The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Freelance Writer: How To Get Started Without Credentials

Carol Tice

The Ultimate Guide to How to Become a Freelance Writer. Makealivingwriting.comHave you wondered how to become a freelance writer? This is the time of year when many writers who dream of earning their living doing what they love most finally stand up and shout, “I’m doing this!”

At the start of the year, my email inbox fills up with questions about how to get started in freelance writing. Rather than try to answer them one at a time, I’ve created an ultimate guide below, that walks you through all the common questions and gives you everything you need to know to get out there and start getting paid as a freelance writer.

Ready? This guide takes it step by step, with sections for each topic. It’s got a breezy, Q&A format, to make it easy to read through and quickly move forward with your freelancing goals.

Want a copy of the whole answer sheet? Grab your PDF copy.

How to Become a Freelance-Writer - The Ultimate Answer Sheet

Ready? Let’s get you started in freelance writing:

Table of contents: How to Become a Freelance Writer

  1. Big tips
  2. Mindset first
  3. Set up your business
  4. Decide who you will serve
  5. Create an online presence
  6. Build your network
  7. Get samples
  8. Decide what to charge
  9. Find first paying clients
  10. Avoid scams
  11. Do the writing
  12. Deal with clients

1. Big tips

If you don’t have time for the long Q&A, let me give you a few top-level insights that should help calm your worries:

  • Freelance writing is a real, viable career. Not a myth.
  • There are no hard-and-fast rules in freelancing — experiment and see what works for you.
  • There are no ‘going rates’ — every client situation is different.
  • You don’t need ‘credentials‘ or to be an expert.
  • No one can predict how much you’ll get paid to write, or how quickly. It’s up to you.
  • You don’t need ‘contacts’ — you can write your way in the door.
  • The answer to many of your questions is, ‘It depends.’
  • Take your goals seriously — even if others in your life don’t.
  • Don’t worry about finding the best apps or tools to use in your freelance biz. Instead, focus mostly on getting clients.
  • In general, fiction, poetry, and personal essays are not the basis of a bill-paying freelance career (you can get paid to write poetry, but don’t expect it to be a full-time career). The money is in reported articles and writing for businesses.
  • Pitch more and worry less about whether you’re ‘doing it right.’
  • To make this go faster, find a writer community and ask peers what works.

With all that in mind, let’s dig into the nuts-and-bolts of launching a freelance-writing career:

2. Mindset first

The number one thing that stops aspiring freelance writers is their own fears. It won’t matter what nuts-and-bolts knowledge you have, if you’re too scared to go out and get clients.

So let’s bust those fears first!

Q: How do I know if my writing is ‘good enough’ to earn a living?

A: Ultimately, you’ll only find out by writing for clients. But if you’re truly a bad writer, you don’t usually try to make it your career. The problem generally is lack of freelance marketing, not lack of writing craft.

Q: How can I get over my fears of failing as a freelance writer?

A: Start taking action. The more actions you take, the more you’ll build confidence. All writers make mistakes. The thing to know is, it’ll be OK.

Q: What if I have trouble making myself do the marketing work?

A: That’s why you need an accountability buddy — find another freelance writer newbie you can call weekly, to keep you working on your goals. In my experience, newbies with a buddy have a much higher success rate than newbies with no buddy.

Q: How do I get started when I don’t feel qualified?

A: This worry stems from thinking you need to know something besides how to write well, to become a freelance writer. You don’t. You can ask experts, research, and learn things. Your strong writing skill is what you bring to the table.

Start with something you know and feel confident in (more on this below in section 4).

Q: What if I’m an ESL writer and want to earn writing in English?

A: Wish I had good news here, but with changes Google has made, that’s increasingly difficult. There may be easier ways for you to earn online than writing.

Q: What if no one takes me seriously?

A: If you take yourself and your writing career seriously, others will, too. Not kidding.

Q: What if I totally screw up an assignment?

A: You will live to write another day. Ask me how I know…

3. Set up your business

Q: Do I need to register my business?

A: No one can make you, but it’s a real good idea. If you want to write off your business expenses, being registered with state and city tax authorities helps convince the IRS (or your national tax body) you’re a real business.

Q: What should I name my business?

A: Just starting out, your own name is fine. You can always choose another name later, or ‘do business as’ another name. For instance, TiceWrites is my business name, but I do business as Make a Living Writing, Freelance Writers Den, and more.

If you want to be fancy and have serious branding for your freelance writing biz, I recommend choosing a name with keywords that would help clients find you, like: “Healthcare Writer Dana.” Avoid meaningless words and phrases such as ‘communications’ or ‘solutions,’ that don’t really say what you do.

Q: Can I use a fake name in freelance writing?

A: Not usually, no. Noms de plume are for fiction authors. You’ll need to reveal your real name when you get paid to write, anyway — and having a fake identity will make editors wonder what you’re hiding. There’s a legit exception to this if you’re a woman with a stalker…I’ve known people in that sitch, and editors do understand. But otherwise, no.

Q: Do I need a separate checking account for my business?

A: Yes. Just get one. You can thank me later for sparing you endless hours trying to keep your business and personal expenses/income separate.

Q: Do I need to become an LLC or corporation to be a freelance writer?

