How to Become a Freelance Writer: A Complete Guide

How to Become a Freelance Writer: A Complete Guide
Learn skills required to become a freelance writer. Understand ways to find freelance clients and the benefits of becoming a freelance writer. Find out more!
by Square Dec 01, 2021 — 7 min read
How to Become a Freelance Writer: A Complete Guide

Are you good at writing and wondering how to become a freelancer? Well, you might be surprised, but it’s easier than you think. You should be ready for some hard work, especially in the early stages as you grow your business and find clients, but many people make a very successful career out of freelance writing.

Benefits of becoming a freelance writer

In today’s world, the gig economy is booming. This might be somewhat out of necessity if qualified people can’t find work in their chosen field. But often, it’s because of the unique lifestyle benefits it provides. Working for yourself in any capacity, particularly as a freelancer, is extremely rewarding, and gives you the freedom that a 9-5 job doesn’t provide. Here are just some of the benefits of becoming a freelance writer:

Skills and experience required

The great thing about becoming a freelance writer is that you really don’t need any formal training or qualifications. You should have an understanding of how you’re expected to write as a professional, excellent spelling and grammar, good experience with structuring writing and creating a good flow, and have some knowledge of different writing styles. But overall, if you think you’re a good writer, practice frequently, and you’re willing to keep learning, there’s nothing stopping you from becoming a freelance writer.

How to become a freelance writer

If you’ve got some skills behind the keyboard and think you could enjoy life as a freelance writer, this step-by-step guide will help you get there.

1. Learn to write well

So, assuming you’re already finding out how to become a content writer, you probably already know how to write quite well. However, having a good command of spelling and grammar isn’t all it takes. You need to understand how to write for the certain job types you’ll be pursuing. The desired writing style varies from client to client, so you need to be adaptable.

For example, if you’re writing for a tech company, the required style will probably be a lot more technical and professional than if you’re writing for a fashion blog. In addition, many aspiring authors who decide to earn an income from freelance writing tend to be a bit ‘wordy’. If that sounds like you, learn how to make your points concisely.

2. Research what’s required of a freelance writer

The next step is to research what’s required of a freelance writer. If you’ve never done it before, you probably have no idea what to expect. The reality is, writing jobs are extremely varied in requirements and information provided. Some clients give you wonderful, detailed briefs with all the information you need to get started. Others give you little more than a blog title and you need to do the rest.

It’s also worth looking into the types of freelance writing available, and decide whether you want to pursue a particular type. As a freelancer, you can write editorials, long informational pieces, short blogs for SEO (we’ll touch on this later), social media posts, advertising material, website content, product descriptions, reviews and much more. Make sure you’re familiar with the different types before you start applying.

3. Niche writer or all-rounder?

You’ll need to decide whether you want to write within a certain niche, or whether you’d prefer to be an all-rounder. You may choose a niche that matches your background or personal interests. This certainly makes writing about those topics a lot easier, and you’ll probably get more enjoyment out of it. Also, if you establish yourself as an expert in a field, you can potentially attract higher-paying clients.

However, by choosing a niche, you do somewhat limit yourself in terms of the amount of work you can find. By learning how to research and write for a variety of different industries, you open yourself up to a huge range of possibilities. One thing to consider, though, is when working on unfamiliar topics, you will probably need to spend more time researching, which makes every job take a bit longer.

4. Learn about SEO

A lot of the work available for freelance writers requires knowledge of search engine optimisation (SEO). Now, you don’t need to become a digital marketing expert, but you do need to know what SEO is and why it applies to your writing. When you take on jobs writing website content, product descriptions or blogs, the intent of that work is to help your client boost their search engine rankings. To do this, you need to understand how your writing style and use of keywords ties in with Google’s search algorithms.

There are plenty of articles out there to give you an overview of SEO, and this is all you really need. However, the more you learn and the more capable you are of writing SEO-friendly content, the more valuable you become for potential clients.

5. Set up your website

No matter where you intend to source your work, having a website is essential. It doesn’t have to be a huge or expensive website, but it should include some information about yourself, your experience, and also a portfolio. As you begin writing for reputable publications, you can advertise this on your website to increase your credibility.

Your website also serves as a source for attracting new clients, so if you invest the time, effort and money into digital marketing, your professional website can generate leads and therefore income.

