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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Freelancing 101: How To Start Freelance Writing (And Get Paid!)

Christina Lyon

Can you think of anything more satisfying than writing something you’re proud of? From the seeds of a new idea to the research and writing process, to finally getting published — it’s very enriching. Well, what if you got paid to do that for a living? Good news, because you can. If you’re ready to start freelance writing, I’m sharing five steps to get you paid to do what you love.

Of course, most writers don’t break into freelance writing for the money. However, it’s possible to get paid to write! According to Glassdoor, the average base pay of a freelance writer in 2020 is $52,807

However, if there’s one thing I can tell you for sure, it’s this: Anyone who promises they know the secret to instantly earning thousands of dollars freelancing in a few weeks is probably lying to you. Like any new business, making a living freelance writing involves a combination of time and patience. 

Ready to get started? Keep reading as I outline the exact steps you need to take to start freelance writing and get paid!

Freelance 101: How To Start Freelance Writing

A picture of a desk with a plant, cup of coffee, and macbook computer

1. Choose Your Niche

Finding your niche as a writer allows you to hone your skills in a specific area and position yourself as a thought leader. And in the highly competitive world of content marketing, expertise is essential.  

In order to start freelance writing, you’ll need to show potential clients that you have the necessary knowledge and experience to write fantastic content. Once you’ve built up a solid reputation, you’ll be able to attract larger clients and command higher rates.

There are many different ways to find your niche. Some freelance writers already know their favorite topics, while others dabble in a few until they find their groove. 

Take a look at the types of information you already consume. Are there particular articles you enjoy reading in your free time? Whether it’s politics, medical innovations, or pop culture, figuring out what types of things naturally interest you is an excellent way to find your niche. 

Head to this guide for in-depth guidance on how to choose a freelance writing niche you love.

2. Build A Starter Portfolio

You can’t get clients without a portfolio, but you don’t have a portfolio because you don’t have clients. I know, it’s a frustrating dilemma!  

But don’t sweat it. Even if you don’t have a roster of clients under your belt, you can still create a well-rounded freelance writing portfolio for beginners.


There are several ways to go about building a freelance writing portfolio from scratch.

  • Offer your writing services to non-profits and community organizations.
  • Research some smaller non-profits in your area or look up pro bono writing jobs on Idealist.
  • Write your own work! Start a blog and publish new content routinely to show potential clients you take your writing seriously.
  • Research the correct way to write a press release, and make one for your friend’s band.
  • Write an opinion piece on an article you read in the Wall Street Journal. The goal is to build content samples that make you proud. Once you’ve got that, then you’ve got a portfolio!

Building a freelance writing portfolio from scratch takes work, but when you do that, you’ll build credibility and have something to show clients.

3. Join Online Marketplaces

In 2018, freelance writers said they found 73% of their jobs using online platforms and job boards. So, if you’re ready to start freelance writing, job boards are an excellent place to build up your portfolio, collect testimonials, and make money writing.

Truth is, job boards aren’t always a hit. Some can be pretty shady and are full of fake listings created by scam artists. Others are meant only for seasoned veterans and have a rigorous screening process. 

However, there are available job boards like UpWork and Fiverr — but it’s vital to learn how to dodge sleazy clients and scams. 

Since both of these platforms post new job listings daily (sometimes even hourly!), they’re a great place to gain confidence and practice the art of pitching.  

Keep in mind that these platforms do take a percentage of freelancer’s earnings, so while they may be a good starting point, they will cut into your profits in the long run. 

Don’t let that deter you, though. I built my entire writing business on Upwork. After two years of writing consistently for clients, I branched out to land clients via LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and my website.

4. Diversify Your Income

I know, I just told you to focus on finding your niche. While that’s still very important, if you want to grow your portfolio and your profits, you will need to switch things up. 

As a freelance writer, your income will rarely come from only one source. Even when you land some big-name clients, they will go through dry spells where they don’t send much work your way. The goal is to line up 2-3 streams of income to get you through the dry spells.

My goal is to bring in income from:

When you start freelance writing, see if there’s anything you can add to your offerings. If you’re a blog writer, pick up some clients looking for help with keyword research and SEO strategy. If your specialty is writing website copy, consider also adding newsletter writing to your services.

You want to be an expert at one style of writing so that you land clients. However, most clients you get will ask you to write other types of content as well. The point is, don’t limit yourself.

Diversifying your income provides you with a sense of security and pushes you to grow and learn. If your services are linear, your clientele will be limited.

You aren’t challenging yourself, and work will get boring and repetitive. And isn’t that why you left your 9-5 job in the first place? 

5. Don’t Skimp On Marketing

Ok, so you know you want to start freelance writing and get paid, right? Well, in order to do that successfully, you need to learn how to market yourself. You may think the only things you need to “make it” are stellar writing skills and a knack for research. But you’re missing a critical part of making a living from writing.

Can you guess what that is? Marketing!

If you’re offering a service online, how will people know about it if you don’t promote it?

Promoting yourself doesn’t mean buying a billboard over the highway or flying a banner behind a plane. There are little things you can do to shed the light on your business.

Marketing Tips For Freelance Writers

  • Create a LinkedIn profile for your business
  • Update your email signature with “Freelance Writer for Hire”
  • Share your latest blog posts on your social media channels
  • Post consistently on your social accounts (2-3x a week)
  • Create a Pinterest Profile and link all your Pins to your blog posts and website
  • Cold-pitch business on LinkedIn or Facebook
  • Tell your network that you’re offering freelance writing services

If you complete a project for a client and receive a glowing review, blast that baby all over your social media! Every step you take will help you get noticed by prospective clients.

However, if you don’t put yourself online, no one will find you, and that’s sad.

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

Don’t Put It Off. Start Freelance Writing Today!

Ready to start freelance writing, gain financial freedom, work from home, and get paid to write? I thought so! I can tell you one thing with complete certainty: becoming a freelance writer won’t happen overnight, but you are more than capable of building a successful writing business.

Follow the steps in this post and embrace the hard work, and you’ll find success as a freelance writer! After all, I did. 😉

Need a little more hands-on guidance? I’ve got you covered. Head straight to my comprehensive guide for how to start a freelance writing business. You’ll find 9 actionable steps you can apply to start writing professionally.

If you have any questions at all, don’t be shy! Drop me a comment on this post or reach out to me. I love hearing from you and helping you on your writing journey!

A young woman sits in the street with an open laptop to start freelance writing professionally.

June 26, 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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