If you're interested in learning how to become a freelance writer so you can earn an amazing income from home, this post is for you.
Imagine being your own boss, having nearly unlimited income potential, and being able to work from home. Instead of slaving away in a cubicle all day, you rely on your creative talents – and your rigid work ethic – to build the life of your dreams.
Without an employer to answer to, you’re free to take as much time off as you want.
While that freedom paves the way for countless family vacations, it also makes it easy for you to be a better mom or dad – the type who shows up for parent breakfasts and waits patiently at the bus stop each day.
You’re grateful, but you work hard. Because, no matter what, you cannot fathom working for anyone else again.
Failure is not an option. You will succeed, or you will die trying!
How I Became an Online Freelance Writer
I’m a 37-year-old mother of two, and this is my life. But, I wasn’t always so fortunate.
Before I learned how to become a freelance writer, I worked in a thankless professional job that imposed countless demands on my time and my health.
I worked long hours, weekends, and holidays, watching my life (and my children’s lives) tick away while I sacrificed everything for around $40,000 per year.
My kids were in full-time daycare, but they only got the scraps of a parent even when I was home. Our daily routine was pure misery. Wake up, dress to the nines with full makeup and hair, get the kids ready, scramble to get to daycare then to work by 8:00.
Hate my life until 5:00, throw together a sad dinner, bath time, laundry, chores, read a few books, then melt into a pile of disgust and despair.
Eventually, my husband and I decided we wanted more our of life – more freedom, more money, and more time for ourselves.
Since we weren’t sure what to do, we started a blog – ClubThrifty.com – in 2011 as a way to document our financial lives. We weren't sure where it would lead, but we hoped it would lead somewhere.
In the meantime, I began leveraging my online presence (and my scarce free time) to pursue my passion – writing. For a long time, my husband and I worked full-time and built our online business during our spare time. That often meant getting up at 5:00 a.m. to write before heading to our real jobs, blogging and writing on weekends and holidays, and sacrificing all our free time.
The ordeal was absolutely draining, and I wanted to give up all the time. Fortunately, my husband never let me give up my dreams. I took a few weeks “off” here and there, but I always jumped right back in.
I work extremely hard, but my new life puts my old one to shame. Instead of schlepping by with 15 PTO days per year, we now travel around 12 weeks annually. With more money at our disposal, we max out our retirement accounts and invest in real estate.
At this very moment, we are 9 months away from paying off our primary residence and never owing anyone a single cent ever again.
Most importantly, I am the type of parent I have always wanted to be – the type who is always home and available for my kids. While the money is great, this is the best part about our success.
How to Become a Freelance Writer
Over the years, thousands of people have asked me how I transitioned from a 9-5 office jockey to a freelancer who barely gets dressed and earns six figures.
With that in mind, I created a course specifically for writers who want to build online careers – EarnMoreWriting.com.
Since my course launched in October of 2016, nearly three hundred writers have begun building online freelancing careers of their own.
While much of the advice I offer is common sense, I share a lot of the lessons I learned the hard way. Many course participants with writing skills or even untapped talent have benefited tremendously from hearing “what not to do” and having a freelancing road map to build off of.
If you’re angling to build a freelance career from home, it’s easy to spin your wheels without ever knowing where to start. Here are eight steps anyone can take as they start on the path toward freelance success:
Step 1: Know who you are.
One of the biggest roadblocks new writers face is figuring out who they are and what they should write about. If you can nail down your passion, an area of expertise, or your areas of interest, it’s a lot easier to find writing jobs in your niche.
Roshni Gandhi is an attorney who signed up for EarnMoreWriting.com because she wanted more freedom in her life and her career. She took the advice in my course to “find herself” quite literally, choosing to leverage her lawyer skills to find writing jobs that apply to her area of expertise. Gandhi also does a ton of ghostwriting, mostly because it pays well and lets her leverage her professional knowledge.
At the moment, she is earning between $3,500 and $5,000 per month creating online content, and that’s on top of the income she earns as an attorney. When it comes to finding your “passion,” her advice is similar to mine:
“Pay attention to the topics and niches that pique your interest,” says Gandhi. “There is a good chance that your interests align with paid writing gigs, and that will be your ideal match.”
What are you obsessed about? What are you already reading about? What skills from your day job can translate into a writing career?
Answer these questions and you'll be one step closer to finding where you belong.
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Step 2: Build a “starter” portfolio.
When it comes to getting started as a freelance writer, many aspiring writers struggle with what steps to take first. It’s hard to get writing jobs when you don’t have a portfolio, yet you cannot build a portfolio without writing jobs.
Don’t know where to guest post? The easiest way to get a guest post is to reach out to bloggers in your niche.
One of my first “big writing jobs” was with a website called GetRichSlowly.org. They finally hired me after I sent a handful of guest posts they could publish for free. While you don't want to write for free forever, writing for free (for a short time) can definitely pay off!
