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How to Make Money as a Freelance Writer

How to Make Money as a Freelance Writer
Shad Hus Oct 30, 2019
Want to Earn Some Extra Money?

I have over 15 years of experience as a freelance writer.

I am in a position to write a guide to help other writers struggling to make money by writing online.

The journey wasn’t easy, but now with a killer profile, I don’t have to struggle much to win contracts and make money.

In fact, I often have to say no to offers due to the abundance of opportunities. 

So how did I reach this position and how can you make money as a freelance writer?

I’ll answer all that you need to know in this ‘make money writing’ guide.

Let’s get started:

Why Become a Freelance Writer

Here are some stats that highlight why it may be a good idea to become a freelance writer:

  • Freelancers are growing at a rate of 7% in the US. In comparison, non-freelancers are only growing at a rate of 2%. According to the latest figures, about 35% of the US population is into freelancing with more wanting to jump the bandwagon.
  • Major newspapers, websites, and magazines hire freelance writers to gather news and promote their services. The rise of online marketing is a major reason why content writers are so much in demand. Businesses are expected to spend 412.88 million on content marketing in the next three years.
  • Millennials appear to be huge fans of freelancing and about 37% of all freelancers are millennials.  
  • Major companies are now hiring freelance writers. Currently, only about 7% of companies in the US are flexible enough to hire freelancers. However, they are working on upgrading infrastructure to hire more freelancers, including international writers.

As a freelance writer, you will never be out of options.

You can work for anyone, from anywhere on your own terms.

There are dozens of opportunities waiting for you.

How Much Do Freelance Writers Make?

At the end of the day, it is about money.

Remember that there is no fixed income when it comes to freelancing. Some months you’ll make $10,000 and some months you will have to do with $1,500.

I suggest that you plan accordingly so that you are never low on money.

Also, in case you’re wondering, yes, it is possible to work as a full-time freelance writer. I work as one and I make more money than I did as an office worker.

However, freelance writing can also be good for those who are only looking for a side gig. 

Freelance writers earn $42,120 per year according to the data at Glassdoor.

The average writer writes about 15,000 words per month.

However, if you have skills and high-paying clients, you can make more than $10,000 per month.

This is the same amount of money you’ll earn as a full-time writer, according to the data found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, you’ll get to save time, work at your own pace, and save money you’d spend commuting to work. 

On the downside, you will not enjoy employee benefits such as insurance and paid vacations. Hence, it is best that you know how you can make more money as a freelance writer.

Here are some tips:

Choose the Write Niche

When it comes to writing, the amount of money you’ll make will depend on your niche.

Technical writers, for example, make $70,930 per year, a little lower than financial writers who make $86,140 per year. 

However, based on my experience, this is not the most important factor.

You should choose a niche that you’re most comfortable in. 

Select a Good Platform

Since there are fees involved, you need to be very careful.

UpWork, for example, will pay you $80 for every $100 earned.

2Checkout, on the other hand, will charge about 3.5% fee, hence you’d go home with $96.5 for every $100 you earn.

This may not sound like much but the fee can make a lot of difference. Imagine making $3,000 per month on Fiverr, but your take-home income will be $2400 only.

Write More Words

The more words you write, the more money you’ll make. This is because some clients will pay you based on the number of words you write per day.

The average writer can easily write 1,500-2,000 words per day during an 8-hour shift.

Some writers can even push the 3,000 word mark but I would suggest that you do not put a lot of pressure on your hands as it can eventually lead to pain and discomfort. 

Gain More Experience

Once you gain experience, you will be in a position to ask for more money.

When I started writing, I charged $50 for a 500 word article.

Today, I am in a position to ask for $500 for the same article and I know I’ll get paid. 

The most important factor is patience.

You will not make a lot of money right away.

It can take writers months to start making a decent amount of money. 

Narrow Your Focus and Work On Your Writing Skills

Writing, like most other skills, can be acquired and improved by undergoing training and education. 

