The Complete Guide Becoming a Freelance Writer Online (In 2019)
Becoming a freelance writer online is way easier than you think it is.
Don’t listen to people who make it seem too hard to find clients or too competitive to make a living. That’s bullshit.
It took me less than two weeks to find my first paying client. I’m gonna walk you step by step through how I became a galavanting freelance writer (Freelanceaholic!) fast and with no qualifications, degrees, samples, or connections. Including:
- Skills you need to stand out from 95% of writers
- Where to get direct access to high-paying clients
- Skills freelance content writers need to succeed
- Some fun tools that will help you grow
- Why all the advice you read online is wrong
No tricks. No gimmicks. No BS “study in school” or “develop your skills” tips. Only practical, actionable advice to help you find clients in a few days.
If you don’t feel like reading this post, just watch the first episode of Freelanceaholics Anonymous instead!
How I Became a Writer Online Fast Without a Degree or Training (Read First)
Yeah you, aspiring writer that has skills but no clue where to get started.
You are probably a lot like I was: overqualified, underemployed, working a job you hate and just barely making ends meet. It sucks knowing you are capable of so much more but don’t know how to grow.
The settings of our stories are probably different. I was an American transplant teaching English in Prague, Czech Republic for less than $1,000 a month.
Life was good, but I had big dreams.
I stayed sober sometimes. And during those sometimes, I dreamt of working from my laptop, making good money, being my own boss, sleeping, working, drinking, eating, traveling anywhere I wanted at any time.
Well, once I discovered content writing and the kind of engaging tone clients pay top dollar for, I started getting flooded with job offers. I started small: Free samples and $15 blog posts. Within a few months, I was full-time.
No, within a few months I was FREE. FREE to do whatever I the fuck I wanted. I just made $300 this afternoon writing content from a rooftop in Bali. It wasn’t too long ago I was shoveling my car out of the snow before sitting in hour-long traffic to work a crappy job in Connecticut.
Borough Coffee. Double Six Beach. Bali, Indonesia.
This is a dream come true…and here’s how you can do it.
How to Become a Freelance Writer Online…Even With No Experience
So many people ask me: “Hey, Kevin. How do I become a freelance writer? I want to do what you do!”
Patience, padawan. It’s coming.
First, a bit about the industry.
Google and today’s customers demand high-quality content. There’s a massive market online for skilled writers and nobody cares about what degree or training you have.
They only care about one thing: The quality of your writing.
Clients are hiring new writers in droves. What are you waiting for?
What Does a Content Writer Do?
A content writer is a person who creates content for companies to use on the web for SEO or promotional purposes. Google factors content highly into its algorithm—the more a company has, the better. So, they hire skilled writers with knowledge of certain topics to write:
- Web content
- Landing pages
- Sales pages
This job is in high demand. Companies and the digital marketing agencies that serve them are desperate for good content writers.
Every few days I get a request from a friend of mine or someone in the industry asking if I know any good, affordable writers. If you can write, you will get jobs. It’s not nearly as hard as you think.
What Skills Do You Need? Do Any of These Sound Like You?
People these days have attention spans measurable only in nanoseconds. You’re competing for their attention with hundreds of other articles and every social media platform, game, and “entertainment” wink wink website online.
It’s not easy.
- Concise: Long-winded, fluffy content has no place online. If you can write succinctly, clients will pay. Period.
- Creative: You don’t have to be David Foster Wallace, but if you want to be a good content writer, you’ve got to have a knack for themes, imagery, puns, wordplay, analogies, and abstract concepts. Sure, technical writing or uber-serious topics like diseases are exceptions, but generally, you need creative skills.
- Self-Motivated: This is the hardest one for most of us creatives. I’m one of those people who conceptualizes entire stories and articles nearly instantly in my mind. I don’t plan much, I just write. It flows naturally. The only problem for me is actually writing it. Well, if you can’t get your ass in gear and get shit done, you won’t make it. If you can, you’ll do well.
