Freelance writing online—a part-time gig to fill your spare time, a common misconception that many have.
Sure, writing online can be a fun hobby for some; however, for others, it’s a passion that fuels a fire that some simply don’t understand. Content writing is oftentimes a thankless job—in some cases, you work hours on end researching and toiling over a keyboard creating an outstanding piece of content that doesn’t even garner you a byline. So why bother doing it?
Here’s my answer: because it’s my passion.
I’ve been a writer my entire life—I kid you not. Before I could even write, I was telling wild stories that my family would write for me so I could have a copy to show off to my friends, family, and maybe my own children someday. That passion turned into a love of reading and a love of creation, one that spurred my love of education. An odd combination, sure, but it all comes together, I promise!
I knew college was my dream in elementary school, but when the time came, choosing what road I was going to take and what I was going to do with the rest of my life…
Talk about an impossible task!
Freelance Writing Online: From Dream to Present & Future
What started as a love of education and wanting to educate other’s, quickly fizzled out as soon as the job market told me that becoming an educator wasn’t ideal. Teachers were getting laid off left and right, so why bother wasting my time and tuition money in a dead-end dream?
Okay, so it was time to choose a fallback option. I loved to read and create, so English was an obvious choice, but what kind of job could I get as an English major… Besides teaching English? Enter in Dr. Terri Fredrick, and there began my journey in professional and technical writing. This was a professor who encouraged us to look at every option available, including freelance writing online.
She taught us every lesson in the book:
- How to spot scams
- How to research clients
- How to cold-pitch ideas
- To not count yourself short
However, the lesson that stuck with me the most was to do what you love.
Upon graduating in 2013, this English major with her background in professional and technical writing knew that she wanted to write, but oddly enough, there weren’t all that many positions open for in-office writers. So, despite my family’s objections, I headed online, hit up ProBlogger.com, and landed my first writing position for a journalistic style website.
Interested in working from home and writing? We’re always interviewing for additional writers. Send in your resume or samples here!
Freelance Writing Online: Part-Time Gig or Full-Time Job?
The overall job outlook for writers and authors is projected to grow 8% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and with traditional publishing declining due to the uprising of online publication, the demand for online freelance writers is expected to grow.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
What does that mean for anyone looking to start freelance writing online? Is this a position for part-timers looking to fill in some downtime? Alternatively, are there real possibilities to go full-time and make a living?
It all comes down to your intentions and personal preferences. For those looking to make a hobby of it, there are plenty of opportunities, both paid and unpaid; however, for those looking to make a career of it, I have some advice:
Prepare to get dirty and fight for your position.
Becoming a full-time freelance content writer takes a lot of time, patience, dedication, and yes, maybe a few tears along the way. Just like any other dream, you must be willing to work for it.
When I first started my journey into freelance writing online, I figured my degree would be enough to land me quality work, but just like with any other position, I had to prove that I could tough it out.
This meant researching and writing on topics that I didn’t love, working long hours and when I finally had the opportunity to take on freelance editing, it meant working overnight shifts, effectively putting my social life on hold.
What made it even harder, personally, was the fact that my circle didn’t believe that freelance writing was a “real job,” simply because I worked from home. To most, a “real job” consists of putting on business casual clothing, driving into the office and working 9-5. A “real job” wasn’t working in your home office at varying times researching and writing on topics varying from healthy keto recipes to Kim Kardashian’s latest relationship dramas.
While it wasn’t a traditional reality, it was my reality, and I loved it. Not only was I writing, but I was continuing my love of education because I had to continuously research topics for client pieces, and I knew I would be educating others once they read the content I was creating.
I was living my dream…. I am living my dream.
Becoming a Full-Time Online Freelance Writer
I could go on to tell you that to become a full-time freelance writer online you must create a website, pitch your ideas and network, but I’m not going to. There are enough blogs and how-to articles out there that do just that.
That said, here are my tips on how to become a full-time online content writer.
