When you google the term “remote jobs” you will find countless lists that show you the most popular online positions out there. I can almost guarantee you that you will find the job content writer on every single one of those lists. But how do you become a freelance writer?
After all, there is a massive demand for quality content. Check out the following article to learn what you need to do to become a content writer online.
Table of Contents
What Is Content Writing?
Content writing, copywriting, ghostwriting – There are so many terms and different definitions for each of them, it’s easy to get confused.
The most common ones say that content writing involves creating content that markets well. It serves a specific purpose, like marketing or business, and helps the audience to understand an issue or brand. The texts are usually long-form and search engine optimized, like blog texts or articles.
For Copywriting the main goal is to sell an idea or to pitch a brand. It is more used as an advertising vehicle and therefore, specializes in short-form copy, such as press ads or headlines. However, a copywriter can also be responsible for creating a stronger online presence, where long-form copy is required. So over time they often migrate to content writers.
A ghostwriter can write about anything, from speeches to autobiographies or journalistic texts, which are later credited to another person.
Why Is Freelance Writing Different?
If you want to become a freelance writer, you basically have three options:
1. Work as a corporate writer, i.e. have a permanent contract with a company or publishing organization and work for them (remotely, if you wish).
2. Have your own business that involves writing. For instance, you could start a blog and make money with things like affiliate marketing or AdSense. Bear in mind that it will take much time and work to be able to monetize a blog.
3. Work as a freelance writer. This option gives you a lot of job opportunities and also freedom of choice (who you want to work with or when etc.)
How To Become A Freelance Writer: 6 Steps
If you have absolutely no idea how to become a freelance writer, stick to the following steps as they will guide you through the process.
Step 1: Pick A Niche
If you want to work in general positions, your options are going to be very limited. Sure, websites, that only generate traffic with extreme click-baiting and general gossip, don’t care too much about the quality of their content. But if you work for them, payments are going to be super low. Plus, you won’t feel like your work is very challenging or rewarding.
If you want to become a freelance writer and be successful with it, you should focus on one niche and become an expert in that. Nobody can be perfect in everything. Pick an area that you are passionate about, a hobby like nutrition, and that you won’t get tired of writing content about it.
You could also choose a niche, that you have a lot of experience in, e.g. finance. That helps you write very specific, technical content.
It is also important to pick your niche early because your writing style depends on it. Articles about science sound completely different from articles about do-it-yourself projects. When you start with the right niche straight away, you can focus entirely on that type of writing.
Step 2: Improve Your Skills – What Skills Do You Need to Be a Freelance Writer?
Assuming that you are not already an expert in your niche, you will have to improve your skills. That involves first and foremost reading.
If you want to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader.
Read as much as you can in your niche. What style do popular authors use? How do they structure their content? What terms do they use? I’m not telling you to copy them! But get inspiration. See what makes them successful and combine these strategies with your own writing style.
There are also plenty of blog posts out there, that teach you how to be a better content writer and tricks to improve your skills.
If you still want to learn more, you could take online courses on content writing. This article by Search Engine Journal shows you 8 free courses you can take online.
You could also join a writing association, like the PWA (Professional Writers Alliance). They offer career resources, tools, tutorials and are a great way to connect with others. Beware that you usually have to pay a membership fee.
One thing is for sure: The more you practice, the better you get. So start writing! Write about anything you can think of. With every article, your writing will improve a bit more.
Step 3: Write Samples
When you want to become a freelance writer, potential clients want to see how you write: your style, the way you structure your content, etc. Therefore, it is essential to have a few samples to show.
Sit down and write at least 3-5 high-quality articles in your niche. These articles will represent your skills and thus, be a crucial factor in your application process. Make sure that your articles are top-notch and show your expertise and style.
Step 4: Create a Website or Portfolio Site
Once you have your samples, you need a place to showcase them. The best thing to do is to create a website and upload them. On this website you also show things like:
- Your contact details
- References or reviews of past clients (if you have)
- Your experience and education
- The reasons why they should hire you
Give any information that helps you market your expertise.
There are thousands of great content writers out there. Being good is not enough. But your online presence can make the difference.
If you want to learn more about how you can set up a professional portfolio site, check out the linked guide by Robert of WebsiteSetup which talks about it in more detail.
Step 5: Pitch to Potential Clients
Once this is all set, you can start pitching. I know, most of you will hate cold callings (so do I). But this method could get you long-term contracts at much better rates than job boards do and therefore, is an important step to become a freelance writer.
To find potential clients, you have to do a bit of research. Have a look at websites and blogs within your niche. Maybe you can find specialized (online) newspapers or magazines.
Have a look at LinkedIn or Twitter and see who is working in that area. Try to think out of the box. Many manufacturers have a blog, too, today. Think of products that are somehow related to your niche and check them out. Also, have a look at online forums or simply ask around on websites like Quora or Reddit.
When you send out your emails, make sure they are on point. Every email needs to be personalized, no standard text! Do research to find out what kind of articles that potential client publishes, which style they have.
Keep in mind, that this email should not be about you, but about how you can help your potential client with your skills and expertise; how you can create a genuine connection with his readers, or how he can profit from your work.
Take your time to write this email. Don’t expect the first one to turn into a contract. I know many content writers who sent out 15-20 each day when the first started out.