Remember, the right training will depend on what niche you want to work in.

You can be a technical writer, medical writer, legal writer, journalist, sports writer, blogger, critic, etc. 

If you enjoy creativity, then you can even work for the entertainment industry and write screenplays, novels, and stories as a freelance writer.

The first step is to narrow your focus and work on a niche that you enjoy the most.

Writing is a creative job. It should come naturally to you. Do not choose a niche just because you think it pays well.

If you write well, you will make money no matter what you write. Also, remember that writing for SEO is different from writing for a newspaper or magazine. You need to take care of different elements. 

I suggest that you get enrolled in an online course to know more about content writing.

Even some well known institutions including University of California, Harvard University, and the University of Toronto offer courses in online marketing, content writing, content marketing, and creative writing. 

Most universities offer short, diploma courses to get you started. However, as a writer, most of your learning will happen on the job.

Hence, I suggest you get enrolled in an internship and learn. Some companies offer virtual internship opportunities. They can help you understand content marketing and give you the kick that you need to start your freelancing career.

Once you feel you’re ready, you can start looking for freelancing jobs.

How to Find Freelancing Jobs

Be patient, it can take you a while to find your first paid freelancing gig

It took me about three weeks to score my first decent contract. Try all the avenues you can and do not give up. 

Some great options include:

Newspapers and Job Sites

It is not very uncommon for companies to advertise freelance positions on their websites or job listings.

However, most companies will only hire freelancers living in the same country for the full-time position. Nonetheless, part-time positions may be available for international freelancers.

Bayt, Craigslist are some websites you can search for relevant jobs.

Freelancing Sites

This is where I found my true calling. However, a lot of applicants struggle since they do not know the right freelancing platform or the trick to win clients.

Here are three of the best freelancing sites:

1. Freelancer can be the best pick for people who want to start freelancing as a full time career. With more than 20 million users, it is the largest freelancing platform out there.

The interface is easy to use and you will not have to waste hours finding what you need. The website has jobs for all kinds of writers including beginners.

It’s quite advanced and offers some amazing features such as a messenger, time tracker, custom offers, and milestone payments.

You must buy a paid package to bid for jobs. The cheapest one goes for $0.99 per month. If you’re serious about making money as a writer, then go for a premium package. It costs $29.95 per month and comes with a 1-month trial.

Freelancer is more affordable than other platforms as the fee depends on the nature of the project. However, the minimum is 10% or $5, whichever is greater.

Pros Cons
Customer support is excellent You must be a paid member to use the site
Works seamlessly on mobile phones Payments can take weeks to release
There are hundreds of jobs available Confusing fee structure
1-month free trial for new members It can be difficult to get your identity verified

2. UpWork

Back in the day, Elance used to be the number one site for freelancers. However, it joined hands with oDesk in 2015 and UpWork was born. 

This publicly traded company can be a great option for freelance writers looking to build a portfolio. It houses over five million clients and twelve million freelancers. Hence, expect fierce competition.

Many big corporations also use the platform to find talent. UpWork is among the best for international freelancers as you can search for jobs using location filters.

UpWork is free to join, however, you’ll have to purchase Connects if you want to bid for jobs. The company does not offer free connects but there are paid membership packages – starting as low as $20 – that come with free connects. Individually, each will cost you $0.15.

Also, getting your profile accepted, especially as a writer, can be tough if you do not have good skills. 

Pros Cons
The messenger is advanced and even allows audio and video calls Known for suspending profiles
The interface is easy to use You will face a lot of competition
Safe and secure Can be difficult to get your profile approved
Customer support is excellent Takes 20 percent of your earning

3. Fiverr

I have never been a fan of Fiverr but it deserves to be in the list given how big it is. The platform currently has more than 14 million users and the number is only increasing. 

