Side Hustles Explored: How to Become a Freelance Writer

Side hustles have enabled me to increase my debt payments and make my goal to become financially stable and independent more achievable. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am financially if I didn’t have a side hustle and just relied solely on the income from my full-time job when I was starting out with my debt repayment journey.

What’s great about this particular income stream is that you don’t just have to do freelance writing part-time. In 2016, I took the leap and started writing full-time for other blogs and brands. I used my freelance income to help pay off the remainder of my student loans and also buy our first home.

If you’re been thinking about freelance writing or are open to trying out a flexible way to earn money from home, you’ll definitely want to keep reading this detailed guide on how to start freelance writing.

So What is a Freelance Writer?

A freelance writer is someone who writes content for an individual, business or organization for a fee and on the basis of being a contractor. Freelance writers are not employed by companies but rather hired for contract work.

This gives you more freedom and flexibility to work from home, set your own hours, and set your own rates. However, you will be responsible for paying your own taxes and covering your benefits (like health insurance).

I started freelance writing part-time back in college but I really started taking it seriously in 2015. I published my first income report later that year to document how I was making money writing online and blogging.

After a few short months, I’m bringing in more than I ever did at my part-time job and I’m enjoying the work as well.

If you’re interested in pursuing freelance writing as a side hustle, here are some of the main steps you should take.

Related: 4 Common Misconceptions About Freelance Writers

How to Start Freelance Writing From Home

Decide What Your Niche Will Be

The freelance writing industry is extremely diverse. It’s important to narrow down the topics you wish to write about since the possibilities are seemingly endless. Even if you like to write, coming up with posts, articles and content on a regular basis can be a tedious process.

You should think your area of expertise or something you would enjoy talking about and prepare to write for clients who specialize in that niche. That way, when you have articles due, you’ll be motivated to write. And you’ll enjoy the entire process from start to finish.

My favorite topics to write about our personal finance, parenting, fashion and basic health and wellness habits. It’s a good idea to diversify your preferred range of topics to avoid burnout or writer’s block. I like how I can alter the topics I write about each week for clients so I’m not just creating various posts about getting rid of debt each week; because that can get old quick.

We all have different interests. So it’s a good idea not to limit yourself to just one niche. You want to be more marketable to different types of clients.

Related: How to Get Taken Seriously as a Professional Freelancer

Generate Writing Samples

To start bringing in paid jobs as a freelance writer, you’ll need high-quality writing samples if you don’t have them already. About 100% of clients will not hire you if you don’t have writing samples.

Notice I didn’t say 95% or 99% but 100%. No one is going to offer legitimate work and pay you to write for them if you don’t have samples that showcase your writing abilities.

If you don’t have any professional writing published online, you can always volunteer to contribute on your favorite websites and guest post on blogs. I’m always open to inviting guests to post interesting articles on my blog. You most likely won’t be paid for your writing at first. However, you can think of it as an investment. This is one of the best ways to build up your portfolio so you can get paid jobs.

Establish an Online Portfolio

If you’re wondering how to start freelance writing and land your first assignment, you need to have some form of an online portfolio. Creating your own blog and posting regularly would be the best option. Why? Because it showcases your skills and creativity along with allowing potential clients to see that you are an active writer.

Even if you only post once a week, establishing a professional and neat-looking blog – along with a hire me page to let people know you’re looking for freelance work – is one of the most effective ways to land new clients.

Don’t believe me? My first official client found my blog somehow, read my hire me page and approached me about my writing services. It was nice to have someone email me about working with them instead of having to pitch someone about my services. That client turned out to be one of the best, allowing me to choose my own topics each week and I always receive payment no later than 1 day after I submitted each article.

If you don’t want to start and maintain a blog, there are plenty of ways to showcase your work. You can use free online portfolio sites to upload or embed your content for others to see. Some popular portfolio sites include:

Pressfolios.com
Contently.com
Pinterest.com – Yes, I said Pinterest. Check out this post to learn more about how you can create a writing portfolio on this platform.

Related: How to Start a Professional Blog or Website in Just Minutes

Get a Mentor or Coach

Still a little lost about how you want to approach freelance writing? If you think you may need additional help and guidance, you may want to work with a mentor or coach. I spent a few months working with a coach through her freelance writing coaching program. This one-on-one program is no longer available but it was a great way for me to land well-paying writing jobs in the beginning.