1. Put Yourself Out There
By putting yourself out there, I mean get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If I’ve learned anything in my 6+ years of freelance writing online, it’s to be prepared to get out of your comfort zone. Since I was trained in literature during my school years, never did I imagine I would end up writing about digital marketing, celebrity entertainment, or health and wellness.
As a freelance writer, you can choose your niche; however, if you are just starting off, you need to prove your skills just as you would in any “real” job. This means researching and writing on topics you aren’t that familiar with and providing top-quality content that delivers results. Don’t be afraid of writing outside your comfort zone because it could be the difference between going full-time and struggling to land work.
2. Build Your Network
Okay, so I said I wasn’t going to go there… however, I’m going there. Building your online network matters more than you know. Writing is a creative art, even if it is technical in nature. You are creating something from nothing, and you need to have a network of people surrounding you to endorse your skills and help guide you on current trends. Think of it this way; your network works a lot like an artist’s online portfolio or a business’s testimonials page.
Having a strong network of people to endorse your work is one of the best ways to prove to future clients that you are capable of completing given tasks. Better yet, this network can also work to give you feedback to help shape your future work. Having a networking profile, such as a LinkedIn profile, is beneficial on so many different levels because it helps you continue learning from industry experts, all while allowing you to showcase your talents to prospective clients—all of which are vital steps in your journey to freelance writing online.
3. Your Client is Your Customer, Treat Them as Such
Another essential lesson I’ve learned through my years of online freelance work is always to treat each client as if they are the only one you have. Whether you found a steady job with a content creation agency or are choosing individual assignments on your own, each client needs to be treated as if they are your only focus.
Freelance writing online is a service that you are providing, and just like any other service, you are being hired to fulfill a customer’s needs. Treat your clients with the respect they deserve and always give them your best work. If you don’t feel like as if you can do their assignment justice, do the right thing, and tell them so. The absolute last thing you should be doing is handing in half-@$$ed work. That’s not going to get you the reputation you want. So, remember, the client is your customer, treat them as if they are the only one you have, and give them the quality work they deserve.
4. Let Go of Stigmas
If I’m being honest, this is probably one of the biggest struggles I had to overcome as a freelance content writer. Between disapproving loved ones, the stigma of being “lazy,” not having a “real job” and dealing with the instability of the job market, there were many times when I felt that freelance writing online simply wasn’t a viable position.
Here’s the lesson—I let outside influences tell me that it wasn’t viable, when, in fact, online content creation is a booming industry. With over 1.6 billion websites online, businesses are turning to online freelance writers to create expert-level writing that will attract new readers that will eventually lead to new customers.
That said, let go of all stigmas! The more you tell yourself you can’t, the more real that negativity becomes.
LET IT GO!
Get Serious About Freelance Writing Online
Sure, while many individuals turn to freelance writing online as a source of extra income or even just as a hobby, there are many out there that want to make this more than that and turn it into a full-time career.
To do that, you must get serious and buckle down. There are dozens of different ways to go about finding a freelance writing job, but until you let go of those stigmas I mentioned earlier and start treating this as the passion you claim it to be, you won’t see much in the way of results.
Get Serious. Put Yourself Out There. Live Your Passion and Create Something Amazing!
This week, we had our second community edition of #ContentWritingChat! In case you aren’t familiar, that basically means we allowed our participants to be the guest hosts for the hour. After all, they’re a pretty smart bunch with some amazing advice to share! Our latest chat on Writing Tips for Freelancers was no exception!
#ContentWritingChat Recap: Writing Tips for Freelancers
We asked our audience to vote on the topic for this week’s chat and Writing Tips for Freelancers won by just a few votes! Considering we have so many writers in our community, it’s no wonder this topic was chosen. Everyone who participated shared some helpful tips, which we’re sharing in this recap! Let’s dive in!
Q1: What are the first steps to creating high-quality content?
To kick things off, we asked everyone to share the first steps they take when it comes to creating high-quality content. Here’s what a few of them had to say:
Sarah has three steps she follows when it comes to content creation. Knowing your audience is the first step. Then, you plan it out by determining what, when, and where. And finally, it’s time to execute by writing and publishing your content.
