How to Make Money Writing Online As a Freelance Writer
One of the best ways to make money online is to work as a freelance writer. Ever since Google introduced the Penguin and Panda algorithms 7-8 years ago, hiring a good freelance writer has become more important than ever before for business owners and internet marketers.
I remember back in the 2000s, when internet marketers didn’t really care about the content. Back then, SEO was all about getting backlinks – by hook or crook. Keyword stuffing, content duplication – every black hat SEO strategy was used to get a website to rank higher on Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages).
The content didn’t matter. Just write some gibberish stuffed with a bunch of keywords, do some nifty SEO tricks and watch your website go up the SERPs! Well, no wonder there was so much web spam back then. Penguin and Panda put an end to that, and thank goodness for that.
That also created a huge demand for freelance writers, content writers or copywriters. I have been a full-time content writer for a better part of five years.
In this article, I am going to reveal some (but not all) of my secrets. But before I get started, I want to thank Nate for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Alright then! Let’s begin with the one thing you really want to know.
How Much Can You Really Make As A Freelance Writer?
That depends. There are some that make a LOT – and by that I mean a LOT. I do know some freelance writers – especially copywriters – who make more than that $250,000/year.
And then there are others who barely make $100/month. You should aim for something in the middle, like what I’ve been making for the past few years – a good, five-figure income.
Now, I may not be the best paid content writer in the world, but I earn enough to have a comfortable middle class lifestyle. I don’t expect to get rich from freelance writing, but I’m debt-free, live in my own apartment, have no expensive habits and more than happy with what I make.
Also, it helps that I have no manager or supervisor looking over my shoulders and pretty much choose any schedule I want for my work. I stay busy for about 8 hours a day with my writing, have time to go to the gym every afternoon, watch a movie every weekend, go on a date or meet up with my friends whenever I want to.
Is that the sort of life you want? Then read on!
Who is a Freelance Writer?
A freelance writer is someone who provides a writing service to clients based on their requirements and gets paid for it. A freelance writer can be a content writer (like myself), a copywriter, an eBook writer, or a ghost writer. He or she is essentially a writer for hire.
As a freelance writer, you are not an employee and you don’t work for anyone except for clients on a project-to-project basis.
You are not entitled to any employee benefits and your clients have no obligations towards you, except to compensate you for the work done for them based on the agreed rate.
You are your own boss, you are your own business, and you have to see yourself as a self-employed business owner.
What Do You Need To Be A Full-Time Freelance Writer?
Before I tell you what you need to be a full-time freelance writer, here’s what you don’t need to get started.
- A College Degree – Well, I have one, but none of my clients asked me about it and it is completely unrelated to writing.
- Work Experience – I won’t say that work experience does not matter – it does matter. Client reviews and testimonials are very important as is your writing portfolio. But you don’t need that to get started. I didn’t have any writing experience when I got started in this profession about 5 years ago.
- Capital – Really, you don’t need any money to get started as a freelance writer. All you need is a functional laptop, a word processor and a fast internet connection and a few other things. More on this later, but just keep in mind that you don’t need to invest any capital to be a freelance writer. If you want to start a blog (which you should), It will take a small amount of startup funds (less than $100/year)
A Short Checklist Of The Things You Need To Get Started.
- Desktop Computer or Laptop – Does not have to be a fancy one; just one that gets the job done.
- Internet Connection: You need a reliable internet connection.
- Word Processor: You can get a free word processor from Google Docs or sign up for Office365 from Microsoft.
- A Website or WordPress Blog: You can host your portfolio on your own WordPress blog. This allows your clients to take a look and decide whether you’re worth hiring or not. You only need to pay for web hosting which can be as little as $3/month.
- PayPal Account – For obvious reasons – how else are you going to get paid? I also like Payoneer.
- Copyscape: Copyscape is the best plagiarism check tool on the internet. Many clients expect writers to send a screenshot of the Copyscape results as a proof that the content is unique and original.
- Grammarly or Ginger – Every writer needs an editing and proofreading tool, and Grammarly and Ginger are two of the best. I use both of these tools. They have their respective strengths and weaknesses, but are as good as it gets.
That’s it. That’s all you need to get started as a freelance writer.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Making Money Online as a Freelance Writer
Focus On Your Mindset
If there is one thing I would advise you to focus on before getting started as a freelance writer – it’s your mindset.
If you want to succeed in this profession, you should see yourself as an entrepreneur and not as a worker or employee. You should not view your clients as your bosses, but as customers or buyers.
