When I first started out on my path to becoming a freelance writer, I came across more than a few roadblocks. It’s not always easy, but you have to persevere to get to where you want to be. Knowing how difficult it can be for aspiring writers, I thought of putting together this article.
I figured what newbie freelance writers would really find helpful would be advice from the experts – writers who started out in the same situation and managed to find a way to become successful. I asked the following writing experts this question:
“What is your number one piece of advice for newbie freelance writers?”
And boy did they deliver!
These lovely writers came back with some fantastic bits of advice for new freelance writers. If you’re interested in freelance writing, make sure you read this first and pay attention – these ladies know what they’re talking about.
A big thank you to everyone who participated! Here are the responses, in no particular order.
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“Don’t wait until you’re “ready” to start going after what you want! I.e. you don’t have to have the perfect pitch, the perfect samples or the perfect resume. Find someone to take a chance on you by putting yourself out there and confidently going after what you want and work your way up from there. Get paid WHILE you’re learning the ropes and seeing if freelance writing is the right fit for you.”
Gina Horkey is a writer for hire, with a background in personal finance. She also offers coaching services and really enjoys helping other freelancers gear up to quit their day jobs and take their side hustles full-time. Please stop by Horkey HandBook and download a free copy of 8 Tips to Start Your Freelance Career off on the Right Foot! Follow her @horkeyhandbook
KeriLynn Engel (Keri)
“I’d say my #1 tip for newbie freelancers is to not let yourself get overwhelmed by all the #1 tips out there! If you take every course, read every blog, and join every community on freelancing you’re going to get overwhelmed and paralyzed by all the advice and information. Try one or two things at a time, not everything at once. Limit yourself to one course, and just a couple of blogs of successful freelancers who are doing what you want to be doing, and take their advice with a grain of salt. Not everything that worked for them will work for you. Everyone is different, and you have to figure out your own path. Be patient with yourself! No one achieved success overnight, and those you think have it all figured out are really still learning and figuring things out for themselves, too :)”
“Launch a writer website.
It sounds so simple, but far too many new writers skip this step because they don’t realize how valuable it is. As Julienne Roman pointed out in a Freelancer FAQs article, “A writer without their own website is like a vendor without his own stall.” It’s so true! Your website is your “hub.” It’s where you can direct prospects to learn more about you, whether you’re responding to a job ad or they’re finding you through social media or Google. You wouldn’t second guess any other business having a website, so why wouldn’t you give your small business a website?”
“Funnily enough, I wrote about this on my blog today!
If I had to boil it down to one piece of advice, I think it would be: Start.
It’s great to read and learn about freelance writing, but you won’t end up doing this for a living unless you can take action. Stop worrying about figuring out the one, best, fastest, lowest-cost way to do marketing and find clients, and begin. Try different things. Write a lot. Find clients to write for, even if it’s pro bono at first. Soon, you’ll see the direction you should take.”
“When you’re ready to start getting clients, update every profile you own to say that you are a freelance writer. This includes social media profiles, author bios on your blogs and blogs you contribute to, forum profiles, etc. Any profile that asks you for a bio or to describe yourself should include that you are a freelance writer. You never know where a customer might discover you! ”
“The best advice I have for new freelance writers is to NOT work for peanuts! Set your rates, and be unyielding. Know your value, charge it, and stick to your guns during the negotiation process.
Do not accept anything less than what you are worth.
Undervaluing yourself is the biggest mistake newbie freelancers make.
If you can avoid this error from Day One, you’ll save yourself a ton of grief, a lot of time, and a bit of heartache. ”
Lorraine Reguly is a freelancer who has written for top blogs (such as Problogger and Kikolani) and approaches writing from a unique perspective. She adds a bit of bling to the boring, and spices up quality content with dashes of ingenuity. To view her portfolio and the services she offers, visit Wording Well and have a look around. Then hire her! Follow her @lorrainereguly
“Find your niche and become an expert. Developing niche expertise is extremely important for a new freelance writer. Don’t just write here and there. Pick a niche and stick to it. You could pick health, fashion, beauty, business, technology or any other topic that interests you. Research and develop command over that subject. This will help you target the right clients and get you more gigs.”
