How does a freelance writer, with no client experience go from earning $5 an hour to $180 an hour?
Where are the best places to find freelance writing jobs for beginners?
What are the best freelance writing niches to get into?
What’s the best strategy for getting your first job?
But where should you start?
Today I’m going to pull back the curtain and share with you a 3-step method for starting your career as a freelance writer.
Earning money writing never crossed my mind until 2009. It was then I started a blog about what I was learning to become a CFP®.
The blog ended up doing quite well.
But my career was growing fast, as well as my family.
With limited time, I decided to sell the blog.
A year went by without publishing much.
Then, I took on the responsibility of managing the website for my family’s insurance agency. Up until about 2012, it was a 5-page website designed from a template.
It needed content and lots of it.
The term copywriter wasn’t even in my vocabulary at this point. But that’s what this job entailed.
During this project, I realized how much I missed writing. Starting your day with an hour or two of distraction-free writing is quite addicting.
As the website project winded down (somewhere in 2013), I wanted to continue this habit of writing.
So, I began to look for freelance writing jobs for beginners.
I used eLance (now Upwork) to hire freelancers for random projects before. So, I decided to become a freelancer myself.
After applying to more than a dozen jobs, I was finally awarded my first job. I got paid $50 to write a business brochure. It took me about 10 hours.
The client loved my work and gave me a positive review.
The next job I took paid $600 to write a chapter in a course on investing. While the chapter took me approximately 20 hours to write, it felt great to earn a decent wage writing.
For the next few years, I continued “moonlighting” as a freelance writer. My specialty was in copywriting, specifically landing page copywriting.
As I saw the demand growing for landing page copywriting, I learned design as well.
I then offered a full-package, landing page copywriting + design. This combination is rare and quite valuable in the marketplace.
While my first freelance gig paid $5 an hour, my listed rate was up $180 an hour.
While I no longer take on paid writing assignments, I acquired some essential skills. These skills made it much easier to become a full-time blogger.
Types of Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners
There are writing jobs that pay $5 an hour. You can start as a freelance writer even if you have no experience. There are also freelance writers who earn $2,000+ an hour.
How much you earn depends on the type of value you bring to your client.
300 Word blog posts that don’t get read are worth $5 an hour. A copywriter who writes a winning sales letter can be worth millions.
What’s important is that the writers who deliver the most value make the most money.
That’s why the first step to becoming a freelance writer isn’t going to job boards and blasting your resume; it’s choosing a niche.
Your goal is to choose a niche that has ALL three of these characteristics.
- Has a measurable ROI for the client
- Is growing in demand (covered below)
- Interests you
Picking a quality niche is one of the secrets to success as a freelance writer.
To help you out, I recommend downloading freelance writing expert Gina Horkey’s list of 200+ quality freelance writing niches for beginning freelance writers.
How to Pick a Freelance Writing Niche
Choosing the right niche is the difference between riding a wave and fighting against one.
How do you pick a niche that’s right for you?
An excellent place to start is to go to Upwork, this is the largest freelance site, and enter the term writer into the search box. Next, under experience level select “Expert”.
This allows you to search the jobs in which clients look for expertise.
Next, browse the job titles that interest you.
Fourth, take some of the keywords from jobs that interest you and re-enter them into the search box.
For example, when I entered the term “writer’ in the search box, I found the below job description that sounded interesting.
After looking over the description, some of the searches I may enter next would be:
- Landing Page
The goal here is not to apply for a job. Instead, start seeing the types of jobs available in which clients see value in hiring someone with skills.
Ideas for Freelance Writing Niches For Beginners
After a dozen or so searches, you should begin to:
- Start noticing jobs that interest you
- Start to see the postsjobs where the client sees value
If you’re struggling, I’m going to share with you 7 quality writing niches for beginners.
My background is sales writing. The books and articles I read have to do with marketing. So, my recommendations are based on trends I see in this space.
There are of course more niches.
Picking a quality niche is one of the secrets to success as a freelance writer. Expert writer Gina Horkey has a list of 200+ quality freelance writing niches for beginning freelance writers.
For each niche, I include a brief description, example target market, and a recommended book or article on developing expertise.
Amazon Product/Book Listing
- Description: There’s a high demand for quality writers who understand how to optimize an Amazon book or physical product listing. This includes understanding how Amazon works concerning SEO and conversions.
