How to Become a Freelance Writer Online

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Brands, companies and individuals all have a voice. As a business, establishing a clear tone can be the difference between establishing a real connection between companies and customers, or missing the mark entirely. The key to building relationships and sparking genuine brand loyalty, is the brand’s message. 

A brand’s mission is funneled through a voice, and that voice must be cleverly crafted and consistently compelling. Not everyone can create copy that connects, which is why businesses are increasingly seeking aid from freelance writers. 

Many people don’t realize that becoming a freelance writer doesn’t require a degree, or an extensive professional writing background. Learning how to ghostwrite, edit, or copywriter are incredibly lucrative skills, and they’re in-demand in every industry.

What Is A Freelance Writer?

A freelance writer is a self-employed writer that creates copy for clients or employers – typically on a contract basis. They could be responsible for writing articles for blogs, copy for digital or print publications, or even editing pre-existing content.

Companies are looking to outsource their copy, as it enables employers to get projects done quickly, while avoiding the long-term commitment, salary and benefits of a regular full-time employee. 

Freelance writers are able to work remotely, and self-direct their day-to-day tasks depending on their workflow and client’s needs.

Misconceptions About Becoming a Freelance Writer

One misconception is that a freelance writer must have a background in journalism, publishing, or a Communications or English degree. While knowledge always helps, it is not at all necessary to be successful as a freelance writer. 

Another misconception is that writers must already run a well-known blog, be featured in an established publication, or be an influential writer in order to freelance. These misguided assumptions could likely be holding back hundreds of capable, aspiring writers. 

With just a few critical steps and key pieces of information, anyone with the right mindset, and a bit of talent, can transform their career with just a few critical steps. 

Freelance Writer: A Day in the Life

A remote freelance writer typically sets a rigorous schedule and sticks to it. It often involves at least three strong cups of coffee throughout the day. 

Freelance writers are equipped to work from anywhere, at any time. This means one day they might choose to work from their home office, while the next they may choose to pack up their laptop, and hunt for the hottest café in a distant town. 

This level of flexibility might not be for everyone. Freelancer writers should do their best to maintain some semblance of a routine, in order to better manage their client workload. Freelancers must keep in contact with their clients, and may sometimes be required to attend digital or in-person meetings. More often, freelance writers benefit from the quiet flexibility of a self-directed life. Those that are dedicated and aware of their to-do list will very likely enjoy the fulfillment of self-management. 

Pros:

  • Flexible schedule
  • Can work remotely 
  • Plenty of opportunities

Cons:

  • Financial instability
  • Competitive field
  • Overwhelming responsibilities

Responsibilities of a Freelance Writer

  • Creating a routine. This requires self-motivation and discipline. They most likely use a desktop app like Trello or Google Tasks to track their hours and stay on a schedule. 
  • Communicating and catering to client’s needs. Freelancers must be aware of client calls and the meeting schedule. If a client resides in a different timezone than the writer, it is the writer’s responsibility to adjust.
  • Negotiating rates and payment schedule with clients. It is important for a freelancer to be able to negotiate their rate and be clear about their payment expectations. This may also require an outline of the project and an estimate of hours that can be written into a contract. 
  • Managing multiple projects. A writer often balances multiple jobs at once, while simultaneously sending out pitches or proposals. This can be challenging, and should make use of time management tools such as Asana or Google Tasks, in order to stay organized.
  • Paying income taxes. Freelancers don’t have taxes automatically withheld, thus are responsible for paying income taxes. Consulting an accountant to assist with year-end can clear up any potential snags or confusion.

Projects and Timelines

Freelance writers typically have more than one project to work on at any given time. They must maintain frequent communication with clients until the projects are completed. Clients work closely with the writer initially. They must do a client-contractor download session in order to inform the writer as to what the project mission is, a reasonable timeline, and an agreeable budget. 

Just like any other industry, projects range in time commitment and varying levels of complexity. After a contract is finished, the writer moves on in order to find new clients. Platforms such as Fiverr or Upwork are useful when searching for new clients as a freelance writer. 

Since a freelance writer is self-employed, they have more freedom than someone who works for a company with a fixed salary. However, this comes with certain unique responsibilities and challenges.

Freelance Writing Jobs

From wake until sleep, freelance writers must seek out work, prove themselves capable, then complete the project. Once a writer completes a number of projects, they can establish a portfolio. Finding work simplifies once demand increases. 

There are numerous kinds of jobs available for freelance writers. Depending on the writer’s skill level, providing editing services, writing for web, SEO and keyword research are sought-after and in-demand skills that give writer’s a more competitive edge.

