How to Become a Freelance Writer (and Earn $90+ per Hour)Service Businesses
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If you want to become a freelance writer, now is the perfect time!
The internet has been a godsend for people who want to freelance. You can access potential clients at all hours of the day. You can research, write, submit your work, and send an invoice at 3 a.m. while wearing fluffy pajamas and noshing on chocolate chip cookies if that’s your jam.
Freelance writing can be your “full-time” job or you can make it a side hustle. How much time you spend is up to you.
Let’s investigate how you can become a freelance writer and earn $90-plus per hour from the comfort of your own home.
Look to the Business Sector
The net has also opened a world of opportunities in addition to the traditional forms of writing that have long been part of the business world.
When most people think of professional writing, they think or newspapers, magazines, or books. But businesses need writers too.
If a company has a website or use any type of written content, it could use your services. Huge companies may already have writers on staff, but some still use freelance writers. (I’ve written for LendingTree, Johnson & Johnson, and 1-800-Flowers. From home. In my jammies.)
Here are just a few of the kinds of freelance writing projects you can find online:
- Blog posts
- Email campaigns
- Landing pages
- White papers
- Product descriptions
- Grant proposals
- Video scripts
- Social media posts
- Product guides
There are so many different types of written content there’s bound to be one or two things you really enjoy doing.
How to Find Work as a Freelance Writer
If you don’t have experience as a writer, your first task is to get an idea of which markets interest you the most. I spent a lot of time writing about toilet seat covers, air pressure washers, and modular buildings before I decided I love writing about personal finance and real estate. They’re topics I like to learn about anyway, and I enjoy writing in those arenas.
Sit down and make a list of your skills, interests, and hobbies. All of them. Do you enjoy gardening? Astronomy? Cycling? Photography? There are plenty of opportunities in each of those areas to make money as a freelance writer. Having a niche in your head as you start looking for work as a freelance writer will save you time.
Sources of Freelance Writing Work
There’s no one right way to find work as a freelance writer. There are several tactics that work well for many writers. You don’t have to stick to just one; in fact, if you can do a mix of several of these ideas, you’ll increase your chances of finding clients.
You’ll hear plenty of opinions about platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, Guru, and Fiverr. There are good reasons for mixed reviews. The primary issue most writers have with these platforms is that they take a percentage of your pay.
Upwork charges a 20% commission for the first $500 you make with a client, 10% until you make $10,000 with a client, and 5% for any earnings after that.
Freelancer charges an introductory fee when you accept a job and 10% on all earnings for each project.
Guru charges a staggered rate depending on your level on the platform. Rates vary between 5 and 9 percent.
Fiverr charges a flat 20% on all projects.
While fees can be difficult to swallow, you’re paying for access to clients who already know they want help and are actively looking for someone to do a job. On each of the platforms (except Fiverr), you’ll be able to view and submit proposals for multiple jobs.
Potential clients list the type of work they’re looking for, their budget, and any other pertinent details. Freelancers submit a cover letter and a bid and wait for the client to get back in touch.
Aside from the cost, a potential concern here is that you’ll be competing with many other freelancers, some offering insanely (insultingly) low rates. You’ll need to learn how to navigate each site and target clients who fit your skill set and budget (which is why having a niche helps).
Your payments go through the platform, and many of the platforms offer payment guarantees to help reduce the risk of stolen work.
I’ve made over $65,000 on Upwork. I’ve been on the site for six years, so that’s just over $10,000 per year.
Admittedly, I have a love-hate relationship with the fact that I have to pay so many fees. However, Upwork has helped me find some amazing clients and has helped me grow my business. So I guess it’s mostly love at this point. I usually hit the platform when clients start slowing down and I need to find new work quickly.
Platforms can be a really easy way to get into the freelance business, but you shouldn’t rely solely on a platform for all of your work.
Unlike platforms, job boards don’t charge a commission for work you get. Some may charge a fee for accessing a list of jobs, and others offer free access.
You’ll have to submit a cover letter/resume to most of the postings listed on job boards.
FlexJobs charges a monthly rate, but the platform curates all of its listings so you don’t have to dig through scam postings.
Job boards are worth hitting up once a week or so. I found a regular client on ProBlogger, but I’ve also submitted a ton of applications and heard only crickets. It’s best not to rely on only one platform.
I’ve saved the “scary” one for last. It took me far too long to find my groove in this area, and it’s a game changer.
One of the best ways to make $90-plus an hour as a freelance writer is to find your own clients. You can find your own clients actively and passively.
Active marketing includes:
- Sending out marketing emails (LOIs, or Letters of Inquiry)
- Attending networking events
- Connecting with people on LinkedIn
Passive marketing includes:
- Building a writer website
Most of the work (at least initially) will be active marketing. That means you’ll need to look for potential clients and contact them. My preferred method of reaching out is via email.
