Could you make money from writing?
Here's a beginners' guide to freelancing.
Love words? Curious to see if you can earn money from writing? Let's find out if freelancing is for you...
Being a freelance writer comes with plenty of perks.
The main benefit is flexibility and freedom.
You can write for clients from the comfort of your own home, in your local coffee shop, or even on the beach.
All you need is a laptop and access to the internet.
When you’re the boss, you can also work whenever you want.
You can write in the evenings or at weekends, and create a schedule that fits with your lifestyle and commitments.
You don’t have to ask permission for dental appointments or the school run. Because freelance writing gives you the ability to work on your terms.
If all this sounds good, you may be wondering whether or not you can do it. And that’s where this guide comes in.
We’re Matt and Vicki Press, two experienced freelance writers. We’ve been creating content for some of the biggest brands for over 25 years.
And we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about earning an income from words.
Put your feet up and start scrolling, or download this guide as a PDF to read later. Either way, let’s find out if freelance writing is right for you.
2. Why businesses badly need freelance writers
So, why are freelance writers in such high demand?
Well, pretty much every market is highly saturated these days. And businesses need words to communicate their brand and the unique value of what they’re selling.
Just having a good product or service isn’t enough. With so much competition, prospective customers need to understand what’s in it for them.
And that’s the skill of a freelance writer.
Whether we’re talking about the words on an email or a brochure, we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes.
We play detective by unscrambling specific industry jargon and connecting the dots.
Most businesses are too close to their products or services.
They don’t understand the power of simplicity and they’re too hung up on telling their story, rather than giving customers the information they need.
Freelance writers can deliver more sales, leads, clicks, and downloads. We can truly transform any company.
But… some companies don’t value content. They just muddle through by themselves.
Successful businesses invest in words.
They know that tone of voice is vital for their brand image, and that good communication builds customer loyalty. It can literally be the difference between success and failure.
3. What’s it like to be a freelance writer?
Being a freelance writer is interesting and empowering.
Let’s start with the actual writing itself.
Creating effective business content relies on insight. If you understand what the audience is thinking, writing well for them becomes so much easier.
And when you see your words out in the real world getting results for your clients, it’s a real buzz. Genuine job satisfaction.
But there’s more good news.
It’s the logistics. When you can earn a wage working from home, you don’t have to commute to an office. You can work wherever and wherever you want.
Writing gives you the opportunity to be in control of your life.
You’re not chained to an office all day.
If you have a client that needs a blog post written by the end of the week, that’s your deadline. It doesn’t make any difference to them when you do the work.
As a freelancer, you’re a hired business, not an employee. You’re responsible for the work being handed in, but you don’t have to be accountable everyday.
So, if you like the idea of taking control of your work/life balance, freelance writing could be perfect for you.
4. How does the freelance writing industry work?
If you’re considering earning money from writing, you need to understand the mechanics of the freelance industry.
As a freelancer, you can find projects via a number of different methods, such as job boards, cold calling, using a recruiter, or LinkedIn.
When you land a client, you then agree on the key deliverables. So, what’s required, when it’s due, and how much you’re charging.
Once you’ve done the work, you need to incorporate any client feedback/revisions and get it signed off. Then it’s time to invoice the client and get paid.
It’s that simple.
Sometimes you’ll deal with the business owner, sometimes a marketing manager. It all depends on the size of your client.
Some projects will come with a detailed brief, others will rely on a call.
Occasionally you’ll work on a one-off job. But you might be asked to deliver content on an ongoing basis.
Freelancers could charge by the word. Some like to work to an hourly or daily rate. Many prefer to charge a project fee.
So, although there are a few variables at play, freelance writing jobs will generally play out the same way.
5. How much can I earn from writing?
People are looking for financial security. Many want a side income to add to their main job, or perhaps supplement their retirement.
Others just want to earn a decent wage and be their own boss.
Whatever your goal, you can reach it.
You can earn high-end fees, but here’s the thing:
Most freelancers are broke.
But if great content is in high demand, why is this the case?
Why do most freelancers live a feast or famine lifestyle, where they’re either snowed under working for peanuts, or left twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do?