6. Decide on your rates

The other thing you’ll need to consider before you even get started is how much you want to be paid. Now, there are guidelines out there on how much you should charge, but ultimately, they don’t mean a lot if you can’t find clients willing to pay you those amounts. So, it becomes a very personal choice with regard to your rates. When you first start out, it makes sense to work for a little bit less in order to grow your portfolio and client base. However, there’s a fine line between working for less and working for rates that aren’t worth your time.

There are also two ways to charge – per hour or per word. Most professional writers charge per word because it gives budget clarity for themselves and the client.

You might also choose to tailor your rates based on how fast you work. Some people work quickly while others take longer, so try to break it down to an hourly rate. If you can complete a 500 word article in an hour, and you want to earn $50 per hour, then try the formula of $50 / 500 = 0.10c. This is your per-word rate.

7. Learn how to pitch to publications

We’ll discuss the different ways to find clients shortly, but one of the most popular ways is to pitch your skills to publications you want to write for. If you’ve decided to write for a particular niche, you can search Google for things like ‘software companies write for us’. This will bring up a list of software companies that accept submissions from writers. Alternatively, there are websites out there that give detailed lists of places you can pitch to.

A pro tip is to research thoroughly beforehand on how to pitch yourself as a writer. Many websites have particular guidelines to follow, but if they don’t, you should follow commonly accepted guidelines for pitching work.

8. Consider other income sources

Finally, once you’ve gained a bit of experience, are there other ways you can make money as a freelance writer? Many writers begin putting together training packages to help others follow in their footsteps. Some write their own books. Others start offering consulting services to businesses or even other aspiring freelance writers.

If you want to branch out in this way, you’ll need to ensure you have a great website. If you use a product like Square Online, you can set up an online store quickly and easily, leaving you ready to sell training courses, books and much more.

How to find freelance writing clients

Believe it or not, there are several ways to find work as a freelance writer. You can choose one of them, or use a mixture of them all. Many writers find it’s good to have at least a couple of sources for work. Here are some of the most successful ways to find work as a freelancer.

1. Freelancer websites

There are plenty of freelancer websites out there, like Upwork, and many people will tell you to stay away from these. On these websites, clients post jobs and you submit a proposal for them. It’s true that many of the jobs there are low-paying and not worth your time if you’re trying to build a lucrative business. But when you’re starting out, if you’re willing to work for less, it’s a great way to gain experience, build a portfolio and gather clients. If you’re worried about the pay rates, it’s as simple as not applying for jobs unless the client budget aligns with yours. You can even filter your searches on this basis, making it easier to find the jobs that are right for you.

A word of warning though, it’s difficult to get jobs when you first start. These websites usually have a rating system, so clients can see how many jobs you’ve done, your job score, and previous client reviews. There’s a lot of competition so you may need to do a couple of cheap jobs to kickstart your profile.

2. Job boards

You can also use job boards such as Problogger, Blogging Pro and several others like them. Jobs are posted on these boards, and you can submit your application. In a way, they’re not much different than a freelancer website, however many writers feel the quality of jobs and payment are better on job boards.

3. Social media

Many people say that social media is a great way to find clients, and this is true to an extent. You really need to know how to use it to your advantage though. Social media is crowded, so it’s hard to stand out. But if you know how to look for posts like ‘Looking for content writer recommendations’, you can often find some good clients. Sites like LinkedIn are great for making connections too.

4. Pitching

We discussed pitching before, and if you’re working in a niche industry, this is a great way to seek out higher-paying jobs. If there are publications you’d love to write for, check out their websites, read their pitching guidelines, and start typing!

How to get paid as a freelance writer

Once you’re up and running as a writer, you need to remember that you’re not just starting a small extra income stream. You’re starting a business, and you need to treat it that way. For this reason, you’ll need some quality software and tools to help you keep track of your accounts, and most importantly, get paid.

Products like Square Invoices allow you to send digital invoices and get paid fast. Best of all, you can invoice clients anywhere in the world, giving you much more reach. Best of all, it’s a free service, and it makes the process of invoicing and getting paid so much quicker. The result: More time to build your business!

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The Bottom Line is brought to you by a global team of collaborators who believe that anyone should be able to participate and thrive in the economy.

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