How to make money freelance writing

How to make money freelance writing

Today I want to get into how to make money freelance writing, but with a twist.

I’ll look at it from a personal perspective, based on what I’ve learned from being in the trenches doing this stuff. What I cover here is likely what you’ll discover yourself if freelance writing is the route you choose to your own personal freedom.

So, being a freelancer is a good and a bad thing. Why so you may ask?

Well, on the plus side, being a professional, self-employed freelancer does afford you a lot of personal freedom – that’s for sure.

Again, this can be either a good thing or a bad thing.

Along with personal freedom comes the need for self-discipline. It’s pretty simple really; you don’t work, you don’t get paid!


The (big) upside of freelancing

Okay, so we all know the story.

Work from home, no boss to report to, no daily commute and work all day in your pyjamas if you really want to. I know of a writer who doesn’t even bother with pyjamas when it’s hot, but let’s not go there, really let’s rather not.

The bottom line is, however you choose to approach your work, the work needs to get done.

No work, no pay. No pay, no groceries and a very unhappy Mrs. Freelancer.

Notice in the list of benefits above there’s no mention anywhere of a lack of stress as you might have expected.

You see, there’s this conception that working from home doing the odd bit of freelance writing is a wonderfully stress-free existence. I wish.

Unreasonable deadlines, grumpy clients and the penny pinching 10,000 words for a dollar potential clients (and long will they remain so) all these things are sent with the sole purpose of raining on our work at home parade.

Then there’s the continual stress of having to find more gigs and replacement clients for those that fall by the wayside. At this point a bit of advice to all budding freelance writers, copywriters or anyone about to join our merry band.

The advice is this. If you find a client who sets reasonable deadlines, pays good rates and is a decent human being, treat him like gold dust. Really. Don’t miss deadlines, communicate effectively with that client and give your best – 100% of the time. Nothing less is good enough for this God amongst men (or women).


Back to reality

Okay, that was a bit extreme, I’ll admit…

But, the point is a serious one nonetheless. Holding on to a great client and developing a mutually beneficial, long-term working relationship is way easier than trying to find a replacement.

When things are going well, that’s the time to try even harder.

It’s not just about the work of course.

You are gathering as many testimonials as possible when you turn in outstanding work – aren’t you? If you’re not, you’re either a copywriting genius of serious note who has clients begging to throw wads of cash your way or stupid to the point where you don’t even deserve to own a decent set of pyjamas.

Testimonials are important, collect them. Enough said.

Now to the elephant in the room – procrastination.

Yes, we’re all human and we’ve all been guilty of this mortal sin at some point in our careers.

However you do it, as a freelancer you have to find a way of working that gets the job done on time, every time.

I’ve heard of everything from showering, shaving and putting on a suit before sitting down to write to breathing exercises and standing on your head.

You need to find out what works for you and get it nailed down.

Personally, I’ve come to realize that I’m at my most creative first thing in the morning, so I tend to do much of my writing as early in the day as possible.

Some people are night owls. Where do you fit into the scheme of things?

Work it out, it’s important.


Freelance sites – a waste of time or a golden opportunity?

how to make money freelance writing

Can you make money writing on freelance job sites?

There’s a huge debate raging in the world of freelancing about whether you can make money writing on freelance job sites.

The debate centers around freelancing sites such as Upwork, Freelancer, Contently etc. There are plenty of such sites and the quality of opportunities to be found on them varies – a lot!

Many writers I know attack these sites mercilessly. They dismiss them as the pits of the freelance writing world, full of crappy jobs and a waste of time.

I’ll be upfront and admit they have their challenges.

Let’s take one site I know very well – Upwork.

I’ve been on Upwork since January 2015 and in that time, I’ve worked my way up to their “Top Rated” status. I’ve achieved with a 98% success rate in the work I’ve done for clients and have about 40 or so 5* reviews on my profile.

You could say I’ve worked out how to make money freelance writing on Upwork 🙂

Again. let’s be absolutely clear on this – there are crappy (real crappy) jobs on Upwork!

But, that’s really not the point.

There are also interesting, well-paid jobs on the platform. Your job is to find them and land them by differentiating yourself from your competition.

Nobody said you’ve got to apply for the crappy jobs – and quite honestly, why would you?

It takes a bit of effort to find the best jobs on Upwork, but then again, any prospecting for new clients takes effort.


How to make money freelance writing on Upwork

The rewards of sifting through the dross on Upwork and finding the gold nuggets can be huge.

Personally, I make as much as $125/hr on Upwork and have landed clients who pay me $3,000/mo retainers.

None of this is said to boast, just to help you understand what is possible – not from theory but from my own personal experience.

IMPORTANT

One thing a lot of freelancers don’t realize about Upwork is that easily 90%+ of the competition is terrible.

The number of writers offering their services who don’t have English as their native language is huge. Not their fault, but if you can’t string a decent proposal together, what chance do you have of getting hired – not much?

How do I know this?

Well, I’ve picked up a lot of work from Upwork, but I’ve also hired freelancers as well. You would not believe the quality of some of the applications I got – and in a bad way!

