52% of copywriters make over $50 per hourTeamStage,
Maybe you feel overwhelmed and stressed by the intense freelance writing competition or need help finding clients. Although freelance writing can be a profitable career, it has a lot of challenges. But don\’t worry. You can still become a highly successful freelance writer. This article will teach you how to get there.
I have written hundreds of articles for local and international clients in India, the U.S., Oman, and the UK. I have earned thousands of dollars as a freelance writer in less than five years and achieved a sustainable freelance writing career. This is your ultimate guide to becoming a successful freelance writer in 2023.
But first things first.
Who Is a Freelance Writer?
They are self-employed citizens who write articles, essays, advertisement copies, and other content. Freelance writing is a business where writers work with multiple client contracts and assignments.
There are many genres, subjects, fields, and forms of freelance writing. Some individuals write in multiple niches, while others recommend specialization. Apart from managing their time and adapting to different writing styles, freelance writers must also market themselves to find clients daily.
Your title as a freelance writer can also change depending on your area of specialization and the goal of your content. For example, those who create content to attract, educate, and convert prospects into customers are called content marketers, whereas copywriters write persuasive and compelling copies to increase sales of a business or brand. Other freelance writers are technical writers, ghostwriters, and SEO writers.
What Do You Need to Become a Freelance Writer?
Regardless of the kind of freelance writer you want to become, you will need to acquire some soft skills, hard skills, organizational skills, equipment and tools, and education and training.
Equipment and Tools
You cannot mandate productivity, you must provide the tools to let people become their bestSteve Jobs
Equipment and premium tools are the primary barriers to entry into the freelance writing world. Soft, hard, and organizational skills may be developed and strengthened once you have the necessary gadgets. Everything you need as a freelance writer will be built on top of them.
The most essential equipment is a computer or laptop. While you may start freelancing with any basic computer, the specifications are essential.
I suggest a computer with an Intel processor, Core i5 or Core i7, to be a successful freelance writer. I recommend a computer with 8GB RAM and above for smooth performance and multitasking. An SSD of at least 256GB is a significant advantage. The battery should last 5-8 hours on a single charge.
Note that freelance writing is a remote career. Therefore, the next important thing you need to become a successful freelance writer is an internet connection. You will need it to access online resources and projects, communicate with clients, submit your work, market yourself, and improve your skills. Successful freelance writers browse the internet with download speeds of at least 10Mbps.
Soft skills for freelance writers
Out of every 100 freelancers, 41 lose a client due to poor communication.Freelance Writing Gigs
Freelance writers also need soft skills. As the name suggests, \”soft\” skills have an emotional core. Some scholars refer to soft skills as interpersonal skills, people skills, or emotional intelligence. In freelance writing, soft skills manifest in your communication, problem-solving, time management, self-discipline, and willingness to learn new things and improve your skills.
Effective communication requires empathy, listening, professionalism, clarity, and conciseness. Listen to your clients and colleagues actively and attentively. Ask them questions to seek clarification and enhance your understanding of the project. It would be best to choose the appropriate mode and frequency of communication for each client and project.
Like every other skill, you can cultivate and improve your emotional intelligence and thrive as a freelancer. The audiobook Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves will enhance your soft skills significantly. I recommend it to all freelance writers. Listen to it below.
Hard skills for freelance writers
Hard skills are also fundamental for freelance writers. These are the technical skills that must be reinforced with experience and education.
Some technical skills freelance writers must possess include understanding word processing software like Google Docs or Microsoft Word, writing for the web, research skills, search engine optimization writing, and digital marketing.
The lack of mastery in these areas explains the stark difference between the earnings of newbies and expert freelance writers. According to TeamStage, newbie freelance writers can make up to about $10 per hour. However, experienced copywriters can earn more than $100 hourly.
That is because they have mastered hard skills essential for solving clients\’ problems. Freelance writers must have a solid understanding of optimizing content for the search engine.
You should also have computer knowledge and familiarity with different tools and software for writing, editing, formatting, communicating, and managing client projects.
Top 5 essential tools and Software for freelance writers
It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States
A freelance writer must be able to use their resources efficiently and effectively. An organized writer keeps track of tasks, meets deadlines, and achieves goals. Writing requires strategic planning, attention to detail, goal setting, and time management.
Otherwise, disorganization can stunt your freelancing career, making you less efficient and less productive. Being disorganized can also dwindle your productivity and your time management habits. You may feel anxious and frustrated due to the overwhelming workload and your lack of control. You need to achieve your goals to maintain your self-confidence and satisfaction.
So, to become a successful freelance writer, you need to get organized—set time for client work, personal work, and marketing. The solitude of freelance writing requires impeccable organizational skills if you want to strike a balance between work and life.
Best organizational tools for freelance writers
Education and Training
You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forwardConrad Hall
Last but not least, a freelance writer needs education and training. Several freelance writing materials and courses can catapult you from an absolute beginner to an expert writer in a few months. Some are tailored for advanced writers, so there is always more knowledge for everyone.
