The complete guide on how to start freelance writing

TransferWise
08.12.19
10 minute read

If you’ve got a way with words and love to write, maybe you’re considering looking for freelance writing work. Freelance writers are able to take on a range of projects, from a variety of different employers, which can make for an interesting side hustle, or even a varied and flexible career.

Many aspiring writers choose to focus on a specific niche based on their interest and expertise, taking on projects across one or more types of writing. **That could leave you doing anything from writing website copy for local businesses, blogging about your hobbies, working with social media channels, or writing for online or print magazines. **


Freelance writing is a popular choice, with many people taking on occasional freelance projects as an additional income, or moving to a full time freelance writing career to enjoy the benefits of working remotely and to their own schedule. If you’re keen to make the leap, but not quite sure how to get started, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for all you need to know about getting started in freelance writing, building a portfolio, and making an income.


How to start your freelance writing career in 7 steps

How to start your freelance writing career in 7 easy steps

For most people getting started in writing, it makes sense to choose a topic to focus on. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to have studied the subject you write about, or hold any set qualifications. Often simply being passionate about a topic, and having an engaging writing style, is enough to start winning work.

Here are some simple steps to take to get you on your way:

Choose your niche

1. Choose your niche

Picking what you want to write about is an important first step. By choosing a niche you’re enthusiastic about, you’ll find you can write well without needing to spend hours on research — and your energy will shine through in your work. You could choose one of these popular niches, or pick a favourite hobby or interest of your own:

  • Travel
  • Fitness and diet
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Family, relationships and parenting
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Cooking and nutrition
  • Finance and budgeting
  • Leadership and careers
  • Crafting, knitting or other creative hobbies

Set up a website or blog

2. Set up a website or blog

Having an online presence is essential if you want to become a freelance writer. Writing your own blog is a simple way to achieve this, and gives a space to write, share, and get feedback on your work. You can get a blog for free from Wordpress or Wix, or post on an outlet like Medium. Alternatively you may want to set up your own website to serve both as a space for blogging and an online resume and portfolio to share with prospective customers.


Write great sample work

3. Write great sample work

Before you can progress any further you’ll need to create sample work which becomes your portfolio. Many writers publish online on their own blogs, or as guest writers for other blogs and online magazines. Share your work with family and friends at this stage, to start to get feedback and develop a reader base.

When you start to send out pitches for paid work, you can use your sample work as a resume to show what you’re capable of.


Pitch yourself everywhere

4. Pitch yourself everywhere

You’ve now put together your portfolio and started to build your readership in your chosen subject. It’s time to start to pitch for more work. You’ll find that online and print magazines and other outlets may offer one off paid projects, guest opportunities, or ongoing writing jobs. Some of these may not be paid - or may pay only a token amount. However, for many new freelance writers, they’re a neat way to build your portfolio further and reach a broader audience — so well worth considering.

You can also pitch companies and websites you love, to offer your services. Here are a few great ways to get your name out there:

  • Develop a short, effective ‘elevator pitch’ so you’re always ready to tell someone what you do. You never know who you’ll run into who may need a writer
  • Contact companies you love and offer to either write for their blog or create sponsored posts about their products for your own blog
  • Join networking groups online and in person to build connections among other freelance writers. It’s common for available jobs to be shared in these communities
  • Pitch online and print magazines directly, contacting the editors with ideas for specific articles you may provide
  • Look at freelance marketplace sites like Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer.com — there are often writing opportunities here, although they may not be the highest paid out there. Pick the jobs that appeal and use it as a springboard to bigger things if you need to
  • If you love to blog, read and comment on other blogs in your niche. You’ll quickly get to know other writers, and may find opportunities to collaborate and share ideas
  • Keep your LinkedIn and other social media pages up to date and include links to your published work for employers to see

Check writing job boards

6. Check writing job boards

Specialist job boards are a perfect source of leads if you’re looking for more high profile and paid writing work.** Communities of writers may share ideas and information about sites, magazines and blogs you can connect with.** Take a look at these job boards and resources as a great starting point:


Collect testimonials from clients

7. Collect testimonials from your clients

As you start to build a reputation, it can really help to have testimonials from previous clients. Ask for a few words about working with you, either by email after you’ve completed a job, or using the testimonial function on LinkedIn. Publish great client reviews on your website so new customers can see what you do best.


Three tips for making more money as a freelance writer

Like any new business, it’ll take time to grow your freelance writing career and develop the connections you need to start earning money. However, once you’re up and running it can be a great second income — or a full time job if you’d like it to be.

Here are some tips on taking your freelance writing to the next level, and earning more money as you go:

The right goals for you will depend on whether you’re writing for fun, as a second stream of income to supplement your full time job, or as a future career. However, having some goals set out in writing is the best way to make sure you stay on the track that works for you. Your goals might be to write a certain number of pieces per week, to get published in a particular magazine, or to earn a fixed monthly amount, for example.

Working freelance means you’re in charge of your own time. This is an amazing perk — but also can mean that you spend longer than you realize on some pieces of work, or that you blur the lines between work time and leisure time. Tracking how you spend your time is the best way to make sure you’re charging the right amount for your work, and can help you see ways to earn more by focusing on the writing which pays best per hour.


