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How to Start Freelance Writing

get started freelance writing

I was answering a pile of emails today when I noticed a really touching question. This question made me think and really ponder on the tips I give here. While most of them are practical, hardly any of them is really useful for the beginner and confused freelance writer.

How do You Really Get Started as a Freelance Writer?

You’ve probably read a lot of quality freelance writing tips on other blogs. You’ve also read success stories from other freelance writers and you’ve probably given some of the tips a try, but you just can’t seem to move beyond where you are. Worse still, you’re confused but don’t know who to ask for support.

I have good news for you! With as many practical tips and information as possible, this article will show you how to really get started as a freelance writer.

The Cold Hard Truth

You should probably know this before you get started, otherwise you will have to keep digging without any results.

The hard reality of being a freelance writer is that it takes hard work. It takes real hard work!

If you’ve been made to believe that all you need to do to succeed as a freelance writer is to write alone, you’ve probably been deceived and will wait for a very long time before getting the results you desire.

Let’s get started with some realities you should know as a new freelancer.

5 Realities Every New Freelance Writer Should Know

#1: You Don’t Just Write

You’re a freelance writer but that doesn’t mean you’re just a writer.

In fact, the freelance writing market is getting so competitive that freelance writers won’t be making big bucks any more; smart marketers will be!

Even though you’re a freelance writer it isn’t just your duty to write. You have to learn the technical aspects of what it takes to succeed, you have to learn the marketing aspect of succeeding as a writer and you have to be ready to network with those who will aid your journey to success.

You don’t just write; you have to do much more than that to succeed!

#2: You’re Probably Not Going to Write about Your Passion at First

I get really frustrated when I get emails from people who are interested in freelance writing but want to write about their passion. I don’t get frustrated at them or at their emails, I get really frustrated at not being able to help them.

I’m sorry, but if there’s a solution I’d be very happy to share it.

If you’re looking to break into the freelance writing market you probably have a lot of challenges. You have to pay the bills, feed your family, enjoy yourself and do other important things. In a situation like this you should actually forget about writing about your passion – for the time being.

The key to successful writing is being able to write in any field, because writing isn’t just about writing. It is about researching, writing and moving the hearts of people and you need skills to be able to do that.

If you’re ready to work hard and wait for a year or two to get your first client then it’s okay to focus on your passion, but if you want to get clients right now you have to think about other opportunities.

I’m not talking about abandoning your passion altogether. Instead, I’m talking about looking for jobs that are well-paying and from clients who will respect you. Treat this writing opportunity like a real job and use the income from there to support yourself and your business until your passion takes off. In other words, you have to start a blog focused on your passion for the time being, keep working on it and marketing it and keep spending money, time and whatever it takes for the time being. Over time, you’d have built a solid audience and a solid source of clients – some of whom you can easily forego when their gigs have nothing to do with your passion.

#3: You Have to Spend Money to Make Money

I once got an email from a particular new subscriber telling me that he’s willing to learn from me but not willing to spend anything. Without hesitation, my response to that subscriber was that he should immediately un-subscribe from my list.

I’m sorry, but even if I want to help everyone in the world how can I help someone who doesn’t have an open mind towards spending to make himself a success?

It has been the law of nature for a very long time and whether you agree with it or not, it stands true. That law is that it takes money to make money; or let me rephrase it, it takes money to make real money.

I’m actually not suggesting that you start spending your money on things you don’t need. Instead, spend your money wisely on things that will help your growth.

Some of these things include a solid website, a cheap but professional website design, tools that aid your productivity and other things. It also includes quality courses and support like The Freelance Writers Den.

If you want a list of things you need (and probably have to spend some money on) to make your writing career a better one make sure you check my resources page.

#4: There is No One-Size-Fits-All Solution to Every Problem, or a Guaranteed Approach to Freelancing Success

It’s mostly all about you, your approach, your existing skills and your resolution to succeed.

While this post was written based on my own experience with freelance writing, there is no guarantee that you will succeed following my approach. One thing about life is that change is inevitable, results will often be different and sometimes you have to find your own path.

The only key to success is a combination of the right tips, constant trying and adapting to changes, and learning to discover opportunities and capitalize on them.

No single website holds the key to freelance writing success. You have to try the tips on this site to see if they work for you. If they don’t, try other tips from other sites and keep trying to find what works for you.

