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How to Become a Freelance Writer

Updated on October 12, 2015
Richard-Bivins profile image

Richard is a professional writer and author. When he's not creating he's actively pursuing his goal of becoming a handsome billionaire.

Freelance writing for beginners
Freelance writing for beginners | Source

What it Takes to be a Freelance Writer

One of the greatest feelings in the world for a writer is when you get paid for your craft. Getting paid brings you one step further from being a hobbyist and on track to becoming a professional. If being a professional writer is one of your goals then there is nothing more obtainable than becoming a professional freelance writer.

Freelance writing isn’t for everyone. A writer must have patience and not be so willing to call it quits when there is no response to your queries and pitches. And he must have thick skin when those queries and pitches get no response or get denied. But if you are passionate and persistent, organized, and self-disciplined with great time management skills, then you have the makings of a great freelance writer.

A freelance writer is someone who actively seeks out writing opportunities to provide a regular income. It’s not the same as being a novelist or a screenplay writer even though those types of writers share many of the same qualities. A freelance writer takes on several projects from multiple clients, works on strict deadlines, and must be able to communicate ideas with a masterful grasp of his language.

Everyone has an Interest

freelance writing for a living
freelance writing for a living | Source

Define Your Interests

Make a list of all the things that interest you. It could be politics, business, marketing, religion, sports, celebrities, or even something recreational, like roller skating. Try to come up with a dozen different interests. These will be the areas you should focus on while just starting out. These interests will allow you to focus on the topics you are passionate about.

Why You Should Have Your Own Freelance Writing Website

Why do you want to be a freelance writer?

See results

Dip your toes in the water… don’t jump into the deep end

Before you start sending off queries and pitches to potential clients and editors, it would be in your best interest to have your own writer’s website and preferably one with a blog. A blog will show any potential clients that you are persistent with your posts. It shows clients that you write consistently and on topics with strong or interesting ideas.

You should also be using your social networks to connect with other writers and editors or professionals in the industries that you have a passion for writing in. If you are writing on interesting topics and using techniques to make your posts go viral then you will get a lot of shares and a lot of opt-ins to your mailing list. Yes, you must have a mailing list and keep it growing. A good proportion of a freelancer’s income will be generated from his mailing list because the people that sign up for your list are the people that will keep you on the radar for potential gigs.

This is where the patience comes in handy as one of the top characteristics of a great freelance writer. It takes time to build a list but even with as few as 500 subscribers, you can start generating a livable wage. And also, it takes time to build a decent portfolio, or body of work, to showcase to potential clients.


Practice what you Pitch

Research the publications you want to submit content to and keep your pitches brief and relevant. Make sure you double and triple check your language and communication skills because grammatical errors and misuse of language will cost you dearly in this industry, especially in your initial pitch.

Network with as many industry professionals as you can. Even if these connections are not the ones that do the hiring, they can sometimes be helpful on collaborations or even as a pair of second eyes while you perfect your pitch

Work From the Comfort of Your Home

Freelance writing from home
Freelance writing from home | Source

Freelance Writing Pay

White Paper Markets pay will vary depending on several factors including length, the subject, and the amount of time it takes to write. Typically, companies are paying between $1000 and $3000 but some higher end projects can run as high as $14,000.

Grant Writing Markets pay both at an hourly rate or with a flat fee and vary depending on the lead time to gather facts and prepare and the total time it takes for the finished product. Hourly rates vary by experience of the writer but range between $50 and $200. Flat rate fees also vary between $1500 and $12000 but also depend on the type of grant source: foundation, corporation, federal, or state.

Copywriting Markets pay much higher but they also require more in depth research into the industry you are going to write for. I’ve seen pay for this type of freelance writing in the range of $1000 up to $25,000 for a single piece. It is best to start out by pitching to local businesses but only after you have a few samples under your belt.

Magazine Publication Article Markets vary greatly in their pay and expectations. You can earn anywhere from $10 for a 300 word article to over a $1000 for a 2000 word feature. It all depends on the publication and whether it is local, national, or international, and also on the number of their readers. This is why it is important to research the publications you want to submit to.

