A step-by-step freelance writing guide.
Did you know that freelancing has become more popular in America over the last decade?
A study done by Upwork and the Freelancers Union illustrated that the number of freelancers in the U.S. increased from 3.7 million around 2013 to 57 million in 2018.
More people want to work from home because they desire freedom from a regular 9-5, where they spend most of their daylight hours working towards someone else’s goals.
You may be one of those people that can’t wait to ditch your day job and divorce your boss as soon as you can.
So, you can see where a gig like freelance writing offers the freedom and flexibility you need to get more time in your life.
An extra benefit is that you can start working towards achieving your own goals and not someone else’s.
I created this page as a resource to help you get back into your life so you can spend more time with family and friends.
This article is a round-up of all the information and resources you need to start your freelance writing today and begin making money quicker. It’s everything you need to know about freelance writing for beginners.
But first, what exactly is freelance writing?
What is Freelance Writing?
Freelance writing is a type of work where the freelancer works on tasks or projects for an individual, company, or organization. The freelance writer can be hired to complete various kinds of content, including blog posts, articles, short stories, white papers, case studies, novels, and more.
There are so many different types of writers out there like technical writers, freelance bloggers (which I do), academic writers, travel writers, and more.
You’ll find many types of writing projects and topics to write on like:
- Long-form content
- Business blog posts
- Magazine articles
- Case studies
- White papers
- Social media posts
- SEO writing
What Does a Freelance Writer Do?
So what does a freelance writer do all day? What certain experienced writers do all day depends on the work they do. For instance, a copywriter may have different daily tasks than someone who writes long-form content though many of the activities are the same.
Some tasks involved in freelance writing for beginners includes:
- Onboarding interviews
- Interviewing sources
- Administrative tasks
- Cold pitching and looking for clients
- Social media posting
- Writing blog articles
- Content writing for clients
- Looking for freelance jobs on freelance writing job boards
- Managing their website
Do You Need Specific Skills and Qualifications to Be a Freelance Writer?
I hear this question often from aspiring freelance writers. The good news is that freelance writing for beginners requires no experience.
Many new writers quit before they even start their freelance writing career because they doubt their qualifications to be a freelance writer. Aspiring writers often think they need an English degree or one in journalism, but this simply isn’t true.
None of my degrees relate to journalism or English in any way. And I can name many successful people who dropped out of college and went on to be super successful writers with NO DEGREE.
Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing is one, and Jorden Makelle of Writing Revolt is another. My first guest post on failures and mistakes I wrote for Make a Living Writing even before I knew how important guest posting was.
Taking classes to brush up on your writing skills is awesome, but don’t give up on a writing career just because you feel like you lack the qualifications.
Certain qualifications, traits, and freelance writing skills do matter, though:
- Blogging Skills
- Freelance Writing Skills
- Confidence (Even if it’s just a façade until you gain more with every project you write.)
- Time Management Skills
- Business Management Skills
- Digital Marketing Skills
- Handling Rejection
- Web Design Skills
And many others can be beneficial. You can also take a freelance writing course to help you get up to speed quicker.
How Do I Start Freelance Writing with No Experience?
A new writer can become a successful freelance writer with a bit of hard work and perseverance. You’ll find there are many things to do when you start your freelance writing journey, but before long, things become much easier as you get used to how freelance writing works.
There are specific things you need to do to start a freelance business. It may seem like a lot, but I promise you can start your freelance writing business even if you have NO EXPERIENCE. That’s one of the best parts about freelance writing for beginners.
You need to set up a few things before you can start looking for online writing jobs and pitching to potential clients.
1. Choose a Profitable Freelance Writing Niche
One of the most important parts of freelance writing for beginners is choosing a profitable niche. Deciding what you want to write about is one of the first things you need to do. Niching down is incredibly important. It’s the primary way to establish yourself as an expert and command higher prices.
What is a niche?
The Urban Dictionary defines a niche as “an area of the market specializing in one type of product or service.”
For blogging or freelance writing, a niche is the primary theme or passion that your blog or writing business revolves around. It’s the subject matter that all of your content focuses on.
You could say that a niche is essentially an audience. It’s an audience for a specific topic or theme.
Some examples of niches would be:
- Security technology
- Dog grooming
- Virginia travel
- Historical places in Massachusetts
There are five main steps in my method, the Niche Ninja Method.
1. Look at Your Favorite Hobbies, Sports, or Activities
Choosing a niche that you’re passionate about makes writing for clients and your own blog much easier. To succeed as a writer or blogger, you need to love your topic, or writing about it may become tedious.
2. Look at Your Work Skills and Education
One way to find a profitable niche is to look at your career and educational background.
Choosing a niche that you already have experience in is the easiest way to hit the ground running. It helps you establish the expertise and authority that will make you the go-to person in your industry.
3. Look at Your Past Life Experience
I find that many people find the most rewarding and passionate niches in their life experience. Life experience is huge and every bit as important as formal education.
