Learn how to become a freelance writer, the skills you need to succeed, and how much you’ll earn. Discover a few FAQs to better understand freelancing.
Creative writing is an art form that captivates, inspires, and transports people to different worlds. It's where imagination takes flight and ideas come alive. And because of increasing digitalization, the niche has grown exponentially, opening up galaxies of opportunities.
In this guide, we'll learn about freelance writing, how to become a freelance writer, and the skills you need to make this dream come true. If you’re ready to ditch the cubicle, embrace your creativity, and join the exciting world of freelance writing, this one’s for you.
What is a freelance writer? 🤔
A freelance writer is a self-employed individual who specializes in copywriting. They aren’t tied to a single employer but work independently, often collaborating with multiple clients across various industries.
What does a freelance writer do? 🧐
Freelance writers produce a wide range of written materials, from articles and blog posts to marketing copy and books. They have the flexibility to choose their projects and manage their schedules. These professionals research, write, edit, and often tailor content to suit different audiences or platforms. They must effectively communicate ideas, whether to inform, entertain, or persuade their readers.
What do you need to become a freelance writer? ⚙️
Besides the obvious, like writing skills and understanding languages, you must have the following:
- Niche expertise: Whether it’s technology, health, finance, or any other field, having expertise can set you apart, helping you get hired soon.
- A portfolio: Your freelancing portfolio should include your best work and, ideally, pieces relevant to the niche you’re targeting.
- Market knowledge: You must understand where to find clients, how to market yourself, and what rates to charge.
- Business skills: As an Independent, you’ll run your own small business. This means you need skills in areas like invoicing, client communication, time management, and basic accounting.
- Persistence and adaptability: Freelance writing can be competitive, so flexibility and versatility are key. You’ll need to be able to adjust to different writing styles and requirements for long-term success.
How to become a freelance writer: 8 steps 🪜
Now that you know the ins and outs of freelance writing, let's look at eight steps to follow to become one yourself:
1. Research the industry 🔍
Before jumping in, learn what other successful freelancers did to get to where they are. Read up on how to create a pitch and which websites accept content from beginners. The goal is to develop a strategy for moving forward; perhaps it's a website managing other writers or becoming a world-renowned writer.
2. Choose a niche 🥳
While keeping an open mind about your content is great (increasing your writing opportunities), choosing a niche helps you target specific markets and clients. Your chosen niche should cater to your knowledge, and you should be passionate about it. The more you write about a niche, the more knowledgeable you'll become, improving your client quality.
3. Develop your skills 🤩
Brush up on your existing skills, and try to learn more about the specifics of this industry. Your knack for writing is your source of income, so there's no reason not to focus on continually improving it. Focus on creating your own style of writing and enhancing your punctuation and grammar. Learn about different writing techniques, and read more to expand your vocabulary.
4. Create a portfolio 📂
Compile your best pieces, and add those to your portfolio. Although your portfolio will mostly include content not issued by clients in the beginning, replace the made-up content with actual articles (with the client's approval, of course) once you start working. Think of your portfolio as your client calling card; it should only contain your best work. Use Contra’s Portfolio feature to get a headstart.
5. Work on your admin skills 💻
As mentioned, you’ll also need strong admin skills, like organizing all your projects and keeping track of your sent and pending invoices (to make this easier, you can use a freelance writer invoice template). You should also diligently check and reply to emails to avoid missing job opportunities.
6. Set up an online presence 📱
Create social media profiles and provide tips to demonstrate your expertise. Also, build a professional-looking website with an updated blog to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) ranking. This helps clients to notice you and your work.
7. Set your rates 💸
Deciding how much to charge for projects can be challenging, but you must do this before applying for work. Initially, you should expect to get paid less than you think you're worth. But as you gain experience, you’ll be able to charge per word, hour, or project.
8. Pitch to clients 🗣️
The last step is to find work by pitching to potential clients, such as businesses, content agencies, or publications. Set up a profile on websites like Contra, and send proposals to available job postings. And ensure every pitch is personalized to each client. A general pitch never works, and you should always have a sample of an idea at the ready.
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How much do freelance writers make? 💰
A freelance writer’s salary in the U.S. is between $48,000 to $82,000 per year (at the time of writing), with an average of $25.28 per hour, according to reputable websites like Payscale and Glassdoor.
Remember, your earnings depend on your experience level, specifically per hour. Your yearly salary, so to speak, would depend on your location and how much work you can complete.
Frequently asked questions 🔥
How can I become a freelance writer without experience? 👁️🗨️
You don't need any degree to become a freelance writer. You should have excellent writing skills, which you can develop through practice and online courses. Other than that, it's about creating an attractive portfolio and getting out there, pitching to websites and publications, and sending proposals to clients through freelance platforms.
What’s the best way to set rates? 💬
There's no one way to set rates. It's all situational, and some clients might try to haggle you. A general rule of thumb is to offer fixed rates for various projects. For example, 700 words could get you $20–$50, while 1,500 words might be between $50 and $100. For smaller projects, you can charge per word, and for larger ones, you can quote a single sum depending on how long you think it'll take or how many words it is.
How can I find work without a portfolio? 🤓
In all honesty, you can't. Every writer needs a portfolio that contains their best work. You can write samples for different niches and projects if you’re new to writing. Your portfolio might include a few blog posts, website copy samples, or social media posts. Your main goal in the beginning should be working for recognition (or rights to have your name in the byline) so you can use that work in your portfolio.
Start your freelance writing career with Contra 🖊️
Becoming a successful freelance writer is a journey filled with opportunities for personal and professional growth. As you embark on this path, Contra is here to support you every step of the way. With Contra for Independents, you can find a wealth of remote job opportunities in a commission-free environment, ensuring your hard work is fully rewarded. And if you’re seeking an extra edge, upgrade to Contra Pro to boost your profile's discoverability and connect you with a broader range of clients and projects.