Freelancing sounds like the dream: no boss, flexible hours, total freedom. But becoming a freelance writer with no experience isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Throughout this Ultimate Guide, I’ll show you:
- Where to start
- What you should charge
- How you can get work consistently
My career as a freelance writer
I’ve been a freelance writer for most of the last 10 years.
I know what works and what doesn’t. I also know:
- How to keep clients happy
- What to charge for your work – even when you start
- How to invoice & deal with difficult clients, plus much, much more.
Freelance writing can be incredibly lucrative. I’m going to show you how to go from zero to hero in the freelance writing world.
Luckily for you, there’s never been a better, easier time to start as a freelance writer, thanks to the range of online platforms that will help you get started:
- Medium (takes more work)
- Simply hired
- Linkedin (building your network)
We’ll cover all these platforms in depth during the article.
However, creating a random profile on any of these platforms and hoping for the best won’t work. In 2022, you have to be strategic and proactive – and I’m going to show you how.
How to become a freelance writer with no experience
Here is my 11-point plan to succeed as a freelancer writer in 2022.
1. Substitute experience for skills
Clients want experience because it generally means that their freelance writer will make fewer mistakes, produce better quality and understand the brief first time.
You have NO experience, but what you do have is a different set of skills to impress a client. Use it as a strength
So, you might not be ‘experienced’, but that means you are:
- Less jaded
- More enthusiastic
- Have fewer clients to please
See what we did there? Your lack of experience does come with strengths that more experienced writers simply do not have.
Another way to look at the experience conundrum is that you can more than make up for it in skills.
If you’re a great writer who can give your clients what they want, then nobody will care about your experience.
Honestly, speaking as a client these days, if someone is good at their job I couldn’t care less what their work history is.
How to build the writing skills you need:
To get one step ahead, you should take a course that is broad enough to cover the basics of freelance writing, plus the different areas you can go into.
I recommend this course by Kirsty Stuart on Udemy:
It covers everything you need, starting at beginner level, and is clear and concise all the way through.
You’ll get video, downloadable templates and lifetime access.
You can find out more here.
But courses cost money, how can you learn skills for free?
There are three things you can do right now to learn the world of online writing.
- I love to browse authority sites in the industry, like copyblogger to pick up new skills. There’s a ton of information out there to access.
- You’ll learn faster by doing. You can start pitching guest blogs to companies today, and you’ll get feedback from an editor. Since most people guest post for links, your editor will likely find you a refreshing change if you’re doing it for experience (and your work is good).
- Reach out to people on Fiverr or Upworker to ask them about their experiences. They can give you honest, unfiltered advice about what it takes to live on those platforms.
2. Work out where your strengths lie
Freelance writing is so, so broad.
Becoming a freelance writer can mean practically anything. You could be:
- A social media writer
- A long form copywriter
- Advertising copywriter
- Ghost writer
- Script writer
These skillsets are so incredibly diverse that in some cases there is very little overlap. For example: If you were a blogger you’ll need to know more about:
- Long-form copywriting
- Search engine optimisation
- Headline writing
If you were writing scripts in an advertising agency you’d need:
- Conceptual creativity
- Brand storytelling
- How to write dialogue
Likewise, there’s a world of difference between the people who write ad headlines, and those that rank at the top of Google.
And yet, they are both freelance writers – just in very different niches with different types of writing required.
How to try a bit of everything:
I use a tool called Jarvis.ai, and one of the most amazing things about it is its range of templates. It has over 40.
You can browse these templates without buying, and it’s great to look through them and see how different they are. You can write down the limits to each template, and give yourself a fictional (or real) brand to practice with.
Here are some of the templates, which will give you an idea of the different types of writing to try.
From long form and blog templates…
To social media ad templates…
To script and email templates:
If you take some of these and set yourself a challenge then you’ll definitely have a better idea about what you love doing, and which type of freelance writer you’ll want to be.
3. Perfect your profile on freelance platforms
To make sure people know what they are getting, you should list your specific attributes in clear, simple bullets. For example:
- Headline writer
- Short copy
- SEO knowledge (certified)
- Conceptual writer
Remember, clients will often spend just 2-3 seconds on your profile before making a decision. You need your first line to grab their attention. The quicker they know what you’re all about, the better.
As a client, here’s what I look for on a freelancer profile:
- A clear, attention-grabbing first line.
- A list of skills
- The number of positive reviews (you may not have this at first, so don’t worry)
- Trust signals on the platform, like ‘rising star’
- A profile picture of an actual person
- A well-written profile
A rate that isn’t too cheap or expensive. Ironically, being too cheap can put people off.
