So, you’re interested in becoming a freelance writer?
If that’s the case then welcome to the greatest adventure you’ll have online!
Freelance writing has been one of the most rewarding experiences for myself and several other peers who have taken control of their time to live a remote lifestyle and actually run a legit business making good money.
In fact, if you follow the steps I’ve laid out below, there’s no reason you can’t make at least $5,000/month from your writing gigs. (And this can all be on the side from your day job too!!)
I’m going to be completely transparent. Becoming a freelance writer is simple, but not easy. I can lay out the entire playbook and give you all the best recommendations in the world, but if you don’t have a deep “why” for becoming a freelance writer then it won’t work out.
I’m not trying to be harsh or scare you from the awesome field, but it needs to be known upfront what the sacrifices will be.
Freelance writing is a great way to earn full time income, side income, and passive income for you and your family.
In fact, let me walk you through the pro’s and con’s of becoming a freelance writer.
- By becoming a writer you WILL have crystal clear thinking. Writing leads to high quality thinking in general.
- You will be a business owner and your own boss.
- You will have a legitimate way to earn extra cash with limitless opportunity.
- You can become fully remote and spend more time with your loved ones. You’ll also have freedom to travel anywhere you want.
- You don’t need a degree nor any credentials to get started.
- After your beginner progress, the first year is going to be a grind. There will be times when you really don’t think you’re making progress, but trust the process.
- The competition is more fierce than ever. You’re also competing with people across the globe who will be willing to write cheaper than you.
- You will need to be highly organized. (I’m not the best at organization so this is a negative for me lol)
If you’re comfortable with the above picture then continue because you’re about to read the exact playbook I used to:
- Pay for my college tuition and bills.
- Get real world experience without needing a “job”.
- Build a reliable passive income stream that still works for me.
You’re most likely here because you want freedom from the treadmill. You’re probably a hard worker who’s willing to put in the effort to succeed, you just need a plan.
That’s why I’m giving everything away because I know exactly how it feels to know you’re good enough to be your own boss, but you don’t know where to start.
With that said. Let’s begin with the basics.
What kind of Freelance Writing Is Available?
In my personal opinion there are 3 major kinds of writing options available to you.
- Content Writing
- Technical Writing
There’s quite a lot of “sub-niche” writing you can perform, but the 3 buckets above basically contain all the writing opportunities available.
Let’s dive deeper into the 3 so you have a better understanding.
1. Content Writing
Content writing is all the writing content businesses need to help with their go-to-market strategy.
There’s multiple types of content writing but they basically boil down to blogging or SEO writing.
This blog is a good example of what I mean about content writing. You’re creating content to help people when they search for certain keywords.
Typically this is what most people believe “freelance writing” is all about. You’ll have very small sites to large corporations all looking for quality writers to beef up their content profile.
And that’s the beauty of content writing… It’s basically endless. People are making websites, which need high quality content, at a faster rate than ever before. Plus, you’re probably not going to be out of a job any time soon until we hit the singularity (at which point everyone’s job becomes automated haha).
This is my jam.
Because copywriting is the fine art of “sales in print”. It literally means you’re getting people to read your writing and whip out their shinny credit card to purchase a product or service.
Have you ever seen an advertisement? The writing on the ad is copywriting.
What about a web page with a story for a product? That’s also copywriting.
How about an email for a new product or service? Yep, copywriting.
The good news?
You get paid. A lot.
The bad news?
It’s VERY hard to be a good copywriter. Don’t get it twisted. It’s brutal writing high quality copy.
That’s why business owners pay so much for a quality copywriter. If you’re able to increase sales for a business, you deserve quality compensation for it.
I personally know copywriters who are making $12,000/month just from royalty money. That’s the level of reward you can make as a copywriter.
As a good rule, the closer you are to the sale the more likely you are to get paid top dollar for the work.
As a beginner can you get into copywriting? Yes technically, but that’s like expecting a beginning coder to build a fully flushed out mobile app with all the bells and whistles. You’re going to be over your head quickly.
Plus, if you dive too deep into work you can’t handle your reputation (we’ll get into that in a second) will take a hit and you’ll soon be out of work.
3. Technical Writing
People sleep on technical writing but you can make a great deal of money writing about technical processes. It’s actually how I got my start in the writing world.
Most people consider technical writing to be the content for manuals to equipment, systems, parts, and other related processes.
Technical writing can also include transcription of business meetings (literally how I got started writing), reports, summaries, and other white papers.
Think of technical writing as all the backend content needed by businesses to keep the systems moving in the right direction.
Now for the fun part…
How To Get Your Start As A Freelance Writer (Without A Degree Or Experience)
Step 1: What is your current skill set?
When I first started becoming a freelance writer I didn’t have a degree nor any real skills. The only thing I had was grit.
I’m going to assume a lot of you are in the same space.
I started out as a generalist to build my writing skills and learn what I was interested in. The only previous experience I had was playing college baseball which naturally meant I was interested in sports and such.
You might be totally different though. You have a completely different experience then I do, so be sure to tap into your skill set you’ve already built.
Think about what you know and what you’re currently good at. Use experiences like work, hobbies, education, volunteering, and beyond to build a list of your current skill sets.
This will help give you a broad stroke of ideas.
Honestly though, the only way you’re going to learn what industries you’re interested in is just writing about them.
That’s why I personally recommend starting as a generalist and then getting more topic specific when you find what interests you.
What I mean by finding your current skill set is determining where you want to start. If you’re more analytical by nature, then writing technical manuals could be a fantastic place to begin your writing adventure. If you’re into influence, sales, and persuasion (like me!) then starting with content writing and working towards copywriting will be up your alley.
