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How to Become a Freelance Writer: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Bill is a freelance writer who has written for a variety of platforms.

Learn how to become a freelance writer through this tutorial.

Learn how to become a freelance writer through this tutorial.

Let’s Begin With My Apology

I am guilty of putting the cart before the horse, and as we all know, that is a practice that is destined for failure. In the past, I have written articles about freelancing and different aspects of freelancing, but I have never really taken you all through the procedure from start to finish. I will correct my mistake now.

So you want to be a freelance writer, eh? The idea of making some extra income appeals to you. You have some game with regard to the actual writing aspect. All you need now is someone to show you the way, someone who can take you from step one to step twenty (a roadmap to success, if you will).

Well, here I am, and this is it.

Unlike some step-by-step tutorials like How To Install A Water Heater, you do not have to do every step listed in this article. Freelancing is an individual pursuit, and I know many freelancers who do not do everything listed in this article but still make money. As with most of my instructional articles, take what you need, and leave the rest for someone else. All I can do is tell you what worked for me; whether you follow my path is completely up to you.

This, then, is the procedure I followed when I began three years ago. This, then, is the method I used to build my platform and become an established freelance writer.

I am a writer! Say it!

I am a writer! Say it!

Say After Me: I Am a Writer

We will assume before we go any further that you have some writing skills. You understand and follow the basic rules of grammar, and you are capable of writing a fairly interesting sentence. If so, it is time to establish yourself as a writer.

Look in the mirror and repeat the words in the subheading: I am a writer!

There: step one is done! How do you feel?

Now we have to convince the reading public of that fact.

Building a platform is a bit like building a house. We start with a foundation. Then we frame, then we enclose until we have a finished product we can live in. As a freelancer, you will be judged by your platform, so our first step is building your body of work as a professional writer.

I began by writing articles on the writer’s site HubPages. The important first step was actually having some articles written that I could use as proof of my writing abilities. No matter what kind of writing job you apply for, they will ask for examples of your writing, and they are not talking about your personal journal from high school.

Build your platform!

Build your platform!

Continue to Build Your Platform

Next, you will want to start a blog. There are many sites like WordPress that allow you, for free, to start a blog online. Setting one up is so easy that even I can do it, and a blog further establishes you as a professional writer rather than someone who just writes for a hobby.

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After that, you will want to set up a website. If your name is Sylvia Robinson, then you will want a website with your name and some reference to your profession . . . say Sylvia Robinson Professional Writing Services or something similar. This gives you an online face. Yes, most websites will cost you money monthly, but it is money well-spent.

Next, you will want to get some business cards printed up with your writing company name. Business cards are cheap and quite possibly one of the best investments you will ever make. Spend the money now and make money later.

Never Stop Learning

I never did, and you shouldn’t, either. When I was first starting out, I devoured every article about freelancing that I could find. I acknowledged the fact that I knew nothing about the business, and I set out to learn . . . and I’m still learning. Daily I read articles that arm me with more information, and believe me, in this business of ever-changing online writing, knowledge is power.

Subscribe to several of the free online writer’s sites like Writer’s Digest, and the articles will be sent to you daily. Pick the brains of other freelance writers. I have found freelancers to be quite willing to share what they know with newcomers, so don’t be afraid to ask.

It’s Time to Find Those Customers

You have laid the foundation and established yourself as a professional (remember, perception is everything early on), and now it is time to peddle your wares and actually make some money. Where do you find the jobs?

Well, they are everywhere. First, let me say this from the heart: do not grow desperate and sign on with a content mill. Your time is worth more than five bucks for 500 words. There is much better money out there, but you need to go find it.

My first paying gig was for a site called Listosaur. I wrote a 1,200-word article about the Five Most Bizarre Events in Pacific Northwest History, and I made $30. I was in heaven. Most of my early paying gigs were found online. There are numerous sites like Textbroker or even Craigslist where jobs are advertised. Pick and choose ones that appeal to you and apply for them. That’s how I got my start, and that’s how most freelancers get started.

