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How to Become a Freelance Writer (Plus What to Charge as a Freelance Writer)

Are you a whiz with words? Do you have a knack for crafting compelling stories? If so, you may be wondering how to become a freelance writer. Whether you’re interested in learning how to become a freelance writer with no experience or how to pivot your career and start working as a content writer from home, there’s a lot to consider.

What Does a Freelance Writer Do?

The idea of quitting your full-time job or finding something new after getting laid off to work from home as a contractor may sound very appealing, and for good reason. Being self-employed brings a tremendous amount of freedom to your life, from being able to schedule medical appointments during the day to much-coveted opportunity to work from anywhere.

Working from home (or from your beachside retreat) isn’t without its challenges, however. What can you actually expect if you choose to work as a freelancer?

A freelance writer is a professional writer who writes articles, blog posts, web content, and other types of writing on a contract basis. Freelance writers are not employed by a single company; instead, they work with a variety of clients to produce written content, much of which is used online. For this reason, a solid understanding of digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) is also essential.

Becoming a freelance writer is a great way to make money from your passion for writing. But how do you get started? In this guide, we’ll show you how to become a freelance writer, how to build a portfolio, how to find clients, and how to set pricing. But first, let’s talk about the question you probably have: is this just a pipe dream? Or is it actually possible to make a full-time income as a freelance writer?

What Is the Job Market for Freelance Writers Like?

There is a great demand for freelance writers. In fact, global content marketing spending is expected to hit $87.66 billion by 2028. WHOA! If this is a dream you’re seriously considering, now is the time to go for it and get a piece of the pie.

Why is spending on content marketing so high? Companies need content for their websites and often outsource the work to freelance writers. In addition, many businesses hire freelance writers to produce blog posts, articles, and even books (or e-books or white papers or newsletters, etc.)

With that in mind, realize there are a few different types of writing you can do as a freelancer. Some or all may be right for you and your skillset.

- Web content writing: This type of writing includes creating content for websites, such as product descriptions, how-to guides, and blog posts.

- SEO writing: This type of writing is focused on optimizing web content to rank higher in search engine results.

- Article writing: Articles are pieces of writing that are typically published in magazines or newspapers.

- Ghostwriting: Ghostwriting is when a writer is hired to write a book or article that will be published under another person’s name.

- Copywriting: Copywriting is writing that is designed to sell a product or service.

How to Build a Freelance Writing Portfolio

When you’re just getting started as a freelance writer, one of the best things you can do is build a portfolio of your work to showcase your writing skills. You can do this by creating a blog and writing sample articles. Once you have a portfolio, you can start pitching your writing services to clients.

If you don’t have any previous writing samples, don’t worry! You can write some articles on your own time and then use those as samples when you pitch to clients. Or, if you have a friend or family member who owns a business, you could ask if they need help with any writing projects. Bloggers can also feel free to share links to their own blog or Wordpress site to illustrate what they have done.

Building a portfolio is a great way to show potential clients what you can do and how you can help them. It’s also a good way to get started in the freelance writing world.

There are many different types of writing that freelancers can do. Some common examples include blog posts, articles, web copy, and e-books. If you're just getting started, it's a good idea to focus on one or two types of writing so that you can become an expert in that area.

How Much Should You Charge for Freelance Writing?

When setting your freelance writing rates, there are a few factors to consider, such as your experience level, the type of writing you’re doing, and the market rate for the specific type of writing. You may charge your first client less than you choose to charge later on when you become a successful freelance writer.

As a general rule of thumb, most freelance writers charge by the word or by the hour. For example, a beginner freelance writer may charge $0.03-$0.10 per word, whereas an experienced freelance writer may charge $0.30-$1.00 per word. For hourly rates, a beginner freelance writer may charge $15-$25 per hour, whereas an experienced freelance writer may charge $50-$100 per hour, or even more, depending on the industry they work in.

Ultimately, how much you charge for freelance writing is up to you and will be impacted by what the market will bear. As such, be sure to set a rate that you’re comfortable with and that will attract writing clients.

How to Get Started as a Freelance Writer

If you’re ready to start your freelance writing career, follow these steps:

1. Decide what type of writing you want to do. As we mentioned earlier, there are a few different types of writing you can do as a freelancer. Do some research and decide what type of writing you’d like to specialize in.

2. Build a portfolio. Before you start pitching clients, you’ll need to compile a thorough sample of the sort of work clients can expect from you. If you are a freelance writer with no experience, you can do this by creating a blog and writing sample articles.

How do you create sample content without an actual assignment from a client? It’s easier than you might think. Consider the potential clients you would like to attract. Craft content specific to that niche and share it on social media (especially LinkedIn) and on your portfolio website. You can also include links to this content when you apply to freelance writing jobs.

If you’ve worked as a writer in the past, find links to your work and include those in your portfolio. Be sure you have permission from past clients to share your work.

3. Begin reaching out to small businesses. Once you have a portfolio, you can start pitching to clients. You can reach out to local companies and explain that you have a freelance writing business. Explain step-by-step what they can expect when they work with you and what services you will be able to offer them. Be sure to carefully edit your cold emails to illustrate that you are a good writer!

