Last Updated on August 28, 2020 by Michael Brockbank
Being a freelance writer working from home has been an incredible experience for me. But, it’s not without setbacks and issues. Today, I want to show you how to start freelance writing and avoid some of the things I had to work through to succeed.
Don’t worry, it’s not overly difficult. But, it will take a great deal of commitment from yourself. Working from home isn’t as glamorous as you might think.
10 Steps to Start Freelance Writing as a Beginner
It’s not overly difficult to start as a freelancer. However, there are quite a few aspects that I wish I knew when I began. And that’s what I hope to share with you in this guide.
This is all based on my personal experience and how I went from making $5 per article to several thousand each month.
Here are 10 easy steps to help you learn how to start freelance writing when you have no experience.
1. Create a Financial Strategy
First of all, it’s imperative that you come up with some kind of financial strategy. It’s one thing to get paid from clients, but as a freelancer working from home, you are responsible for a lot of financial needs.
Because you really don’t have an HR department to manage your income.
These are just some of the things you’ll have to set money aside for to help solidify your future:
Plan for Vacations
In the beginning, you’re probably not worried about vacations. But if you want to take some time off at any point this year, you should start planning immediately.
Unlike traditional jobs, you don’t have guaranteed income for paid time off. If you’re not writing, your not bringing in money. Most freelance writers are paid per word or per article. This means no writing = no pay.
So, open a savings account specifically for vacation expenses and the time you won’t be working with clients. For instance, set aside your average freelancer income per day for every day you want to take off.
Have a Backup for Sick Days
Nothing is worse than trying to write when you have a fever. In fact, you’re more likely to make mistakes and create some poor content.
Stick some money aside to cover sick days. This way, you can still “pay” yourself when you’re unable to write for clients. Use the same method above by setting aside your average income per day to cover being sick for at least a week.
Plan for Retirement
It’s never too early to have a retirement plan, even if you start freelance writing today. The more you can squirrel away, the better off you’ll be when you’re ready to call it quits decades from now.
If you make enough and can put away a large chunk of your income, you could retire much sooner than you think.
Don’t Forget Your Taxes
Lastly, and perhaps one of your most important expenses, don’t forget to save for tax season. The last thing you want is the IRS or state government coming after you for back taxes.
Luckily, you can claim a lot of things you use to work as a business expense, though. For instance, any upgrades to my computer are a requirement for my job. So, I can count them as deductions.
2. Start with Content Mills
I know a lot of experts who want you to avoid content mills. And although it’s true that you won’t make as much money with a content mill as you would with a private client, they still serve a purpose.
Especially if you’re a beginner writer.
Using content mills benefits you by:
- Helping you learn how to write content.
- Letting you hone your skills to become a better writer.
- Giving you experience for dealing with clients of all kinds.
- Allowing you to make money quickly as opposed to waiting for private clients.
Case in point: when I started as a freelance writer, there was no way any business was going to hire me based on my skills at the time. I didn’t know what I was doing and my writing was anything but stellar.
Content mills gave me an opportunity to make money while I practiced and learned.
So, from a beginner’s perspective, content mills like Textbroker are vastly effective when you start freelance writing. And yes, I was able to replace my full-time income using nothing but Textbroker.
3. Find and Use the Best Tools
Setting up your workspace is pivotal to success. When you start freelance writing, you’ll discover all kinds of things that improve your performance.
For me, it all came down to these:
Obviously, you’ll need a computer to write online. At first, I was using an old desktop and then a much older laptop for when I traveled.
Comfort will make a world of difference in productivity. As soon as I upgraded my cheap chair to a Serta, I increased my daily income because I could write faster and for much longer.
I tried writing from Word once. But found I was much better when using WordPress as a freelancer with various plugins installed.
Proofreading will only get you so far. It’s best to have a second set of eyes to go over your content. For instance, using Grammarly can boost efficiency…even if you just use the free account.
Proper lighting in your office will make a difference. For me, better lighting reduced eye-strain and headaches. In the end, I produced more content in well-lit areas.
