What is Freelance Writing and What Do Freelance Writers Do? [2021 Edition]

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What is freelance writing? And what do freelance writers do all day?

If you’re interested in how to make money writing online, those are two great questions to ask. 

When I was just starting to write for money years ago if you had asked me “what is freelance writing?” I wouldn’t have been able to answer you. Because the truth is, I didn’t know; I had to learn as I went.

And you might be wondering other things as well, like:

  • How do freelance writers get paid?
  • What’s a typical freelance writer salary?
  • How do you find freelance writing gigs?

Once upon a time, I was a beginning freelance writer too. So I understand the struggle.

That’s why this post is all about freelance writing!

Today I’ll explain:

  • What is freelance writing
  • What do freelance writers do
  • Examples of freelance writing
  • How to become a freelance writer

Ready to start making money as a freelance writer? Let’s dive in!

Related post: 15 Best Freelance Writing Sites for Finding Paid Work

what is freelance writing
What is Freelance Writing?

What is Freelance Writing (for Beginners)?

Freelancing is defined as “doing particular pieces of work for different organizations, rather than working all the time for a single organization.”

So a simple freelance writing definition is that it means doing different writing jobs for different clients. 

For example, I currently have a dozen clients that I write for regularly. They’re all in the same freelance writing niche (finance) but they’re all different companies. 

Instead of being an employee of a single company, you’re self-employed as an independent contractor. If freelance writing is your main source of income, this makes you a small business owner. 

As a freelance writer, you’re responsible for:

  • Finding work
  • Invoicing clients
  • Collecting payments
  • Paying expenses
  • Paying yourself a freelance writer salary
  • Filing taxes
  • Saving for retirement

Being a freelance writer means you wear many different hats. But at the end of the day, the only boss you report to is yourself. 

What is freelance writing give examples?

As a freelance writer, there are lots of different types of writing you can do to make money. 

And there are different names you may go by, depending on what type of writing services you offer. 

But generally, examples of freelance writing can include:

  • Freelance blogging
  • Content writing
  • Copywriting 
  • Newsletter writing and email marketing
  • SEO writing
  • Ghostwriting
  • eBook writing
  • Grant and proposal writing
  • Social media content writing

So what is freelance writing?

The short answer is that it can be a lot of different things. 

Some freelance writers may choose to be generalists, writing a little bit of everything. Others choose to become experts in a particular niche or writing format. 

There’s no right or wrong way to approach freelance writing. It’s all about figuring out what best fits your skills, expertise and interests. 

woman freelance writing
What Do Freelance Writers Do?

What Exactly Does a Freelance Writer Do?

Besides what is freelance writing, you might wonder what freelance writing involves.

Here’s what people who are not freelance writers think freelance writers do all day, based on my experience:

  • Sleep in
  • Scroll social media
  • Write for an hour or two
  • Make a ton of money
  • Call it a day

The reality is that freelance writers do a lot more than that in a day. 

But what does a freelance writer do exactly? 

Freelance writer job description

If you look up a basic freelance writer job description, here’s what it might look like:

“We’re looking for a freelance writer to create content for our blog. You’ll receive assignments from an editor and create blog content that follows SEO guidelines. You’ll need to be organized, have strong attention to detail and be timely in meeting deadlines. In return, you’ll be paid per published piece. Our ideal freelance writing candidate has 2+ years of professional writing experience and a portfolio that demonstrates skill and expertise.”

You can read a full example of a freelance writer job description here. But that should give you an idea of what companies that hire freelance writers look for. 

As far as what freelance writers do on a daily basis, there’s more to it than just writing. 

So what do freelance writers do? The list can include:

  • Completing writing assignments
  • Emailing clients
  • Sending out cold pitches or follow-up emails to prospective clients
  • Applying for writing gigs via freelance writing websites
  • Paying expenses
  • Setting aside money for estimated tax payments
  • Taking Zoom calls with editors
  • Reviewing due dates for upcoming assignments
  • Sending out HARO queries to connect with experts
  • Interviewing experts for articles
  • Editing pieces that have been sent back by an editor
  • Connecting with other writers or editors on LinkedIn
  • Reading emails

It seems like a lot. And some days, it is. 