You should be willing to learn and upgrade your skills constantly. You should not be scared of criticism. If the criticism is fair, learn from it, and get better.
There are many non-writing tasks you should do such as marketing, networking and taking care of your accounts, taxes and finances that are just as important as writing itself. You should invest time in marketing in particular.
Focus is very important for a freelance writer. This is something many freelance writers such as myself struggle with. You’ll need to exercise discipline and not get distracted while working on a project.
When you’re before your laptop for hours without anyone watching over you, there is always a temptation to visit Facebook or Twitter and see what’s going on, to surf the internet or watch funny YouTube videos.
Resist that! When you’re at work, focus on the work 100%. I know this is hard from personal experience. But if you want to be more productive and earn more as a freelance writer, you must develop focus.
Yes, you need to be a great writer too. That goes without saying.
Pick Your Niche or Area of Specialty
It’s great that you want to be a freelance writer. But what sort of freelance writer do you want to be? What’s your niche or area of specialty?
I am a content writer, and specialize in writing articles and blog posts for small businesses and internet marketers. You should develop your own specialty based on what you’re good at, and where your skills lie.
I strongly suggest picking a niche or area of specialty if you want to get noticed. You can’t be someone who writes anything and everything. For instance, I know I am not all that good at copywriting, and I would be a very poor fiction writer or a novelist.
I am good at what I do and have stuck to that, without getting distracted for the last 5 years. This has been highly rewarding for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I politely decline clients that ask me to do a copywriting task for them, as that’s not something I am 100% confident about.
You must have come across celebrated journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule for becoming an expert at absolutely anything. You can master absolutely anything provided you work hard at it for long enough. It’s the same with writing – as long as you pick a niche that matches your strengths, learning or expertise.
Here’s a quick look at the different niches for freelance writing.
#1: Content Writing.
Content writing could mean writing articles and blog posts, web content for businesses, things such as the “About Me” page, profiles of individuals, etc. Content writing will always be a valuable skill as good, high quality content is one of the most important ranking factors on Google. A good content writer could make $25,000 or more a year working part-time or much more doing it full-time.
Copywriting or business writing is a more complex writing skill than content writing. Copywriters are paid to write highly effective, eye-catching copy which is used for advertising and marketing purposes. I know some brilliant copywriters who make well over $100,000 a year.
#3: eBook Writing.
I know a lot of freelance writers who ghostwrite eBooks for small business owners. I have ghostwritten a few eBooks myself. Writing non-fiction eBooks is all that different from content writing. But writing novels or novellas require a lot of talent and creativity. You either have it or don’t have it. There is good money to be made if you’re very good at writing eBooks. Good eBook writers take only a couple of days to write an eBook can expect to get paid between $500 and $2,000 for that. Not bad!
#4: Podcast and Video Script Writing
Did you know that most podcasters and YouTubers actually read from a prepared script? That’s true – it is very difficult to create a professional looking podcast or YouTube video when you speak off the cuff. I know many freelancers who make very good money by writing the script for YouTube videos and podcasts.
What if you have absolutely zero writing ability and still want to make money as a freelance writer? Well, transcription is a great option for you. You only have to listen carefully to audio or video files and transcribe that in clear text.
If you are from a non-English speaking country such as Germany, Sweden or Italy, and speak English well, in addition to your native language, then why don’t you try your hand at translation? I know an English to Mandarin translator who makes a lot of money. German, Spanish, Swedish, Russian, French and Arabic translators are also in high demand.
#7: Review Writing.
Review writing is very controversial and dangerous. You should certainly NOT write paid reviews on Amazon, Yelp or Google Places. That will get you sued for millions. Writing paid reviews may seem like easy money, but it’s dangerous and stay away from that. Don’t listen to anyone who says writing paid reviews is okay.
What you can do, though, is to write well-thought out product reviews for internet marketers or affiliate marketers to be published on their own website – NOT on a third-party site. There is an important distinction between the two.
#8: Product Description Writing
It’s illegal to write paid Amazon reviews, but there is nothing wrong about writing Amazon product descriptions for online sellers or small businesses. There are literally millions of products on Amazon, who writes their description? A freelance writer, of course. This is a good way to make quick money, but it can get boring after a while. So mix up the product descriptions with other writing tasks. You can supplement your normal writing income with Amazon product descriptions. Another easy way of making some money.