However, before you reach out to clients, there are three things you need to do:
Find the Right Contact
Don’t just send an email to the CEO of a business. Look for the office manager, media rep, or marketing representative. If you’re pitching a smaller business, the office manager may be a helpful resource.
Find the Right Client
If you want to charge professional rates, look for companies that can afford you. Writer’s Digest is a great option if you’re interested in writing for trade publications or magazines. If you’re trying to pitch a business, dig around a bit to see if it could have a budget for freelance work.
Do Your Homework
Don’t send copy-and-pasted cover letters to every single client you pitch. Look at each prospective client’s website. Is there a blog page that hasn’t been updated? Has the company recently won an award? What can you add to your cover letter (LOI) that lets the client know you spent at least a few minutes getting to know its business?
I sent this letter to a client and landed regular work at $100 per post.
I found your name on a list of the best real estate agents in the area. Congratulations! That’s an amazing accomplishment. I was checking out your website and noticed that you have a blog, and that it’s not updated very often. Would you be interested in chatting?
He reached out to me a few days later asking where I’d gotten his name (Angie’s List) and scheduled a phone call to talk about rates.
The key here is to send out multiple pitches each week because some people won’t respond for months and some people won’t respond at all.
The more pitches you send, the better your chances are of getting a response. I aim for 10 to 20 per week when I’m running low on work.
I’m not particularly outgoing, so networking events can be tough. However, they’re a fantastic way to meet new people and get your name out there. (Just don’t go with the sole intention of landing a new gig; these meetings are mostly about building relationships that could land more work.)
Use Google to search, “Networking groups + YOUR HOME TOWN” for a few ideas of groups you can join.
Ideally, you’ll include a mix of both active and passive marketing.
Having a writer website is a great way to display your experience and draw people to your business. But if you’re not ready for a writer website (or even if you are), building a LinkedIn profile optimized to attract potential clients is another great way to help people find you.
I’ve landed gigs from clients who’ve looked at my profile (I sent a message back, letting them know I saw they were looking and asking if they needed help), and I’ve received inquiries about my work directly in my inbox.
The Challenges of Being a Freelance Writer
Freelance writing is a fun job. It offers freedom and opportunities to learn about new things while working whenever you want (or can). And it’s also a great way to build up some side income, whether you’re a student or a retiree.
However, there are some challenges you should know about so you’re not surprised when you have to deal with them.
Lesson number one: Have a contract. It does not have to be long or wordy, but you need to have a formal agreement with your clients.
A contract protects both you and your client. Your client will feel comfortable that they’ll get quality work, and you’re assured you get paid for your work.
Your contract should include (at a minimum):
- Scope of work (project length, or estimates)
- Payment terms (how long they have to pay once you’ve turned in your work)
- The expiration date for the contract
For new clients, ask for a certain percentage upfront and invoice them for the rest once you submit the finished product. When you’ve established a relationship, you can invoice them once the work is turned in or once a month, whatever works for you and your client.
I typically set repayment terms for two to four weeks, depending on the job.
Setting Your Rates
It’s understandable if you feel uncomfortable determining your rates. Money can be such a funny topic to discuss.
However, a little knowledge can go a long way. Writer’s Digest has a handy chart that should give a baseline of what the average writer should charge.
If you’re newer, you may start at the lower end of the price range (or even a little lower) to build up a portfolio. But if you have more experience as a writer or in a career (i.e., writing medical articles when you’ve been a nurse for 20-plus years), you can easily charge higher rates.
At some point, you’re going to have a client who drives you nuts.
They’ll become increasingly demanding about the scope of the project, insist on 10 complete rewrites, send payments late, or call at all hours.
Having a contract can help with some of this.
Sometimes you’re just going to have to put your foot down or decide whether a client is worth the hassle.
I’ve had situations where I asked for more money because the scope of work changed, and I’ve fired clients because they became unreliable or too demanding.
Don’t let the fear of not finding more work keep you trapped in a client relationship that’s unhealthy. That’s the beauty of freelance — there’s always more work to be found.
The Bottom Line
Earning $90 an hour as a freelance writer takes work. I spend plenty of time researching, writing, and editing.
However, I also have a ton of freedom. In fact, becoming a freelance writer is an ideal job for stay-at-home moms. If I’m sick or my kids have a play, I can shift my writing schedule to fit my needs.
Taking on freelance writing projects as a full-time employee is possible too, because you can choose the clients you work with and you can set your own schedule.
You still have deadlines to meet and you should always aim to turn in quality work, but becoming a freelance writer is a way to make money whether you have a little time or a lot of time to spare.
Angela is a finance and real estate writer based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. She has contributed to publications such as LendingTree and FinanceBuzz.