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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Top Freelance Writing Tips For Beginners – 9 Steps To Success!

Christina Lyon

Ready to start freelance writing? Learn how to write a business plan, craft a standout pitch, land your first client, and get paid with these freelance writing tips for beginners!

You’re here because you decided to take the leap and become a freelance writer. Congrats! You’re joining a rapidly growing (and very lucrative!) workforce. Only, as reality sets in, you realize how little you know about what to do next. If only you had some freelance writing tips for beginners to guide you. 

Where will you start?

How will you find clients?

What does it take to actually land gigs and get paid?

With these nine strategies in your writing kit, you’ll get a leg up over your competition and be on the path toward freelance writing success!

Freelance Writing Tips For Beginners

You want to get paid to write, but how do you funnel your natural talent into a profitable business? Learning how to make money writing seems impossible when you’re just starting out, but many are finding success, (including yours truly!):

  • By the end of 2020, nearly 43% of the workforce will have made the switch to freelance life
  •  73% of freelancers say they’re making more money now than they were at their “traditional” job

Breaking into freelance writing is hard work, but if you write like hell and tenaciously pursue your goals, you have an excellent chance of succeeding.

At the beginning of my freelance writing journey, I was utterly clueless. In retrospect, I realize how little I knew and what a benefit it would’ve been for me to have some guidance from a mentor.

Walk with me, talk with me, learn from me, and let’s set you up for longterm success as a freelance writer!

1. Make A Business Plan

When I first started freelance writing, I felt like I was just throwing things at the wall to see what stuck. Looking back, I would have saved a lot of time and sanity if I’d had a business plan.

My first of these freelance writing tips for beginners is to write out a solid business plan. As a freelancer, you are your own small business, and every business needs an effective plan for the future.

You’ll need a plan to guide you from where you are now to where you want to be! After all, if you want to make a living as a freelance writer, it helps to have a good grasp of what that living looks like.

An excellent business plan should cover two areas: financial and personal.

For your financial business plan, ask questions like:

  • How much money do you want to make?
  • What do you want your schedule to look like? 
  • Where will you find writing clients online?

And for your personal goals, focus on:

Once you’ve got those answers laid out — you’ve got a working business plan! It’s a great practice to revisit this plan every couple of months to check in with your progress and stay on track with your goals.

A picture of a calendar for the month of June. Making a business plan is an important step when breaking into freelance writing!

2. Start A Blog To Showcase Your Writing

As a brand new freelance writer, you’re going to need all the practice you can get. The best way to practice writing is to launch your very own blog! 

Starting your own blog is a great way to improve your writing and keep the creative juices flowing. Writing a few blog posts will also flesh out your portfolio if you’re new and don’t have any samples under your belt. Research lucrative freelance writing niches that pique your interest and start writing and publishing content to your blog.  

That way, whenever you send a pitch, you have examples to link to! Having your own blog serves as a magnet to attract clients in the niche you want to get paid to write for.

For example, if your goal is to write website copy in the online food space, blog about marketing tips for restaurants, or how to optimize a menu to appeal to target customers.

If you want to write resumes for new college grads, blog about which job search sites are the best for each industry.

Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through! It’s a great way to show what sets you apart from the competition and can attract clients who want to work specifically with you — and that’s why it’s on this list of freelance writing tips for beginners!

A screenshot of writer, Christina Lyon's writing blog.
When I first started freelance writing, I used my travel blog articles to land clients. Over time, my blog evolved into my freelance writing website and blog!

3. Take An Online Course

So often we have tunnel vision with our goals, that we forget to feed our heads. Sure, we might not want to go back to school, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to never stop investing in your education. Enrolling in an online course offers you the opportunity to learn from industry experts.

You’ll learn writing tips, marketing and network guidance, and how to create a portfolio that lands you writing clients.

There are millions of online courses aimed at freelancers, so finding the right one can be overwhelming. But don’t worry, I’ve put together some recommendations for great, reputable courses you should check out:

  • General Assembly– With both online and in-person courses, several designed specifically for the freelance community, GA has something for everyone. Their instructors are all industry professionals, so you have access to their professional insights.
  • Udemy – Udemy’s courses cover everything you need to know as a freelancer, from choosing your niche, finding clients, building a portfolio, and more.
  • Creativelive – Many of Creativelive’s classes are led by professionals at the top of their game. The materials are easy to read and digest, which is perfect for the busy bees who are currently working and segueing into a new field. 
A screenshot of freelance writing courses available from Udemy.
There are nearly 10,000 freelance writing courses on Udemy, and you can personalize the filters to match your desires and skill level.

