What is freelance writing: a small overview
Freelance writing is an extraordinary and exciting career that offers flexibility, creative control, and the ability to build yourself a steady stream of income from home! Plus, you get to do something super cool – write content and share your ideas with the world! So, what is freelance writing exactly? And does it differ from other forms of writing, say book writing or script writing? The amazing thing about freelance writing is that it’s so open ended – so the answer to “what is freelance writing?” is kind of complex, but thankfully, full of possibilities! Most people think of book authors when they think of being a professional writer, but writers exist in all arenas. The simple answer to what is freelance writing: someone that provides content but is not an employee; they are a service-based business.
Freelance writers typically work from home and complete their work project by project – either with one client or dozens at a time! You might work with a client for one project and never talk to them again. You may complete 30 different things for a client and work with them over the course of a few months or years. Maybe your clients need you to complete some more unique pieces of writing, such as an e-book or press release.
What is freelance writing: schedule requirements (hint: NONE!)
Freelance writers are special because they are their own boss; they don’t clock into work or have working hours set forth by a company. Instead, freelance writers work based on deadlines that they discuss with their client. This means that your working hours are your choice. I am writing this at 10:43 PM. I choose to work late at night sometimes because my kids are sleeping, so it is a good time for me to work alone! As long as you meet your deadline, you can work when you see fit.
Please hear me on this: meet your deadline. Being a freelance writer is a gift; your schedule is up to you entirely. Do not take this for granted! Many of my clients are repeat clients, if not most of them. It is important to give a great first, and great continual, impression. You do this by 1) producing great content and 2) producing it on time, preferably early. If something comes up, email your client right away and try not to make it a habit.
How sticking to your schedule and deadline pays off
Let me give you a little idea of what establishing a good, repeat client relationship looks like. I have worked with this particular client three different times now. Client asks for a batch of 6 blog posts. He pays me $900 upfront; no questions asked. I haven’t even written a single word! He gives me a loose deadline before paying me, but we don’t iron anything out. We go over outlines, topic ideas, etc. I tell him roughly 4-6 days after he paid me that my daughter is having her tonsils removed in a few days, so I will submit the blog posts a few days after she has her surgery. He tells me not to worry about it, focus on my daughter, and gives me until the week after I shot him a final deadline. In a nutshell: I received $900 upfront two weeks before the deadline; my client was entirely flexible with said deadline and encouraged me to focus on my daughter’s recovery before work. This is why freelance writing is a gift and should never be taken for granted! The only reason he was so cool is because we have established this relationship from working together in the past. All of this to say, deliver content on time.
Let’s talk money
Everyone’s most curious question, I’m sure! How much can you make as a freelance writer? No two freelance writers will make the same amount of money. I recently just had a $10,000 month, which was absolutely amazing! This is not the norm for me (yet!), usually I hover around $2,000/month. This $10k month was also from ONE client – one easygoing, super awesome client. Also, the first half of my payment hit my account on my birthday. Talk about a dream month, like can every month be that way?! Some writers consistently make six-figures a year, but they typically have been freelance writers for a few years and may have recurring clients or more high-dollar referrals. For reference, I’ve been writing for a little over a year.
This is what makes freelance writing so amazing. It is so versatile and limitless, even where your income is concerned! It’s more than possible to raise your income drastically from one month to the next – my income jumped about $8,000 from one month to the next! Again, that isn’t my normal income, but who wouldn’t love an $8,000 bonus? Plus, like I said, there are plenty of writers making $10,000/month on a consistent basis.
Why is there so much money to be made as a freelance writer?
Can you think of the last thing that you read? It could have been a billboard you passed on the highway, a website about page of the new clothing boutique that just opened up in your town, or your newborn’s car seat installation instructions. You likely have read something within the last 24-48 hours! We sometimes forget just how much we read, but writing is everywhere and thankfully – writers are always needed! In every space, every niche… we are needed. Simply put, there is so much money to be made because there is such a need for content.
Who are my clients as a freelance writer?
Simply put, anyone that needs written content is your client. But, let’s narrow it down a bit.
In order to really create a lucrative and self-sustainable freelance writing business, it is highly recommended that you establish a niche for yourself. Niches are great because as you gain more experience in one area, you get better and better – so you can charge more! Niches aren’t incredibly defined; I am a freelance writer in the cannabis and CBD niche. Other profitable niches include: finance, technology, health and wellness, medical writing, education, business, travel, fitness, cooking and other food-related content, etc. Some freelance writers niche down in terms of the style of content they produce, such as only writing blog posts or white papers.
As a cannabis and CBD writer, I work with a lot of consumer-facing brands. I have also worked with staffing and manufacturing companies in the space, as well as some news publications. When looking at your niche, remember that there are likely dozens of ancillary businesses that help power that niche. Look at all angles of your niche when sourcing prospective clients, not just what you see right in front of you. This can allow you to learn the ins and outs of your niche; I’ve learned SO much from my clients – especially those in the cannabis manufacturing space as I know the least about that! If you’re a finance writer, reach out to some software companies in the financing space. If you’re an education major trying to break into the freelance writing industry, contact your local school district and see if they have a need for content.
