Have you ever wanted the freedom of working for yourself but you’re overwhelmed with the idea of starting your own business? Or are you looking for some ideas of how you can make money working from home?
Freelance writing is one of the easiest and most flexible ways to make money working online, and almost anyone can do it.
It’s also one of the fastest ways to make money online. In fact, if you follow the advice I’m giving in this guide, you could have money sitting in your Paypal account by the end of the day.
The world is currently in crisis. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have found that their businesses have crumbled overnight and others have lost the jobs they thought were stable and secure. The economy is in free-fall, the future is uncertain, and millions are worrying about how to pay their bills with no income.
But all is not lost. The world is still turning, businesses are still running, and both the economy will recover in time.
The situation is far from ideal, but the coronavirus has forced a global revolution in the way we work. Social distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place orders have meant that millions of people all over the world are discovering that it’s possible to work online.
And many businesses are thriving in the coronavirus economy. Ecommerce companies in several industries are seeing their orders increase dramatically as the world shifts to shopping online. Health and wellness companies are also seeing increased demand, along with technology companies specializing in tools for remote working. The demand for entertainment is also increasing as people spend more time at home.
What do all of these businesses need? Writers.
If you’ve not dabbled in freelance writing before, you may not have considered this, but almost every company that operates online has a steady need for content and copy: blog posts, product descriptions, email newsletters, and more.
And of course, people are still reading – more than ever before as they’re stuck at home. If you’ve ever thought about writing a book, there’s no better time than now.
I would urge you to read and follow the advice in this guide if any of the following situations apply to you:
- You’ve always wanted to work from home but you don’t know how to get started.
- You’ve lost your job or your business and you need to make some cash fast.
- You’ve been furloughed at work and you’re looking for something more productive to do at home than eating too many carbs and binge-watching Netflix.
- You’ve got kids at home or other commitments and you’re looking for a flexible way to make a bit of extra money.
Anyone Can Be a Freelance Writer – Yes, Even You!
I’ve been freelance writing for over a decade and I started with no relevant qualifications or experience. I studied computer science at college, not English literature.
I know several people who are very successful full-time freelance writers who have no qualifications. There are many writers who’ve made a name for themselves online whose first language is something other than English.
The fact is, you don’t need any qualifications or even experience to be successful with freelance writing. And your writing quality doesn’t have to be amazing either.
As long as you can put together sentences in a readable way, you can be paid to write. You don’t need to be an award-winning poet. As long as your writing is easy to understand and (mostly) free of grammar errors, you’re good to go.
Yes, it’s true that to land high-paid writing jobs or get a column in a magazine, your writing will have to be of decent quality. However, the great thing about writing is that it’s a learnable skill. The more you write, the better you’ll get, and your income will improve along with your writing.
Don’t be put off getting started as a freelance writer because you think your writing isn’t good enough; It almost certainly is.
Getting Started with Freelance Writing – Where to Find Jobs
Ok, so hopefully I’ve now convinced you that you can make money from freelance writing and it’s something you’ve decided to pursue. So, how do you get started?
There are dozens of premium courses out there on how to make a living as a freelance writer. Don’t waste your money on them. At least not when you’re getting started.
The best way to get started with freelance writing is simply to jump in. Otherwise, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of reading and learning but never actually taking any practical steps and putting off getting started. Don’t be this person.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “don’t I need some kind of portfolio before I start applying for jobs?”
Well, yes and no… It’s certainly a good idea to have some samples ready, but this isn’t something you should spend weeks on. More on that in a minute. But the very best place to get started is by looking at the available jobs out there. This will give you more of an idea about what sort of work is available and what businesses are looking for when they’re hiring writers.
Maybe you’re a stamp-collecting enthusiast and would love to write about it. Well, that’s great, but it won’t do you much good if nobody is looking for writers specializing in stamp collecting. That’s why I recommend looking for available work first.