If you lack experience, your intro paragraph can do a lot of the work by adding trust signals, like where you studied, or what qualifications you have. The course I mentioned above will give you a certified certificate, which can be useful in the absence of reviews.
Here are some great profiles:
What’s great about this one is the simplicity of the offering, clear photo, with an added line on the image that talks about availability and readiness. The tone is also friendly.
There are also trust signals like pro verified and she mentions ‘professional writer’ in her bio.
This one is great because it uses words like powerful and persuasive to make the profile more emotive. These are repeated in the image to reinforce the message. Using alliteration is nice copywriting in itself, which is also appealing.
This is another strong example because of how specific it is – she talks about writing real estate descriptions. If I want a job done, I am more likely to go for someone who specialises in the skillset I need instead of ‘I write copy’.
Takeaways for a good freelance writer profile:
- Be specific
- Use emotive words
- Appear friendly and ready to help right now
4. Find a freelance writing mentor
Anyone can be a mentor as you start your journey as a freelance writer with no experience. In fact, they don’t even have to be a freelance writer themselves – the freelance bit is more important.
That’s because you will face little issues on the way, which a mentor can advise you on. As a freelancer lacking experience you might face:
- Issues with taxation and how to act as a sole trader, limited company etc.
- Clients that take advantage of you and won’t pay, or are late (which is equally draining).
- Clients asking you to do endless rounds of amends before they pay.
- Lack of knowledge over personal liability insurance or other insurances.
- Difficulties with accounting and managing finances.
- The support from being a lone operator rather than part of a team.
Having a mentor is more than just technical support, it’s psychological support too.
You can find a mentor anywhere, but the best places are groups on Facebook or Linkedin, actual freelancers on the platforms like Fiverr and Upwork that you can reach out to, and best of all, family or friends who are in a similar position.
Make sure it’s someone you trust and then reach out with questions when you’re feeling like you need advice.
5. Get published on guest post sites
Before you are an experienced freelance writer, you’ll likely ask for examples of your work on different platforms.
One of the best ways is to write a few guest posts.
Now, one of the hardest parts of guest posting is writing pitches to people and trying to find opportunities. However, for the sake of getting published work on a big platform, you don’t need to go down that route. Instead, there’s an easier way.
Simply use a site like Thrive Global, which allows you to sign up for free and publish your own work.
Do want proof it works and it’s easy to do?
I just went and did it!
It was super easy to set up my profile, and I had written it within a couple of hours. Now, I have a perfectly formatted copywriting example on a reputable platform – and it was free and simple to do! Best of all, if you have a portfolio, you can include a link back to it.
You can visit Thrive Global and sign up today.
(If your writing starts getting noticed, then you could even win clients this way.)
6. Start your freelance writing career on Medium
As well as Thrive Global, I would also recommend getting started on Medium straight away.
Medium is a blogging platform with zero barrier to entry, you can just sign up and start writing.
You can sign up for Medium through your Facebook account, which I would recommend. That way, all of your Facebook friends who have medium will be following you from the start.
There’s also a way to link your social platforms like Twitter, so you can gain more visibility. Once you figure out the tags and publication system it’s really quite straightforward.
Medium does have a number of community guidelines and rules you’ll need to follow, and these can be quite strict – for example, you must declare affiliate links.
Why is Medium great for beginner freelance writers?
Not only is it excellent writing practice and a new way to reach an audience, but you can also start making money from it too.
- You can make money through affiliate links
- Sponsored posts (but you must declare them)
- Partner program
I would recommend reading Hubspot’s guide to medium before you get started.
Since Medium is an interactive platform, you’ll likely get feedback on your posts if they reach a wider audience, and you can give feedback to others too.
It’s also a great way to produce high-quality work on a reputable site so you have a few blogs in hand to show prospective clients.
Medium is a brilliant way to start assembling a public portfolio, which, if you lack experience, can start landing you paid freelance writing jobs.
Try Medium here.
7. Understand what to charge as a writer
I’ll be honest right now – you will win and lose contracts in your career based on what you charge.
I’ve made the mistake of charging too little in the past, and too much.
Most people desperate for work will undercharge their freelance writing work.
Here’s an image that shows the pro freelancer rates, but in truth this will very so much from job to job, and country to country.
Instead, here’s a checklist you should go through when deciding on your rates:
- What are other people charging?
Sadly, your freelance writing rate is not immune to market forces. You can’t break out too far one way or another from what other people charge.
Remember, clients are looking for the best price. But that’s not ALL they are looking for. It’s perhaps even more important that you have:
- A high level of competence
- Will get the job right first time
- Take minimum management (people are busy)
You can charge a premium if you take the stress out of their hands by asking the right questions, communicating clearly and writing to an incredibly high standard.