What is freelance writing: education and background requirements
Anyone can jump into freelance writing; you don’t need a degree or prior experience! You simply need to prove yourself as a freelance writer, business owner, and expert in your niche. The most basic criteria is language. If you have a good grasp on the English language, you can be a freelance writer! I mention English because I live in the United States, also, many high-paying writing jobs are in the U.S. For English-speaking jobs, being able to maintain a natural, conversational-style tone is critical. Freelance writing clients typically look at prior work before deciding to work with you, it is best to send links to previous pieces you have written. Clients typically don’t seek a resume, college education, or anything else. So as long as you can produce great samples, you can get work!
I will say that it helps to at least partially enjoy writing. You don’t have to be the best writer, not at all. But, enjoying it certainly helps! Having a basic understanding of grammar is also important. It doesn’t have to be perfect, there are plenty of free grammar resources that can help refresh your grammar muscles. Grammar is one area I HAVE to improve on; I am pretty bad about run-on sentences! But hey, nobody is perfect.
A little bit about my story
I wanted to talk just a little bit about why I became a freelance writer, because I know there will be SO many who relate to my story! It may be the answer for you, too. So many people feel stuck in life. They may have children and want to stay home with them, or work a 9-5 they hate but need to live. Even if they love their job, they may need a little extra money. That’s what makes freelance writing so great – it can be totally tailored to you. Don’t be misled, however, as building a business always requires commitment. You can’t just put an hour a month into it and expect to get very far. You must be committed to the process – it’s not an overnight success.
Before becoming a freelancer, I was a stay-at-home mom and I simply wanted more for myself and my family. My husband’s job was paying the bills, but he was away all the time and there wasn’t much leftover for extras. Not to mention, he’d just suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury that same year and it prevented him from being as physically active as he once was. I was also five months pregnant with our third child, so getting a job outside of the house was not an option! Not only would an employer likely not hire me if they knew I was pregnant, I didn’t want to leave my children.
I have actually wanted to work from home since 2015 when I stumbled upon something called multi-level marketing. You may have heard of it, in fact, I’m sure you have. ItWorks (my former company), Arbonne, Herbalife, etc. are all multi-level marketing companies. Multi-level marketing promised to fulfill my wildest dreams, grant me disposable income, and the freedom to own my business and take control of my life.
Only… it didn’t do that at all. In fact it took more money, time, and mental sanity from me than it gave in return. I strongly oppose MLMs, but that isn’t the point of this blog post. I left my MLM after two solid years of hustling in 2017. My dream to work from home never left me though, and in 2019 I finally put my dreams into action. I started as an intern working for free for three months for a CBD company, then I used that experience to jump into freelance writing. I now make a full-time income from home and my family’s lives have changed dramatically!
We upgraded our old beater car and have a gorgeous mini van with a DVD player (heellllooo 3 kids under 5!) I upgraded my phone to a very nice iPhone that allows me to easily write on my phone when my babies just want to be held; my husband and I are going on our dream trip to Colorado that was completely paid for by my business! Not to mention, it carried us through the pandemic without my husband having to work. So, my business has paid for rent, groceries, and other bills, too! Needless to say, starting my freelance writing business was the best choice I could have made for my family. It also further inspired my husband to finally launch his business selling micro greens, a dream he has had for awhile now, and he is already killing it! My experience marketing my own business has really helped me be able to give him advice that did and didn’t work for me, even though our ventures are totally different.
Back to business, what is freelance writing?
So, back to what freelance writing actually is… Freelance writers create content for just about every dang thing out there, but the ones that make the most money typically stay within a certain niche. Niches are the areas that you choose to write about. Freelance writers can specialize in the cannabis industry (me!), health & wellness space, the personal care space so working with makeup and lifestyle brands, the tech arena, small business sect, fashion, finance, some writers are freelance journalists, etc. Some freelance writers break it down even further by only offering certain types of content. So, one writer may only write case studies or email sequences. Another may only offer blog posts.
It may take a little trial and error to find your perfect niche, but trust me, it’s so worth it! Freelance writing can be so much more lucrative if you become an expert in one niche. More experience leads to better paying gigs, it’s just the way it works! Not to mention, most people want to work with the expert over someone who just learned about that topic last night, which tends to be the case for many generalist writers.
I won’t get into too much detail here about how to identify your perfect niche, but it does help to pick something you already know about! If you used to be a preschool teacher you may look into writing for educational companies and publications. Flight attendants or world travelers may look into writing for travel blogs or brands. There are tons of options, but just make sure it’s something profitable. If your niche is too narrow or specific, there won’t be many readers or a large customer base. Which means lower paying jobs or no jobs for you.
In a nutshell
To sum it all up, freelance writers write content for businesses. The content can be marketing tools, grant writing, press releases, e-books, etc. The scope is very broad – it’s up to you to determine the kind of writing that works best for you. If you’re a brand new writer, it’s typically easiest to dive into article writing first. That’s usually the most common kind of content people are looking for, and if you can write a good article, you can usually branch off into harder pieces of content later on down the road.
Where do I start?
Start by reading through my blog posts and checking out my freelance writing tools! It is important to remember that your experience as a freelance writer will be totally unique from mine, but as long as you stay the course, you are sure to see success!