Are you thinking of diving into the world of freelance writing? Or maybe you’re already knee-deep but can’t quite figure out how to be a paid writer. You know, actually make money so you can ditch your office job.
I’ll be straight with you: Anyone can write. Many write well. And those who can’t write well can learn.
The issue is how to make money as a writer.
If this is your goal, you are in the right place. This article will equip you with the essential knowledge and skills needed to thrive as a freelance writer.
Ready? Let’s get to it!
First, a quick look at the five steps.
Step 1: Learn How to Write
It might seem obvious, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t start at the very beginning. Anyone who wants to become a freelance writer (or any kind of writer) who is paid for their words needs to know how to write. Simple as that. As I said earlier, anyone can learn how to write. 🤷🏽♀️
That doesn’t mean you need to know every little grammar rule, but you do need to know most of them. If you don’t know where to put that comma, stop writing and look it up. I recommend having these tools handy as you write (which will depend on your requirements):
- Chicago Manual of Style
- Associated Press Stylebook
- MLA Handbook
More importantly, educate yourself before you even start writing. Read the posts from our Grammar Guide and take online courses for writers.
Grammar is just the first step to learning how to write. You also need to be able to put words together to form interesting sentences and paragraphs. Read books like The Elements of Style and On Writing Well to learn some of the essentials.
Finally, before you start writing, you need to determine what type of writing you want to do. Writing for one medium is not necessarily the same as writing for another. For example, freelance writers who provide blog content are expected to write in a very conversational tone. On the other hand, freelance writers who provide content for financial magazines are expected to write in a highly professional tone complete with jargon and messaging a specific target audience would understand.
Similarly, the structure of sentences and paragraphs on a blog differs greatly from what is used in magazines or newspapers. One style or structure is not better than the other. They’re just different, and you need to understand that difference so you can adjust your writing style and structure to match the medium in which your writing will be published.
Step 2: Find Your Niche
When you start your journey as a paid writer, it can be both exciting and overwhelming. With so many topics and industries to cover, it’s essential to explore different niches to find the one (or two) that you truly want to write for.
Here are some niches you can explore. Note, that there are so many more, and this list is not exhaustive.
- Travel writing: Share your experiences, destination guides, and travel tips to inspire wanderlust in readers.
- Technology and gadgets: Review and explore the latest gadgets, tech trends, and digital advancements.
- Personal finance: Educate readers on budgeting, investments, and financial planning for better money management.
- Health and wellness: Write about nutrition, fitness, mental health, and well-being to help readers live healthier lives.
- Sustainable living and environmental issues: Advocate for eco-friendly practices and raise awareness about environmental conservation.
- Parenting and family: Provide advice, tips, and relatable stories on parenting and family life.
- Career development: Help readers with career advice, job hunting, and professional growth.
- Food and culinary: Share recipes, food culture, and culinary tips for food enthusiasts.
- Self-help and motivation: Write inspiring content to help readers achieve personal growth and motivation.
- Home improvement and DIY: Offer tips and guides on home improvement, repairs, and DIY projects.
- Education and e-Learning: Create educational content for online courses and learning platforms.
- Beauty and fashion: Cover beauty trends, fashion tips, and product reviews for style-conscious readers.
- Pet care and animal welfare: Write about pet care, training, and animal welfare topics for pet lovers.
- Entrepreneurship and business: Provide insights and advice on starting and running a successful business.
- Arts and entertainment: Review movies, books, and music and discuss various art forms and entertainment trends.
By exploring these niche possibilities, you’ll discover where your true passions lie and where you can excel as a writer. Embracing a niche not only helps you focus your efforts but also enables you to build credibility and authority in that particular area. As you develop expertise and in-depth knowledge within your chosen niche, your writing will resonate more with readers and establish you as a trusted voice in the industry.
Finding the right niche can lead to a fulfilling and successful career as a paid writer.
Step 3: Build a Portfolio
A well-crafted writing portfolio serves as a powerful tool to showcase your skills, expertise, and versatility as a freelance writer. Potential clients and employers often rely on your portfolio to assess your writing style, grasp of various topics, and ability to meet their specific needs.
A diverse portfolio that encompasses different writing styles, genres, and industries can make a lasting impression and increase your chances of landing writing opportunities. It demonstrates your adaptability as a writer, instills confidence in clients, and sets you apart from the competition.
Read our resources on building a portfolio:
Step 4: Market Yourself
Marketing is not fun—at least, for me. It’s not my strongest suit, but I cannot emphasize its importance enough. That is, if you want to be a paid writer.
Marketing yourself as a freelance writer is crucial for establishing a strong online presence, attracting potential clients, and ultimately securing writing opportunities. Effective self-marketing can make a significant difference in your freelance writing career.
Here are some things you can do to market yourself as a freelance writer:
- Create a professional website
- Optimize your online profiles
- Guest post
- Network and collaborate
- Pitch to clients
- Get testimonials and recommendations
- Offer free resources
- Use email marketing
Successful self-marketing requires consistency, persistence, and an authentic representation of your skills and personality as a writer. By promoting yourself effectively, you can attract the right clients, expand your writing opportunities, and build a rewarding freelance writing career.
Read: Quick Guide to Marketing for Freelance Writers
Step 5: Look for Freelance Writing Opportunities
You know how to write.
You’ve identified your niche.
You’re good on the marketing side.
Now, it’s time to step up your game and find freelance writing opportunities that will make you a paid writer for real!
It can be argued that this step goes before marketing, but I’d say that they can work in tandem. Market as you find clients. Find clients and continue to market yourself.