A: No. I operated as a sole proprietor for many years. An LLC does provide a layer of liability protection between your personal assets such as a home or car, and your business. If you don’t lie or make stuff up, you’ll likely never be sued, so it’s not a big concern, especially just starting out.

Q: What tools do I need for running my business?

A: Beyond a computer and the Internet, the rest is optional. I kept a paper income/expenses ledger for years — but if you want to be more pro, choose a solution such as Freshbooks (which I use and recommend) or Harvest. As I mentioned in the Big Tips, most would-be freelance writers spend way too much time wondering if they need a grammar app, and not enough time trying to find clients.

Q: What do I need to know about taxes?

A: Not much, the first year. You’ll just pay what you owe, end of the year. Set aside a portion of your freelance income for taxes that’s similar to the tax bracket you had last year, as a guesstimate. In the U.S., once you hit the level of owing $1,000 or more in annual tax as a self-employed person, you’ll make estimated quarterly tax payments, based on the previous year’s income.

Q: What about health insurance?

A: If you’re leaving a job and taking the plunge into freelancing, you’ll want to make sure you have health insurance. The good news is there are numerous viable self-employed health insurance plans available for freelancers.

4. Decide who you will serve

Q: Do I need to choose a niche for my business?

A: Only if you’d like to make this launch process quick and easy. It’s hard to market yourself as a ‘freelance writer,’ because that’s so broad. Clients aren’t searching for that — they’re searching for a freelance technology writer, or a Dallas healthcare writer, or something like that.

They want to know if you write their type of thing, so the broad approach often attracts zero clients. Being a generalist also makes it harder to build expertise and raise your rates.

Q: What is a niche?

A: Good question — What I mean is an industry, such as healthcare, software, finance, marina management, metal-smithing. Think of these as niche verticals.

You could also niche horizontally, meaning you specialize in one type of writing, like only case studies or blog posts. I don’t recommend going this route, as a newbie. It’s much harder to get enough clients when you limit yourself to a single type of writing, and easier when you’re a utility player with knowledge of a particular industry sector.

Once you’re established and are turning away offers, you can become someone who does only one type of writing. Until then, focus on industries of interest and write whatever clients need — that’s the quickest way to get this going.

Q: How do I know what a good niche for me would be?

A: Your easiest, best-earning niches generally lie where your experiences and interests intersect with a lucrative topic or industry.

Not sure whether your niche idea would work? Ask yourself, “Who would the big-money clients (or publications) be in this niche, that would pay great rates and have steady work?”

If that question is hard to answer, it’s probably not a great niche. If you’re unfamiliar with the writing marketplace, you’ll want to join a writer community where you can ask around and learn from working pros.

Q: Do I just choose one niche?

A: Actually, I advise choosing 2-3. Staying a bit diverse will help keep your business thriving as the economy and individual industries wax and wane.

Q: Isn’t it bad to turn away clients who aren’t in my niche, when I’m just starting out?

A: Weirdly, it isn’t. Writing for everyone and anyone makes your career very scattered, and it’s hard to get any traction. Like they say, ‘the riches are in the niches.’ Focusing your writing on a few topics will help you quickly gain expertise and impress clients.

Q: What if I super-hate the idea of choosing niches, and I want to stay a generalist?

A: Hey, it’s your business to run — I’m just trying to make this succeed quickly.

One other way to niche your business is by geography. You can market yourself as a Dallas Freelance Writer, for instance. If you’re in a mid- to larger-sized city, this can also work, if you like working with local clients.

5. Create an online presence

Q: I know I need somewhere online people can find me — but as a broke newbie, what can I do?

A: Use your LinkedIn profile (here’s my tip-sheet on how to optimize your profile). Yes, once you get rolling, a writer website will be much better. But for now, you can go a long way putting your portfolio on LinkedIn. You can add clips to Experience entries, and also in your Summary.

Q: Why not just put clips on Contently or an Upwork profile, or somewhere like that?

A: Mass writer sites have a reputation for low rates — and their platform makes it easier to browse through others’ portfolios than to find your contact info. By contrast, LinkedIn is a huge platform where great companies are searching for freelancers, every day. I think it’s a better place to look pro.

Q: What if I don’t have a byline on my clips, like with copywriting work?

A: You can still use your clips in your portfolio, as long as you didn’t sign a nondisclosure agreement that swore you to secrecy that you authored the work.

Q: What if my clips are too old?

A: There’s actually no such thing. You’ll be surprised how seldom prospects care about the age of your clips — they just want to read your work. If you have old print clips that aren’t online, see if a good print shop can create a PDF for you, where the article is readable.

Q: What if I want to do a writer website now, as a newbie?

A: Great idea! Makes you look more professional. And the secret is, the copy you write on your writer website is a writing sample. It can be your first clip. You can get good web-copy jobs from writing your own terrific site copy!

Q: What if I have a blog — can I use that as my writer website?

A: It’s not ideal, unless your blog is very successful and popular. Then, you can put a ‘hire me’ tab up and solicit writing jobs there. A writer website is a stronger way to present yourself, where the Home page is all about your client and the services you offer, rather than an ever-changing set of blog post headlines.

Q: I’m not very technical. How can I get up a good writer website?

A: WordPress is the dominant website platform by far, and I recommend using it because it has the most available designers, tools, and plug-ins to help you make it look great. (I’ve also seen decent sites on SquareSpace, and recently, one on Wix).