Second Monitor (Optional)
One of my best investments was that of the second monitor. I can research material on one screen and write on the other. This means I don’t have to bounce back and forth between tabs. It was a massive time saver for me.
Over the past few years, I’ve been using Asana to help organize my day better. And it’s been incredibly helpful. Find an organization app that benefits you as a freelance writer.
4. Decide to Be a Niche or General Writer
A lot of experts want you to focus on a specific niche. This is when you write content for one specific industry or topic. And although you could make more money from those specific articles, you’ll limit what’s available to you.
And this is not helpful when you start freelance writing.
Let’s say you want to be a gaming writer. But what if the only jobs you can find are for green living? You can’t force a brand to hire you because that’s what you want to write about.
Personally, I am a general writer. This means I can tackle any subject that is thrown my way. It’s also why I was able to make so much money with content mills.
One of the reasons why I excel at being a generalist is because of how my mind works. It’s exceptionally difficult for me to stick to just one topic or industry, which is why I have so many blogs nowadays.
My mind is always moving from one interest to the next. And since I love to learn new things about any topic, it’s very easy for me to dive into a myriad of niches.
The bottom line is that you need to decide for yourself what path is better for you…not what I, or anyone else, thinks you should do.
5. Be Ready to Learn…A Lot
There is a lot that goes into writing content for clients in today’s market. Not only do you need good spelling and grammar skills, but you also need to know the nuances of search engine optimization.
Because if you can fine-tune writing for SEO, clients will hurl money your way.
When I began my career, I didn’t know anything about AP Style writing. So, I spent months researching and perfecting my skill so I could land better jobs and attract clients.
I am always learning everything I can about creating content and SEO.
6. Set Up a Professional Blog
Once you start getting a few articles under your belt, set up a professional blog. Make this the flagship of your writing career. The more you can get your name out there on the Internet, the more likely you’ll attract private clients.
Not only will a website provide a base of operations when you start freelance writing, but it will also give you a professional email.
Trust me, potential clients prefer emails from michaelbrockbank.com or writersanctuary.com over anything from Gmail. As the team lead for my client, I usually ignore requests if they come from Gmail or Yahoo.
Too many people use free email services for scamming. And I simply don’t have the time to play with those people.
Have a Contact Form Ready
You need to install a contact form on your website. This gives clients a way to contact you directly to ask about pricing and what-not. I get a lot of guest blogging and sponsored post opportunities from mine.
Collect and Display Testimonials
As you set up the blog, see if you can get a few client testimonials to put up. People are more likely to pay you for services if they see reviews regarding your work.
7. Market Yourself on Social Media
As you begin to define yourself as a freelancer, take to social media and market yourself. Nowadays, employers often browse social media accounts to see who it is they’re hiring.
When you add social profiles specifically for your freelance writing career, it’s easier for everyone to find you.
Plus, it helps you create a following while growing your influence in the industry.
Create a Facebook Page
Facebook is more than just an online hub to share cat memes and chat with your grandma. It lets you create a free page that you can use when you start freelance writing.
It’s a way to separate your personal Facebook profile from your professional persona. And, it’s incredibly easy to set up while engaging any who follow you.
Use a Twitter Account
Setting up a Twitter account specifically for writing is another excellent way to get noticed. This is especially true if you’re active in the many communities on the platform.
For instance, you can connect with all kinds of freelance writers and other professionals who may know someone in need of your services.
It happens quite a bit, actually.
Market Yourself on LinkedIn
I found my current client through LinkedIn. Or, rather, they found me. LinkedIn is kind of like Facebook but for professionals. It’s common for employers and clients to browse profiles looking for good writers.
Just make sure you let everyone know that you’re a “Freelance Writer for Hire.”
8. Reach Out to Potential Clients
Once you start feeling confident as a writer, start reaching out. You can always send inquiries to all kinds of brands you’d love to write for. And some may hire you to periodically write articles throughout any given month.
Personally, I’ve never been keen on sending cold emails. However, I do know they can work exceptionally well.
The problem with cold emails, though, is that it could take you literally hundreds of messages before someone takes you seriously enough to hire you. This is especially true if you don’t have samples of your work or have no experience writing.
