How To Start Freelance Writing Today
Freelance writing is easily one of the most popular freelance career paths — how could it not? Do you want to make money writing? Cool. Are you looking to make money working at home or while traveling the world? Great! Freelance writing is a way to start turning your words into cold, hard cash.
But, it can’t be that easy, right?
Well, that depends. Building a viable full-time freelance career might be easier than you think — as long as you are willing to put in the work. In this guide, I will explain how I went from taking a couple of odd jobs a year to becoming a Top Rated Seller on Fiverr within six months.
Join a freelance site
There are plenty of ways to become a freelance writer, but the easiest way to get started is without a doubt to just join a freelance platform. While I obviously have a bit of a bias towards Fiverr, plenty of people make careers on sites like Upwork too.
Signing up for a freelance website is really easy. You’ll sign up like you would for any other account. You need an email, username, and a few other details for payment. You can have an account up and running within minutes. So, what are you waiting for?
Author’s note: I made my account with zero consideration for my username and it still haunts me — use your business name!
Look at what is selling
I’m of the opinion that a lot of people avoid starting a freelance career because they don’t know what to do. A little research can really help you to get started.
Every freelance site allows you to navigate it as a buyer or a seller. Take some time to look at what kind of work people are selling. As a freelance writer, I work on everything. This morning, I landed a new gig writing a three-book urban fantasy series before I changed gears to work on meditation stories. Later, I’ll be writing marketing content for a CBD company. The freelance writing space is huge, so look around and see what sounds like fun.
On Fiverr, you can explore the different kind of gig categories to see what works for you — or you can go more direct and look at buyer requests. These requests will show you what people are actively looking to pay for in real-time.
Choose a few key skills
While you look at what is being offered, start making a list. Jot down anything that looks interesting to you.
Popular options are:
- Web content
- Social media posts
- Creative writing (short stories, novellas, books)
- Non-fiction ebook writing
The point is, there is a lot to work on. Every single day, new people need new content — and the base of most content strategies involves written content.
If you love writing, you might be surprised to find that you end up writing a kind of content that you didn’t even know existed.
From your list, pick a few key skills that you think will work for you. These skills will be the base that you lean on for your official entrance into the freelance world, but believe me, your skills will grow with time.
Make brand materials
Every freelance platform is different, but on Fiverr you have a lot of creative control with your profile. The site allows you to make “gigs” which is where you get to take your chosen skills and make them available to potential clients.
As a freelancer, I found that improving my branded content drastically improved how many people showed an interest in my work. I started with really basic images that weren’t completely professional. When I rebranded my page, I used Canva, which is the best branding tool in the world for anyone who wants to make content and isn’t a bonafide graphic design genius.
You can make covers, images, logos, and so much more. It is a great way to make a professional page in a matter of minutes (and no I’m not sponsored by them — but I’ve used them for years and they are a lifesaver)
Make a portfolio (optional)
If you are a writer, you should have a portfolio. Now, let me be clear, you might not have a professional portfolio — and that’s fine. But, for some of the skills that you choose, having samples can really help to seal the deal.
But, to have success with this, you have to be brave.
Real talk: I’m a full-time writer and I still cringe when I have to send creative writing samples to clients. This morning, my urban fantasy client asked for a sample. Do you know what I sent? An excerpt from my most recent WIP. I felt the same familiar dread that I have felt since I started writing — the fear of rejection. I sent it anyway, and you know what? She loved my draft. I’m now writing a three-book series. This wasn’t professional work, it was mine. You don’t need to have sold something for it to be in your portfolio. Share your art. It still counts.
And if they don’t like it, it doesn’t mean your work is bad. You just might not be the right fit. Don’t panic! I send clients away because I don’t think we are compatible all the time. You will learn your strengths with time, it’s okay!
Start sending out pitches
The freelance world is not kind to those who just sit back and wait for clients to find them — and I say this as a person who hasn’t done a buyer request since month two of her freelance career.
My clients come to me now. I don’t put any work into finding work. New clients find me on a regular basis.
But, to start? I spent hours replying to requests and placing bids.
Whatever freelance site you use, replying to buyer requests is important when you first start. Take some time to consider your pitch.
My pitch format:
- Greeting (Hey there!)
- What caught your attention about the request (I am so interested in this niche because XYZ)
- What makes you a good fit (I’m a huge fan of this niche/I have this perspective/I envision this)
- A general breakdown of your vision for the content (people cringe over this — they act like their every idea is gold and will be stolen if you share it, but I think that’s silly. Ideas aren’t hard to come by, especially marketable ones) to show why you are a good fit. More importantly to show that they aren’t just any client, but a client that you’re actually looking to provide real solutions for.
- A sign-off (thank you, best, etc.)
- Your name
I used this every time and landed pretty much every request I replied to. For maximum results, reply quickly. Most jobs that I have lost, I lost because they picked someone else first (but a lot of those clients came to me for future work regardless because of my pitch — added bonus!)
Land your first job!
When you send out buyer requests, your clients will reach back out. They will likely follow-up. They might ask about your expertise. If you don’t have any “credible” expertise, don’t worry.
My degree isn’t in English or creative writing. I had never been published when I started. I had no professional written experience. I’ll be honest, guys. I’ve written my entire life. I’ve wanted to be a novelist or journalist since I was a kid. But, I never even entertained the idea of studying it in school.
From what I’ve seen, very few writers have a literary background. They’re people with real-world experience who also like to write. And I think that’s great. Writing is a skill, but I think it’s a skill that should always be partnered with another area. Someone who writes well can still say nothing at all — that matters.
I wanted to make money. Being a starving artist was never an option for me. And that has never once held me back in my career. So, I don’t care what you went to school for. I don’t care what your professional background is. Writing is so versatile that your other areas of expertise will be your real strength.
Land the job. Use your knowledge. Knock it out of the park.
This is why you should always apply for jobs that you connect with!
Now do it again
So, you’ve landed your first job. You did it. If it didn’t work out, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you are ruined. Your writing style won’t be for everyone. But, make sure you prioritize customer service here. Work with your clients. Get those good reviews.
If it went well — and even if it took a few times for it to go well — learn from it. See what you did. Enjoy your success. Enjoy what you learned.
Use that knowledge, learn from it, and do it again.
My first few five-star reviews were on the most random projects, I can’t even tell you. My clients were on a budget and they let me learn a new craft while I worked. I’m grateful. Now, I’m making 400% what I was back then — and it feels so good.
More importantly, you can do it too.
So, get out there and get started. You have literally nothing to lose. I didn’t believe in me and I made it, so guess what? I really believe in you.
The Mini Post-Grad Survival Guide
A 5-day email course with tips on budgeting, investing, and productivity for 20-somethings. Sign up for free.