When I began my journey down the work-at-home road, I had no idea how rewarding a career in freelance writing could really be.
I had considered applying for online content writing jobs many times in the past but I didn’t think that I could successfully make a full time living as a writer working from home. It honestly seemed too good to be true.
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All I can say is that I wish I had known about entry level writing jobs earlier and begun taking on freelance content writing work! Starting a career as a freelance writer may seem daunting, but I am here to tell you that it’s easier and more fulfilling than I had ever dreamed was possible.
Working from home as a content writer is not only achievable but might be easier than you think. Let’s explore what the process of becoming a freelance writer looks like.
What is Content Writing?
In this day and age, technological advancement had created a myriad of unique opportunities to make money in unexpected ways. Content writing first became a popular category of work toward the end of the 1990s due to the exponential rise of internet activity and the need for companies and websites to provide online information to their customers and subscribers.
It’s a form of self-employment that necessitates the creation of articles, blogs, web content, product descriptions, tutorials, and such. The amount of success you achieve all depends on how far you are willing to take your writing.
In this field, you really are going to get back what you put in. The online world is constantly expanding, and taking advantage of the many new jobs created by the internet can be a very good idea.
What are the Benefits of Being a Content Writer?
- Freelance writing and content writing is a fantastic way to make money while maintaining a flexible schedule.
- You can get entry-level writing jobs from just about anywhere that has reliable internet access.
- You can set your own hours, and get into a rhythm that works for you as an individual.
- Writing is a fantastic way to express your creativity while helping others understand a myriad of interesting topics or concepts.
- Seeing your written work accepted by others is a very rewarding and satisfying feeling.
- You can be a true self-starter. You will find that the amount of money you make and success you find all depends on how much time you are willing to dedicate to freelance writing. You can take it just about as far as you want.
- You can pick your employer. The abundance of websites means that you get to decide which companies and clients you enjoy working with most.
Who Would Make a Good Content Writer?
- Pretty much anyone who knows how to write well and is fairly well-read can become a content writer. Determined, motivated, self-starters who have the drive to succeed tend to make fantastic candidates for freelance writing.
- Stay at home parents, students, people looking for extra income, and those who have a love for writing and modern technology are just some examples of the types of individuals who are likely to find success content writing.
What Skills and Tools are Required to Become a Content Writer?
- Effectively and concisely communicating a concept is probably the most important skill that you will need to develop if you wish to become a successful freelance or content writer.
- Correct spelling, proper punctuation, and good grammar are all important skills to have when writing. It’s easy to develop these skills, as the internet is full of online guides and tutorials such as this one. These types of online resources can really help you on your way.
- Reliable internet access is another important component of content writing. Pretty much everything you’ll do is going to be online.
- A computer, tablet, or other devices that you can reliably work from are critical tools. Personally, I recommend a laptop or desktop computer, but a tablet or even a smartphone can be used to content write in a pinch.
- Spell checker or other similar grammar correcting applications can also be very useful to freelance writers. Here is a list of useful websites that can aid you in your writing.
- The ability to use popular search engines is also key. You will likely find yourself searching for topics to assist you in your search for reliable information or citing sources.
- It’s also helpful to be fairly tech-savvy. Formatting and source linking are common content article requirements; you’ll want the ability to properly hyperlink your online sources and add HTML markers where they belong. Don’t worry! This may sound hard, but most content writing websites provide step by step guides to explain this process to authors.
Can You Actually Make a Living Writing Content?
Absolutely. Many people, including myself, make a pretty good living as content writers. There are three main ways that content writers make money, either by the word, hourly or project-based.
1. Paid by the word
This is very typical for writers to start out. Many set a by the word price — going prices currently range somewhere between .02 and .50 per word, the client tells you roughly how long of an article they want and you get to it.
In this type of writing, you need to either include your research time into your word rate or work on articles that don’t require much prep. If you’re a quick writer, this can pay off well as you can churn through articles quite quickly.
The downside is if you’re a very succinct writer, you might find you don’t profit as much as a more verbose author. However, if you find clients who like your work, they’ll be willing to pay a higher price per word.
2. Paid by the hour
Best if you’re doing research-intensive writing where you need a lot of time to do research and prepare but which might not be reflected in the length of your final piece. For instance, this might be on an academic or marketing subject where they want to present unique data.
