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So you’re thinking about ditching your job to become a freelance writer. Can’t blame you — it’s a great gig.
Instead of having to work for someone else for a salary (and have a horrible boss breathing down your neck all the time), you get to work from home and set your own schedule. You can choose your own hours, take breaks when you want, ditch the commute, and be there for your children if they need you.
There’s also the great pay.
It’s definitely possible to earn great money as a freelance copywriter. In fact, there are many freelance copywriters who earn six-figures each year.
But what do you do if you have no writing experience? How do you break into the field and launch a career as a freelance writer?
Everyone has to start somewhere.
If you are wondering how to find freelance writing jobs for beginners, there are some logical steps you can take to launch your new career. Let’s check them out…
Table of Contents
Step 1: Understand That You Don’t Need Experience
One thing that holds many people back from striking out as freelance writers is their lack of writing experience. “I’ve never published anything,” they think as they push the idea of being a writer out of their minds. “It’s a nice thought, but who would hire me without experience?”
The great thing about this career is that you do not need previous writing experience to become a successful freelance writer. Seriously. You can learn everything you need to know about writing as you start publishing your first pieces.
Another important thing to consider is that you don’t need a college degree to become a freelance writer, either. Clients typically don’t care about where you went to school, your degree, or even if you never went to school. The main thing they care about is whether you are a good writer.
There are many successful freelance writers today who never earned a college degree. And there are also others who have a degree in one field but ended up writing in a totally different field.
Step 2: Develop the Mindset of a Business Owner
As a freelance writer, you will be a business owner offering your services to other businesses. You won’t be an employee of the companies you write for.
Realizing that you are a business owner will help you approach clients the right way. Instead of approaching them as though you were an employee looking for a job, you will be able to approach them as a professional who can help them out with a problem they may be having.
This is an important mindset shift that can have a major impact on your success in this business. It will enable you to approach potential clients with confidence and help you land more writing work.
Step 3: Choose a Writing Niche
What’s a writing niche?
A writing niche is your writing specialty. It’s the type of writing you focus on and specialize in. Health and wellness, for example, is a popular writing niche. Finance is another. There are many different writing niches you can choose from.
Another important thing to consider is that it’s perfectly okay to have more than one writing niches. In fact, it’s a good idea to have at least two or three. By having multiple niches, you can be prepared to weather any storms that may happen that cause one of your niches to go into a slump for a while, like the real estate niche did during the Great Recession. It’s about having something to fall back on.
Why not just be a generalist and write a little bit of everything?
When starting a freelance writing career, it’s very tempting to try to be a generalist and market your services to many different companies. And why not? Landing clients is a numbers game, right? The more you market yourself, the greater your chances of landing more work.
But it doesn’t work that way. You can actually land more work and earn more money by having one or more niches that you specialize in.
In order to understand why being a generalist often doesn’t work, you have to consider it from the perspective of someone who needs to hire a freelance writer for a project.
Let’s say you’re the marketing manager for a company that sells accounting software to small businesses. Who would you rather hire – a generalist or someone who specializes in finance?
It’s not hard to figure that one out, is it?
When considering freelance writers for a project, marketing managers usually prefer someone who specializes in whatever product or service their company sells – and not a Jack of all writing trades.
Step 4: Build a Writer Website
The next step in becoming a freelance writer with no experience is to build a writer website. This is a website that you can direct potential clients to so they can learn more about you and your services.
You can think of your writer website as a digital business card. Just as you would hand a business card to someone you meet in person that has information about you and your business, your writer website does the exact same thing except it is online and is more detailed.
It’s really beyond the scope of this article to go into how to build a website, but most people either build one on the WordPress platform or use a service like Wix or Squarespace.
WordPress is a framework for websites, and it has been used to build millions of websites over the years. Once you download and install it to your website host, you then install a theme to make it look the way you want. You can then customize your website to suit your preferences.
Step 5: Publish Some Writing Samples
Whenever you contact potential clients to pitch your freelance writing services to them, they will want to review some samples that you have published to see if your writing style is what they are looking for.
But how do you obtain samples if you’ve never been published before?
Obtaining writing samples isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are a couple of ways you can go about it.
The first is to contact companies and offer to do some pro bono (free) work for them in exchange for your name appearing on the articles you published (a byline).
When contacting companies to offer pro bono work, be open about the fact that you are new. Explain to them that you are trying to establish a freelance writing business and that you are interested in publishing a few pieces for free to use as writing samples to show prospective clients.
