Want to become a freelance writer so you can get paid to write while sailing the big blue sea?
Many cruising sailors write as a way to not only bring in extra income, but also to feed their creativity. In this post, I’ll share how to become a freelance writer so you can make a living while you’re out there living your best life.
Writing is something you can do on your own time, and from anywhere. This is what makes freelance writing one of the best ways to make money while traveling the world.
And you don’t need experience to become a successful freelance writer. The industry has plenty of room for new writers.
New websites and publications are popping up faster than Trump’s Twitter rants, and those websites need content, and lots of it in order to stay relevant.
And a huge chunk of those websites outsource their writing to freelancers. That’s why freelance writing is one of the fastest growing professions out there.
In fact, here are some stats that might get you excited:
- More than 850 million new blog posts are published every month
- Freelance writing is estimated to become a $300 billion-dollar industry this year
- The content marketing industry is projected to enjoy a growth rate of 16% annually
In this post, I’ll share how you can become a freelance writer and get a piece of that $300-billion-dollar-pie.
Ready to get started? Great! Let’s start with the basics.
What is a Freelance Writer?
A freelance writer is a self-employed writer who writes for other people or publications.
As a freelance writer, you are your own boss and you operate as an independent business owner.
You’ll likely write for several publications or clients versus just one client (unless you have a great client that keeps you busy and pays what you’re worth!).
You’re paid per assignment or sometimes, per batch of assignments.
The more skills you can add as a writer, the more likely you are to be hired and paid for your work. I’ll talk about that later.
11 types of freelance writing jobs
This is not a complete list of all of the freelance writing jobs you can do, but this gives you an idea of the types of jobs you may see most often.
A blog post is a (usually) informal or conversational piece of writing that’s intended to entertain or educate a specific audience.
Blog posts are usually between 800 – 1500 words, and can be optimized to have a better chance of showing up in Google searches.
Blog writing for others can be a great ongoing writing job because it’s consistent (most blogs publish at least once per week) and often fun!
Want to start your own blog?
Enroll in my free course, Launch Your Profitable Blog
Like blog posts, articles are written to educate or inform, but they go deeper than blog posts. The writing is also more journalistic in nature.
The types of publications that pay for articles are trade publications, magazines, educational publications, and newspapers.
They tend to pay better than blog posts, but the work is not usually recurring, so you have to pitch more often.
Some publications only publish monthly or quarterly versus weekly.
Copywriting is essentially writing for marketing or advertising purposes.
This can include emails, website copy, sales pages, landing pages, or even the text on a pop-up button on a website.
Copywriting is usually a one-time gig (i.e. a sales page or landing page), but some projects can be ongoing (i.e. email marketing, newsletters).
Copywriting also tends to pay really well. One of my former clients paid a copywriter $10,000 for a sales page. Granted, the sales page was almost 75 pages long (seriously), but not bad for a one-time gig.
A press release is a written communication distributed to the media (often through public relations companies) about an event, circumstance, product launch, or other newsworthy happening.
These are typically short (one page) and pay pretty decent.
This is when a company hires you to write in their “voice” and they get credited as the writer.
Because you don’t get credit and can’t include the piece in your portfolio, you can often use that to get more money for the project.
Email Marketing Campaigns:
Most reputable businesses or blogs have an email list of people who have subscribed to get news and updates.
Sometimes the emails contain newsletter info, and sometimes you may be writing “sales funnels” – a series of emails designed to sell a product, or “opt-in funnels” – a series of emails designed to educate, entertain, and warm a prospect up to bring them closer to a sale.
Almost every business has a website (if they don’t, they should), and those websites need someone to write all the words for all the pages.
These pages include about pages, home pages, contact pages, and more.
And depending on the website, the pay can be pretty decent.
Social Media Content:
I probably don’t have to explain to you what social media is (because you don’t live in the dark ages, aka 2002).
Since everyone and their dog has a Facebook or Instagram account (or both), but doesn’t have time to write content for them every day, business often hire writers for this.
If you don’t know what a white paper is, don’t feel bad. I didn’t either.
According to Wikipedia, a white paper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
Sounds like a snoozer, but considering many white papers will land you an extra $5K to $8K in your pocket, I say bring on the
The sole purpose of SEO (search engine optimization) articles is to help websites rank higher in Google searches.
Beware of content mills (similar to puppy mills, but with words) that want you to write low-quality articles stuffed with keywords for very little money. Gross.
Instead, it’s best to find clients who want high-quality articles that are thoughtfully written to rank highly in Google. These are much more rewarding, higher-paying, and won’t make you feel like you need a shower afterward.
With the growing trend toward online and self-publishing, this is a growing form of freelance writing. Because it’s not easy to write a book with 50,000 words or more.
These are big projects, but some of these gigs do pay well.
This is where you write manuals for companies, SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), technical guides, research reports, etc.
Have you ever had that friend or uncle who’s so smart but when they try to explain something they’re knowledgeable about, they assume you know what the hell they’re talking about because it comes so easy for them? But really, you’re just nodding your head while thinking about what you want for dinner?