I don’t recommend writers learn to create websites from scratch — don’t have to become a coder here! Because many new freelance writers struggle with getting their websites done, I basically begged my designer to create FolioSetup (yep, that’s my affiliate link) — check it out if you’d like ready-made templates, hosting, help, and a quick solution.

6. Build your network

Q: This is all great — but how do I actually get freelance writing clients?

A: One great way is to start building a big referral network, and letting people know what sort of writing client you want. Don’t have a network? Build one! You can do that through in-person networking in your town, or virtually, through online groups such as the interest groups on LinkedIn.

Q: Who do I want in my network?

A: A mix of other writers, related service providers such as designers, editors, and photographers, as well as prospective clients, or people who would know your prospects.

Q: What do I say at in-person networking events?

A: Ask people to tell you about what they do, and who their ideal client is, so you can refer them. They’ll probably ask you the same. Have a little ‘me’ speech prepared to introduce your freelance writing services.

Q: What if I’m really shy and don’t like big groups?

A: You can do one-on-one meetups for coffee or after work, or hop on short phone or video calls. Doesn’t have to be big meetings!

Q: How do I ask for referrals?

A: Big tip: Make it mutual. Ask contacts if they are looking for referrals, and if so who’s their ideal client. Then, tell them yours, and that you’d appreciate their keeping an ear out for anyone who needs your type of writer.

Q: How do I build my network online?

A: I love LinkedIn for that — you can import your rolodex, send connection invites to people who Viewed My Profile, or join Groups and then invite group members to connect. You can look for LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) who connect to all comers, and use LinkedIn’s ‘Discover’ listings to find more people who might be good contacts.

Once you’ve connected, ask how you can help. Share and comment on their content. Send them articles that might interest them. Hop on a Skype call. See what you can do to get to know your connections better. The more you stay on their radar, the more likely they’ll remember to refer you when they hear about a writing need.

7. Get samples

Q: How can I get clients when I don’t have any samples yet?

A: The easiest way is to go out and get some samples. This is also known as working pro bono. You’ll want to choose publications or companies to work with who will give you great samples in your chosen niches.

Define a limited project, and get a testimonial to go with your sample. Boom! Once you’ve got 4-6 of these, you’re ready to impress paying customers.

Q: Is guest posting a good way to get samples?

A: It can be, especially if it’s on a popular site. If you’re posting free for exposure, be sure to choose your sites carefully, and appear where your clients might see your byline.

Q: What about writing for content mills, as a way to get first clips?

A: I don’t recommend it, even for those struggling to land entry-level writing jobs. The requirements of mill work are very different from what you’ll be asked to do in well-paid client work, so it doesn’t serve as a very effective training ground. Often, you don’t end up with clips you can use — they’re ghostwritten for an end client who isn’t identified. Also, mills can be capricious about who they ban or give crummy ‘ratings’ to. You’re basically not in control of your career.

Meanwhile, the tiny pay makes you wonder if you could earn a living writing very fast on there…and the answer is no, you usually can’t. But writers get stuck writing for tiny pay in mills, for years on end. Mill work is also fading away, as there’s less call for short, dashed-off, SEO-keyword-stuffed content, because Google doesn’t like that anymore. So it’s increasingly a dead-end street.

By contrast, doing pro bono work for small publications or small businesses for your first samples gives you clips that impress, and keeps clarity that you can’t earn this way and will need to move up. It also gives you real-world experience writing for the exact types of clients you want.

Q: What about using posts from my own blog as samples?

A: It’s better than nothing, but not ideal. Clients know you didn’t have to please an editor or marketing manager and could publish whatever you wanted, so it doesn’t exactly impress. But if you write kick-ass headlines and get a lot of comments and shares on your blog posts, it could help you lure those first clients.

Q: Does it matter if the sample I do is for a relative or friend?

A: Not really. If they’ve got a small business, an e-commerce site, or edit the hometown paper, go for it!

8. Decide what to charge

Q: How do I know what to charge my first clients?

A: There are a few ways to figure this out. First off, if you’re writing for a publication, they may have set rates and tell you what they are.

If not, you can ask clients what their budget is — and sometimes, they’ll tell you.

If their lips are zipped on that, you can ask around that network you’re building, to learn about typical rates. You can also calculate your daily rate, and simply charge what you need to, to pay your bills and maintain the lifestyle you want.

Big tip: Don’t worry a lot about pay rates in your early days. It’s more important that you get to work for good clients in your niches, and build your portfolio. You can just keep raising your rates as you go, until they’re where they need to be.

Q: Should I charge by the word, hour, page, or project?

A: Ideally, you want to charge by the project. Project rates are especially great for newbies, because then your client won’t be penalized if it takes you longer to write than a more experienced writer. They’re what pros do — we’re not hourly clerks, as writers.

When you work on project rates, you will automagically increase your hourly rate over time, as you become more efficient and take less time to write. And your client will never be the wiser. So yeah. Project rates all the way.

Q: What’s a good average hourly rate my freelance writing should work out to?

A: As a newbie, try to shoot for at least $25-$35 per hour with first clients. Less will mean you’ll never earn enough to stay afloat. Aim to rapidly raise that into the $50-$75 an hour range, and keep moving up from there. Experienced freelance writers earn $75-$100 an hour and more.

