How to become a freelance writer – the ultimate guide

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Every week, I get emails from people asking how to become a freelance writer.

They’re great at writing, but they wonder:

How can I turn my talent into a full-time income?

Well before we get into the details of how to become a freelance writer, let me tell you a few things you don’t need  in order to start freelance writing:

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  • A college degree
  • Many years of experience
  • A lot of money

How to become a freelance writer

I’m not just saying that.

I’m a 3-time college drop-out, and I started my business as a freelance writer after unexpectedly getting fired from my full-time job.

So I didn’t have a degree (still don’t).

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I didn’t have several years of experience or a network I could use to land clients.

And I certainly didn’t have wads of cash at my disposal.

But I made it work anyway.

I figured out how to become a freelance writer.

In my 4th month as a full-time freelance writer, I made over $5,000/mo.

If you’re willing to work hard and market yourself the right way, you can make a full-time income by becoming a freelance writer too.

Let’s go over exactly how to become a freelance writer yourself!

1. Work on your mindset

Make no mistake – when you’re trying to become a freelance writer, mindset can make or break you.

If you want to succeed, you need to:

  • See yourself as an entrepreneur rather than an employee. 
  • Be willing to invest in yourself and your business.
  • View potential clients as collaborators – not bosses.

Really, it all comes down to one MAJOR mindset shift:

Seeing freelance writing as a business – not just a way to get hired and make money.

Even if you’ve never run a business before, and even if you feel like you have no clue what you’re doing.

Because even the best writer will fail if they act like an employee who is desperate for work.

Becoming a freelance writer is about running a business—not just being a great writer.

Sure, you need writing skills too.

But skills like marketing and time management are just as critical (if not more so!).

2. Decide on your specialty

Look. If you only take one thing away from this blog post about becoming a freelance writer, let it be this:

You need to pick an area of specialty (AKA a freelance writing niche) if you want to become a freelance writer and have quality clients quickly.

Wondering why that’s the case?

Put yourself in a client’s shoes for a second.

If you own a software company and want a freelance writer who can create blog posts for you, which of the following writers are you going to hire?

  • Jane, who specializes in writing blog posts for software companies
  • John, who is a generalist freelance writer

You’re going to hire Jane because of her industry expertise.

Every. Single. Time.

Because she’s marketing herself as the perfect fit for exactly what you need, she immediately stands out as the best fit over John.

Your potential clients think the same way.

They don’t just want any ol’ writer.

They want someone who has become a freelancer writer that specializes in exactly what they need help with.

So, pick something you can specialize in, and market your niche expertise.

Seriously – this simple step can work wonders. It’s part of the secret sauce when asking how to become a freelance writer.

Need help determining whether or not your desired niche is profitable?

To figure this out, you need to make sure that your target clientele in your desired niche:

  • Values the kind of work you do (so that they’re willing to pay for it)
  • Has the budget to pay you well for your work

Once you’ve validated these two things, you can feel confident knowing you’ve picked a profitable freelance writing niche to begin your journey to become a freelance writer.

3. Set up your freelance writer website

Now that you know your niche, it’s time to market your expertise online by setting up a freelance writer website.

Notice how I didn’t call it a “portfolio.”

Remember, if you’re going to become a freelance writer, you have to start thinking as a business.

Your website is not just one portfolio page filled with samples.

It’s a business website you use to position yourself as the perfect fit for your target clients based on your niche.

To start out, you’ll need to decide on a name for your business, get hosting, and pick a website builder,

Some popular website builder options are:

  • WordPress
  • Squarespace
  • Wix
  • Weebly

WordPress is the most advanced option, and it has room for lots of customization. If you’re tech-savvy and/or already have experience with WordPress, use it.

But if the thought of creating a website terrifies you and you’ve never used WordPress before, check out the other options. And don’t worry – you don’t even have to know how to code to set up your site with one of them!

Once you set up your site, it’s time to create content that sells.

