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How to Become a Freelance Writer

How to Become a Freelance Writer

Becoming a writer was something was my ideal career since childhood.

Meeting an author in primary school and then later in high school increased my love for writing and enabled me to feel it is possible to make a living writing.

However, when I shared this dream with others, I was laughed at and told it was not a real career.

Back then, motivational and female empowerment writing was what I wanted to do and was an integral part of one of my businesses for years.

Now, I do finance, parenting, health and travel writing, with some female empowerment and motivational pieces mixed in.

Pacific Island Living, in-flight Magazines, international magazines, websites and books are all places I write.

Travel writing is my favourite because I get to go to incredible places such as the Solomon Islands, Slovenia, Fiji, Vanuatu and more.

Freelance writing varies greatly in terms of price due to experience, qualifications, and quality of work.

Over recent years, due to various media companies laying off staff, it has gotten more competitive but I also feel there are different opportunities with the expansion of social media and websites.

Here is everything I’d recommend and have done to secure freelance writing work.

Image of woman sitting in window, holding a laptop. Text reads how to become a freelance writer.

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1. How to Get Started with Freelance Writing

Firstly, you don’t have to have experience with writing but it does help.

When I started freelance writing I had been blogging for almost 2 years and was an author.

I look back at the articles I wrote then and cringe when compared to my writing now.

No one is perfect when they start out as a writer, fortunately, there are tools and resources that can help you improve and become the writer you want to be.

You can start either by jumping right in, pitching to places you want to write for and building a portfolio.

Or you can be more methodic and have more success with your pitches, get a higher rate and grow your writing career faster if you follow these tips.

2. Learn to Write Well

Practice makes perfect which means, you have to do it to be good at it.

It is significantly easier to improve and secure great writing gigs if you do a course.

Learning how to write well, research, reference, find places to write for, pitch successfully, and all things writing are covered in good courses.

Doing these things correctly from the beginning will save you significant time and your time matters.

I like Kate Toon’s Clever Copywriting School and if you research Kate, all she does, her books, speaking etc you will see why she’s the one I recommend. And no, I don’t get paid for recommending her.

3. Set Up Your Site/Portfolio

A self-hosted site is easy to create and worth it. You don’t need to blog every day, simply have details about you, how to contact you and your work to start with.

SiteGround is the best for hosting in my experience and fantastic with their customer service if you have any issues.

I have a full guide on how to set up a site here, along with tips to make money from it outside of your freelance writing services if you want to.

With your portfolio, include any work you’ve had published already.

If you don’t have any published pieces, have “coming soon” or similar for the portfolio section and update it as soon as you get articles published.

My portfolio can be viewed here to give you an idea but I am terrible at updating it!

4. Welcome and Accept Feedback

Share your work, take the criticisms and be grateful people are pointing out things you need to change.

When I first started, I took all editing recommendations too personally but a good editor will not only improve whatever you’ve written, they can also teach you a lot if you are open to it.

With my first book, I had a fantastic editor who explained different things and it improved my writing tenfold.

Use tools such as Grammarly to check your work as you go as well but make sure it is set to the correct language e.g. American or British English.

Seeing your mistakes underlined and having a report each week will show you areas you can improve.

Continually working on your style, and your knowledge and absorbing the information to improve is key to becoming a great writer.

Image of me, writing an article between hikes in Slovenia. Text reads how to become a freelance writer.

5. Where to Pitch and Where to Get Paid Gigs

When starting places such as Upwork, Freelancer and the Problogger Jobs Board can be good, however, the rates are low compared to other freelance work and the competition is high.

It’s often simple, quick articles people are looking for on those sites so it’s up to you to decide if the low pay for articles to place in your portfolio is worth it.

I didn’t do any work on those sites but friends have and I looked through them at times when I was starting.

Sites such as The Write Life and Make A Living Writing both have lists of sites willing to accept content and pay you for it which I found more effective.

Get active in groups on Facebook or pitch directly to sites you want to write for but make sure you read the rules and guidelines for each.

I am in some travel and finance specific groups which have been fantastic for securing work, connecting with editors and other writers to share opportunities.

Once you are established, consider applying to be a member of any relevant association e.g. TravMedia for travel media have been wonderful for me.

6. How Much to Charge as a Freelance Writer? 

Prices are sometimes determined by the publication you are working for and sometimes you get to set your rate.

When doing your research, check the submission guidelines for the places you want to pitch to see if they have their rates set there.

Always have your own rates set as well, but be aware you may need to be flexible.

How much you can charge can vary depending on your experience, knowledge, qualifications, how much research is involved in the article etc.

For the recommended rates in Australia, the MEAA has guidelines and The Clever Copywriting School has advice for rates.

The biggest factors in determining your rates are experience, qualifications and location.

Those with journalism or similar degrees and experience can command higher rates than those just starting.

Next, Australia tends to have higher rates than other countries, so if you live outside Australia or are dealing with international companies, be aware of this.

In the US you might be competing against freelance writers willing to do content for under $100 an article but if you know where to look you can find places paying $500+.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I found $50 per article was fairly common for US companies vs $200+ for Australian companies and $50 wasn’t worth it for me when I could get more elsewhere.

If you have a degree and extensive experience, the rates can be $500 or more, depending on what is involved. For research-heavy articles, $1,000+ has not been uncommon for me

Sites to Check Rates

If you are an author, the Australian Society of Authors has freelance writing rate guidelines here.

MEAA (Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance) has suggestions for freelance rates (not just writing) here.

Image of woman typing on a laptop while seated at her desk. Text reads how to become a freelance writer.

7. Know Your Rights

Before you do any work, make sure you know your rights, what the going rates are and don’t allow yourself to work for less than you deserve.

Check out this from Tracey Spicer, even she gets pitched ridiculously low rates by big companies!

Have clear terms and conditions for what the work is, how much is quoted and when payment is due.

The Thrifty Issue terms and conditions are here to give you an idea.

I love freelance writing, it is not my only source of income, though.

If I were to dedicate myself to it, I’d allocate specific time for pitching, time for writing and time to market myself, network and provide value in Facebook groups, on my own site and elsewhere.

Other Side Hustle Ideas

Freelance writing is one of my favourite ways to make money but it’s not the only one.

Check out the following for more ideas:
101 ways to make money from home
43 ways to make money as a single mother
23 ways to make money on the side in 2023
How I made $33,277.57 on the side in 12 months

This article was also quoted in The Side Hustle Revolution: Why People Are Embracing Home-Based Income. It has loads of tips on the how, what, why and everything else you need to know about side hustles!

Are you a freelance writer? What tips would you add? 

Image of Kylie Travers writing an article while hiking through Slovenia

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Sandra crespo

Wednesday 8th of March 2017

This is a great article! I am an author and I recently got serious about my blog and I have been considering adding some freelancing to have a little side and come doing something I love to do. Thank you for sharing this

Leslie

Tuesday 7th of March 2017

I am trying to be a freelance writer, I am trying to learn all I can about it. This is great information so I pinned it, thank you for sharing.

Claire Chambers

Tuesday 7th of March 2017

Thanks for this, I really enjoy writing and would love to get more experienced as a freelance writer.

Krysten

Tuesday 7th of March 2017

The US is very competitive and that does drive the price down, but if it's something that you like doing, hopefully, you won't mind it much. I have thought about doing freelance writing here lately, but I just don't have the time, unfortunately.

Lauren

Tuesday 7th of March 2017

Great info! I've seriously considered freelance writing to help with my travel expenses but I'm not sure I have the time to seriously commit to it.

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