We believe they’re making a critical error somewhere along the line.
And awareness is key. You’re getting into something new. You don’t want to fail. You don’t want to waste time and money on something that isn’t going to work.
So, we’ve got 3 secrets that will greatly reduce the chance of this happening to you. These are the key takeaways from decades of freelancing.
The first secret is to choose the right type of writing and specialise in it.
Most freelancers spread their wings too broadly by offering a huge range of services. It feels safer to cover your bases and do this, but it’s a problematic strategy.
Offering a variety of services makes it difficult to demonstrate tangible results. In turn, that makes it harder to differentiate yourself from the crowd, market yourself, build a reputation and charge higher rates.
Imagine you run an online cake business and need help with running Facebook ads. Would you rather hire a copywriter who’s generally got a good reputation? Or someone who has specifically been writing Facebook ads for years?
Choosing a form of writing to concentrate on will really help you as a beginner.
At the end of the day, there are loads of ways that you could earn money from writing, so you need something to focus on and gain traction with.
The second secret is to work on your systems… and this is something you won’t read in many writing guides.
There are many great copywriters out there, but we’ve done well over a sustained period of time because we know how to find work.
We have a reliable system that we use every day.
And we also have a system for how we deliver the work. From liaising with clients to getting paid, we’ve essentially got a checklist of things to work through.
What this does is remove the element of risk from freelancing.
We love writing and don’t want the job to lose its appeal because we’re constantly stressing about where the next project is coming from.
There’s a saying:
You don’t rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.
In other words, you can set the goal of making money from writing… and that’s great. But if you don’t have the right approach or process, it’s not going to happen.
So, this isn’t the sexiest secret in the world, but having a repeatable system for different aspects of the job is crucial to your success.
The third secret is to maximise your income.
Most freelancers land a writing gig, do it and move on. But you need to put your business hat on and not leave money on the table.
Because it’s easier to make more money from existing customers than it is to find new ones.
When you’ve been working for a client, you’re going to know more about them. You’re going to understand what they’re selling, and to whom.
When we’ve completed a job, we look for potential upsells. Other opportunities where our words can make a difference.
It may seem like a small thing, but if you were to land extra work from just 10% of your clients across a year, it’ll add up.
6. Can I become a freelance writer?
Okay, so this whole writing thing probably sounds pretty good so far. The real question is, could you become a freelance writer?
Do you have what it takes to earn money from writing, even if you’re a complete beginner who’s starting from scratch?
We’ve been freelancers for a long time and whether you’re after a career change, or a way of earning a side income, we can help you give it a shot.
To get started, all you need is this guide.
You might doubt whether you have the skills and knowledge to make money from writing. Particularly if you’re totally new to this.
At a basic level, you’ve obviously got to like working with words. You’ve got to enjoy reading, too. And not just books or novels, but anything. Adverts, posters, flyers… you name it.
Aside from that, there’s one important thing you need to know:
Freelancing isn’t really about how much technical writing skill you have, or how big your vocabulary is.
You need empathy, an interest in human psychology and the ability to translate jargon into normal, everyday language to tell a story.
Knowing who you’re writing for, understanding what they’re thinking, and identifying what they’re feeling is key. And this empathy and understanding simply comes from research.
It isn’t about having a degree in English Literature. It’s about the ability to use everyday, human language.
For example, companies who ask their customers to ‘submit a contact form’ should realise that no one ever talks like that. Changing the call-to-action to ‘get in touch’ adds more of a human touch and is proven to be far more effective.
You’re a consumer yourself, so you get the idea. This kind of thing happens all the time and freelance writers can transform profit and efficiency with just a couple of words.
Spelling and grammar are important of course. But freelancers always get the time to proofread their work and edit it, before handing it over.
Yes, online spell checkers, editors and dictionaries are invaluable. But they’re not really the key ingredient here.
Ultimately, if you understand your client and you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you’ve got a head start. Even if you’re starting from scratch.
We’ve been creating content for some of the UK’s biggest brands for a combined 40 years. And we believe we can teach you to do the same.
7. What can I write about?
Obviously there are lots of different markets and industries out there that you can work in.