Set Up Your Own Freelance Writer Website
Once you have decided on your niche, it’s time to build your own freelancer writer website. This is really important. Why?
Well, remember what I said about how freelancing is a business? As a freelance writer, you are a living and breathing business and have to behave like one.
This means you need to have some visibility of your own outside of the freelance platforms. A website is how you get found by prospective clients and it is at the center of your marketing efforts.
You can choose to build a WordPress website, or try other options for creating the website, such as Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, or Shopify. They have pre-built themes and blogging engines to accommodate people who don’t have any web development experience. WordPress, however, is the best option by far, as it allows you to customize the website with over 50,000 different free plugins and give it a unique and professional look. It has pre-built themes as well so no coding experience is necessary.
Step-by-step guide of setting up a WordPress blog/portfolio for your writing projects
The website should have a home page, a portfolio page for showcasing your niche or expertise, a blog where you can showcase your writing skills, an About Us page, a Contact Me page and an Order Page, where clients can place an order.
The writing samples should be keyword rich and specific to the niche that you want to target. The SEO of your site is very important. Optimize your content for the bestselling keywords in your niche.
Where to Find Freelance Writing Jobs Online
So far so good?
Now I’m going to show you how to find the best freelance writing jobs.
When you are new to freelance writing, you should look at several different places for finding the best freelance jobs. Some will work, others won’t. The important thing is to keep trying until something sticks.
For me, personally, I looked for freelance jobs at a number of places and platforms and was fortunate to find one where I found great success – Fiverr.
I will talk more about Fiverr later. But here’s what you should understand – there is no perfect platform where you are guaranteed to find freelance writing jobs. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.
Also, don’t get tied on to just one freelance platform. Freelancing platforms are highly uncertain and even if you do well on them, there is no way to tell for how long your success is going to last.
I know many freelancing platforms that have gone bust, and many veteran freelancers who went from $10,000/month to $0 because they were shut out of a platform, for various reasons.
Freelancing, I have to warn you, is a very uncertain world where you often find yourself walking through a treacherous path. Keep your eyes wide open, remain sharp and alert at all times, and never do anything that violates the Terms of Service of the platform you are on.
This is very, very important.
There Are Four Ways To Find Freelance Writing Jobs…
- Online Freelancing Platforms (like Fiverr)
- Freelance Writing Job Boards
- Website Job Alerts
- Classified Ads
Freelance Writing Jobs Boards
Freelance writing job boards are great places to find jobs with established clients. I have personally not tried them a lot, but I do know many writers who find good high paying writing jobs from such sites.
Some good examples of freelance writing job boards are…
There is always a good chance that you could find an excellent opportunity from these sites. Take your chance and see what happens.
Freelance Writing Jobs Alerts
There are online services such as Gorkana where you can setup freelance writing job alerts within your niche. This is a great way to land high paying clients such as Fortune 500 companies. But don’t expect to land any of these clients without a professional website and portfolio. This will make you look like a legitimate writer.
You can also set up Google Alerts to receive job alerts for freelance writing jobs from corporate clients. Most of these freelance writing jobs come with titles such as Customer Content Creator or Senior Journalist – don’t worry too much about that. What they really need is a freelance writer who knows his or her stuff.
Classified Ads are a great way to look for jobs closer to home. There are probably many businesses in your city that would prefer to hire a local writer who they can meet face to face rather than someone from a freelance platform who is a thousand miles away.
Such businesses routinely post “wanted” ads on online classifieds such as Craigslist, GumTree and ClassifiedAds. All of these sites are free, and you should make time to scan through the job postings for writing jobs in your area.
You can also post your own ads signaling your availability, so that the businesses can get in touch with you.
Online Freelancing Platforms
I have been using online freelancing platforms to find writing jobs for many years now. The one platform I like more than most is Fiverr. I am sure there are other great platforms out there, but this is the one I really make money.
They are all popular platforms for freelance writers, but I don’t really know much about them. So, I will focus on Fiverr and why it is such a good place to find freelance writing jobs.
What You Need to Know About Fiverr
Fiverr is in my mind the best freelancing platform in the world. Why? Well, to begin with, I know from personal experience that you can make real money as a writer on this platform.
Fiverr gets a lot of traffic, and ranks high on Alexa. There are millions of unique “buyers” and “sellers” on Fiverr. Sellers outnumber Buyers in a big way, which is why Fiverr is to an extent biased towards buyers.
