This past year has had many people looking for a side hustle or to change careers altogether. Freelance writing is an excellent choice for those who have the skills and a gift for communicating thoughts and ideas. The best part is that as a freelance writer, you can set your own goals, determine which clients you will take and not take, and set your own schedule. If this sounds like the perfect lifestyle for you, your next question is probably how to be a freelance writer and what you need to get started.
What is it like being a freelance writer?
Everything we do in life has advantages and disadvantages. The first thing you need to do if you have been thinking about becoming a freelance writer is to put away those visions of those YouTube stars who show you their mansions and cars with claims that it happened overnight. Yes, it is possible to make a substantial income as a freelance writer, but it also takes hard work and time to build on your successes. You will have to be willing to take the time to learn the business, improve your writing skills, build a portfolio, and start building clientele.
Pros of becoming a freelance writer
Becoming a freelance writer has several advantages over a traditional nine-to-five job. The first is that you can set your own schedule. This is a deadline-driven business, and as long as you make your deadlines, you can do the writing on your own schedule. Another advantage is that you can write part-time or move it into a full-time career.
Perhaps the biggest advantage is that you can write from anywhere there is an Internet connection. This allows you to do your freelance writing job from anywhere in the world. All you need is a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection, and the world is your office. You are not chained to an office, that is the part that draws many into the freelance business.
Cons of becoming a freelance writer
Before you decide to become a freelance writer, you also need to consider a few things. One of the biggest concerns for many is health care. This is one reason why many freelancers choose to become a writer part-time and keep their regular job. If your spouse has a job with company-provided health insurance, then you have a few more options.
Becoming a freelance writer can be lonely, and if you are a person who likes the social interaction of an office, then this is something that you need to take into account before you leap. It is important to keep your social connections, even when you are working from home. Another thing to consider is that although you can build freelance writing into a sturdy source of income, working from contract to contract can be scary in the beginning. You need to consider how you feel about having the security of a steady paycheck.
How do I start as a freelance writer?
If you are still reading this and have decided this is something that you want to do, your next question is how to be a freelance writer. Knowing where to begin is often the most challenging part of the process. The first thing you need to do is to explore the type of writing that you want to do. Here are the steps that you need to do to get started in this exciting and rewarding field.
1. Look at examples of freelance writing
You have many options from starting your own blog to writing for someone else’s blog. You can become a copywriter and specialize in sales copy, or you can write books and sell them on sites like Amazon or your own website. Many companies will also hire freelance writers to manage their social media and keep in contact with potential customers. The possibilities for writing opportunities are only limited by your imagination, and the first thing that you need to do is to explore what types of writing are available and what you think you might be interested in pursuing.
You also need to take a good look at your writing ability, get to know your voice, and decide where you need to learn new skills or improve existing ones. Many people think that they are good writers, but when they start writing for clients, the feedback can be an eye-opening experience. If English is your second language, then you might need to hone your skills so that you sound like a native speaker and your telltale speech patterns do not give you away. Also, you must make sure that you have the basics of grammar and good writing.
The next thing you need to ask yourself is whether there are any skills that you do not have that you need to acquire. For instance, if you do not know anything about on-page SEO, basic HTML, or how a search engine works, then you have a little bit of homework to do. There are many places online where you can get this information for free, and there are also courses available where you can have an instructor walk you through what you need to know and make sure that you are ready for the next step. The best way to explore what types of writing you might like to do is to read examples of freelance writing on the web and ask yourself where you would be a good fit.
2. Where to find freelance writing jobs
Once you hone your writing skills and obtain the skills that you need, it is time to start putting yourself out there and finding work. There are many places where you can find legitimate writing gigs and side hustles. You will find many freelance writers who will tell you not to write for content mills because of the low pay. Many of these opportunities indeed have lower pay, but if you have no experience whatsoever, they will allow you to write often and learn. Just as with anything else, you need to learn the ropes first and then raise your pay scale to match your abilities. These low-paying sites can be an excellent place to hone your skills, receive feedback, and find ways to improve.
If you are confident about your skills, then it might be time to start offering your services on platforms like Flexjobs, Guru, or on your own website. You can also find opportunities to work directly for companies who need someone on staff but are willing to allow you to work remotely. There are plenty of opportunities out there when you start looking.
3. Build a portfolio
One thing that every freelance writer must do is to start building their portfolio from the very beginning. If you are working under contract, you might not be able to use the pieces that you write, but you can write something based on an article you wrote and give it your own voice. When someone wants to hire you, it is almost a given that they will want to see some of your work to find out if you are a good match for their brand. Don’t worry, if you are embarrassed by your writing samples six months down the road, it is just a sign that you are improving and learning.
4. How do freelance writers get paid
One of the biggest shocks to the system, when you become a freelancer, is that you will not have taxes taken out of your pay. Many platforms will pay you through PayPal, direct deposit, Payoneer, or other similar means. You will be considered a 1099 worker, which means that you must report your income and pay taxes at the end of the year.
My best advice is to start planning for tax season from the very first time you take your first job. The IRS has special guidelines for gig workers and freelancers, so be sure that you are familiar with what will be required. You need to make sure that you know what you need to do for state and municipal taxes, too. It is a good idea to estimate what your taxes will be and set them aside in a savings account or other special account so that you do not get any unpleasant surprises when it comes time to do your taxes.
Freelance writing jobs for beginners
Previously, I said that it was OK to start working for content mills when you were just starting, but this is not where we want to be forever. The next question is how to get freelance writing gigs where you can make a decent living and live your preferred lifestyle. The first place to begin looking is on Problogger boards and sites like Freelancewriting.com. For many people finding personal clients is an organic process.
Let’s explore what I mean by this. Finding a personal client that will be willing to pay what your writing is worth begins with finding clients in the first place. You have to build relationships and develop a certain level of trust before someone is willing to pay major bank for your writing. Treat every client that you gain through any platform as a potential long-term client because it all begins with building relationships and letting your work speak for itself.
Building your freelance writing career is just like starting any other new profession. You have to be willing to learn the skills that you need, and you have to realize that it will not happen overnight. The best advice on how to be a freelance writer is to get started. Don’t worry, you will learn as you go because we all did.