Q: How do I know how long it will take me to do projects?

A: By tracking your time. Lots of free software out there for that. Figure out how long it takes you, and then challenge yourself to get it done faster on the next project. Keep improving!

9. Find your first paying clients

Q: How do I find my first clients?

A: There are two basic approaches — you can look in your town for clients in your niche, or you can look online. Look at the online presence of businesses you like, go talk to owners, and propose a project to help get them more clients.

If you’re in a small town or not in the same country as your prospective clients, you’ll be looking online. There are plenty of blogs that offer unpaid guest posts, and many that pay for guest posts.

You can also target small business websites in your niches — most business owners are overwhelmed, not good writers, and will really appreciate the help.

Q: What is the one best, free, fastest way to market my services?

A: There isn’t a single answer to that question, because it depends a lot on you. (I warned you up top some answers would be ‘it depends!’) There are many free and low-cost ways to market your writing.

I am marketing-method agnostic — meaning I don’t care how you do it, as long as you do lots of it. Think in terms of 100 pieces of freelance marketing per month, to get launched.

You could send customized marketing emails, do in-person networking events, pick up the phone and cold call, work your LinkedIn network, send direct-mail packages out. It’s all good, and more. I’ve actually taught 40 Ways to Market Your Writing. Lots of ways to skin the freelance marketing cat.

Think about your personality and the types of clients you want and how they do marketing — you may want to use a similar mode to how they reach out to clients. Then, study the best practices in that form of marketing and feedback from your writer network, so you know how to crush it.

Q: Who do I pitch at businesses?

A: In a small company, it may be the CEO. Beyond there, look for a marketing manager. The guy whose name is on the press release is often a good pick.

Q: Which editor should I try at a magazine?

A:  Managing editor is my default, if there isn’t an articles, features, or editor in my specific topic, i.e. “health editor.” Above the managing editor, those editors aren’t really editing the paper.

Q: What about responding to online job ads?

A: Most mass online job boards such as Craigslist are a waste of your time. All those postings will get hundreds of responses, so your statistical odds of getting hired through them are tiny. Look for niche boards that aren’t as widely circulated, or boards where either job-seekers or employers have to pay to participate, such as FlexJobs or LinkedIn Jobs.

10. Avoid Scams & Ripoffs

Q: How do I know if an online offer of writing work is a scam?

A: Try Googling: “Is <site name> a scam?” and see what comes up. That’ll usually help. For instance, there’s this classic scam. You can also use the “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” test.

Q: I found this site, Master Writing Jobs — do you think I should sign up?

A: Actually, the consensus is that Master Writing Jobs is a scam. To build a thriving freelance business, you’re going to need to develop a good nose for what’s a legit offer. Any site that makes you join and pay a fee before you can see any testimonials or info about what the platform offers, you wanna run.

One of the biggest ways new freelance writers waste time is signing up on various platforms that promise to give them loads of great-paying writing jobs. Know that There. Is. No. Such. Platform. Finding your own clients is what’s for dinner, if you want to pay your bills with freelance writing.

Q: What about signing up on Upwork?

A: Very few people find professional pay rates on Upwork, PeoplePerHour, and the like, is the feedback from the 11,000+ writers I’ve mentored over the past 7 years. Sure, you might be that one exception. I’ve met two or three, in the past decade. But in general…just no.

Having a profile on these sites signals to clients that you’re willing to work for very low rates. Ripoffs abound, along with teeny-tiny paychecks.

11. Do the writing

Q: What’s the best way to make sure I do a great job on my assignment?

A: Study the publication, the blog, or the company materials you are writing for. Really take it apart. How do they start their articles, quote their sources, how long are paragraphs, what sort of experts do they use? How do they conclude? Then, you do that.

Q: I’m scared to turn in my writing to my client. What should I do?

A: Have a writer-friend give it a read and make suggestions. Or consider trading services with an editor for a while, while you build confidence.

Q: What if I don’t have enough article ideas to get assignments regularly?

A: Then don’t write articles. There’s a ton of paid writing for businesses, where they will dictate the topics. Alternatively, learn about how to be a story idea machine.

Q: What if my article gets killed?

A: Like the old song says: Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again. Can’t let any little setbacks get in the way of your freelance dreams!

Q: My client hated my first draft, and I’m devastated. How can I prevent this problem?

A: Ask more questions up-front. Learn about the tone, style, and content the client needs. Pros ask a lot of questions. Here are some key questions to ask copywriting clients.

Q: What if I take an assignment and then I can’t meet the deadline?

A: Try not to worry about it — many deadlines are fungible. Try to build in extra time, until you get a better sense of how long it takes you to do things.

12. Deal with clients

Q: Do I need a contract?

A: Only if you want to get paid to write. There are plenty of examples online. Your contract doesn’t have to be long or complicated — a brief email your client responds to with ‘I agree’ that outlines the deadline/wordcount/pay terms will work. You can also use online-signature solutions for a full-blown contract, such as DocuSign, or attach a Word doc.

Q: Should I get an up-front deposit to start working?

A: With business clients, absolutely yes. Fifty percent up-front deposit to begin work is typical. Publications don’t work that way, they will pay on acceptance or publication. Strive for the former.

