Prior to the internet, freelance writing was the domain of a select few gifted wordsmiths who toiled away in basements on their typewriters. Today, it is one of the most accessible and potentially lucrative ways to make money that exists.
I know – I’m doing it. Over the last few years, I’ve built my freelance writing career from zero to a six-figure income. In the process, I’ve been able to free myself from the shackles of a dead-end job and create a lifestyle where I can be free to live the life I please.
In this article, I’m going to give you everything you need to know to build your own successful freelance writing career.
You Don’t Have to be a Greater Writer to Make Money Writing
You do not have to be a gifted writer to make money writing online. There are so many types of writing available, that, so long as you can put words together that make sense, you can earn an income.
The best writing for the internet is simple conversational writing that gets to the point. Readers want short sentences with simple words and ideas that can be grasped instantly. In fact, the ideal blog article is written at a reader comprehension level of Grade 4.
So, if you managed to make it beyond Grade 4, you can be a successful freelance writer!
Think you can’t make money online without basic IT knowledge? Get the facts here.
Freelance Writing Opportunities
Here are the main freelance writing opportunities:
- Blog Writing
- Business to Business (B2B) Writing
- Technical Writing
You can even become a tutor or provide your freelance services on sites like Super Prof.
Of these opportunities, copywriting is the most lucrative. Simply put, copywriting is any writing that attempts to persuade the reader to do something. It is designed to sell a product or a service. So, if you can create content that is going to make money for the person who is paying you, they’re going to pay you good money to keep doing it.
Technical writers have specialized knowledge in a subject. If you can combine technical writing with copywriting, you will be in an even better position.
Before becoming a full-time freelance writer, I spent 35 years in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and gym owner. So, it was only natural for me to market myself as a specialist fitness writer. My insight into the mindset of gym goers positions me well to create lead magnets and other content to sell fitness services.
Developing a Successful Freelance Writing Mindset
While freelance writing is an accessible and potentially lucrative form of income, it is not easy. It requires a high level of discipline and self-regulation. To build your career from scratch, you need to take consistent action every day.
It will take time to build relationships with people who will hire you. At the start, you can expect to be paid peanuts (such as one or two cents per word). Then as your reputation and portfolio build, you can command higher prices. So, you need to be mentally prepared to put in this groundwork.
Even when you’re able to command higher rates, you still need to be prepared for hard work and long hours. My work day starts at 6 am and, depending on the deadlines I’m facing, may not end until 8 pm that night.
As a beginner, you should go into this with the determination to take consistent action every day and expect to get quite a few knockbacks for every job that you secure.
it’s possible to make money fast but it may not always be the best way long term.
The 8 Steps to Building your Writing Career
Step #1: Assess Your Skills & Interests
Your best writing will be about the things that you are knowledgeable and passionate about. So, make a list of the unique knowledge and skills that you have. Include your hobbies and interests and all the things that you know more than the average person about.
Most people have developed some type of specialist knowledge from the jobs they’ve done in the past. Jot these things down.
You can also find a ton of writing tips online if you look for it.
Step #2: Decide on Your Writing Niche
Once you’ve got a decent list in front of you, you’re able to decide what your writing angle is going to be. You want to be able to differentiate yourself from all the other writers who you’ll be competing against.
Because of my background, I was able to differentiate myself as a fitness expert. Even though I had few writing samples when I began, I did have personal trainer qualifications that I could showcase. The few writing samples that I did have showed the hirer that I could write and my fitness background told them that I knew the topic back to front.
That put me at a definite advantage over general writers who were going for jobs such as writing best home gym machine reviews on sites like Strong Home Gym.
Step #3: Research your Niche
Having identified your niche, you now have to locate the writing opportunities within it. Start by typing your niche followed by ‘freelance writer’ into Google. For instance, I would type in …
Fitness Freelance Writer
This will give you an idea of what types of jobs are out there, and who are the major hirers.
Now dig a little deeper by locating all of the blogs, business and online magazines, and trade publications that focus on your niche. You want to start building relationships with the people behind these publications, so make a list of them.
Step #4: Create Your Portfolio Website
Now that you’ve got a list of contacts, you need to create a portfolio website that they can go to see how awesome you are. Your portfolio needs to portray you as a confident, personable writer who has the industry knowledge to make their content shine.
Start by creating a LinkedIn profile. Then build a simple WordPress website that showcases your talents. At this early stage, you will be highlighting your niche skill more than your writing ability. That’s ok. You should, however, add a couple of writing samples that show your ability to relate your knowledge to a lay reader.
Step #5: Sign Up to Freelance Job Sites
You are now ready to join some freelance writing job sites. The biggest player is Upwork but I do not suggest you go there. As an inexperienced writer, you’ll get lost in a sea of more experienced writers.
My recommendation is to start with such smaller sites as:
Check out 14 more ways to make money online.
Step #6: Cold Calling
Now is the time to go back to the list of niche publications you created earlier and create a spreadsheet listing the publication name, website address, and contact person’s email address (usually the editor-in-chief).
This is a labor-intensive process, but it will provide you with a list of potential clients that you can mine for a long time. So, keep going until you have at least a hundred contacts on your spreadsheet.
You are now ready to start sending out emails. Rather than directly pitching for a job, send out a letter of introduction. Tell them who you are and how much you enjoy reading their publication. Mention that you are a freelance writer and you’d love to work with them if the opportunity arose, Then link to your portfolio.
The key to success here is to personalize each letter rather than just using a template. It is those personal connections that will make you stand out.
You should send out five of these letters of introduction every single day.
If you don’t get a response, follow up three days later.
The Key To Freelance Writing Success
The six-steps that I’ve just outlined lays out the exact process I followed to build my successful freelance writing career. Throughout it all, there has been one overriding quality that has been the foundation of it all …
If you can discipline yourself to check 3-4 job boards every day and, most importantly, send out 5 letters of introduction daily, you will be rewarded with a constant flow of writing jobs.
Building a career as a freelance writer is a realistic goal for anyone with at least a 4th grade writing ability. But it won’t happen overnight.
Expect to get early knockbacks and to get some low paying jobs as you build your portfolio. In time, though, you per word rate will rise and you’ll have clients contacting you for work.
As a writer, you’re in the perfect position to make money from blogging. Discover how to do it right with our legitimate guide to making money blogging.
About the Author:
Hi, my name’s Steve Theunissen. I joined my first gym at age 15 and, five years later, I was managing my own studio. In 1987, I became the first personal fitness trainer in New Zealand. Over the past decade, I have built a freelance fitness writing career to share my fitness passion with the world.
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