2. Consider your level of experience
In an article about being a freelance writer with no experience, this might seem like an odd consideration. However, writing experience isn’t the only type that’s important.
If you’re being asked to write an article about skateboards and you have been a skateboarding enthusiast for the past 10 years, then you’ll likely have some unique and interesting insights about the sport, equipment etc.
You can charge a premium for this knowledge.
3. How many people can do the job?
This is where you might be able to break out far above the average pay for your brief.
Earlier in my career, I was asked to rewrite a website for a big corporate company as a freelance job. Luckily for me, I had worked on this client for 5 years at a previous agency.
Therefore, I was probably in the top 0.01% of freelance writers who could do the job the best, with inside knowledge about the client’s tone of voice, brand, and even internal stakeholders.
Needless to say, my rate was much higher than the people I was competing with for the account – and I got the job.
People will pay for unique talent.
4. The impostor factor
Do you feel like an impostor on the brief?
In the early part of my career I felt like this all the time. If you are doubting if you are good enough, smart enough, experienced enough then it can massively affect what you charge.
There’s nothing worse than trying to stand behind a significant quote than when you feel like you’re ‘winging it’.
There are times when the impostor syndrome is good too. If you are about to overcharge but look inside yourself and KNOW that the brief is a bit beyond you, then there’s nothing wrong with being upfront with the client about that, and undercharging a bit.
They might value your honesty and pay you more for future jobs. If they trust you, then they will probably trust your quote.
5. Your relationship with the client
The final factor about what to charge as a freelance writer comes from what stage of the journey you’re at with the client.
Here’s a charging formula I use:
First job with them – charge 20% under what you think.
This makes you more likely to win the role, and allows you to go in with a message like:
‘Since this is the first time we’re working together, I’m happy to do it for 20% under what I normally would, and then we can see how we work together and take things from there’.
The client will likely appreciate your honesty, and you’ve made clear that you’ll be charging more in the future.
Plus, losing 20% on the first job is basically nothing. You never make the money on the first job. This is where you need to impress the client – don’t worry, your payday will come later, on the third, fourth, fifth jobs…
2. You’ve worked with them once before – standard market rate
Charging what others are pitching is normally enough to win the second job, because all things being equal, clients will always gravitate to someone they’ve worked with before.
3. You’re on your third, fourth, fifth job with the same client – charge a premium and get a longer contract.
Once you’ve worked with a client multiple times you can charge a premium. And that’s not being sneaky or underhand – you’re genuinely worth more than other freelance writers at this point because they trust you and you can save them time because of the relationship you have with them.
This could also be the moment to secure a ‘retainer’ or a longer term contract at a fair rate. You’ll get secure freelance income and they’ll get a writer they can trust.
Summary: 5 main considerations about how much to charge as a freelance writer:
- Market rate (and location is a big part). If you’re charging New York rates in New Delhi then you’re not going to win much work. If people can be as good as you and charge a fraction – then you’ll never get projects.
- Your experience. Not just in writing but of the wider subject.
- How unique you are. If you’re the ONLY person who can do the job then you can charge the world!
- Your confidence. If you aren’t sure you can do the work, don’t bluff it. Be honest and charge accordingly.
- Relationship with client. Overcharging on your first job might mean it’s your only job with that client. Steadily building a relationship and adjusting the rate accordingly is the answer. And no, you’re not being cheeky – this works both ways and they benefit hugely from it too.
I hope that helps next time you’re unsure about what to charge as a freelance writer!
Honestly, I’ve done it all and made the mistakes, so don’t worry. You’ll likely make some too!
8. Create writing templates
When people ask how to become a freelance writer with no experience, they often refer to their lack of experience with published work. However, what is experience aside from knowing the correct way to lay out and structure a specific piece of writing for an audience?
Guess what – that information is already out there and it’s available to access whenever you want.
Want to be an affiliate blogger? Look at those who do it best at the top of the search results, and structure your posts the same way. You can do this for any type of piece.
Here are some writing templates you might use:
- How to guides
- Review posts
- News articles
- Journalistic opinion pieces
- Website home page
When you normally think of templates you probably think of Resumes, or cover letters, but most well-structured pieces of writing start with a template.
The next thing you can do is use this loose structure to speak to clients with an element of clarity and knowledge, which will cover your lack of experience.
Take the product review template below as an example:
Now imagine reaching out to a client who had pitched product review brief on a freelancing platform.
You might respond with something like:
Great to read your brief – I’m really interested in <NAME / AREA OF PRODUCTS> I was thinking that we could start with an intro, then I’d go into some more personal copy about how it worked for me.
I think it’s important to include both pros and cons, so it feels balanced, then conclude with an overall rating and some resources where people can find out more.
What do you think?