Q: What if clients want me to be available on nights or weekends, when I want time off?

A: It’s your business to run. You set the parameters of when you’ll be available. Usually, it’ll work out fine, but you may occasionally turn down a client who wants you available 24/7.

Q: What if I’m in a different time zone than my clients, will that be a problem?

A: Mostly no. Beyond a first (virtual) meeting, most clients don’t need a lot of real-time contact.

Q: What if I invoice my client but they’re not paying me?

A: You have a range of options to get flaky freelance clients to pay up. If it happens a lot, realize that you need to change where and how you prospect for clients. Check out our full freelancer invoicing guide for more useful tips.

Q: What if I want to ask for a raise?

A: Like all businesses, you should be looking to raise your rates steadily as you go. Here’s a post on how to raise rates with existing clients.

Learn how to become a freelance writer

And there you have it — my epic compendium of all the basic questions I get asked on how to become a freelance writer!

The big thing I’ve learned in my decade helping writers get clients is that no matter how many questions I answer…there are always more.

What are your freelance writing questions? Leave them in the comments and let’s get you some help.

300+ Hours of Trainings. One Affordable Price.


  1. Jeremy K. Delancy

    I’ve been a Den Member for years and learned several new things from this post. Some of them are hard truths that I’ve been avoiding but others are points that inspire me to go on.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, I’d be curious to hear which ones those are, Jeremy! What hard truth had you not gotten from our many Den trainings?

      • Jeremy K. Delancy

        You got me Carol! A comment section is no place for sloppy writing.
        Let me separate the hard truth that I have avoided for years:
        Mindset first – It is impossible to think your way out of a fear of failure/rejection. You have to take action and accept that rejection is just an opinion. Took years for me to accept/understand that.
        The several new things are:
        *”You can look for LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) who connect to all comers, and use LinkedIn’s ‘Discover’ listings to find more people who might be good contacts.” Once I set up my profile, that was it. Never had a plan for building a network.
        *How to become a story idea machine.

        Thanks for the question. It forced me realize the ambiguity of my first comment.

        • Carol Tice

          No problem! I was just curious to learn what was new/most helpful. And yes, I find many folks set up a profile, and then do NOTHING on LinkedIn. No connections or status updates or participation in groups…and then they wonder why it’s not getting them great inbound leads.

      • Noel Chan

        Great tips! I’m gonna share these to my friends who’s struggling in finding his client.

  2. Brittany

    Hi Carol,

    I have a B.A. in journalism, I love to write and worked in public relations for a brief period after graduating from college in 2007. The problem is, I haven’t worked in the “writing field” in so many years as I found myself in a situation years ago where I needed a full time job and have been “stuck there” ever since (I work in customer service for manufacturing). I really want to become a freelance writer, but I’m worried I’ve lost too much time to go back. Any advice?

    • Carol Tice

      Brittany, Dear Abby used to get that sort of question all the time, about whether it’s ‘too late’ to do what you always wanted. “I always wanted to go to medical school, but by the time I get out, I’ll be so old. Should I still do it?”

      Her answer: And how old will you be in 7 years if you DON’T go? 😉

      I have coached writers who have spent 20 YEARS out of the ‘writing field’ raising kids, and got them back into it.

      I mean…I coach people who have NO degree (like me!) and have NEVER worked in writing, in any capacity, and they become freelance writers. Perhaps that helps you see the strengths you bring to the table?

    • TerryC

      Brittany, right in your comment is a great topic for articles:
      (I work in customer service for manufacturing).

      Businesses need to understand what profitability good customer service brings to their company. What does that mean? What constitutes good customer service?

      You already have a niche: the type of manufacturing field in which you are working. You could target trade magazines, which can be good payers.

      I worked in customer service software, did training, etc., so this is one niche I could target. You have inside knowledge pertinent to one particular industry, so you already have a depth most do not have. Go for that, for starters, and you can get some good clips out of the deal.



    I love ‘Make a Living Writing’! Thanks to Carol Tice and company. This article is wonderful, and provides a lot of very useful information; presented in an easy to follow way. I know it must take you and your team some time to prepare and publish these articles. I love the content in your article, the Q&A at the end was a nice touch. Thank you!!

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, this one took a few minutes for sure, Kevin! Glad the blog helps you.

  4. Angie

    Hands down one of the best articles for us Freelance Writer Wallflowers Freelance Writing articles always inspire me but from this I’ve taken away a LOT of advice I can tweak into bite sized tasks and keep myself… on the dance floor and away from that wall! I now I have a list and whenever I fear failure, rejection, inexperienced Ill consult my list and taken action INSTEAD of brushing off my dream! And as a first step, I’ve commented here. A first after reading your articles for over 4 years!

    • Carol Tice

      Wow, you’re the second ‘first commenter’ on this post! Guess I just have to write 4700 words to get the wallflowers to overcome their shyness. Glad this helped you!

  5. Denise

    Such good stuff, Carol. I’m bookmarking this one 🙂 .

    I have an English language degree, and I’m still nervous (OK, sh*t scared) about messing up. I haven’t even started yet, but I want to give it my best shot.

    Over the years, I’ve allowed my writing to slip into sloppy writing — a habit I must now undo.

