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One of the most popular ways to make money from home right now is with freelance writing.
Freelance writing is basically writing various forms of content for print or digital publications.
This content can include everything from blogs and articles to product descriptions and newsletters.
Some freelance writers offer a wide range of writing services, while others stick to just the top one or two types of content they’re best at.
Although freelance writing is increasingly popular, that doesn’t mean that everyone can make it in this business.
People who lack creativity and excellent writing chops probably aren’t going to find much success in this career.
However, I’ve seen people who have awesome writing skills and super creative brains manage to score excellent clients and jobs with little to no professional writing experience!
If you’re one of those people that believe you have what it takes to find success with freelance writing but aren’t sure where to begin, then you need to read this guide.
How to Become a Freelance Writer, Even with No Experience
Like most jobs, it’s tough to break in when you don’t have experience, regardless of your skill level.
Recruiters seem to always want to see samples of your work and a resume that showcases your expertise, which makes sense when they’re looking for a certain level of professionalism.
However, when you’re a new freelancer, you can’t really pull samples out of thin air unless you do a bunch of work for free.
Since the name of the game is getting paid for your work, then creating a bunch of free samples to show off your writing skills isn’t the best way to go.
So, I’m going to give you several options you have for getting paid as a new freelance writer, even when you’ve had zero paid work under your belt.
Starting with the easiest to break into, but also the lowest-paying, let’s talk about content mills.
As a freelance writer, you’ll hear about content mills mostly in a negative way.
That’s because they tend to focus on pumping out tons of content for clients while paying their writers – their money-makers – very little and taking the biggest cut for themselves.
But, you have to start somewhere, and for some writers, content mills are an excellent solution.
As a content mill writer, you don’t have to market yourself, which is one of the most time-consuming and challenging things about being a freelance writer.
The agency gets the clients, and you get the work, so you’re not stuck finding clients willing to pay on your own.
Just don’t expect to be paid what you would if you were to find private clients because the agency is the middleman and will take a good share.
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Still, the work you do for clients at content mills may be usable in your portfolio (check with the client first, though), so you can start building some samples to share with potential clients.
Once you feel like you have enough suitable pieces for a starter portfolio, you can always move onto something else that pays more.
Here are several content mills to get you started:
- Article Document
- Constant Content
- Great Content
- Hire Writers
- Online Writing Jobs
- The Content Authority
- Writer Access
- ZenContent by IZEA
The next step up for new freelancers is the freelance marketplace.
These are sites that, like content mills, allow freelancers and clients to connect in one place, only they’re for all freelancers with different skills instead of just writers.
The difference is that you can have more control over your earnings at these places.
Instead of the site setting prices for writers, you can choose what jobs you want to bid on.
If the price is too low for you, then simply pass it up and move onto the next.
Some sites have filters that let you find specific types of jobs you’re looking for, such as gigs within a certain budget.
Most freelancing sites work the same:
- You register and set up your profile outlining any previous work you’ve done and where your expertise lies.
- You search the jobs and bid on those you want (most sites offer you a set number of bids for the month, and you can pay for more if you’d like).
- Send in a proposal with your bid to detail what type of work you’ll do and how you’ll do it, plus any relevant experience.
- Wait for the client to either accept or decline your bid.
- If you’re chosen, you start working!
You can also agree to your pay, milestones, and any other relevant details before you start working.
These sites typically use escrow payment systems that add a layer of security for both the freelancer and the client.
They’ll also take a fee from your pay or the client’s account, which could range up to 20%, so be sure to figure that fee into each project’s pay.
These are some of the best freelancing sites in the business:
Job Boards and Lists for Writers
Once you’ve built up samples and have a fairly solid portfolio or resume, you might want to start applying for gigs on job boards.
There are a lot of these floating around online, but the ones I’ll list below are among the best for consistent and high-paying listings.
The thing I like about job boards and writing job lists is that they’re updated frequently, so you can check back daily to see what’s been added and if anything new fits your niche.
Most listings are very detailed, too, so you don’t have to waste time applying for a job you think is a great fit only to find out later that important details had been left out of the description.
Recruiters typically tell you exactly who and what they’re looking for, so there’s no guesswork.
Some gigs list pay while others don’t.