We have many resources to help you find freelance writing opportunities:
Of course, check out our daily list of writing jobs and our Job Board as well.
Content agencies vs. direct clients
It’s also worth discussing the difference between content agencies and direct clients.
Content agencies are platforms connecting freelance writers with clients seeking written content. Writers can browse available projects, submit work, and get paid through these intermediaries.
Direct clients are businesses or individuals who hire freelance writers for specific content needs. Working directly with clients allows for personalized relationships and negotiation of rates, but requires proactive marketing and pitching.
- Regular work: Content agencies often have a steady flow of writing assignments.
- Less administrative work: Agencies handle billing and administrative tasks.
- Diverse clients: Exposure to a variety of clients and industries.
- Lower pay: Agencies may pay lower rates compared to direct clients.
- Limited control: Less control over choosing the projects you work on.
- Higher pay potential: Direct clients may offer better pay for specialized work.
- Building relationships: Opportunity to establish long-term client relationships.
- Creative freedom: More flexibility in choosing the projects you’re passionate about.
- Inconsistent work: Finding and maintaining direct clients may involve fluctuations in workload.
- More administrative work: You’re responsible for invoicing and administrative tasks.
The decision to work with content agencies or direct clients depends on your preferences, financial goals, and desired level of control over your writing projects. A good approach is to combine both to diversify your writing opportunities and income streams.
✨ Other Things to Consider: The Intangibles
Still wondering how to be a paid writer? I sure hope not! Just follow the five steps above, and you will be on the right track.
However, I have to say that it may take time and several iterations before you get to the level you want to be. Nobody said it was easy. 😃
So, allow me to share some more things you can do to help you on your journey to becoming a paid writer.
Read, read, and read more
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” – Stephen King
Once you determine what type of writing you want to do, start reading other writers’ works in that style. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on and dissect the tone and structure of those pieces to learn what works and what you need to import into your own writing to have a chance at successfully competing in the freelance writing market and see your content appear alongside other seasoned writers’ content and articles.
Set Your Expectations
Keep in mind that every writer has an opinion based on his own experiences. However, if a suggestion related to how much you’ll be able to make as a freelance writer seems too good to be true, it probably is. The amount of money you can make as a freelance writer depends on a wide variety of factors. Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Your Writing Experience
If you’ve been writing formally in some way (I’m not talking about writing for yourself or for fun) that can be quantified, then that experience can help you build your career as a paid writer. For example, if you write reports or communications for your current employer or if you’ve written articles for your local paper, those efforts can help you develop your paid writing career.
Not only have you gained experience writing for other people and meeting their expectations, but you also have some clips and references to add to your writer’s arsenal, which you can use when applying for paid writing opportunities. Be realistic, though. Those clips and references might not be as compelling as those provided by more seasoned writers applying for the same job as you. Therefore, keep plugging away and building your arsenal, so you have enough evidence one day to prove exactly why you’re the person to be hired for the jobs to which you apply.
2. Your Non-Writing Experience
Believe it or not, your non-writing experience can help you land paid writing jobs. For example, if you can write well and have a professional background in a specific area that a client is looking for, you could be a more desirable candidate than one who has a lot of writing experience but no experience in the specific area that the client is looking for. An example could be a website looking for someone to write about nursing. A seasoned writer with no medical experience is likely to be less desirable than a nurse with no writing experience but the ability to write some samples that are great. Remember “finding your niche”?
3. Your Willingness to Venture into New Territory
Freelance writers have to start somewhere. That means you need to devote time to building your portfolio and clips. You might have to write for websites or clients that are not your dream partners. Only you can decide which specific writing opportunities are right in terms of helping you meet your long-term goals, but without writing samples of some kind, you can’t expect to pick up many higher-paying writing jobs.
4. Your Ability to Market Yourself
There is a lot of competition in the freelance writing world. The pool of available writers has grown exponentially. Furthermore, writers around the world are willing to work for very different rates. Unless you can prove to a potential client why you’re worth more money, it can be difficult to land some writing jobs.
The publishing world has also changed significantly. There are fewer print publications seeking freelance writers these days. In fact, many print publications (and online publications) are able to find plenty of writers who want to write for them for free in exchange for the exposure those publications can bring them. That means publications can fill their content quotas with free content from authoritative writers.
Freelance writers have to look in new places to find work, and they need to market themselves in new ways in order to find more work. For example, about 15 years ago, an online presence for a freelance writer wasn’t that critical. Today, you won’t get far without a social media presence and an online portfolio.
5. Your Patience and Persistence
Two of the key components of building a successful brand are patience and persistence. The same factors apply to building your career as a paid writer. Success is unlikely to happen overnight. Instead, you need to be prepared to work toward the long term and keep trying again and again. In time, your patience and persistence will pay off.
6. Your Good Luck
Yes, luck can help you build your career as a paid writer. Truly, sometimes being in the right place at the right time can catapult a struggling freelance writer’s career into a new stratosphere. If another writer’s story of their earnings and success amazes you, consider the source. There might be some luck in there, which gave them an added boost that they’re omitting from their story.
Bottom-line, you need to set realistic expectations for your freelance writing career. It takes time and effort to grow a freelance writing business in a world that’s creating fewer opportunities and lowering rates more each day.
✅ Get Paid for Your Writing
Are you ready to take the plunge? Becoming a paid writer might seem like a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and skills, you can turn your passion for writing into a fulfilling career. There are countless opportunities waiting for skilled writers, and with time and perseverance, you will find yourself landing those paid writing jobs.
Find writing opportunities here: Websites that Pay Writers in 2023