4. Be picky about who you work with. If you are pursuing freelance writing work as a side hustle or as something part-time, you may have a different view of the writing opportunities you take on than someone who has been working in the field for many years.

As a freelance writer, you have the freedom to choose who you want to work with and what types of writing you want to do. High-quality new clients aren’t always easy to come by, and many new freelance writers find themselves working for content mills or very small business owners who can’t pay much. Startups may also be unable to afford the rates you would like to charge.

If you plan to quit your day job to work as a freelance writer, you’ll need to determine your rates and then only take on the type of content and freelance writing gigs that can get you to the rates you need. As you gain more writing experience, you may be able to send prospective clients that aren’t quite right for you to other writers you network with who may be just starting out.

5. Ask for testimonials. As you hone your process and your skills, asking your clients if they’d be willing to put in a good word for you can go a long way. It won’t take them a lot of time, and you can add their testimonial to your own website to encourage future prospective clients to check out your bylines and see whether you might be a fit.

6. Constantly reevaluate. As time goes on, you’ll come to realize that some of your clients, or certain types of writing, may take you a lot of time and perhaps don’t pay well or get you the bylines you want to build your freelance career. Online writing can be lucrative, but free guest posts, content mills, or low-quality step-by-step guides and listicles may not help you break into the freelance writing niche you’d like to be in. You may wish to hone your client roster over time, gradually stepping your way up to better-paying work or writing topics that are more rewarding for you to work on.

7. Education is key. As you continue to further your career as a freelance writer, you might want to take some writing courses or even work toward a higher level degree to improve your skills and marketability. Just as with most things in life, freelance writing is more lucrative when you stay current and most importantly, never stop learning.

How to Set Prices as a Freelance Writer

When it comes to setting prices, freelance writers typically charge by the word or by the hour. How much you charge will depend on your experience and the type of writing you're doing. For example, if you're writing web content, you may charge less than if you're writing a whitepaper.

There are many different types of writing that freelancers can do. Some common examples include blog posts, articles, web copy, and e-books. If you're just getting started, it's a good idea to focus on one or two types of writing so that you can become an expert in that area.

As mentioned earlier, it can be hard to learn to set your prices as a freelance writer. A good way to start is first decide how many hours you’d like to work. Will freelance writing be a full-time job for you? Is it a side hustle or something you’d like to just do part-time?

Once you know how many hours a week you’d like to work, take a look at your personal finances. Do you need to earn $10,000 a year from your freelance writing jobs? Will you be supporting your household and need to earn $75,000 from this work? If you’re working full-time, do you want to earn $150,000 a year from your freelance writing career? The sky is really the limit when it comes to remote work as a writer, but knowing what you need to earn is essential.

Say you would like to work 30 hours a week and earn $75,000 a year as a freelance writer. To work 30 hours a week, you’ll ultimately log 1,560 hours a year. This means that each hour you work, you’ll need to earn $48.08 an hour. If you are quoting clients an hourly rate, you should definitely round this up to $50 an hour. But what about taxes?

Depending on the way your freelance writing business is structured, you will also need to pay taxes out of the top-line revenue you get from your clients. As a freelancer, you’ll also have to pay self-employment tax. You should definitely consult with a tax advisor to help you figure out what you’ll owe and how to make estimated tax payments throughout the year.

In any case, that $50 an hour is going to drop down to $33 for many people once taxes are taken into consideration. Multiplying $33 an hour times your 1,560 hours a year, that’s going to leave you far short of your $75,000 goal. You’ll only take home $51,480.

Back to the drawing board! This time, let’s multiply your $50 per hour rate by 1.5 to figure out the amount you’d need to charge per hour if you want to hit your salary goal after taxes. As it turns out, you’d need to charge $75 an hour in order to bring home about $75,000 a year and pay about 30% in taxes.

Now, a lot of clients aren’t going to want to pay you $75 an hour, because it sounds like a lot. As you’ll quickly learn in your freelance writing career, many clients think that they can write just as well as you can and that writing isn’t a service that should command much money. To overcome that, you can (and probably should) charge per word or a flat project rate instead.

How to Find Clients as a Freelance Writer

There are a few different ways to find clients as a freelance writer. You can use job boards, cold pitching, or networking.

Job boards are websites where companies post writing jobs. Some popular job boards for freelance writers include Problogger and Upwork. To find jobs on these websites, simply search for “freelance writer” or “writer” in the search bar.

Cold pitching is when you contact companies directly and pitch them your services. To do this, you need to research companies that might need a freelance writer and then reach out to them with a personalized email or message.

Networking is another great way to find clients as a freelance writer. Join your local business professional association, list yourself on local job boards, volunteer, and partner with companies in complementary spaces (like SEO or marketing) to help find new clients.

What About Contracts?

When you work with a client, it’s important to have a contract in place. This document will outline the scope of work, payment terms, and other important details. Having a contract helps to protect both you and the client and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

If you’re not sure how to write a contract, there are plenty of templates available online. You can also hire an attorney to help you draft a contract or review one that you’ve written.

As a freelance writer, you have the freedom to choose who you want to work with and what types of writing you want to do. If you're looking for a creative and flexible career, freelance writing may be the right fit for you.

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