4. Find Freelance Writing Jobs Online

Wondering how to get clients for content writing? The internet is a vast marketplace for the gig economy. As freelancers, we’ve never had more access to job boards, freelance marketplaces, and connections through social networking.

I started my writing career on Upwork, and it’s proven a rewarding platform once you learn how to navigate it.

Over time, I landed more clients from referrals, social media, my website, and LinkedIn. I recommend you focus on 1-2 platforms to really get the hang of the pitching process, and then branch out once you gain momentum.

Here are a handful of places to find online writing jobs.

Upwork. Filter your search to match your writing niche and skill level, and start pitching every day. What I love about Upwork is that there are jobs for every level of freelancers. In the beginning, you may take lower-paying gigs, but with every job you get, you increase your value — and thus your rate — a little more.

Fiverr. I’ve personally never invested much time into this platform, but I know some freelance writers who have had huge success. Again, where you find the right gigs is an experimental process, but it doesn’t hurt to create a profile and see who bites.

Cold Pitching via Email. Do you already have your sights on brands you’d love to work with? Perhaps you want to get published in an online wellness or travel magazine? Write an impeccable proposal and start cold pitching to clients in your niche.

LinkedIn. In college, I had to create a LinkedIn profile for one of my Journalism final projects. At the time, I thought little of what could happen on this business network. Now, I’ve learned that LinkedIn is a great platform to network with fellow writers, find job opportunities, and even get invited to online writing jobs directly from recruiters.

Facebook Groups. Wait, really? You bet! I joined freelance writing groups on Facebook to network with my peers and tap into a supportive community. What I didn’t expect to happen was for my inbox to fill up with messages about writing jobs. Some of them were low-paying, others were high-paying. The important thing is that I found worthwhile leads in an unexpected way. When in doubt, put yourself out there. Two of my faves are Female Freelance Writers and Freelance Writers.

5. Nail Your Pitch Game

Pitch every day! I cannot say this enough. Pitching is a numbers game, and the more you pitch, the closer you are to landing jobs.

There’s no shortage of freelance writing tips for beginners stressing the importance of pitching regularly, yet so few freelancers do it.

So how do you start pitching clients? Should you just start sending emails to any old random editor you find on a publication’s “About Us” page? Not quite.

Before sending a pitch to a publication, put in the time to do some research. Familiarize yourself with their tone of voice and take note of any formatting quirks. Do they write in MLA, Chicago, or AP Style? Do they use title caps on headings and subheadings? 

Have they already covered the topic you want to write about, and if so, how is your piece going to be different?

These little details are monotonous, but they make a big difference to set you apart, leave a lasting impression, and increase your chances of getting hired.

6. Nurture Your Network

The early stages of freelancing can be lonely. That’s why it’s essential to build a network online and nurture it.

I have to admit, this is something I wish I’d started sooner. Although I googled freelance writing tips for beginners like a mad-woman, I didn’t join freelance groups until I was two years into my business!

I was trying to go it alone and turning to Google if I had a question or ran into an obstacle.

It was not only time-consuming but emotionally draining. Once I threw myself into the mix and started talking shop with other freelancers, I realized what I had been missing all along. 

I found resources, guidance, and answers to the common obstacles all freelancers face. Don’t make the mistake I did by trying to go it alone. Join groups, reach out to experienced writers, and put yourself out there.

Facebook and LinkedIn are both great platforms for finding freelance-focussed groups. These online communities are a fantastic way to gain industry knowledge and grow your confidence. Some of the new friends you make might even help you land gigs!

Networking can build relationships. Relationships lead to connections. Connections lead to clients! 

A screen shot of blogger Christina Lyon's Instagram profile, building a social media presence is one of the best freelance writer tips for beginners.
Let’s connect on Instagram! I just started building my network on social, and I’ve connected with fellow writers and already learned so much.

7. Spruce Up Your Social Media Presence

Social media isn’t just for puppy videos and brunch pics! A whopping 84% of employers recruit new hires through social media platforms.

Whether you love it or hate it — it’s a good idea to embrace social networks as if they were your best friends.

Of all the freelance writing tips I’m sharing, this one isn’t going to get you paid immediately. Instead, this helps you join writing communities to position yourself as a professional writer and expand your network.

As you build your freelance writing business, you’ll notice some of those social seeds start to blossom.

What type of business you are looking to attract? 

This is an important question because it’ll guide you toward certain social platforms. For most freelancers, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are solid choices.