- Social-Media Savvy: You’re going to need Facebook, Twitter, and other sites to locate, research, and pitch clients. You’ll also need it for self-promotion down the line. Can you handle it?
- Punctual: Hey, want to piss your clients off real easily? Be late all the time. If you are, they’ll find someone punctual.
- Competent in Your Written Language: I won’t say native English here because there’s demand for content writers in all languages. But, if you’re going to be an English-language content writer, your language skills have to be on point. No exceptions.
Notice what I didn’t say there?
- College Educated: Nobody cares about your Russian History degree. Oh, you studied Philosophy and logic? Deduce this for me: Kevin dropped out of college. Kevin is a well-paid content writer. Therefore, a college degree must not be necessary for content writing. I don’t even care if that’s correct or not.
- Super Smart: I can’t keep my shoes tied. I’m 31. Explain how I’ve succeeded in this career?
- Highly Trained: The amazing thing about this industry is there is 0 barrier to entry. Yes, you start out working for peanuts, but that’s a GOOD THING. That means companies will take a risk on you and you can learn on the job. A client looking to pay $20 for a 500-word blog post doesn’t need a masterpiece; they just need something passable. You’ll learn on the job. That’s why it’s so EASY to become a freelance writer online these days.
Ok, let’s get into the nitty-gritty now. This is gonna get steamy.
3 Tips for Writing Better Content Than 95% of Writers: A Brief Content Writing Tutorial
In a past life, I had a team of content writers that I farmed content out to, and I routinely contemplated bashing my face into the wall until I was so horribly disfigured that I got kicked out of Thailand for public indecency.
The majority of writers are bad. That’s fine. Nobody is good when they start. I was a joke. I learned the hard way.
But there’s no excuse for not caring.
Here are 5 tips for writing better content than 95% of writers and landing more jobs. Don’t ever underestimate how important content writing format is.
Don’t philosophize in your intro
This isn’t Two Treatises of Government, this is web content. Don’t waste time in your intro stating useless facts or telling readers what they already know. Get straight to the point. For example, if you’re writing about 5 tips for writing better content, don’t waste time and say “great content is important for Google”. Everyone fucking knows that. Just be direct and to the point.
Write Concisely and in Active Voice
Content must keep readers engaged or they’ll wander off. The more words there are, the harder it is to read. Passive voice is almost always a no no. The subject should always be performing the verb. EX: The boy kicks the ball NOT the ball is kicked by the boy.
Here’s another example of poor sentence structure I see all the time in content writing:
In learning search engine optimization, you’ll give yourself a skill that is in demand for content writers
God, kill me. That’s horrendous. It gives me chills. Don’t do this shit. Instead, write it like this:
Learning search engine optimization MAKES you a more marketable content writer.
Notice the difference? Feel the difference? Your clients will.
Let’s break down the sentence a bit more:
- Put the reader (you) front and center rather than prioritizing search engine optimization
- Use a stronger, more direct verb (“make”). It’s easier to read, and it’s more engaging.
- It’s shorter. Remember what I said about being easier to read?
Remember: short, actionable, direct, engaging, powerful.
While we’re on the topic of SEO, you should know SEO and let your clients know you know it.
Learn SEO Writing Basics
You need to get on your knees and please almighty Google if you want to succeed online. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a group of strategies for ranking sites high on Google.
Clients will ask if you’re familiar with SEO, and most of the content outlines you’ll receive will require an understanding of SEO basics.
Don’t worry, it’s super easy.
The main keyword belongs in the title. The earlier the better. Check out these 2 headlines for the keyword “fix a leaky faucet”:
Good -> How to fix a leaky faucet in 3 easy steps
Bad -> 3 easy steps to fix a leaky faucet
The main keyword should appear in the intro and at the beginning of the first paragraph. It should also appear in the conclusion.