If you’re a more thoughtful writer who loves the research phase or painstakingly writing the perfect essay, this more lucrative than being paid by the hour. Obviously, if you’re a quick writer who can knock out 1000 words in a half-hour, this method is less useful for you.
3. Paid by the Project
Project work is the ultimate goal of most writers. As your writing business takes off, you’ll eventually want to use project-based pricing based on value rather than relying on quantity of words or time-based pricing, both of which can limit your potential earnings. With this type of writing, you’ll likely move from being a generalist to specializing in an industry or niche.
This lets employers see your skills as uniquely valuable and worth hiring over more generalist writers. Ironically it often also allows you to work with fewer clients and write less while actually getting paid more. However, to dive into this type of writing, you’ll need an excellent writing portfolio and testimonials as well as the willingness to network and find writing opportunities.
Where Should You Start Looking for Entry Level Writing Jobs?
For someone just starting out, content mills and agencies can be a great place to get your foot in the door and start making your first money online. While it might not be as well-paid or glamorous as being a star-writer, you can start almost immediately, regardless of your previous writing experience, and you have the opportunity to hone your writing skills on a range of topics and industries.
Starting Writing with Content Agencies
1. Pick a company, and apply.
First, you are going to want to find the company that you want to work for. Searching online for content agencies and content mills is a good place to start. The International Association of Writers and Editors is a great place to find writing websites and entry level writing jobs or clients looking for new authors.
Do some research to find which content writing or freelance author companies seem to fit your needs best. There are hundreds of content writing websites out there — some specialize in certain types of writing while others are more generalist. I recommend applying to at least three.
Some well-known content agencies include:
2. Be prepared for aptitude tests and have writing samples ready.
After identifying which company you are going to start with, prepare some writing samples and a resume, then follow the website’s instructions on applying to become an author. Most websites will require writing samples as a way to see what your skill level is.
Many sites will also have a grammar test for you to take. I suggest studying online for a bit before taking grammar or aptitude tests.
The writing sample and grammar scores that you receive will likely affect what score you will get as an author in the beginning. Your score can affect how many jobs you will have access to for the company.
3. Keep applying!
Don’t become discouraged if you don’t see immediate acceptance or success; just move on to the next company and repeat the process. It may take a while to find a company that is looking for authors who write at your skill level.
This is totally normal for those in the beginning stages of their content writing careers and even for intermediate and advanced authors. If you keep at it, eventually you will be hired on as an author for a content writing company that you will enjoy working with.
Starting Writing Directly with Clients
Networking and finding your own clients directly can take a bit more effort and time on your part, however, the rewards are that you don’t have an intermediary and have more control over the process. If you’re in a content farm and raise your prices, your clients see lots of other writers who have cheaper prices.
However, if they’ve built a relationship with you and know the quality of your writing, they’re less apt to always move to the lowest-priced service provider. If you want to start out on your own and find your own clients, take these steps:
1. Set up your professional author profile.
Whether you use Wix, Squarespace, WordPress or just a really good LinkedIn profile this is a place to showcase your writing skills and say that type of writing you’d like to pursue. Make it personal, add things like a professional profile picture.
Don’t be afraid to add additional sections about your personal interests and writing preferences! This profile will be a way for clients to decide if you would make a good fit for their writing teams.
2. Provide a few well-written writing samples.
The point is to show that you can write well and communicate effectively. My advice is to cover a few different writing styles so that you will be appealing to a larger client base.
Even if you don’t have any client writing to show, writing a sample blog post, a product review, and a tutorial style how-to article will give potential clients a good idea of your skills. Remember to use proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Showing your ability to hyperlink and cite sources is a good idea as well.
3. Look for your first freelance writing gig!
There’s a number of ways to do this and will depend on your comfort and preference. The easiest way is to ask family and friends. If you know someone who has a business blog, ask if you can guest post to build your writing portfolio.
This is a good way to get some real-life experience under your belt, even if you end up doing it for free. However the quicker you can get beyond the immediate people you know, the more sustainable your business will be.
You can try job boards such ProBlogger’s. If you prefer face-to-face, try a small business meet-up in your area. Most businesses know they should have a website and update it regularly but many lack the in-house knowledge and time to do it. Don’t be shy — remember you’re helping them out as much as they’re helping you!
If you’re interested in a particular niche, try going to specific industry events. Even if you don’t find new clients, you’ll get to learn about trends in the industry which will eventually make you much more valuable as a content writer.