- Example Target Market: Target small to medium-sized sellers who launch multiple products a month on Amazon. Find the seller’s profile and contact them through their website.
- Recommend Resource: Copywriting for Amazon Listings: 12 Steps to Increased Conversions
- Description: Having a monthly or quarterly physical newsletter is a growing trend for small businesses. If you have basic design skills, you can handle everything from writing the articles to design.
- Example Target Market: Target local chiropractors offices who blog frequently and are active on social media (they have some interest in marketing). If you can get multiple clients inside one niche, you can use the same articles for multiple clients. If you can make it hands off, where you’re also working with the printer, you can charge premium prices.
- Recommend Resource: Newsletter Marketing: Insider Secrets to Using Newsletters to Increase Profits, Get More New Customers, and Keep Customers Longer than You Ever Thought Possible
- Description: Email isn’t dead. While it’s not new, there’s still a high demand for quality writers. Many businesses are using email to increase sales.
- Example Target Market: Specialize in a specific type of email series, such as the product launch email sequence. Increase your value by learning one of the more popular email CRMs such as MailChimp. This way you can offer to not only write the email series but upload them to the client’s email provider.
- Recommend Resource: Email Persuasion: Captivate and Engage Your Audience, Build Authority and Generate More Sales With Email Marketing
- Description: Yes. This is writing blog posts. But here, you’re not writing content for $5 an hour. Instead, you’re writing content that gets links and shares. This is what the client (well, smart clients) want.
- Example Target Market: Brian Dean, a well-respected authority on linkable content, created a method called The Skyscraper Technique. The technique involves finding a piece of content that already has a lot of links and making it better. There are dozens of other popular frameworks for content that get shared. Specialize in one of them, and you can make yourself very valuable.
- Recommend Resource: The Skyscraper Technique
SEO Product/Service Copywriting
- Description: Google is making it worthwhile to have a lot of pages on your website. Therefore, many businesses are looking to create a page for each of the services they offer.
- Example Target Market: Local businesses that offer a variety of services. For example, a financial office needs a page for financial planning, portfolio management, life insurance, estate planning, and potentially dozens of others. Learn the basics of on-page SEO, then reach out to local businesses with small websites.
- Recommend Resource: Copyblogger’s SEO Copywriting Series
Video Sales Letters
- Description: Video Sales Letters or VSLs are trending up in the marketing space. Facebook Video and YouTube advertising are the catalysts. VSLs are often only a few minutes long (a few hundred words) and can increase conversion for a client.
- Example Target Marke: Specialize in video sales letters in the health and fitness space.
- Recommend Resource: The “How To Write a Great Video Sales Letter Script” Formula
- Description: Another tried and true form of marketing. What’s nice about a white paper, at least for me, is you can sink your teeth into a project. You can earn a nice living taking on 2-3 projects a month.
- Example Target Market: Specialize in white paper writing for local financial service providers. Target local businesses with white papers on their website that are a few years old. Ask them if you can revise the white paper for them or write a different topic.
- Recommend Resource: White Papers for Dummies
3 Websites with Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners
Hundreds of websites connect freelance writers with clients.
I’m going to introduce you to where to find the best freelance writing jobs online for beginners.
- The website you choose to start doesn’t matter as much as your approach to getting your first client. If your strategy is right, you’ll get jobs, even in a crowded marketplace.
- All three websites are large enough where there are a variety of freelance writing jobs for beginners available.
Another caveat, your long-term goal is to have clients come to you. Your short-term goal is to get paid to write something.
With more experience, you’ll start to gain knowledge about:
- The best places to find the type of quality clients you seek
- What works and doesn’t work in approaching clients
- The kind of work you enjoy
Here are the three sites I recommend.
- Upwork: Upwork is the largest marketplace online of freelancers. There are thousands of writing jobs available.
- Indeed: Indeed is the largest job search aggregator. It aggregates job postings from job boards both online and off.
- LinkedIn Profinder: This is a newer tool developed by LinkedIn. The advantage here is if you’re well connected on LinkedIn, you can search postings from connections. An introduction is a fantastic way to get a job.
Three tips when you’re searching:
- Enter the keyword of your niche, NOT “freelance writer”. For example, I would search “landing page copywriter.”