    I’ll still move forward, regardless. The first step is to fill in my LinkedIn profile. I’ll have to figure out how…

    I have yet *another* question for you. I was considering focusing solely on British English writing. Yes, that means I would cut off a massive chunk of potential clients, and that bothers me a lot.

    I’m worried about writing in American English, though. I know a few of the nuances; the differences in spellings etc., but is it enough? What is your opinion: yay or nay?

    For my niche, instead of personal development, which I mentioned on one of your other posts, I’m now thinking something English language-related would be better.

    I love learning about the English language, learning new words, learning foreign languages (not fluent in any other than my own, unfortunately), expanding my vocabulary. That’s what led me to learn proofreading, after all.

    • Carol Tice

      Sadly, writing about the English language isn’t a money-earning niche that I’m aware of. I don’t think the British/American English thing is such a huge obstacle. If editors like your work, they’re willing to correct the odd different spelling in a draft.

      I meet so many writers who indicate they’re ‘terrified’ of making mistakes. To which I say terrified…of what? Do you never make mistakes in other realms of your life? Mistakes are human, we all make them, and they won’t be the end of your career. Ask me how I know…

  6. Josh Tran

    Hi Carol,

    These are amazing tips! They give me a ton of ideas on how to start my freelance writing career. I have a couple questions if you don’t mind:

    1/ About my writing skill – I haven’t touched writing in 3 years but I used to ghostwrite study guides and marketing materials for an education institution a couple years back. Now I want to get into writing for the marketing/advertising industry but I’m not too confident in my writing ability. Is there any guide/course that you can recommend me so I can improve my writing skills?

    2/ Samples – as I mentioned above, I was mostly ghostwriting before and have no sample. Before reading this guide I was considering writing articles and post them on Medium/Linkedin Publishing and use them as my sample. Should I just scrap this plan and try to do pro-bono work instead – the way you recommend in this article? Again I am not too confident in my writing skills at the moment and I don’t want to screw up my samples.

    3/ I have an Upwork account that I haven’t touched in many years and I was considering trying it out on Upwork. I used to work on Elance back in the day and it wasn’t too bad but from your experience it’s not worth it. Should I just do it to gain some experience?

    Thanks for your advice Carol. I’ve been a long time lurker and this is my first comment on your blog. This blog has taught me many things and I’m sure there are still a lot for me to learn.

    Cheers and have a good day.


    • Carol Tice

      Congrats on leaving your first comment, Josh!

      1) You don’t need a course — 3 years really isn’t a gigantic gap. I coach writers who’ve been out of the market for 20 years and go find clients! You gain confidence by pleasing clients, not by doing writing exercises off in a corner.
      2) Self-published clips don’t impress prospects like clips where you pleased a client, so I’m a fan of pro bono vs Medium. Medium can get you some exposure…maybe. Or not.
      3) No.

  7. Paul F. Brown

    Thank you, Carol, for your great advice! I’m excited and a bit worried about making the jump into freelancing this summer, but am thankful that my wife—also a freelancer—shared this helpful article with me. You’ve addressed so many of my fears and questions. I’ll definitely be checking your site often!

    • Carol Tice

      Glad this helped you! And that you have a helpful wife. 😉

  8. Robin

    Hey Carol. Found your blog through Linkedin and already loving it. I’m not sure whether I’m interested to go into freelance writing but, I love blogging. In fact, I sold my blog in 2010 and had concentrated in building my career in the brick and mortar domain, until two months ago where I started blogging again. I think I have better patience now as I have grown older and after finding God. Keep up your good work gorgeous and God bless you!

  9. Kavleen Kaur

    I need to thank you for this wonderful article.
    Thanks you shared great content.
    keep it up.

  10. LaTisha

    Hi Carol,

    I have saved so many PDF’s from you! Thank you for the organized advice for newbies. I want to start my career writing magazine articles and later add other horizontal niches like white papers, copywriting, etc. However, I feel stuck at the starting line. I will be sending out pitches to write for local (statewide) publications this week. Should I also try to pitch for those other type of jobs now or wait until I gain more experience? I’ve done my research and am excited to get started but I don’t want to get ahead of myself, & go in too many directions at once. Thanks!

  11. Megan

    This was so incredibly helpful. Thank you so much for compiling this!

  12. Terry E. Cohen

    Fantastic article, Carol. I’m about to start back up with freelance writing after a big hiatus (computers, elected public office, moving, birthing and raising kids after 40, etc.), so this really got my “juices” going. I even wrote down several story ideas stimulated by this post without even going to the linked posts–which I most certainly will do.


    • Carol Tice

      Wow, cool, Terry! My hat’s off to people willing to serve in public office these days…

      • TerryC

        Thanks, Carol. A labor of love, a tough learning experience about the dark side of politics, and who knows what fodder for writing now. Wrote my own marketing materials and won both election and re-election. Hoping to get into some paying markets for political analysis as one target. Tips welcome.

        • Carol Tice

          Or writing speeches or campaign emails for candidates? I’d think you have a VERY strong calling card for this niche, Terry.

          • TerryC

            Thanks, Carol. I’ve been digging for contacts beyond the usual volunteer spaces (a girl’s gotta eat). The national level is a tougher nut to crack, but that’s also where the greater funding is. Will look at other levels, too. Thanks for ideas and the encouragement!

