I'm Christina Lyon, a coffee sipping, piano playing, beach loving, word-obsessed freelance writer and musician. I'm on fire for helping freelance writers get paid and small biz owners succeed online. When I'm not reading or writing, I play music and explore the beaches and wild trails along the California coast.

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Can You Make A Living As A Freelance Writer? Yes, Here’s How!

Christina Lyon

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.

How Much Can You Make As A 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.

According to Glassdoor, the average income for freelance writers is $52,807 a year.

On the high spectrum, freelancers make $80K+, and the lowest is $33K.

What dictates where you fall in the salary range?

  • Your clients
  • Your writing niche
  • How often you work
  • Where you live
  • Whether you work hourly or at a fixed rate

What Kind Of Freelance Writing Jobs Are There?

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.

I learned that blog writing is my jam, while social media captions are not. I love website copywriting projects, but I’m less keen on newsletters.

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:

  • Blog writing
  • Website copywriting
  • Press release writing
  • Newsletter writing
  • Landing page copy
  • Sales page copy
  • Product descriptions
  • SEO writing
  • Technical writing
  • Medical writing
  • Whitepaper writing
  • E-books
  • Ghostwriting
  • Brochures

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.

Where To Do Freelance Writing

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:

  • LinkedIn. Find brands in your niche and send them cold pitches through messaging.
  • Facebook. Create a professional business page, join writing groups, and keep an eye out for job opportunities.
  • Freelance writing job boards. Check out listings on Problogger or Contena, learn how to send a great pitch, and experiment with different niches.
  • Freelance forums. Create a profile on Upwork or Fiverr and you immediately gain access to job postings. It can be fiercely competitive, but it’s a numbers game. Focus on your proposal and portfolio, then start pitching. The more you pitch, the closer you get to landing your first client.
  • Word of mouth. Tell your friends and family you’re a freelance writer looking for work. Post about it on social media. Fly a plane over your city with an advertisement. Get the word out, someone might just bite!

Ok, so now that you know you can make a living freelance writing, how do you do it?

How To Start Freelance Writing

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:

  • I get a sense of responsibility and true ownership of my work
  • Running an independent writing business means writing about a variety of topics
  • My services, hours, rates, and schedule are all my decision
  • Work is never dull because every day provides a new topic

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.

Learn How To Be Your Own Boss

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:

  • Time management. Time is money, and how you manage yours dictates how much you’ll make.
  • Focus. Because there are always so many tasks, but staying focused on one at a time is difficult.
  • Boundaries. Without them, clients will take advantage of you, you’ll be underpaid and burn out quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had way more amazing clients than crappy ones, but the crappy ones tend to make the most noise and exhaust you.
  • Routine. Make one, stick to it, and you’ll get more work done.

Be Persistent As Hell

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:

A talented writer with no follow-through will not succeed. Meanwhile, an okay writer with tenacity will.

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!

Networking: Your New Best Friend

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.

Research shows that referred applicants are 15 times more likely to be hired than applicants who apply online or via a job board! 

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!

Be Patient Through The Hard Times

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.

Ready To Make a Living as a Freelance Writer?

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:

A laptop on a bed with a fresh coffee, one of the perks of making a living as a freelance writer.

May 22, 2020

Freelancing Tips

*This post may contain affiliate links, and I may receive a commission on purchases made through provided links (at no extra cost to you).

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