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How to Start Freelance Writing

Updated on December 20, 2011

The First Steps to Freelance Greatness

So you want to know how to start freelance writing? You've also come to the right place. Sit back and make yourself at home, and get ready to take notes!

Mind you, I'm just starting out myself (although I've already had some successes), so you're getting a first hand look at the glories and pitfalls of the process. If you want to read more about what I did, check out How I Decided to Quit My Job and Start a Freelance Writing Career.

Just think, if you follow my lead, you could become one of many successful monkeys with computers!

Note: One of my niches is writing humor (sometimes irreverent humor). Consider yourself warned when you click on my links!

Image by fncll on Flickr.

Must Love Books
Must Love Books

Step 1: Be an Avid Reader (and Writer)

This is the Most Important Step

When learning how to start freelance writing, people often skip this step. I'm sorry to say this, but if you've never been an avid reader, chances are slim that you'll be a great freelance writer. That's like a football player saying that he doesn't actually like watching games, or a rock star saying she doesn't like listening to music. In order to get good, you have to get intimate with all aspects of your craft.

The same goes for being an avid writer. Do you tweak your sentences in emails, just to make them sound better? Do you find yourself perfecting reports into the wee hours? Do you play around with word combinations, just to hear how they sound? Then you might have what it takes.

I'm not saying that you won't stray from reading and writing, or that you won't turn your back on either of them for months or years at a time. However, if they're not in your blood to begin with, you'll just be making things hard for yourself.

Image by foolstopzanet on Flickr.

Patient
Patient

Step 2: Be Patient When You Start Freelance Writing

(And Have Thick Skin)

Everyone always gives the advice to "be patient" when someone says that they are headed for a goal, and most people ignore this advice. The ones who don't are the ones who succeed.

Remember the time that you had to take your dog out for a walk, and he took forever to do his business? You'll have to be more patient than that.

And the time you wanted to ask out that guy/girl, but they were dating someone else for three whole months? You'll have to be more patient than that.

And that time you had to wait for a redwood tree that you planted to grow several hundred feet tall? Well, maybe you won't have to be that patient, but you get the idea.

You know how when you're applying for a job, you only have a chance of being rejected once? Well, in freelance writing, you have the wonderful opportunity to be rejected several times a day. Every day. So get tough, and get ready to stick it out.

Imageby clearlyambiguous on Flickr.

Step 4: Start Freelance Writing for Up-Front/Performance Payment Sites

Yahoo! Contributor Network, Helium, Triond

This is where you may (or may not) first encounter some sort of editors. Associated Content and related sites allow you to publish your content instantly, after which you will receive a certain amount of money based on the number of people who view your content. However, you can also choose to write for assignments or receive upfront payments for your content: at this point, your articles will be reviewed before they are published.

At this point, you still have a wide range of quality in the accepted publications. Getting published on these sites doesn't mean that you're a great writer, but at least it's better than not getting published.

In order to succeed at any of these sites, you're going to have to work on your SEO (search engine optimization) skills, and also on promoting your content. It's up to you to make sure your stuff gets seen.

Note: You're probably not going to get rich off these sites, as many pay dollars or pennies for an article that would earn much more at an online magazine or newspaper. Sites like these require huge quantities to make any sort of decent return. They're good starting points, but don't settle here if you're looking for more.

See how I'm making use of these sites below.

My Yahoo! Contributor Network profile

My Helium profile

My Triond profile

Step 5: Expand Your Freelance Writing Career With Paid Article Writing

For Sites Like Made Manual

At this stage, the sites you're applying to will pay a little more per article. However, they also often don't offer any performance bonuses.

In general, you have to fill in an application before getting to write for sites like these. The applications can have some rather convoluted criteria for acceptance, so don't think that you're a bad writer if you don't get accepted.

If you do get accepted, you will be able to choose from among several topics instead of having to come up with your own (which, believe me, can be nice). You get paid a set amount of money per article, which you'll know up front. You also have to follow a set of guidelines as to how your articles should be written. If you can write articles quickly (and well), you can make a decent amount of money this way.

