To Become a Successful Freelance Writer, Start Here

Carol Tice

Freelance writer starts down the road to successFar and away the question I get most often on this blog is how to become a freelance writer.

There are so many things you could do first off. Which is the right one?

But here’s what troubles me: Often, a year or two later, I’ll get that very same writer popping up with the same question. “Gee, if only I could figure out the one best, fastest, low-cost way to get started.”

Or “As soon as I figure out my best niche, I’m going to get this freelance writing thing rolling!”

And I think…yike. You still haven’t started? That’s not good.

So today, I want everyone who’s trying to figure out where the starting gate is for their freelance writing career to get started.

Yes, today. This is it!

After today, I want you to say, “I’m working on my freelance writing career.”

No more ‘How-do-I-get-started….’ Because you will have started.

Two ways to start your freelance writing career

There are two basic things you can do to get off the launch pad as a freelance writer, right away.

The first is one anyone can do, right now.

1) Start Somewhere.

Stop trying to figure out the one, best, fastest, lowest-cost way to launch your freelance writing career.

Stop endlessly fretting over what your most ideal writing niche might be and how you will know which topics will be best for you.

Stop worrying that you’re not good enough or don’t know enough.

Instead, take action.

The best place to start is: somewhere.

Doesn’t it matter where? In a way, no.

That’s because taking action is powerful. Yes, you may make mistakes and it may take you a while to figure out your path.

Just putting yourself out there, in whatever way, begins your process of learning how freelance writing works. You’re one step further down the road of knowledge about the freelance marketplace.

You’ve begun the critical process of trial-and-error that will allow you to start learning about the freelance writing marketplace.

And that knowledge is what will ultimately result in your building a thriving business.

So that’s huge.

Possible starting points

What step you take will depend on your goals as a freelance writer, your experience, and your interests. Realize that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to where to begin.

But there are plenty of things you can do to start trying to find entry-level freelance writing gigs.

Do you have a business you patronize that has a crappy website? Maybe you’ll start by asking them if you could redo it pro bono to get a portfolio sample.

Maybe you’ll spend the day building your LinkedIn connections — and letting them know you’d appreciate referrals if they hear anyone is looking for a writer.

Or you’ll finally send that query letter to that magazine you always wanted to pitch.

Or you’ll go to an in-person networking meeting and starting telling people you’re a freelance writer.

Set up a Twitter account, maybe. Get business cards.

Whatever it is, you’ll be that first, single step down the road. And we all know how every long journey begins.

This is exactly how I built my freelance business. Totally trial and error. Eventually, I figured it out.

What’s that? You hate trial and error? Don’t want it to take forever for you to figure this out and start earning?

That brings us to the other big way to get your freelance business launched:

2) Get help.

Stop guessing, worrying, and wondering if you know enough to launch a freelance business.

Instead of being held back by fears that you don’t know the secret handshake, don’t ‘get’ online writing markets, or whatever else keeps you stuck, admit you need assistance. Then, get it.

Take a shortcut and get a big shot of expert advice that fills in the blanks. Find a mentor, or take a freelance business course so you understand how this game works, and how to win at it.

Understand that if you don’t want to be a starving artist, you need a different mentality: The one that says, “I’m running a business here.”

Then, make sure your business is set up right. Learn how freelance contracts work and how to negotiate a good one. Find out how to operate a home-based, freelance business and make sure it turns a profit.

Yes, this means investing in your fledgling business. But it’s an investment that’s bound to pay off, in saved time and effort.

What have you learned about running a freelance writing business? Share your get-started tips in the comments.

Freelance Business Bootcamp

56 Comments

  1. dhiviya

    i’m a graduate engineer but my love for writing brought me here and i dont know how when and where to start , pls help me to work as a freelance writer ! i have a group in fb where i am writing a novel .

    • Carol Tice

      Dhiviya, there are 700+ posts full of help right here on the blog! You can also check out my 1 on 1 mentoring and my Freelance Writers Den community at the tabs up top.

      Initial tip: Writing a novel is generally not part of freelance writing, and doesn’t lead to reliable income for most. Nonfiction writing for businesses and publications is what most freelance writers focus on.

  2. Megan

    I worked as a freelance writer at writerslabs.com, but after reading your article I decided to try something new! Thank you for this!!!

  3. Stefanie

    Hi Carol,

    I’m a freelance writer, just starting up my business. I’m in the process of setting up a killer website and, thanks to a lot of your guidance on this blog, taking other crucial steps towards success. I’m feeling confident after reading a lot of your posts. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve read your posts and thought, “Wow! She knew exactly what I was going to ask!”

    I was wondering, though, if you have an updated link for the online freelance writing courses. I clicked on the one in this post, but it’s more than a year old. I definitely want to expand my freelance knowledge and best prepare myself for what lies ahead.

    Thanks for everything!
    —Stefanie

    • Carol Tice

      Sure — they’re all now at http://usefulwritingcourses.com !

      If you need the biz-basics knowledge, there is an ebook version of Freelance Business Bootcamp that you can check out — see the banner at the bottom of the post.

  4. Michael Levanduski

    Excellent post! Getting started is often the hardest thing to do, but in the big scheme of things it is also the most important…by far.

  5. Mandy Eve-Barnett

    Since my last post I managed to secure two small projects on Freelancer.com – I was ging to cancel my accoutn when they came through. Both projects were easy and took me in total about 30 minutes. My pay $123.00 so good hourly rate!
    I have kept my account on the lowest membership possible and bid on a couple of other projects. Once these lapse I will move on.
    Unfortunately, as yet, I have not found anything on PeoplePerHour that suits.
    I’ll keep looking for opportunites.
    Once again thank you for such excellent advice and views.

    • Carol Tice

      Mandy, PeoplePerHour has a reputation for really low rates! To earn more, instead of signing up for more and more bid-site platforms where you can be in a race to the bottom on prices, think about prospecting to find your own clients.

      There is always the small decent fluke project you might score on one of these, as you found with your Freelancer gig, but relying on these is generally not a great way to build a secure, lucrative freelance business.

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