Freelance Writing: 15 Steps to Success

You can scroll through Facebook or Instagram these days and see ads pertaining to freelance writing from freelance writers. These ads typically promote the “work from anywhere” lifestyle and the ad copy typically goes something like this:

“Would you like to be able to work on your own schedule? From anywhere in the world? Well, that’s what I did!”

As with most Millenials, I almost always think, “well, duh!”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I’m not alone when it comes to this train of thought and freelance writing. According to Upwork’s 2018 Freelancing in America report, the number of American freelancers has increased by 3.7 million since 2014. That’s a freaking HUGE uptick in terms of the overall American workforce.

Furthermore, 59% of American companies have adopted a flexible workforce in some way, shape, or form. These flexible workforces consist of freelancers and/or remote workers in most cases.

These stats align nicely for writers interested in drumming up business as a remote or freelance writer. As freelance work becomes increasingly more popular, you’re likely wondering how one can go about kicking off a business as a freelance writer.

This post will focus on freelance writing tips and how to launch a career as a freelance writer.

Freelance Writing
Adobe Stock

1.) Freelance writers need to choose a niche

As a freelance writer, you have the benefit of choosing the topics that you cover. However, rather than writing about anything that crosses your mind, you’ll want to consider a deep dive into a specific topic.

For instance, if you’re interested in writing content for marketing companies, you could carve out a niche writing for small businesses. Doing so will give you an advantage when you pitch small businesses and streamline your writing process as you write for similar audiences.

All in all, selecting a niche helps you decide who you send pitches to, what projects you take on, and which topics you’ll want to study and research in-depth.

2.) Communicate with your clients

It’s time to get to work once you secure a job. However, it is critical that you maintain an open line of communication with your client(s). Remember to communicate early and often with your clients. If you get sick or jammed up and know that you’ll likely miss a deadline, don’t cut ties. Keep your client in the loop and let them know what’s up. If you’re heading out of town and won’t be working for a few weeks, don’t tell them the day before. Let them know a few months ahead of time. Better yet, let them know and offer to send over a few articles in advance.

On a similar note, if you’re going to finish early, give them a heads up ASAP. Doing so allows for any necessary adjustments pertaining to billing invoices on your client’s end. Proactiveness and transparency are appreciated and will give you a leg up on your competition.

This sort of overall communication makes your job exponentially easier. Doing so also aids in forging a connection with your clients so they’ll book jobs with you in the future. Furthermore, clear communication is the best thing you can do for your overall reputation and brand.

Adobe Stock

3.) Network with other freelance writers

It might seem to go against the very nature of freelance writing, but networking is a great way to attain success as a freelance writer. It’s healthy for both your personal and professional development. It’s also nice to have some sense of a community when you’re working alone, day in and day out.

You can stay current on the latest news and trends in your niche via networking with other freelance writers. Networking also allows you to share and learn information pertaining to your overall success as a freelance writer. Not to be cliche, but the best person to ask for advice is someone who has walked the road that you wish to walk.

Furthermore, once you make connections, it’ll help your overall brand reputation and give you more name recognition that most freelance writers lack.

4.) Be active online

Not to be redundant, but having name recognition and being known in your industry is a great way to book gigs as a freelance writer.

In order to achieve this, you need to be active online. For instance, you’ll want to have a portfolio website with testimonials, maintain a blog on your site, guest post on other sites, and remain active and engaged on social media.

Once you select a niche and start posting online, people will begin to recognize your name. Additionally, these things can also improve your overall SEO and provide you with a strong base of credibility. This means that your name will show up when companies search “small business freelance writers” on Google.

5.) Write finely-tuned pitches

In an ideal world, the above tips will help you land jobs via networking and online searches. However, it’s equally important to write pitches on an almost daily basis and reach out to companies that would be a good fit.

YOu can find companies to pitch via job boards like Contena, Blogging Pros, and Mediabistro. YOu can also join Facebook groups and network on LinkedIn.

Once you identify a company to pitch, you need to write a well-crafted proposal. Your proposal needs to sell you and make sense to the key decision-makers. This is anything but an easy task. That being said, you need to learn what makes a solid proposal in order to become a successful freelance writer.

Negotiate Freelancing
Adobe Stock

6.) Study negotiation and acquire a contract for every job

The biggest mistake almost every freelance writer makes at the start of their career is that they don’t set up a contract and don’t know their worth. This ultimately means that they work for less than they should.

Soak up the advice now and make sure you look into how to negotiate freelance wages. You should start off by looking up the different payment structures: hourly, per word, and per project. From there you want to list out the pros and cons of each pricing structure and decide what you want to charge.

Once you know what you want to charge, you can then go into most any negotiation with the upper hand. When you close the deal, the next step is to draw up a contract.

It’s important to remember that you never want to work on a project without a clear contract. A contract gives you an opportunity to grasp the scope of the project and establish your boundaries for the client.

7.) Learn how to edit

As a freelance writer, you don’t have an editor reviewing your work. This means that you need to master the craft of the self-edit.

For instance, here’s a watered-down version of my writing and editing process:

  1. Just write: when you’re writing your pieces, don’t worry about editing…just write and get your ideas down on paper.
  2. Edit for spelling, grammar, and sentence structure: once you finish the piece, set it aside for a few hours or a day or so if you can. Then, on your first edit, just look for spelling and grammar-based errors. You’ll also want to make sure that your sentence structure is sound at this point in the editing process.
  3. Edit for style: your client may adhere to a specific style guide. If so, you’ll want to make sure the piece is written in the correct style. Are the names, titles, times, quotes, and images sources formatted correctly? Go through and double-check just to be certain.
  4. Edit for formating: lastly, go through and make sure the piece is formatted perfectly.

