7 Myths About Freelance Writing Online

By Ali Hale

You want to earn a bit of extra money. Or you’d love to be a published writer. Or you’re looking for an exciting and rewarding career. Whatever your reason, you’ve started to think about freelance writing online.

It sounds like a dream come true: you could work from home, at any time of the day (or night), and get good money for writing about topics that interest you.

Except … something’s stopping you. You’ve started believing one – or more – of these harmful myths.

Today, I want to show you that these myths just aren’t true. There’s no reason to let any of them hold you back.

#1: It’s too late to make money freelance writing online

All the good jobs are already gone, right? And blogging’s dead anyway…

Wrong. The fact that huge numbers people are making money online as freelance writers should encourage you. There’s plenty of work out there – and as more and more businesses realize the importance and the potential of the internet, new writing jobs are appearing every single day.

In fact, now is a great time to start freelancing. Writing online is a growing area, particularly as more and more print magazines fold, and as the demand for online content grows.

#2: Online writing gigs don’t pay as well as print ones

This is a gross generalization, without much truth in it. Some print publications don’t pay anything – local newspapers and specialty magazines often rely on volunteers, because of printing and distribution costs.

But online, even tiny operations can afford to pay writers, since their overheads are so low.

Some online writing gigs pay very little – but there are others which pay a hundred dollars or more for a short article. It’s up to you what jobs you take, so you never need to work for a low rate.

In my experience, online writing gigs pay very well in terms of time spent. They may pay less per word – but they often don’t require the same level of research and fact-checking that print publications want.

#3: You need technical knowledge to freelance write online

This myth puts off a lot of people. They’re convinced that online freelance writing requires technical skills like knowing HTML code or being a whizz with different systems.

The truth is, you almost certainly already have all the technical skills you need:

  • Ability to use email (to send articles to an editor)
  • Basic word-processing skills (e.g. using Microsoft Word or Open Office)
  • Ability to use search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo) for research

It really is that simple. Of course, there are some gigs where you’ll be at an advantage if you’re comfortable with uploading content into your client’s software – for instance, WordPress – but there are plenty of writing jobs which don’t require anything “techy” beyond the ability to create a document and send it by email.

#4: You need an English or Journalism major to be a freelance writer

Maybe you majored in math or a science, or maybe you didn’t go to college at all. It doesn’t matter. All that editors care about is your ability to write – whether or not you have a degree makes no difference to them.

If you’ve studied English, Journalism or a related subject, you’ll probably be a confident and fast writer – which will serve you well. However, you can easily develop your writing skills outside the college world – and academic writing bears very little resemblance to the sort of writing that online gigs will want!

#5: Receiving payments is hard. You’ll need an accountant and a merchant bank account

This myth really frustrates me, because it’s so out of date! All you need to receive money online is a PayPal account – almost every single online gig I’ve ever had has paid through PayPal. The one gig which didn’t, with an online magazine, sent me a check which I just deposited straight into my bank account.

Opening a PayPal account takes minutes, and allows you to receive money in many different currencies without having to pay the hefty fee that your bank would charge for a foreign transaction.

#6: Only people living in the US can become successful freelance writers

I’m living proof that this is untrue – I live in the UK, and have worked with editors in the US, in Canada and in Australia. I know of many successful freelance writers around the world.

Most online gigs will take writers from anywhere. All that matters is that you can write good English. If you live in a country with a low cost of living, then you’re actually at an advantage – as you’ll be getting paid US rates for your work.

#7: You need to be an expert in one field before you can find freelance jobs

You already have certain areas where you’re knowledgeable, just from your life experience. For instance, you might have children – and there are scores of jobs looking for people who can write about parenting.

Many online gigs are open to any writers, and don’t require any particular expertise. You might have to do extra research to begin with, but if you keep writing on similar topics, you’ll soon become a self-taught expert.

So – seven myths busted! I hope you’re feeling more optimistic about your own chances of freelancing online. Writing is a great way to make a living (or just make some extra cash on the side) and there’s always going to be a demand for good writers and new content.

Notice: Due to popular request we have finally released our Freelance Writing Course. Come check it out if you want to get started freelance writing online.

