
Unusual Freelance Writing Tips For Beginners
1. Ditch SEO writing because it’s too crowded — instead, try to learn, create, and specialize in thought leadership content writing.
2. A successful freelance writing career requires the courage to raise rates, build relationships and consistently improve your writing skills — don’t skimp on any of these ingredients.
3. Freelance writers will flaunt joining the $100k club or earning $1k per article, but remember what the freedom and flexibility in working hours mean to you.
4. If you’re okay with editing, then consider offering it as a service because editing is one of the most undervalued skills right now (and that can soon change!)
5. Instead of writing and editing, consider specializing in “content refresh” because lots of content from the last decade is going stale and lying in the dark corners of the Google search.
6. To learn the nuances of marketing your service and working with clients, work as a full-time content marketer (or simply a content writer) at a marketing agency before taking the freelance route.
Learn How to Write For The Web
1. Readers scan on the web in an “F shaped” pattern, so generally, use 3-5 lines per paragraph and 10-15 words per sentence in your blog posts.
2. Try to get your ideas across in as few words as possible, especially stay away from using weak words and phrases such as “really”, “very”, “actually”, “I believe”, “I feel”, etc.
3. Break the text in your blog posts into easily readable chunks by adding relevant graphics, embedding YouTube videos, and adding interactive elements such as tables.
4. Read articles by the top freelance writers in your niche that inspire you, and break down their writing styles in terms of sentence structures, writing tone and style, and the like.
5. Learn how to edit your own writing (here’s a course by Shani Raja, a Wallstreet Journal editor), but consider hiring a professional editor from Upwork at least once to find any repetitive “patterns” that hamper your writing.
6. Getting great at research is incredibly valuable for building an enviable writing portfolio — that stands the test of chatGPT kind of copycat content — and can enrich your writing with practical examples, case studies, and expert advice.
Building a Strong Freelance Writing Business Foundation
1. If you’re starting from scratch with zero writing samples, create some articles that represent your “best” writing and self-publish them on Substack, Medium, or your own blog.
2. Consider helping local entrepreneurs and friends in your network to build your initial portfolio.
3. Guest post for free on a few credible publications so that you can show their badges off on your website.
4. Build a dedicated freelance writing business website that professionally represents your brand.
5. Talk with fellow freelancers inside and outside your niche, and build relationships by being genuinely helpful to them.
Getting Freelance Writing Jobs
1. Content writing mills offer horrendous rates and have a pool of unreliable clients, so stay away from them as much as possible.
2. Scour freelance writing job boards for decent paying opportunities (yes, it can get you those initial clients!)
3. Do an excellent job for all of your clients and request referrals: they are the number one way to get high-quality leads for your freelance writing business.
4. Create a Twitter list and add new “ideal” prospective clients to it, then engage with their tweets and add value — wherever possible.
5. Apprentice under a successful freelance writer by helping them ghostwrite their projects or run projects at their agency.
Setting Rates as a Freelance Writer
1. Set your rates by project or per word — never by the hour, or else you may end up inviting micromanagement.
2. Get retainer contracts with three clients you like working with, and your career is off to a great start!
3. Raise your rates by 25 to 50 percent for every new client — at least in the first one to two years.
4. Every six months to a year, also raise your rates by 10 percent with existing clients by giving them prior notice of a month with your content’s performance metrics.
Learn to Pitch
1. Follow the C-suite at top content marketing agencies on social media, and send a personalized pitch to them: sharing your portfolio.
2. Cold emailing hundreds of leads a day is probably not going to be as effective, so think about how you can add value to your prospects before reaching out.
3. Send about five personalized emails to prospects in a day while being direct in your pitch, offering your services with some social proof.
Marketing Yourself as a Freelance Writer
1. Build a personal brand by being a reliable writer who’s great to work with and has testimonials to prove so — not by being an armchair practitioner of writing on social media.
2. Start a blog answering frequently asked questions of your prospective clients in the posts.
3. Analyze the websites of successful digital marketing, SEO, and content agencies in your niche to understand how they sell their services to persuade prospective clients.
Frequently Asked Questions About Freelance Writing
How much can I make as a beginner freelance writer?
You can earn anywhere between $1k to $5k within six months of starting a freelance writing business. Within a year or two, you can be well on your way to making six figures in a year. But, of course, you need to follow sound freelance business principles and be open to rejection.
How do I start freelance writing with no experience?
You can choose a lucrative niche (that also interests you), learn the nuances of writing for the web, and start publishing articles on a self-publishing platform such as Substack or Medium. You can then use these as your samples, pitch industry publications, and keep growing your portfolio. Simultaneously, you can start applying for freelance writing jobs on job boards.
How can I be an excellent freelance writer?
By always caring deeply about the business results that your writing drives. If you can find the interests of your content manager or editor and proactively try to align your efforts with them — you’ll stay in their good books. It also helps to stick by your word, deliver your writing before deadlines, and accept feedback gracefully (with a growth mindset).
To get started with freelance writing, you need to learn how to write for the web, create content focused on a couple of niches consistently to develop your writing style and keep pitching prospective clients. Those are the only three essential steps.
If you’re not making money as a freelancer in 60 to 90 days — while putting in the required hard work of a few hours a day — you’re probably overcomplicating it. Request help from an experienced freelancer or do a paid freelance writing course. At worst, you’ll discover your current skillsets don’t cut it for a freelance writing career. But at least, you’ll have saved time.