Unfortunately, reading is not trying. Don’t expect results just by reading. You actually have to test what you read and give it time.

#5: It’s Not about How Good Your Writing Is

Good writing matters and I can tell you first-hand that people with good writing have an advantage over people who don’t care about improving their skill.

Unfortunately, success is not just about good writing. That is why the most successful writers today aren’t people with  a PhD in English.

Good writing matters, but what matters most is learning to get your writing to pay. You need to master the art of getting clients, making sales and marketing yourself. You have to master the art of building a solid business that takes care of itself over the years with little input from you, besides your writing.

The key to freelance writing success isn’t just writing, it is learning to build a business.

7 Steps to Take to Get Started and Succeed as a Freelance Writer

steps to freelance writing success

Since we’ve covered some harsh realities new freelancers ought to know I’ll be going straight into the 7 steps you should take to succeed as a freelance writer.

1. Decide What Kind of Writing You Want to Do

What kind of writing do you want to do? What kind of skills do you have that can benefit your clients?

Don’t just think about how freelance writing can make money or that you want to make money writing. Instead, think about what you really have to offer through your writing?

Is your writing focused on helping people gain conversions? Do you help people write manuals/tutorials/guides on how to better use their products? Is your writing aimed at helping people market their brands?

Either way, just like you would for yourself, your writing for your clients must have a purpose and you need to determine this purpose before getting your first client. Don’t just do writing, know what kind of writing you want to do and how it can help your client. This is the first breakthrough for new freelance writers and once you know this you’re on your way to success.

2. Start a Blog

Look for a topic you can blog better at and let the aim of your blog be to showcase your writing. Your blog could talk about writing, it could talk about a specific topic you enjoy doing or are really experienced at and it could talk about everything that comes to your mind.

Above all, let your blog have a purpose and let it be tailored at a particular audience. Let your blog be different, have a clear USP (unique selling point) and master the art of traffic generation for writers.

The first step in starting a blog involves choosing a domain name and having a good web host (for which I recommend Hostgator), having a good website framework/CMS that powers your blog (use WordPress; check out this site for video tutorials on how to use wordpress). It also involves having good-looking themes (check out my resources page for my recommendations) and constantly publishing new content.

Your blog should have one major aim, which is to showcase your writing and let people see that you know your stuff. In other words, your blog should contain your best work, something you will be proud to attach your name to and something you will be happy to cite anywhere.

3. Develop a System Focused on Helping You Get Paid for Your Writing

After starting a blog your ultimate focus should be to make it a “lead engine” and get people to pay you for your work. This isn’t something that happens immediately and making the wrong decision will cost you a lot.

Once you’re sure your blog is in good order the next step to take is to develop a system based on helping you get paid for your writing. Your funnel will be different depending on what you want.

Some of us want clients to hire us, some of us want to market our books and some of us are looking for jobs/consulting offers with individuals and companies. The system you develop for your blog should be focused on helping you achieve this ultimate goal.

In other words, if your main aim is to sell your book you should create a landing page featuring your book, focus on getting as many of your readers to check it out by constantly linking to it in your blog posts and by marketing it in guest posts, interviews and other appearances outside your blog.

If your main aim is to get clients your system should be a kind of newsletter that takes your audience through a potential problem they are having and that constantly gives tips and ideas that can help them make improvements. Every once in a while you should market your services to them and let them know you can help implement all the changes you’re suggesting. This approach also works for those who offer consulting services

This takes time and requires effective marketing to get results but you can get results in a matter of months if you know what you’re doing.

4. Network with Successful Writers to Learn from them and Leverage their Network

Don’t limit yourself. Go out there and move with other successful writers. You can benefit a lot by moving with them.

By networking with successful writers who are getting results, you can improve your knowledge, get answers to questions for free that others would have paid for, contribute a guest article to their blog and gain exposure, or end up being interviewed for their blog.

Most of these writers have access to other successful writers and if you can prove to them that you can be trusted, they will end up giving you access to their network.

We need each other to succeed and ten people will easily achieve a lot more than one person will achieve alone. Master the art of networking with other writers and you’re on your journey to success.

5. Learn as Much as You Can about Marketing

This is where most people cringe, but it is also where most people experience breakthroughs.

Succeeding as a freelance writer doesn’t mean you have to involve yourself in unethical marketing practices. You might not even get yourself too involved in the whole game. Just 3 hours of consistent marketing a week can make your freelance writing business a success.