Follow Up: This is something many aspiring writers forget. A week or so after you’ve sent your pitch, contact them again and ask if they need more information about you, more samples or if there is anything else you can provide. Not many send follow-ups which means it’s a great way for you to stand out. Of course, don’t be too pushy with it!
Step 6: Promote Your Work
You are not finished once you’ve contacted potential clients. Make sure you promote your service as best as you can. That could be guest posts on blogs related to your niche. You can also write on Medium to get additional exposure.
Be active in Facebook groups within your niche. Sometimes there are people looking for freelancers, too. Even if you can’t see and job postings, be active, comment, and answer questions. You never know where the networking might get you.
The same goes for LinkedIn. Be active and keep your eyes open. Also, make sure to link your samples on your profile.
You can use any type of business or social network you like to promote your work. You will be surprised how important a positive online presence can be when you want to become a freelance writer.
How to Make it as Freelance Writer
Of course, it is not enough to become a freelance writer. You also need to find ways to promote your work and find clients so you can really make it as a freelance writer. Let’s look at two options you have here:
1. Freelance Platforms
However, the competition on these platforms is massive! That means it’s harder to get a job. Even worse: Payments are often extremely low, since many freelancers, especially from Asia, are willing to work for as little as 4 USD an hour.
If you still want to give it a try, read this blog post first that explains to you what you have to do to land a job on freelance websites. These are the strategies that I used and managed to score positions that made me almost 50.000 USD within one year.
2. Pitch To Websites
Another option to become a freelance writer would be to pitch to established websites, that are looking for contributors and are willing to pay them, instead of general clients. The rates are much better, but it’s not that easy to get accepted.
They often have a separate page on their website where you can submit your ideas for a contribution. These can be headlines, bullet points, or the entire article. Sometimes they provide guides on how a potential article has to look like. Read them and be prepared!
Depending on your niche, you will have to do a bit of research. To give you a few examples:
- Cooking Detective: You can get up to 150-250 USD for an extended guide if you write about healthy recipes, tasty menus, reviews of cooking courses, or nutrition tips.
- A Fine Parent: This website pays you 100 USD per article, which should be about parenting and raising happy and well-adjusted kids.
- Barefoot Writer: You can get between 100 and 300 USD per published article if you write good-quality content about building a writing career.
- Upworthy: Upworthy pays between 0.23 and 0.35 USD per word. Topics are anything that involves things like positive news, original stories, or social justice.
- Earth Island Journal: Shorter articles pay about 0.25 USD per word, whereas longer feature stories can make 750-1,000 USD. You need to write about environmental issues, including wildlife, public policy, climate, or cultural survival.
- Great Escape Publishing: Anything from 50 USD to 200 USD per article, depending on the content. Topics are focused on the art of getting paid to travel.
How Much Money Do Freelance Writers Make?
Before you become a freelance writer you should know what you can possibly earn. Unfortunately, I can’t give you exact numbers now, because your payment depends on factors like your niche, your skills, and your experience. For example, medical writers will make more than lifestyle writers.
I personally think that 0.02 USD per word is the absolute minimum a new writer should get. However, there are many clients out there who want to pay you even less than that, especially on freelance platforms. Make sure you don’t sell your service undervalue.
After a while, you can increase your rate to whatever you think is more appropriate. Once you get better and faster that could charge about 0.03 to 0.10 USD per word. Only top-end writers in certain areas will make up to 1 USD per work.
You could also charge your clients per hour. The average freelance writer is probably charging about 17-20 USD.
How to Get Paid as a Freelance Writer?
As with every digital nomad or remote job, the payment process can be a bit of a pain. Most clients will probably want to pay you via PayPal. However, the fees are very high.
If your client is ok with it, he could also send you the money via Transferwise. Their fees are way better, they are fast and have real-time exchange rates.
How to Stay Organized as a Freelance Writer?
After a while, you will easily lose track of who you have pitched and what assignment you need to do. Use tracking tools, such as Trello, or simply create a Google sheet to keep everything organized.
Write down who you have contacted and when. Make a column to check if you have already sent out a follow-up and what result you got. That helps you keep an overview of your acquisitions.
Make another list to track assignments. Write down what you have to do, what deadlines you have, keywords you need to use, the status of it, and anything else that is important to get the job done. That might look like unnecessary work in the beginning when you just start to become a freelance writer. But once you have had a few contracts it will help you a lot to keep track.
Ready to Become A Freelance Writer?
To summarize: Start with defining your niche and improve your writing skills in that area. Create a website where you can showcase your experience and some high-quality writing examples. Approach potential clients with personalized strong emails and follow-ups. Make sure to promote your service on social media, via guest posts or in internet forums.
The payments might not look very promising in the beginning. But once you have references, your skills are improved and you have a wider network, it will be easier to increase your rates.
As you can see, even for fairly inexperienced people it is not impossible to become a freelance writer. However, you need to have patience, ambition, and invest quite a bit of effort. It is not a career that makes you rich overnight. But with the right strategy and a professional approach, there is no reason why you couldn’t make it.
Do you already have experience with content writing? If so, how did you become a freelance writer? Any additional tips on what aspiring writers need to consider?