“My advice might sound a little harsh, but I think it’s best to shoot straight with people. I tell new writers who want to do this for a living the same thing:
If you want to be a freelance writer, then you need to have tough skin. If you can’t take the bad moments, if you can’t handle mean or even vicious comments on your work — then this line of work is not for you.
It’s not something I say to be mean, but so many writers read about all the good stuff that comes from freelancing that they don’t have a full scope of the dark side of it.
There are internet trolls who have nothing better to do but tear you up one side and down the other because you forgot to hyphenate a word or because you wrote “your” instead of “you’re”. And if you’re a woman, then you can instantly assume that you are going receive some sexist and completely unprofessional comments via social media and other avenues.
Handling blowback from mistakes you made or snarky people on the web is part of the job — and it is not always easy.
It’s something that can catch a lot of new freelancers off guard and even cause them to want to stop pursuing this career. That’s why I tell newbies that they need to buck up and learn to roll with the punches; use that as fuel for the freelance fire under their butts.
There are always bullies, there are always people who know more and write better than you. But truthfully, you’ll have the last laugh in a conversation because at the end of the day you’re getting paid to do what you love.”
Ariel Rule is long-time blogger and copywriter specializing in SaaS products, social media, and web writing. Her love of coffee is only surmounted by her love for her kids, hubby, and a crazy dog named Rambo. Follow her @
“Write! It seems obvious and redundant, but it’s the number one thing you need to do. It’s easy to get caught up in all the other aspects of becoming a freelance writer like building a website, getting on social media, marketing, etc. that actually writing gets lost in the shuffle. So spend some time every day just writing. Your writing will improve, you’ll feel more confident, you’ll have more to put in your portfolio, and you’ll be able to do work you love.”
Robyn Petrik is a writer and creativity enthusiast, and shares tips on writing, sparking your creativity, and making the world a better place on her website. Stop by her blog, get inspired, and say hi! Follow her @robynpetrik
“My number one piece of advice for newbie freelance writers is: Don’t think you’re going to become rich and famous overnight. Patience and perseverance are the name of the game when it comes to a successful freelancing career — in any field! There’s a really good Julie Andrews quote that I think applies wonderfully to freelancing: ‘Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.’ Are you willing to get your writing rejected 19 times before getting one pitch accepted? Then you might be ready to be a freelance writer! Don’t be afraid to do some soul searching before you start. A lot of newbies think that being good at writing is enough, but it’s not — it’s also about your personality type.”
Lauren Tharp is a freelance writer and the owner of LittleZotz Writing. Lauren helps small businesses bring their brands to life through written content; and she also helps fellow writers get started as freelancers via blog posts, bi-monthly newsletters, free e-books, and one-on-one mentoring. Follow her @
“The biggest advice I can give is to have a website or online portfolio. Use it to display your clips and keep an updated blog to build trust and authority. That way you have a website to offer proof you can do what you say.
Don’t stick to content mills and job boards. The pay is usually low. Plus, you rarely get a byline, which won’t help you move forward. It’s easy to get stuck. Value is tied to your rates. Know your worth. Do a few pro bono jobs, if you like, to start and go from there. Create sample articles if you don’t have articles in a niche you’re trying to break into.
Be proactive. Create a list of pitches and pitch to magazines, online journals, and blogs. Pitch, pitch, pitch. It’s scary, but do it. Don’t expect companies to find you. You have to find them. It pays off.”
