Freelance writing (freelancing) is becoming a popular career choice for those who wish to work from home or abroad. For some, the freedoms associated with a career in freelance writing could outweigh the actual take home pay. For others, freelance writing is a way to catapult themselves from the daily grind of the 9 to 5 world.
When you focus on freelance writing as your primary source of income, you can literally work from anywhere in the world. Some professional freelance writers have taken this as an opportunity to use freelance writing as a method to fund their adventures. Others use freelance writing a way to stay at home and spend more time with their families.
I’ve paid out over $30,000 to freelancers for creating content for my various businesses. You can make some serious money freelancing. – Scott Alan Turner
Regardless of your motivations for becoming a professional freelance writer, there is a simple 7 step process that shows you how to jumpstart your career in freelance writing.
Step #1: Assess Your Goals in Life and Prepare Financially
Before you begin thinking about a career in freelance writing, you must ask yourself, “What if it doesn’t work?”
As a freelance writer, you will encounter all sorts of different problems such as:
- A client not paying their invoice on time.
- A client not paying their invoice at all.
- Having an overwhelming volume of work in one week, while having a dead week the next week.
- Potential problems could arise from your payment processor. (Fraud, chargebacks, etc.)
- Disputes with your clients that arise from a misunderstanding of the terms.
Each of these potential problems results in the same thing happening: Not getting paid. As a freelance writer, not getting paid is the worst possible thing that could happen to you. Without steady cash flow, you could be hitting up the classified ads looking for another job in no time.
Consequently, you must have a well thought out financial goal in mind when you decide to quit your job and become a full-time freelancer. Also, it is almost imperative to have a healthy financial situation before trying to live your life as a professional freelance writer.
Before becoming a freelance writer, you should strive to eliminate all consumer debt while simultaneously saving 6-12 months worth of living expenses in an emergency fund. If your business eats into your reserve funds after 90 days, it may be time to reconsider freelance writing as your chosen career path.
Step #2: Define Your Niche and Become an Expert
Regarding writing articles for a living, burnout is a career killer. That is why it is essential for you to write about topics that are near and dear to your heart.
If you take on writing gigs that require an immense amount of research, your hourly rate will suffer because you could underestimate how much research you will need to perform in order to write a quality article for your client.
One strategy is to take out a notebook and make a list of all the things that you buy on a regular basis. If you need help, login to your online checking account and look at all the places where you spend money. Another strategy is to use your work experience and your industry-recognized credentials as a way to gain authority within a specific niche.
For example, if you are technology blogger, it wouldn’t hurt to begin gaining certifications in the particular area of technology relevant to you. Become invested in your content and try to find writing jobs to compliment your lifestyle as well as your life goals.
Step #3: Start Small & Focus On Your Portfolio
You wouldn’t buy a house from a home builder without seeing houses they have built in the past; Why would any of your potential customers pay your premium without seeing any of your previous works?
If you are just getting started as a freelance writer, your best bet is to begin taking on small projects in order to build up a portfolio. Ask your first clients to start attributing articles to your name and ask if you can get an author biography with a picture of yourself on their website.
When your work gets indexed in search engines, potential clients will search for your name and review your most popular articles. When you’re first starting out, you won’t be able to command $60 for 600 words.
However, if you are a known blogger within a specific niche and people can gauge your writing abilities, you might be able to charge a higher premium that other firms are currently charging. In the writing business, expert analysis combined with helpful tips written in an easy to digest format is blogging gold.
Step #4: Get in the Routine of Refining Your Writing Skills
As a professional writer, you will want to a take at least 2 hours per week to refine your writing skills and study industry analysis. The freelance writing market can change rapidly due to the nature of the business.
Think about it from an economic perspective: Your client likely already has a website, and they are probably trying to maximize their return on investment (ROI). In order to get the highest ROI, they need to find a competent writer who will do the job at the lowest price.