But if you want to be a professional freelance writer, that’s all part of running a business. 

Types of Freelance Writing and Freelance Writing Services

As a freelance writer, you get paid to write. 

In terms of what is freelance writing, here are some of the ways you could make money as a writer:

  • Blog writing. Blog writing is a great way to break into freelance writing. This type of content is usually short and written in a conversational style but it can pay well.
  • Content writing. Content writing can include different types of writing online, including blog posts, article writing and longer form content like white papers.
  • Copywriting. Copywriting is another word for sales writing. Copywriters get paid to write copy that converts–in other words, that helps a company to sell its products or services.
  • Newsletter writing and email marketing. Newsletter writing and email marketing are a form of copywriting. For example, you might get paid to craft a welcome email series for a business or blog. 
  • SEO writing. SEO writing is all about writing for search engine optimization. In other words, you’re writing content that helps your client’s website or blog get a boost in search engine rankings. 
  • Ghostwriting. Ghostwriting involves writing content that gets published under someone else’s name. That can include blog posts, letters to the editor or even entire books.
  • eBook writing. As an ebook writer, you make money by writing and publishing ebooks. This is a great way to create passive income as a freelance writer.
  • Grant and proposal writing. Grant and proposal writing involves writing grant applications or proposals to help organizations win grant funding.
  • Social media content writing. Get paid to tweet? You can, if your specialty as a freelance writer is crafting short and sweet social media posts. 

Those are just some of the ways to define freelance writing and what freelance writers do. 

You could also make money writing:

  • Scripts
  • Press releases
  • Children’s books
  • Fiction and poetry
  • Magazine articles
  • Newspaper articles
  • Speeches
  • Business plans
  • Annual reports
  • Media kits

That’s the great thing about freelance writing–there are just so many ways to make money from your writing skills!

woman typing on a laptop
What is a Freelance Writer?

What Is a Typical Freelance Writer Salary?

How much money can you make freelance writing?

The simple rule of thumb is that the more you write, the more you can earn. 

But how much do freelance writers make?

According to Indeed, the average freelance writer salary is $22.65 per hour.

So, if you assume a 40-hour workweek and two weeks off a year for vacation, the average freelance writer salary is $45,300.

That’s before taxes of course. And $45,300 a year isn’t bad. 

But it’s possible to earn much more as a freelance writer. For example, I’ve made $20,000+ every month as a freelance writer since October 2018. 

So how do you become a six-figure freelance writer? 

The truth is, it’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. But here are some of the things that helped me to reach the six-figure mark as a freelance writer:

  • Choosing a profitable niche. Some freelance writing niches pay better than others, that’s just fact. Mine–personal finance–happens to be one that includes plenty of high-paying clients.
  • Becoming an expert. Expert freelance writers can command higher rates because they know their subject matter inside and out. So if there’s a topic you’re knowledgeable about or are willing to learn about, you could easily make more money freelance writing.
  • Setting goals. Goal-setting might not seem like it has much to do with earning six figures as a freelance writer but it definitely does. Once I set a goal to make $10,000 a month writing at a minimum, I stopped accepting low-paying gigs and focused my efforts on doing things to grow my income. 

Those are just some of the ways I was able to get to six-figure status as a freelancer. Check out my free 6-Figure Secrets Checklist for more tips!

How Do I Become a Freelance Writer? 

There are different ways to get started with freelance writing

But I can only speak for myself. So here’s what worked for me to become a freelance writer. 

1. Choose a freelance writing niche

Your freelance writing niche represents two things:

  • What type of writing you do
  • What topics you write about

So my freelance writing niche is personal finance. That’s my topic. And within that niche, I mainly write blog posts and articles. 

