How To Make It As A Freelance Writer

Posted on Dec 18 2013 - 10:25am by Camille McClane


Being your own boss– sounds like a dream come true, right? Thousands of individuals with this dream are turning it into a reality by taking advantage of the freelancing industry. While it offers some very motivating rewards, it should be noted that there is a fair amount of risk involved as well if you don’t know what you’re doing.

On the one hand, you’re getting the benefit of being your own boss, working from practically wherever you want and establishing your own list of clients. Not having to get out of those cozy pajamas, having breakfast in bed every day, getting chores at home done in between tasks– what could be better?

On the other hand, you also have to assume complete responsibility for your own income, which can create a lot of pressure for you to find work and build a reliable list of clients.

Most individuals who are interested in making it as a freelance writer usually keep their writing as a secondary or “backup” source of income until they’ve become successful enough to make it a full-time gig. Building a list of clients will take time until you’ve discovered your full potential, which is why it may be advisable to keep your day-job until you’ve really established yourself in your freelancing career.

Even then, you’re facing the same kinds of risks that small business owners face in their situations. Will you have enough clients? Will you be able to make it? Are you staying competitive in your field?

While you can’t eliminate all risks, you can be more confident in your decision to pursue freelancing if you’re comfortable with the following list:

1. Be a Good Writer

It might sound a bit obvious, but not everyone is a natural writer. Now that’s not to say that you can’t cultivate the skill and become a good writer, but it takes time, and until you’ve put in that time, you shouldn’t be writing for pay.

A good writer must also have a good sense of creativity, imagination and originality. If you’ve got a grasp on these traits, then you’re already better than those who wish they were “good” writer.

If clients pay you for content that’s filled with inconsistencies, poor grammar and awkward sentences, you’re doing both them and yourself a disservice because they’re getting something that they probably can’t use, and you’re doing damage to your reputation as a freelancer that’s hard to repair.

2. Understand the Business Aspect

Your ability to network, make connections and understand the marketing aspect of your freelancing job is every bit as important as the writing side of the coin.

Think of your freelance career as your very own business. How are you going to reach out to new clients? They’re certainly not going to be looking for you, especially during the early stages of your business. You will need to put forth every effort into your search and hook potential prospects in.

When proposing to a new client, write a personal query letter that explains why you’re writing to them as well as what you can offer them. Linkedin and Elance are both great sites to utilize to find freelance work. Focus on building a professional portfolio with writing samples that your potential clients can view. “Seeing is believing” in this case, so if you are able to show them high quality and original content that you have created, they will likely be more interested in learning more about your services.

If a potential client doesn’t answer within a few days, send them a follow-up letter. Persistence is key and it often pays off. It will also show them that you are adamant about communication, which is a key aspect in any business relationship.

3. Have a Few Key Areas of Expertise

Being a jack-of-all-trades isn’t always a good thing in the freelancing world.

Since the goal is to establish yourself as an authoritative voice and a valuable consultant, you’ll be more likely to reach that goal if you focus on one or two key areas that you’re familiar with.

Many budding freelance writers who are looking for work will often take any job that is offered to them right away. Money is money, right? This is a terrible mindset to have. By accepting an assignment about a topic that you are not familiar with, you will likely spend more time than you have researching that said topic, and that time will usually not equal to the amount of money you are receiving for the assignment. Time spent = money lost.

Whatever assignment you are offered, just make sure you know a lot about it and you’re comfortable communicating that knowledge through writing.

4. Discipline, Balance & Money Management

Being your own boss means you need to hold yourself to a strict schedule and standard and maintain a certain level of discipline when it comes to your work. As a freelance writer, you won’t have a team to back you up as you would in a typical 9-to-5 job. You may not have a superior to breathe down your neck either, but your clients are certainly going to throw a fit if you are late on an assignment. You will need to find a good balance and manage your time accordingly so that you are able to meet all of those deadlines and keep your clients happy.

Before you even take on a client, consider what your finances look like and the time you will expect to be spending on a particular project. You cannot afford to be sloppy when it comes to your income (and that means taxes too!).

5. Build Your Portfolio as You Work

Building your portfolio as a freelancer is an exercise in patience, because you will have to start from scratch.

As you work and as you build a clientele, add what you’ve done to your portfolio as jobs are completed. Make sure that you don’t throw any and all projects at your portfolio just to fill it, but wait for the ones that are actually worth showcasing.

Consider starting a professional blog of your own that focuses on the industry you know the most about. Share relevant articles, follow those who are in your niche and update your blog frequently. Clients will be more likely to trust someone who is involved and shows passion in their area of writing.

You can also build your portfolio by offering to guest post on reputable sites that center around your niche. Many sites admire those who are looking to build their profile, and they often allow you to include an author bio that will link back to your site. It’s a win-win.

6. Save Some Time for Yourself

While discipline is a key factor in being successful as a freelance worker, there is also the need for balance of a social life as well. Regardless of how much you love writing, working from home as your own boss can get lonely at times, so don’t let it soak up the vibes from being around other people.

Think about investing in a notebook or laptop if you haven’t already and head to a local coffee shop (that offers free WiFi, of course, if you don’t have an internet connection already built-in into your device). If you are able to write without the internet, go to a park. Go anywhere that allows you to immerse yourself once again into society– doing so will keep you from feeling as if your freelance work is sucking you dry!

Putting It All Together

If you’ve got the curiosity, courage and passion to turn your writing into a full-fledged career, then I encourage you to do so! Having a career as a freelance writer and working to build a blog requires hustle, commitment and discipline, and the rewards are many. Just be sure to keep a nice balance between these factors, and you just might find yourself being your own boss sooner than you thought.  

Photo Credit: Wikimedia/freelancer

About the Author

Today’s guest blogger is Camille McClane, who is honored to have had the opportunity to share her knowledge of freelancing with’s audience. Her writing also covers the tech industry, including everything from SEO and social media marketing, to web analytics and green web hosting.