Every so often on one of my discovery calls, I’ll realize that the person on the other end of the Zoom screen doesn’t really want my help as a blog coach. It’s not blogging they want to get into. They want to figure out a side hustle that will pay them NOW. And blogging isn’t that.
If you need to know anything about blogging before you get started, it’s that it takes time to make money blogging. So how do I advise these people?
I tell them how to become a freelance writer with no experience. That’s because if you were researching blogging as a side hustle, chances are you like to write. Or else you’d be seeking the help of a video coach, a social media coach or some other coach.
Freelance writing is a great way to earn a living online. And yes, you can start quickly with little or no experience. In this post, I’ll break down how to start content writing from home. I’ll give you a few resources that will make your transition to the freelance lifestyle easier and I’ll tell you how my coaching and resources can help quicken this transition. (If you’d like my help.) Let’s begin with the basics.
What is freelance writing?
Freelance writing means writing content for a company or person via contract. It is not full-time employment, you’re working for yourself. You contract your writing services out to those who need them.
Freelance writing is remote work. You do it from your own home or wherever you like to work. You’re paid either per hour, per word or per piece as stipulated by the terms of your contract. You’re not entitled to any benefits since you’re not a full-time employee. The perk here is that you can negotiate your wages and you can contract your skills out to multiple clients.
This means your workload will be set by you. You choose the topics you write on and the number of hours you work. This can be both scary and thrilling at the same time.
The Benefits of Freelance Writing
Why is this the first avenue I recommend for those who contact me wanting online work? Because it’s one of the quickest and easiest ways to start making money online.
I have been freelance writing for over a decade now. I started freelance writing with no experience for local newspapers in Jamaica, I wrote for magazines, I wrote for local clients and then I transferred my skills to the online world.
Even now, I still maintain a freelance writing business and it maintains my digital nomad lifestyle just as much as my blogging and coaching does. Who doesn’t love having multiple skills and multiple sources of income?
Freelance writing can be done from anywhere in the world for as little as pennies per word to as much as 1000s of dollars per piece. It’s all in the type of freelance writing that you choose, your skill level and your expertise in the subject area.
It’s a great side hustle and can be your sole source of income once you build a solid network of clients and experience under your belt. Let’s talk about the different types of freelance writing there are so you can determine how to start freelance writing with no experience and where to land freelance writing gigs.
Types of Freelance Writing
There are many types of freelance writing jobs that you can seek out. Some of the most common types of freelance writing include:
Copywriting – this is where you’re writing convincing text meant to close a deal of some sort. You could be writing the copy for a sales page, a landing page, a Facebook ad, a video script meant to sell something, a blog post meant to convert the reader into a lead, etc, etc.
Journalism – here, you’re responding to magazines, newspapers and websites that want stories for their publications. They’ll tell you exactly what they’re looking for and many have guides on how to pitch your story ideas so they’ll get accepted.
Personal essays – yes, you can get paid for personal essays and first-person experiences. Those same websites sending out pitch requests for journalism-type pieces will also pay for personal experiences in various categories. This can be your own experience or you can interview someone else and report on it.
Content writing – blogs and websites that make money through ads need a huge amount of content and they need it quickly. They pay writers to meet this demand. You can find blogs that will pay for a wide variety of topics, but the pay here tends to be on a lower scale. Businesses also have blogs that need content and they often outsource this need. You can write for established businesses that need content to attract visitors to their websites.
Content copywriting – I’m gonna make up this category by fusing the first and last types of content writing I spoke about. In this category, you’ll find bloggers and websites who outsource content that is meant to make them money. This can be anything from ebooks, product reviews, how-to tutorials, buying guides, video scripts, infographics, checklists and much more. This is a more lucrative field as you know they will be making money from the resale of your product so you can charge a premium.
How to Prepare to be a Freelance Writer
If you’ve decided to give freelance writing a shot, here are some things you absolutely must do to learn how to be a freelance writer with no experience.
First things first, you want to choose your niche.
Freelance Writing Niche
If you’ve followed me long enough you know I preach about finding a niche. You cannot be an expert in all things. You’re going to need to find a little corner of the market and become an authority in that one area.
This can be a combination of what you have real-world experience in and what you’re passionate about. Passion is important as you’re going to be doing a lot of research and a lot of writing on this one niche.
Finding your niche is similar across most digital marketing channels. I detail how to find your niche here. I also talk about that in this video.
Brush Up On Your Research Skills
When it comes to how to become a freelance writer with no experience, you’re going to spend more time doing research than you will on actually writing. That’s because each client will want something different and it’s on you to deliver the results they’re after.
You know how to do research, that’s why you’re reading this post right now. Before you get into freelance writing, here are a few things to start researching so you’re ready to hit the ground running:
- writing structures
- writing styles
- authority sources of information in the niche you’ve chosen
- grammar and language skills
- storytelling skills
- sales and conversion skills
- mentors in your niche
All of these will help you to become a good writer but that last one is incredibly important. Find someone or a handful of people who are where you want to be right now and study them. Follow their social media, read articles they write and soak up all you can from them. This will pay off in multiple ways down the line.
There comes a time when research is enough and it’s time to start practising. You’ll need to have a body of work to show potential clients in the future. You don’t want to show them the very first pieces of work you’ve ever created.