Many companies will be open and receptive to this. Not all will, of course, but you may be able to obtain enough samples with this method to launch your freelance writing business. Many companies pay writers to write their blog posts, so if you offer to write a few posts for free, you’ll save them a lot of money.
The second method for obtaining writing samples is to guest post on blogs. There are many blogs that openly advertise that they accept guest posts. To find those blogs you just do a search for your niche plus “guest post.”
For example, if your niche is finance, you would do a search for “finance guest post” to find a list of blogs that accept them. Be sure to follow the directions they have on their websites for submitting guest post ideas.
Some blogs may require you to submit a post that has already been written for them to evaluate. It’s best to avoid those sites. You don’t want to spend hours writing a blog post only to submit it and then have it rejected. The best blogs to pitch are those that only require you to pitch an idea for a blog post. They will then let you know if they are interested in your pitch.
Don’t worry too much if your first writing samples aren’t the greatest. Most people’s aren’t. Everyone has to start somewhere.
It’s important to keep in mind that after you have landed some clients and published some work for them, you can then use your new and improved writing samples to land more clients. In other words, you keep trading up and getting better and better writing samples.
How many writing samples do you need? Not that many. I recommend trying to get at least 6 – 8.
Step 6: Make a List of People to Pitch
After you have some writing samples, you need to figure out who you are going to pitch your services to.
You’ll first want to make a list of 100 companies to target in one of your niches. This is a starter list. You can add to it later after you have worked your way through your first 100.
Who do you contact with your pitches?
When pitching companies, it’s best to contact marketing managers. Those are the people who typically hire and use the services of freelance writers.
How do you find marketing managers’ email addresses?
There’s a website you can use called Hunter to find email addresses. You’ll have to sign up for an account to get started. You can use Hunter to conduct a limited number of free searches per month. After that, you’ll have to pay for more searches.
To use Hunter, just enter the company’s email address and it will give you the email convention the company uses.
Hunter usually doesn’t give you a specific person’s email address, but it does reveal the standard format the company uses. For example, for one company, it reveals that the most common email pattern it uses is the first initial plus last name.
Okay, but how do you find the names of marketing managers to contact?
You can very easily find specific people to contact through LinkedIn. Linkedin lets you enter the name of a company and then apply filters to narrow your search down to people in their marketing departments. This will quickly give you names of marketing managers to contact.
In addition to marketing managers, the people you want to contact may also have other titles including marketing director, content manager, and others. You want to look for people who work in marketing departments who look like they are in charge of the company’s written content. You may not get the right people at first, but with experience, you’ll get better at identifying the people you need to contact.
Step 7: Pitch Your Services by Email
After you have published a few writing samples, it’s time to start pitching your services to potential clients. It’s time to start landing work!
By now, you should have a collection of names and email addresses of marketing managers to pitch your services to. It’s best to set a daily goal so you don’t fall behind on your pitching. It’s up to you to decide how many to target on a daily basis. Make sure your goal is realistic and is something you can stick to.
It’s important to keep in mind that pitching is a numbers game. You probably won’t get a response from most of the emails you send.
This is okay!
When sending out cold emails to marketing managers, it’s normal to not hear anything back from many of them. The response rate to cold pitching is actually very low. You could see response rates as low as 1 – 3 percent. Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged if you don’t hear back from most of your pitches. Just keep your eye on the prize (paid work) and keep pitching.
It’s also possible that for those that respond to your email pitches, you may have a lot of people turn down your services. This is also normal.
You may have to send out several hundred email pitches to marketing managers before you have enough work to keep you busy. In this business, however, you only need a handful of quality clients that give you repeat business each month to earn a good living.
Step 8: Market Your Services on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a gold mine of opportunity for those looking for freelance writing work. If you optimize your profile and post and comment on the platform on a daily basis, it’s possible to have clients find and contact you.
It’s also possible to contact clients through LinkedIn instead of sending them cold emails. The best way to do this is to first connect with them, start a conversation, and then ask them if they need the services of a freelance writer. You want to build a relationship with people first before hitting them up for work.
Step 9: Apply to Writing Jobs Posted on Job Boards
Another way to possibly land work as a freelance writer is to apply for writing jobs that are posted on job boards. There are several job boards that are dedicated to freelance writers, and you can check them daily to see if there’s anything that might interest you.
In addition to using dedicated writing job boards, you can also use general job boards, like Indeed and others. Many companies post writing jobs on these boards. You can use filters to narrow your search to find only the remote writing jobs.