So You Landed Your First Content Writing Job — Congrats! What now?
You have your first freelance writing job in.
1. Write, write write!
Remember, the more you write, the better you will get. You’ll find as you continue to write, your speed and ease with writing will both increase significantly. In the beginning, this might mean taking articles on topics that you’re not particularly interested in but consider it as part of your
2. Listen Carefully to the Client Instructions
Follow any author’s instructions as exactly as you possibly can. Read over it carefully and consider what their goals are for the article. Although you’re the writer, they might have a very specific point they want to make or order they want to present the material in.
Before you change their request, explain your thinking and let them give you feedback. Often content marketing is done around keywords or very specific industry style and they’ll find it more annoying than helpful if you deviate from it.
3. Remember Rejection Comes with the Territory
Even if you stumble on a few bad clients or have articles rejected, treat them as part of the learning process. Consider what went wrong. Was it a topic you should have researched more?
An impossible turnaround time? A cheapskate client? Try to figure out where things went wrong so you can avoid it in the future, but don’t dwell. Sometimes with writing, it’s also something unquantifiable such as personal preference.
4. Verify Claims
Do online research to make sure that your facts are verifiable. If you think that they’re making false statements, question them.
It might be a simple misunderstanding or oversight and they’ll thank you for your attention to detail. Of course, if it seems like they are intentionally misleading readers, you’ll want to walk away immediately and not be associated with the project.
In the middle is a gray area that might also be a difference of opinion, in which case you need to consider your options. Remember, you can always turn down work that conflicts with your core beliefs (though do it professionally).
5. Have a Quick Revision Turnaround Rate
Make any revisions or changes that your clients ask for politely and in a timely manner. Just like dealing with any customer, it’s important to provide friendly and polite service quickly. You will likely get a lot of revisions at first.
This is because you are essentially learning a new communication style and reading between the lines of what a client wants in an article may not be first nature to you. That’s totally normal!
Make the revision and send the updated article back to your client as quickly as you can. This will make clients appreciate you as a writer, and may even lead to them sending you more jobs in the future.
If you feel the revision is in error, make an alternative suggestion or explain your logic. The main thing is keep communication open and not to stall the process.
6. Build Relationships with Your Clients
If you have clients that are becoming regulars (or you’d like to have become regulars), put some extra time into getting to know them. See how they’re using your work, check out their website or arrange to speak to them directly.
Not only will this be a nice ego boost for them and make them feel like you’re engaged in their success, it will help your writing and make you more indispensable as a part of their team.
How to Grow Beyond Your First Clients
1. Create a Dedicated Space to Write
Like any other job, a good routine can help you to find success. Having a quiet focused workspace will help you get in a good writing mindset. If you have young kids, don’t try to work and take care of them at the same time just because you’re at home.
That’s a recipe for frustration and burnout — get childcare help or if that’s not possible and you don’t mind a little sleep deprivation, organize your time so you can work while they sleep.
2. Learn About Time Management
You probably noticed when you became a mom, your time suddenly became your most valuable commodity. Time management is critical. To become a successful content writer, you need to be able to consistently hit deadlines and reliably available.
Part of this is setting realistic expectations from the start. Use a time-tracker to see how long different writing projects take, then double in because with kids, something always comes up.
3. Specialize in a Niche
You may be surprised to find that you enjoy writing product reviews, or else that tech blogs are your favorite. Whatever your preferences, find some in-demand writing categories that you enjoy and start to specialize.
As you learn more about specific topics, you become even more of an asset to businesses in those fields and you can start in increase your rates.
4. Communicate with Your Fellow Freelance Writers
Talk to other authors on chat boards or in real life. I can not tell you how helpful other content writers have been to me in my writing career! This is a great place to get advice and make connections.
If you know any content writers in your personal life, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice. Most people love sharing their experiences and you may discover some really useful tips and ideas.
5. Take Time to Explore Other Writer’s Profiles
Looking at other writer’s samples and profiles may give you a good idea of how to present your own work in the best possible way. See what they’re including (or not including).
If you’re on a content agency website, look to see how they stylize their content for the particular agency and what the best practices are.
6. Not all clients and websites will be for you.
Though it’s important to work hard if a content site or client simply isn’t a good fit, move on. Sometimes it’s them, not you.