But one thing you’ll find on job boards is that it seems to be more common for posters to allow freelancers to disclose their rates to them instead of offering a non-negotiable rate.
I’ve heard that people have had a lot of luck finding freelance writing gigs on the following boards and job search sites:
- All Freelance Writing
- Blogging Pro
- Facebook Groups (search for groups specifically for freelance writers and writing jobs – there are tons of them!)
- Freelance Writing Gigs
- Hire A Writer on Reddit
- LinkedIn Jobs
- Write Jobs
Find Websites That Pay Writers
Once you start feeling more confident in your writing abilities and you’re ready to do some more marketing for yourself, the next step is reaching out to websites that pay writers.
Although finding websites to pitch ideas to is easy, it’s the pitching part that seems to trip up a lot of writers.
Pitching takes a lot of creativity to come up with new ideas that make sense for a publication and haven’t already been covered in some way.
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You’ll need to look for new angles and explore different topics that could be a fit, while also describing how you’ll tackle the subject and make it different than other articles on the web.
Some websites pay contributors for a long-term writing relationship, taking them on board the team to write several articles per week or month.
Others have a strict editorial process and may only accept pitches rather than gathering a team of freelance writers.
ALL sites that pay writers will have one thing in common though: Rules you’ll need to abide by if you want even a chance at getting your pitch accepted!
You can usually find these in a “Write For Us” or “Contribute” section.
Read through everything carefully and be sure to note whether the site prefers queries or full articles before submitting.
So, how do you go about finding these websites?
One good place to start is by checking out the site, Who Pays Writers.
This site lets writers list where and when they’ve gotten paid, as well as offer warnings to others about publications that haven’t paid.
You can scroll through the huge database to see who’s gotten paid by where and start targeting those sites or print publications.
You can even search by a publication’s title if you have one in mind.
Another tactic is, of course, a Google search.
Use the following formula, or something similar, in Google to find websites in your niche that pay writers for articles:
“[your industry] blogs that pay writers”
You can substitute “blogs” for magazines, websites, trade publications, or whatever other type of publication you want to search for.
This type of search should yield a lot of results, from lists of places to direct links to writer submissions for publications in your niche.
With your pitch, you may need to submit a writing sample or two, so have some links or documents prepared, just in case.
Get Your Name Out There
Now it’s time to get your name out there as a freelance writer so that potential clients might be able to find you easier!
Adding your name and bio to your articles you wrote for other publications can help, of course, but the more places you have your name connected to freelance writing and expertise in your niche, the better.
Directories are a great way to market yourself with little effort and make yourself searchable to clients specifically looking for writers for their content needs.
There are several online directories specifically for freelance writers to add themselves.
You may need to pay a membership or subscription fee to be added, but that’s a good thing.
It makes the directory more selective by keeping only serious writers on the list.
Be sure to add samples (if possible) and detail who you’ve worked with and the type of content you typically write so the right clients can find you.
The following directories are excellent ones to start with:
- All Freelance Writing Directory
- AWAI Directory of Professional Freelance Writers
- Society of Professional Journalists Directory
- The Editorial Freelancers Association
- Writerfolio Freelance Writer Directory
Build Your Website
Once you’ve leveraged several platforms I’ve listed above for getting your name on the board and building up samples, you should consider starting your own website.
Ideally, this step should come first, but I know how tough it can be to pay for a website and work on building it up when you’re struggling to find paying work.
If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to start a site that shows off your services and the work you’ve done, then now is an excellent time.
Your site can act as a hub for your business.
When used correctly as a marketing tool, potential clients should be able to find you, know exactly what you do, and should have an easy way to contact you.
Create a blog on your site to pull in potential clients by making quality posts that show off your expertise in whatever niche you’re in.
The best part?
You can also use your own blog as part of your portfolio!
Your blog posts act similarly to samples you’d create for clients because they show your writing skills, so if you’re going to be writing for free, the best way to do it is for your own blog.
Guest Post on Other Sites
Some of the biggest, most popular websites don’t pay writers at all.
They get so many pitches because of their popularity that they find it unnecessary to pay for them.
While it may sound like you’d want to completely stay away from these places (and you could, that’s up to you!), you might want to at least consider the idea.
Now only can writing a guest post on a high-traffic site help spread your name and expertise to a whole new audience (and, perhaps, help your content go viral), but it could also send a lot of traffic to your business site.