Once you have a few “clips” under your belt, you can follow my lead and go out and find your own work in the town in which you live. Check with local newspapers and alternative newspapers. Check with local magazines and regional magazines. Check with local businesses and offer to write their blogs for them. Local businesses like dealing with local writers. You are a face they can meet in person, and you live in the community where they do business. There is money to be made if you are willing to take your business cards and go meet people.

Continually network

Continually network

Keep Building Your Network

Networking never ends for a freelancer, but I’m not talking about networking with friends on Facebook. No, I’m talking about making contacts in the business. I’m talking about meeting other writers, agents, publishers, editors, and anyone who is in the industry and who might be able to help you in the future.

Of course, you should be on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but be there with a purpose.

Continue to expand. Move from local to regional to state, and then try your hand applying for national publications.

How Long Does This All Take?

It never ends!

How’s that for a sobering statement? The process never ends. Freelance writers are continually making pitches and sending out queries. Freelance writers are forever juggling ten articles in the air at one time and keeping track of inquiries, responses, and trends.

I have been doing this for three years now, and I actually pay my bills on time, but that was three years of working eight to ten hours each day and building my business one brick at a time. There are no shortcuts in freelance writing, so if you are looking to make it rich quickly, then dream on.

The good news is that it does get easier. Once you get that first byline . . . that first clip…then you have something to build on as you look for more work . . . but you need to do the dirty work first before you start to see some success.

I hope that helps you and I wish you good luck.

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 19, 2018:

All valid points, H did you pick that name? lol...thanks for the suggestions.

H Lax on December 18, 2018:

Great advice and tips for new and continuing writers. I think you could add to this by sharing a sample query letter, common dialogue a writer might have with a potential employer, and maybe advice on how a writer should decide what they might charge a potential employer for their services. These are all things I would find interesting and helpful. Thanks Bill

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 18, 2018:

Must have been my natural charm, Sis! lol

Suzie from Carson City on December 17, 2018:

Bout time you admitted that in public! I just don't understand why Mom always liked you best!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 17, 2018:

Sis, you make my day whenever you stop by. Thanks for thinking of me...Happy Holidays to you and your extended family. As for that book will happen when you are ready and not a moment before, but I suspect you know that already, since you are the smart one in our family.



Suzie from Carson City on December 17, 2018:

I can begin with an apology too. Sorry I missed this 4 yrs ago. As you say....we can correct our mistakes.

"Step by step"....right up my alley. That's what I like and basically, what I require to really get a good grasp on most lessons/concepts. You do it best, Bro!

Your continual tutorials are such a gift to all of us. I will definitely Favorite this one. My muse continues to poke me about that book within. Am I up for it? We shall see.

If I haven't said this already.....I wish you & Bev & family a wonderful Holiday Season! Love ya, Sis.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on December 17, 2018:

It is my pleasure, Michael, and I'll answer your email later on today. Thank you!

Michael on December 16, 2018:

Bill, you are nothing but a blessing. Thanks for doing the selfless work. A great article - everything in a nutshell!!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 08, 2018:

My pleasure, Dan!

Dan Dildy on March 08, 2018:

Thank you, Great info.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Dan,other than doing a Google search for the same, you can always pick up a copy of The Writer's Digest. They have most periodicals listed in that each year.

Dan Dildy on March 07, 2018:

Hi Bill, I’m Curious to know if you might know where I’d look to do content writing for the magazines that airlines, hospitals, etc. use?

Thank you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 07, 2018:

Keep searching, Dan! There is hope in this business.

Dan Dildy from Ocala, Florida on March 06, 2018:

I'm glad to know there's light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for the road map out!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 19, 2017:

Oh Michael my friend, I love that proverb....classicly correct. Without hard work, the chances of success in any field are practically non-existent.

Blessings to you always

Michael Milec on November 18, 2017:

You made me rich by this hub my friend. The whole article's crown to me is "you need to do the dirty work first before you start to see some success." How true and powerful.

In each vocation, beginnings are difficult, unless you have a rich uncle...