Make sure you read books on marketing; read blogs on marketing; read articles on marketing and even take courses on marketing.

There are several approaches you can take to market yourself just by writing but you will learn about a lot of them when you start to take action.

I’ll also be publishing articles about marketing on this blog in the future so make sure you’re subscribed!

6. Package Your Offerings

If you have more than one skill, especially those that work hand in hand, then you can improve the potential of getting hired more and getting paid more for your services by packaging your offerings.

For example, if your main specialization is copy writing you can package your copy writing services, headline writing services and email newsletter services into one offering and give anyone who orders the package a discount. By doing this a lot of people who wouldn’t have otherwise used some of your services will order the package and you will – as a result add more income to your bank account.

7. Apply to Writing Offers on Quality Sites Online

Surely, the approach I’ve explained in this article takes time, especially if you want to get started freelancing asap and need funds for important things in your life.

You shouldn’t rest in a situation like this. Instead, apply to writing offers online.

You can get started by submitting your application to offers from top writing jobs online, you can get started by writing for top blogs that pay writers and you can partner with big businesses to be their source of content. Sometimes, most of these potential clients will already have a framework for you to build your application on and sometimes you will have to start from scratch, let them know what services you offer and how your services can help them.

If you want to get started asap you can start with the Problogger Jobs board or with my list of 30 websites that pay you to write.

Top Resources to Help You Get Started as a New Freelance Writer

1. The Freelance Writers Den: This is currently the only freelance writing course online I’m personally subscribed to. It costs $25 monthly and contains tips that will help you make several times that in a week. It also features regular interviews with experts.

The founder, Carol, also regularly runs blast-off classes that costs around $197 per run, but members of The Freelance Writers Den can get it for free.

2. Make a Living Writing: This blog is also run by Carol, the founder of The Freelance Writers Den and veteran freelance writer. Personally, I think this is the ultimate site online as far as freelance writing is concerned.

3. GhostWriterDad: GhostWriterDad is run by Sean Platt, a special writer and ghostwriter who knows what he is doing. Sean has written the best copy from some of the biggest blogs online, he knows what he is doing so you should definitely check him out!

4. Goins,Writer: This blog by Jeff Goins is one of the best writing blogs online. While Jeff seldom talks about freelance writing he regularly offers quality tips that will benefit freelance writers as well. Jeff’s articles are usually concise and easy to read and the community interaction and support on his blog is awesome.

In a nutshell, if you need real inspiration and motivation as a writer make sure you read Jeff’s blog!

5. My new ebook, The Writer’s Handbook: How to Write for Traffic and Money: It is still in the works but I can’t wait to put it out.  I’ll be releasing it soon, but you can make sure you’re the first to know when it is released by subscribing to my newsletter.

Contribute Your Own Quota!

If you learned something from this article please do just two things:

1. Share this article with at least one person; it could be via email, Twitter, Facebook or any other medium. Make sure at least one person gets to read this article from you.

2. Let me know what you think in the comments below. This article was inspired by an email I was reading today, even when I had no idea about anything to write. Share your opinions about this article below; it will surely motivate me and others reading this article and it will also help us learn something new.

50 Comments on "How to Start Freelance Writing"

  1. Harry Sehgal says:

    Its a Long Post worth reading every word. I will follow the Tips.

    • Bamidele says:

      Great to hear, Harry! Kindly let me know how it works for you!

  2. Sheyi says:

    Another great article from you Bamidele. I guess this does not refer to writers alone. It helps me that I’m not a freelance writer (the name is somehow to me FREElance)!

    The best part is starting a blog. I guess if you have a blog of your own, people can find you there and relate to you.

    Sheyi

    • Bamidele says:

      Yeah, having a blog is more important now than ever and it might be what most writers need to give their careers the boost it needs.

  3. Amit Shaw says:

    Hi Oni,
    Yes i got your mail and i read that article too. Thanks for your help Oni. Hope after reading that and this article hope i can able to start my freelance career. Thank you so much for giving me your reply.
    ~Amit Shaw

  4. Sean says:

    Thanks for the mention, Oni! And the great nudge in the right direction for so many working writers!

    • Bamidele says:

      Anytime, Sean! You’re an inspiration to many writers, including me, so it’s an honor to mention you 🙂

  5. Tim Anderson says:

    Getting started as a freelance writer is a great. But only a few people knows how to become successful with this career.

