If you love writing, it can be intimidating to start freelance writing with no experience, but it’s entirely possible to build a successful career from scratch. In fact, most freelance writers start with little to no experience and were able to build their skills and reputation “on the job.” It just takes hard work, dedication, and following the right advice.
After nine years of building my own career as a freelance writer and helping countless others do the same, here’s what I suggest you do to get started, with emphasis on the how and where so you feel confident about the direction you should take as a new freelance writer.
Can I Become a Freelance Writer With No Experience?
Absolutely! You don’t need any writing or freelancing experience to start your career as a freelance writer. You don’t need a degree, either. Writing courses can help improve your writing skills and ensure your English is up to par. Free courses and workshops can also expose you to new ideas and techniques, like the fundamentals of search engine optimization.
You can make money writing even as an inexperienced content writer, but your earning potential will continue to increase as you build a reputation and improve your skills. In short, if you are eager to start your freelance career, then dive in. There’s nothing stopping you from pursuing paid opportunities right this minute, and this guide will help.
How to Start Freelancing With No Experience
Here’s what I suggest you do first to get you off to a strong start as a freelance content writer.
1. Create a Writing Portfolio
When you’re starting from square one, writing samples serve as tangible evidence of your skills and abilities. To secure your first client (or get accepted into a major writing platform), you’ll need at least one fantastic sample to show them.
Now, this is when you’re going to have to make a decision about the type of freelance writer you want to be. What type of content do you want to create? Some options include:
- Articles / Blog Posts
- White Papers
- LinkedIn posts
- Video scripts
You can definitely write multiple types of content, but I’d suggested picking your favorite first and creating 2-3 solid samples that you can share with potential clients. Approach the samples as real projects, which means doing deep research about the structure and topic you choose.
Need a template? Use our free writing portfolio template that you can edit in Canva.
2. Look for Freelance Writing Gigs
The next step: Figuring out how to make money! There are countless online writing opportunities that will pay you, even if you have no prior experience, but it’s important that you avoid content mills. To get on the fast track to paid freelance work, consider:
- Freelance marketplaces: Think Upwork and Fiverr. These platforms allow you and other freelance writers to list your services or propose to requests submitted by startups and other businesses. Joining is free and you can set your own rates.
- Intermediary platforms: Think Scripted and Draft.co. Submit your application and they will let you in if they like your samples and/or you pass their quality checks. The pay isn’t great, but they put work in your lap, so it’s a good way to cut your teeth on many different types of writing and writing styles.
- Writing job boards: Indeed and LinkedIn are good. We also have our very own Slack channel where we curate the highest-paying writing work like six-figure contracts and prospective clients with healthy budgets.
- Publications: Most publications accept pitches from freelance writers and they’re often shared on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter (we also round them up in your Slack channel). You’ll need to learn how to pitch, but these opportunities can pay $1 per word or more, which is an incredible rate.
Want a run-down on all of these outlets (and more)? Check out our guide on where writers get paid. We even break down how much you can expect to earn from these different places.
3. Establish Your Digital Presence
As a freelancer, cultivating your personal brand will help you develop a strong and consistent voice across platforms and ultimately attract the type of clients you want to work with. So, how do you do it?
Your top priorities for kickstarting your freelance writing career are to:
- Set up your LinkedIn profile
- Launch a freelance writing website using a tool like WordPress
- Share your writing portfolio on your LinkedIn profile and site
It can be overwhelming, but if you take it step-by-step, you can have a bare-bones digital presence set up by the end of the day. We have a long list of recommended tools to help you get started with your writing business.
4. Choose a Freelance Writing Niche
Most writers start out as master generalists, meaning they create content across all sorts of industries — and that’s often a necessity if most of your work is coming from a marketplace or intermediary where you can’t be so choosy about who you work with. However, as you gain experience, you might begin to niche down.
Some reasons to niche down include:
- Gaining deeper industry knowledge to create more high-quality content
- Being able to charge more for your writing services thanks to your expertise
- Creating a freelance writing business that’s well-known in a certain industry, giving rise to referral traffic and more high-paying clients
If you’re just getting into content writing, you don’t have to choose a niche just yet, but I do think it should be on your mind. If you already have a professional background you can leverage as a writer, like prior experience in nursing or finance, that can give you a big headstart.
5. Discover Guest Posting Opportunities
Guest posting is when you create content for someone else’s website. You often aren’t paid for guest posts, but getting an article published under your name on a high-quality website can help supercharge your reputation and give you a real-world writing sample to share with potential clients.
Here are my best tips for guest posting:
- Look for websites that align with the niche(s) you want to get into or think you might want to get into
- Always ask about the site’s traffic before guest posting, you need to find a site that has at least a few thousand monthly visitors
- When submitting a guest post, always ask for a do-follow backlink back to your own blog, which will help grow your traffic and collect leads
Guest posting without pay isn’t something you should do all the time, but try to make the point to secure a guest post at least a few times a year on high-traffic websites.
6. Expand Beyond Just Writing Experience
The world of writing is constantly evolving with new technologies and platforms emerging all the time. By learning new skills, you can position yourself as a more versatile and valuable freelancer, and you might find that you have passions that go beyond writing, like:
- Search engine optimization: Help your freelance writing clients optimize their content for search engines by learning the ins and outs of keyword research and on-page SEO.
- Content planning: Go a step beyond creating content and actually help your clients plan it across their site, blog, and social media accounts.
- Content marketing: Take a deep dive into the types of content you can create for your clients and how content marketing takes an informational approach to building trust organically over time.
- Copywriting: Start creating more sales-oriented, short-form content, like ad copy, email copy, product descriptions, and so on.
Having trouble earning a full-time income as “just a writer” or worried about the march of AI (yeah, it’s coming)? I highly recommend expanding your online writing business into these other areas to future-proof your business and create added value for your clients.
7. Leverage Testimonials and Referrals
Securing new clients can take a good deal of time, especially if you’re finding clients of your own using strategies like cold pitching. To maximize your efforts, you need to impress those clients and find ways to multiply them.
- After a few projects, ask your clients for testimonials. You can collect these on LinkedIn or using a site like G2.
- Once you have a strong relationship with a client, ask if they know any other large or small businesses that could use your services.
- Over time, ask your clients about the results the content you’ve created as generated for them (traffic, leads, sales, etc.) and create a case study to share on your website.
Need Help Finding Freelance Writing Jobs for Beginners? Join Our Slack!
The Society of Writers is a mentoring community that gives freelance writers access to range of resources, templates, workshops, and work opportunities. Plus, we provide transparency into how successful freelance writers actually find clients, close deals, and earn more from their services.
In addition, the Society of Writers offers mentoring and coaching to help you navigate the challenges of freelance writing and build a successful career. You’ll even have the opportunity to work with experienced writers and editors who can provide guidance, feedback, and support as you develop your skills and build your portfolio.
Want to be inspired? Join our Slack channel!