But that’s okay. Nothing wrong with that, as a freelance platform can exist only if there are buyers. There are many sites like Fiverr that have tried to copy their business model, but have failed to find any traction. You can make real money on Fiverr, which is more than what I can say about a number of other sites.
I am not going to go into the details of selling on Fiverr here; perhaps I will explore that in a future article, but let me quickly tell you how to make it big on that platform.
The trick to doing well on Fiverr is to produce great work on a consistent basis and get great reviews from buyers. Never over promise, and always try to over deliver. Nothing makes a buyer happier than when they get more than their money’s worth.
Offer a service that you are really good at. Just because it’s called Fiverr doesn’t mean you have to offer everything for $5. I know some article writers on Fiverr who charge $200 for a 500-word article.
Writing is just one of the many categories on Fiverr. Writing has many sub-categories such as articles and blog posts, business writing, copywriting, translation and so on.
Many writers double up as proofreaders and editors. There is a lot of money to be made from proofreading and editing works of other people as well. I used to proofread and edit eBooks in the past, but don’t do that anymore because I’m too busy with my content writing projects.
How much can you make on Fiverr?
I’m going to be frank here. A majority of Fiverr sellers make as little as $100/month or less a month. Fiverr has more than 2 million sellers and most of them just make up the numbers.
But the ones that are serious about the opportunity that Fiverr has to offer – full-time freelancers with a professional attitude like myself, easily make well over $1,000/month, some even make as much as $10,000/month.
There is a lot of money to be made on Fiverr as a freelance writer, provided you are serious about it and are good at what you do.
What about the competition on Fiverr?
Of course, there is a lot of competition on Fiverr. What makes it all the more difficult is that you are often at the mercy of the vagaries of the algorithm which decides how your gigs are positioned in the search results.
But as long as you are able to provide high quality services at a low price and distinguish yourself from the other sellers in your category, you should do well on Fiverr. There is certainly space for everyone to grow on Fiverr. The important thing is to find your niche and build upon that.
Okay, let’s move on.
Setting the Right Price as a Freelance Writer
Okay, let’s talk about money, shall we?
What’s the right price to set for your work? That really depends on your niche, experience as a freelance writer and track record.
Charge whatever you feel comfortable with, and which you can easily justify. If you feel comfortable with charging $10/article, go ahead. If you confident enough to charge $30/article or even $100/article – nothing wrong with that either.
Remember – the balance is important here. You don’t want to be one of those people who charge $2/article and you should never get into a bidding war with such writers.
Most clients assume low prices equals low quality and are genuinely surprised every time I deliver a high quality article or blog post for a very reasonable rate.
But at the same time, when you set a high rate for your work, such as say $150/article and the client feels dissatisfied with your efforts, that could go against you. You could gain the reputation of being a scammer. Set a price too high and you might struggle to get any work.
That’s why balance is so important here.
The best way to go about the pricing is to negotiate. Let’s say you have a client who wants to place a big order. For me, anything over $400 is a big order and I’m prepared to negotiate – which means offering a discount on my prices.
Flexibility is important here. I also offer discounts to regular clients, people who have been with me for years.
Another thing that has worked for many people is to start out with a low price to build up reviews and feedback. Once you have enough social proof and a pipeline of satisfied clients, you can raise your price.
There are different ways a freelance gets paid.
- Hourly Rate – That’s the price you’ll charge by the hour. This can go up or down depending on the client or your niche. Freelancing platforms such as Upwork have a timer which calculates the exact time you spend on a task. I don’t like this pricing system as it puts too much pressure on a freelancer. It’s just like being in a 9 to 5 job.
- Price Per Word – This is the pricing system I like best. It’s easy and simple enough to pitch to clients. You can, for example, charge a base rate of $35 for a 500-word article. So a 1000-word article would cost $70 and a 1500-word article is priced at $105.
- Price Per Project – Most small businesses I work with prefer to set a price per project. This can vary from project to project and is based on either your hourly rate or the price per word. Be prepared to negotiate, and it is good practice to offer a small discount on such projects.
What Every Freelance Writer Needs to Know About Getting Paid
If you’re on a freelancing platform, then getting paid is not a problem. On Fiverr, for example, when a buyer makes an order, money goes into an escrow account held by the company.
When the seller delivers the order and the buyer approves the same, the money is moved from the escrow account to the seller’s account. The seller can then withdraw the money by PayPal after a 7-14 day period.
That’s easy enough. How about getting paid by private client?
In that case, you have two choices – either ask the money up front or get paid after the completion of the project.
