Online Writing Jobs: A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Freelance Writer

What do you do for a living? Do you work in an office cubicle, ensuring that a company’s customers are happy? Are your hours spent in a warehouse, lifting boxes and operating forklifts?

Maybe you do something different. Maybe you’re a full time student, living on scholarships, grants, or maybe even loans.

While that question is easy to answer, this next one might not be: Are you happy? It’s fair to say that few people enjoy their job so much that they’d rather be at work than out on a hike, or listening to music, or maybe painting a picture.

We’re not trying to say that that’s unacceptable—in all reality, it’s totally normal. The nature of work is that, most of the time, the people doing the work would rather be doing something else. That’s why it’s called “work.”

Hopefully, at least some of the time, you’re excited to go in to work. However, next time you’re consciously aware of being unhappy while at work, take a minute to think about why you’re unhappy. Most people don’t like their job because their boss is too nosy or demanding, or because they don’t feel like they get paid enough, or because they don’t enjoy doing the work.

There’s a way to avoid all of that.

Becoming your own boss sounds like it’s too good to be true sometimes. That’s something that only happens in movies to people who don’t have any of the responsibilities that a real-life person has, or to people who were born with a lot of money. They have a nice cushion to fall back on, just in case things don’t work out. That’s not actually the case.

According to a report done by The Freelancers Union, there are 53 million individuals working as freelancers within the United States of America alone. For a little bit of perspective, that accounts for over a third of the total workforce.

So why does it seem so out of reach for so many people? If 53 million people can live the freelancer lifestyle, why does it seem like such a scary concept? A big part is because of how private the industry is. We don’t mean private as in “It’s hard to get into,” but private as in “The work is done in private.”

There’s a good chance that at least some of those people on their laptops at the café you go to every now and then are freelancers. Those are just the freelancers who decided to step out for the day—a lot of the work gets done from the freelancer’s home.

Unlike other industries that put their workers in uniforms and name tags, freelancers just look like regular people. Those “regular people” get to enjoy the leisure of setting their own rates, doing work that they’re genuinely passionate about, and (most importantly) not having to deal with rush hour.

They all started out as non-freelancers, but those 53 million people took a skill they were good at, and marketed it. Now they support themselves on that. So why can’t you?

Let’s say you’re good at writing. You’re an English major, or you worked on your school’s newsletter, or you just get good scores on essays. That’s a skill that you can market. Think about it; someone had to write this article, didn’t they?

So how do you take that skill, and market it so you can find online writing jobs and start making cash? Well, let’s take it step-by-step.

Step One: Establish Your Ability

Before you make the leap into the fray of working freelance, you need to make sure your skills are up to par. We’ll use the “freelance writer” example for this guide. How do you make sure that you are a skilled enough writer to be able to charge people for it?

There’s a chance that you just happen to know what you’re capable of. A lot of people who want to become freelancers know exactly what they’ll do as a freelancer because they have pre-existing knowledge of what they can excel in.

If you don’t know whether or not you have sufficient writing chops, ask around. You can ask your professors, your friends, your family, you can even ask another freelance writer to read something you’ve written and have them give you their honest opinion.

There are some prerequisites for being qualified for online writing jobs, namely having excellent control over whatever language you’ll be writing in (that includes being able to use proper grammar, syntax, and punctuation) and a voice that can persuade, entertain, or inform.

That’s not to say that if you don’t have those prerequisites down pat quite yet, you’ll never be able to write for a living—some websites like “Writing Jobs Online” offer guides, tutorials, and courses on how to hone your writing abilities. Sometimes, even experienced freelancers will use resources like that, either to stay on top of changing times, or to step up their game.

Once you’ve ensured you’re qualified to join the fray, it’s time to move on to the next step.

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Step Two: Establish Your Presence

You need to get your name out on the market, and you need to let people know what you have to offer. Setting up a website is a good first step.

You can create a bio section to let prospective clients know what topics you’re skilled at writing about, and you can begin to establish a portfolio of some of your writing. Many freelancers will do so by hosting a blog on their website where they write independent pieces.

Blogs usually serve a double purpose. The first and foremost is to give clients a taste of what your writing style is like. They can see what you can produce first hand and see if it’s what they’re looking for.

The second, and less obvious reason is to make your website more visible to potential clients. This concept is known as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which is a topic that is too large to be covered in this guide.

However, if you’re interested in being a freelance writer (or web designer, blog manager, etc.,) you’ll definitely want to familiarize yourself with the concept to the point where you can utilize it in the products you provide.

Avoid the initial temptation of having any sort of rates listed on your website. It seems unprofessional to bring rates and payment into the equation so early on. Additionally, that makes rate negotiations with clients more difficult if they present you with an online writing job that would warrant a higher level of payment.

Discuss the financial side of things in one-on-one negotiations with your clients. That way, you can choose an appropriate amount and avoid seeming unprofessional or desperate.

Regarding the design of your layout… Well, there are a couple of options. Hiring a professional web developer to write a website for you from the ground up can produce stunning, incredibly professional, form-fitted results. On the flip side, it can also be very costly.

A popular alternative is using a website creation service found online. Many freelancers have a very specific idea of what they want to market themselves as, and the website is a big part of that. Along those lines, having a direct hand in creating your website and making it look exactly like you want is sometimes preferable.

The primary downside of website creation services is the limits they sometimes possess. You may find yourself unable to model your website in the exact fashion of the one you imagined in your head (but you can usually get pretty close.)