  • Content writing 
  • Writing for web
  • Editing 
  • Article writing
  • Blog writing 
  • Copy-writing
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Just Starting Out 

Entry-level freelance writers usually don’t have an established niche, voice, or an extensive portfolio to showcase. Writers that are just starting out should search for small companies or start-ups with limited budgets for projects. After completing a number of projects and building a portfolio, writers should look to multi-tasking or addressing larger, more time-intensive projects.

Another thing beginner writers do is write guest blogs for other bloggers. Although unpaid, this helps get some exposure and experience, as it could also be included in a writing portfolio that could eventually help attract prospective clients. 

Beginners will likely be working another job while structuring their freelancer workflow. Depending on the level of dedication and drive a freelance writer puts into landing clients and finding work, their service might be a side hustle, a hobby, or could develop into their full-time job. 

Intermediate Writers

At the intermediate stage, writers will have their niche and tone established. They might feel drawn to writing content for entertainment media, health and fitness, or copy-writing for business marketing. Whatever the case, they can be more selective.

If a client loves the freelancer’s ethic and quality of work, they may hire for consecutive work. This means less time hunting for new gigs and more time making money!

Although they receive better pay and more job opportunities, an intermediate level writer is likely still scouring freelance websites, working on their portfolio, pitching to blogs, and networking. Expect to hustle!

Expert Writers

After writers get to an expert level, finding work and asserting authority is much easier. Expert freelance writers have portfolios that are flowing with high-quality work. They’ve likely learned the nuances of their niche, and know how to make certain content pop. 

Expert freelance writers might get scouted for projects or jobs, without having to submit proposals, as clients recommend them to others, or employers find them through shared connections. 

Successful expert writers can expect to make a comfortable salary, while maintaining a flexible schedule; but this certainly doesn’t happen overnight. 

Becoming a Freelance Writer in 2020

In order to become a freelance writer, it isn’t necessary to be an excellent writer. Dedication and a willingness to learn are key facets of an aspiring entrepreneur and writer. 

Write

Plain and simple. To become a writer, start writing. 

This doesn’t mean a haiku a day, a blog post a week, or a book a year. An aspiring writer can start by writing reviews on Amazon, publishing blogs, writing short stories, pitching for guest blogs, and getting some small personal writing samples together. 

Create a Profile

A freelance writer needs to create a compelling profile that tells their story, highlights their skills, past work experience, and has a flare of their personality. Platforms like Upwork, Problogger, or Fiverr are all good places to start. 

Creating a specific profile to target certain niches, (i.e. a blog writing profile and a separate profile for content marketing), is important in order to be found online.

Build a Portfolio 

No surprise here: employers and businesses want to read writing samples. They want to see what type of work to expect. It’s critical for a freelance writer to provide links to published articles and samples of past work. 

Something as simple as Microsoft Word, or a PDF series of sample work could suffice; however, serious freelance writers should consider creating a website on WordPress to display a full collection of writing. 

Send Personalized Proposals

Like with any job, a proposal should always be personalized and relevant to the job listing. Researching the company and its past products or milestones can help when crafting a convincing proposal. 

A writer should use information from previous jobs that might be relevant, include them in their portfolio, and emphasize them in their proposal. This will showcase, “Yes! This writer is absolutely capable of tackling this project in exactly the right way!”

Be Open to Feedback

Writers often join writer’s groups to get feedback on their writing. When clients provide guidance or direction, or tell a writer how they might improve to meet the project needs, this is not to be taken lightly. 

For writers, being open to this kind of feedback is important, especially in the beginning. This can also mean being vulnerable and ready to make mistakes. All writers should be receptive as to why a company did or did not like certain aspects of the work. This information, while delicate, can be used advantageously for future projects. 

Always Improve

Even once established, freelance writers must continue to develop their writing skills. Webinars, creative writing courses, blogging communities, or writing groups are great ways to learn and improve. Platforms like Udemy and Coursera provide low-cost or free writing courses. 

Developing skills as a writer takes time, vulnerability, and a bit of innovation. Taking risks, trying new things, writing in new styles and reading up on obscure trends or niches can benefit freelance writers, and ensure they remain dynamic and versatile.

Find a Niche

When selecting a niche, writers should consider their own interests and expertise. Writers can use that drive and pre-existing interest to dominate a market, industry, or topic.

Selecting a niche may feel intimidating, and it may not be entirely clear to beginners; however, to reiterate the first step in becoming a freelance writer: just start writing. Pay attention to patterns! A niche or topic will eventually surface. 

Hustle! 

Anyone can write if they dedicate themselves to the craft and to a niche. Remaining adaptable, flexible, authentic, and dedicated is key. Freelancers must be ready and willing to accept the challenge of a constant workflow. 

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