For example, nothing I learned in college helped me be a better police officer besides maybe report writing.
Everything I learned being a police officer came from life experience itself – actually doing the job.
But even more so, life experience niches focus on things other than careers that you learn through life experience like parenting.
Maybe after years of homeschooling your kids, you found the perfect curriculum and schedule. If you’re a busy mom working from home, you may have great productivity tips and ideas for making working with your family at home easier.
4. The Research Phase – Research the Demand, Competitors, and Profitability
I’m lumping all the research methods that help you validate if your niche is profitable and verify demand all into one step.
As you use the tools that I explain below, you’ll find out a little bit about your competitors, demand, and profitability all at the same time.
Research is a critical part of validating the possible niches on your list. There’s a reason why passion and education or experience play such an essential element in the process.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization plays a key part in this process because finding competitors and keyword research help you determine if a niche is in-demand and profitable.
Some tools I use to help my students validate their niches in my Niche Ninja Mini-Course are forums, Ubersuggest, Google Adwords Keyword Planner, Amazon, and Google Trends.
5. Cross-Reference the Remaining Niches and Narrow Down
While going through these questions and adding niches to your list, you likely see overlaps. Some niches will pass all the tests, or some may only overlap on three.
The profitable niches, ones other people are passionate about, and you love, are the ones to think about seriously. If you have a background in those niches, that is even better.
You can also read my article on 21 popular, high-paying niches to get ideas. You can sign up for a downloadable list of freelance writing niches for beginners.
2. Build Your Freelance Writing Website
Next, you need to purchase a domain name and create a freelance writing website. A website is an important part of freelance writing for beginners. While there are many platforms you can build a website on, a WordPress self-hosted site is what you need.
There is a minimal investment of hosting and the domain name, but I promise it’s worth it.
If you make your home on a platform like Wix or Blogger, if something happens, all your work is gone. I know one blogger who lost over 300 articles when her chosen service changed or ceased to exist.
WordPress.org is the free, open-source software that gives you complete control of your website. It’s better for SEO, monetizing your blog, and allows you more control over your website.
There are two main hosts I advise you to try. First, there’s Bluehost. They are budget-friendly if you’re starting and you can purchase hosting for as little as $2.95 a month if you use my link.
Bluehost has excellent customer service and is great for beginners, but if you plan on monetizing your blog (more on a blog later) for SEO purposes, you want a faster host.
I recommend SiteGround, and if you use my link, you can get it as low as $6.99 a month.
And there is another awesome web hosting company that I just heard about recently that many successful bloggers and writers are saying is excellent hosting and a really low price.
3. Create an Awesome Freelance Writing Portfolio
Then you need to create writing samples for your freelance writing portfolio, which can be daunting for beginner freelance writers.
But really, all you need to do is create examples of freelance writing projects because really, all potential clients think about is if you can write well and get them results.
Create a Sample
Creating a portfolio can be the tricky part of freelance writing for beginners, but it doesn’t have to be!
The easiest way to get writing portfolio samples is to pick your dream client and then create a blog article or other piece of content based on them. There is nothing wrong with using a real company as an inspiration for a sample piece as long as you don’t try to pass it off as an actual project that you wrote for them, though.
Whatever writing projects you plan to write on, create at least one piece like that. If you want to write case studies, write one of those.
If you want to write blog posts, write one of those, but you can also publish other blog posts on your website to establish your expertise and show possible clients your writing style.
Offer Your Services Pro Bono
One way to gain pieces for your portfolio is to do a free writing project for a non-profit or business in your chosen niche. In return, they give a testimonial and/or permission to add that piece to your portfolio.
Partner with Other Freelancers
When working on your portfolio, reach out to another freelancer where your skills could create a great combination. If you offer copywriting skills, then reach out to a freelancer who sells web design services.
It might be that some of their customers are looking for copywriting referrals. You can give a discount to clients you meet through the web designer if you want to.
Many freelance writers network with other freelancers and refer clients back and forth.
Writing guest posts is another way to get writing experience and create portfolio samples. Not only does it help freelance writing beginners with examples, but it also helps with SEO too.
Most websites give you either one or more links back to your site. Back in the day, the website owner could make at least one website link a dofollow, but now all guest post links are nofollows.
But don’t worry; many SEO experts still say that guest posting has some value, which is a nice bonus.
These are just a few ways to create portfolio pieces as a complete newbie. Feel free to find more paid opportunities too!
4. Set Up Social Media Channels for an Online Presence
Next. an important part of freelance writing for beginners is setting up your social media channels. Social media is a critical aspect of your marketing strategy. You need to let the world know that you’re a kickass freelance writer!
I suggest you create social media accounts under your business name on the major platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Definitely, create a Facebook page for your business IF your ideal client hangs out there.
You may not plan on using all of your social media accounts right away, but at least reserve them, so no one else takes that name. I waited too long to change my Twitter account, so I did not get Writer’s Life for You.
