How to Become a Freelance Writer and Land Your First Client (2020)
Have you ever dreamed of being a writer, working from home, and being your own boss? Freelance writing can get you there. It’s one of the most lucrative and fun ways to earn money on the internet.
It’s also an area that most people can break into, as we all have written plenty of content at some point. I’m sure you’ve done reports at work, essays at school, or blog posts for fun in your downtime.
Unlike other services like web design or consulting, which require you to harness skills over the years, you can jump into freelance writing with little to no experience and start earning quickly.
Follow along we teach you to step-by-step how to become a freelance writer in 2019 and secure your first client.
Decide on your niche
Before you enter the world of writing for a living, you need to decide on two things:
- What you would like to write about
- Who you would like to write for
Let me explain. As a freelance writer, you need to double down on a niche if you want to stand out and not be seen as a general service provider. For example, you might focus on writing health-related books, B2B blog posts, or B2C white-papers.
Take your education, work experience, and interests into consideration when deciding what market you’d like to become a master at. Once you’ve completed this, you can successfully move onto the second step.
Piece together a portfolio
You can’t pitch freelance writing positions if you have nothing to show. Even if you’re brand new, you probably have more of a portfolio than you might think. Have you ever written a paper for school or a report for work? Don’t scoff at those pieces of content, because they showcase your writing skill and area of expertise.
But, let’s say that your portfolio is more barren than the Sahara desert. In that case, the best step to take is to write more stuff. Create fictional blog posts, articles, books, or stories that you can show to potential clients.
These portfolio items don’t have to be published on the internet, either. Word Docs or Google Drive files that can be shared are more than enough — you just need to show your skill level with something. It might look like this.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be the best-looking portfolio in the world. It simply needs to showcase a few examples.
Get your first gigs from job boards
All freelance writers can find work through writing job boards, regardless of skill or experience. These are websites that list all of the latest freelance positions on the internet. You can typically apply right through the website with a resume, cover letter, and quick introduction.
Here are some writing job boards you need to check out to land your first job.
ProBlogger has been the leading freelance writing job board website for the last 10 years. Companies post a listing for $70, which weeds out less serious employers and sites.
This platform is updated daily, so ensure that you bookmark it and give it a regular check. You will find listings for any industry, from internet marketing to health and cryptocurrency. There is also a wide variety of materials needed, such as blog posts, newsletters, and books.
You can learn more about any position by clicking the orange hyperlinked name.
Thoroughly read the application instructions, as many freelance writers miss jobs because of skipping small details.
When you are ready to apply, click the “Apply Online” button, unless the summary specifies otherwise. Enter a cover letter, attach your resume, and fill out the required form information.
Commonly mistaken for the first site we looked at, ProBlogger, BloggingPro is used by large companies like Bustle, IFTTT, and others to find great writers like yourself.
BloggingPro is updated daily, although not as often as ProBlogger, still provides plenty of high paying opportunities., The job page lists the position, location, and job type in each column.
Clicking a job listing will take you to the summary page. Here you will find all of the duties, responsibilities, pay, and more information about each opportunity.
Application instructions usually require writers to use a specific subject line, so don’t gloss over the small details of each summary.
Freelance Writing Gigs
Freelance Writing Gigs is a blog run by a freelance writer who also collects all of the recent writing jobs on the internet, and publishes them on a daily basis.
Every post is organized by different types of positions, such as content writing, copywriting, technical writing, and miscellaneous work. Clicking a link will take you to the original website like Indeed or Craigslist.
Start pitching companies
Once you begin earning money from writing job boards, you need to take it to the next level. Sure, they’re great websites and all, but they will only take you so far. If you wish to earn the big bucks as a writer, you need to begin pitching larger companies on your own.
It can seem intimidating, but if you follow what we layout ahead, you’ll carve your own way as a freelance writer, and earn more than ever before.
Step 1: Create a list of prospects
The first step to landing the clients of your dreams is to create a hit list. You want to create a spreadsheet that has lead information, such as:
- Company name
- Email of a decision-maker
Getting this information is a lot easier than you may think, too. It takes some elbow grease, but the ROI can be incredible. I recommend using a free database like Angel List. This platform compiles some of the fastest-growing startups in the world across every space and industry imaginable.
Remember how we told you to pick a niche and expertise earlier in this article? This is where it comes into play. Filter the results down to the exact type of companies you wish to target.
You can copy and paste the columns directly into a spreadsheet, as Angel List has all of the basic information you need to begin a cold email campaign. It will look like this.