Step 10: Create a Portfolio on Contently
Contently is an online platform for writers that you may be able to use to land some freelance writing work. A great benefit of this site is that you can use it to upload all of your writing samples so you can have an easy way to keep up with them and show clients.
It’s free to join Contently, and it only takes a few minutes to create a portfolio. You can also create a portfolio on your writer website, but many writers prefer to only include a few relevant samples on their websites. Contently allows you to keep track of all of your articles.
Step 11: Network with Other Writers
Occasionally, freelance writers share leads with other writers. Sometimes they do this because they currently have more work than they can handle. And other times they do this because the lead is in a niche other than the ones they specialize in.
The best way to connect with others in your field of work is to join Facebook groups for freelance writers. There are a number of great ones to join that are very active. In addition to obtaining leads from other writers, participating in these groups helps you stay on top of the freelance writing industry and learn new tips and strategies to take your business to the next level.
Freelance Writer FAQ
If you’re still not sure if freelance writing is for you, let’s take a look at a few frequently asked questions. This will help you determine whether it’s a business opportunity you will want to pursue.
How Much Do Freelance Writers Make?
How much money you can earn as a freelance writer varies greatly and depends on many different factors like how long you’ve been writing, your experience, and how good of a job you do selling your services.
Many freelance writers start off at a rate of $0.10 per word. As they progress in their career and gain experience, they can increase their rates. Experienced writers often charge $0.50 – $1.00 per word for their services.
The type of writing projects you do is also a factor in how much you will earn. Some projects are more lucrative than others. For example, case studies are typically $1,000 – $2,000. The range for white papers is $3,000 – $6,000. Ghostwriting a book can go for $25,000 – $100,000 (or more).
Do Freelance Writers Only Write Non-Fiction?
Freelance writers typically concentrate all of their writing on non-fiction works. The market for fiction isn’t anywhere near as big as it is for non-fiction.
That doesn’t mean you can’t write non-fiction on the side, however. If you enjoy this type of writing, you can still write stories when you get some free time.
What Is Freelance Content Writing?
Content writing is when you specialize in writing content for clients’ websites. Content writing usually refers to writing for a company’s blog, but it can also mean writing other parts of a website, too, like the home page, about page, and others.
Many companies maintain blogs on their websites for marketing purposes. The articles companies post are indexed by the search engines and help their websites get found when people search for certain terms and phrases. These articles also help to position the companies as experts in their fields.
Content writing is highly-valuable to companies, and if you can master this form of writing, it is possible to make a full-time living with this type of work.
What Is SEO Writing?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO writing is a form of writing where the content you write is optimized so that it will rank well in the search engines. The terms SEO writing and content writing are often used interchangeably.
Most marketing managers who hire freelance writers to write blog posts for their company websites will expect writers to know how to write for the search engines. Writers will be expected to include keywords and phrases that people search for so the articles can easily be found.
How Can I Learn Content Writing at Home?
The best way to learn content writing is to read the blogs of various companies and study the writing styles used. There are also some online courses you can take to improve your writing skills.
Perhaps the best way to improve your freelance writing skills is through practice. Just as it takes practice to become proficient in a musical instrument, so too does it require practice to develop your writing skills. In time, your writing speed will improve and you will be able to write content that people will enjoy reading.
How Do Freelance Writers Get Paid?
After an assignment has been completed, a freelancer can create an invoice in PayPal and send it via email. Payment is sent electronically via PayPal or through another online payment processor.
There are other ways that invoices can be created. Some bookkeeping software, for instance, allow you to create invoices. PayPal is popular among freelancers because it’s free to use. If you do process payments through PayPal, however, the company does take a cut of your earnings as their payment.
Do Freelancers Need a Business License?
It depends on where you live. For example, in Virginia, where I live, all business licenses are handled at the local level. The county I live in does not require a business license. However, if I live in the town limits, then a business license is required.
If you are unsure of whether you will need a business license for your freelance writing business, contact representatives from your state, county, and town to find out.
A Great Opportunity for Wordsmiths
While there is no such thing as a perfect business (every business has its pros and cons), freelance writing is a great opportunity for many due to its flexibility and because it allows you to work from home.
It’s important to keep in mind that it can take a while to land enough clients to make a living as a freelance writer when you are first getting started. Like any business, success is not guaranteed. It depends on how well you market your services and how good of a job you do for your clients.