But when it comes to getting started with the writing, the first step is to understand exactly what you’re doing and why.
we’re not talking about writing a novel or creating poetry here. Nor is this guide for anyone interested in journalism.
Freelance writing is simply about writing words for a client.
Call it copywriting. Call it content writing. They’re all essentially names for the same thing. Freelance writing is the art of helping businesses communicate and it takes many different forms.
Here are the main things you could be writing as a freelancer:
Although the above are all types of writing, there’s no doubt that they require slightly different skills. So it’s worth taking time to work out your potential strengths as a writer.
For instance, are you naturally creative?
If so, you could be suited to creating social media content. If you’re more methodical, press releases and technical copy might be more up your street.
Or if you’re a keen online shopper, then maybe product descriptions could be your thing.
Look at how well-known brands describe their products online. What is it you like about them? What do you dislike?
Think about the last thing you bought online and see how the vendor described the item. Did it influence you? If so, how?
If it didn’t, how could you improve the description?
Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective customer and carry out an imaginary purchase journey. For example, imagine you’re buying a new TV. At some stage, you’ll need to compare models online and make a decision to buy something.
The question is, which part of the product description or reviews would move the needle for you? Which words stood out?
8. The biggest problems for beginners [and how to overcome them]
We’ve worked with lots of beginners over the years and there are some key issues that always crop up.
To give you a full understanding of what’s required of you when you’re a freelance writer, we’re going to go over the main obstacles and give you some advice.
Problem 1: Confidence
It’s perfectly natural to doubt whether you can do this.
When you’re working in what’s perceived as a creative industry, it’s difficult to take feedback on board, even if it’s constructive.
But clients are going to have opinions and you need to realise that your initial submission may need tweaking. When this happens, remember that you’re providing a service.
You’ll have a fear of failure at the start of your writing journey, but this can and will be overcome.
Problem 2: Skill
Although we firmly believe that many of us have the ability to become a freelancer and make money from writing, you’re going to need to develop certain skills.
Like learning anything in life, having a skillset gives you confidence.
Understanding how to write effectively will take a bit of time, but the more you practise, the easier it gets.
Having a fear of failure is perfectly natural, but if you want some writing advice, check out our copywriting tips.
In it, we’ve distilled many years of writing experience into 42 really useful and actionable tips. This will undoubtedly fast-track your progress.
Try to stay patient. Nothing worthwhile is easy. Make sure you read as much as you can and pay attention to brands you like online.
What are they selling and why? How do they communicate? Which words do they use? What tone of voice do they employ to engage and impact their target audience? What’s their personality?
Problem 3: Trying to be too clever
When you start out with writing, the temptation is to impress people with the use of flowery language. And you may want to flex your creative muscle.
But this is business.
It’s a different type of writing.
No matter what the market, every audience is short of time. Copy for a business needs to be simple and succinct.
A big mistake that beginners make is that they write too formally and don’t engage the audience.
It’s really easy to fall into a trap of thinking that your writing needs to be incredibly sophisticated, especially if someone’s paying for your words.
But that’s not the case.
You’ll be paid for skillfully understanding how to speak to the client’s target audience. You’re hired to write words that work, not to impress people.
Every good freelancer normally spends more time researching than they do writing.
Research gives us powerful insights. Information and data that we can use to tailor our copy and speak right to the heart of the audience.
9. Discover the best way to get started as a beginner
In this guide we’ve covered the different forms of writing and how the industry works.
You’ve hopefully realised your potential to become a successful freelance writer and that great content is always needed in every market.
Really, the last thing to cover is how to get started.
It’s certainly the question we’re asked the most.
Now, we’ve thought long and hard about this.
The reality is, there are a number of different ways to earn money from writing and many approaches to getting started.
However, the key thing is this:
What’s the best way to get started?
In other words, what’s the approach we would recommend to people? Which initial steps should you take for the optimal chance of success?
We think that there’s one type of writing that’s easy to do and easy to sell, even if you’re a complete beginner.
And we’ve created a free training video that explains what it is, and why it’s so great. We also tell you how to do it and give you a step-by-step guide to getting started.
Click through below and you can watch it right now.
Discover how to make money from writing without any knowledge or experience