As Slovak proverb says "roasted dove does not fall from heaven to anyone."

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 17, 2017:

My pleasure, Alyssa! Thank you!

Alyssa from Ohio on November 17, 2017:

This was very helpful! Thank you, Bill!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 20, 2017:

I'm glad to hear that, Honey! If you get stuck for ideas, you can always IM me on Facebook and we'll chat.

H Lax on March 20, 2017:

Great advice. I need to start opening up to more avenues to take in this writing journey of mine. You gave me quite a few ideas. Thanks.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 10, 2016:

Thank you Brian!

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on August 09, 2016:

I'm glad to have these steps to go by.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 06, 2016:

Jo, I would definitely say fiction. I love writing short stories and novels. The rest is just an effort by me to market and practice my craft.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on February 06, 2016:

What has been the most satisfying/profitable writing avenue you have taken--blogs, article writing, fiction, self-publishing?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 19, 2015:

Jennifer, most definitely. That's one of the first things I did when I started our freelancing.

Jennifer Einstein from New York City on February 19, 2015:

I'm wondering - do you use a spreadsheet to track your pitches or jobs?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 23, 2015:

Well thank you Eva! I'm glad you found this useful.

PE Hardwicke from Midwest USA on January 23, 2015:

A great starter. I also appreciate the useful sites. I haven't tried looking in the mirror and saying...

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 27, 2014:

Thank you Sujatha...I love your name by the way....I appreciate you stopping by.

Sujatha Guruvayurappan from Gaithersburg, MD on October 27, 2014:

I liked the Step One of all "look at the mirror and say I'm a writer". Many times we forget who we are and what we do. We really need assurance. Thanks for all the great tips.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2014:

Love expansion, Deb! Life is good my friend.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on April 08, 2014:

And the nice thing is, that everything seems to evolve and take on a new face from there on…expansion is a beautiful thing.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2014:

Sounds good, Jim, and you are welcome.

James Bowden from Long Island, New York on March 22, 2014:


Thanks again for that extra bit of encouragement through your kind words. See you out there real soon!


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2014:

JLB, I hope you get on that saddle soon. The world needs writers with passion. Dive in my friend; the water temp is comfortable.

James Bowden from Long Island, New York on March 21, 2014:

I love reading, especially other writers articles about writing, and yours was no exception. Great information that I found not only useful, but awesome as well.

Reading your article makes me want to start writing again. Something I love, but have been putting on hold for quite awhile.

Thanks for the extra bit of inspiration and enthusiasm, to help me get back in the saddle again. Look forward to reading more of your work.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 21, 2014:

Thank you knowledge-seeker and welcome to HubPages.

knowledge-seeker on March 21, 2014:

so nice post and so true, process of learning never ends. nice tips, great ideas, thanks for sharing all this. flourish my dear!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 17, 2014:

I appreciate it, Alicia. Thank you!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 17, 2014:

Thank you once again for all the tips and suggestions, Bill. This hub is filled with useful advice, as always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 17, 2014:

Janine, thanks for stopping by, and I'm glad if this helped. Best wishes on your future.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 17, 2014:

tehgyb, if you have a passion for it you might as well make money while doing it. Thanks for yet another visit.

Janine Nelson on March 17, 2014:

Thanks for providing such great tips for freelance writing. I am currently a graduate student in social media and have been blogging for a few months. I am considering writing and editing and your post has been helpful in understanding how to get started. Great post!

Don Colfax from Easton, Pennsylvania on March 17, 2014:

Thanks for the hub! I've been thinking of getting into writing more and more. I will definitely be using your tips. Writing is just something I truly enjoy!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 17, 2014:

Adriennemarie, welcome to HubPages and thanks for sharing a comment here....if I can be of any help please reach out and ask.

Adrienne Lawton from Deptford, NJ on March 17, 2014:

I just joined Hubpages and came across your post this morning. I found it very informative and helpful. It's good to know that other writers out there are willing to help aspiring writers. Thank you for being so helpful by sharing your knowledge and experience with others.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 16, 2014:

Tipoague....LOL....thank you for your kind words. I subscribe to the K.I.S.S. method of learning. :) I'm glad you approve.