Some reputable courses include Udemy\’s Complete Freelance Writing Online Course: Beginner to Pro, Paul Jarvis and Kaleigh Moore\’s Creative class, and Holly Johnson\’s Earn More Writing. These courses will expand your knowledge base and improve your freelance writing and business skills.
Seminars, workshops, and training will teach you how to manage your freelance business well, handle finances and taxes, create a writing portfolio, and network with professionals and mentors in the industry.
However, if you are on a tight budget, utilize the free resources on YouTube or sign up below for my free bi-weekly article-writing insights straight to your email.
How to Become a Successful Freelance Writer In 9 Steps
Here is how to become a successful freelance writer once you have the resources and skills.
1. Research the freelance writing industry
Researching the freelance writing industry is the first step to becoming a successful writer. It is never a good idea to jump into any career without doing some digging. It is essential to know the industry\’s projected growth rate, the competition, profitable niches, and freelancer rates.
Some popular, high-demand, well-paying, and interesting niches to consider are health, finance, technology, education, and travel. They are common because they cover relevant, popular, and ever-changing topics. Many businesses and publications in those niches need freelance writers to create informative, educational, and persuasive content for their audiences.
The research will help you learn from other freelancers, set competitive rates, and negotiate with clients effectively. It will also keep you updated on your selected niche\’s latest trends and developments. However, don\’t rely entirely on the internet when researching the freelance writing industry. Use books, newspapers, magazines, interviews, and surveys.
2. Understand current writing conventions
The second step to becoming a successful freelance writer is understanding current writing conventions. As noted earlier, freelance writers serve various audiences. They may be required to adapt to different formats and content types, including blog posts, articles, e-books, product descriptions, and press releases. How you approach each of them is different but crucial.
Blog posts are usually longer, more conversational, and more informative than product descriptions, which are shorter, more persuasive, and focused more on product features and benefits. Blogpost headlines are catchy, with keywords to help rank higher on search engines. On the other hand, product description headlines are descriptive and concise and include the product name and its main benefit.
Other crucial writing conventions include clarity, conciseness, engagement, accuracy, and originality. Clarity means that your writing must be clear and easy to understand. In other words, use simple language and avoid jargon.
Conciseness means getting straight to the point and avoiding unnecessary words and phrases. Your writing should also be engaging and exciting to read. You can achieve this by using strong verbs, vivid imagery, and exciting facts and figures in your writing.
Use reliable sources to check your facts carefully and ensure your work is accurate, factual, original, and creative. Furthermore, avoid plagiarism and use your voice. If you are an academic freelance writer, it will help to master MLA, APA, Chicago, and Harvard writing conventions.
3. Decide on a writing niche
An individual who does not specialize will be doomed to life as a wage slaveRichard Koch. (2008). The 80/20 Principle. Nicholas Brealey Publishing. pg217
Every industry is multifaceted and freelance writing is no exception. There are several layers of writing tasks by subject, industry, content type, and target audience. Deciding on a niche can be difficult if you have many interests and passions or are unsure what you are good at.
Whichever area you decide to specialize in, there are three essential factors to consider: your passion, area of expertise, and market demand.
For instance, you can write on technology in general or artificial intelligence in particular. You may also write about the healthcare industry or specialize in writing about the future of healthcare tech gadgets.
You may also choose between writing articles, blog posts, website content, or marketing email for any industry. Choosing a niche will help you stand out and attract your ideal clients.
4. Create a writing portfolio
The next step to becoming a freelance writer is creating a writing portfolio. Without it, you will be in a reactive mode, always asking other established freelancers for their previous work to show clients as your samples. Imagine finding a job posting you are qualified for, but the client needs proof of your capabilities.
My most significant drawback when I started freelance writing was lacking a writing portfolio. It is particularly challenging if you are a ghostwriter, which means writing and surrendering all rights to the client. Although some freelance writers recommend ghostwriting, it adds so little to your portfolio.
An excellent freelance writing portfolio should show your name. Not your client\’s name. It should indicate what you do, your area of expertise or niche, your writing skills and styles, previous work and client testimonials, and your contact information. Most importantly, your portfolio should be professional and attractive.
Create a website for your portfolio or publish articles on free platforms like LinkedIn or Medium. A compelling portfolio can help build your freelance writing brand and credibility, showcase your best work and achievements, attract and convert potential clients, and beat the competition.
5. Follow and connect with other successful freelance writers in your niche
It isn\’t easy to become a successful freelance writer incognito. Of the 1.2 billion freelancers worldwide, more than 200 million are writers. In other words, there are many budding and successful freelance writers to follow and connect with in your niche.
These freelancers are on various websites and social media groups throughout the internet. Some legit Facebook groups for freelance writers include The ProWritingAid Writer\’s Community, Copywriter Café, and Remarkable Freelance Writers in Africa.
You can also connect with other writers on Discord, LinkedIn, Quora, Medium, and Reddit. These communities will help you make friends and find new writing opportunities and clients through referrals and recommendations.