Note: After making a couple of dollars per article, $10-$15 per piece seems like a lot. But trust me, there are sites out there that pay much more. It takes a person very resistant to burnout who can reliably write ten articles a day, every day, to make any sort of a decent income this way.

Demand Studios

Break Studios

Big Fish
Big Fish

Step 6: Go After Some Big Freelance Fish

Cracked.com

This is where you start to get the big payouts. You'll also have to have quite a bit of talent and experience. On sites like Cracked.com, the other forum members (and the editors) will quickly let you know if you're writing caliber is good enough to make the big bucks.

You might think that writing humor is easy, but it actually takes a lot of work and a lot of research to write a Cracked.com article.

Cracked.com Comedy Workshop Sign-Up

There are tons of big-fish markets out there, paying anywhere from $20 to $500 per article. Every writer has to discover which markets work for him or herself. A good way to start is by searching for "submission guidelines" and a niche you're interested in, such as skydiving, parenting, or flower arranging. And if you keep making yourself known in the writing world, the work will eventually come to you!

Image by spakattacks on Flickr.

You As a Freelance Writer - Share Your Thoughts!

After Reading These Tips, Do You Think You Could Be a Freelance Writer?

See results

More Info on Freelance Markets

Markets I'm No Longer Writing For

It makes sense that, over time, some markets will fall to the wayside if they no longer feet a writer's needs. I've written for these markets in the past, but since moved on to greener pastures (for me, at least!)

Break Studios: The $8 an article wasn't bad when the topics could be easily written in less than half an hour, but they've since gotten more difficult.

eHow: Demand Studios, parent of eHow, has changed it's structure, making it more difficult to write for this site.

SEED: SEED is attached to the AOL network, and allows you to pitch whole articles. If they're accepted, you get paid. I've made some money off of this, but I've only ever tried for the super-short (100 word) articles because I don't want to spend time and then maybe get paid.

Associated Content: I've written quite a few articles for this site. Part of your revenue is in the form of up-front payments, and part of it is performance-based (if people view your articles). For the performance-based aspect, I'd rather write for Squidoo; and with up-front payments averaging $3 or $4, it's not worth it for me.

Helium: Very similar to Associated Content.

Examiner: This site wants you to be a reporter of sorts, regularly posting information related to your niche. If you get a good niche, you can do pretty well, but there are a lot of poor-return niches out there.

There are people who make decent money writing for these sites, and they did help me get to where I am today. Times change, though, and I'm moving on up!

Thoughts on How To Start Freelance Writing? - Share Them Here!

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    • tammywilliams09 profile image

      tammywilliams09 4 years ago

      I started writing articles for free at EzineArticles. Then I was asked to post free career articles for a career site. Those were great to get some practice but then I wanted to learn and earn. Thanks for the tips. I am sure that Squidoo will help and then I join some other sites after I get more experience. Thanks for the information.

    • AmberColleen LM profile image

      AmberColleen LM 4 years ago

      I recently lost my job and I am attempting to make some extra cash in the meantime while I look for work, and possibly making freelancing a full time thing. I'm enjoying learning more about it!

    • CatCave profile image

      CatCave 4 years ago

      Very useful lens - thank you! x

    • emmaklarkins profile image
      Author

      emmaklarkins 4 years ago

      @bskcom: You're welcome!

    • profile image

      bskcom 4 years ago

      Thanks for providing a selection of job resources for writers.

    • profile image

      prashant-lakra-334 5 years ago

      I'm related to this same freelancer Self Publishing Industry, & Freelancer writing is best for the authors.

    • profile image

      LordNefarious 5 years ago

      Thank you for all the helpful information and the links, another great lens.

    • emmaklarkins profile image
      Author

      emmaklarkins 5 years ago

      @undeadllama: Volunteering can get your foot in the door. However, make sure that you don't sell yourself short; only volunteer for places with name recognition, or ones that are likely to get you recognized by a large audience. There are too many places that get writers to "volunteer" when they should be paying them.

    • profile image

      undeadllama 5 years ago

      Excellent lens.

      Another thought when you are starting out is to volunteer everywhere you can.