Maureen knows it’s so important to understand your target market when creating content. You also need to have top-notch writers and designers that understand your brand. These are all essential elements to creating amazing content!
As mentioned, it’s crucial to know who your audience is and what they want. You should always create content with them in mind.
Not only do you want to know what your audience is interested in, but you should also determine how they prefer to receive content. What format resonates with them the most?
Susan offered some great advice for this question. She suggests conducting research to see what’s already been written and figure out what the gaps are. What can be added to the conversation that you are capable of writing?
As Sarah mentioned, it’s important to know your purpose. Why are you producing this piece of content? What is your end goal? When you’re creating, keep that purpose in mind.
Kristin suggests knowing your audience, what you want to say, how you want readers to feels and what you want them to do next.
For Lex, she starts with conducting SEO keyword and user intent research. This helps her figure out what her audience wants so she can create content for them.
Q2: How do you know when a piece is good enough to be published?
Too many people hold themselves back from hitting publish on a piece because they worry it’s not “good enough.” So, how exactly do you know when a piece is ready to go live? Here’s some advice:
Sarah said a piece of content is good enough to publish when it fulfills the goals you set out to achieve. Consider your purpose, the questions you’ve answered, your tone, etc.
Zala said to make sure your content: addresses the needs of your audience, is structured and well-researched, is optimized with the right keyword, and has a clear call to action.
For Danielle, she feels a post is ready to go after someone else has proofread it and made edits. If you don’t have someone to edit for you, wait a day after writing before editing it yourself. This allows you to review the content with fresh eyes.
Bruce also suggests having a second and third pair of eyes looking over your content if possible.
For some, you might have a team that a piece of content needs to go through prior to publication. If you do, make sure you’re respectful and take their feedback into consideration.
When you’re proud of the work you’ve created it, hit publish! Don’t stand in your own way.
Khulekani agrees. If you’ve impressed yourself with the work you’ve done and you love it, it’s good to go.
Q3: How much does spelling and grammar matter when writing? Any editing tips you can share?
Will those spelling and grammatical errors really turn off your audience? Find out what our chat participants had to say! Plus, you’ll want to implement the editing tips they chimed in with.
If your work hasn’t been edited and is littered with typos, it shows a lack of care. Try walking away from what you’ve written for at least one hour. Then, come back and proofread it with fresh eyes and a clear mind. You’ll be more likely to spot mistakes.
When you take the time to edit, it shows you pay attention to detail and that you truly care about the work you create.
Do you want your work to be taken seriously? Taylor says you better edit your content and use correct spelling and grammar!
Proper grammar is the soul of the language!
Jason feels correct spelling and grammar keep the integrity of the article. He won’t read something that has mistakes.
Both Leah and Megan won’t bother reading articles that are filled with mistakes. It’s worthwhile to take the time to proofread a couple of times before hitting publish. Don’t turn your readers off.
Khulekani relies on Grammarly to double-check for any errors in writing.
The Hemingway application is Danielle’s go-to tool!
We have another Grammarly fan! Not only is it great for spotting mistakes, but it’ll help enhance readability. Another suggestion is to have a friend or editor proofread for you.
Q4: What’s your biggest pet peeve when reading articles? What should freelancers avoid doing?
When discussing writing tips for freelancers, there’s no doubt that a few pet peeves are going to come up. We asked everyone to share their biggest pet peeves when reading articles so other freelancers can avoid the same mistakes. Check out these responses:
Content that isn’t original will get you nowhere! You need to make your content unique if you want to stand out online.
Grammar mistakes and bad writing are just two things that irritate Sarah when it comes to writing.
For Carla, she hates when people go off topic.
A lack of fact checking and clarity can certainly spell disaster for your article.
Research is a must! Present facts and back them up with reliable sources.
Jason doesn’t like posts that are too long. He also suggests making sure key points are bulleted or bolded. You also want to quote sources and provide visuals. These are all essential writing tips for freelancers to use in their career.
