How to Start Out as a Freelance Writer


So you like the idea of freelance writing and are attracted to the freedom of it all. It’s true that freelance writing does offer a variety of benefits. You can be your own boss, work where you want, work when you please and set your own rates. There are upsides, but there are also hurdles to overcome and challenges to face when you start.

If you decided to write and work remotely, here are some ways you can battle upcoming challenges with a positive attitude.

Choosing Your Niche

Ask any freelance writer out there today and they’ll tell you how important it is for you to carve your niche. A niche implies that you can be more easily targeted for work and shows off your level of expertise. For example, “I am an SEO writer.” Great, your content surrounds tips, tricks, and examples you’ve seen from companies that show good or bad search engine optimization.

Effective niching also lets you gain higher rates because you have expertise in a subject that other generalists don’t.

The challenge is what to choose from a seemingly enormous landscape of possible choices. You can select multiple niches or drop one if it doesn’t work for you. Play the field a bit, research, and see what you’re passionate about.

Not Enough Samples

You’re likely to find that when you start out, you won’t have anything to show for your skills. How can you get samples of your work out there, so you can get the work you need?

Dedicate some time to researching and pitching to some major publications and offer to write a piece or two for free. You’ll get your name out there, a sample of your own work, and you’ll be in a much better position to negotiate for work.

Think like a marketer: make a list of all the publications you think have a high reach and are worth targeting. Organise your ideas in a spreadsheet, gather emails, craft the perfect pitch email and get sending. Sooner or later you’ll have a couple of responses, but don’t be disheartened if you don’t receive any in the beginning – emailing is an art that needs to be learnt with experience.

Setting Rates

What’s a good price and how much is your time worth? Setting rates is challenging. You don’t want to be ripped off yet you don’t want to set unrealistic rates that will turn prospective clients away. There’s a fine balance to achieve here and you’ll get there over time.

It’s down to you and how you want to work. If you prefer working on a word basis, for example, set a baseline and see how it pans out with prospective clients.  Other freelance writers have a rate for long form pieces, more snackable posts, or copy writing. It can also depend on your employer and you. Be confident and be sure to communicate effectively when it comes to saying what you want. Do your homework and research rates for the work you’re doing.

Setting Up a Website

Getting a website going is a great way of establishing your writing career.

There are a lot of great free third-party applications out there to get your website built, hosted and taken care of, however, the layout and maintenance are another story. Along with creation, you need to manage your website and keep it up-to-date and revitalised with new content on a regular basis.

In order for your website to shine, link the content as much as you can to other pages and get clued up about search engine optimization. Link building, effective use of hashtags in shared content, and the correct use of keywords will all help create a site that will be noticed by more people and prospective clients. Find ways that you can integrate your site with social media in order to boost its appeal and your reach.

Keep your site fresh and appealing. Not only should you put up samples of corporate work that you’ve done for clients, but if you’re a keen, creative writer and love to write stories, then put some of these in— show that your love for writing extends way past the corporate world and show that you’re a well-rounded writer who’s passionate about doing their work.

As with any line of work, there are challenges to face but don’t be disheartened if your freelance work is drying up and don’t despair if you find yourself with low paid offers for a while. If you push on and take the time to rise above the challenges faced, you’ll do well as a freelance writer.

This post is brought to you by Christina Battons, a creative and content strategist who helps people and students succeed at self-education, writing, motivation, professional development and more by sharing her knowledge. In addition to contributing to other blogs, she writes at Connect with Christina on Facebook.