The value of using writing templates as a freelancer:
I personally have templates for every type of piece I write, from social media copy, to long-form review and how-to guides.
Talking about these templates to clients will help them have confidence you can do the job, and it also feels like you’ve done some of the work for them.
As a freelancer writer with no experience, I want you to go into your next few jobs with a stack of templates in your pocket. Here are some examples:
Book review template:
Facebook template (useful for character limits):
If you want all your templates in one place – complete with word and character limits, plus article structure guides – then you could sign up with jarvis.ai.
The best thing for long copy would be to create your own template structure, based on a few writers that you like and respect.
9. Be smart about invoicing your writing work
Ah, welcome to the WORST part of freelancing.
I’m glad you made it this far because this is where you might decide to turn your back on freelancing forever and accept a monthly paycheck.
Because invoicing for your freelance work can be a massive pain. Here are some of the most common pitfalls:
- The client changes the writing brief halfway through and claims you’ve not done it
- The client simply won’t pay
- Your job gets passed to someone else
- You have to funnel your invoices through HR
- There’s a dispute over what was agreed when you took the job
- Late payments which you have to chase for ages
To solve most of the above, it’s crucial as a freelance writer that you get everything written down when you start.
Agree on an invoicing schedule as a freelance writer:
It’s also vital to agree on an invoicing schedule.
When you have your own clients, you could do something similar to what I personally ask for:
- 50% up front on signing the contract
- 50% on job completion
At least that way you get a financial commitment from them straight away.
Overcoming your lack of experience:
Invoicing and payment is where your lack of experience will cause you the most problems, so here’s another way to avoid it:
For the first six months, ONLY use freelance platforms.
They have so much support and structure built in place around every dispute, and you’ll be able to reach out to their third party support.
Let’s face it, you’re not going to have as many issues with the likes of Fiverr or Upwork refusing to pay as you would with some small business who is running low on funds.
Seek the protection of platforms when you start out. Then, as you begin to charge more and build relationships, you can move people off them and collect your own clients.
10. Be personal in your responses to freelance writing briefs
If did a search for ‘writer’ on Fiverr – one of the most popular freelancing platforms. Take a look at this image.
As you can see, there are more than 144,000 results available right now! And all of these are freelancers trying to get writing gigs on the platform.
Why am I saying this now?
Because I want you to understand how important it is to be personal in your outreach pitches and job answers.
Speaking personally, there is nothing worse when I pitch a job on Upwork than getting a load of people come back to me with nothing but a generic list of their qualities or their resume.
Seriously, as a client, I just delete them all straight away.
This should be music to your ears as a freelancer in search of a job with no writing experience.
Embrace the joy of no experience:
Most of the time, people don’t care about your experience. They just want to talk about the job in front of them, right now.
If you can’t answer a job advert in a personal, authentic way as an aspiring freelance writer then maybe you’d be better suited to something else!
Here are some of the ways you can be more personal as a freelancer trying to win a project:
- Use their real name
- Talk about their company or job
- Tell them how you’d approach their job
- Ask a question about their company
To be honest, ANYTHING is better than giving a generic, cut-and-paste response.
11. Use writing tools and software to help
As a beginner, you’ll have to produce an even higher level of content than others to stand out. One thing that can help is writing tools, which can do anything from:
Improving your SEO writing content.
Getting rid of mistakes.
Helping you get a higher ‘readability’ score.
Using AI to write better copy that really sells.
Now, let’s be clear. I’m not advocating putting some copy into an article spinner and hoping for the best. However, writing tools can be incredibly useful in helping you see something from a new angle, or getting over writer’s block.
- Grammarly – checks your writing, punctuation and structure to make improvements
- Yoast SEO (free) – helps with your readability score and gives suggestions
- Jarvis.ai – can help you get over writer’s block with some useful AI-written paragraphs
- Ahrefs or SEMrush – give you amazing keyword knowledge so your work will actually rank.
As an example, I’ll show you what Yoast is telling me as I’m writing this article.
As you can see, this article scores pretty well – but there’s still room for improvement.
Given the amount of data available across these writing tools, as a beginner, you’d be crazy not to get what you can from them (especially the free ones).
How to become a freelance writer with no experience: a summary
Freelance writing isn’t too difficult to get into these days, purely because of the sheer amount of content people need to get out there. However, this does bring different challenges, such as an abundance of talent which can lead to a race to the bottom and difficulty pricing your services at the right level.
As a freelancer, you also need to be smart about your client communications, invoicing, estimates and the platforms you use.
I recommend the following three freelancing platforms as being the ones with the most potential:
In my experience, being a freelance writer is about 50% down to the writing, and 50% down to your knowledge about every other part of the job.