You can do that by:

  • Clearly stating your niche on your home page. Put your niche somewhere it can’t be missed – like in a huge headline above the fold on your site.
  • Using your portfolio page to showcase your niche expertise. Don’t add an overwhelming amount of samples to your portfolio – only share your best work that showcases your niche expertise specifically.
  • Writing copy that speaks directly to the needs/pain points of your target clients. Avoid talking about yourself too much in your copy. Most of the content should be focused on your target clients and how you can help them.

Whatever you do, don’t spend months obsessing over creating the perfect site.

Your website doesn’t need to be perfect at first. It just needs to look professional and position your niche expertise.

You can – and should – improve it over time as you gain more experience.

4. Create strategic writing samples based on your target clientele

That’s right – you’re not just going to write about random topics.

You’re going to create writing samples that make your target clients want to hire you.

Let’s talk about an example of how to do this.

When I started out, I specialized in writing content for IT service providers.

So, I wrote this blog post as a writing sample:

The ABCs of Content Marketing for IT Service Providers 

See how that works?

The sample was clearly directed at my target audience.

On top of that, it gave them tips related to my services (content marketing), which positioned me as an expert.

Then at the end of the writing sample, I included an author bio, where I shared how to contact me for IT content writing services.

You should write pieces that attract your target clients and position your niche expertise.

5. Start cold emailing

You’ve got a clear niche and a website with writing samples.

Now, it’s time to start reaching out to your target clients by sending high-quality, personalized cold emails.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Focus on pitching clients in your niche. For example, if you write tech white papers, pitch white paper writing services to tech companies. Don’t waste a bunch of time pitching outside of your niche at first.
  • Tailor every email. Never send the exact same email to multiple people – you need to personalize based on the person you’re emailing and what their business needs help with.
  • Close your cold emails with a strong call-to-action. Don’t just say something like “let me know if you might be interested in my services.” Ask the reader to hit reply or set up a time for a phone call.

If you really want to ramp up your business quickly, try sending 20-25 cold emails every day.

6. Set yourself up to attract clients

Cold emailing is an outbound marketing method.

In other words, you’re reaching out to clients as opposed to them reaching out to you.

This is a common way to win clients when you’re starting out – and it’s one of the best ways since it doesn’t really require you to be an established writer.

But you don’t want to have to pitch clients forever.

That’s why it’s so important to set up systems that attract clients while you’re cold emailing.

For example, you can:

  • Use SEO on your freelance writer website.
  • Optimize your social profiles for keywords related to your niche.
  • Write guest posts on blogs that your target clients read regularly.

If you use these strategies successfully, you’ll find that your business eventually transitions to a point where you don’t need to pitch all of the time anymore.

And that means you can spend more time writing and making money instead of marketing yourself non-stop.

7. Whatever you do, don’t use low-quality job boards and platforms

At the start of this blog post, I talked about mindset and seeing yourself as a business owner.

Do you think the most successful freelance writing business owners spend all day applying for jobs or bidding for work?

Nope. They don’t.

That’s why you should avoid low-quality bidding sites and platforms.

Focus on marketing directly to your target clients, and you’ll find clients who respect you and are willing to pay you well for your work.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying all job boards are bad for newbie freelance writers.

In fact, certain job boards (like the ProBlogger Job Board) have landed me lucrative gigs.

But I never once relied on job boards as my sole source of income, and you shouldn’t either.

Becoming a successful freelance writer is all about learning how to market your niche expertise and running your business like a business.

If you can do those two things, you’ll be well on your way to success as a freelance writer.

Want more details on the strategy in this post?

Enroll in my free course, Make Money Freelance Writing. It teaches the exact process I used to scale my business to $5,000/mo in 4 months.

Then, once you’ve got a clear idea of how you’re going to market yourself, it’s time to get to work.

Have any questions about how to become a freelance writer? Ask away in the comments!

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About Jorden Roper

Jorden Roper is the fuchsia-haired founder of Writing Revolt, where she shares no-BS advice for freelance writers and bloggers. Get her free, in-depth course on how to build a highly profitable freelance writing business (even if you’re a total newbie) here!

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  1. These tips are not only useful for writers, but for graphic designers, too. Too many people get caught working for bad platforms (and having to pay fees) when they should be working with the clients directly and referring them to their website