How to Become a Freelance Writer: Tips, AI Tools, and Job Opportunities in 2024

Fact-checked by Laurynas Cesnys
Updated on: March 7, 2024

So you want to know how to become a freelance writer? It's a great career choice that allows you to get paid to write and often work from anywhere. As a freelancer, you can choose the kind of writing you want to focus on - whether that's blog writing, technical papers, marketing materials, or any other type of professional writing.

Breaking into freelance writing when you're just starting out can seem daunting. But with some strategic steps, you can snag those first few clients and begin building your portfolio and experience.

In this guide, I'll share practical tips from my own 7+ years as a freelance writer. You'll learn how to effectively market yourself, find quality freelance writing jobs and clients, continually hone your skills, and set yourself up for long-term success in this flexible, lucrative field.

I'll cover the essentials like creating an online presence, pitching yourself to potential clients, leveraging job boards and freelance marketplaces, and figuring out a fair rate for your writing services. I'll also dish out advice for more advanced strategies like specializing in a niche and scaling up your freelance writing business with AI.

Whether you want to be a freelance writer full-time or just pick up some side writing work, this guide will equip you with the mindset and tactics to make it happen.

How to become a freelance writer 1

What is freelance writing?

As a freelance writer, you're self-employed and provide writing services to various businesses, organizations, publications, and individuals. Instead of being on payroll with one company, you take on different contract writing jobs and projects.

The big appeal? Flexibility and freedom. You get to choose what type of freelance writing work you take on and when you work. This independent contractor setup allows you to build a career around your lifestyle.

Freelance writing covers a wide range of deliverables - articles, blog posts, marketing materials, technical documentation, ghostwriting, and more. As a freelancer, you can adjust your workload and writing niches to align with your interests and income goals.

Clients look for writers with relevant skills and experience for their projects. Having an online portfolio showcasing your best writing samples is crucial for landing quality freelance gigs that are a good fit.

A step-by-step guide to get started as a freelance writer with no experience

1. Choose your niche

To start freelance writing, you first need to pick a niche. Choosing the type of writing jobs you want to pursue is the key to success for many freelance writers. In a competitive industry(honestly, there is competition everywhere), developing expertise in a specific area distinguishes you from the masses.

But how? First, make sure to align your niche with personal passions and skills - most good writers love the topics they cover. 

Then, conduct market research to identify high-demand topics with low competition. Become a subject matter expert to attract premium clients and projects. 

Niche specialization enables efficient, high-quality writing as well as professional fulfillment.

2. Build your freelance writing portfolio

Showcasing your best work in a customized online portfolio is essential to attracting ideal writing gigs. 

However, before building your portfolio, address the critical questions hiring managers ponder: What specific services do you offer? What niche knowledge do you possess? How reliable and deadline-driven are you? With that clear:

  • Collect your best writing samples that match your niche, such as blog posts, eBooks, articles, or whitepapers. If you see that your work is not quite there yet - find ways to improve your writing skills.
  • Use easy platforms such as WordPress to make your portfolio accessible.
  • Add testimonials from past clients to boost credibility.
  • Create a catchy headline to highlight your value.
  • Share your writing journey briefly.
  • Add a Contact section to make it easy for potential clients to reach you.

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3. Learn the basics of SEO

Success in freelance work involves more than just writing; it requires marketing skills.

Knowing SEO basics makes you more appealing to clients seeking increased online visibility and traffic. 

Approach SEO as a supplement to your core writing skills. Study fundamentals through reputable free resources without getting overwhelmed. Optimizing your own website and content allows hands-on practice. 

Discuss your SEO knowledge in client communications to stand out. Offer additional services like content audits to demonstrate value. When fused with writing talent, SEO can significantly expand opportunities.

4. Set up a professional website or blog

A professional website is crucial for landing high-ticket freelance jobs.. It helps clients see your skills through various writing samples and boosts credibility. Also, using SEO tactics will make your site easier to find.

  • Start by choosing a memorable business name and domain. 
  • Use platforms like WordPress for easy site management. 
  • Customize your site's design to match your style and highlight key pages like your portfolio and contact info.
  • Showcase your clients to strengthen your authority - writers without real-life proof of their work are hard to trust. . 
  • Use relevant keywords to attract traffic.

A well-designed website can help grow your business and properly showcase your writing experience.

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5. Want to make good money as a freelance writer? Learn how to pitch effectively

New freelance writers tend to care only about writing - but knowing how to sell your services is essential for getting work and developing a lucrative freelance career.

Crafting effective pitches for freelance writing gigs involves strategic planning. 

However, before pitching, invest time in understanding each editor publication's focus and tone, ensuring your ideas align with their interests.

Here are some key steps to follow:

  • Research target publications to understand their audience and content.
  • Tailor pitches to match their niche and tone, increasing relevance and success chances.
  • Personalize emails by addressing editors by name and referencing their preferences.

Remember, personalization is crucial to standing out and increasing acceptance rates. 

Focus on building relationships, not just landing assignments, by engaging with editors beyond emails and seeking feedback.

6. Network with other writers and professionals

Networking is crucial for freelance writers to boost their success. By joining online communities, you can fight the feeling of being alone and connect with others. 

If you are more old-schooled, attending events is another way to meet other writers.

Sharing job opportunities with your network, even if they're not right for you, helps build good relationships. Remember that building more relationships can showcase your skills to potential clients by sharing writing tips and getting feedback.

7. Find your first clients to really start your freelance writing career

Finding your first freelance writing clients involves more than just looking at job boards. 