Overall, you’ll need to switch from “writing-mode” to “editing-mode.” When editing, you’re looking for overall accuracy, clarity, and formatting.

8.) Master time management and organizational skills

You’ll need to master time management and organizational skills in order to be a successful freelance writer. As a freelancer, you don’t have a boss or manager pestering you when it comes to due dates and checking off boxes throughout the writing process.

Independence is without question an awesome perk of freelance writing, but it also means you need to overcompensate for time management.

Write out your to-do lists, keep track of deadlines, stay organized, and always try to work ahead so that you can take advantage of the freelance lifestyle.

Freelance Writing Testimonials
Adobe Stock

9.) Freelance writers thrive off of testimonials

Once you’ve done a few assignments and have earned positive reviews from clients, ask them for testimonials.

YOu can showcase testimonials on your site or have people recommend you on LinkedIn. Recommendations provide credibility and help potential clients understand why they should want to work with you.

In order to gather testimonials, do some research on the letter/email to send to current or previous clients when you’re asking for feedback. The language you use here is important and should be tailored and personalized to the client to whom you’re reaching out.

10.) Enhance your complementary skills

Freelance writers simply cannot survive on their above-average writing skills alone. You need to hone your complementary skills such as SEO, analytics, marketing, and/or advertising.

One such way to stay in the loop is to take courses and read articles related to the above skillsets. These skills will essentially set you apart from other freelance writers who only know how to write and lack the ability to optimize their articles for better results.

Furthermore, you should always take advice from clients if they offer tips to improve your writing. This advice could help boost your skills and make you a more marketable freelancer.

11.) Collect results throughout your freelance writing career

The most effective way to sell yourself as a freelance writer is with old fashioned data. Once you’ve written a piece and have formed a strong connection with a client, ask them to share the results of your work.

Did the company garner more email sign-ups? How was the conversion rate on your posts? How about a client’s click-through rate, bounce rate, or time-on-page?

If you’re armed with number based results for your work, clients will jump at the chance to book you. Furthermore, the more successful your posts are, the more money you can charge…and who doesn’t like earning more money? Think of it like this – if you earn a company $3,000 in revenue, they should probably pay you more than $150 per blog post.

Freelance Workspace
Adobe Stock

12.) Consider your workspace

Working from just about anywhere sounds like an amazing concept. However, as a former remote employee, I can tell you that your workspace is a critical component to your overall productivity.

In order to be a successful freelancer, you need to learn what type of environment works best for you personally. Do you need natural light to be productive? How about light noise…or no noise at all? Everyone is different and most jobs offer little wiggle room in this department.

Thankfully, for freelancers, you can take time and figure out where you’re most productive. Remember that it can change daily. Some days the kitchen table will work wonders. Other days your better off going to the library or a coffee shop.

Ultimately, it’s vital that you learn about yourself and consider your workspace if you want to be a successful freelance writer.

13.) Create a brand as a freelance writer

As we’ve already discussed, name recognition and generating a brand will help you book jobs and get your name out there. Creating a brand is a stellar way to network with other writers and land the jobs you really want.

To generate a brand, make sure you select a niche, pick a social media persona, and have a unique writing style that sets you apart from other freelance writers. Furthermore, it’s vital you remain consistent in both voice and design across your entire website and social media accounts in order to create a memorable brand.

ONce you’ve established a brand for yourself, you’ll begin to see some jobs come to you instead of having to pitch every day.

14.) Generate ideas

It’s essential that you remain relevant in your niche even if you don’t have a current task or assignment. Think of topics and ideas you want to write about and work on them. It’s always a great idea to have some articles tucked away for future pitches or guest posts.

If you’re constantly writing and developing ideas, you’ll have more to say when you pitch companies.

Lastly, these articles can help you stay ahead of the curve and plan for future income.

Freelance Ask Questions
Adobe Stock

15.) Ask questions!

So you’ve landed a new client and have a great topic in mind. This means that you just start writing…right? Wrong! You need to gather as much information as possible and clearly communicate with your clients about their expectations.

You may want to ask about word count, SEO, topics and subtopics, deadlines and whether or not they’d like for you to conduct interviews. This sort of information will help you outline your articles and make them all-around easier to write. Furthermore, when you ask the right questions, you’re more likely to produce great work that’ll help you get hired again and again.

Freelance writing in a nutshell

It’s far from easy to know where to start in the world of freelance writing. All you really know is that you’ll write for a handful of clients and publications. However, you likely have no clue where to start. Here are a few tips on how to get started!

Build your brand

Create your website, write your own blog posts, guest post for established publications, and get active online! Doing so will help you develop authority in your niche.

Choose your pay structure

It is vital that you understand that each job will be different. However, you need to figure out which pay structure works best for you: commission, per project, per word, or hourly.

Freelance Writer LLC
Adobe Stock

Register your business

There are two main routes you can go here. Option 1 – register your business as an LLC and open a business bank account to protect your assets. Option 2 – collect 1099’s from companies and work from your personal bank account.

Set up your workspace

This element of the freelancer lifestyle is definitely worthy of some serious consideration. Once you’ve decided to jump into freelancing, set up your workspace with intent.

Pitch potential clients

Now it’s time to seriously put your nose to the grindstone. Scour through job boards or contact companies directly. Either way, you should send several pitches each day to get the ball rolling.

Market yourself

Always promote your content to garner credibility in your industry and niche.

Stay organized

Personal organization is essential when you’re writing for several publications. Keep track of deadlines and always work ahead of schedule whenever possible.

Closing thoughts

Freelance writing is far from an easy job and is anything but glamorous…yup, the ads you see on social media are only half true. Freelancing demands tons of hard work, organization, and downright persistence. However, if you keep grinding and work with the end game in mind, you can eventually build a brand where companies come directly to you and are willing to pay top dollar for your work.

Scroll to Top