Well, businesses are like that, too. So they hire writers who aren’t as close to the information to make it a little less dry and boring, and more “plain English”.
How to become a freelance writer
Now I’ll share some things you need to do in order to set yourself up for success as a freelance writer.
Step 1: Decide what you want to be known for
This can be a scary step, especially for new writers because you might be thinking, “I want to be as diverse as possible so I get more writing jobs!”
And in the beginning, maybe you do work on different types of projects in lots of different industries.
But contrary to what you might think, it’s better to narrow your choices down to a specific field, or type of work.
For example, if you’re a dentist office and you want to hire someone to write blog posts, who would you hire?
- Person A who prides herself on the fact that “I can write all different types of things for any industry! Hire me and I’ll get the job done!” or…
- Person B whose email specifies “I write SEO-friendly blog posts for the dental industry and have worked with over 40 dentists and orthodontists to help create engaging and informative posts to attract new local patients.”
See my point? While Person A is eager and probably a hard worker, Person B knows exactly what she’s doing, who she’s writing for, and already has a firm grasp of the industry and what will attract new patients.
Alternatively, you could niche to a particular type of project versus a specific industry.
For example, you might only write white papers, or press releases. Doesn’t matter what type of industry, your expertise and experience is in writing that specific thing. Meaning you can probably do it better and quicker than someone who does a variety of project types.
I predominately focus on writing blog posts. That’s my strong suit. I’ve written for several different industries, but have nailed the process of writing solid SEO-friendly blog posts for businesses. So while I could write white papers or social media posts, I choose to focus on blog posts instead.
To help you decide, ask yourself:
- What am I passionate about or interested in?
- Which topics or industries am I knowledgeable in?
- What types of writing do I like most?
- Which types of writing come easily to me?
Notice I didn’t say, “What industries or types of writing bring in the most money?”
Because as a freelance writer, money should not be the deciding factor in choosing your niche in most cases.
You’re going to be doing a lot of writing, so you want to at least have some interest beyond the money. If not, you’ll end up resenting your clients, the work, and your writing will suffer.
Some popular industries that hire writers include:
- Personal Finance
- Real Estate
Once you’ve made your list of answers to the questions above, see where there’s crossover. What are you interested in AND knowledgeable about? Those areas are the sweet spots.
Oh, and let me just say that you don’t have to be an expert, either. Not by a longshot. You just have to know enough to get the job done.
I’ve written articles in fields I knew NOTHING about (for instance, a blog post for Auto Zone on Corvette brake pads). All it took was good researching skills.
(Also note, I realized that I hated writing about cars, so I didn’t write for them for long, even though they are a large, reputable company. Hence the importance of niching to industries that interest you.)
Step 2: Build your writing portfolio
Ah, the conundrum similar to the “which came first… the chicken or the egg?” question.
You need writing samples to get good writing jobs, but how do you get writing samples without writing jobs?
The answer? Simple. I’ll give you 3 ways.
- Guest post. This is where you write an article for someone else’s blog for free, in exchange for a “byline” with your name on it. If you have a website already, then they’ll usually link back to your site, too. Reach out to other blogs in your industry and “pitch” them a guest post idea!
- Use your existing blog posts. If you already have a blog (or want to create one), you can use your best, most popular posts as your writing samples.
- Come up with a few topic ideas in your preferred niche and write them. Your writing samples don’t have to be client work. I once wanted to get hired to write blog posts for a jewelry company, so I wrote a post about how to properly clean your jewelry and used it for my sample. They didn’t know I hadn’t written that for a previous client. And they wouldn’t have cared anyway. All they cared about was if I would be able to write good content for them.
Step 3: Learn the right way to pitch your writing
A pitch, or query, is when you write to magazines or businesses “pitching” yourself as a writer who wants to write for them.
The pitch is one of the most important things to master in your writing. Because you can’t get good writing jobs with a bad pitch. And as someone who gets pitched a lot on this blog, I can tell you that 99.9% of the pitches are terrible. So all you have to do is be better than .1%! ?
Seriously though, here are the mistakes I’ve seen most people make with their pitches:
They don’t personalize it.
It takes 2 seconds to click on my About page or my blog sidebar to see my name. If I get a pitch and it’s addressed to “Sir/Madam”, “Saving to Sail” or anything but my name, I don’t even read it. Delete.
They haven’t read any of my content.
They found my blog in some directory for personal finance bloggers and they pitch me ideas about “index funds” or “retirement plans”. Yet if they took 30 seconds to simply glance at my post headlines, they’d see that I don’t write about any of that.
They don’t send any post ideas.
I’m busy, and they are wanting a favor from me (i.e. they want me to pay them to write for me). So don’t make me do this whole back and forth dog and pony show. Send a few ideas to show me that you know what my blog is about and what you have to offer.
They don’t send any writing samples.
Just like above, don’t make me ask. Send me everything I’d need to know about why I should hire you in a concise email that simply requires me to say, “Yes!” or “No thank you.”
They make it all about them instead of the person they’re pitching.
For example, never say, “I’m an upcoming writer and really want to write for you to help build my experience and writing portfolio.” Instead, tell me how you’ll make my life easier by hiring you.