Whichever platforms you use, here are a few best practices:

  • Make sure you use a high-quality, well-lit headshot for your profile picture or cover photo.
  • Keep your bio informative; What style of writing do you specialize in? Have you contributed to any websites or blogs? If someone wants to work with you, how should they contact you?
  • Share links to your work and other industry-related content. This is a great way to promote yourself and show off your expertise! 
  • Save the party pics and strong political opinions for your personal profile. Something I see a lot is small business owners blaring their extreme beliefs to their customers. I’m all for standing up for what you believe in! However, to maintain a level of professionalism, try not to rock the boat or offend people. Use your personal profiles to make your voice heard.

8. Learn SEO Basics

Ah. Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The foreign monster that lives in Internet-land, wields its furry wand and magically pushes certain websites and articles to page one while banishing all others to the back pages. 

Only, SEO isn’t a pixie-land monster, it’s a strategic, learnable skill. Yet so often, freelance writers don’t feel the need to learn SEO. It’s kind of shocking to me because SEO is what will land you gigs.

If you think you can get by on natural talent and hard work, you are only short-changing yourself. SEO is part of this job now, which means if you learn how to use it, you’ll be fully qualified when you send pitches.

I hire writers a lot to help with research, outreach, and social media. I’ve come across talented writers, but unfortunately, I don’t hire them. Why? Because they didn’t know the basics of SEO. Sound harsh? It is, but it’s also not that hard to learn this vital skill, and I’d rather hire someone who knows SEO best practices than have to teach them. 

That said — I want to help you succeed my sharing my knowledge and showing you just how easy it is to learn the basics of SEO.

What are the basics of SEO?

  • Write exceptional content that engages readers, first and foremost.
  • Write content that answers questions people are asking Google. For example, someone might search “How to become a freelance writer,” and this article is full of freelance writing tips for beginners, so I want to ensure it provides a wealth of relevant, informative, and helpful information.
  • Find topic-related keywords and infuse them naturally into the body of text, headings, and title.
  • Include internal links to other pages on the website you’re working on.
  • Share important links to research, data, and stats to support your writing.

And my question to writers who choose to ignore SEO is this:

Shouldn’t your writing already take these factors into account to be helpful to readers? Taking that extra step to learn the basics of SEO will appeal to prospective clients, and enhance your qualifications above others who don’t know this necessary skill.

SEO seems like a huge, scary monster, but in reality, it’s very straightforward. In fact, with the right tools and resources, you can learn SEO in one day!

There are so many resources online filled with helpful informatio

n to guide you. SEO blogs like MOZ and Ahrefs are chock-full of SEO writing tips.

In fact, I pretty much absorbed everything I could from their blog on a weekend, and that gave me a solid foundation. 

Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned my practices as SEO is ever-evolving. To start, learn everything you need to know about SEO writing in this beginner’s guide.

9. Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try

Yes, I quoted Yoda, because, #movienerd.

Rejection is a big part of freelancing, and while it doesn’t feel great, it also doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. I wish I had a magic formula or crystal ball to tell you how many times you need to pitch in order to get your first client, but I don’t.

What I do know is that in order to make a career as a freelance writer, you must not give up until you land that first client!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a talented, bright-eyed writer dip a toe into the freelancer pool, only to say the water’s too cold and give up.

There will be times when you think your writing isn’t good enough, and you don’t get paid what you deserve, and you wonder if you can cut it as a freelance writer.

It’s natural to lack confidence in the beginning. If you can shift your mindset to see how incredibly capable you are, you’ll spend less time doubting yourself and more time doing the work that gets you closer to a successful writing career.

If you take away one of these freelance writing tips for beginners, let it be this:

The difference between a successful freelance writer and a would-be freelance writer is the refusal to give up.

So don’t even toy with the notion of quitting, because that is the only surefire way to fail. You never know what opportunity is waiting for you, so keep working at it.

 “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

―Harriet Beecher Stowe

Time To Start Freelance Writing!

Freelance writing can be tough, and when you’re just starting out, it’s hard not to get discouraged or feel overwhelmed. You might notice other writers gaining traction faster than you. Don’t let another’s progress hinder yours.

We all move at different speeds, and it’s not about getting to one point fast, it’s about building a lucrative, sustainable writing career doing what you love.

I could ramble about my freelance writing tips for beginners until the cows come home. Ultimately, your success hinges on one factor:

Your ability to sit down, write like hell, and apply what you’ve learned here.

So, start writing.

Ready to take the next step? Start here:

A woman writes in a journal in this feature photo for my guide to freelance writing tips for beginners.

June 1, 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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