You’re a passionate writer, daydream about working from home, and want to pursue your passion. How can you turn your dream job into a reality? More importantly, can you make a living as a freelance writer?
Turning your writing talent into a lucrative career takes work, I won’t sugar coat it. While the lifestyle and freedom of working independently sound glamorous, it’s not for everyone.
How will you find clients? Job opportunities online are abundant, but how will you land the gig? Research those questions online and you’ll find varying advice that feels like a maze you can’t get through. Pursuing your dream to become a freelance writer isn’t easy, but to quote my mom:
“If there’s someone else out there doing it, there’s no reason you can’t.”
Like many jobs, freelance writing is a risk, but when you start getting paid to write, the reward pays off. Keep reading to learn how to make a living as a professional freelance writer.
The spectrum of freelance writer salaries is broad. Some freelancers bring in 200K a year, while others fall around the 30K range. Your income will largely depend on your ability to land quality leads.
On the high spectrum, freelancers make $80K+, and the lowest is $33K.
What dictates where you fall in the salary range?
When I first started freelance writing, I was hungry for work. That means that I took anything someone offered to me. Doing this was not smart, but it taught me a lot about what I like and don’t like.
Yes, I love writing, but I don’t love all writing jobs. And trust me, there are plenty. Here’s a look at the most popular freelance writing jobs:
Starting out, you’ll bounce around these quite a bit until you find your specialty. With so many content options, which direction should you take? You’ll start getting hired for recurring niches or project types.
There are many places to start freelance writing online. Of course, not all platforms are lucrative. You might find one place is more worthwhile than others. I’ve personally heard tons of horror stories about writing jobs on Upwork, yet I landed my biggest client there.
I had to go through a few nightmare clients first, but it was worth it because a bulk of my income is from that one client.
My biggest tip to make an income as a freelance writer is to keep an open mind. Explore various ways of landing clients, and find what works for you.
Here are some places to get started:
Ok, so now that you know you can make a living freelance writing, how do you do it?
Right now you love writing; it’s your calling in life, and you’re 100% invested in your craft. When you start writing professionally details like finances, client relations and your workload can add strain.
Fortunately, doing what you love on a daily basis makes it all worthwhile. When bad days happen and I complain about an aspect of my job, I remind myself of the benefits of freelance writing:
Do some days suck more than others? Yes. But on the whole, I can truly say I love what I do, and I want that for you! Yes, turning your passion into a job does sometimes take the joy out of writing whatever you want to write, but you also become a better writer. The more you write, the better you get.
The key is to maintain perspective and set realistic expectations for yourself, then you’ll be able to weather the day-to-day challenges of freelance writing.
The first thing you should know about making a living as a freelance writer is that you’ll be your own boss. Of course, this comes with benefits and pitfalls. In the beginning, you’ll fall in love with the freedom of freelancing.
Learning to write a contract, tracking down payments, and tax season will quickly unveil the cons of entrepreneurship.
The truth is that there’s good and bad, and it’s important to have an idea of both before you get started. When I first started writing professionally, every day brought up a new challenge to learn. Over time, I started learning what worked and didn’t. To this day I still face obstacles and have to consult with colleagues or Google my way through them.
Would I trade wearing slippers to work for a micromanaging superior? Hell. No. But don’t be blindly naive like I was, the bad is there, and it’s tough. No one has your back, and that gets lonely.
When you work for yourself, you have to create your own structure and refine your daily agenda. You’ll need to practice:
Here’s the deal: you’re going to get many no’s headed your way. Rejection is ultimately part of being a freelance writer. Will you give up? Not a chance. Pitching for jobs is a numbers game; the more you do it, the closer you get to landing a gig.
I literally can’t stress this enough. I’ve seen so many newbie writers start gung-ho only to lose steam and give up. I’m not a freelance writer because I’m more talented than you, sure, I may have more experience, but that’s not why I’m successful.
I’m successful because I’m persistent as hell. I will send 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, emails until I get a response. Do I do so tastefully? Absolutely, but I don’t stop until someone tells me no.
Persistence is the lifeblood of freelancing. Yes, you need to be a good writer, but remember this:
Is it unfair? You tell me. I think hard work is rewarded when people refuse to give up. As difficult as it is to keep going when you’re getting rejected, you are one e-mail or message away from making a living writing. So send that email!
For some people, networking comes easy: their social life intersects naturally with industry gatherings and they maintain a constant flow of LinkedIn messages and connection requests.
For others, networking is a nightmare. We’re writers, which means we are used to sitting alone brooding with our thoughts. Networking requires you to get outside of your comfort zone and reach out to people.
In the beginning, it’s uncomfortable. That all changes the second you land a gig from networking and make a living as a freelance writer.
Bottom line: businesses are built on networking. Much of my clientele grew from client referrals. As I quickly learned: it’s hard to find a good writer. When a client lands one, they share the love and recommend you to their colleagues.
There’s nothing like a personal introduction to set you ahead of your competition. Your ability to make a living as a freelance writer hinges on your networking skills, so brush up.
Send out an email with your services, practice cold-pitching, reach out to colleagues on LinkedIn. When in doubt, put the word out!
Seasoned freelancers often compare their careers to being on a rollercoaster. Whether it’s the ups and downs of projects or making ends meet between gigs.
It’s not easy to make a living as a freelance writer. Long-time clients can cut and run without warning. Promising opportunities can peter into nothing. You may have more work than you can handle one month, and next to nothing the following month.
Even when you have built up a regular client base, your work and income fluctuate month-to-month. It’s natural to have dry spells, which is why it’s a good idea to continue pitching, even when you have a full workload.
Always have a financial buffer to get you by during slow times. Make retainers with new clients that promote longevity. There are ways to avoid dry spells, but you need to put systems in place to protect yourself.
I thought so! Kudos to you for being open-minded and seeking out information to get you closer to your goal! I know from my own experience how tough it is to make a living as a freelance writer, face rejections, crickets in your inbox, and the hungry times. I also know this:
You have everything within you to succeed, the rest is just hard work.
Ready to start freelance writing? Here are some steps you’ll need to take:
Christina Lyon is a coffee-sipping, word-obsessed business blogger, content writer, and blog consultant. She’s on fire for helping creative entrepreneurs and small biz owners build thriving blogs that enhance online visibility and convert to sales. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves to play music and explore the beaches and wild trails along the California coast with her husband Steve and rescue pup, Clio.
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