Competition on Fiverr can be tough, but you will find that it is different from other freelancing sites we have discussed above. At Fiverr, it is not about bidding for jobs. It’s about getting in touch with clients and posting gigs and waiting for someone to approach you.

Some freelancers are making thousands using Fiverr but it can be difficult to break the glass ceiling. 

The company charges 20% commission, just like UpWork but you will not have to spend money on a membership.

Pros Cons
You can post a variety of gigs The pay rate is low
Clients have the option to pay tips You will have to market your skills to get a job
The interface is easy to understand It takes about 14 days to release payments
The platform is safe to use Customer service is poor

Other than this, you can try your luck on GuruPeoplePerHour,  and other such platforms.

Social Media 

Social media is huge and people all around the world are now using it to find jobs and grow their network.

LinkedIn can be a good option if you’re looking for freelancing jobs. You can search for jobs by using the Jobs Portal available on the site. 

Other options include following companies that post jobs and networking with other individuals in the field so that you never miss out on a good opportunity.

Friends and Others

There are few things as powerful as a referral. If you have friends or family members who work in the field then it may be a good idea to ask them to refer your services to their existing clients.

I have helped many friends find a hold in the industry by referring them to my clients. Be professional and approach others in a nice manner so that they listen to you.

Which Option Should I Choose?

I have tried everything, from working as a freelancer for my former employer to building a profile on UpWork to finding gigs through social media. 

I would suggest that you compare all the options and pick what works best for you. Despite the competition, freelancing platforms can be a good choice if you are struggling to find work.

There are many advantages of choosing a site like Fiverr or Freelancer:

  • No Risk of Data Breach: You will be secure because your personal information will not be shared with anyone else. You will not have to file tax documents, exchange financial data, or worry about your identity documents reaching unsafe hands.
  • You Will Get Paid: Freelancing platforms offer guaranteed payments thanks to escrow protection and other such facilities. Hence, there is little to no risk of scams. 
  • Ease of Management: Managing jobs and finances becomes a breeze when you use a freelancing platform. You will not have to remember client names, deadlines, and project details since all the information will be available on the site.
  • Huge Number of Jobs: One of the biggest benefits of using a freelancing platform is the opportunity to bid for a variety of jobs. You will get it under one platform, hence you will not have to waste hours going through Google and social media to look for opportunities. 

Keep all these pointers in mind and pick a platform that works best for you. However, remember that there are also some side effects of working with an online marketplace.

The disadvantages include:

  • They Will Charge a Fee: Most freelancing platforms will charge a fee (between 5% and 20%). Some may even charge you a membership fee. This can add to the expense and take away from your earnings. 
  • You Will Be Dependent on Others: As mentioned earlier, UpWork is known for suspending accounts without giving a reason. The scenario is the same for most other platforms either. When you work with a third-party, you’re dependent on them. Losing your account means losing your prestige and that may not be worth it.
  • The Waiting Cycle: Most companies will keep your money for a week or two before they allow you to transfer the funds to your account. Waiting for your own money can be very irritating.

If you do not want to be dependent or share your earnings then consider launching your website and starting your own business from home

You will have to spend a few thousand on SEO, hosting, and development, but at the end of the day, you will save money and have greater control over your work.

But, I suggest that you first build a portfolio before you start your own website. 

How Can I Build an Impressive Portfolio?

It can take years to build a reputable profile on a freelancing site. The trick is simple: the more you work and the more positive feedback you gather, the better it is for your portfolio. 

Almost all platforms allow clients and freelancers to leave feedback based on their experiences. However, a large part of clients never leave feedback and some deliberately leave negative feedback.

It can be quite difficult to deal with such clients. Hence, it is best to stay away from ‘shady clients’. You can go through reviews left by other freelancers to judge a client. Also, know how to compare and choose job offers so you can get the best deal.

If you want to build your profile, you need to be professional, meet deadlines, be nice, and ask your client to leave you a ‘5 star feedback’ after you close the contract.

However, your portfolio will and should not solely depend on your freelancer profile.