It is an investment to get coaching or mentoring, but working with an experienced blogger or freelance writer can help new freelance writers avoid costly rookie mistakes and present myself and my work in a professional way in order to land high paying writing gigs.

Looking for a writing coach or mentor? Please email me if you’d like to explore the option of working together.

Set Realistic Goals and Take the First Action Step

When I initially started freelance writing, I remember setting a goal to earn $1000/month from freelancing. Then when I got started, I realized how much work and dedication was required to hit this goal. Even though I loved my writing jobs, I realized it would be a bit of a challenge to meet that goal while working my full-time job and taking care of my son and I immediately started settling for a lower monthly amount like $500.

Well let me tell you, I earned $500 very quickly and a few months later, I received almost $1,000 worth of freelance work assignments just short of $20 so it’s more like $980 (If you follow my past online income reports, you’ll see that my earnings have steadily increased over time. My freelance writing income has tripled in a year because I chose to invest in myself. I also chose to seek out professional help from someone who already knows the ropes).

I manage my time very wisely so it wasn’t a major struggle to complete the assignments. I’m kicking myself for ever doubting my initial goal. However, the key was to start in steps and take action. Want to earn $1,000 from freelance writing? Start by earning your first $100, then make $500 and keep increasing it from there.

With freelance writing, it IS possible to earn a decent amount of side income each month and eventually scale to full time if that’s your wish.

Build Up a Network

Like all jobs, your network can be instrumental in terms of your success. You should establish connections with other bloggers and writers. You’ll also need to improve your presence on social media and follow the companies and individuals you want to work with. You can also comment on posts on other people’s blogs. That way they become familiar with you should you ever decide to email them to pitch your services.

Tell your friends and family that you are interested in obtaining some freelance writing jobs and promote yourself on social media and to local businesses and organizations in your area.

By utilizing your network, you’ll be one of the first to find out about unadvertised job leads and find legitimate writing jobs.

Create a Flawless Pitch

In order to land writing jobs, you’ll need to create a pitch to send to potential clients. A pitch is somewhat like a more informal mini-cover letter. It highlights your experience and strengths to the reader in one fatal swoop. There are three main components to a great pitch:

  • An overview of your experience
  • Your strengths and how you would be an asset to the client
  • Relevant writing samples

As a bonus, sometimes I add topic ideas in my pitch email. I do this to showcase my creativity to the client and plant the idea in their mind to allow me to draft a trial post for their site. After I do a trial post, I can usually showcase my value and reel them in. When you finish creating your pitch, you should edit it carefully to avoid sending any grammatical errors or typos.

If you need additional help with pitching, be sure to check out my 4-day pitching course and challenge to help you land new clients you’ll love.

Run it through Grammarly which is a free service that will expose typos and incorrect grammar instantly. Since you’re applying for writing jobs, proper spelling and grammar in your pitches is crucial.

It may help to have someone else read it over and search for mistakes or bad wording that can be improved.

Search for Work in All the Right Places

Searching for your first writing job can be a tense process. But it doesn’t have to be if you search in all the right places. Avoid content mills and sites like Outsource and Elance where tons of writers bid on low paying jobs.

Reach out to your network and other writers or bloggers to let them know you are looking for work. Also ask if they know anyone who might be hiring. Believe me when I say there are plenty of writing jobs to go around.

You can also check out sites like:

You could also cold pitch to some websites directly, and there are many that pay writers to submit guest posts.

I know Craigslist gets a lot of flack, but I do check their site for gigs every now and then. In the past, I’ve landed two gigs from Craigslist ads but they both didn’t pay that well. You should watch out for scams on Craigslist. Remember, you should only pursue opportunities that seem legit and pay you what you’re worth. And if in doubt, always get a contract or agreement signed.

Related: A Day in the Life of a Full-Time Work-From-Home Mom

how to start freelance writing

If you’re looking to earn some extra money or break into a whole new field where you can work from home, have you ever considered freelance writing? Why or why not? What additional questions do you have about how to start freelance writing? Sound off in the comments.

Your Income is Abundant. Ready For Side Hustle Success?

There is lots of extra money to be made. Sign up for the free Side Hustle Success online workshop so you can learn how to find the right profitable side hustle for you.

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