Many folks are interested in doing freelance writing as a full-time job but they’re not sure how to start.
How much should you charge?
What’s a typical day look like?
Where can you even find clients who pay well?
We’re going to answer all those questions and more in this article. I’ve been writing professionally for a little over three years at this point. I wanted to share my experiences with freelance writing with you to help you get started in the space. While this may be the “ultimate guide” as I called it that doesn’t mean I know everything or that every other Medium writer is wrong. This is my point of view and perspective of it.
I suggest checking out other Medium articles on the topic to give yourself an even better overall idea of what to charge, where to find clients, and everything else. Without further ado, let’s get to it!
There are a few things to do to set yourself up for success before ever looking for any clients. The last thing you’ll want is to land a client and not be able to submit an article or spend your time looking for clients and never getting a nibble let alone a bite.
Build a Portfolio
How are you supposed to build a portfolio before getting work?
That’s a fair question. It’s a bit less of a traditional portfolio and more of a place for your writing. I’d suggest starting to write often on Medium for whatever topic(s) interest you the most. Doing this is free and will let you build up a body of work to point to when actually searching for clients.
Try to be consistent with your writing since some possible clients will actually look for that in your writing. Clients like when you can hit a deadline or consistent time.
For example, I post one article a week on Sunday at noon.
Just try to be consistent and post often. It will help you get clients while also helping you grow your audience on Medium. Some people make their living from Medium alone. It’s not a bad platform to start growing on.
Dedicate Some Time
Something that goes hand in hand with building a portfolio is writing a lot. If you’re serious about writing you should set some time aside daily to write. If you can only spend an hour writing a day then that’s okay. Start there.
I’d suggest also spending about an hour of learning. Read a book or article about how to improve your writing. This could be whatever interests you. Things like keeping your reader's attention, improving sentence structure, or even learning more about a topic you’re passionate about.
Make Sure You Have Time
If you can get a client that’s a good start but you want to make sure you have the time to actually write the articles your client wants. Committing to 15 articles a month with a full-time job and a family can be exhausting.
It’s a good idea to write often and time yourself to see how long certain articles take you to write. Write about your passion and that’s when your writing will be its best. Your blog should resemble what you like to write about so you can show clients exactly what to expect from your writing but also it will show your passion.
When you time yourself it gives you a good idea of how long certain articles will take to write. This gives you a better idea of what you can handle for your particular lifestyle.
Where To Find Work
There are plenty of places out there for you to find work as a writer. Some places are better than others but all avenues are possible. Here are my favorites
These ways include
My favorite place to find work for me as a writer is always through Writers Work. It’s been around for a couple of years now and it actually pulls all the writing jobs from different job boards all over the internet and puts them in one place. It also has a university feature, tracks tasks, and you can create documents.
Writers Work is very worth it. Here’s a video I did in-depth on Writers Work and why it’s my favorite place to look for work as a writer.
Upwork offers some well-paying jobs also. There’s no shortage of writing that needs to be done on Upwork. It’s my 2nd choice, for sure.
Fiverr lets you set your rates and has customers find you. It’s worth it to post your services on Fiverr even though it’s seen as a “cheap” option to get work done. It doesn’t have to be. Just post what your time is worth and update it whenever you need to.
Blogging is a great way to have a portfolio while also reaching new people. I’d say one in every 10 articles I wrote on Medium would be put in a publication. That means I’d get paid for someone to add it to their publication. It was a great system. Many other people get one in five added to publications or one in two or even one in one. There are some incredible writers out there. I suggest the video above about “how to get hired” as it goes in a bit more depth on how blogging can make you money and get your foot in the door as a freelance writer.
Local businesses always need good writing. It’s so often overlooked by marketers and writers in the area that if you can provide that to your local community then you can make a great income from this source alone.
Sit down and call local businesses with sites to see if they need any website Copywrite, articles, or SEO work done and then just keep your foot in the door for more work. A lot of businesses understand they need to rank for SEO and good writers are few and far between. It’s a great chance for you to get started locally!
What To Charge
This is the million-dollar question. It’s what I get asked more times than anything else when it comes to writing. My answer? Well, it’s subjective to each person, your location, and the location of the company you’re working for.
I’ll do my best though. Here’s a video on what to charge per word and per article for beginner, intermediate, and expert level writing.
I’ll also break what I said in this video down here.
Let’s look at what I charged from the beginning to now when it comes to per article writing.
- Beginner — $100 per article is pretty respectable. It let me make a side income while going to school.
- Intermediate — $150 per article is something you could make a living with. Two articles per day come out to around $75,000 a year working only weekdays and with a month off.
- Expert — $200-$250 this is usually when you’re one of the best at something or “the best.” It’s great for specialty content. Something super specific you have knowledge of that not a lot of other people do.
- Guest Spots are when a well-known writer does a one-off article with another company or publication in order to drive that writer's audience to that new company or publication. These can go for a lot. The cheapest I’ve seen these for is around $400 per article while the most expensive (without it being Stephen King or another wildly famous writer) is $5,000 for one article.
So the per article route really isn’t too bad. There’s plenty of money in it and it’s honestly nice to know exactly what you’ll be making for your article.
What about per word writing though?
Well, let’s check it out.
- Beginners usually get something like $0.06-$0.08 per word. This roughly lands you around the same place as the per article beginner level writers are. Between $90-$120 per 1,500-word article.
- Intermediate level writers usually look at the scope of $0.10-$0.12 per word. Again, you can make a living with this. A good one at that.
- The expert level is usually something like $0.14-$0.16 and this comes out to $200-$250 per 1,500-word article. It’s a great living especially if you’re in areas with low cost of living like I am. (Joplin, MO)
- Guest Spots per word are a little bit rarer from my experiences but they keep up with the per-article pricing. $0.25 per word is common all the way up to like $3–$4 per word at most.
Have A Niche
When you’re just starting out it’s a really good idea to have a niche picked out. Something you want to write about on your blog while simultaneously looking for work on that specific niche on Writers.Work, Upwork, or wherever.
If I’m running a company that blogs about creating themes for WordPress sites and I’m looking for a writer if your specialty is writing about creating themes for WordPress sites then you’re #1 on my hiring list. If you write about WordPress then not so much.
Find your niche and look for work in it. You can always expand later or change things up if you get bored. It’s easy to find work when you’re exactly niched to match the job.
Wrapping It Up
While all these things can help you the most important thing is to start. Get your foot in the door. Start your blog to build your portfolio, practicing your writing, and looking for work in those five places we talked about!
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
Have a good day and much love ❤