There are a few different places you can start looking for writing jobs. These include:
- Content mills
- Writers job boards like the Problogger jobs board
- General freelance jobs boards and marketplaces like Upwork
- Classifieds sites like Craigslist
- Contacting blogs and businesses directly
I’ll go into these different options in a bit more detail in a moment but if you already have writing experience and examples online it’s best to skip the content mills and go straight for the other options.
I’d also recommend avoiding sites like Craigslist entirely, purely because there are too many scams around. Freelance jobs boards are not totally free of scams either, but it’s just too easy to get scammed by someone posting on a classified site.
Many freelance writers will tell you to stay well away from content mills, but I think they serve a valuable purpose and are one of the easiest ways to get started.
Content mills typically have a large volume of writing jobs available and you’ll have the freedom to choose which jobs you take.
Jobs on content mills are typically around 500-1000 words and most commonly blog posts or web copy (basically all other writing on a website that isn’t a blog post – about pages, product descriptions, etc.)
When you’re writing for a content mill you can expect very low pay but they’re a great place to get experience and practice writing for clients. As their quality requirements are often not as stringent as private clients, they can be a good place to start out if you’re not confident in your writing skills yet or if English isn’t your first language.
Plus content mills pay regularly (usually weekly or bi-weekly) and work tends to get approved much faster than when you’re working with clients directly.
Another huge bonus of working for a content mill is that you don’t have to spend any time pitching jobs, finding new clients, or chasing up invoices. All the admin work of being a freelance writer is done for you.
The pay from content mills may be low, but if you work on increasing your writing speed you can work up to a reasonable hourly rate. You’re never going to get rich writing for a content mill but you will get valuable experience and writing samples you can use for applying for other jobs, and you can make some cash very quickly.
Some popular content mills include:
It’s pretty easy to get accepted to most content mills. You’ll probably have to submit a short sample of your writing or complete a grammar test, and once you’re accepted you can start taking jobs and earning right away.
So how much can you expect to earn writing for a content mill? Most sites offer jobs at several different levels, the idea being that as you prove your writing skills and quality, you can move up the levels to earn more money.
For example, iWriter has four writer levels: Standard, Premium, Elite, and Elite Plus. As a standard writer, you’ll only earn $2.15 for a 500-word article, but at the Elite Plus level, this increases to $25.35.
There are also some premium content mills that pay higher rates. For example, writers at Scripted earn an average of $0.10 per word. It’s harder to get accepted to these sites and they’ll expect high quality writing in return.
You’re usually free to take on as much work as you wish, which means the more you work, the more you’ll get paid. You can maximize your income by learning how to write fast and churning out a high number of articles each day.
Most people won’t want to make “content mill writer” their career goal, but it can be a useful stepping-stone onto bigger and better things.
Writing Job Boards
Once you’ve cut your teeth on writing for content mills, it’s time to make some more money.
There are a number of job boards that specialize in writing and editing work, and they can be a great way to find new clients.
Some sites worth taking a look at include:
Even if you’re not ready to start applying for jobs yet, it’s well worth taking a look at some of the postings on these boards. This will give you an idea of the topics that are in demand and how much you can expect to be paid.
Jobs pay anything from content mill rates up to $200+ for a 1000-word article. Some postings do not actually state a rate and instead ask you to set your own rate.
The main issue with finding work on these sites is that they’ve become very popular in recent years and the application rate for almost every job is very high. This means you’re dealing with more competition and your application might not even get seen if they’re sifting through hundreds.
To increase your chances of success, aim to apply for jobs as soon as possible after they’re posted and don’t be too choosy about the ones you apply for if you’re looking for work. The more jobs you apply for, the more chances you have of being successful.
When you apply for one of these jobs it’s best to keep your email short and to the point and explain why your knowledge and experience make you a good fit.
You’ll also need to attach samples of previous work, which is where many new writers come unstuck. They don’t have any published work and they don’t know how to get past that point.
The simple answer to this is to write the samples. If you’ve done some content mill work already, you should have some samples. If not, you can set up a blog and post them on there, write on a site like Medium, or offer articles for other blogs as guest posts.