Whitney Sherwood is a freelance writer and culture reporter. Visit her site, WhitneyWrites.co, where you’ll find her dishing out advice on freelance business, writing, and tackling project management. Follow her @bywhitwrites
“Do not worry about getting everything set up perfectly before you begin hunting down clients. For one thing, there is no perfect. It doesn’t exist. There’s no perfect website or writing style or expertise you need to make this work. Having immaculate grammar won’t help you if you don’t actually get your arse out there and start doing this. So put down that ‘one last book’ you need to read before you’re ready to start, and just start. You will learn this trade by doing it. No idea what a client means when they ask for a ‘power page’? Don’t panic. Google has the answer. But what about sending invoices? How does that work? Chill the fuck out. Google knows the answer to that too. But what about contracts? What format do you send things in? HOW MUCH DO YOU CHARGE?! Holy shit, calm down.
No matter what dilemma you stumble upon, you will be able to figure it out by wielding the mighty power of the internet, whether that means scouring Google, hitting up popular freelancing blogs or asking people in the know. And besides, you can’t possibly learn and retain all the information a freelance writing career requires before you’ve even begun. It’s much easier to assimilate information by actually putting it into practice. And, spoiler alert, that’ll only happen by getting yourself some real frickin’ clients. So stop panicking. Get on with it. You’ll fuck up sometimes, but that’s fine. You’ve just learned what not to do next time, and this one mistake hardly spells the end of your career.”
Karen Marston runs Untamed Writing, where she dishes out bullshit-free advice on getting paid to write. She also teaches aspiring freelance writers how to kickstart their careers, and writes copy for businesses that need a personality transplant. Follow her @karenmarston
“One of the very best things newbie freelance writers can do is build a solid network of other freelancers. Connect with other freelancers whose careers you admire, find a place where you can “hang out” with your peers, and start asking questions. The more known you are among your peers, the stronger your business will be and the deeper your knowledge. Plug in! If you aren’t sure where to begin, start by sending an email or two to a blogger you admire or to a fellow freelancer. I’m always happy to answer questions, too!”
Ashley Gainer is a freelance writer and editor living in Chapel Hill, NC. You can find her online at www.ashleygainer.com, where she teaches her fellow content champions how to level up and improve their craft. Follow her @AGEditorial
“When you’re first starting out as a freelance writer, the best thing you can do is to keep track of everything. Spreadsheets are your friend. Use them to keep a record of how much you earn per day, per week, per month. Your assignments, the hours you work per day, your editorial calendar… track it all.
Keeping track of all these things doesn’t just make you feel like a busy professional, though that’s a bonus! What is really does is help you grow. You’ll be able to see what your average hourly rate is, how much each project really takes you, who are your best clients, whether you’re meeting your income targets. My business didn’t really take off until I set solid income goals and kept track of how much I was earning for each day, week, and month. It’s so much easier to see what you need to change, work harder on, work smarter on, when you record everything. And you’ll be able to see when you meet your goals, which feels awesome and motivates you to set new ones!”
“For me, the number one piece of advice for new freelance writers is to always take action. In the beginning, clients aren’t coming to you; you have to find clients.
This means you have to put yourself out there and take action! So, you need to pitch often. Make pitching your number one priority if you don’t have a client yet.
You also need to build your portfolio with your samples and the best way to do this is to guest post on other sites. You’ll get your name out there at the same time as you’re building your portfolio.
So, if you’re new, take action. Don’t wait until you quit your 9-5 job. Don’t wait until your children go to school. Don’t wait until you have time. You need to hunker down and start taking action.”
Elna Cain is a professional freelance writer and coach. She provides ghostwriting, copywriting, and blogging services. Check out her free email course for bloggers and aspiring writers, Get Paid to Write Online. Follow her @
“My best advice for new freelance writers is: acknowledge when something isn’t working and take time to analyse it.
If your queries get no replies, for example, figure out why and either find a way to make it work or find another way to get an editor’s attention. If spending hours on LinkedIn hasn’t brought you any new work, figure out why and find a more productive way to use your time. The one thing you can’t afford as a beginner is to trundle along working hard on a bunch of tasks that bring you no rewards.”