Google loves linking, both within a site and outside. A good rule of thumb is a link or two every 800ish words. If you’re writing a short blog of 500 words, then 2 links ought to do. Plus, put a link in the conclusion.
Readers and Google love content that is easy to read (notice a pattern), scannable, and arranged in neat little clumps so our stupid monkey brains zero in on the answers to the questions we search for.
Look what I did before:
- Short sentences
- Sections separated by headlines
- Bolded text
Bullet points, numbered lists, short paragraph (1-2 sentences), headlines, bolds, etc.
A couple of tools I use to take my SEO writing game to the next level and impress clients are:
- Buzzsumo – Keep up with trending topics
- Jaaxy – A free keyword tool that shows related searches and new keyword ideas.
- People Also Ask – Shows all the questions people are asking about your topic.
- Google itself – Just google your keyword and see what other articles are covering.
Where to Find Clients
This guy ended up ordering 5 gift guides for different holidays back when I charged $100 for 1,000 words. 5 guides at 4,000-5,000 words each was well over $2,000. And all from a single Facebook introduction.
OK, now that you know the skills, tools, and format for proper writing, you’ve got to go find your clients.
I never used a freelancing platform to get my career off the ground. I did it all with boots on the ground. I went door to fucking door asking if anyone needed a content writer…kind of.
I did it all through cold pitching.
I wrote a bunch of sample articles about topics I liked and took that “portfolio” to 3 different places:
- Local digital marketing companies: I pitched every marketing company in my local area until a few bit. Boom, I was a freelance content writer. Digital marketing companies should be your first target. No job openings? Email them!
- Facebook: There are entire Facebook groups dedicated to freelance content writing. Join up and start pitching yourself. Work for pennies. Work for free. Anything you have to do!
- Linkedin: Find digital companies in your area and connect on Linkedin. Inbox them and let them know you’re for hire.
- Reddit: There are freelancing subreddits where clients are looking for web content writers. Check r/ForHire first.
- Freelance Job Boards: They’re more competitive, so if you’re a content writer with no experience it might be tough, but it’s always worth a shot. Try:
- We Work Remotely
How Much do Online Freelance Writers Make?
Freelance online writers make anywhere from $10 per hour on the low end to $200 an hour or more on the high end. Writing web content for SEO and eCommerce isn’t glamorous, but it pays well if you put the time in.
This is an entire blog post in its own right (I wrote one!). Check the link at the end of the section.
Content writing is a great career. Like I said before, I routinely make $200-$300 in a day, and I’m not even full time anymore.
I have multiple clients paying in the $150-$200/hr range.
One of my clients, a PDF software company, pays me $180 for 1,000 words (.18USD/word). Since eCommerce is my specialty and I don’t need to do much research, it takes me about an hour to write their blog every week.
That’s $180 for an hour of work, more or less.
That’s roughly $360 per blog, and sometimes they want two a week. That’s $700+ per week from 1 client.
Here’s what you can expect as a native speaker:
- Beginner (No specialization): $30-$40/1,000 words. Roughly $15-$25/hr.
- Intermediate (No specialization): $40-$70/1,000 words. $25-$60/hr.
- Experienced: $70-$120/1,000 words. $60-$110/hr.
- Specialist: No limit. I’ve seen people making .50 cents per word and above. I routinely land clients at 18 cents a word and above.
This is, of course, as a freelancer. If you want to get a job as an SEO writer at an agency, you can expect a starting salary of around $40,000ish/year according to Glassdoor.
Becoming a freelance writer online is ridiculously easy even with no experience. Don’t give me any bullshit excuses. You can become a Freelanceaholic in a matter of a few short weeks. Then you can come live in Asia with me and this cool security dog at my old apartment in Ho Chi Minh City.
Or you can move to Europe, travel South America, chill in Europe, or, believe it or not, stay right at home and make good side income. I don’t care. Totally up to you.
Let me know if you’re ready to make the jump!