Tammy on March 16, 2014:

I can see why you make an amazing teacher. You have a knack for making it look so easy. I know I have learned a lot from reading your hubs. (Now if only they could bring back the easy to print bookmark bar wouldn't be so full...LOL!)

Thanks for sharing this helpful information.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 16, 2014:

It really is my pleasure John! Thank you!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on March 16, 2014:

More wonderful helpful information from you Bill. I appreciate your generosity in sharing your knowledge.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2014:

Heidi, it does sound a bit like a business, doesn't it? LOL Happy St. Patties Day to you as well and thank you.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 15, 2014:

Hmm... that sounds just like starting a reg'lar ol' business. :) Thanks for all you do to build the profession and Happy St. Pat's Weekend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2014:

You are very welcome vkwok!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2014:

Thank you for your kind words, it forward and I'll be happy.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2014:

I hope you do keep at it, Jo. As long as the passion is there then you should be writing.

Thanks for your thoughts and enjoy your weekend.

Victor W. Kwok from Hawaii on March 15, 2014:

Thanks for sharing us more of your knowledge as a writer, Bill!

Ron Hawkins from California, United States on March 15, 2014:

Another gem. You are a most generous man with your vast knowledge and I appreciate that.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on March 15, 2014:

Thank you for all the useful advice.

I began writing after I retired because it was something I'd always wanted to do. I already had a secure income at retirement, but still enjoy making money--and writing. I don't put in the time on my writing that you do, but I work on it consistently, and enjoy the process.

This piece inspires me to keep at it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2014:

My pleasure, viewfinders. Thanks for stopping by.

viewfinders from India on March 15, 2014:

billy ,really wonderful job.

thanks for sharing

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2014:

Thank you Soraya; if I can be of any help to you feel free to reach out.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2014:

Eddy, I hope you return to it soon. We all need growth; writing becomes stagnant without it. Best wishes to you my friend and thank you.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2014:

suraj, I think it is so important that we reach out and connect as human beings and not just some online entity. Thanks for your thoughts.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2014:

Thank you Jo! When you decide on a direction I will be there to support you my friend. You are a very good writer and we need you to write.

Blessings always, Jo!


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 15, 2014:

Thank you coolchic!

Soraya Y from Atlanta on March 15, 2014:

I'm a beginner and I found your article really amazing . It is very inspiring and it lets readers follow up their dreams !!

Eiddwen from Wales on March 15, 2014:

Brilliant once again Billy my dear friend. Oh how I need inspiring at times. I shall leave you into a guilty secret now;I haven't been working on my wrting course for a good while now. While it isn't in me to do so I still feel I need to do it so that I can be satisfied with myself. However as I have said before I do learn far more from you.

Thank you again and enjoy your weekend.


suraj punjabi from jakarta on March 15, 2014:

Great article, Mr. Holland. I especially like the suggestion of making real life contact. I notice many times when we write online we have this thinking that it should remain online only and not let it dwell in our real world. To connect it to the real world is a great tip. Great hub, Mr. Holland.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on March 15, 2014:

Bill, another exceptional piece of writing! Inspiring and motivating as always, I know I'll be back to look at this again so thank you my friend. I'm still not sure which way I want to go with the writing, but what ever I eventually decide I know I'll be using your work as reference. Take care and have a fab weekend.

Joan Lewis from Baton Rouge, Louisana on March 14, 2014:


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

Thank you Doc! It's always nice to have you stop by. Have a great weekend.

love doc on March 14, 2014:

Thank you Bill for sharing this valuable information. I will refer to this.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

Bill, I know you can do it and I know it will be of high quality and interesting. I'll look forward to it.