No fact checking. No uniqueness in voice or content. No focus on detail. Natasha knows that all three of these things are mistakes you don’t want to make.
Clickbait titles are definitely a NO. They’re misleading and will quickly turn your readers off.
Q5: How can style and brand guidelines help freelancers become better writers?
When you’re a freelancer, you’re going to be writing for a variety of companies. How can style and brand guidelines help in this situation? Here’s some advice from our chat:
Maureen feels guidelines help establish standards and set expectations. It’s going to help produce consistent content in the long run.
As Leah said, style guidelines help you capture the brand’s voice. After all, they want to make sure the writers they hire are consistently on-brand.
For the company that’s hiring the writer, they’ll want guidelines in place to set expectations.
Clear guidelines are going to ensure both the brand and the writer are happy with the end result. It states what the brand wants so the writer can deliver.
Bruce feels that having structure can actually force you to be more creative in your writing.
Shannon said writers should think of guidelines as a challenge to meet and surpass, as opposed to viewing them as a burden.
Q6: Can you truly become a better writer? If so, what do you need to do?
Is it possible to become a better writer or is it just something you’re born with? If everyone can strengthen their skills, what should we all keep in mind? These writing tips for freelancers are important to consider:
If you want to become a better writer, you have to write more often. It also helps to get feedback by having others review your work.
Practice every day if possible! It doesn’t matter if no one will see what you write. Choose a topic and just get started.
Cheval also agrees that consistency is key here. If you want to strengthen your writing skills, you need to write regularly.
Missy knows you don’t become great at what you do that easily. It’s going to take time and effort.
Think of it like a muscle that you have to train. The more you practice writing, the better your skills become.
Don’t forget to learn from the mistakes you’ve made in the past so you don’t continue making them.
Danielle suggests seeking feedback from trusted editors. They’ll tell you where you can improve.
As Lauren said, you also need to be open to feedback. Listen to what others have to say and take it into consideration as you write.
Shelly’s advice is to spend time reading like a writer/editor.
You can even take classes or join a writing group if you’d like!
Maria said it’s important write, read, educate yourself, and stay curious to improve writing skills.
Q7: Which tools do you rely on for writing and managing your work?
There are plenty of tools that can make it easier for managing writing tasks, so why not use them? Take a look at these recommendations from the chat:
Lexie said the Netvantage team relies on Google Drive for their calendar and storing content ideas. They also use Yoast for SEO purposes, which is a handy WordPress plugin.
The go-to tools for the ThinkSEM team include: WordPress, Google Docs and Sheets, the Hemingway App, the web, their brains, and plenty of time.
Jasmine relies on Asana to manage her freelance writing tasks.
Hubspot, Buzzsumo, Grammarly, Google Analytics, and Buffer are all essential tools for Sabjan.
Sarah mostly relies on HubSpot, but she also uses Evernote for storing ideas. She also turns to Grammarly during the writing process and the Hemingway app afterwards.
John is also a fan of Grammarly.
Brain, creativity, pen, and paper are all essential tools for the freelance writer.
As for Jeff, you can find him speaking to the Notes app on his phone. Sometimes this is just the best and easiest way to record all those ideas!
Q8: What’s your final piece of advice freelancers can take away from this chat?
Last call on writing tips for freelancers! Here’s the final advice some of our participants had to share with everyone:
Be open to suggestions and constructive criticism. As Sarah said, you’re writing for someone else and you need to listen to their feedback.
Jeff’s advice is to know what you’re worth. Don’t let anyone devalue the work you can create.
The freelance life doesn’t have to be isolating. Danielle suggests making connections on Twitter and in real life to connect with follow writers.
Never stop learning!
To be a writer, you just have to get started. Don’t put it off!
And we’ll close on this inspirational note from Cristy because sometimes you just have to go for it.
Want to join #ContentWritingChat? Follow @ExpWriters and @writingchat, and be sure to join us live every Tuesday at 10 AM Central Time!