Until 15 years ago or so becoming a freelance writer was not an easy task. You had to get in touch with print magazines and newspapers, and you had to convince the editor that you were the right person for the job. The number of applications for each job was quite high, because the number of publications was limited. As a result, the chances of actually landing the job were quite low.
The Internet and the Web changed all that, for the better!
Today we have tens of thousands of online publications, from small blogs to online magazines and news sites, covering virtually any niche and topic you can imagine! Each of those online publications need fresh content, so the demand for freelance writers is higher than ever, and landing a job can be as simple as reaching out via email.
If you like to write and want to start making some money freelancing online, this guide will provide all the information you need to get started.
Contrary to what many people believe, you don’t need to be a talented writer to make money freelance writing online. You need to be talented if you want to write fiction, poetry, or if you want to write for TV sitcoms, for example. As long as you can write clear, correct English, you are qualified for most online writing jobs, as those only require clear and direct prose.
On the technical side, all you need is basic computer and Internet skills. This includes using a word processor, sending and receiving emails, searching on Google efficiently and so on. If you need to brush up on your technical skills, the Goodwill Community Foundation has a free Internet Basics course.
2. Improving Your Writing Skills
If you need to improve your writing skills, here are some tips:
- Practice is the best way to improve your writing skills, so write every day, as much as possible.
- Read sites that offer grammar, spelling and punctuation tips like this one.
- Read books about grammar and writing. We reviewed many in the past.
- Get friends and family to read your material and provide feedback.
- Consider joining a writing group to get feedback from fellow writers.
- Edit the work of other people.
3. Becoming a prolific writer
If you want to make money writing, the amount of content you can produce per day will directly affect your income. In other words, it’s essential to become an efficient and prolific writer. Here are some strategies that can help with you that:
- Understand that writing and editing are two different things, and that you should do these tasks separately.
- Practically speaking, first you should write down all you need (perhaps more than you need), and only then you should edit it.
- Stop the habit of editing sentences as you write them, or of going back to read each paragraph once you finish it.
- One exercise you can use to practice this is to turn your computer monitor off (or to cover it in case of a notebook) while you write.
- Consider using a full screen editor like Dark Room to reduce distractions.
- Develop a writing routine, allocating some time slots in your day for writing.
4. Building an online presence with a website
If you want to make money writing online, having a strong online presence is essential, because that is how many clients will find you. Having a website should be the cornerstone of your online strategy, as it’s the best way to showcase your expertise, portfolio, and it allows potential customers to quickly contact you.
The first step here is to decide on the domain name you are going to use. Aim for something that is easy to spell, easy to remember, and not too long. For example:
You can also go with a .net or .org extension if you can’t find a good domain with a .com.
Use the InstantDomainSearch.com tool to check whether or not the domains you want are available (but don’t register one yet!).
Once you choose the domain name you want to use, it will be time to get a hosting plan, and most hosting companies will give you a free domain name registration (you just need to inform the domain while signing up).
We use and recommend HostGator.com, as they have some very affordable prices, and both the service and customer support quality are top notch.
Finally, refer to this tutorial to install WordPress on your site. WordPress is the most popular publishing software around. It’s free, and easy to use, so you can’t go wrong with it.
5. Promoting your website
The first thing you should do after installing WordPress is to choose a template (there are thousands of free ones available from your Dashboard -> Appearance). Customize it a bit if you want and you should be ready to go.
Now you need visitors to your website!
There are two building blocks to bring visitors: content and backlinks (also called links).
Content refers to the articles you’ll post on your website. Aim to provide valuable content to people looking for specific information (e.g., like this post provides information for aspiring freelance writers), and try to publish new content regularly (e.g., two or three times per week at least).
Backlinks refer to getting other websites to mention and link to your own. Google considers each link from another website as a vote of trust for the quality of your website and its content. Guess what, the more links/votes you have, the higher your articles will rank on the search engine, and the more visitors you’ll get.
Here are some strategies to gain links from other sites:
- Create a profile on all social networks, and include a link back to your site.