A good pitch is usually short and sweet, while containing all the relevant info the person you’re reaching out to needs to make a decision.
Example of a Good Pitch
Here’s an example of a good pitch that landed me a paid blog post ($100). Ironically, it was for a freelance writing publication, and the article I pitched was on how to write a good pitch. So meta.
This example doesn’t follow all of the rules above because I was responding to an ad for a post specifically on this topic. It’s also more detailed because I’m not just pitching myself as a writer, but specifically trying to land an article around a specific topic.
I loved your recent post about [XYZ topic]. It was really enlightening to me as a freelance writer.
I am responding to your request for an article on guest posting. Here’s an idea I’d like to propose:
HEADLINE: Pitch Perfect: 6 Secrets to a Successful Guest Post Pitch
(SEO keyword – Guest Post Pitches)
Want to pitch guest post ideas that will have bloggers scrambling for you to write for them? In this article, I’ll share 5 foolproof secrets on how to give bloggers exactly what they want so they won’t be able to resist your pitch. With these 5 pitching tips, you’ll create an endless stream of guest posts to help you grow your audience.
#1: Read the blog you’re pitching to
#2: Personalize your pitch
#3: Show how you can help their audience
#4: Don’t pitch just one idea
#5: Deliver your post on a silver platter
#6: Share the post far and wide
This post will be a great post for [PUBLICATION] because not only will it share practical tips for writing successful guest post pitches that get accepted, but also the psychology behind these secrets.
This post will open your readers’ eyes to a more strategic (and human) approach to successfully pitching their ideas.
I’ll deliver a fully-edited post to you on a silver platter along with images, a free exclusive gift for your readers (guest post pitch swipes), and I’ll even load the post in WordPress if you wish.
Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!
All my best,
Notice how I made it all about them – how I understand their publication and the types of posts they want, but I also added extra value by offering to load it into WordPress (saving them time!) and made sure to highlight the SEO keyword that I’d be optimizing for.
These little “extras” really go a long way toward securing great clients and totally set you apart from the crowd. Here’s what they had to say when they accepted my pitch:
“Very, VERY good, Melody!! I was waiting for someone to mention your ‘Secret #3.’ haha. SO important. Also the promise that you’ll cover the psychology behind your points is a good sign!”
Trust me… take the extra time to write a good pitch and you’ll see a difference.
Step 4: Find good freelance writing jobs
There are many ways you can find freelance writing jobs.
Job boards like ProBlogger can be a great place to find quality writing jobs. Unfortunately, there’s some pretty strong competition with so many people pitching these jobs.
The key here is speed. I recommend checking these first thing when you get online and responding as quickly as possible with a good pitch when you see a new ad go up for a job you want.
Upwork is a site for all kinds of freelancers (not just writing) to find jobs.
The way it works in most cases is someone posts a job with their budget, and potential hires then send proposals and “bids” for the job. I’ve never used Upwork to find writing jobs, but know people that have, and had success.
I have used Upwork to hire writers, and had great success with that. A lot of writers are afraid to look here because of the number of writers in other countries who are willing to write at a much lower rate. But remember, the lowest bid doesn’t always win (and if a client just wants the lowest bidder, you don’t want to write for them anyway).
I’ve landed a few writing jobs from Craigslist gigs. Not to be confused with the jobs section. Look for Gigs, then Writing Gigs. You have to search through a lot of crap, but there can be some good jobs in there.
Pro tip: search in larger cities to find more jobs. When I look for gigs on Craigslist, I search Miami, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
This includes businesses and magazines, and this is where I’ve actually had the most luck.
Just search for businesses or magazines in the topic/industry you’d like to write for, and start reaching out.
For magazines, you can just send your pitch.
Sometimes with businesses, I’ll change up the pitch a little to suit them. Remember when cold pitching to businesses, they don’t know you and they may not even need or want a writer, so keep that in mind when drafting your email.
In these cases, I’ll usually say something like, “I was wondering if you ever outsource your writing? I’d love to help take this off your plate. Here are some potential article ideas to give you a sense of what I could write for you.”
Network with other freelancers. Yes, your “competition”. I say that in quotes because unless you’re specifically going after the same job, other writers aren’t your competition, as there’s plenty to go around.
They could end up being the best way to get quality jobs. A writer might want to go on vacation, or they may be swamped with work and need someone to help with a client need.
I’ve gotten jobs through networking, so go make nice with those other writers.
As you can see, freelance writing can be a great way to make extra money while you’re cruising this big, beautiful globe, or even while you’re just sitting at a dock!
There are endless jobs in a number of industries who desperately need good writers, so why shouldn’t it be you?
Once you decide on your niche and start reaching out to potential clients with a well-crafted pitch, you’ll start getting hired, and most importantly paid for your creative efforts. Not to mention that you’ll build your portfolio.
And remember, you don’t need experience to become a freelance writer, and you don’t need to be an expert in the industry or niche that you chose. You need good research skills, patience, writing skills, and the willingness to work hard.
Now that you know the steps you need to take to become a freelance writer, it’s time to get writing!