You shouldn’t try to be active on all social media platforms at once because that’s not very feasible unless you are a social media marketing expert.
Make sure that there’s a link in your bio or wherever you can put one on your social media profiles, like a link to an opt-in on your website.
Also, use keywords like freelance writer, content writer, and whatever your niche is. Here is my LinkedIn profile.
It’s the one that has brought clients to me without me searching for them.
If social media isn’t your strong suit, I recommend you consider taking a class on using it for your business. It will 100 percent be worth the investment.
Pro Tip – If you optimize your LinkedIn profile the right way, freelance writing clients will eventually start finding you instead of the other way around. Many professional writers use LinkedIn to get high-paying clients.
5. Look for Freelance Writing Gigs on Job Boards
Now that you’ve created that awesome freelance writing portfolio and set up your social media, it’s time to look for your first freelance writing job in between pitching to potential clients.
Freelance writing job boards are great places to find work as a full-time freelance writer and they are an important part of freelance writing for beginners.
I created a list of websites and job boards to find great-paying freelance writing jobs for beginners. Upwork is on this list just because it is a platform where newbies can find writing jobs.
I’ve found many jobs on some of these sites, but my number one lead-generation tool has been my LinkedIn profile.
That being said, I strongly advise against it. I wrote all about the reasons why you should avoid gig sites and content mills like the plague.
But if you feel like you absolutely must work there to get some experience and writing samples, just beware of the risks to your wallet and don’t get trapped there.
To apply for jobs on job boards, create a freelance writing resume and cover letter for a freelance writer to have a higher chance of landing the job. If you great a general resume and cover letter, you can customize it for every job you apply for. That may seem like a lot, but it’s the best way to get noticed.
6. Crafting the Perfect Cold Pitch
Cold Pitching is a critical part of the process of finding freelance writing clients.
I briefly go over some specific tips for writing pitches to potential clients in my eBook Freelance Writing for Beginners: The Basics, along with the step-by-step process of starting a freelance writing business quickly.
There are several elements that you need to send in your pitches to possible clients:
- Your niche and the experience you have that illustrates you are an authority in it. Don’t worry. Even as a beginner, you can present a variety of education (yes, self-education totally counts) and your freelance writing website as examples.
- A link to your website and/or portfolio
- Writing samples related to the job or niche you are pitching
- Other publications or businesses you’ve written for if you have had at least a few clients
- How you can help them, whether that be engaging content that draws in more clients, writing catchy headlines, or proof you have that you can show how you get results for your clients.
You can check out my eBook on Freelance Writing for Beginners here.
7. How to Create a Freelance Writing Contract That Protects
Once you get that first client, it’s a fantastic feeling. It’s tempting not to want to bother them with getting them to sign a freelance writing contract.
But don’t do that! The contract protects you and your client. I can tell you horror stories about writers who didn’t get a signed contract and had a client bail on them without paying.
It’s unfortunate, but it happens. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t start out with signed contracts either. I was simply lucky nothing happened.
My lawyer friend Amira has an affordable freelance contract you can use with your clients that’s easy to use and customize. You can get her independent contractor template here.
Final Thoughts on Freelance Writing for Beginners
Now that you know the simple steps to start freelance writing as a beginner, it’s time to choose a freelance writing niche and build your writer website. Then create portfolio samples, set up your social media accounts, and start applying for jobs and finding clients.
You can essentially start your freelance writing business for little to no money, and that’s unique to freelancing. Many other business models require you to buy products or supplies to make products. But freelancing is different.
Yet, you will have expenses over time, just FYI like taxes, training, software, establishing an LLC (eventually), and other common business expenses.
So, what are you waiting for? Start your freelance writing career today!
Can you freelance with no experience?
Depending on what freelance job you want to do, yes! Content writers don’t need to be experts when they start. I know people like Jorden Makelle of Creative Revolt, who was making $5,000 a month within five months of being fired from her job.
She had no college degree and no experience. If you want to be a freelance web designer or programmer, you’ll need a background in that or at least training to start making money.
Is freelance writing a good career?
Yes, it’s an amazing career. What other job can you make thousands of dollars every month as a beginner? Plus, you get to work from home in your pajamas, and your commute goes from an hour in traffic to from the bed to your coffee pot.
You will work hard, but it is much better than a traditional day job by far. Freelancing from home is totally worth it.
How do I get clients with no experience?
There are two main ways to get freelance writing clients with no experience. Apply for jobs on freelance writing job boards or cold pitching to potential clients.
You will make more money from the clients you cold pitch to because you can target clients that can afford to pay you well.
Related Posts to Freelance Writing for Beginners
Here are some helpful related posts to freelance writing for beginners:
13 Simple Content Writing Tips for Beginners: How to Look Like a Pro When You’re Not
Freelance Writing vs Blogging: Is One Better Than the Other