Best Freelance Writing Markets to Get Started In

Writing White Papers - Typically, a white paper is a report that gives information or a proposal on a topic, product, or service. They are used to show how to solve a specific problem and also to show that a client’s product or service is better than his competitors. It can normally take between 24 to 48 hours to prepare and write a white paper with an ideal length of 6 to 8 pages but no longer than 12 pages.

Grant Writing – This refers to writing a grant proposal or submission to request funding from an institution such as a government agency or a foundation. Proposals will have to be focused on the mission and the interests of the funding organization. The average turn around time on a grant proposal is 4 to 6 weeks but many Federal grants can take up to 3 months to research and prepare.

Copywriting – This refers to any type of content that is drafted for the purpose of advertising or marketing. The draft is meant to persuade a consumer to purchase a product or to influence the reader’s current beliefs. Drafts vary in length depending on what it takes to persuade the reader. This is the highest paying market for all freelance writing so it also requires the highest amount of knowledge. The majority of copywriting gigs will be for online content so having a good knowledge of webpage design and search engine optimization would be beneficial.

Magazine Publication Article Writing – This refers to any article writing that you intend to submit to a print magazine. This is the kind of writing that most writers dream about but never pursue. This is where you aim to get a byline as well as get paid. You need to research the publication that you intend to submit content to and then send a query letter to the editor. Each publication will have its own rules and requirements for length and style of writing.

Final Words

Breaking into freelance writing isn’t that difficult if you come at it prepared. Having a small body of work and a professional looking website are great tools to showcase to potential clients. Also, your body of work in your portfolio doesn’t have to be something that was drafted for a paying client. You use it as your calling card. Learn how to build an email list. Be consistent with your engagements with your social networks. And practice how to query and pitch ideas. The more you practice the more confident you will become. Soon you too can call yourself a professional freelance writer.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The voice of experience. You have been quite successful being a part-time freelancer, and I have no doubt you will have more success as you enter the full-time world. Well done!

    • Richard-Bivins profile image
      Author

      Richard Bivins 2 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Bill, my first year I think I made just over $1oo and it was very discouraging but I kept at it. Last year freelance writing accounted just over $25k part time. I have slowly but surly built up my social connections and my email list which is why I am confident I can earn a full time livable wage doing what I love.

    • profile image

      missirupp 2 years ago

      Good Hub. Shared on Google. It helped me so I'm hoping it will help others.

    • Richard-Bivins profile image
      Author

      Richard Bivins 2 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Thank you missirupp... I hope this will be a good stepping stone for anyone looking to get into the business.

    • rabasure profile image

      rabasure 2 years ago from 11/7,Mooventhar Nagar, Villupuram 605 602

      Practical tips which are sure to make a freelancer out of a new bi.Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      melissakaspshak 2 years ago

      Great hub! But your comment about the first year was even more helpful. It's nice to know that I'm on the right track. Thanks!

    • Richard-Bivins profile image
      Author

      Richard Bivins 2 years ago from Charleston, SC

      rabasure thank you for your visit and your comment.

      melissakapshak thank you too... the first year is the toughest and a real challenge to the ego but if you can get past it and keep writing, keep pitching, and keep focused on your goal of becoming a freelance writer then all is possible.

    • acouasm profile image

      Seymour Clearlly 2 years ago from Las Vegas

      Great information. Thanks for sharing. I have been attempting to break into the freelance writing game for a while now. Hopefully your advice will help me get on the right track.

    • Richard-Bivins profile image
      Author

      Richard Bivins 2 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Good luck acouasm... keep at it and keep writing.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for sharing this valuable information. I especially appreciate that you included some real-world, current numbers in the sidebar. You also made it clear how much you have to really work at it to succeed! Thanks, again! ;-)

    • Richard-Bivins profile image
      Author

      Richard Bivins 2 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Thank you Homeplace Series... Freelance writing is work and if you treat it otherwise then you are sure to fail at it. The upside is, you do what you love to do and get paid for it.

    • Highvoltagewriter profile image

      William Benner 2 years ago from Savannah GA.

      Very good information here, thanks for sharing!