Have a wonderful weekend my friend and thank you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

Nadine, that is definitely a trap to avoid. Concentrate on a couple things and make them strong, and then build from there.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 14, 2014:

Bill, the first thing I am going to do when I retire is to start a blog. I think this would be both fun and a natural extension of my travel writing. I follow a few travel blogs out there and I know I can do this, it's just a matter of time. Thanks for the education and have a great weekend.

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on March 14, 2014:

Very inspiring as usual. So far I'm enjoying creating a writing profile on the internet. Ever since I started writing for hubpages I discovered so many new network ways, I must be careful not to spread myself over to many platforms. Thanks

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

That's me, manatita...simple and no-nonsense. :) Thank you Sir!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

One step at a time, Faith. Slow but steady wins this race. the flash-in-the-pans rarely last in freelance writing.

I hope you enjoyed your lunch. Thanks for sharing it with me. :)

blessings always


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

Dora, it is my pleasure. Thank you for always being here.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

Thank you Dr. Bill....have a great weekend my friend.

manatita44 from london on March 14, 2014:

Simple, informative, no-nonsense approach and indeed useful!! Great work here Bill.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on March 14, 2014:

Oh, bless you dear Bill! I am one of those one step at a time kind of persons. I am sure there are many just like me out there, who will appreciate someone, such as yourself, who will take the time to not leave out any details to help others. Thank you for another helpful article!


Faith Reaper

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 14, 2014:

Bill, thank you for persisting that we can do it, and for being avaialble to help.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on March 14, 2014:

Another excellent article... with advise that works... if one follows the steps correctly. Thanks for sharing! ;-)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

Flourish, you said it perfectly. Wages will continue to stay low in any industry as long as there are people willing to work for them. I won't do it. My time is too valuable and I am too highly-trained to accept anything less than what I am worth. I know you understand and agree with that.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 14, 2014:

I like that you repeatedly urge people to avoid the content mills, not be desperate, and not devalue their talent by working for exceptionally low wages. It's a secondary theme throughout many of your hubs and a very important one. Writers need to build and market their skills and get paid adequately like anyone else. When you devalue your time, effort and creativity by accepting meager wages, then you devalue the profession and your talent as a whole.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

But you are on a track, Eric, and that beats being derailed any old day.

Have a great weekend my friend.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 14, 2014:

Great stuff as usual. I am just on a very slow track.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

I guess you do, Mari, but I can say that you have started well and begun to build a good platform. If I can be of any help then reach out.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

Well then, cecileportilla, my work is done. :) Thank you and have a great weekend.

dragonflycolor on March 14, 2014:

Great tips! I guess I need to network some more, get some paying gigs, and keep writing. Thanks, Billy.

Cecile Portilla from West Orange, New Jersey on March 14, 2014:

Hi billybuc:

You have said everything and given prospective writers all the necessary tools to get started. Wonderful hub!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

Zainab, you are very welcome. I think Facebook is useful if used properly and with a purpose in mind. Thanks for the visit.

Musu Bangura from Nation's Capital on March 14, 2014:

Thank you for clarifying the point you made regarding the use of Facebook. I've been debating with using it, period. But because I plan on expanding my writing career, I have an idea of how I can use the sight for a defined purpose when it comes to networking and making fruitful connections. Thanks again for sharing great info.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

Thank you Mel! I would love it but I'm sure a part of the planning would involve the money to set it up, and that would be a stumbling block. :) I appreciate your vote of confidence and your friendship.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

Thanks Sha! I'll be excited when the day comes. :)

Melanie Chisnall from Cape Town, South Africa on March 14, 2014:

You know Bill, I don't know why I never thought of this before but you could so open up your own writing school. Really. Your advice is so good, so "user-friendly" and so engaging. Practical and useful. And you've been a teacher. I don't know how it would all work, but I think you'd be great at it. Super article my friend, well done! :)

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 14, 2014:

Bill, that's an awesome plan. It's my dream to be able to do that one day. How exciting for you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2014:

DDE, if that happens then I am very happy. Thank you!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 14, 2014:

Write daily to build a steady platform. Your tips are most helpful with lots of effort one can gain confidence and practice their writing skills.

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