    And one of them is you, Oni. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. May God always bless you and make you rich by doing what you love.

    I’m on my way to duplicate your success. 😀

    • Bamidele says:

      I’m glad to hear that, Tim! Definitely let me know if there’s anything I can do to help on your way to success 🙂

  6. Hmm Oni, I read through this post from start to finish and I see your experience in plain text. Yes, like you said, freelance writing requires hard work. But that’s how life itself works; you need hard work to run a successful business and freelance writing a SERIOUS BUSINESS.

    I’m glad you shared this. Some of the tips are not just for freelance writing, it’s about internet business. Writing about your passion isn’t the way to make money for beginners.

    After you’ve built an engaged audience, you can rant about YOUR PASSION but for money making sake, learn every subject online and write for it. That’s how to make money.

    A freelance writer should be able to write on real estate, Mesothelioma lawyers, political issues, entertainment, money making, wall street investment issues etc.

    I hope my comment helps. Kudos bro!

    • Bamidele says:

      I’m glad you agreed with my point on not necessarily writing for passion at the beginning; the main thing is to establish yourself first. After that you can start having your way!

  7. Hi, Oni! I read your interview on MAKE A LIVING WRITING. Your story is very inspiring! I’m an 18 year old blogger myself, recently jumping into the world of freelance writing. I loved hearing about your success and determination, and that’s what sent me over to your site. Thanks for the added inspiration and the great advice on your blog!

    • Bamidele says:

      Hi Alex,

      I’m really glad to hear that!

      The interview really hit home with so many people and I’m glad you’re inspired, too. Determination is definitely key when it comes to success and with it, you can never go wrong!

  8. Proyek Nulis Buku Bareng says:

    thank Oni, your post is very inspiring 🙂

  9. Bill says:

    Wow! Oni this is great. I think for you to start a freelancing job with high profits, you need to have a great talent in your work. In order to succeed you need to moonlight your challenges and take control of it.

    • Bamidele says:

      Exactly. Glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

  10. ginaann says:

    hi. I was unable to read this article because the social marketing widget was positioned over the main page the whole time…just wondering if that is supposed to be normal.?

    • Bamidele says:

      Hi Ginaann,

      Thanks a lot for bringing that to my notice. That isn’t supposed to be normal; can you please send me a screenshot?

  11. Jeff Goins says:

    Thanks, Oni!

    • Bamidele says:

      Anytime, Jeff 🙂

  12. John Mak says:

    Great information Onibalusi… If someone wants to start freelance writing, here is the best place to find excellent and unique information! You’re the pro!
    Thanks for sharing,
    John Mak

    • Bamidele says:

      I’m really glad to hear that. Feel free to send people over anytime 🙂

  13. cash4wealth says:

    Great job Oni,developing a business system is Basically what I want to start writing about as a financial writer.for any seriouS minded businessperson it is the sole pathway to lasting Wealth

    • Bamidele says:

      I agree.

  14. Iteire Apollos says:

    Thanks ONI for this informative post, and right now i am bookmarking this post. I have a problem with my writing that is proofreading my articles. I will like to know how you proofread your articles, and if you have any tip that can help me with proof reading my articles.

    • Bamidele says:

      Hi Iteire,

      Proofreading isn’t always easy, but we have to do it. What I do is write every article I want to write for the day and then proofread them all at the same time.

  15. Romy Singh says:

    Hello Oni,

    Really a nice roundups of suggestions for starting writers.

    Beginning is always tough, but once you survive through it then success is your…

    • Bamidele says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

  16. Hi Oni. I agree with what you’re saying. Re; the person who sent you the email – I think part of the reason people are wary of spending money to buy things on the Internet is because there are so many things saturating the market. No one knows what will help and what will not. I know I’ve bought several things which promised to help if I followed them. I did, and they didn’t. 🙂

    Your post is very detailed. Thanks for your help.

    • Bamidele says:

      Thanks, Anne!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  17. Mark says:

    I strongly believe that marketing is the other half of the equation when it comes to succeeding in this business. Having good writing skills is no longer enough in today’s web conditions. Starting a blog is by far the best strategy to showcase your expertise to your potential clients as well as building a community of loyal readers. Thanks Oni

    M Mark

    • Bamidele says:

      You’re right on spot, Mark! That’s exactly the point of this article.