Step 3: Become a better writer.
Building a freelance career that stands the test of time requires decent or good writing skills. The best way to become a better writer is to constantly hone your skills – as in, write all the time whether you’re getting paid or not.
Eric Ridenour is a course participant who has grown his income from $1,000 per month to $1,500 per month since he got started. His secret? Ridenour reads and writes all the time in an effort to improve his skills.
“Write every day no matter what,” says Ridenour. “If you have no jobs, then write pitch letters. If you are tired of writing pitch letters. then free-write.”
Tired of that? “Make some creative posts on Facebook or write Amazon reviews,” he says. When Ridenour first got started, he says he used some of his best Amazon reviews on his writing portfolio. Apparently, it worked.
Step 4: Invest in yourself.
Ben Luthi started blogging four years ago, landed a writing job with Nerdwallet, then took my course once he was ready to become a freelancer. He now earns around $5,000 per month writing in his spare time.
Luthi’s key to success? “Relentless self-improvement,” he says. Since he didn’t have any writing experience when he started blogging, he faced quite a large learning curve at first.
“After a few months of that, I started getting freelancing gigs and I had some great editors who gave me candid feedback,” says Luthi. “I soaked it up and implemented the feedback immediately.”
In addition to listening intently to any feedback you receive, you can also take a course that packages everything you need to know in an easy-to-digest format. You'll spend money, but it can easily pay off.
When Luthi started his blog four years ago, the initial $300 he spent hurt quite a bit. But, looking back four years later, he says that initial investment launched his career as a writer, leading to tens of thousands of dollars in additional income.
“The same goes with Holly's writing course and other investments,” says Luthi. “It may seem like a lot upfront, but if you're disciplined and passionate about writing, the return on investment can be amazing.”
Step 5: Learn the art of the pitch.
When you’re trying to build a portfolio that pays the bills, you have to find ways to score new clients. Most freelance writers accomplish this goal by “pitching” clients who might pay them for work. For this strategy to work, however, you have to know what to say and be willing to pitch often enough to land meaningful work.
Professional writer and course participant Aja McClanahan says she spends quite a bit of time pitching and trying to get new work.
“I try to pitch at least 3-4 times a week,” says McClanahan. “I also have my own blog with a social media following.”
For McClanahan, this strategy has paid off in spades. She is currently earning $3,000 – $4,000 per month with her freelancing efforts, but hopes to double that amount soon.
Step 6: Network, network, network.
While you don’t have to network in-person as an online freelance writer, you have a lot to gain by reaching out to other writers and website owners in your niche. The more people you know, the more jobs you can learn about.
I always suggest creating portfolios on websites like LinkedIn and joining online freelancing groups. Writers in EarnMoreWriting.com share tips and job leads in a dedicated Facebook group as well.
Step 7: Track your earnings and set new goals.
In my opinion, all writers need a daily, weekly, and monthly income goal. Without a goal in mind, your freelance income is flying blind. With a daily goal, however, it’s much easier to achieve your income goals.
Imagine you want to earn six figures as a freelance writer. That sounds like a lot and, without a goal, you might be hard-pressed to earn anything close to $100,000 per year.
But, break it down further and you’ll see it’s not that crazy after all. Earning six figures per year requires a monthly income of at least $8,333. If you can work 20 days per month, you need to earn at least $416 per day.
That’s a lot, but it’s not unattainable. I typically earn between $600 and $1,200 per day, after all.
Step 8: Never give up.
If you want to be successful at anything in life, being able to weather numerous storms without giving up is key. Building a freelance career takes time and effort. You’ll experience a lot of setbacks and hear a lot of “no’s” at first. If you want to break through to the other side, you have to focus on your “wins” and ignore your losses.
Ben Luthi may be earning $5,000 per month (in addition to a full-time job) now, but his first writing client paid him $10 per article. It wasn’t great, he says, but he used the opportunity to improve his writing skills and process. Over time, he found more clients that paid better and moved up the ranks.
That’s exactly how I built my career, and how you'll probably build yours, too. While I earned around $75 per article at first, I kept improving my skills and moving up the ranks until I was finally at the top. I experienced a ton of setbacks and stressful moments, but I never let the struggle stand in the way of my goals.
Those who never give up are the ones who succeed – even if it takes a while.
The Bottom Line
Building a freelance career isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it. It takes a strong-willed personality to build a career out of thin air, then keep going even when success seems out of reach.
For a mom like me, the lifestyle is addictive – so addictive that I will do whatever it takes to maintain our high standard of living.
The same can be said for Aja McClanahan, who writes for a living while homeschooling her two kids.
“I like being able to work whenever and wherever I need to,” she says. “Plus, no one can fire me or put a cap on my income.”
Unlimited income and the freedom to live life on your own terms? Once you learn how to become a freelance writer, the sky is the limit.