    • Pico Triano profile image

      John 2 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

      Good practical article. Big toe in the water. Hoping to be making a significant part of my income writing.

    • Richard-Bivins profile image
      Author

      Richard Bivins 2 years ago from Charleston, SC

      You're taking all the right steps Pico so you are sure to earn your fair share...

    • syreeta hewson profile image

      Syreeta 2 years ago from travelling

      this is my dream, to write and maybe one day earn a few dollars,..as I literally cannot stop writing, every day, all day on and off. it's actually an 'issue' because I feel constantly inspired, ..it is my relaxation, my proccessing, my joy,..my everything.. an unceasing flow and it needs direction and to be utilised from now on instead of just falling in my wake, ..some things I have been pleased with, ( as much as one can be and why not?) ... felt that I truly captured at least a good representation of a concept, or the beauty of a moment,..but they then trail like shed petals , like beads dropped,.all scattered and rolling to the earth and the winds , the words becoming one once more with the source they stemmed from. thankyou for this helpful article.

    • NickTheWriter profile image

      NickTheWriter 2 years ago

      Great article! Having a blast getting into it, and got some great tips here! Thank you!

    • Mysticalmoon profile image

      Mysticalmoon 2 years ago from Idaho Falls, ID

      Thank you for us "noobies" some great pointers. However, I must ask do you have a degree in English? My grammer is not the best so, I think that is what scares me off from trying to getting freelance writing going.

    • Amanda Howdeshell profile image

      Amanda 2 years ago from Florida

      Fantastic! Thank you! I had to write a white paper for a college class but I never even considered that white papers could be lucrative.

    • Nicholas Pollock profile image

      Nicholas Pollock 2 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      Quite useful, thank you!

    • mySuccess8 profile image

      mySuccess8 2 years ago

      It takes a lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort to establish oneself as a writer. You have given great advice for starting freelance writing with the right focus, without being distracted by unnecessary activities for a start. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • doris and me profile image

      Mohammad Tanvir Ibne Amin 2 years ago from Dhaka

      I am a newbie and struggling to become a good writer. Form my experience, I have learnt it needs lot of dedication, and tolerance. Some time it takes me 10 hours to develop a single content. Great hub. It will help me in the long run.

    • MHiggins profile image

      Michael Higgins 2 years ago from Michigan

      Great subject and congrats on HOTD! I enjoyed the article and as I am getting started, this helps me realize how to keep motivated and keep pressing on!

    • Joel Diffendarfer profile image

      Joel Diffendarfer 2 years ago from Ft Collins, Colorado

      Writing, designing, creating....my dream. I imagine myself in a large open floor plan warehouse/studio/living space with windows all around. On one end is a shop where I can physically build and invent...in the middle is a photo studio...on the far end is where it all comes together...where I write. Answering the question in the poll about the motivation behind writing...yes, I want to live my dream...full time...and get paid to do it. Great article...thanks!

    • indianreel profile image

      Hemanth Kambham 2 years ago from London

      Great hub. Interesting and Inspiring at the same time. And Congrats for HOTD! :)

    • My Bell profile image

      Marcelle Bell 2 years ago

      Very interesting and concise article on starting out as a freelance writer. I think this will help many future freelance writers, including myself. Congratulations on a well-deserved HOTD!

    • profile image

      lemmyc 2 years ago

      Great piece of work. Thanks and Congrat on HOTD! Well done.

    • Jlbowden profile image

      James Bowden 2 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thank you for sharing your article with all of us. Very interesting and useful tips on choosing the freelance writer's path, as a writing career to consider. And also good in depth information about the best markets to write for.

      Jlbowden

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

      Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this intro to freelance writing!

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 2 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Oh the wonderful things I am learning by just taking the time to read; splendid indeed. I am encouraged once more.

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 2 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Congratulations on Your HOTD! Now onto more reading and sharing.