- Once you enter a search term in which the majority of jobs are a good match set up an email alert to get those jobs delivered to your inbox
- Targeting local clients (even better a connection) which Indeed and LinkedIn allow you to easier do, makes things a bit easier
How to Get Freelance Writing Jobs With No Experience
You’ve picked a niche. You’ve been to sites where freelancers post jobs.
If you’re going to go from legit business idea to a paying client, your next step is to land a gig.
The good news, it’s a lot easier then some people think.
Although you do need, one thing–a portfolio sample to share with the prospective client.
The freelancer who gets awarded a job is often the person who has a sample in their portfolio closest to what the client is looking for.
If you have this sample, whether it’s real or “fake,” your chances of winning the job dramatically increase.
Just as important, you can ask for a price equal to the quality of your sample. (If you create a fictitious sample, you don’t need to worry about the client finding out you’re a fraud. If a client asks where it came from, tell them the truth. This demonstrates creative thinking on your end.)
As you’ve picked a niche and scrubbed job sites for freelance gigs, your approach from here is fairly simple:
- Step # 1: Create a sample, whether real or fake
- Step # 2: Find jobs that closely resemble your portfolio sample
- Step # 3: Apply for those jobs
Freelance Writing Jobs For Beginners Proposal Template
The quality of most job proposals is low. It’s effortless to stand out from the crowd.
Just use some common sense in your proposal.
When I apply for jobs, I use a simple 3-step approach.
It seems to work (on Upwork at least), as Upwork says I get hired more often than other freelancers.
What’s important is I don’t try to win a job by writing a proposal.
Instead, all I’m trying to do is continue a conversation, preferably by jumping on Skype or a phone call.
3-Step Freelance Proposal Template
Step # 3: Continue the conversation by leaving your contact details
Based on your job description, I thought we should at least take five minutes to chat. I’m available at THESE TIMES if you’d like to schedule a quick call. Or feel free to add me on Skype or call my cell when you have the time.
My skype ID is ______.
My cell at (123)456-1234.
BONUS: How To Get The Best Paying Freelance Writing Jobs
You may not win your first job. You may not even win your first dozen jobs you apply for.
But it’s all part of the process.
Every proposal you submit moves you one step closer to having a successful work-at-home job.
Getting your first freelance writing job is a significant milestone in your career.
While this post gives you a framework for landing your first job, there’s one more thing I had to share.
There’s no shortage of freelance writers looking for work.
What there is a shortage of is writers earning good money.
A principle of marketing/positioning which has been valuable to me is Dan Kennedy’s Ladder of Wages (pictured right)
- On the bottom of the ladder is the generalist. The generalist is the lowest paid person. In freelance writing, this is the person that writes 300-word blog posts for $10 each.
- Moving up you have your specialist. A specialist will earn more than a generalist. In freelance writing, a specialty could be content marketing for local insurance agencies.
- Next is being an authority. An example here is a writer who specializes in content marketing for local insurance agencies. This writer has a blog on the topic of content marketing for insurance agencies. Plus, has written for a handful of industry publications/blogs.
- Above the authority is the celebrity. This person may not be as talented as an authority, but they’re paid more based on their celebrity status. For a freelance writer, this is the person that seen by an entire industry as “the-go-to-guy” for a particular need. When they walk into an industry conference, they’re instantly recognized.
- Last, is the celebrity-authority. This is the writer who was the skills to back up their celebrity status. If you’re in copywriting, this might be someone like John Carlton, Dan Kennedy, or Brian Clark.
Establishing Yourself as Specialist
You don’t need to worry about becoming a celebrity-authority today. What you do need is a plan to get out of the bottom of the pyramid.
As long as you stay at the bottom of the pyramid (a generalist), you’ll be part of the lowest paid group of writers.
The good news is becoming a specialist is simple. One good sample can be all it takes for a client to value you as a specialist.
Becoming an authority isn’t much harder. This guest post I wrote for an industry blog, has been very valuable to me.
A guest post on an industry blog in your niche, a podcast interview, speaking at a local event–all position you as an authority. More importantly, they’re not difficult to accomplish.
As an authority, you’ll move up the pay scale much faster.
I enjoy writing (and now designing), but I also enjoy using my creativity to make money.
If I were earning $30 an hour after three years of freelancing, I’d be burnt out. I would have quit.