You don’t necessarily need to choose a niche to start freelance writing. But picking the right niche from the beginning can make earning money from your writing so much easier. 

So what makes a good freelance writing niche? 

For one thing, it needs to be profitable. In other words, there needs to be someone out there who’s willing to pay you to write about it. 

Examples of profitable freelance writing niches include:

  • Personal finance
  • Parenting
  • Entertainment
  • Beauty
  • Health and wellness

Next, your niche needs to be something you’re either knowledgeable about or interested in learning more about.

Because there’s nothing worse than choosing a writing niche you care nothing about it. You’ll get bored and burned out writing about the same topics if you have zero interest in them. 

Stuck on how to choose a freelance writing niche? Try these tips:

  • Make a list of things you know about
  • Make another list of things you’re interested in
  • Consider your past work or school experience
  • Look at what you’re doing in your current job
  • Cull your past experiences for niche ideas
  • Look at what’s popular or trending

Your perfect freelance writing niche is the one that interests you, fits your skills and can pay you. 

Once you choose a niche, you can learn more about it. Specifically, you can learn:

  • Who the prominent writers in that niche are 
  • Which brands are the biggest in that space (i.e. who are the brands you might want to write for)
  • How competitive the niche is for freelance writers
  • What typical pay rates are like
  • What kind of content is most in-demand

Doing this kind of homework can help you decide if your chosen niche is a good fit. 

Related post: 20 Freelance Writing Niches That Pay The Most Money

2. Create some quality writing samples

Landing freelance writing jobs without a writing sample isn’t impossible per se. But it’s a heck of a lot harder to get a client’s attention when you don’t have any published writing to show them. 

But how do you get examples of freelance writing to show to prospects if you’re just starting out as a freelance writer? 

The good news is, there are several ways to create the freelance writing samples you need. 

Some of the best ways to get freelance writing samples include:

A blog post is a great option when you need examples of freelance writing to show to a client. 

Blog posts can be short for starters. Instead of writing a 2,000-word article, you can write a 500 to 700-word blog post instead.

And blog-style writing is growing in popularity. Businesses that have blogs get twice as much traffic as ones that don’t. 

So being able to demonstrate solid blogging skills could give you an edge when trying to land writing jobs. 

But what should your freelance writing sample be about?

Ideally, you’re writing about something that’s relevant to the client you’re targeting. 

So if I were writing a sample for a personal finance website, for example, I might write a short post on 5 Easy Tips for Budgeting on One Income. Or a post on 3 Little-Known Ways to Save Money on Groceries. 

If you wanted to submit a writing sample to a parenting blog, you might write a post on daily routines for kids. Or seven ways to trick your kids into eating more vegetables. 

You get the idea. 

The goal is to share writing samples that show the client you’re skilled at writing about things relevant to their industry. 

Related post: Examples of Freelance Writing: 5 Easy Ways to Create Writing Samples

How to Be a Freelance Writer

3. Start building your brand

Your brand and reputation can help you sell yourself as a freelance writer and land paid writing gigs. 

So how do you start building your brand?

Starting a blog is one option. 

Having a blog where you write about topics related to your niche regularly can help you to demonstrate your expertise. And it can also help to sharpen your writing skills. 

If you’re ready to start a blog, I’ve got a step-by-step guide to how to blog as a freelance writer!

And if you’re not quite ready for blogging yet, there are other things you can do to establish an online presence. 

For example, you can create a freelance writer portfolio to showcase your writing samples. I use Contently for that but there are other places you can keep your portfolio online for free. 

You can also set up a Twitter account, which is great for networking with other writers. And you can create a killer LinkedIn profile

I love LinkedIn because once you get some writing experience under your belt, you can turn it into a money-making machine. 

I regularly get messages in my inbox from people who are looking to hire a writer and found my profile. And that’s what you want in the long run–clients coming to you instead of you having to chase after them. 