You will also learn many writing conventions to improve your skills and knowledge and be motivated and inspired by the success of others. In short, networking with successful freelance writers in your niche will benefit you personally and help you grow your freelance writing business.
6. Marketing and self-promotion
By now, you already have a portfolio and a network of freelance writers to interact with. Your next step to becoming a successful freelance writer does not stop there. The next step is marketing and self-promotion. There are many practical approaches to marketing with specific benefits.
You can use Canva to design free marketing graphics for your freelance business. You can market your services and self-promote through a blog or website, social media platforms, freelance platforms, cold pitches, guest posts, and paid advertising.
The Ultimate Sales Machine is one of the bestselling sales and marketing audiobooks that contributed significantly to my sales and marketing strategy. According to Chet Holmes, a former corporate trainer and strategic expert, the secret to marketing and self-promotion is \”pig-headed discipline and determination.\” That means you must be prepared to do hard things. Listen to the audiobook below.
Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn allow freelance writers to create and manage their pages, which you can use to attract a following and market your services. Regardless of your marketing channel, there are some best practices to remember.
Freelance writing marketing best practices
- Know and target your audience with marketing messages tailored to their pain points, needs, and goals.
- Showcase your value proposition through a professional portfolio, reviews, and samples
- Use both offline and online marketing channels
- Be persistent and consistent with your marketing efforts
- Track and measure your marketing results to adjust accordingly
- Provide value and build trust
7. Start pitching to jobs
Once you\’ve mastered the sales and marketing techniques, you are on your way to becoming the most successful freelance writer. It is now time to start pitching for jobs. Pitching is sending brief, concise, engaging, and convincing messages to publications and clients to hire you.
Cold pitching is the most lucrative of all pitching techniques. Instead of sending proposals and applications through job boards like Upwork and ProBlogger, search for and email your potential niche clients. The best tool to look for client emails is Hunter.
Introduce yourself to editors directly, and showcase your writing abilities and value proposition. If you choose to pitch for clients through Upwork, read my other article on How to Up Your Upwork Game with 8 Proposal Writing Techniques That Get Results.
One of my freelance writing mentors told me, \”if you don\’t have work, then pitching should be your full-time job.\” In other words, there is no minimum or maximum number of pitches to send daily. If you do it correctly, your email should start getting busy in a week or less.
8. Stay updated on the latest freelance writing technologies
You are now a great freelance writer. However, as you will soon find out, the freelance writing world has hundreds, if not thousands, of freelance writing tools which are evolving daily. Some technologies are specific to your niche, while others are more general to the freelancing industry.
Familiarize yourself with project management tools like Asana and ClickUp, accounting tools like Freshbooks and Quickbooks, and SEO tools like Ahrefs and Surfer SEO. Other writing tools include Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Hemingway Editor.
Staying updated on the evolution of these tools is crucial since some clients will demand expertise in these technologies. You will come across job postings calling for writers who can use them. So, staying updated on the latest technological developments in the freelance writing industry would be best.
9. Establish a writing routine and stick to it
The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basisWilliam Zinsser, 1976
Expect your first writing project to seem difficult, even impossible. But don\’t worry. It gets easier with time. The earlier you establish and stick to a writing routine, the earlier you will overcome the challenges.
A writing routine is a set of habits and practices that will help you to write consistently and productively. Set specific writing goals such as word count, hours, or projects. Allocate time and place for writing and prioritize the most critical tasks. Also, use tools and apps to track your progress and stay focused.
Remember to reward yourself for completing your writing tasks and celebrate your achievements. Treat yourself to a meal you enjoy, a movie, or a book. It would help to share your successes with friends, family, and the online community.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I be a freelance writer with no experience?
You don\’t need a diploma or certification to be a freelance writer. If you don\’t have experience, start by building a network of freelance writers for advice and support, then identify a niche and create a portfolio.
Can I become a successful freelance writer in different niches?
Imagine writing a finance article, a political article, a gardening article, and an article on paints and colors. While it is practically possible, it hurts quality. And if the multi-niche content is for the same website, it could hurt SEO. However, writing in different niches is understandable if you are a journalist writing for news sites.
How much money do freelance writers make?
The average hourly rate for freelance writers is $24.22. However, the actual earnings vary from one freelancer to another due to niche, content type, client budget, and workload differences.
How do freelance writers get their first clients?
The quickest way for a freelance writer to get their first client is to create or publish a sample of their work and then use that sample to pitch to clients in that niche.
Can I start freelance writing with a smartphone?
Many freelance success stories started with smartphones. However, the smartphone specifications matter. Opt for a smartphone with a decent-sized screen, preferably 5.5 inches or larger, and sufficient RAM to handle multitasking smoothly.
Unlock Your Writing Potential with Our Article Writing Course
Becoming a highly successful freelance writer requires essential tools, skills, dedicated effort, and continuous learning. The nine steps outlined in this guide will help you navigate the freelance writing industry and establish yourself as a sought-after professional.
But why stop there? Take your journey to new heights by joining the Andika community. Sign up below for exclusive weekly updates and invaluable lessons directly from me, your trusted guide.