1. Avoid content mills

Content mills offer work to freelance writers, often writing blogs and content marketing materials. However, they often offer low rates to writers, and keep a large amount of the profit from the writing for themselves. In most cases it’s better to avoid these companies if possible. Instead, create your own online presence with a blog or website, network with businesses in your niche, and pitch directly for paid writing opportunities. This may take a little longer than getting a fast fee from a content mill, but it’ll very quickly turn out more profitable.


2. Develop new business as you go

If you’re writing to earn an income you’ll need to continually pitch to new clients to win more work. A good way to do this is to set aside a fixed amount of time every week or month, to seek out new leads, build your network, pitch clients and develop new business ideas. Treat this as a crucial part of your working week, to make sure you have a continued pipeline of work on an ongoing basis.

When you first start writing you might choose to charge a relatively low fee for your work as you build your skills and your portfolio. However, you should review your prices and increase them over time, to make sure you continue to grow your business. Ask friends in the same niche, or use your online network, to get a sense for the market rates they charge, and to make sure you’re pitching at the right level.


Grow a global client base

3. Grow a global client base

Freelance writers can choose to work for employers based anywhere in the world. Don’t feel constrained by your home location, as you may be able to develop a client base overseas.

Starting to look in English speaking countries is the easiest option - try the UK, Australia, Ireland or New Zealand. However, it’s common for companies in Europe and beyond to need English language blogs, website copy and more — so it can also pay to reach out to customers based in countries where English isn’t the first language, too.

By getting a smart multi-currency account like the TransferWise borderless account, you can invoice clients in their home currency so it’s easy for them to pay you quickly, making working with an international customer no different to working with one here in the US.

As you take on more clients you’ll get better at creating and chasing invoices, and managing your money as a freelance writer. If you’re working with clients based overseas it’s a smart idea to have an account which makes it easy to get paid in foreign currency, so you can invoice clients in their home currencies for ease.

Try the TransferWise borderless account to see how easy it is to receive payments in foreign currencies. With your own local bank details you can get paid in major currencies like British pounds, Australian and New Zealand dollars and euros, for no fee. You’ll even be able to hold dozens of different currencies in the same account, and switch between them when you want to using the mid market exchange rate. That means there are no hidden fees to worry about — just a small transparent charge to convert your money back to dollars.


How to be a great freelance writer

How to be a truly great freelance writer?

Once you have your basic building blocks in place, it’s time to take your writing from good to great. Here’s how:

1. Research everything thoroughly

Just like with any other skill, it takes time to really get familiar with the ins and outs of freelance writing. Researching around the subject can help - read all you can about how to write great articles, copy and blog posts, what kind of jobs can you get as a freelancer, how to set your rates, and how to optimize your writing for search engines. You’ll also find a huge volume of helpful and enjoyable information out there about how to become a writer and excel in the career, from those who have already made the leap.

Here are a few good places to look for ideas and inspiration:

2. Get familiar with the skills and tools that are required

As you develop your client offering, ask what other services they may value. You’ll probably find you can also sell editing services, image sourcing or editing, and maybe SEO work or social media promotion. By educating yourself on these topics you could increase your income and serve your clients even better.

Here are some tools to consider using:

3. Become a master of organization

As a freelance worker you’re in charge of your own workload - which means you’re a project manager, writer, editor, marketing manager, accountant and HR representative all in one.

Create your own systems to make sure you keep on top of the organisation, using some of the following tools:

4. Always continue honing your writing craft

Even experienced freelance writers can get better. Continue to educate yourself and learn about the writing skills you need for the type of content you are working on. A key way to get continual professional development is to read other writers working in the same field. Follow industry magazines, sign up to blogs in the same niche as yours, and make use of social media to keep up to date by following fellow writers on Twitter, Medium and any other outlet you love.

If English isn’t your first language you can still make a career out of writing for English language publications based in your home country or in English speaking parts of the world. You’ll need to follow the same basic steps as a native speaker - and if you need some extra practice with your writing you can consider blogging or taking on lower paid work to build your portfolio.

5. Create an outstanding portfolio

Coming up with your portfolio is one of the first things you’ll do as an aspiring freelance writer — but your portfolio isn’t a static document, so you’ll need to update it and your pitch materials as your career and experience grow.

6. How to pitch for jobs

Pitching for work is intimidating when you’re first getting used to it. It’s well worth investing time in creating high quality targeted pitches for clients you’re interested in working work. Find prospective customers on freelance marketplace websites like UpWork, Problogger, Fiverr and Textbroker, or contact companies and sites you love directly.

Your pitch should be a short and pithy introduction which gets customers interested. For example:

“I’m a freelance writer and digital nomad, specialising in creating engaging copy about the products, services and tools which make life better as a traveller and remote worker. I’d love to discuss how I can help you grow your business with compelling blog posts and articles, and by generating energy in your social media channels”

Use it as a chance to get the reader’s attention, before providing more background, examples of your work, and your rates.

7. Just do it

Getting started is always the most difficult thing about any new endeavour. Freelance writing is a great creative outlet, which can be fun as well as providing an income. And best of all you’ll need little to no monetary investment to get going. Get yourself a free blog or website, spend a bit of time daydreaming about your favourite topics to write about, and start writing. It’s really that simple.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more