Wanna be a Freelance Writer? Here’s How to Make Money Working From Home as a Writer
So, you want to learn how to make money working from home, eh?
This may surprise you, but if you’re looking to be a freelance writer, you don’t need a degree.
You don’t need an English degree, certificate, or even experience. You only need a passion for writing, really.
One question I get a lot when people ask me “How did you get started making money working from home?”
Honestly, it was an accident. Before I got let go from my job in the nonprofit world, I worked as a newsroom reporter for about five years. I had a journalism degree to back me up, writing experience, but very little actual freelancing experience.
Then, I started dipping my toes into learning about marketing and freelance writing. I couldn’t believe how many opportunities existed.
I wanted in. I know a lot of you do, too.
Below, I dive into how you can make money working from home as a writer.
The #1 Rule For How You Can Make Money Working From Home
First and foremost, it’s important to note if you’re jumping into this learning how to make money working from home deal, it’s not a quick buck. It’s absolutely not a get-rich-quick scheme.
It takes time, patience, and learning curves to be a successful freelance writer.
You will read about TONS of freelance and marketing writers who make hundreds of thousands of dollars every month. The bloggers who publish their income report cards. The copywriter who lands the six-figure contracts.
It’s possible, but they don’t do that right out the gate. It’s not that simple.
One six-figure freelancer I know worked for nearly two years while freelancing on the side before she felt comfortable enough to go freelance full-time.
Whatever “comfortable” looks like for you will be different, but it’s a must to understand you will have to build your business up to a six-figure paycheck.
If you go into this expecting to make huge money right away, you’ll be disappointed. Don’t set yourself for failure with way-too-high expectations.
Your reality check going into this: Making money doesn’t happen overnight.
Below I’ll break down step-by-step how to start your freelance writing business to make money at home.
Step 1: Get Focused
Think about what you love to do in your free time. What are you passionate about? Do you love gardening? Is cooking one of your favorite things to do? Find a good mix of what you’re good at AND interested in, and considering starting off in writing about that industry.
Step 2: Do Some Research
Once you know what general topics you want to write about, it’s time to figure out what type of writing you want to do. There are so many different ways you can go. Marketing writing is the largest arena in terms of finding a lot of clients who need a lot of ongoing work.
A sampling of writing opportunities include:
- Online journals
- Trade journals
- Literary magazines
- Consumer magazines
- Customized publications
- Corporate websites
- Small business websites
Invest in books, watch YouTube videos, and network with other freelance writers on social media. It’s the best way to learn about a variety of ways of how you can make money working from home as a freelancer.
A few of my favorite books when I first got started:
- The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing: How to Write, Work, and Thrive on Your Own Terms by Zachary Petit
- How to Write Copy That Sells: The Step-by-Step System for More Sales, to More Customers, More Often by Ray Edwards
- Writer’s Market 2020 (This resource is updated every year!)
Step 3: Create and Organize Clips
If you’ve been at this writing game a long time (hello, laid off newsroom journalists!), then you’ve got a ton of bylined clips. It’s time to organize these into a Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. If you’re like me and have a ton of actual physical clips, start scanning them before they yellow and turn into bits of crispy paper.
New to freelance writing? Make your own samples. You can do this by creating published pieces of content for sites like Medium. Or, find a company you admire and create a mock-up piece like a blog, article, or case study. Format it appropriately and save it for when you start applying for freelance gig or pitching companies.
Step 4: Pitch Companies
Once you have your clips together (preferably in a specific niche, but not a requirement), it’s time to start pitching companies.
How do you do this?
Look for companies that have ongoing content needs.
It may be an email newsletter, a blog, articles, or case studies. It’s easier to convince someone who already sees the value in it to keep it up. Reach out to the CEO or marketing manager directly via email. Expect to follow-up a lot, but provide value when you do in order to get them to open your email AND respond.
Track your open and response rates. If it’s not even getting opened (you can track this with an extension like Streak), then you may need to adjust your subject lines.
Step 5: Apply for Jobs
Search for jobs that seek freelance or remote writers. You can discover a ton on these on online job boards. Some are geared toward freelancers, while others are general job boards. Here are a few of my favorites: Indeed, ProBlogger, LinkedIn, and Upwork.
You may find work under a variety of titles, including:
- Creative writer
- Content writer
- Blog writer
- Resume writer
- Marketing writer
- SEO writer
Another option that I love to do is applying for an in-house job but asking the company if they’d be open to working with a freelancer (while also pointing out the benefits of why they should). It’s how I’ve gotten hired for multiple gigs.
Step 6: Market Often
Once you start landing clients, you don’t want to stop marketing your services. It’s tempting once you’ve booked those first few to see how you can handle the balance. But it’s a MUST to keep marketing. Even fully-booked freelancers market when they simply can’t take anymore clients on in the moment.
Because you can always tell a prospective client, “I’m booked for the next month, but I have a slot open on X date.” It’s better to have to put someone on a wait list than to lose a client or finish a project and have no warm leads in your pipeline. That’s how work dries up.
Be consistent. Apply to job boards. Ask for referrals. Check out magazines that might be looking for new freelancers.
There’s always a way to market yourself. Even if it just means following up with old leads.
A tip for the newbies: For new freelance writers looking to land work, I recommend pitching/applying to jobs at least 25 times a week. It seems like a lot, but that’s five a day for five days of a seven-day week. You can do it.
Step 7: Get to Know Ballpark Rates
What should you charge as a freelance writer?
You’re going to hate my response.
I honestly can’t give you an answer on what you should charge for particular projects. That all depends on way too many factors that vary from freelancer to freelancer. Someone who has been writing for five years in introductory email sequences is going to make a lot more than someone with less than five months experience.
Guess what? That’s okay. We all have to start somewhere.
Just remember, as a freelancer, you have to report any income you make (per client) that is over $400. You will pay taxes on this income. So make sure whatever you get paid is worth it if you’re trying to make a living at this.
A great starting point so you have an idea of what to charge? The Writer’s Market is FABULOUS at updating the “going” industry rates every year. You’ll also find a huge list of what most consumer and trade magazines pay per word or assignment in this huge directory.
You also may want to check out American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI) State of the Industry Report for copywriting rates. They update this annually with what you can expect to charge for everything from web copy to standalone emails. It’s free, too!
Can I Make Money Working From Home?
If you want to be a freelance writer, you can work anywhere in the world once you have solid clients and a good reputation to back you.
Learning how to make money working from home as a writer is easy as long as you’re consistent and open to learning. The time and effort you put into the process will be a direct reflection of your income and business growth.
A few final tips:
- Sign up for freelance job newsletters to scope out jobs
- Pitch daily when you’re new to this
- Ask around for work
- Create a decent website (hire someone on Upwork, if needed)
Above all, stay positive. Building a business that gives you the freedom to live the life you want is worth the initial struggle or stress. And remember: Discovering how to make money working from home as a writer doesn’t have to make you a starving artist.
People make a living writing all the time. And they do it in the comfort of their own home. If you think you’re ready to do it, it comes down to mindset.
You just have to decide: How much do I want this?
What other questions do you have about learning how to make money working from home as a writer? Drop them in the comments below!