Step 2: Start With Upwork
Most people will disagree with me on this, but I personally think you should start your freelance writing with Upwork.
You’ll find on the internet that to get started freelance writing you need to start reaching out to potential clients and offer your services.
That’s a great idea… Once you have a portfolio and know what industry you want.
If you want to take action today. And make money, today. Go to Upwork right now and become a freelancer on their site.
You’ll be automatically connected with thousands of people looking for writing content. I recommend this so much because if you want to be successful you need immediate feedback. Sending a bunch of messages and getting rejected will deter you from continuing in your journey. Trust me, I know.
Here’s how you can hack Upwork.
- When you sign up you’re not going to have a reputation score. Basically you’re a nobody in the eyes of the clients. What you need to do is take a transcription job or some other very easy writing job to start getting clients and a reputation score.
- Once you complete your first couple projects with 100% job success you’ll be able to start going after the bigger content jobs. You might need to compete with a lower cost per word offer, but do anything to get a legit writing job.
- After you have experience with a boosted profile and good job completion score you should either get a “rising talent” or “top freelancer” award. Once you get these awards you’ll find clients will start reaching out to you and you’re in the clear for a lot of work!
Take this advice seriously. I used it myself to catapult up the rankings instead of going straight away to the big jobs. The clients won’t even take you seriously if you don’t have any prior experience (it doesn’t matter what that prior experience is though!!).
Step 3: Find Your Niche
Now you can find your niche!
With a warmed up Upwork profile you’ll gain access to a wide variety of writing projects within any niche you can think of.
You might be asking, why do I need to find a niche? Glad you asked!
Clients don’t want to pay you to learn the industry and write general content. That doesn’t work on the internet anymore. What clients want is someone who can go deep, like really deep, into a subject. That builds a loyal following.
Here are some examples of niches you can get into:
- Health → Depression → I write about depression topics
- Wealth → Crypto → I write about cryptocurrencies
- Health → Kundalini Yoga → I write about kundalini yoga and its effects on the body.
Choose a niche that interests you. You’ll command higher prices because you’ll be viewed as an authority within the space. Especially if you have a great deal of previous experience to back it up.
Here are a couple other niches to think about:
- Real Estate
- 3d Printers
- Personal Development
There’s so many.
Here’s the goal: take on as much work, in as wide a variety, to find what you’re interested in and good at.
Step 4: Continuous Improvement
This step might have been better for earlier, but I wanted you to take action immediately.
Once you’re at a point where you’re getting writing jobs then it’s time to uplevel your skill set.
In life you’re either growing or dying. If you don’t continuously improve then your competition will eat you alive.
Read. A. Lot.
Seriously. Just read if you want to become a better writer.
Read fiction, read non-fiction, read biographies, read textbooks, it doesn’t matter. Get your hands on as many books as possible and learn from them.
You can also pick up some fundamental books about writing which will teach you the basics. However, I learned by just reading.
Advanced Guide To Becoming A Freelance Writer
So you have some experience. And you know where you’re going to focus your energy for your freelance writing?
Congrats! You’re further than 99% of people who start.
Here’s the bad news. You’re now playing with the major players. Which means you need to level up your skills again! (See how that’s a common theme in life!?)
Step 5: Build Your Website & Portfolio
I combined the two because they should be linked together. If you’re working on Upwork you should always work to transition yourself off the platform.
Your pitches for writing work will be more effective by linking to your website with an online portfolio.
Why? People will know you’re serious about the work. A simple website – preferably your name as the domain name – will work. Just add a couple pages to the site to make it look clean.
Having a website portfolio, or additionally a blog, is great for editors to review your work. It also works REALLY well for getting FB pixel data so you can retarget them and other editors just like them!
The point is – you need to control the conversation. You can only do this with a website and portfolio of your previous work.
Step 6: Start Marketing
At this stage you need to make a choice. Do I want to do this for supplement income on the side? Or, is this something I’m willing to start marketing for?
Don’t take those questions lightly. If you choose the former you continue with Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, ProBlogger, and other job boards. That is a viable way to make your side income stable.
If you choose the latter, it’s time to go all in. You’re now making your writing a core aspect of your professional life.
Here are some tasks you need to take to get your marketing machine ramped up:
- Cold emails
- LinkedIn messaging
- Direct mail
- Direct advertising
- Networking with other writers
- Reaching out to agencies
- Blogging yourself
- Attending trade shows and conferences (when they come back after COVID!)
- Create lead magnets on your website
All of these tasks will help you gain more clients.
Here’s what I recommend – pick 1 until you get really good at it and it’s generating leads for you.
Make sure to block your time and prioritize yourself to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
There’s so much that can go into this – you might be interested in my article on lead generation.
Step 7: Create A System
Have you ever read the book “Thinking In Systems”? If not, go pick it up right now.
This is the secret to freelance writing nobody wants you to know. If you can learn how to train younger writers, and create processes for them, you can systematize your business to help it scale it even bigger.
As with any business, you need to figure out ways of creating systems to remove yourself from the machine. This frees you up to do the fun and interesting projects you want to do, while still making good money from your client book.
If you’re marketing yourself as a writer you should be doing this anyways.
The problem? It’s exceptionally difficult to do this for your writing business. You need to create SOPs, processes, onboarding experiences, training, the whole 9 yards.
If you want more information shoot me an email and I’ll send you some additional info on how to do this!
There you have it. That’s how you can become a freelance writer with zero experience or degree.
If you found the content useful leave a comment with your thoughts!