What is a freelancer?
What’s a freelancer, and what should you know when it comes to freelance writing jobs for beginners? The term freelancer can mean many different things, but for the context of this article, a freelance writer is someone who works for themselves, writing web copy or content, advertorial, editorial, or blog articles for print or online media.
The following tips for freelance writing jobs for beginners can help you start the location-independent, self-employed career that you’ve thought about, but have been too nervous to try.
Types of freelance writing jobs for beginners
If your focus is more on editorial writing, you might pitch story ideas to publications, which would then be commissioned. If you do more copywriting and content writing, you may be hired for a duration of time to create copy for a website, which may have a sales or marketing focus, may be informational, or it may be blog posts for a business website.
Not always, but generally, editorial writers will receive a byline for their work, while content writing is often not credited.
Many writers do a mix of both types of writing, as pitching publications is really time-consuming, with no guarantee of success (although, this gets easier as you build up relationships with editors). Copywriting may not be seen to be as glamorous or exciting as writing for a byline, but it often provides steady work, which certainly helps to pay the bills, and paying the bills is half the battle when it comes to freelancing jobs for beginners.
One amazing advantage of being a freelancer is that you work for yourself, set your own schedule, and can generally work from anywhere in the world with a good wifi connection. If travel writing is your specialty, you could travel full time, or base yourself in one location and still make time to travel as much as you like, since you’re not geographically tied to one office or location.
Here’s an introduction to freelance writing, based on my own personal experience, and some tips for new writers.
How to start freelance writing
I started off initially as a blogger- I am an American expat living in Sydney, Australia, and I started my blog, The Accidental Australian, as a fun way to let my friends and family know about life down under and to write on expat related topics for others living in Australia.
After about two years of blogging (off and on, it wasn’t a full-time thing for me then, just more of a hobby), I started to be approached by companies who had found my blog and were looking for a writer on expat-related topics, which was the start of my freelance career.
I realize it doesn’t work this way for most people, however, I think because I had a unique niche (being an American expat), that helped me get started as potential employers had come across my blog when searching for freelance writers related to expat issues. This included topics such as relocating to Australia, guides to visas, or information on popular cities or neighborhoods for new arrivals.
Freelance writing jobs for beginners: how to start
If you’re wondering how to get started as a freelance writer, starting your own blog is a great way to showcase your writing skills and style. If you are new to travel writing, for example, creating a travel blog is a really helpful way to show potential editors or companies what you can do, and is helpful for writing newbies who may not have any published writing clips elsewhere.
If you don’t have your own blog but want to know how to start freelancing, I’d recommend writing and reading as much as you can. Reading articles or books from others in your field is one of the best ways to hone your craft and learn more.
Try to also set aside some time to write a few times per week, if not daily- as with anything, practice makes perfect! You might also want to reach out to blogs or websites in your niche about writing a guest post, as nearly all editors will want to see examples of your work and you’ll need some clips to show them.
Finding freelance writing jobs online
There are so many websites out there for finding writing jobs, it can really be overwhelming. How can you know which are the best freelance websites for beginners? I’d say this may vary depending on where you are located geographically or what sort of writing you do, but some good websites for freelance writing jobs for beginners that I used when starting off were:
These sites have new jobs added nearly every day, so are a great starting point for freelance writing jobs for beginners. Many people also report finding jobs on sites such as Craigslist, but I personally haven’t found much of interest there.
As I have progressed, other websites I frequently use to find work include:
As a travel writer, I also do a lot of pitching to editors for editorial stories. These can usually be found on the website for each site or publication, so spending time reading articles on sites you’d like to write for can help you gain a better understanding of what sort of features they may want to commission.
Once you’re comfortable with their style and you have an idea for an article you’d like to pitch, the editor’s contact details can usually be found on the website- look for the ‘about’, ‘contact us’, or ‘write for us’ sections. If no details are listed, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to a publication to inquire if they accept submissions for freelancers – sometimes this can work really well!
I would be wary of any website which asks you to pay money to access their job boards; there are many job websites that are free to view or to join, and the paying sites are often aggregates of the free sites anyway, meaning they will all have the same jobs. Sadly, there are many unscrupulous companies out there who are happy to take advantage of those looking to become freelance writers.
Signing up for newsletters from websites is another way to get regular emails of newly advertised jobs. For example, if travel writing is your speciality, one newsletter I find really helpful is from Dream of Travel Writing. You can subscribe for free and they send out regular round-ups of travel writing jobs throughout the world.
Tips for how to be a freelance writer
When I started off blogging and freelancing, I really didn’t know much at all about the industry. As with any job, you tend to learn as you go along, but here are some tips that I wish I had known before starting out.
- Upskill whenever you can
There’s so much that is helpful to know as a freelancer, from writing technique, SEO, photography, or web design- luckily, this doesn’t have to mean expensive courses. I am always on the lookout for free webinars, courses, or websites where I can learn new skills.
There are also many online databases of courses that can be accessed with low monthly costs, such as LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda). I feel if I had done more of this earlier in my career it would’ve really helped.
- Use Grammarly (or another editing software)
As a writer, it goes without saying that all articles you write should be clean and free of errors. I like to print off my work and hand-edit to read through everything, but it’s so easy to make mistakes.
To help, consider a free tool like Grammarly (both free and paid versions are available), which can be installed into your browser and will assist with all things grammar and spelling related.