And the “no experience” part is why I push using content mills. Although you won’t be able to use the content because you’re a ghostwriter and sold the piece, it does give you experience enough to create your own sample to share while impressing clients.
My point is that it doesn’t cost anything but time to reach out to prospective clients. If they say no, move on. There’s plenty of opportunities out there.
9. Network with Others
This kind of goes along the same lines as using social media. Networking helps get your name in the right circles. And if you meet up with the right people, all kinds of doors can open for you.
For example, I love going to WordCamps for GreenGeeks. I get to meet all kinds of amazing people who are there to learn more about WordPress. However, I’ve also made several personal and professional connections that go outside of GreenGeeks.
Thanks to current health restrictions, it’s a bit difficult to really expand and attend various meetups and hangouts. But, you can still connect and network with others online.
The moment any client pays you for any piece of content you create, you’re a professional writer. Make sure as many people as possible know that fact. Don’t be annoying with it and come off as conceited. But try to get involved as much as possible with the writing community.
10. Realize the Experience Can Take Some Time
Perhaps the most important step of them all is realizing how long it can take before you start to see a significant income. Not everyone will start freelance writing and become an instant success.
It can take weeks or even years to make enough to replace a full-time income.
I only bring this point up because I’ve seen a lot of potentially good writers give up after a couple of months. Mostly, they give up because they’re not bringing in the money that experts “assure” them they’ll make.
It took me a year and a half before I was able to quit my job at the school district to write full-time. Some people are able to do it inside of a week. But everyone will have a unique experience.
Luckily, I had a regular, albeit poorly paying, full-time job as I developed as a writer. That may be the best method if you’re new to freelance writing. Create stability for yourself first before trying a new career as a freelancer.
Freelance writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes a lot of hard work, motivation, and determination to succeed.
7 Tips to Succeed When You Start Freelance Writing
The above is essentially what I did to become the success I am today. Everyone will have their own experiences when they start off with freelance writing. Your path might be considerably different than mine.
But, there are several tips that are pretty much universal I would like to share with you. These aren’t required for success, but they will help you along.
Here are 7 tips to help you succeed as you’re getting started as a freelance writer.
- Always research to provide high-quality content.
- Organize your day and workflow.
- Don’t be afraid to expand.
- Don’t bid a job so low that it’s not worth your time.
- Always be professional
- Make sure you get out of the house.
- Have Confidence in Yourself
As you progress, you’ll undoubtedly begin to create your own list of tips. Just remember, nothing is truly a failure as long as you learn something from the experience.
My Own Freelance Writer Testimonial
When I began freelance writing in 2012, I started with the Textbroker content mill. I didn’t know anything about AP Style writing and just thought I could toss words out on the Internet and get paid.
Needless to say, it doesn’t work like that.
After working hard to grow as a content creator, I was able to sustain myself and my family using nothing but content mills for several years. Then, I moved on to private clients.
Today, I’m the Content Marketing Team lead of GreenGeeks Web Hosting. I manage a team of writers who create the content I assign, then I edit before publishing.
Over the span of my career, I’ve completed more than 8,000 pieces of content for thousands of clients spanning the entire globe.
But, it wasn’t an instant, overnight success story.
To get where I am today, I work exceptionally hard learning everything I can about AP Style English, SEO, and anything else my clients need. I spent years honing my craft and still research better ways to write to this day.
And although I often do a ton of work, sometimes putting in 16-hour days, the rewards have been far worth the effort.
Essentially, I had to teach myself how to start content writing from home. I hope that I’ve helped you along with your journey.
Content is King!
One of the best things about learning to start freelance writing is that content is king on the Internet. This means there is always a huge calling for writers of all types.
This also means there is quite a bit of competition. Make yourself stand out from the rest with a professional attitude and superior skils.
Just make sure you’re not undercutting yourself when it comes time to sign a contract or bid for a job.
- How to Set Up a Writer Resume - October 16, 2020
- Should You Own Your Blog, or Write for Blogging Sites? - October 14, 2020
- How Much Content is Needed for Joining AdSense? - October 9, 2020