As an extra tip, invest in your own domain name. Nothing screams “unprofessional” like seeing a .weebly or .blogspot buried somewhere in your URL. Choose something relevant, tidy, and professional. Your URL is part of your brand.

So now you’ve got a shiny, new website all set up and ready to go. It looks good, it’s inviting, and it portrays your abilities nicely. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to be enough to have the jobs start pouring in. You’re going to need to meet some clients.

Step Three: Establish Your Network

This can often be the step that discourages a lot of potential freelancers, as it requires the most legwork and can often lead to pretty intense disappointment early on. However, if you use the right resources, keep a good attitude about it, and plow on, you’ll make it eventually.

Meeting clients can seem pretty daunting. You can’t exactly walk down to the local grocery store, put up a flier advertising your services, and expect a dozen emails in your inbox by the time you get home. Like how a fisherman fishes in a lake instead of his bathtub, you need to go to where the clients are.

That’s where websites like “Writing Jobs Online” come in handy yet again. Signing up for an account can put you in direct contact with the people who are willing to pay you to write a blog post. There’s nothing quite as exciting as making contact with your first potential client, either.

As you meet more and more clients, you’ll start getting more and more online writing jobs. It can be difficult at first, especially if you don’t have a reputation to precede you. Nonetheless, slowly and surely, you’ll start to build a network of clients.

This step can sometimes be the end of the road for some freelance writers. They’ve accomplished their goal of making contact with clients. They’ve started making money from their skills, and now they can support themselves on it, which was the end goal.

To be honest, in a way, this is the final step. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re actually making money, you’ve made it—you’re an official freelancer. Welcome to the industry.

There are things that can help you make a little bit more money though, or potentially increase your enjoyment of your already incredibly enjoyable job. So if, for some reason, working from home (or wherever you want), being your own boss, choosing your own pay, and doing something you enjoy isn’t enough, please read on.

Step Four: Establish Your Specialty

Even though working freelance is way more enjoyable than a traditional desk job, it does have some catches. For instance, for the first little while, you may have to do jobs you don’t necessarily enjoy doing as much as others.

Maybe you enjoy writing e-books as a ghost writer that are then published under another individual’s name, but you don’t enjoy writing advertisements quite as much.

Well, chances are you’re going to have to do some work that wouldn’t be your first choice. However, after establishing your clientele, creating and upholding a reputation and proving your skills, you start to have a little bit more power in terms of what you can and can’t do as a freelancer.

As time goes on, hopefully the demand for your services will increase a little bit. At that point, you get to be a little pickier than normal—after all, you’re definitely going to be getting some projects to work on, so why not be choosy?

Negotiating for higher pay, negotiating for a less-strict deadline, or even just flat-out refusing to do one project because you’d rather work on another are just a few of the cool perks that come with working freelance long-term.

Especially once you’ve established a returning clientele, it’s within your best interest to increase your rates over time. They’re paying you (and continue to pay you) because you’ve successfully made them money, so it’s only fair that some of that money should eventually start finding its way to you.

Sticking with freelance long-term can yield a lot of benefits that seem somewhat out of reach, even after doing it for a decent amount of time. No freelance writer pretends to be ridiculously wealthy—in all honesty, it’s typically not in the nature of the profession to make six figures in a year.

It definitely has been done before, and will absolutely be done again, but it’s not incredibly commonplace. Nonetheless, you can make a decent living from freelance work; one that’s easily comfortable for a typical person.

A good way to ensure you make as much as possible is to find a niche and stick with it. Building a portfolio of a certain kind of job that is in high enough demand to be something you can do regularly, without being so common that everyone can do it, is the fine line you need to walk.

Whatever variety of project you choose will become your specialty, and soon, you’ll go from being a “Freelance Writer” to being, say, a “Freelance Copywriter”, or “Freelance Brand Journalist”.

While we honestly think that this guide is applicable to most freelancers, it’s important to realize that everybody is different. What works for one person may not work for you, and it’s very useful to play around with how you market yourself to clients, and to try a bunch of different kinds of projects to find what you enjoy doing most (or maybe what you make the most money doing).

While we only touched on it a little bit, the importance of using the various resources available to you cannot be overstated. Getting those first few clients under your belt is vital, both for your marketability as a freelancer, and your confidence in your ability to make it as a freelancer.

Using websites like “Writing Jobs Online” is the best way to help yourself start off on the right foot, and continue to walk on the right path.

The industry of freelance work is more enjoyable by nature. Not having an alarm going off in the morning to remind you to get up so you can get stuck in rush hour to go to a fluorescent office is so nice that it’s often difficult to describe.

However, just because it’s enjoyable, don’t mistake it for easy. Making it as a freelancer takes a lot of time and dedication, and sometimes you’ll feel like you’re doing a lot of work for free. Not because you’re actually doing work for free (there are very few instances where you should ever work for free for a client), but just because of all of the time it takes from you personally in order to get yourself set up.

A good way to put it in perspective is by comparing it to a business, because it kind of is. You can’t exactly set up a business overnight and with minimal effort, so why would this be any different?

Don’t let that discourage you, though. If you feel like you can make it as a freelancer, try it. It doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Take on some small projects and see how you feel.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to do what makes you happy.

Our Top Pick For Getting a Writing Job

Learning the best ways to get a writing job has never been easier!

Learn More