You don’t necessarily have to show an article you’ve been paid to write as a sample – the job poster just wants evidence that you can actually write and an idea of your style.
Freelance Job Boards and Marketplaces
As well as the specialist writing job boards, there is usually plenty of writing work on more general freelancing sites.
The sort of sites I’m talking about include:
Each site operates in a slightly different way, so it’s best to have a look at a few so you can get an idea of how they work and focus on a couple you find most appealing (pay close attention to fees as they make money by taking a cut of your earnings).
In general, you can find work in two main ways on these sites:
- Respond to job postings looking for writers and “bid” or pitch for work
- Advertise your services as a package for users to buy at a fixed price. For example, you could sell a single article or a bundle of blog posts.
You’ll need to spend some time working on your profile, including uploading samples, and it can be quite difficult to get work on these sites until you’ve built up a reputation. The easiest way to do this is to offer rock-bottom rates when you’re just starting out so you can get ratings and feedback quickly.
A lot of writing work advertised on these sites is very low paid (purely because there are so many writers willing to work at low rates) but there are also plenty of posters who are willing to pay a fair rate for good quality.
Contacting Blogs and Businesses Directly
One way of finding work that many newbie freelance writers overlook is to cut out the job boards completely and go straight to the source.
Many businesses would like to publish more blogs but they simply don’t have the time and resources. Even well-established blogs are often on the lookout for new writers. This is where you can help them out.
The best strategy for finding work in this way is by deciding what topics you want to write about and then searching for blogs and businesses in the same niche.
You can also Google something like “write for us” + niche to find blogs in your area of interest that are actively inviting writers to apply.
But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pitch to businesses that aren’t directly advertising for writers. Pitching for work like this can work particularly well if you can find a blog attached to a business site that’s looking a little neglected.
Many businesses know they should be investing in content marketing but they simply haven’t got around to doing anything about it. If you can send an appealing proposal detailing the sort of posts you could write for them and how it could generate new business, you could be onto a winner.
Let Clients Come to You
After you’ve been freelance writing for a while, you may well find that clients start contacting you directly after reading your work online (this will only work if you have an author byline at the end of the article – another good reason to graduate from the content mills!)
Once you’ve been writing for a while and you have some decent samples published on different blogs and websites, it’s a good idea to set up a website with your portfolio and contact information.
This doesn’t need to be anything fancy – a quick description about you and the writing services you offer, a contact form, and links to online samples is fine.
You should also be posting your work as it’s published on social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. LinkedIn, in particular, can be a great way to find new clients once you’re established.
Scaling up Your Writing Career
When you first get started as a freelance writer, your rates will probably be pretty low. But as you start gaining experience and your writing quality improves, you can increase your rates.
The easiest way to do this is by pitching to new clients at a higher rate and then swapping out your lowest-paying client for your new client. You can also raise your rates with your existing clients of course, but not too often – an annual raise should certainly be acceptable.
Another way to effectively raise your rates without charging your clients any more is by writing faster. If you’re getting paid $50 for an article which normally takes you an hour to write and you manage to get that time down to half an hour, you’ll be doubling your hourly rate.
Faster writing comes with practice and it also helps to be extremely knowledgeable about the topic you’re writing about (which also comes with experience).
Some other good tips to speed up your writing are to always jot down a quick outline before you start writing and to set time limits for yourself. If you set yourself a firm limit of an hour to finish an article, you’re less likely to dither about for an extra hour or two.
You can also start thinking about other ways to make money from your writing than by working with clients directly. This might include starting a blog, self-publishing a book, or getting paid to write on Medium through their Partner Program.
Freelance writing can take you as far as you want – its flexibility is the true beauty of this career. If you just want to earn a bit of extra cash in your spare time, you can start today. If you want to scale up to six figures, that’s certainly possible if you have the determination and you’re willing to put in the work.
So what do you think? Are you ready to become a freelance writer? If I can do it, you can too! If you need any more help or advice, please feel free to drop me a note in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.