I prefer to get paid up front. But instead of a 100% upfront payment, I ask for a 50% upfront payment. The remaining 50% is paid after the completion of 50% of the project. This makes sense to most clients.
I don’t like the idea of being paid upon the completion of the project as there is always a chance of being stiffed by the client. You work so hard on a project and you would naturally expect to get paid for it. But sometimes clients can get flaky. The last thing you want is to chase a client for the payment.
Marketing Tips for Freelance Writers
I can’t tell you how important marketing is for freelance writers. You think that just because you are on a freelancing platform, such as say Fiverr, your clients will find you automatically.
Well, no, because there are tens of thousands of freelance writers just like you on any freelancing platform. It’s very hard to get noticed by your clients. I have been on Fiverr for close to 5 years but still have no clue how the algorithm – which decides how the gigs are positioned in the search results – works.
My gigs on Fiverr go up and down all the time and it is really frustrating. That’s why as a freelance writer, it is not enough just to hope you’re going to get found by your clients. You have to work hard on the marketing yourself.
This is true even on bidding sites such as Upwork, where as a freelancer, you find yourself competing with hundreds of low-bidders for every project.
Remember, as a freelancer, you are a business, and you have to find a way to get found. How are you going to get found by your clients then? Do what a business does to get found – invest in marketing.
Marketing is how you’re going to connect with your target audience. It doesn’t mean just spamming your Twitter or Facebook feed with links to your freelancing profile or gigs. Marketing means going to places where your most likely clients are and reaching out to them in a subtle but effective manner.
My favorite marketing technique is the social media.
Yes, I know that the social media can be a monumental waste of time, but only if you fail to use it well. When used properly to connect with your audience, social media marketing can help garner consistent business for you as a freelancer for months and years to come.
How to use social media to your advantage? First, don’t be a troll and don’t stalk anyone. Avoid politics at all cost, as you know how deeply divided your clients are.
When you speak for one side of the political spectrum, you alienate the other side and vice versa. You want your clients to come from everywhere, from every political ideology and demographic. So stay off politics.
Follow the big social media influencers in your niche and share their stuff. But don’t stalk or troll them!
If you are on LinkedIn, send InMail to people who have viewed your profile. If you are on Facebook, make use of Facebook Ads to reach out to a bigger audience. If you are on Twitter, use hashtags effectively, watch out for the latest trends and latch on to them.
It’s not just the well known social media sites that you should be on. I strongly suggest being on online forums for internet marketers and small business owners, as that’s where you’re going to get most of your clients from.
In particular, I suggest marketing your gigs on the Warrior Forum – a great place for freelance writers to find good, high quality clients.
You can also pay specific websites to carry your ads and affiliate links. I have used Google AdWords often and it is a great way to get noticed. Just remember not to spend too much on paid ads, as the last thing you want is to spend $100 on a 1,000 clicks and get zero orders out of that!
I have already talked about the importance of blogging and having a website of your own as a freelance writer, and I won’t go into that again. Just remember that your website/blog is the cornerstone of your marketing efforts, it is your #1 lead generation engine.
Email marketing is another great way to connect with your audience and it hardly costs you anything. It is a great way to provide incentives and attractive offers to prospective clients. Just offer a free eBook to anyone visiting your website in exchange for subscribing to your email newsletter.
You can certainly earn good money working online as a freelance writer and I’m sure you will find this guide useful. However, like me and others in this profession, you have to learn on the job, improvise and get better with every writing project.
What you’d have found in this guide to making money writing online as a freelance writer in 2018, or on any similar “ultimate guide to freelance writing” on the internet is just 10-15% of what you really need to know.
As for the rest, you’ll have to find that out yourself. After all, this is a very competitive field and while I have revealed some of my secrets, don’t expect me or for that matter any other freelance writer to tell you absolutely everything.
For example, I haven’t discussed how to keep your clients happy and have them keep coming back for more and more and I haven’t elaborated on my writing techniques.
The reason is every freelance writer has their own style of writing – there is no “perfect” style as such. What works for you may not work me and what works for me may not work for you.
You will develop your own writing technique with every project you work on. It is something you have to work on all the time and keep learning. It took me at least 2 years before I really got good at writing. Now, I have a writing style and technique that I am comfortable with.
So, you can use this guide as a starting point, and after spending about six months in this profession, you’ll know enough to make a good, stable income from freelance writing.
Hope you enjoyed reading this. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.