  18. Reeha@printer toners says:

    I think its a best written post for new bloggers and also an inspiring post for them. great work dude.

  19. Freelancing is great way to learn many things, many things to learn from this post as well, A writer as you have mentioned above need to develop their network and marketing capabilities. That is very handy for their success. As a blogger my thumbs up for your quality writing.

    • Bamidele says:

      Thanks, Jeet!

  20. Great long post Oni, it’s amazing how you can turn a question via email into this amazing post. I agree with you, spend a little money in a smart way and you can make a lot more than trying to start from nothing.

    • Bamidele says:

      Hi Jamie,

      Aha, exactly. There are a lot of article ideas in reader questions and feedback.

      Spending is definitely something we should keep in mind if we want results from our business.

  21. Glori S. says:

    Every word was a gem! I finally found a blog that has what I need to learn more about freelance writing and everything else! LOL
    I particularly like the part about learning to market yourself. I am not at that stage yet but when I have the time to really focus more on my writing I will do that. Right now, i’m just trying to learn as I make a part-time income from writing. I definitely need to seriously blog!
    Thanks Oni!

    • Bamidele says:

      I’m really glad to hear that, Glori! Thanks 🙂

  22. Russell VJ Ward says:

    Great stuff, Oni. Really useful and relevant. Will apply these pointers to my fledgling business writing entity. Thanks again.

    • Bamidele says:

      Thanks, Russell! I’m glad I could be of help 🙂

  23. Hasan Ali says:

    Hi Oni, I am a daily visitor of your blog for a year and I’ve learnt alot from you. Your blog is very informative for writers and bloggers like me. I appreciate your efforts.

    • Bamidele says:

      Thanks, Hasan!

  24. alex says:

    hello Bamidele, i’m at the beginning of this whole writing stuff, and i can say that ur tips are really helpful for a person in my position.

    thanks for sharing, and keep ’em coming!

    ~alex

  25. Thanks for your post Bamidele,

    You offer some great insights and steps for getting started as a Freelancer. I do think that indeed starting with a Blog (nr.2) can offer a great ‘Platform’ to work from. Because it can enable you to also use your writing for example to (pre) sell Products or Services on your Blog with doing Affiliate Marketing or offer all kinds of Back End Products like for example Training, Consulting, Speaking on Stage or Offering Workshops and things like that.

    Than with having your own blog you will alway’s have something to write and you can even make money with it in case you don’t have many Freelance Writing Projects to work on, or when you have trouble to get projects started, Btw. last month I wrote a post about Writing Fillers for Magazines, something that you could use as an ‘Opening Doors’ for when you want to write for Magazines. You can find this post at:
    http://hpshappywriting2.blogspot.com/2012/02/4-engaging-ways-for-writing-fillers-for.html

    When you have interesting Ideas, or Writing Experiences to share about your own first Steps with writing for Magazines, I would be happy to see your Comments.

  26. Iteire Apollos says:

    ONI i want to thank you for your reply and i want to let you know i admire your work,i have being reading the comment feeds and am inpressed at the way you respond to the comment,i will really like to be like you.

    • Bamidele says:

      Thanks, Iteire!

  27. I truly agree by your views. And I am impressed by your writing skills. 😀

    Well, it’s true that you need to sacrifice some money to get more out of it. I think this post was long but I learnt some new things and experience with it. 🙂

  28. Ben Troy says:

    Be a good writer. It may seem self-evident but there is a substantial group of people who believe that they can write but when they attempt it, their lack of originality, good grammar, and self-discipline prove otherwise. Be sure that you’re comfortable with writing, that it is a medium in which you can express yourself with ease and clarity, and that it is something you don’t mind doing almost every single day of your life without respite. If you don’t already have writing qualifications, consider doing a college degree in journalism or English, or taking a workshop so that you’re at least aware of the major requirements in writing, and the terminology used. Even if you already have a degree in a non-writing related course, you may find it easier to either get a writing diploma or to get an entry-level job as a copywriter or editor in a field related to what you graduated in.

  29. marilyn cada says:

    thank you for sharing such wonderful and insightful tips Bamidele. i am a freelance writer and a blogger at the same time. i just created a blog just to supplement my income. no other else.

    but when i read your blog, i just realized that i have been on the right track. now i know what would be the main purpose of my blog..not only to earn from blogging but also to market my skills as a freelance writer 🙂

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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