Finding a decision-maker
The question arises: how do we get the email of decision-makers in a company? Luckily there’s a tool for that called Hunter.io. You can plug in the URL of any website, and it will find all associated addresses. Since you’re pitching writing services, it’s crucial to find positions like:
- The VP of marketing
- Marketing director
- Content manager
These individuals are the executives in control of content on websites, so it only makes sense to talk directly with the correct person. Paste in the URL of a site you entered into your spreadsheet, and you will see results like below.
If you can not find anyone with the names of the previous position, it’s okay. Use anyone that is close to the top of the company as possible, and we’ll show you what to do after.
Once you’ve created a prospect list, it’s time to send them emails and make some money!
Step 2: Send customized proposals
Many entrepreneurs dread cold emailing. Why is this so? Simply because the amount of low effort emailing over the years has dwindled results of campaigns, shunning people away from trying it themselves.
This is why custom emails trump copy and pasted templates any day. Executives at high levels will see right through any spam-like emails, and you’ll be in the garbage can faster than you can click the send button.
Take the emails you prospected and load them up into Gmail or a free CRM like Hubspot. The subject line should always be personal and simple, such as:
- Hey + first name
- Quick question, + first name
- To + first name
Be personable and conversational
It’s been proven in psychology that calling someone by their name is one of the fastest ways to gain their attention, and that applies to email, too.
Avoid sounding like a robot in the body of the email. What I mean by this is type like you speak, and tailor it exactly to the prospect you’re emailing. Mention custom things about their company like:
- Clients they’ve recently acquired
- Funding or seed rounds they’ve received
- Recent blog posts you enjoyed from them
The goal of a cold email is to introduce yourself, mention what you do briefly, and how it will benefit the company. Here’s an example.
If you were unable to find the exact decision-maker in the company, simply ask to be forwarded to the correct individual, as such.
This brings me to my next point, which is even more important than the original email.
Step 3: Master the art of following up
It’s been found that the average sale takes five calls after the initial interaction to close the deal. This means that if you only email somebody once and quit, you’re missing out on serious money and opportunities.
If you’re set on learning how to become a freelance writer, then it’s necessary that you learn to master following up.
After the first email is sent, you need to regularly check up on the prospect until you get a response. Remember, these are executives. They might be interested in what you offer, but the timing could be wrong.
Here’s a follow-up system you can use yourself, but feel free to alter it if you find it necessary.
- 2 days after the initial email: Summarize the original email and ask if you are speaking with the correct person.
- 4 days after the initial email: Ask if the prospect is interested in hopping on a quick phone call to discuss your ideas and if they’d like to hear what times are open in your schedule.
- 7 days after the initial email: Offer a resource, such as a case study, interesting blog post, or other forms of free value while touching base again.
- 10 days after the initial email: Mention some of their competitors’ names that are doing what you’re pitching, like content marketing, email newsletters, etc, and that you think it’d be wise for them to begin as well.
- 14 days after the initial email: Ask if they would like to be removed from your email list, and propose scheduling a phone call one last time.
It’s common to get little to no responses until several follows, so don’t give up! The time and energy you put into cold emailing can pay off tenfold once you land just a couple of high paying clients.
Stick with it!
Becoming a freelance writer can be tough. There’s tons of competition, and you might have no experience under your belt yet. Don’t worry. There are steps you can take to start earning money quickly, while also building a brand for yourself to land larger clients later.
It all begins with creating a portfolio. Organize all of the written work you’ve done, from blog posts to school assignments and work reports. Place these neatly into a spreadsheet or create your own website if you’re technically savvy.
Next, decide on what niche you’d like to become an expert on. Do you want to write e-books specifically? Would you like to write different material on fitness? Narrowing down helps make all of the processes ahead much easier.
With expertise in mind, it’s time to use writing job boards like ProBlogger, Freelance Writing Gigs, and BloggingPro to land your first few gigs. Read the job summaries carefully, as they usually require you to submit particular items like a resume, writing examples, or subject line. Keep tabs on these job sites daily, as new opportunities pop up often.
Once you learn the ropes, it’s time to begin moving off of job boards and finding your own clients. These will pay much more lucratively and tend to make much longer-lasting business relationships.
Create a spreadsheet list of prospects using databases like Angel List. Record information such as their company name and website. Then, use an email hunting tool like Hunter.io to find the decision-makers in the companies.
From here, writers need to focus on sending customized emails that pitch their services, while keeping a strict follow-up process. If you practice these steps, you will become a successful freelance writer and make a killing in no time.
For the experienced freelancers reading this, what’s your number one tip for getting new writing clients?