Pick a Niche
When I was a journalist, my freelance writing niche technology stories, I didn’t pick this niche because I was interested in technology journalism (although that helped). There were relatively few technology journalists in Ireland at that time.
When starting off as an aspiring freelance writer, it’s fine to try different niches and charge a lower rate until you gain appropriate experiences. Copywriters follow this approach at the start of their writing career too. However, as you acquire more knowledge and skills, focus on one or two niches and increase your rates.
Tip: Combine a niche with a popular content format. For example, I know a copywriter who specialises in producing case studies and creating videos for large technology companies.
- Freelance writing is a real, viable career. Not a myth.
- There are no hard-and-fast rules in freelancing — experiment and see what works for you.
- There are no ‘going rates’ — every client situation is different. ‘ or to be an expert.
- No one can predict how much you’ll get paid to write, or how quickly. It’s up to you.
- You don’t need ‘contacts’ — you can write your way in the door.
- The answer to many of your questions is, ‘It depends.’
- Take your goals seriously — even if others in your life don’t.
- Don’t worry about finding the best apps or tools to use in your freelance biz. Instead, focus mostly on getting clients.
- In general, fiction, poetry, and personal essays are not the basis of a bill-paying freelance career (you can get paid to write poetry, but don’t expect it to be a full-time career). The money is in reported articles and writing for businesses.
- Pitch more and worry less about whether you’re ‘doing it right.’
- To make this go faster, find a writer community and ask peers what works.
The number one thing that stops aspiring freelance writers is their own fears. It won’t matter what nuts-and-bolts knowledge you have, if you’re too scared to go out and get clients.
A: Ultimately, you’ll only find out by writing for clients. But if you’re truly a bad writer, you don’t usually try to make it your career. The problem generally is lack of freelance marketing, not lack of writing craft.
A: That’s why you need an accountability buddy — find another freelance writer newbie you can call weekly, to keep you working on your goals. In my experience, newbies with a buddy have a much higher success rate than newbies with no buddy.
A: This worry stems from thinking you need to know something besides how to write well, to become a freelance writer. You don’t. You can ask experts, research, and learn things. Your strong writing skill is what you bring to the table.
Set up your business
A: No one can make you, but it’s a real good idea. If you want to write off your business expenses, being registered with state and city tax authorities helps convince the IRS (or your national tax body) you’re a real business.
A: Just starting out, your own name is fine. You can always choose another name later, or ‘do business as’ another name. For instance, TiceWrites is my business name, but I do business as Make a Living Writing, Freelance Writers Den, and more.
If you want to be fancy and have serious branding for your freelance writing biz, I recommend choosing a name with keywords that would help clients find you, like: “Healthcare Writer Dana.” Avoid meaningless words and phrases such as ‘communications’ or ‘solutions,’ that don’t really say what you do.
A: Not usually, no. Noms de plume are for fiction authors. You’ll need to reveal your real name when you get paid to write, anyway — and having a fake identity will make editors wonder what you’re hiding. There’s a legit exception to this if you’re a woman with a stalker…I’ve known people in that sitch, and editors do understand. But otherwise, no.
A: No. I operated as a sole proprietor for many years. An LLC does provide a layer of liability protection between your personal assets such as a home or car, and your business. If you don’t lie or make stuff up, you’ll likely never be sued, so it’s not a big concern, especially just starting out.
A: Beyond a computer and the Internet, the rest is optional. I kept a paper income/expenses ledger for years — but if you want to be more pro, choose a solution such as Freshbooks (which I use and recommend) or Harvest. As I mentioned in the Big Tips, most would-be freelance writers spend way too much time wondering if they need a grammar app, and not enough time trying to find clients.
A: Not much, the first year. You’ll just pay what you owe, end of the year. Set aside a portion of your freelance income for taxes that’s similar to the tax bracket you had last year, as a guesstimate. In the U.S., once you hit the level of owing 800,000 or more in annual tax as a self-employed person, you’ll make estimated quarterly tax payments, based on the previous year’s income.
A: If you’re leaving a job and taking the plunge into freelancing, you’ll want to make sure you have health insurance. The good news is there are numerous viable self-employed health insurance plans available for freelancers.
Find a hassle-free way to get paid
One of the sure ways on how to make money as a freelance writer is to use a seamless payment platform. Clients love to work with freelance writers who have a hassle-free payment platform that won’t turn getting paid into a never-ending administrative nightmare.
Getting paid is super easy with Xolo Go. All you need to do is sign up, and start invoicing clients across borders. Using Xolo Go is a competitive advantage because you can use their unique partnership framework to invoice clients as a business, rather than an individual. This makes it much easier to streamline your freelancer financials, makes tax time less of a headache, and helps you look much more professional to new and prospective clients.
The best way to get clients as a freelance writer? Prioritize testimonials
Not being assertive about collecting testimonials was one of the major mistakes I made when I was first starting out as a freelance writer. I wrote for clients but never bothered asking for a testimonial.
My advice to you? Don’t make the same mistake — take testimonials seriously. Testimonials matter because prospects want social proof — they want to know what previous clients say about working with you before trusting you themselves.
Testimonials dissolve doubts, sell you more effectively, and supercharge your credibility. So don’t be shy about asking for testimonials from clients and adding them to your website. You can also get testimonials from your LinkedIn connections as LinkedIn recommendations on your profile.
You’d be shocked at how many people read testimonials on your website/social media accounts before reaching out to you! If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself and let me know how it goes!