More traffic means more potential clients.
If one free guest post makes you lose out on a few hours of paid work, you could make up those hours plus several by gaining one or two awesome clients from that post!
When you think about it that way, it’s almost a no-brainer.
Popular sites usually won’t consider pitches from writers who don’t at least have some experience to their name, though, so you’ll want to hold off on this until you’ve had a couple of successful projects and samples to show.
Create an Online Portfolio
You can create a portfolio on your website, which is probably the best way to do it.
An online portfolio is crucial because, with just one simple link, you can send clients to it to see your past work and how awesome you are at what you do!
Setting up a portfolio on your site can sometimes be a hassle, though, if you don’t know much about coding and CSS styling.
Fortunately, there are a lot of freelancer portfolio websites that do all the hard work for you.
They come with premade styles to choose from so that you’ll still have some control over its design.
All you need to do is send in your clips.
Once you create your portfolio, you can place a link to it on your site to send people directly to it when they want to see your samples.
Some portfolio makers are free, while others may restrict certain features until you pay a subscription fee.
You’ll need to weigh whether it’s worth it to you to have more design options and customizability for a cost.
Some of my favorites are:
- Adobe Portfolio (free when you use the Creative Cloud service!)
Use LinkedIn for Marketing
Another excellent way to both get your name and business spread to potential clients and to market your services is by utilizing LinkedIn as a marketing tool.
LinkedIn is so powerful for freelance writers if it’s used correctly.
Since it’s free to use, there’s no reason not to set up a profile, add your skills and previous jobs, and let others know what you do now.
By adding keywords that make sense for your business to your profile, like “freelance writer” or “copywriter” and any industries you write content for, you’ll make it easier for other professionals to find you.
Make sure your title clearly indicates what you do because this is the first place people will look.
Keep it short and sweet, and then use your profile to outline the details.
LinkedIn is all about connecting and networking, so making connections with other freelancers is a good place to start.
But you’ll also want to connect with decision makers of the businesses you love, like content marketers or editors.
These are the people who may approach you when they need a writer, so by connecting with them, you can stay on their radar.
Keep yourself on the newsfeeds of your connections by posting meaningful articles or posts and sharing relevant content.
You can also interact with other posts by liking, sharing, and commenting.
Just don’t pitch your services directly to people you’ve just connected with.
It’s not only bad etiquette, but you’re likelier to receive a “yes” when you pitch to someone you’ve built a good connection with over time.
Cold Pitching Your Services
Finally, cold pitching.
The dreaded term freelance writers love to hate.
Cold pitching is another term for sending out emails to businesses or people you’d love to write for.
Most of the time, you don’t know anyone at these companies, which is why it’s known as “cold” emailing.
When you cold pitch to someone, you’ll send an email that explains your connection to the business and the services you’re offering.
Many writers dread this method because it can be humbling.
No matter how good you are, you’ll probably get several people turning you down or ignoring you before you get one bite.
It’s time-consuming to search for potential clients and find the contact information for the most relevant person at the company.
Although it takes time and can be a hit to the ego, it can be well worth your effort.
Cold pitching is where most of the big, high-paying clients lie.
When you cold pitch, you’ll outline exactly what you can do for the company and how much it’ll cost after you learn more about the company’s needs and send a proposal.
You’re in control over what you do and make, rather than applying to posted jobs where the company has control over all the variables.
Cold pitching isn’t something I would suggest jumping into without any writing experience at all, but even newbies can have success with it if they make their emails appealing enough.
And if you don’t have any samples and aren’t opposed to creating one for free, you can always write up a sample for the clients you could pitch that at least gives them a glimpse of your writing skills and creativity.
Snagging Freelance Online Writing Jobs for Beginners with No Experience
Even as a beginner, you shouldn’t feel like there’s no possible way you can break into the freelance writing field.
As long as you have confidence in your skills and you show that you know what you’re doing, you should have success landing gigs and clients.
Much of freelance writing is all in your mindset.
Be afraid to put yourself out there, and you won’t get very far.
Or, hold your head up, know that you’re an awesome writer and have a lot to offer, and make your confidence shine when you market yourself, apply for gigs, and cold pitch potential clients, and you’ll likely have the success you were looking for.
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