  • Enhance your LinkedIn profile with engaging content to attract clients. 
  • Create a website to showcase your skills, using platforms like WordPress for ease. 
  • Join Facebook groups related to your niche to meet potential clients. 
  • Consider offering discounted or free work for desirable portfolio samples. While job boards like Upwork offer opportunities, competition can lead to lower pay. 
  • Focus on improving your online presence and building relationships to grow your freelance business.
How to become a freelance writer 3

How to set your freelance writing rates?

One of the trickiest parts of freelance writing is determining what to charge for your services. There's no one-size-fits-all rate - freelance writing fees can vary widely depending on your experience level, writing skills, industry focus, and other factors.

When you're just starting out as a total beginner, it's okay to charge on the lower end, around $0.05-$0.20 per word. This helps you build up a portfolio and client base. As you gain more professional writing experience and ability to produce high-quality content quickly, you can gradually raise your rates to $0.10-$0.30 per word or higher.

More experienced freelance writers who specialize in complex, technical writing or deliver extremely polished final drafts can command $0.50+ per word or switch to project-based pricing in the hundreds or thousands. The key is continually leveling up your writing skills and tracking your efficiency to justify higher rates.

In addition to your experience, consider the scope of the freelance writing work when setting a rate. Longer projects like ebooks or white papers warrant higher flat fees, while shorter blog posts may be priced per word. Research industry standards for the type of writing you want to do.

Don't be afraid to negotiate for competitive pay that values your talents. Well-paying freelance writing jobs are out there! Pitch your value and what you bring to the table beyond just words on a page. With time, you'll get a feel for what rates work in your freelance writing business.

Using AI tools for freelance writing

As you probably already know, there are a number of powerful AI writing tools that can streamline your writing process and outputs. In short, when leveraged effectively, AI can be a huge productivity booster - but it can't replace your unique, living experience, skills, and personality. 

For example, AI writing assistants like Jasper, Claude or ChatGPT can help you overcome writer's block by generating drafts, outlines, and content briefs based on your inputs. You still put in the strategic thinking and human touch, but AI handles the grunt work.

AI tools like Grammarly and ProWritingAid are also incredibly useful for editing, proofreading, and checking your work for plagiarism before delivery. They catch grammatical errors, suggest clearer phrasing, and ensure your writing is original.

Certain AI writing tools specialize in areas like search engine optimization (Frase, Surfer SEO), ad copy (Headlime, Copymatic), email marketing sequences (Narrato), and more. Tapping into these can elevate your freelance services and create additional revenue streams.

As with any tech, it's important to vet AI writing tools and use them ethically and transparently. They are aids to enhance your human skillset, not replacements for it. Properly implemented in your freelance writing workflow, AI can be a game-changer.

How to become a freelance writer 4

How to market your freelance writing business?

As a freelance writer, actively marketing your services is essential to be discovered by potential clients. Tactics include:

  • Networking at industry events to meet editors and brands
  • Cold pitching via phone and mail with customized white papers
  • Providing free PDF guides on your website in exchange for emails
  • Promoting your writing through social platforms and hashtags
  • Distributing press releases on newswires for media visibility
  • Building an impressive LinkedIn presence and SEO-optimized website

The more strategies you leverage to get the word out, the greater your chances of securing enviable gigs that speak to your strengths and passion as a writer.

Overcoming common challenges

Freelance content writing might seem like an enticing venture, offering the allure of flexible schedules and work autonomy. However, for many, it also comes with its fair share of challenges.

Let's delve into some common hurdles faced by new freelance content writers and explore strategies to overcome them.

  • Finding Clients and Writing Gigs:
    • Look for work on online platforms, social media, and networking events.
    • Research potential clients and customize your pitches to match their needs.
  • Dealing with Distractions and Procrastination:
    • Set up a dedicated workspace and clear boundaries.
    • Use time management techniques like the Pomodoro Technique.
    • Break tasks into smaller parts to stay focused and productive.
  • Staying Motivated and Building a Routine:
    • Create a daily schedule and set achievable goals.
    • Connect with other writers for support and inspiration.
    • Take regular breaks to stay motivated and avoid burnout.
  • Combatting Isolation and Loneliness:
    • Seek social connections through online communities and virtual events.
    • Make time for activities outside of work to maintain balance and fulfillment.
  • Keeping Work Organized and Prioritized:
    • Establish workflows and use productivity tools.
    • Set realistic deadlines and review your workload regularly.
    • Practice self-care to avoid burnout.
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Final thoughts

The life of a freelance writer certainly has its challenges. Landing those first few clients, figuring out competitive rates, balancing multiple deadlines - it can feel overwhelming starting out.

But stick with it, and an incredibly fulfilling career awaits. As a freelance writer, you get to craft your ideal lifestyle doing work you genuinely enjoy. You call the shots on what writing projects you take and what schedules you keep.

With perseverance and a strategic approach, you can build a sustainable freelance writing business. Continuously hone your skills, deliver value to clients, and have confidence in your abilities. New doors will keep opening.

So get out there, develop your personal brand, and start pitching yourself for freelance opportunities. The writer's life you've dreamed of is entirely possible. Just take that first step.

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Andrea Mercado is a tech-focused journalist and copywriter with over 5 years of experience covering innovation, edtech, AI, and internet trends across media outlets. She is passionate about how technology can democratize access to education and is an avid learner when it comes to emerging tech like AI. Her articles and webinars help readers stay informed on the latest tech developments.
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