    • Keshabrown profile image

      Keshabrown 2 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Very nice and encouraging Hub for the newcomers! I appreciate it. thank you.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 2 years ago from United States

      You have some good information to help people get started. I've been doing freelance writing for about 3 years now part time. I do HubPages exclusively now, but I was doing per piece copywriting (which paid much less for me than you indicate--really about $10 an hour, but I didn't have to drum up any clients or do much research and could work as much or as little as I wanted). Eventually, I decided HubPages paid me better because it was passive income that keep on coming. I now make about $8,000 a year with 300 articles, or around $25 per article each year. I've thought about doing other writing and I like the idea of a writer's blog. My current blog doesn't have advertisements but that might be an additional source to start with. Good ideas! Pinned.

    • Sarah Browne profile image

      Sarah Browne 2 years ago

      Thank you for this article. Interesting and informative. As someone trying to break into the industry, I found your post very helpful.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am happy to know that someone is successful as a freelance writer. While my interest is not in earning money, I'll still be delighted to find my article published in a magazine.

    • profile image

      Colin323 2 years ago

      Very interesting article; I certainly agree about the importance of having a website/blog. I've found a niche in recent years writing about the past - as you get older you become an expert on this - and there are a number of magazines in Britain that pay well for 'Memory Lane' type articles on the 1950s & 60s, providing they are light in tone. Congratulations on HOtD; well deserved.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 2 years ago from New Zealand

      Excellent article, I'm not interested in freelance writing, anyone wanting to do this type of writing will learn a lot from reading this.

      Congratulationd for HOTD

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 2 years ago from New Jersey

      Very good advice for those just beginning and even those who might be at a road block. Congratulations on your Hub of the Day!!!

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      This such good information, and I thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and encouragement. I am very happy that you are successful as a freelance writer.

      Cheers, to your future in writing!

    • frozenink profile image

      frozenink 2 years ago

      Whoa. This is very informative. And I can truly feel your passion in my read. Thank you for sharing your experience. Congratulations on your Hub of the Day! (though I'm not surprised seeing the quality of the work)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Writing requires patience to earn a substantial income. An informative and helpful hub.

    • profile image

      RAJESH CHANDRA PANDEY 2 years ago from India

      Nice article that, Richard. Congrats for HOTD.

      I think breaking into it is the toughest part. Once you are in, its a bit smooth.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Wonderfully written and very helpful.

      Great Job!

    • tlcs profile image

      Trudy Cooper 2 years ago from Hampshire, UK

      Very interesting hub and informative.

    • Sarah Browne profile image

      Sarah Browne 2 years ago

      I am a new freelancer and this was an interesting read. I'm still having a tough time getting business and followers for my hubpages or my twitter. Tough business.

    • Richard-Bivins profile image
      Author

      Richard Bivins 2 years ago from Charleston, SC

      When starting out it is easier to find business closest to home from businesses and other parties that you can talk to face to face. Twitter and other social networks help you form relationships but what you do with those relationships is what draws in the business.

    • Sarah Browne profile image

      Sarah Browne 2 years ago

      Thanks for your feedback.

    • profile image

      RAJESH CHANDRA PANDEY 2 years ago from India

      @VirginiaLynne

      Your reply has given me great encouragement. Infact I have been a writer for Hubpages for about two years now but have not been taking the job seriously. From what you say, it can provide a living. Heerafter I shall try tu put in more effort. thanks a lot.

    • Tamirogers profile image

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Great advice and really well written! I am a copywriter trained in the agency world dipping my toe back in after years on the "mommy" track. I would love to work part-time and am hoping my hubs will begin to get me some exposure on the article writing side of things. Do you think being a hubber has helped you with exposure? Do you make any money from your hubs? Thanks so much! Tami

    • Richard-Bivins profile image
      Author

      Richard Bivins 2 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Tamirogers thank you for your visit and comment and good luck with your freelance career. A few years back, I had a very profitable Hubpages account raking in upwards of $1500 a month which was all passive (published over 200 hubs, promoted very little, collected revenues) but then some major changes in search and on this site resulted in the collapse of that account. I took most of those old hubs down and later republished them on my own sites and others then used them as credits for my portfolio... I think it helped having credits on several sites. I think being a hubber helped me gain the expertise needed for online copy and SEO... the rest was hard work mixed with lots of luck.

    • Tamirogers profile image

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thanks so much Richard. That really helps. I'll look forward to reading more from you!

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