    • emmaklarkins profile image
      Author

      emmaklarkins 5 years ago

      @ladykida: That's awesome! There are tons of great opportunities for hardworking, dedicated writers.

    • profile image

      ladykida 5 years ago

      I love to write...I've already earned money from fiverr.com by proofreading and editing. I created my account only five days ago!

    • emmaklarkins profile image
      Author

      emmaklarkins 5 years ago

      @oxfordian: Not sure about Demand and video, as I don't write for that site. I've done some writing for online magazines, most pay per article instead of per word (although they have general word count guidelines). Just start looking at magazine niches that you're interested in; most of them will have submission guidelines, if they accept freelance writers. Having an "in" by knowing others who write for a publication, or better yet editors, really helps.

    • oxfordian profile image

      oxfordian 5 years ago

      Used to write for Demand Studios, but the titles they had to choose from just got more and more ridiculous and the more writers they had, the harder it was to get decent titles. I heard that they went through a big shake-up and now are mostly video. Is that true? Have you any experience breaking into magazine publishing where they pay per word? I was thinking that I would look into that next. Thanks for the terrific overview. There are sites here I hadn't heard of.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 5 years ago from Colorado

      Wishing you much continuous success with your publications. I am still experimenting with various platforms and markets. I love freelance writing online. It really fits my lifestyle. Appreciated learning more about how you are going about your writing evolution. Thanks!

    • profile image

      fullofshoes 5 years ago

      This lens has fabulous information. Definitely bookmarked this one, thanks!

    • blabbermouth lm profile image

      blabbermouth lm 6 years ago

      thank you for sharing this tips!

    • emmaklarkins profile image
      Author

      emmaklarkins 6 years ago

      Glad to help everyone!

    • bames24 lm profile image

      bames24 lm 6 years ago

      thanks for sharing very useful info :)

    • Peregrina LM profile image

      Peregrina LM 6 years ago

      Thanks for the great information!

    • Psycho-Gamer profile image

      MasterPsycho 6 years ago from Earth

      So it is true....writing articles and making a living online is not a myth !!!

      yes i have thought about it but i didnt know if it worth the touble...i ll may digg in a little bit more

      but thanks u for the advice...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you for stopping by. You give a lot of great information. Written with a fresh perspective.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 6 years ago from USA

      Congratulations new Giant!

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 6 years ago from Ljubljana

      Great list, something new even for an old dog like me... Thanks!

    • profile image

      ZazzleEnchante 6 years ago

      A great, informative, well researched lens borne through the writer's own experience! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I was interested to know how you became a freelance writer, it was very inspiring. I wouldn't say I have a career but I write for Suite101.com and Bright Hub also, which I enjoy. I would be interested in sharing more tips with you.

    • emmaklarkins profile image
      Author

      emmaklarkins 6 years ago

      Glad everyone liked it! It's a hard road, but a fun one, if you can stick with it!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I enjoyed reading this well-written lens and all the tips and advice you've given here. Thanks for sharing and all the best as you continue your journey! :)

    • caretakerray lm profile image

      caretakerray lm 7 years ago

      emmalarkins:

      This is a great lens! :) I found it very useful

    • CastleRoyLisa profile image

      Lisa 7 years ago from Rhode Island

      this lens was well done and has great information thank you

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      Nice lens. As a dabbler in the writing thing I found it quite interesting. 5*

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 7 years ago from Quezon City

      I enjoyed reading this lens, it's very engaging, informative and you made the steps sound simple enough to follow. *blessed by an angel*

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

      Sounds like good advice. Squidoo is a great site.

    • emmaklarkins profile image
      Author

      emmaklarkins 7 years ago

      Thanks everyone for stopping by! Thanks, bethd821 for the blessing, and vallain, I'll have to check it out!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 7 years ago from Central Florida

      I've had good success writing for the eHow site. Beginners can get discouraged there if their articles get deleted during periodic site clean ups.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great info on freelance writing. I learned a lot. I may have to give some of them a try. Blessed by an angel.

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 7 years ago

      Great info and congratulations on 50 lenses!