  13. Joey

    I appreciate these nuggets of insight, especially from the point of view of a newbie. I love writing and am tired of being in the corporate rat race. I’m looking forward to finding work and building this business from the laptop up. Thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      Glad you found the post helpful, Joey!

  14. sarah shahzad

    hi carol sarah is here.well this article is amazing.& you provides us a lot of very useful information here. nice making a smooth easy enjoyable read! 🙂 thank you so much. well i love to write as well my own poetry.. i write short poems & this information hit right to the core of the heart 🙂 really. plz also visit my website; i look forward to reading more of yours because you have an incredible mind,Such beautiful work, keep it up 🙂 keep sharing..

  15. Audrey Frasure

    Thank you for this. Your article addresses all the fears and questions that plaque a newbie such as myself. ( I have the chops but second-guess everything) This piece leaves no stone upturned.

    So inspiring. Love it, Love it, Love it.

    Now to implement the dream.

    Best wishes and continued prosperity to you,


  16. Simran

    Thank you so much! This was super helpful and gave me a lot of tips for my blog 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      That’s interesting, since it’s about freelance writing for clients, rather than writing for our own blogs… would love to hear how this post helped you, Simran!


    I would like to improve my writing skills. I just recently wrote an article for a social enterprise and was told that I need to get Journalism training especially for blog writing. Can you help me please?

    • Carol Tice

      That’s very interesting, Daniella-Jade — you’re not the first person recently to ask me about this. I’ve taught a 4-week Journalism School crash course before, you’re sort of making me want to make it available again!

      Beyond that, when I got started, I took a few basic courses through my local university’s extension program, when I realized I was getting into freelance writing. They may be virtual now, but maybe that’s a resource?

      You can also study the publication or site you’re trying to get into, see how they source experts, how they quote, how they lead articles, cite sources, conclude pieces. I think you can learn much that way. Hope that helps!

      And of course, we have some journalism resources and 24/7 forums where you can ask pro writers for help, including a writing feedback forum for peer feedback on your writing, in my community site — see that tab of this blog for details.

  18. John Spear

    This is really good, I have start taking notes, thanks for sharing 🙂

  19. Cork Hutson

    Hello Carol – I’ve been enjoying reading your posts and perusing your site. I’m in my late 60’s and at the tail end of a career in the military/gov’t intelligence field. My goal is to transition into freelance writing as a sort of retirement supplemental (for both financial and mental/emotional wellbeing!) endeavor. During my career, I’ve done tons of interpretive analysis and report writing. On the personal side, I’ve written on personal finance, family, and career transition issues. Most of it is not publicly published, except for two ebooks and a few blog posts. The experience, however, has been invaluable. I do have a domain name (, but it’s not really up and running yet.

    With all that being said, it is still daunting to actually break into a paid freelance career (or post career). My goal is is to capitalize on both my career and personal/family experience (we have raised five successful children and bought/sold many rental properties and have successfully run a music teaching business over the years). So, I look forward to learning more from you and other successful freelancers. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge. – Cork Hutson

    • Carol Tice

      I think a career in the MILITARY is daunting — and freelance writing ought to be a snap, after that. 😉 You’ve got the courage, right?

  20. Maria Lyzzelle Ceralde

    I was doing some homework for my freelance writing services and I found this among the top 10 writing forum sites. I will definitely read this more. I have always wanted to do some writing but I always get sidetracked but now, I have more time to do this interest and eventually, make a living out of it. The tips are really practical and achievable. Am glad I found this. Thank you so much!

    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Maria. So cool you found your way to Make a Living Writing. Tons of great resources here to help you make money writing. Keep going.

  21. Rose Gob

    Hello Carol. Your site is really cool and very helpful. I am still working on my writing skills and to get an assessment if I can write well enough to earn online, I have posted one article in EZine. It got accepted and posted on EZine. I tried once again but this time, my article is still pending approval.

    I have a question, EZine does not pay but my Ezine article is very searchable. Would you recommend to keep on writing articles for EZine? Or should I try sending my articles to targeted publications and see if it gets accepted? Your Monster list of Paying Markets for Writers gave me an idea to try but it still feels daunting.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Rose — great question! Sadly, EZine is a complete waste of your time.

      This is a site that used to rank well, about 100 Google algorithm updates ago, for quickie articles on various topics. But Google caught on that most of what was being posted in these sort of free-article sites was low value. I’d say I haven’t seen an EZine article appear in a search result in about a decade. Not sure what you mean by ‘very searchable,’ but I would doubt it’s going to help you get discovered.

      The thing is, most people who post on sites like Ezines have OTHER expertise they’re trying to sell – consulting, speaking, they want people to sign up for their insurance company’s products… that sort of thing. As writers, you’re giving away your core product on Ezines — and showing possible clients that you’re willing to work for free. It hasn’t been a great strategy for writers, using these low-value sites to get published.

      In general, submitting pre-written articles to publications isn’t a good strategy either. Editors like to assign. You’ll want to learn how to write query letters — have some good resources on that in my Freelance Writers Den community, including a review forum where you can post and get feedback.

      Hope that helps!

  22. Pinky Yadav

    Thanks for sharing the complete guide with tips at one places, for a beginner It will be very really helpful .