In this regard, freelance writing can appear to be a race to the bottom. When you begin looking for freelance writing clients, you’ll notice that some publishers will offer to pay you a measly $5 for a 1,000-word article. Don’t let this discourage you. Many of the big freelance writing clients you land will probably be a diamond in the rough scenario.
Landing good paying clients that don’t flake out is the toughest part of the whole “How to become a freelance writer” equation. When you take the time to review the latest trends of writing blog articles, you can be sure that you are giving your clients a fresh approach to content creation for their blog or website. This helps you stand out amongst your competitors.
Step #5 How to Find Freelance Writing Clients
A search engine query for “Freelance writing jobs” will likely bring you to the homepage of Upwork. As one of the biggest communities for freelancers, Upwork is the #1 website for those seeking and providing freelance writing services. If you are just beginning your career in freelance writing, Upwork is a good place to start building your portfolio.
Be aware that as a freelancer who is starting out on Upwork, many clients may seemingly ignore your proposals. It is imperative that you write a creative proposal that catches the attention of your potential customer.
You may want to say that you are a new writer who is willing to write at a cheaper rate in order to build up your reputation on the Upwork platform.
When you begin to accumulate writing pieces in your portfolio combined with continuous 5-star feedback, clients who post the high paying freelance writing jobs on Upwork will start to take notice of your proposals.
If you wish to avoid Upwork, other freelance writing platforms are available such as:
You may want to take a more organic approach to freelance writing lead generation. Consider setting up a website and lure potential leads to your service with your public portfolio. You may also wish to utilize social media channels, message boards and direct marketing in order gain more leads.
You may also want to develop a sales pitch, showing how blog content can help increase online brand visibility which would help establish another method of generating leads for your client’s business.
Step #6: Become a Master of Time Management
Being prompt, responsive and attentive to your customers is the best way to earn repeat customers. When your clients begin depending upon you to bolster their digital presence, it is possible that some clients will start putting more work on your plate.
Becoming a master of time management is essential to becoming a successful freelancer. If you are a talented writer, you may find yourself in a position where you have to turn down good paying freelance writing gigs.
Determine how much time you wish to devote to your freelance writing business. Try to find a computer lab or build a home office that is free of distractions. Use this quiet time to begin perfecting your writing craft and let your loved ones know that you will be unavailable while you are working.
No matter how engrossed you’ve become in your writings, be sure to stick to your word and stop working at your designated stop time. This is especially true if you have prior engagements with friends or family. Otherwise, it can be tempting to ditch your social life in order to push through to the end of a project.
By becoming a master of time management, your life will be smooth and predictable. Plus, your clients will be happy because they are getting their content for their websites without any interruptions.
Step #7: Run Your Business By the Books
Consult your local laws and regulations in regards to running a business. When you begin providing work to clients, you’ll want to have a paper trail so that you’ll be able to do taxes and perform your duties as a business within your municipality.
Most freelance writers can get a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) in their state, and these fees average $30 to $100 or more, depending upon the state. From there, you’ll want to get an Employer Identification Number, better known as an EIN from the IRS. This number is the number for which you will submit your earnings to the IRS. You can get your EIN after you create your LLC from the IRS website.
With these two documents, you can get a business checking account for your freelance writing business. You could go with an online bank such as Capital One Spark Business Checking, or you could choose a local bank or credit union. Now that you have a business account, you’ll want to create and link your PayPal account to your new business checking account. If you wish to accept credit cards securely, consider getting a free merchant account with Stripe.
Once you’ve sorted all of this out, consider getting an invoicing app that allows you to send fancy PDF styled invoices to your clients. Many of these apps will provide you with a dashboard of your organization’s income.
These apps are particularly useful in ensuring that you get paid. You can activate advanced features such as payment reminders, customized invoices and line item charges.
Now that you have your basic business platform in place, consider hiring a bookkeeping service and a CPA to help you navigate business taxes. As a general rule of thumb, you should set aside 25% of all profits so that you can use this money to pay your taxes. Most likely, your CPA will advise you pay these taxes quarterly so that you aren’t stuck with an enormous tax bill at the end of the fiscal year.