4. Look for freelance writing jobs

What is freelance writing if you’re not getting paid for it?

Two words: a hobby.

But you want to make money writing, right? The good news is, there are different ways to find freelance writing jobs.

For example, you might look for writing gigs on:

  • Freelance writing job boards
  • Remote job boards like FlexJobs or Contena
  • Local job ads (i.e. Craigslist or newspaper ads)
  • General job boards like Indeed.com
  • LinkedIn
  • Social media (Twitter can be a great tool for finding writing jobs!)

Friends and family can also help you connect with writing gigs. My first ever writing job came from a friend of my former mother-in-law’s who ran a virtual assistant business and needed a writer. 

Once you find writing jobs you want to apply to, the next step is submitting a pitch. 

A freelance writing pitch is essentially you introducing yourself to a prospective client and telling them how you can help them. 

A good freelance pitch is short, to the point and illustrates your value as a writer. 

Now, can you send one pitch and forget about it?

Nope. Pitching is a numbers game. 

The more pitches you send, the more chances you have to get hired. 

Getting into the habit of sending out a certain number of pitches (whether it’s 3 or 5 or 10) can help you get on the fast track to becoming a fully booked writer. 

Related post: How to Write a Cold Pitch That Lands Clients

woman writing at a desk
How to Start Freelance Writing

What Is Freelance Writing FAQs

I’ve covered what is freelance writing and what do freelance writers do.

But here are a few more tips to help you start your freelance writing career off with a bang!

What skills do you need to become a freelance writer?

Whether you want to start a freelance writing side hustle or a freelance writing business full-time, there are a few basic skills you’ll need.

Here are some of the top skills clients look for from freelance writers:

Clients want to work with freelance writers who can deliver writing assignments on time and meet expectations. 

You’ll need to be good at meeting deadlines. And good communication skills are a must, too. 

Do you need a degree to be a freelance writer? 

A lot of people think that being a freelance writer means you need to have a degree in journalism, English or communications. 

Can a degree help you to succeed as a freelance writer?

Sure.

Do you absolutely need one? 

Nope.

I have two degrees, a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in criminal justice. And I get paid to write about money all day. 

So a degree does not translate to being successful as a freelance writer. 

You can get paid to write if you never went to college. 

You can get paid to write if you’re a stay-at-home mom. 

You can get paid to write if you’re a doctor or a bus driver or a janitor. 

Degrees don’t matter as much as your ability to write well and knowledgeably about a given topic. If you can do that, you’ve already got the most important tools for freelance writing success. 

How do freelance writers get paid? 

This is one of the biggest questions when talking about what is freelance writing. Because again, if you’re not getting paid then writing is a hobby, not a business or side hustle.

How you get paid as a freelance writer can depend on the client. 

For example, I have clients that pay:

  • Direct deposit
  • PayPal
  • Stripe
  • Check

The easiest way to get paid as a freelance writer is to set up a PayPal account. 

You can give clients your PayPal email and they can send payment. You can then transfer it to your bank account instantly for a small fee. 

Generally, you won’t get paid until work is completed or approved. Again, this can all depend on the client. 

But as a rule of thumb, you want to work with clients who pay on a net-30 basis. This means you get paid within 30 days of submitting your invoice. 

Final thoughts on what is freelance writing and what does a freelance writer do

Becoming a freelance writer totally changed my life. 

I was a single mom with no job and little savings who didn’t want to go back to working in the “real world”. So I decided to give freelance writing a try. And now I’m financially independent and no longer tied to a desk job. 

And freelance writing success is something you can pursue too, whether you want to do it for side income or as a full-time business. 

Ready to get started freelance writing?

Sign up for Freelance Launch Plan, my FREE 6-day email course that covers the basics of how to start making money as a writer!

what is freelance writing
What is Freelance Writing for Beginners?

What Is Freelance Writing for Beginners

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