Here’s a link to a guest post I wrote for Jacob McMillen, the Digital Careerist. In my post I set out some valuable tips to show you how to make money freelance writing on Upwork (hope it helps):

How to make money freelance writing on Upwork

I’d also like to thank Gary Harvey for his insightful guest post on his own experience with Upwork, you can read it HERE

One caveat about Upwork:

Don’t rely on Upwork as your sole source of income.

Make sure you have a broad-based strategy for finding clients. Prospecting on Upwork (or any other job site) is just one aspect of how to make money freelance writing, and it should be part of a broader strategy. We can talk about what that strategy might look like in another post.


Some end words

I hope you found my post about how to make money freelance writing useful. I’ve shared my personal experiences with you, none of this is based on theory – I’m in the trenches doing this stuff every day.

If you’d like help deciding your first or next move in your freelancing career, why not get in touch?

We can chat, and I’ll give you my best advice – it may be just the push you need to finally make money working for yourself online.

10 thoughts on “How to make money freelance writing”

  1. Many people can’t control themselves if it comes to self discipline about work which is bad side of freelance writing. Many people can fail when they don’t get time to work due to different causes example when you are sick, have wedding ceremony,going to funerals.. But it is good for people who hate being told what to do by their boss. Everything depends on plan when it is well planned, freelance can bear fruits than ever.

    • Hi Julienne,

      You’re right that life does get in the way at times and, of course, that’s why you need to develop a plan and stick to it as much as possible.

      Freelancing may not be for everyone, but once you realize it’s full potential and how it can change your life, you tend to get inspired and push through. It’s worth it in the end!

  2. Happy to read your post! I think a lot of writers don’t understand their huge potential. If you are a great writer you can be so successful in your own business. All you need to do is to set up the website and after keep writing a content… I am not a native English speaker (as you see) and the biggest problem for me is to “put my thought on the paper” in language which is not mine. I am writing articles myself but after I am sending them to my personal blog editor who is a native speaker and of course I have to pay for each post plus if I send 1500 words I will get back – 1300 words. Seems to be more easy to pay someone who will write for me, but it won’t be my voice and tone of writing

    • You make a very good point here Snap, It can be challenging to write for a living if you’re not a native English speaker.

      The thing is, if you can build a writing career in a niche that pays well, it’s possible to work with an editor and still make a profit. So, for example, if you charge $100 an hour and you’re paying your editor $50 an hour, you’re in profit.

      You can also take on other writers to write for you and offer a service to clients who pay well.

  3. I love to write, but have not given any thought to freelance writing. I used to write daily in my diary, and now I write my own blogs. But you’ve really given me some ideas about being a freelance writer after reading your post. I love the idea of working in your pyjamas, and no commute. But like you said, it all boils down to self-discipline, unlike a regular job where you get paid monthly without having to go around looking for work.

    • Yes, being organized and disciplined is a very important part of freelancing. You’ll also want to have a system where you can store clients’ work and easily retrieve it any time you want.

      Personally, I use Evernote to keep everything 100% organized. There’s s free version, but I’ve since upgraded to paid.

  4. Great article and very informative.

    The fact that you can make money as a freelancer is good, but it seems that like is some freelance jobs the competition is big, but you have some terrible competitors. I know it because I did it for design, and they choosed the worse one since they asked less money, and I was like, ah..

    I have the feeling this could be the same with Upwork.

    I love writing, so I will try it and out hope it will work out.

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • Hi Emmanuel,

      Yes, there is a lot of “competition” but the truth is that most of it is terrible, really.

      I think you should think more about it before “giving it a try”. To succeed, you’ll have to be focused and dedicated to making it work. It will take time and effort, but in the end, and as you build up your reputation, you’ll find there’s some very lucrative work to be had.

      Good luck.

  5. Thanks for this article! I tried using Upwork a couple of times, but I found that as a complete beginner, it was really hard to land my first freelance writing gig. Does it get progressively easier the more experience and testimonials you have? 

    Do you think Upwork is better than Fiverr in terms of writing quality though? For me, Fiverr has always seemed the cheaper (and lower quality) way to go. 

    I think the best thing to do (if you’re up for the challenge) is to create your own site; that way you save a ton of money on outsourcing content as you can write it yourself! Do you agree?

    • Hey Danny,

      Upwork does get easier with time because you get to understand the platform more as you gain experience.

      That said, there are certain moves you can make right at the start to give yourself an advantage, some obvious, some not so obvious. If you take on board what I said about terrible competition, a good starting point is to demonstrate to potential clients that you’re professional and you know your story.

      Put yourself inside the client’s head. They need to know that you’ll get their job done, on time, without fuss and to a high standard.

      They’re also more comfortable if they can see you’ve tackled a similar project before. A lot of writers stumble here. They panic because they don’t have a sample to show that’s similar to the client’s requirements.

      The solution?

      Say they want an article on elephants in the African Jungle. No problem, write up a couple of hundred words on, oh I don’t know, say monkeys in South American rain forests and submit that as your sample.

      This has 2 benefits.

      1) The piece is very close but not exactly the same. You’l stand out above anyone else who tries to shoehorn a totally unrelated piece into their application.

      2) Now you have a piece you can use again in the future.

      Fiverr for me = low quality and yes, writing your own content is good but time consuming.

      Thanks again for connecting!

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