- Don’t take rejection personally
I still struggle with this one. Pitching ideas to editors can be intimidating, and it’s not a nice feeling to have your story idea rejected. Remember that it isn’t personal, and keep at it until you get a win.
- Have a portfolio to showcase your work
All future employers or editors will want to see examples of your writing, so take the time to set this up early on. This can be part of your blog, or there are many free sites where you can either build your own simple website or create a portfolio, such as Clippings.
- Network whenever you can
There is so much value in face to face connections! Try to attend any sort of PR, media, or writing or editorial get-togethers that you can, as these are amazing ways to build relationships and hopefully lead to work opportunities.
- Be prepared for ebbs and flows
As a freelancer, unfortunately, there’s no guarantee of a steady weekly paycheck. Be prepared- have some savings, try to diversify your income sources, and be ready to hustle in quieter times.
- Consider finding a niche
Having a specific area or focus for your writing can help build your authority in your field. This could be anything- for travel, this could be a specific geographical area, solo travel, budget travel, etc. As freelance writing is very competitive, a niche can help set you ahead and help to get noticed.
What to look for in freelance copywriting jobs
When you’re starting out, any job offer can be really exciting, but read the fine print of any assignments carefully before accepting them, to ensure you are in agreement with everything that is being asked. This is one of the biggest mistakes made when it comes to freelance writing jobs for beginners – don’t be afraid to fight for what you need.
There’s no set standard in terms of rates. Each writer will have their own idea of what rates they can live with, which will also depend on experience. Make sure you are comfortable in the rates that you are offered before accepting, and don’t be afraid to ask for more money. Although this may not be within the publication’s budget, sometimes there is wiggle room.
When searching for freelancing writing jobs for beginners, here are a few top tips:
- Glassdoor.com and Who Pays Writers
These are two fantastic websites where you can read reviews and feedback from other writers or employers who have previously worked with a particular company. If a prospective employer has a number of bad reviews or low pay, it may be worth avoiding.
- Set up an invoicing system
Many employers will ask you to invoice them for your work in order to receive payment. This sounds intimidating but doesn’t need to be – invoices can easily be created and tracked through sites such as PayPal.
- Make sure both parties have clear expectations before starting
Make sure you know exactly what is expected of you, and what you expect from them. This is really important to avoid miscommunication or confusion down the line, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify beforehand.
Freelance writing jobs from home: pros and cons
Working from home, or working throughout the world, is something many freelancers or digital nomads dream of. That being said, the reality can be a bit lonely. In an office, you have the camaraderie of your colleagues (which can be good or bad, depending on your workplace!), but working from home can be really isolating, as can long-term solo travel.
The loneliness is one of the biggest negatives of working from home. To help with this, consider joining some social events or sporting clubs near home so you have that human interaction after work or schedule plans with friends and family for the weekends. If you’re more introverted, this may not bother you as much, but it’s something to be aware of.
If you’re traveling long-term, consider becoming a member of a coworking space. These can be joined on a monthly or daily basis, usually at a reasonable cost, and provide working space, fast internet, and amenities such as printers, meeting rooms, and common spaces. These are a really great way to work for yourself without missing out on the social aspect of the workplace – some even have Friday drinks or social events, perfect for meeting new people.
The freelance work from home mindset
If you’re looking to become a freelancer, you’re effectively working for yourself – congratulations! However, this is both equal parts exhilarating and scary. Something you might not think of immediately is what it’s like to work from home, especially if you’re used to the routine of a 9-5 office job.
The switch to working just freelance jobs from home can be liberating, but it requires a lot of effort on your part: no one is going to tell you when to get out of bed, when to start working for the day, or when to close up shop and head home.
To succeed when working for yourself, it really helps to be dedicated, committed, independent, and organized. Otherwise, it’s easy to watch the time slip by, as there can be so many distractions that you might not have even considered – a few minutes on Facebook turns into an hour, a cup of tea becomes some kitchen cleaning or walking the dog and a chat with neighbors in the sunshine can eat up your working time.
Because you are your own boss, strive to be as organized as possible. Start off each day giving some thought to what you want to achieve, and schedule your time in blocks, so that you can allocate enough time for each task.
Once the thrill of working for yourself wears off, you may find the day to day is a lot of mundane tasks, like online research, replying to emails, or formatting blog posts or articles, so staying focused on the bigger picture can help if you feel weighed down by the smaller stuff.
Set a routine
A routine definitely helps also, if you can get in the habit of waking up, starting work, and wrapping up at roughly the same time each day, this can make a big difference.
Personally, I am a morning person and find that I am at my most productive early on, but you might find working early afternoon into the evening suits you best, although it may take some trial and error to figure this out.
If you are struggling to find motivation (which we all do on some days!), considering trying something called the pomodoro technique. This is a method of working on a specific task by breaking down your time by setting a timer to work on a certain project for about 25 minutes, taking a break, then getting back to work. Some find it a really effective way to work by breaking their time into manageable chunks and scheduling their day in a more effective manner.
Freelancing can be a rewarding, exciting, and challenging career, and to work for yourself is a really empowering feeling. Hopefully, the above tips will provide some guidance for new writers and best wishes for you and your successful freelance careers!
BIO: Katie Dundas is a travel blogger and freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She writes frequently on expat issues, adventure travel, and Australia and Asia. For more on her adventures, check out her blog, The Accidental Australian.