So create a website for yourself and start writing now. If you don’t have the skills to create a website, start writing on free platforms such as LinkedIn, Substack or Medium. Chose a handful of topics in your niche, outline the articles you will write, and just start writing. There’s no better way to develop a skill than by doing it every day.
Make sure to get feedback on your writing. Write in public and see how it resonates with the intended audience. Don’t just collect feedback from friends and people who mean you well, you want strangers and those in your field to critique your work. Feedback makes you a better writer. Don’t take negative feedback personally, use it to grow.
How to Build a Writing Portfolio with No Experience
The first thing you need to do is create a website for yourself. Sure, you can start writing on free platforms like Medium or LinkedIn, but I preach daily about the importance of owning your own platform.
If a platform is free, you are the product. And that means the platform can shut you down at any moment and poof, your whole business is gone.
When you create your own website, there’s no one to shut you down. You control the content and marketing of the website and are responsible for bringing in the traffic and clients.
That sounds scary but that’s why you’re going to learn SEO. That’s the most passive way to attract freelance writing clients to your website so you’ll never be out of business.
Once you’ve created your website, you must start writing.
Scared of creating a website yourself? I can help you to set up a website in one hour. I’ve done this so many times for myself and my clients that I will cut through all the tech issues and have your blog or business website up and running in just one coaching session. Book a session here and let’s get your website up ASAP.
Your website only needs a few pages:
- home page
- about and contact
- portfolio or services
That’s it. If you have nothing to add to the portfolio section yet, list your services there confidently. Check out my services page for some ideas.
Your blog is where your writing will sit until you have client work to add to your portfolio page.
To get the ball rolling, offer free work to your friends, family or businesses within your reach. This is a great way to practice your pitching skills to land quality work. Show them blog posts you have written on subjects relevant to their business so they see what you can do for them.
Get at least three pieces of content written for others, even if they are free, and then start to pitch yourself as a freelance content writer.
How to Become a Freelance Writer with No Experience
Here’s where you start to look for paid work. You now have a portfolio of work (those three pieces of content plus your blog) to show potential clients or employers, you have a professional website under your belt and you’ve brushed up on your skills. You’re ready to start your freelance writing career.
Here are all the steps you can take to become a freelance writer with no real experience:
- Start a blog and get paid to place ads on your blog
- Start writing on Medium and get paid for your work there
- Start reading all the pitch guides you can find for publications that you want to write for
- Start pitching stories to these publications
- Follow and network with other writers and editors in your niche
- Join content farms (or content mills) to get consistent work as a content writer
- Sign up for job boards that list freelance writing jobs daily
- Optimize your LinkedIn to position yourself as a freelance writer
- Apply for freelance writing jobs on LinkedIn, Indeed and more
- Study grammar every day
- Learn SEO as this is a highly technical skill that is in high demand
- Send cold pitches every day to businesses in your niche
- Submit articles to bigger blogs in your niche (guest posting)
- Join Facebook groups of other writers and industries in your niche looking for help
These are just a few ways to break into content writing and freelance writing with little to no experience. This is something I’ve been doing for years. If you want my help with actual websites to sign up on to get work and tips on preparing yourself to land a freelance writing job or client, book a coaching call with me and let’s get you some work.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Freelance Writer?
It takes 3-6 weeks depending on your skill level and how much time you’re willing to spend looking for a job.
You can easily land your first client next week if you follow the advice that I will give you if you sign up for my coaching session. I’ll tell you which website to go to get quality, consistent work.
But of course, you will lose that job just as quickly if your writing skills are not up to par. I urge you to start writing one or two blog posts every single day on your website on the topic of your chosen niche so you can get your practice in and build your authority.
I also urge you to take my SEO course (or really any SEO course of your choice) because this is a marketable skill that can land you higher-paying jobs in the freelance writing world.
How Much Should You Charge as Freelance Writer?
The industry average right now is around $0.04 per word for simple content writing, such as blog posts and website writing. So, a 500 word article would cost $20.
Anyone charging less than that is seriously lowballing.
That’s in US dollars of course.
As your experience grows, you can charge as high as $1 per word for your services. This rate goes up even further if you’re very experienced in a particularly difficult subject area. For instance, someone writing law or medical articles can charge more.
Content farms are notorious for offering less than these figures for articles. They want you to churn out dozens of articles each week. Working at a content farm is a good way to build your portfolio and get some experience working with editors, but you should have an exit plan to get out of there because no one wants to be stuck on that hampster wheel long term.
Burnout is imminent. Besides, can you really churn out several high quality 1000+ word articles per day?
Book Recurring Work
The aim of taking low paying jobs in the beginning is to find your niche. You’ll find the subject area that you’re good at and want to work in long term.
You’ll also find clients that you love. This is your opportunity to lock them into long-term contracts, supplying them with one or two articles every week for their website on retainer.
You’ll eventually become an expert at pitching clients, charging what you know you’re worth and keeing them as long term clients, stabilising your income and enjoying a remote working freelance lifestyle.
I hope this article spurred some ideas and you’re pumped up and ready to start a career as a freelance writer. Still have questions on how to become a freelance writer with no experience? Put them below or book a free discovery call with me and I’ll help you to start freelance writing.
Make sure you’re subscribed to my Youtube channel as the next post and video in this series is all about the tools that will help you as a freelance writer.