You can build one by writing on your own blog, sharing content through LinkedIn and your social media pages, and contributing to different sites under your own name.

This is a very valid point because a lot of clients are looking for ghostwriters.

They will not credit you for the work that you do, hence you may not be able to include it in your portfolio.

That’s why it is best that you think of some impressive titles and approach websites that accept guest blogs.

The main idea is to publish enough content to get recognized so that Google shows your profile and photo when someone searches the net to know more about you.

Plus, a good portfolio can also bring you more work.

A lot of my clients go through my articles on different platforms and get in touch with me to write for them. 

How to Create a Kickass Profile

It is easy to become to sign up for an account but it can be difficult to make a profile that others find attractive.

It took me quite some time to master the art.

Now, I know what potential clients look for when they scan through profiles to find their next freelancer.

Here are some tips:

  • Double check all the information. Make sure your name, address, and other such details are true as you may have to submit identity documents to verify your profile. This also means you cannot use a pen name to make a profile unless you have a document to prove you own the name.
  • Tell people what you have done and can do. For example, instead of merely talking about ‘2 years of writing experience’ mention major publications you have contributed to and the topics you are good at. 
  • Highlight your education and relevant experiences. Also, attempt skill tests if the platform has the option to.
  • Proofread your description and make sure there are no typos or errors. You can’t afford to make mistakes if you’re looking to get hired as a writer.
  • Be professional, approachable, and friendly.
  • Clearly mention your rate on the profile.
  • Follow all the rules. For example, UpWork does not allow freelancers to mention contact details in the description. Doing so can get you banned.

Writing Winning Proposals: Things to Keep in Mind

You will not win jobs if your proposals are not good enough. It’s about convincing potential clients to leave others and choose you.

The key lies in concentrating on the pain points and creating a customized proposal. 

  • Start with a greeting and use the right salutation. It is okay to use the name of the client, if you know it. 
  • Go through the description in detail and only bid for a project that you’re suitable for. 
  • Answer all the questions the client has asked and include relevant samples to help the client understand how you write.
  • Avoid copy-pasted, generic proposals and always write a personalized response. 
  • Clearly mention the budget and deadline. I suggest that you bid within the client’s range. Most clients do not want to work with freelancers who charge more or require more time to submit work.
  • End the proposal on a positive note.
  • Proofread the proposal and make sure there are no typos or mistakes.
  • Highlight why you’re the best candidate by mentioning what you bring to the table.

The Last Word: Remember These Tips

Here are a few more things you must keep in mind to become a successful freelance writer:

Choose the Right Rate

You’ll lose clients if you’re too expensive and you will not make enough money if you’re too cheap. It is important to find a balance. 

Always, bid for projects according to the client’s budget. You can also opt for hourly jobs. They can be beneficial since you will get paid for every second you put into your work. 

Some clients can be a pain to deal with. They send multiple revisions and if you signed a fixed contract, you will have to include those revisions in the cost.

However, there are no such barriers when it comes to hourly jobs. No matter how many revision requests they send, you will be paid according to the time you put into your work.

Note: You may have to use a tracker to log hours for hourly contracts.

Retain Your Clients

Retaining clients is as important as winning new clients. Send regular messages to your old clients reminding them you’re available. 

Build connections and, if possible, connect on LinkedIn so that you’re never out of mind.

Keep Revising Your Profile

Make changes to your profile based on your growing skills, experience. For example, if you wrap up a major project, mention it on your profile.

Create Your Own Policies

My rule as a writer is to be clear regarding terms and conditions. For example, I do not entertain revisions if they are not sent within a week of receiving work.  

I suggest that you also make such rules and clearly mention them in the contract or on your profile to avoid issues.

Conclusion: How to Make Money As a Freelance Writer

Follow these tips and you will be laughing all the way to the bank. The key lies in being patient, working hard to build a profile, and bidding for the right job.

Shad Hus

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