    Keep guiding and sharing the awesome content here .

    Regards ,

  23. Stephen Brown

    Thanks for posting this. There is a lot of food for thought. I am a middle-aged academic soon to be downsized and so forced to make an unexpected career change. I love to write, and wonder whether freelancing is a path to take. Your article lays things out and clearly discusses the pros and cons of such a business endeavor.

  24. Jared James

    This looks a perfect guide, thanks for sharing 🙂

  25. Sara

    Hey Carol, great compendium, thank you!

    “There’s a ton of paid writing for businesses, where they will dictate the topics. “— Can you please elaborate on this part? Where does one find these jobs with no experience?

    • Carol Tice

      Sara, my entire month of September is devoted to teaching exactly that — how to position your business for the industry niches you have some familiarity with, identify prospects, and pitch them.

      If you’re interested, I still have 30 seats left for the 100-seat, 3-month mastermind I’m running Oct-Dec. based on that bootcamp, Get Your First Freelance Writing Jobs.

      While in many cases, like blogging for business, we may come up with topics (and ours are usually better than theirs!), there are other cases like writing website content or case studies, where idea generation isn’t involved.

      Anyway, full details about this mastermind and all the benefits and support we offer for your launch journey here: You could self-study the bootcamp materials in October and get 3 months of support on your launch – if you apply, say you plan to self-study in October.

  26. Kathy

    Thank you for creating this valuable resource. You’ve given me several action items that I can do right now. I particularly love the idea of finding an accountability buddy. Together we can achieve so much more. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  27. Anna Rogers

    Oh my God, good job on writing this guide. For newcomers into this business it will be very useful and I want to admit as a professional writer this article has a lot of info even for pros that want to upgrade their knowledge. I think that it is very important to have some sort of a portfolio with a lot of articles to show it on your profile. This is the thing that I did first when I just started writing. After one week I was getting a lot of different orders because my customers just checked what I could do and then realized that I can do their work.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Anna — Looks like you tried to leave us a link to an academic-paper mill site… we don’t allow that, because ghosting papers for students is unethical, and not part of legit freelance writing career. But look forward to your comments if you find the posts interesting! Around here, we learn to not sit around waiting for ‘orders’ to come in on a mill dashboard — we go out and find out own clients.

  28. Caitlin Loggins

    Hi Carol, I read your blog post on LinkedIn mastery for freelance writers and just wanted to share the link to my profile with you, feel free to send me a connection request 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      Big tip, Caitlin — if you want to connect on LinkedIn with an influencer, don’t ask them to send YOU an invite. You send them one.

  29. Mari

    Greetings Carol & fellow readers!,

    Thank you so much for your blog.
    I absolutely love to read the great resources.

    Let me admit that, I’ve been stuck in paralysis analysis for a while, (2 years); about taking the extra step to becoming a Freelance Writer.

    I’m stuck because, I don’t have any idea ‘how to market myself’, and being super shy and an introvert makes it harder.

    Another impediment is that,
    I have read quite a few articles about the ProAct Bill to take effect nationally, and how it could affect freelancing.
    Hopefully, I am misunderstanding & wrong.

    Freelance Writing has been my dream for a while, but I just don’t know what to do.

    My apologies for my worrisome message.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Mari —

      We do have work to do to get one provision of the PRO Act changed — my reporting on that issue is here:

      But the US economy depends so strongly on freelancing, in Covid more than ever! So I’m confident that we’re going to have a positive outcome.

      2 years is a long time to sit and wait and not take action — you might want to check out my Freelance Writers Den community for courses that would give you concrete ‘how to market yourself’ solutions, including a whole course on how to do it on LinkedIn, which is perfect for introverts.

      • Mari

        Hi Carol—

        Much appreciated for replying to my comment and the reference. I will definitely look into the Freelance Writers Den.


  30. Claudz

    Hello Carol,

    I’ve been a silent follower and reader of your site. I receive a notification on my phone daily about articles from your site, which I read upon waking up every morning. I learn a lot from you every time. I am a freelance writer but a generalist, for a couple of years now, but still not earning much, and I don’t know how to rate myself as a writer because clients keep on saying they can’t afford higher rates. I am planning to niche down as a writer. I do enjoy writing about mental health, being an introvert, personal development, and self-care (I don’t if it belongs to the Lifestyle niche). I hope I can find my corner in the writinf world. I love your articles and your book about being a recession-free freelancer. I already have a blog site but it’s still a work in progress. God bless!

    • Angie Mansfield

      Hi – Finding a niche is definitely the way to higher-paying clients so you can make a comfortable living at this. We have a bootcamp all about this in the Freelance Writers Den called Get Your First Freelance Writing Jobs – even though you’ve had freelance jobs already, that bootcamp has some excellent information on finding a good niche and marketing yourself more effectively. I highly recommend checking it out so you can build out of those can’t-afford-you clients. 🙂

  31. Emer Timmins

    This is a great post with lots of useful tips about making a living as a freelance writer. It was useful in particular what you wrote about finding clients through Linkedin and how the writing websites are notorious for low wages. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  32. Dormir Hoy

    Excellent post, thank you very much.

  33. Ava

    Hi Carol, always liked your tips and these are no exception. Thank you for sharing!


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