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


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17 Responses to “7 Myths About Freelance Writing Online”

  • Jake

    I am a corporate writer who has been taking online freelance work for a couple of years now. Moving from the US to the UK, I found myself in a position where I had to take a two-year sabbatical in order to meet my visa requirements. Upon my return to work (and being in a new country), I found it slow establishing a new corporate clientele that would provide enough work to earn a living. So I turned to online freelance work. The pay is definitely lower and there is a learning curve, but with time, I have been able to create a nice balanced business that combines online gigs with corporate ones. The trick is to stay true to quality. Clients love it when they see fresh material. I’ve also found that my ‘personality’ has won repeat business; so it’s not just the ability to write, but the ability to add wit and humour and insight into what you’re writing.

    While I would never recommend someone leave a full time job and jump in with both feet unless they have income to fall back on for awhile, I do believe that online freelance writing can be a rewarding experience for anyone who loves to write and accumulate information.

    Thanks for the article. @jessharcat

  • Phoenix

    Excellent points!

    Please tell me more abou the upcoming online course!

    – Phoenix

  • TrafficColeman

    Writing for someone is great if you have the time and patience. It can be a little more money each month to get you to the next level.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Rebecca

    I would suggest that freelance writers sign a contract or have some sort of written agreement in place regarding payment. Many freelance writers have been ‘stiffed’ by clients because they didn’t have contracts in place.

    Writing online can be lucrative but sometimes it involves more paperwork than you think. You may be required to submit quotes and invoices. Some companies don’t like to use PayPal; they prefer sending a check.

  • Manjusha

    I have been doing freelancing for a while. I live in India but my clients are in the US. I think non-American freelance writers are actually at an advantage because of the good exchange rates.

  • Bryan

    I have to say, this is very very inspirational. Thanks for the info!

  • Roger Whitehead/blo/

    > . . . particularly as more and more print magazines fold

    Unless they’re particularly stiff, paper magazines have always folded.

  • Lee

    I tried online jobs once about two years ago. Elance. That didn’t work too well. What works for me is writing for local companies. The pay is quite a bit more than I found online. Of course, I might not have known what I was doing online. That’s always a possibility! 🙂

  • P.S. Jones @Diary of A Mad Freelancer

    “But I need to go back to school to get a degree!” That’s somethitng I hear all the time. All you really need is the ability to write. And the wisdom to understand you could always get better.

  • Cecily

    I don’t get too hung up about split infinitives, but “to freelance write” read very oddly to me.

    Other than that, good luck to those who want to write freelance.

  • Krissy Brady

    Great post! I stumbled across your blog through Google Alerts, and am I happy I did. Looking forward to keeping in touch. 🙂

  • Judith Tutin

    Great piece! Very positive and encouraging. Thank you.

  • Randy Murray

    There is a lot of work out there for freelance writers. You just have to go out there and get it. But the stuff that pays well isn’t just going to fall into your lap. You have to go out and get it.

    Frankly, the rates for “paid content,” the kind of things you see on the web, is piece work, a sweatshop for writers. It’s not worth my time and effort. Pennies a word, if that. But virtually every business out there needs help with writing. There are web sites to be built, brochures to be filled, speeches that someone has to create, even blogs that corporate executives don’t have time to write.

    Here’s a tip: marketing agencies are the gatekeepers for this kind of work and they’re always desperate for good writers. Find the best agencies in your area and get connected.

    Equally important: build up a portfolio and stake your claim as a writer. Publishing your own blog, one business people would be interested in, is a great way to do that. My blog brings me business, so I know it works.

    If you want to write for a living, find out what pays and study it, then write about it. I’m not worried about competition. I’m worried that I’ll be able to find other terrific writers to send the overflow too!

  • Wendy A.M. Prosser

    I keep hearing about well-paying online writing gigs, but don’t know where to find them! Will this be covered in your freelance writing course? (which sounds great, BTW!)

  • Garrison

    Excellent article. This is an area I need to explore.

  • Liz M

    I’m a professional translator and would like to expand into freelance writing as well. I have an email from you stating that the course is being launched tomorrow the 18th, but I don’t find any details on how to register.

  • M Kerr

    Totally agree that experience and natural talent over qualifications is what gets you ahead in online freelancing.

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