- Email bloggers and site owners and propose a partnership.
- Run interviews with site owners, and ask them to link to the interview.
- Write great content and email it to site owners, asking them to help to spread the word.
- Write a guest post for one these blogs.
Finally, don’t forget to have a “Hire Me” page on your site, so that visitors will promptly know that you offer freelance writing services.
6. Leveraging social media
Literally billions of people use social media sites these days, so you need to have a profile on the most popular sites to strengthen your online presence and possibly land new clients.
The most popular social media sites today are:
I recommend creating an account on all of them and regularly sharing content there. YouTube is a special case because you would need to upload videos there. It’s worth the trouble, but consider doing it later on, as you will probably need to learn how to create those videos.
You can share articles you write, interesting content from around the web, and occasionally you can promote your freelance writing services.
7. Finding clients
Over time, as you spread your online presence, expand your network and become known as a freelance writer, clients will come to you spontaneously.
In the beginning, however, don’t count on this happening. Instead, you’ll need to literally hunt jobs down. Here’s some strategies you can use:
1. Create a profile and browse freelance marketplaces
The above marketplaces connect companies and freelancers, providing a platform where people can post job requirements and freelancers can bid for those jobs. They all have sections dedicated to freelance writing jobs, so it’s worth to create an account and browse the new jobs regularly.
2. Contact sites that pay writers
There are many websites that make available the guidelines for writing for them and getting paid for it. Payment varies, but depending on the niche you can get as much as $200 per article.
You can find lists of such sites here. Browse and list filtering the sites you believe are a good match for your style and skills, and then contact all of them. On some cases you can pitch your article right away, and they will get back to you stating if your article was accepted or not.
3. Browse boards with job listings
There are several job boards that are completely dedicated or have special sections for freelance writing jobs. Some are updated regularly, even daily. Problogger Jobs and Freelance Writing Jobs are two examples.
Browsing those job boards and contacting the job listings is a great way to land new gigs and eventually clients that will require your services on a regular basis.
4. Contact websites you like
Even if a certain website is not publicly asking for new writers, it doesn’t mean that they are not willing to hire one, should the right person show up. Guess what, be that right person!
Get in touch via email or via the contact form on the website, and explain why you want to write for them, why you believe your style will match the audience of the site and so on. Better yet, send along some sample articles written specifically for that website. If they like what they see, there are good chances that they will hire you at least for a trial period.
8. How Much to Charge
Figuring out how much to charge is not easy. If you charge too little you’ll be leaving money at the table. If you charge too much, you might scare away clients and lose job opportunities.
On top of that there are differences that arise from the type of content you are producing, the niche you will be writing for and so on, which means that it’s virtually impossible to say how much you should charge.
If you want ballpark numbers, consider that for short articles or blog posts (around 400 words) the low end is $15 per post and the high end is $100 per post. For longer and more structured pieces (i.e., feature articles or tutorials with 1000+ words) the low end is $50 and the high end $200 per article.
You can start at the low end and gradually increase your rates as you gain new clients and establish a network of companies and websites who hire you on a regular basis.
9. Billing clients
If you want to make money freelance writing online, getting paid will be an important part of the equation!
The first tool you need to have is PayPal. Most companies and clients will prefer to pay you using PayPal, so having and account there and familiarizing yourself with how it works is essential. Make sure to verify your account, and learn how to send invoices (you can find this under “Tools”).
Another very useful tool is FreshBooks, which allows you to create beautiful invoices (that can be integrated with your PayPal account). With FreshBooks you will be able to manage all your work and clients from a single platform.
Remember that people are not always honest online, so avoid delivering a lot of work without being sure that the client will pay you. When in doubt, require at least part of the payment upfront.
10. Delivering your work
The easiest way to deliver your work is to email it as an attachment to your client.
Another tool you can use to produce and share your work with clients is Google Docs. Once you create an account you will be able to work on your articles from any computer, as they will always be saved and synchronized on Google’s servers. Once the article is ready to be delivered you just need to share it with your client (using his email address).